Episode 891 – Nissan Aims to Pass Camry, Porsche 918 Spyder, Kia Considers Diesel for U.S.

May 16th, 2012 at 12:00pm

Runtime: 9:07

Nissan is going to run its North American assembly plants on three shifts to give the Altima the capacity to become the best selling car in the U.S. Porsche revealed the prototype version of its 918 Spyder. Kia may be considering bringing a diesel to the U.S. market. All that and more, plus John answers your questions and comments in “You Said It!”

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Welcome to Autoline Daily for May 16th, I’m John McElroy and here’s the news.

Nissan has the Toyota Camry in its crosshairs. It’s going to run its North American assembly plants on three shifts, and that will give the Nissan Altima the capacity to become the best-selling car in the U.S. market. Camry sales have plummeted 30 percent over the last four years, starting well before Toyota ran into problems from last year’s earthquake. Four years ago the Camry had a sales lead of 167,000 units over the Altima. So far this year that lead has shrunk to under 30,000 units. Nissan will probably not pull it off this year, since it’s undergoing a model change for the new Altima, and the three-shift operations are not yet in place. But until Toyota figures out how to solve the Camry’s sales slump, it’s just making Nissan’s job all the easier.

Red Poling, former chairman and CEO of the Ford Motor Company has passed away at age 86. He was one of those rare finance guys who knew how to slash cost, but with a scalpel, not a hatchet. In 1987 he delivered a pre-tax profit for the company that I believe is still a record today on an inflation-adjusted basis. When he retired in 1993 Ford had five of the top-10 best-selling vehicles in the American market, including the best selling car and truck. Today it has three of the top ten.

Yesterday we reported Ferrari is throwing its hat in the hybrid ring with a 12-cylinder supercar. Today, Porsche’s making news, revealing the prototype version of its 918 Spyder. The car is all dolled up with a retro-themed black-and-white livery. This plug-in hybrid is powered by a 500-horsepower 4.0-liter V-8 and two, yes TWO electric motors. Zero to 60 miles an hour should take a scant 3.1 seconds. Top speed should be 199 miles an hour. Fuel economy is alleged to be in the neighborhood of 78 miles per gallon on the EU test cycle. Naturally, all this speed and technology ain’t cheap. Porsche’s asking price is $845,000 a piece – comparable to Ferrari’s hybrid monster.

Who wants more diesel-powered cars in the U.S.? Can I see a show of hands? Oh, ALL OF YOU! Well now Autoblog reports that Kia may be the next company to offer an oil burner in the U.S. Apparently some PR reps were asking fans on Facebook if they’d consider driving a diesel. Naturally, the answer was “YES!!!!” Now, here’s the part of the story where I let you down gently. Nothing is official. Yet. But it’s important to note that Kia already sells diesel Optimas in other markets.

Ford is taking a unique approach with its advertising. The automaker just launched a series of ads that feature the new Escape, Fusion, as wells as the Fiesta and Focus, that don’t reveal the identity of the automaker until the end of the commercial. In fact, we found some online ads that don’t identify Ford at all. It’s an effort to grab the attention of car buyers who tune out an ad as soon as they realize it’s about Ford.

So far this year Jaguar sales are up 17 percent in the American market, but worldwide, it’s a different story. The British brand’s sales fell over 30 percent in April compared to March, its worst performance in nine months. And as a result, Tata’s stock is getting pounded.

Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!


And now it’s time for some of your feedback.

A number of you commented on the data crash recorders, those black boxes the U.S. government is going to require on all new cars by 2015. Todd T. says. “Remember all those lovely folks that claimed their cars accelerated like possessed demons, even though they were stepping on the brake pedal? They did this to avoid responsibility for an accident, THEY caused.”

Todd’s right. That’s exactly why a number of automakers have had those black boxes in their cars for well over a decade. It was to protect them from lawsuits.

Chuck wonders if this regulation means that “Someone will have to retrofit one into their 1965 Mustang?”

Nope, Chuck, it only applies to new cars. You need cars with anti-lock brakes, electronic throttle control and a computer be able to use those black boxes.

We got a lot of comments on the new Nissan Altima, too. Lex wants to know, “Why does the new Altima look so good and rich while the Versa look so crappy and cheap?”

Lex, I would say that’s because the Altima costs twice as much as a Versa. A base Altima is over $21,000 while a base Versa is under $11,000.

Earl worries about the transmission in the Altima. “I hope the Altima doesn’t have a CVT. I haven’t heard a positive comment yet about those CVT’s that a lot of people refer to as rubber band transmissions.” And Tango R34 agrees. “I will NOT get a car with a CVT. It’s the most horrific transmission that may sound great on paper but hopeless in the real world.”

For the most part I agree with you guys, but in cars with larger displacement engines and good torque CVTs work a lot better. Plus, Nissan has made giant strides in improving the CVT, along with its supplier partner JATCO. Besides, the Altima, like a number of cars with CVTs, has a Sport position on the gear shift lever that makes the CVT behave like a seven-speed step transmission, so you can sort of have the best of both worlds.

