Episode 837 – VW’s Drop-Top GTI, Golden Opportunity for Detroit Three, Audi Innovation

March 1st, 2012 at 11:45am

Runtime: 6:41

Volkswagen just announced it will premiere a convertible version of its Golf GTI at next week’s Geneva Motor Show.  The Detroit Three are starting to become more popular in California, a market that’s long been dominated by import brands.  Audi released a list of seven advanced technologies it’s developing for future vehicles.  All that and more, plus guest host Christie Schweinsberg from WardsAuto fills us in on the organization’s upcoming 10 Best Interiors competition.

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Good morning, afternoon or evening. Welcome to Autoline Daily! It’s Thursday, the first of March, 2012. Bringing you the latest car news from all around the world, I’m Christie Schweinsberg of WardsAuto. Let’s get this show on the road . . .

Automakers are starting to utilize lighting to help make their cars unique. The new Cadillac XTS features ambient lighting in the interior to help enhance the vehicle. Engineers choreographed the timing of the lights to deliver a theater-like feel as they come on and dim back down. The exterior of the vehicle also features ambient lights in and around the car’s perimeter that come up when the driver presses the key fob or opens the doors. Pretty neat!

The Geneva Motor Show doesn’t kick off until next week but that hasn’t stopped automakers from teasing us with what they’ll unveil in Switzerland. Volkswagen just announced it will premiere a convertible version of the Golf GTI. Powering this cabriolet is a familiar 2.0-liter turbocharged, gasoline-direct-injected engine that can be mated to a six-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch transmission. VW says the cloth top can open in under 10 seconds and can even be operated while driving at speeds up to 19 miles an hour. The Golf GTI Cabriolet will be available for summer.

This image of the Hyundai i-oniq concept also leaked before its Geneva debut. It was designed and developed at the company’s R&D center in Germany, and according to Autoblog, the i-oniq is a serial hybrid that uses a small gasoline engine to charge its battery pack and a pair of motors to drive the rear wheels.

GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY (subscription required)
News from the mothership, WardsAuto.com. The other day John reported Chrysler is growing its sales and dealership network in California, a market that heavily favors import brands. You can argue its earth-shattering “Imported From Detroit” Super Bowl commercial sparked a new awareness of the Detroit Three. The other two-thirds of the domestic automakers are also faring better in The Golden State than they have in recent years. Sales of the Ford Focus were up 86 percent in January, while Chevrolet is working on revamping dealerships across California. Competition is a great thing. Let’s hope the Detroit Three can keep up the pressure going forward.

What are the next BIG automotive innovations? What groundbreaking technologies are just around the bend? It’s a safe bet flying cars are not on the map. But what about advanced hybrid materials, or new user interfaces? Well, the folks at Audi just released a list of seven future technologies that are under development. In no particular order the company is working on wireless charging for electric vehicles – no surprise here, other automakers are doing the same. No. 2 – the “Garage Parking Pilot.” This nifty feature can help drivers find a place to dock their luxury liners AND it automatically parks them. No. 3 – OLED lighting – that stands for organic light-emitting diode. They’re smaller, lighter and more efficient than conventional incandescent bulbs. No. 4 – advanced body materials. Audi is already a leader in aluminum construction and now it’s working on hybrid materials made from steel, carbon fiber and, you guessed it, aluminum. No. 5 – fiberglass-reinforced plastic springs. YES, PLASTIC! These can potentially reduce a huge amount of un-sprung weight, resulting in better handling and a smoother ride. No. 6 – multi-touch interfaces. It’s a wonder simple and intuitive smartphone controls haven’t made the jump to automobiles . . . yet. Audi may be one of the first. And last but not least, No. 7 – predictive suspension. With a battery of sensors this advanced setup can literally read the road ahead, adjusting the shocks and dampers to deliver the best ride possible. See? The future IS an exciting place!

The editors at Ward’s are in the thick of another 10 Best Interiors competition. I’ll share some of my notes on the judging process, right after this.

So, at WardsAuto’s office here in suburban Detroit my colleagues and I are in the midst of evaluating cars for our 10 Best Interiors’ awards.

