May 10th, 2012 at 12:00pm
The woman that took Honda to small-claims court over the fuel economy of her Civic Hybrid is in the news again. The difference between official EU fuel-economy numbers and what drivers get in the real world is growing. A company called Bracketron has developed a clever way of mounting smartphones and tablets in a vehicle. All that and more, plus John McElroy test drives the Mercedes-Benz CL-550.
Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily for May 10th. I’m John McElroy and here’s the news.
BLINDSIDED BY JUSTICE
Well, this didn’t take long. Remember the woman who sued Honda over the disappointing fuel economy of her Civic Hybrid? She won nearly $10,000 in small-claims court, but an appeals judge just overturned that ruling. He says most drivers DO get the fuel economy posted on the window sticker. Some 1,700 other hybrid owners have followed the woman’s lead. But I think that Honda finally put this story to bed by winning that appeal.
YOUR MILEAGE WILL VARY (subscription required)
Speaking of how your mileage may vary, it WILL VARY in Europe. The difference between official EU fuel-economy numbers and what drivers get in the real world is growing. Back in 2001 the delta was about 8 percent, but in 2010 it was a whopping 21 percent! The New European Driving Cycle is a precisely calibrated fuel-economy test, but some argue it’s too easy. Acceleration speeds and shift points do not match real-world driving, plus automakers know how to game the system to get better results. Another problem with the European system has to do with the vehicles tested. EPA ratings are based on the best-selling version of a vehicle. In Europe they only test the base model. Interestingly, it’s reported the United Nations is working on a new global fuel mileage test. But In my experience, the current EPA ratings system in the U.S. is VERY accurate.
CLEVER CUP HOLDER MOUNT
Here’s a clever way to put your empty cup holder to use, although the anti-distracted driving crowd will hit the roof. A company called Bracketron developed a mount to hold a smartphone or tablet to use for navigation. Some phones and tablets are too large to mount on the windshield with a suction cup. Some states have even outlawed them, which is why the company created what it calls the Universal Tablet Cup Holder Mount. It can fit into just about any size cup holder and costs about $50.
FORD DROPS DOWN UNDER (subscription required)
Two different car companies in Australia and two different business results. Ford is struggling. Net profit dropped by over $290 million, and revenues fell by half a billion dollars. The company blames payouts to laid-off workers, slumping demand of the Falcon and the flooding in Thailand, which has limited sales of the new Ranger pickup.
HOLDEN HIGH ON THE HOG
But GM Holden posted a net profit of close to $90 million despite a revenue drop of 100 million dollars. Holden also sold 5 percent fewer cars in Australia, but that was offset by exports which shot up 50 percent. Looks like Ford Australia needs to export more.
AUTOMOTIVE QUALITY: THEN (subscription required)
There’s a big story in the Wall Street Journal today about how Chrysler is quickly improving its quality. My favorite quality fiasco story was at the launch of the original minivan back in 1983. Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca drove up on a stage in a minivan at the assembly plant in Windsor, Canada. Inside the van with him were the vice presidents of manufacturing, engineering and quality, as well as some top UAW officials and the plant manager. Iacocca and another exec got out of the front seats, but the other officials in back could not get out because the sliding door wouldn’t open . . . with hundreds of dignitaries, line workers and the media looking on. Finally someone was able to open it from the outside and some very embarrassed executives sheepishly got onto the stage, only to sing the praises of the company’s quality.
AUTOMOTIVE QUALITY: NOW
That was then. These days it’s hard to buy a car with poor quality. In fact, the quality gap from best to worst is very minor. In the latest Vehicle Dependability Survey from J.D. Power the difference between the best brand, Lexus, and the worst brand, Chrysler, is one defect. The difference from best to average is less than half a defect per car per year. And while the industry should keep on improving quality, we need to remember how much progress has been made.
Coming up next a look at what has got to be one of the biggest coupes in the world, the Merdeces CL.
(This feature is only available in the video version of today’s program.)
You don’t see a lot of CLs out on the road. It is the lowest sales volume car Mercedes-Benz has in its line up. So far this year in the American market they’ve sold fewer than 300.
Don’t forget to join us for Autoline After Hours tonight. Our guest is Paul Ingrassia who’s written a book on what he says are the most important cars in the history of the automotive industry. That ought to generate some good arguments. So join me and the Autoextremist himself, Peter DeLorenzo for the best arguments in the industry.
And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.