Episode 893 – Chevy SS, C-MAX Undercuts Prius v, Lexus Ends HS250h Production

May 18th, 2012 at 11:51am

Runtime: 8:37

Chevy is bringing back a rear-wheel-drive, V-8-powered sedan in the U.S. for the first time in 17 years. Ford is pricing its new C-MAX hybrid around 26 grand, undercutting the Prius v by about $500. Lexus stopped production of the HS250h hybrid because of poor sales. All that and more, plus a preview of Autoline This Week with Dr. Walther Kiep, the longest serving member of Volkswagen’s supervisory board.

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Welcome to Autoline Daily for Friday, the 18th of May. I’m Craig Cole and here’s the news.

Looks like the automotive industry could be headed for a rude awakening in China. Inventory levels are starting to pile up at car dealerships as production is running faster than sales. Bloomberg quotes an official at the China Automobile Dealers Association as saying this will be like “a contagious disease that spreads.” The big worry now is that dealers will start slashing prices to move the metal. Indeed, car prices have been on a downward slope for four years running. And that means automakers may have to slash production to prevent the situation from getting worse. Honda just closed a plant for two weeks. China’s economy has shown a lot of resiliency but this is a disturbing trend we’ll be watching closely.

Speaking of China, the government just enacted new standards for electric vehicles. EVs must be able to travel 80 km/h or about 50 MPH, for 30 minutes. And they must be able to go a minimum distance of 80 km. The government is implementing these new rules because it wants to speed up the development and production of electric cars in the country. The regulations apply to cars that carry up to five people. They go into effect on the first of July.

In most new cars today you can pair handheld devices like MP3 players and smartphones with the vehicle’s infotainment system. But now there’s a new portable device you can hook up. According to Kotaku.com, as part of Toyota’s Smart Navi navigation system, owners in Japan can use a Nintendo DS as a nav system. It’s called Kuruma de DS which means “Use the DS in the Car.” The Bluetooth-enabled device can even pipe the DS’s sound through the car’s speakers. But it ain’t cheap. The Smart Navi system costs about $2,500, then you need to spend an extra $90 for the Kuruma de DS game card, and that’s assuming you already own a Nintendo DS, of course.

Great news for performance enthusiasts. Chevy is bringing back a rear-wheel-drive, V-8-powered sedan. Essentially this is a Chevy version of the Pontiac G8, which itself is a rebadged Holden VF Commodore. This marks the first time Chevy has offered a rear-drive sedan in the United States in 17 years. Even so, the SS name has a long history. The “Super Sport” designation first appeared on prototype Zora Arkus-Duntov Corvette racecar back in 1957.


At the polar opposite end of the spectrum, Ford just opened the order books for its C-MAX Hybrid. This eco-friendly wagon is priced around 26 grand, undercutting the Prius v by about $500. Ford also claims the C-MAX Hybrid will offer better fuel economy, performance, technology and functionality than the Prius. Them’s fightin’ words! We’ll have to see if all of these features are enough to get people to actually buy them, because so far Toyota is the only automaker that has cracked the code on how to sell hybrids.

Well, most of the time. Production of Lexus HS250h has been suspended. According to CarandDriver.com, the last one rolled off the line back in January. This really underscores the unpopularity of hybrids. In 2010, the car’s first full year on the market, Lexus dealers moved fewer than 11,000 examples. At the end of March just 563 had been sold this year. The decision to cancel the car is pretty obvious. People will not pay top-dollar for what amounts to a gilded Prius.

Coming up next, a look at how German car companies must be run by both management and unions. PLUS, we’ve got details on our latest give away.

On Autoline This Week, John’s guest is Dr. Walther Kiep, who served for 21 years on the board of supervisors of Volkswagen — longer than anyone else in the history of the company. In the following clip he talks about how Germany adopted codetermination, where companies have to be run jointly by management and labor.

(Today’s Autoline This Week preview is only available in the video version of the program.)

Dr. Walther Kiep has written a fascinating book about his life in business and politics called “Bridge Builder.” We’re giving away three copies to three lucky viewers. If you’d like a chance to win one of these books, send us your name and address to contest@AutolineDetroit.tv. We’ll announce the winners next week.

One more thing, on this week’s RoundAbout, we have a dilemma for you to ponder: is it ethical to drive a stick? One Salon columnist doesn’t think it is, and the interwebs are in an uproar! Be there tonight to tell us what you think. Plus, we’ve got more stories of irresponsible auto-related parenting and one more reason to hate people who drive Lambos. Oh yeah — and we’ll play one of our favorite games with Michelle Naranjo of Autobytel and Steven Ewing from Autoblog. Get all this and an overflowing bucketful more tonight at 6:30PM Eastern Time, at Autoline.tv.

Anyway, that wraps up this week’s worth of reports. Thanks for watching and join us back here again on Monday.

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

31 Comments to “Episode 893 – Chevy SS, C-MAX Undercuts Prius v, Lexus Ends HS250h Production”

  1. Mike Says:

    Do we really need a regadged Holden VF Commodore, even though it’s called an SS? What, a V8? Probably not, but we got it any way. If I wanted a RWD V8, I would have bought a Pontiac G8 when they were trying to give away the last few of them when Pontiac died.