I’ve come away mostly impressed with the interiors in the cars we’ve tested, finding they have lots of style, quality materials and high levels of comfort.

But there have been some, admittedly nitpicky, things that have stuck in my craw.

Auto makers, if you’re going to offer heated seats, please try and figure out a way to get them to heat up faster. There’s nothing worse than sitting down on leather seats on a cold February morning – even if those seats are in a $60,000 Audi A7 – and then waiting nearly 10 minutes for them to heat up.

I’ve also noticed that not only did some seats take a long time to heat up, but that they didn’t retain their heat, either. I’m looking at you, Subaru Impreza. I climbed out of our Impreza tester to pump gas and when I sat back down a few minutes later it was cold again. What gives?

I also realized that, despite the plethora of beverage containers auto makers test when developing cupholders, one size in particular slipped through the cracks: Starbucks’ famous grande, aka “medium” cup. The front cupholders in the A7, Range Rover Evoque and new VW Beetle all squeezed my iced vanilla latte causing its lid to pop off.

Is this a European conspiracy to get Americans off foofy coffee drinks and onto teeny servings of espresso and cappuccino? Who knows?

But what I do know is the winners of WardsAuto’s 10 Best Interiors of 2012 will be announced sometime in mid April. Watch out for the list.

In the meantime, make sure you check out tonight’s episode of Autoline After Hours. Peter De Lorenzo, the one and only Autoextremist is hosting the show. He’ll be joined in the AAH studio by Scott Burgess and Jim Hall. This trifecta of automotive excellence will cover a list of topics including the GM/Peugeot deal, Tom LaSorda going to Fisker and the latest Consumer Reports news . . . plus a whole lot more, so check it out tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Autoline.tv. Anyway, that’ll do it for today’s show. Again, I’m Christie Schweinsberg of WardsAuto. Thank you for watching, and I’ll see you next time!

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog and WardsAuto.com

53 Comments to “Episode 837 – VW’s Drop-Top GTI, Golden Opportunity for Detroit Three, Audi Innovation”

  1. tj Martin Says:


    While Cali’s numbers seem to be up ( perhaps they’re all sick of driving their clapped out 15 year old cars ? )

    Sales in the EU for the Big Three are falling into the abyss , with first GM , Chrysler and now FORD ( NYTimes etc ) reporting major loses overseas

    Hmmn .

    Could it possibly be that my condensed ‘ American Car ‘ essay from yesterday might have some merit ?

    Nahhhhhhh. Or could it ? ;-)


    FIAT vs GM

    Hmmmn . Inks not even dry on the contract and PSA stock is already demoted to JUNK status due to the GM /PSA deal

    See my posts from this morning for the details , but much as it pains me to admit this ….

    Marchionne may of just pulled one over GM’s eyes big time by announcing at the 11th hour he might be interested in teaming up with PSA for a chunk of the company

    We’ll see … but so far it looks like the score may be ;

    FIAT – 2
    GM – 0

    ( Seriously T Bejima …. you mean to tell me GM actually let Sergio get this one right by their so called Financial Wizards ? You gotta even a more splainin ta do their signor Bejima )

  2. pedro fernandez Says:

    Audi left out reliability and durability in their innovations, well the more they break and the less they last, the more people will have to spend to fix or replace their Audis, now it makes sense to me!

  3. tj Martin Says:

    #2 …… +1 !

  4. Rob Grosse Says:

    Thank goodness flying cars are not on the road map; The public has enough trouble safely negotiating vehicles in two dimensions, let alone three. Let’s count this as a blessing.

  5. C-Tech Says:

    @ #3
    +2. I don’t understand for all their creativity and engineering prowness, for me since the 5000, how they let the reliability over little things get away from them.

  6. C-Tech Says:

    Doesn’t the Corvette have that “innovative” plastic or fiberglass spring already?

  7. C-Tech Says:

    Will consumers really see this “theater lighting” style from Cadillac as being a benefit or styling advantage over the competition?

  8. HtG Says:

    That safe bet about cars not flying anytime soon, Christie? Thee spaketh too soon…

    Flying-Car To Debut At New York Auto Show


  9. tj Martin Says:

    An Apple a Day keeps the ……..