Speaking of transmissions, Kit Gerhart saw our report on Porsche coming out with a 7-speed manual and wonders, “Is there really any need for that 7-speed manual? 6 seems like plenty, but I guess I thought the same about 3, and then 4, and then 5.”

Mack heard me report on the Job One ceremony for the original Chrysler minivan in 1983 when top executives in the company couldn’t get out of the minivan that rolled up on stage for the ceremonies. He wonders, “As for inability to get out of the back of the minivan, was it not because of the child safety lock on the door and not a quality issue?”

Mack, this is a great story. After that humiliation Chrysler’s public relations called everyone in the media who attended that ceremony to tell them that it was a child lock issue. Since I was at the event I got a call, too, and I had to remind the poor PR guy who called me that those vans did not have child locks when they launched. And that violated one of the cardinal rules in PR. You can spin it all you want, but you should never lie.

Don’t forget to join us for Autoline After Hour Thursday night when our guest will be Ralph Gilles the head of design for the Chrysler group and the CEO of the SRT group. Ralph is one of the true gear heads in this business, so join me and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo, for the best insider discussion on the hottest cars in the business.

And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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32 Comments to “Episode 891 – Nissan Aims to Pass Camry, Porsche 918 Spyder, Kia Considers Diesel for U.S.”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    By driving around So Fla, you would not think the Camry is having sales problems, I see at least a half dozen of the new ones every single day, this must be Camry County, USA.

  2. HtG Says:

    THE Ralph Gilles? Targa Newfoundland, Ralph Gilles? ALMS aspirant, Ralph Gilles?

    Yeah, I’m going to be watching.

  3. Lex Says:

    That Identity Crisis at Ford my simply be due to the Blue Oval jewelery adorning their vehicles. Since women make 60% of the vehicle purchasing decisions. My Wife has mentioned to me numerous times that Ford’s Blue Oval and Chevy’s Large Bowtie really diminish the value of those vehicles. I believe this is true since the new Ford Flex has the vehicles name spelled out along the leading edge of the hood. Ford needs to simply reduce the size of the Blue Oval so that it is less conspicuous.

    Chevy needs to incorporated elements form the Corvette Logo into a new badge to replace the very old fashioned “Chevy Bowtie”. A New Chevy Logo similar to the Cadillac Logo with Corvette racing flags incorporated into it in an understanded arrangement might help improve Chevy’s image with these decision makers.

    Chevy might want to promote a world wide contest asking the public to design a new Chevy Logo for it’s next 100 years. The winner would get his or her pick out of the full line of Chevy Vehicles.

  4. Discotea Says:

    I think where the roads are really boring like in Florida, Camry’s sell really well, but in the NE area where the roads are more curvy and require a more athletic vehicle the Camry doesn’t sell all that well. Just look In NJ/NY area, you don’t see all that many camry’s on the road.

  5. MichaelWine Says:

    John my wife’s 2008 Prius has a CVT and it seems to work really well. Is the Toyota CVT any better than the Nisan or others? Is the hybrid a better application for a CVT?

  6. Mike Says:

    John – Just remember: the story the PR guy cooks up may not have anything to do with the facts. Just ask the guy that actually did his homework and knows the facts. Right, John?

  7. Tony Gray Says:

    I only drove two cars that I remember with a CVT. One was a Taurus X that a buddy had and we took on a road trip from Pennsylvania to Daytona for the 500. I didn’t think it was all that bad actually.

    The other was a Dodge Caliber. Ewwwww.

  8. Bob Aubertin Says:

    The senior folks in South Fla. like driving boring cars like the Camray,Altima & Accord anyway.There not interested in Great handling & High Performance cars, so Now You Know Why you see all them rice burners on the road.

    Oh by the way on the seventh day the Good Lord created the Hemi and that says it all!!!

  9. Chuck Says:

    Seniors in general are looking for good value and they found it in Asian cars. I am a senior who really enjoys driving my German cars but they are not such a good value vs the “boring” Asian products, in all honesty.

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    Not only seniors are driving these Camry vehicles, I see plenty of young people that have gotten the German sports sedan desire out of their system and realize that boring is better than $400 routine maintenance costs every year or so

  11. Lex Says:

    The German’s build “Zest” into their vehicles. The Japanese build “Good Value” into their vehicles. In the end there are basically two types of vehicle owners: Those that take care of their vehicles as if it was a member of their family, and those that treat the vehicle as if it was an appliance. The latter do not watch Autoline.

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    Sorry, Lex but I use my vehicle as an appliance (gets me around economically and in reasonable comfort) and I do look after it and do all the maintenance required and I do watch Autoline and read TTAC but I don’t fuzz over the car nor go over it with a fine tooth comb or a Q-tip. ps Don’t read the auto mags they’re full of manure.