  2. Jon M. Says:

    Another Commodore packaged and marketed under the Chevy brand name this time. Let’s hope GM doesn’t call it a new car when it goes on sale. Boy, if only I could’ve got through college writing papers like automakers build some “new” cars. Change a word here, delete a sentence there, slap a new title on it, and BAM, a new paper for a different class! But as long as it’s fun to drive and looks at least half way decent, who really cares.

  3. Chuck Grenci Says:

    comments #1 & #2

    ‘It’s got a cop motor, a 376 cubic inch plant, it’s got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It’s a model made with catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Chevymobile or what?’

    Why not, Chevy brought it over for the Police Cruisers; sell some for the ‘civilians’ and make a few bucks. Might be one heck of a car (in its newest rendition). I say bring it on.

  4. pedro fernandez Says:

    #3 agree but the G8 did not sell well at all, Chevy needs better numbers to justify its existence here.

  5. C-Tech Says:

    All Chevy needs for the SS to be successful is 1.) sales in the 14-16,000 range. This is a halo vehicle, much of the tooling and testing is already paid for, and these numbers will be competitive with the Taurus SHO and Charger SRT-8 2.) Great quality, those who buy this car will probably be buying their first GM car and GM does not want it to be their last.

    The interview with Ralph Gilles was great. I love that he did not hold back. I hope you have him on again, perhaps after the Dart has been out for a year.

  6. XA351GT Says:

    To answer #1&2 Yes we need it. More than another hybrid that is over priced and won’t sell. Here’s the difference the SS, people will want to buy but can’t afford ,the hybrid nobody wants or can afford. The VF Commodore is new this is a warmed up VE model ,but new enough. Let’s face it this is a car for those guys still holding onto their Impala SS from years ago. There can be room out there for fun cars not just toasters on wheels. If you can afford it go for have fun and burn some rubber.

  7. Jesse W. Henry Says:

    If Ford hits the fuel economy targets they are shooting for it will be interesting to see if the C Max can outsell the Prius. I have my doubts as it looks pretty “normal” for a hybrid. I still feel that the biggest reason the Prius sells so well is because people like to show off that they are “green”.

  8. Roger T Says:

    A four letter word for the new Chevy G8:

  9. Kit Gerhart Says:

    How many Prius owners do you actually know? I know 4 of them pretty well, one being myself, and we didn’t buy the cars to show that we are “green”. We bought them because they get great gas mileage, and have lots of room for people and “stuff” for cars their size. Yes, they look different from most cars, but for a reason. That shape lowers aero drag by 20-25% compared to “normal” cars their size, which allows a Prius to get mid 40′s mpg, even at freeway speeds. There are a million Priuses on U.S. roads, essentially all of them being used as daily drivers. Most of these people bought them because they work well for what they were designed to do.

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    That HS250H was a guilded Camry hybrid more than a guilded Prius. It is a sedan rather than a hatchback, and, in fact, used the power train of the old Camry hybrid. I suspect the new Camry hybrid helped kill it off in a big way, the Camry being quicker, roomier, and getting better gas mileage. That “L” can only go so far in selling mediocre cars.

  11. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I suspect Chevy doesn’t want the SS to sell too well both because it will kill GM’s CAFE numbers, and because the Australian plant can’t produce huge numbers of them for export.

    If they keep the price near that of the Charger R/T, it should sell pretty well. At SRT-8 prices, probably not.

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    I think the Prius would sell well even if it was based on the Corolla chassis, it is not the body per se that attracts buyers it is the fact that you give up nothing for achieving great mileage.

  13. Lex Says:

    It is about time that General Motors cloned Holden products for the United States. The G8 was wonderful. The New Holden/Chevy Caprice Police Interceptor would make Mad Max proud. I like the fascia on the Holden Cruze better that the Chevy Cruze. The R&D and tooling money that both Holden and Chevy would save would be fanastic. GM has Opel/Buick-USA/Buick-China.
    Why can’t their be a stronger alliance between Holden and Chevy products since Pontiac is gone?
    I hope Mark Reuss is behind this decision!

  14. Jonathan Says:

    I just finished driving a few hundred miles in a new prius…

    Very ecomomical and a fine driving vehicle. I look forward to what Ford does with its new hybrid competitor…

    In this segment..its all about frugality…both in pricing and in daily driving….

    Looks good in the photos etc…so I hope ford kicks toyotas butt!

    I prefer to buy american although I personally enjoy cars with a bit more get up and go! IE…Chevy SS although the volt drive was quick compared to the snail pass of the pretty little prius I recently had the pleasure of adding up the miles…

    Ford has the get up and go area covered with the new ecoboost 4 cylinders for the focus ST and hopefully something interesting for the beautiful fusion ST that might be coming?

    What I really want to see is the stunning evo concept transformed to the next mustang GT with a bad @ss V8 and a wet dual clutch system for the best of both worlds…

    Sorry for the Rant…

    Great show craig cole! Keep them coming…One last question….mr. Cole…are you shaving yet?