    The Republic of Steve Jobs ( now the 20th largest Economy , not business mind you … but Economy …. ) is about to make its mark Automotive wise


    C-Tech – # 5 – Having had such an abysmal Audi ownership experience myself , I’ve been asking that as well as WTH do people keep buying the things ?

    The ONLY thing worse IMHO than Audi’s reliability and durability is in fact their Customer Service . Kit got better service from MINI on a simple question than I ever did from Audi dealing with some major problems

    Stupidest thing is , sit in an Audi Service Center waiting room and you’ll hear stories that make mine seem tame by comparison . Yet most of those doing the loudest complaining , if you bother to ask , are on their third or fourth Audi .

    Go figure ! Maybe a touch of the Range Rover Syndrome ?

    ( where every RR owner knows and will admit their car’s a pile yet keep recommending and buying them regardless )

  10. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Corvettes do have fiberglass springs but they are transverse leaf springs, not coils.

  11. tj Martin Says:


    Here’s a laugh . My 2011 Benz ( GLK ) and every other model as well as the new MINI’s all have so called Theater Lighting

    Is it kind of nice ? Yes .

    Would it be a deal maker/breaker for moi ? No !

    Innovative ? Not hardly . Rolls Royce and Bentley have has this for over a decade !

    I like it …. but in truth it doesn’t make anything better or worse . Its just …… well ….. kinda nice is all


    @ HtG – Stole my headline ( Flying Car ) again !!!!! Hmmph !

    Se la vie !

  12. tj Martin Says:



  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    Tj in case of Audi, it’s the handling, I recall yrs ago I had to follow a realtor driving a 5000 in rural PA and I was driving my in-law’s then new De Ville and I just could not keep up with this guy, he had to periodically stop so we could catch up, I felt embarrassed until I realized it was not my fault.

  14. C-Tech Says:

    @ #10
    Thanks. Given GM has already done a fiberglass leaf, come a fiberglass or plastic coil be that much more difficult?

  15. HtG Says:


    Getting silicon tech into cars is going to be some kind of struggle. Yesterday we read that Intel will devote $100M to a new 60 person center hoping to get their tech a strong position for the future. Apple is working on making seamless transitions between the various screens people use in their daily life. The ARM architecture you have in your cell and other mobile devices is in Audi through Nvidia or other times through Renesas. Cars aren’t going to be left behind the Post-PC revolution.

    Disclosure: As an ARM shareholder, I’d like to see Intel get T-boned, then pushed off a bridge. That’s just me, though.

  16. pedro fernandez Says:

    #12 Obama to LaHood: “Ray, give Magna a grant”

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Didn’t GM use plastic springs years ago in non-Corvettes too? Maybe M-vans (Astro/Safari)?

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The “theatre lighting,” as in auto dimming, has been around for a long time. They are getting fancier with it now, though, with all the color options you have with LED’s.

  19. C-Tech Says:

    Just a follow-up to yesterday’s back-up camera issue, the government should consider some flexibility for automakers. Why not allow them the option to replace outside rearview mirrors with cameras? 3 cameras and a slightly larger screen where the interior rear view mirror is mounted could be of great benefit. Elimination the outside mirror could make cars more aerodynamic and the savings from those ever expensive mirrors can be used on the camera system.

  20. C-Tech Says:

    @ #13 Pedro you may be right. I had an 84 5000 wagon (used) and it was the coolest ride until the fuel injection went out. I got it cheap because the owner did not want to repair the power steering!

  21. Lex Says:

    John McElroy and Staff:

    What is the MPG on the Hyundai i-oniq with this powertrain?

    “The Hyundai i-oniq concept is a serial hybrid that uses a small gasoline engine to charge its battery pack and a pair of motors to drive the rear.”

    This sounds like the idea I have been writing about for ages. Now all Hyundai needs to do is offer this in Front or All Wheel Drive. If the MPG’s are high (between 70 or 90) it should sell.