  13. HtG Says:

    Actually, Pedro, a Q-tip is effective for cleaning hard to reach places on one’s aluminum wheels.

    Or so I hear.

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    HtG been there, done that, not really into detailing anymore, just keep it clean so I can see well out of it and keep those darn plastic headlight lenses as clear as possible!

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    There are a lot of Camrys in the Space Coast area too. I’m surprised Altima is even close to the sales of Camry if, for no other reason, they don’t seem to have many dealers. At least in the two places I spend about half the year each, the nearest Nissan dealer is about 30 miles in Florida, and 50 miles in Indiana. Toyota has dealers with 5 miles both places.

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Here is a pretty good explanation of how the Prius power train works:


    All Toyota hybrids and I’m pretty sure Ford hybrids work the same way. The “numbers” in that article, as far as motor wattage, etc. are for the first generation Prius, not the current one, but the power train works the same way.

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The CVT’s used in large numbers by Nissan are totally different from the “power splitter” setup in the Toyota hybrids. The Nissan CVT’s use a steel belt which runs in V shaped pulleys which vary in width to change gear ratios. When a pullet gets wider, the belt runs deeper, and the pulley at the other end gets narrower, so the belt runs higher in the pulley. These pulleys are varied to change gear ratios. Sorry about the not-too-clear explanation. If I run across a good one, preferably with pictures, I’ll post a link.

    As far as these Nissan CVT’s, it seems to me that there is nothing wrong with them, except a lot of “car buffs” just don’t like them. Whether used on a low powered car, like a Nissan Cube, or a fairly high powered one, like a V6 Altima, they perform well, both in acceleration, and in fuel economy.

  18. Chuck Says:

    Waiting for the upshift is what freaks out a lot of people.
    There’s something visceral about engine sounds/gears shifting, etc., at least for the enthusiasts who are reading here. The “appliance buyers” would prefer a silent operation to be sure.

  19. cwolf Says:

    Yep!,Many of us want to have more diesel models made available to the US market. But for me,the models I want diesels in are American. They have been making false promises for years but they have yet to come through. After being strung along for so long,I have lost most interest. I bet most will too once they discover the urea has to be replaced every 15 K miles,should put an injector cleaner in the tank on occasion and prolly has a turbo,which may be something to consider. Let’s not forget the added fuel costs and different oil! Well…As far as Kia offering one….At least a motor rebuild won’t be needed. The car wont last that long!! After all it a Hyundai.

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I like the seamless nature of CVT operation, whether in my Prius, or my SilverWing scooter. Especially with the Prius, it doesn’t feel like I am abusing the machinery when I floor it. There are no jerks, and no clutches or bands doing anything. The engine just revs up.

    With a conventional automatic, especially older ones that don’t rev match very well, it always feels like I am abusing the machinery when I kick it down.

    Oh, and I like manual transmissions. I have three of them.

  21. cwolf Says:

    Thx for your input on the difference between 3-whl. bikes. Just seems to me,having two whls in the back could have extra storage and provide more suitable seating for “Big Mama.” When I was a student engr. at a paper plant,one of the guys had several Indians and a “knucklehead” he used to get to work. They sure were something to see and I hear they have quit a value. I wonder what became of them after he passed?

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Most of the trikes made from conventional motorcycles, whether Harleys, Gold Wings, or whatever, have two rear wheels and one front. Some factory made specialty machines have two front wheels. Ones that come to mind are the Can-Am Spyder, a sporty looking three wheeler, and a three wheeled scooter made by Piaggio that leans when it turns.

  23. XA351GT Says:

    A mate from Australia emailed me today that the Holden Commodore aka Pontiac G8 is coming back to the US as the Chevy Super Sport. It will be the NASCAR model for GM from next year on. Backs up what John said the other day about Holden exporting more than they sell in their home market. Now if they will also ship over the ute to be the ElCamino I’ll be a happy camper. At least until they price it completely out of reach like they do with all their cool cars and trucks.

  24. cwolf Says:

    Isn’t that ElCamino a G8 withthe rear end cut off(more or less)?

  25. XA351GT Says:

    cwolf The ute does share the same front clip as the Commodore/G8. Just as the El Camino shared it’s front sheetmetal with the various models it was part of ,mostly the Chevelle and Malibu.

  26. XA351GT Says:

    Here’s a link (it I don’t stuff it up) to a review of the Holden Maloo Ute on UK Top Gear.

  27. XA351GT Says:

    Lets try that again .

  28. XA351GT Says:

    Dran it go to youtube and type in Holden Maloo. You’ll see the Top Gear review. It’s worth the time.

  29. XA351GT Says:


  30. W L Simpson Says:

    In the 40′s , my Servi-Cycle single cyl 2 stroke
    had a 2 belt CVT. 2 stroke oily fuel gets all over every thing , made the belts slip.

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    @W.L. Simpson, #30
    Was that CVT automatic like on today’s scooters, or was the gear change done manually?

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