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    All but one of my Prius driving friends might have bought something else, like a TDI Jetta wagon, were Prius not a liftback. The Corolla “chassis” could have been used, and most buyers wouldn’t care, but the body not only adds utility over a Corolla sedan, but also improves highway mpg. For city driving, there wouldn’t be much difference from a Corolla body.

    When I saw the C-Max at the NY show, the front end looked funny, as if they couldn’t decide which corporate nose to use, so they used both. Other than that, I thought it looked pretty good. If it outperforms and out-mpg’s the Prius V, it should sell well, as long as it is reliable and Ford’s famous driver distraction features don’t drive people away.

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    All but one of my Prius driving friends might have bought something else, like a TDI Jetta wagon, were Prius not a liftback. The Corolla “chassis” could have been used, and most buyers wouldn’t care, but the body not only adds utility over a Corolla sedan, but also improves highway mpg. For city driving, there wouldn’t be much difference from a Corolla body.

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    When I saw the C-Max at the NY show, the front end looked funny, as if they couldn’t decide which corporate nose to use, so they used both. Other than that, I thought it looked pretty good. If it outperforms and out-mpg’s the Prius V, it should sell well, as long as it is reliable and Ford’s famous driver distraction features don’t drive people away.

  18. Hondatrix Says:

    ?Does Chev still build it’s “own” cars? What’s with all the rebadged Daewoo’s and Holdens?

  19. cwolf Says:

    I don’t have a problem with the look of the C-max front end. The engine choice is good and has proven reliability. At first glance,I see little difference and utility between that and the Escape,except that the C is a hyb. One hope it bests the mpg’s of the priusV since it’s cargo space is about 10 cu.ft smaller;without knowing if it is shorter in total length. Ford is definitly on the move!

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The C-Max will be 8 inches shorter than the Prius V, according to CR’s web site.

    While the C-Max is heavier than the Prius, it will have a lot more power, so should be quicker. If the Ford actually beats the Prius in gas mileage, it should sell very well. I’m not holding my breath on that, but we should soon know.

  21. Jesse W. Henry Says:

    #9 Kit Gerhart #12 Pedro Fernandez

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    Just went to a local Toyota/Scion dealer so my son could make a deposit on an FRS (big mistake) anyway, I got a case of sticker shock, no wait more like sticker tasering, when I looked at a 3 door Yaris with a dealer sticker with a $2k “inventory shortage” surcharge. Total MSRP $19,700 Why isn’t this considered theft or larceny, Inventory shortage?? really? I remember reading a couple of weeks ago that Yarises were sitting unsold on dealer lots. So what’s the story?

  23. cwolf Says:

    pedro,if that dealership is daring enough to scalp $2k from a buyer and to be bold enough to post this theft on the window sticker,I think your son might think of going some place else to buy his car!

  24. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The more I see and hear, the more it seems that Indiana is a very good place to buy a Toyota, at least the dealer where I bought my Prius. I got a $1000 factory rebate. There were no “add ons,” except the actual cost of registering the car, and I got at least a fair, if not good trade value on my Malibu Maxx. It’s too bad the dealer in question doesn’t do Scion, in case I might want an FRS some day, which is possible.

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Maybe I protesteth too much, but I’m just stating why three friends, and myself bought Priuses, and it was because of how they work, not about any “statement” they make.

    I suspect the “Americans don’t like hatchbacks and wagons” mentality applies a lot less to people who care about gas mileage than to the general American car buyer. That being the case, I suspect the C-Max will sell very well, if it works well, which I suspect it will. I look forward to finding out how the C-Max does, both in mpg, and in sales.

  26. cwolf Says:

    If Ford thinks the C-max is to capture a few prius sales,they better show their beliefs by including the same hyb warranty as the prius.

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Like a Prius, the Fusion hybrid has an 8 year 100K mile warranty on the hybrid equipment and big battery, so I suspect the C-Max will too.

  28. pedro fernandez Says:

    cwolf, Scion still has the one price policy so no dealer BS there, the only thing they can do is load it up with dealer installed crap that you have to take or else, specially seeing the popularity of that upcoming car, as far as the Yaris, I’ll be damned to pay that much money for a subcompact, Mickey Mouse car. I will take a 2 yr old Corolla for less money and get an all around better car.

  29. Brett Says:

    While I found the brief video of the C-Max to be appealing, the static images I located elsewhere left me thinking that the whole “A-pillar meets front fender” area looks awkward as Hell.

    I cannot believe they couldn’t have made that area a lot cleaner. It’s like three different form languages colliding right there in about a square foot of space. Ugh…

  30. Brett Says:


    One reason I’ve never owned a Toyota is from the negative experiences I had at dealerships in Southern California some twenty-odd years ago. (some have been quite odd, in fact)

    I’d walk in the showroom see all of the $2-3,000 upcharges tacked on the sticker, then ask if I can take a test drive. The attitude was basically, “Sir, don’t be absurd! The man behind you already has his checkbook out. Why should I bother with allowing you a test drive? Don’t waste my time!”

    FWIW – that was the Toyota dealership down in El Toro/Laguna Hills where I-5 and I-405 come together. On the same frontage road as Jim Click Ford (if it’s still the same name).

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