  22. tj Martin Says:

    @ pedro

    re- # 13

    It aint the handling believe me ( remember I had an S4 ) Compared to that Caddy , sure the 5000 could out run it , but compare Audi’s stats to say a comparable BMW or Benz and the word UNDERSTEER about the Audi comes into play in each and every conversation/review etc

  23. tj Martin Says:

    @ Lex

    If’n you’re talking about Diesel /Electric Locomotive style hybrids ( where a constant velocity ICE is running continuously to power the Electric motors and charge the battery ) I’ve been saying the same for years . The only Hybrid that IMHO makes a darn bit of sense ! ( sorry Kit )

  24. tj Martin Says:


    Cause what do you do in case of camera/electronic/computer failure if you don’t have ‘ Analogue ‘ mirrors as a back up ( pun intended )

  25. HtG Says:

    22 exactly where was the engine in the S4, tj. Beyond or above the front axle? Could you trail brake/throttle the car to get it to turn?

  26. Balaam Zass Says:

    Starbuck’s unfriendly cup-holders and heated seats not adequate enough for today’s woman?
    This is what’s at the top of the list for y’all?
    I’m tired of this endless stream of bland, ubiquitously styled, mediocre cars that offer lots of needless crap (and that crap’s weight and complexity disadvantages) just to have butt and pod friendly environments that park, clean and shift themselves. If that’s what you really want, ride mass transit (some cute guy will give up his seat, pre-warmed, and even hold your Starbucks for you).
    I want more performance, fun, and fuel economy. A car that looks different from a Camry! I like the satisfaction that comes from parking and driving a car myself. And I don’t mind parking my butt in a seat that’s only cold for a few minutes, so that down the road I don’t have to fiddle with that expensive, complex, and heavy broken seat. I despise cars built for those amongst us who need warm butts over performance.
    Burn the CRVs, Camrys, Accords et al, AND cup holders and seat heaters and backup cameras, and 1200 speed automatic transmissions and whatever else is demanded by the car-as-kitchen-appliance crowd… Gimme a nice, simple, new version of the BMW e30!!!
    And make mine with a manual transmission and roll up windows and sunroof!!

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    A power train like a locomotive is GAWDAWFUL INEFFICIENT at constant speed. You have significant energy loss in the generator, and significant energy loss in the motor(s). These losses are much greater than with any kind of normal transmission in a car.

    They use it for locomotives because, when dealing with hundreds of tons of train, it is much easier to control power electrically, than to use a clutch and the 40 or 50 speed transmission you’d need to do it that way.

    A Volt, your favorite car, is as close as anything on the road to being what you want, a series hybrid, and it is much thirstier on gas-only than parallel hybrids like Toyota and Ford.

  28. tj Martin Says:


    Lets all hope Rubens doesn’t pull a Nelson Piquet in his Indy Car attempt !


    The engine was where all Audi ( except the TT/A1/A3′s ) engines are . And yes you could with great skill and difficulty but you can never completely overcome Audi’s Understeer tendencies . Which is why an M3 will clean even an RS4′s clock on the track every time

  29. pedro fernandez Says:

    TJ so you’re saying my driving sucks! I mean I just could not keep up with the 5000 and both have V8′s, so I assumed it was the handling prowess of the Audi vs the softly sprung Caddy.

  30. tj Martin Says:


    Nope . The closest what I’m taking about comes on the road is in the LincVolt ;


    Created by a Mr Neil l Young ( yes that Neil Young ) BTW and NOT some fancy pants , Silicone Valley / welfare recipient Vapor Ware grifter

    Which FYI other than its Car-BQ episode was extremely efficient for a car with its weight and ancient aero , and in fact got better MPG than several of the ‘ normal ‘ Hybrids .

    The VOLT is nothing more than a Prius with an expensive price tag and a slightly extended electric motor only range .

    No Kit Im afraid this one you’re wrong about , or perhaps just not aware of the advances being made in this area

    FYI – Just so you know , there’s two major automakers overseas concurrently working on this very technology for themselves , using the Lincvolt as their baseline . As I’ve a few £ invested in one of the suppliers , I’m not free to divulge any more …. but its a comin and it WORKs !

    Fact is there’s already a few on the road as we speak ;-)

  31. tj Martin Says:


    Huh !!! ????

    No pedro i was saying the Caddy sucked , but that the Audi , though better than the Caddy still isn’t all that great .

  32. pedro fernandez Says:

    We’re talking mid 80′s here, Caddy’s malaise period!

  33. Kit Gerhart Says:

    LincVolt is a fun project for Neil and friends, but, running only on the ICE, it will be inefficient compared to using a more direct connection between the engine and the wheels. That’s basic physics.

    A Volt is much different from a Prius. It has a big electric motor that will take it from 0-60 in 9 seconds or so, without the ICE running. A Prius (and Fusion hybrid) have two, smaller, motor generators that are used help accelerate the car, and to charge the batteries when slowing down. The power trains are quite different between a Volt and the others.

  34. Chuck Grenci Says:

    #17 Kit
    Didn’t know about the GM small vans Astro/Safari, but you’re correct (fiberglass leafs). Thanks for the info.

  35. tj Martin Says:

    Tj’s Leave of Absence

    Hey guys

    I just got a call that brought about a very nice major commission so I’ll not be stopping in too often for awhile

    After the recent ‘ Troubles ‘ I just wanted to assure you all is well

    So beat each other senseless ( or not :o ) don’t let the auto industry get y’all too far down and I’ll be back from time to time to make sure y’alls behavin . Or not ;-)


  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    A final thought on series hybrids, for now.

    If, and when they can get motors and generators, and the electrical controls, to 98-99% efficiency, series hybrids would seem to be a no-brainer. They wouldn’t need those pesky power splitters, CVT’s. clutches, and the rest of what it takes to make an efficient hybrid power train. With a series hybrid, you just bolt a generator to an ICE, and connect a motor, through appropriate gearing, to the wheels. What could be more simple, mechanically? They could probably work out the controls and electronics will little difficulty.

    Unfortunately, though, motors and generators aren’t efficient enough for a system like that to get good mpg, compared to the more complex systems now being used.

  37. HtG Says:

    very nice, tj. :) But never underestimate the need for procrastination in the creative process. So who called, Harvey? Marty? Ari?

  38. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Have fun, tj, wherever you are.

  39. shan Says:

    Most people will never get to appreciate owning an Audi due to cost. They are purely for the top 5%. If I had the choice and the money, I would chose hands down a Audi over a Caddy. Cadillac are still gaudy and gimmicky and still look too American.

  40. RS Says:

    Great sales numbers for the Detroit 3 in February. So glad to see Chrysler/Fiat pulling good numbers in all their divisions (Guess who will NOT be pleased about that!) and Ford doing very nicely, thank you.
    Seems John was right again about the big-rigs as a six month predictor of economic turn-around.

    To be fair, Christie did say that she was being a little picky – and only talking about the interiors of these vehicles. She was not trying to cover the whole driving experience and the merits of engine/transmission/suspension systems

  41. Brett Says:

    I do not know if it is still true, but the conventional wisdow used to be that only a damned fool would elect to purchase an Audi over leasing it through Audi’s captive finance arm. They kept the residuals artificially high. If you bought, you got murdered on depreciation.

  42. pedro fernandez Says:

    #41 makes sense. It also makes sense for the BMW since leasing includes all maintenance and wear items as well.

  43. C-Tech Says:

    @ #24
    You do the same thing as when your outside rearview mirror(s) get knocked off – you get it repaired or do without.

  44. Kit Gerhart Says:

    AAH just settled it. The engines in MINIs are made by Peugeot, in France.

  45. blueovalblood Says:

    Gotta agree w/ C-Tech on the camera idea; sounds good to me. Christie Rocks!! John take another vacation!!

  46. HtG Says:

    44 witnessed

  47. tj Martin Says:

    Read it and weep




    BS !!!!

    AAH is DEAD wrong on this issue . Why can i say this ? Because my little of faith site mates … one of MINI’s UK suppliers is a personal friend – and the insider I’ve alluded to – I’ve seen the engines being assembled in the UK first hand and …… every MINI book in print states clearly that ALL PETROL ENGINES FOR THE MIINI BRAND ARE MANUFACTURED IN FRANCE AND ASSEMBLED IN THE UK WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE JCW WHICH IS ASSEMBLED IN GERMANY

    Look It Up !!!!

    Also for the clueless amongst us the old MINI JCW GP was completely assembled in Italy .

    FYI Kit . Read the SAE writings on the VOLT . You’ll see quite quickly that the ONLY thing unique about the VOLT’s power train tranny etc is the fact that GM SAYS its unique .Its a HYBRID . Period

    Best get your so called Engineering background in gear as well cause you’re dead wrong about the systems in MODERN diesel trains as well

    But believe what you want ( thanks a bunch HtG ! )

    If its misinformation you’re wanting , you’ve got more than you’ll know what to deal with from the automakers as well as a majority of the Press , not to mention the politicians .


    @ Kit

    I’ve come to a conclusion about you . Assuming you really are an engineer of any sort … your biggest problem with me ( as well as with Apple the Lincvolt etc ) is the simple fact that you cannot deal with the reality that as Artists we’re a hell of a lot smarter than you and most of your kind . Always have been . always will be .

    Well deal with it Kit . Because thru out the ages its always been the fact . Oh your kind can make things work ( sometimes ) but as far as being creative and /or innovative .. along with the ability to see things as they are along with the Big Picture …

    Well Kit you and your kind are well and truly OUT OF YOUR ELEMENT

    Garages are where most innovations emit from , not Corporate Giants who’ve lost the ability to get out of their own way . Not from Government subsidized Virtual Reality dweebs either .

    Fact is we Artists are the ones who look you Unidimensional thinking engineers in the eye and tell you ( assuming we’re in charge )

    Either figure out how to make what I want WORK or go find another Job .

    Which was Steve Jobs mantra from day one .

    If ANY of the US automakers had a leader like that , they’d be doing the same , with 85% of your kind currently employed being put out to pasture

    Seeing as how Apple , if it were a country would be the 20th largest economy in the WORLD whilst GM Chrysler and to a lesser extent ( Loans ) FORD are still existing on Welfare Checks from the American Tax Payers .. well that ought to be proof enough , assuming you’ve got the ability to understand Facts vs Fiction

    But … I’ll tell you what Kit . Seeing as how pretending you’re the Alpha Dog on ALD is so damn important to what must be your fragile ego ….. have at it .

    Not only do I have work to do …

    But I’m done here ..


    @ HtG – And again … thanks a bunch !

  48. HtG Says:

    morning sunflower! I see you can tell when I’m teasing!:)

    Though it was Jim “the man who knew too much” Hall that made the statement about where Mini engines are made.

    Question, can you recommend a decent amplifier? No integration, just basic controls.

  49. HtG Says:

    ps I just heard The Unanswered Question. Now that’s good

  50. HtG Says:

    off topic, sorry

    tj, check this out,really

  51. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yes, “tj,” you are right, and everyone else is wrong. I could post links to description of the differences between the Volt and Toyota/Ford power trains, but you wouldn’t read them, and if you did, you wouldn’t believe them.

    Lincvolt is a hobby for Neil and friends. If he runs it with bio fuel, he is using less gas. If he charges it with electricity from the right sources, at the right time, that came be a good thing, but series hybrids are inefficient because motors and generators aren’t very efficient compared to mechanical drive systems. Do you know anything about the importance of efficiency of power trains? That is why serious hybrids, like Toyota and Ford aren’t done that way. Why would they not use the much more simple series hybrid setup, if it worked well?

    You may (or my not) actually be an “artist,” but when it comes to some things, like understanding of power trains, you don’t have a clue.

  52. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Again, “tj,” the JCW engines are assembled in Germany, and the window sticker on the car says Germany. IF the engines in the other MINI’s are assembling in the UK, why does the sticker not say UK, rather than France?

  53. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “But … I’ll tell you what Kit . Seeing as how pretending you’re the Alpha Dog on ALD is so damn important to what must be your fragile ego ….. have at it .

    It certainly seems that YOU are the one who wants to be “alpha dog.”

    To use an analogy you might use, DeLorean knew a lot more about the car business that Neil Young (whose music I like a lot), but DeLorean didn’t do so well with his car company. What, exactly, makes you think that Neil knows everything it takes to make efficient cars, using a technology that real car companies know is not the right approach?