Episode 904 – To Infiniti and Beyond, Fiat 500 Abarth Sold Out, EU Cranking Up the Carbon

June 5th, 2012 at 11:40am

Runtime: 9:13

Infiniti just announced Johan de Nysschen is moving to its brand new headquarters in Hong Kong to take over that brand for Nissan. If you were looking to buy a Fiat 500 Abarth you’re going to have to wait. The EU will present a report to automakers tomorrow proposing lighter carbon-dioxide standards. All that and more, plus a review of the 2012 Subaru Legacy.

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily. Today is June 5, I’m John McElroy, and here’s the news.

On yesterday’s show we reported that Johan de Nysschen was leaving as president of Audi of America, and I said he probably would end up in a top position at some other automaker. Well Infiniti just announced that de Nysschen is moving to its brand new headquarters in Hong Kong to take over that brand for Nissan, with the official title of senior vice president.

If you were looking to buy a Fiat 500 Abarth you’re going to have to wait. According to The Detroit News, the company is no longer taking orders for the car from dealers in the U.S. Fiat originally planned to sell around a thousand when it launched in April, then quickly increased production to 3,000 units based on demand. But now the sporty subcompact is just about sold out. Customers who place an order will have to wait for the 2013 model.

U.S. rental car company Enterprise will start renting cars by the hour this year. According to Bloomberg, the company has acquired several small hourly rental companies and plans to consolidate them to increase its fleet. Renting cars by the hour was started by Zipcar over a decade ago. Hertz entered the market a few years back and by next year it plans to offer its entire fleet for hourly rental. Hourly rentals have grown into a $1.8 billion industry in the U.S. and could jump to over $3 billion by 2016.


2011 was a banner year for the Ford F-150. This popular pickup received a groundbreaking lineup of new powertrains, including a segment-leading base engine as well as a twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6. To keep things fresh, the company is making a few tweaks for 2013. The truck gets a mildly restyled front end with available HID headlamps. There are three new exterior color options and some fresh wheel designs. Hill-descent control is offered as is an electronically locking rear end. For better or for worse MyFord Touch has finally made it to the lineup. It will be interesting to see how this pickup compares to the redesigned GM models which are due early next year.

Is the European Union’s commitment to reducing global warming starting to fade? According to Bloomberg, the EU will present a report to automakers tomorrow proposing lighter carbon-dioxide standards. It sure sounds like the economic downturn and debt crisis have European governments worried about burdening the auto industry with too much regulation.

Following Audi and Peugeot, Mazda is the latest manufacturer to go racing with diesel engines. It will campaign its Skyactiv-D engine in the 2013 Grand-Am series, in the GX class, which is reserved for advanced drivetrain technologies. The 2.2-liter engine will redline at 5,200 RPM and is fed by a two-stage turbocharger. The engine’s compression ratio is quite low for a diesel at 14-to-1. Mazda has not yet released what the engine’s output will be, or which model it will be raced in.

Coming up next, a look at the limited edition of the Subaru Legacy.

(This feature is only available in the video version of today’s program.)

Sales of the Legacy are running strong, but just to put it in perspective, so far this year sales of the Legacy stand at about 20,000 cars in the American market. That’s about what the Toyota Camry sells in one month!

Before we go today here’s a heads up about some unique programming. This Friday, June 8, we’ll be broadcasting a special Hall vs. Hall edition of RoundAbout. Jim Hall will grapple with twin brother Bob Hall in all things automotive, so tune in for that at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time THIS Friday. But, we also want topics for the Hall brothers to debate — you know, what’s the best “this”? Who built the worst “that”? E-mail all your ideas to RoundAboutShow@gmail.com. Once again, that’s RoundAboutShow@gmail.com.

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

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

43 Comments to “Episode 904 – To Infiniti and Beyond, Fiat 500 Abarth Sold Out, EU Cranking Up the Carbon”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    These rent by the hour fees are higher than if you get a weekend special or reserve ahead, they only help those whose cars are out for service for a few hrs. Also the Abarth is not worth it when you compare it to the FRS or BRZ

  2. Chuck Grenci Says:

    As lame as Sky active evoked at introduction, and even though professional evaluations rendered a same type overview, its persistence (in advertising) is gaining recognition and is starting to be accepted as a ‘nom de plume’ for Mazda’s halo for engine performance. Perhaps their persistence shall be rewarded. Personally, I still don’t like it, but at least I know what it means/represents.

  3. Tony Gray Says:

    Boy, ya think Subaru could have taken five minutes to WASH that car before they gave it to you for your video review???

  4. pedro fernandez Says:

    #3 oh but it fits their go anywhere, get down and dirty with it reputation.

  5. buzzerd Says:

    Living in the snow belt some of the Subaru’s cars really appeal to me but never quite enough to buy. They always seem to be about 5 years behind everyone else. Look at the new Impreza, nice car but there brand new engine needs to either make more power or get better mileage to compete. This new legacy seems to carry on in that tradition.

  6. C-Tech Says:

    Given Infiniti’s recognition in the premium luxury car segment, they probably have the right person, Johan de Nysschen to raise the respect for the brand.

    The Abarth sold out, wow. Now that the die-hards who have been waiting for it have got one, will they sell out the 2013 alloment? Do you build twice as many and risk losing some of the exclusitivity?

    Ford just doesn’t rest with F-150. They are determined to stay king of the hill. Maybe Dave is still out there with his Ford F-series?

    I guess the name Tenacious D being taken prompted the name Skyactive D.

    Subarus appeal to a certain segment of the driving public. I hope they continue to meet the needs of that special niche.

  7. mike Says:

    #3 – If Subaru provided a clean car you might notice that the fit and finish aren’t up to par. You don’t think they gave him a car that needed a bath by accident, do you?

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    #7 Really? I must go to my nearest Subaru dealer and check this out, I find it unusual that I have never read any critics mention this.

  9. Lex Says:

    I want to wish Johan de Nysschen much success at Infiniti. I believe he will help elevate the brand in a couple of short years. Also, please mention to the folks at Nissan Headquarters that they should re-style the Versa right away as either a smaller version of the New Altima or replace it with a ICE powered Leaf.

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Subaru sells as many Legacys in a half year as Toyota sells Camrys in a month. Subaru apparently wants it that way. If they would get over their obsession with mandatory 4WD, they could sell Legacys in Florida, as well as in the midwest and northeast.

  11. aliisdad Says:

    #7… While the Subaru is not much to look at and some models offer too much 80′s plastic cladding, I really disagree with you about fit and finish…We’ve had two Subaru wagons, and both are super well built, comfortable, and the fit/finish is almost as good as the Mercedes’…
    In fact, I have a short story about build quality…One day, a friend came over to visit just as I was pulling out of the garage in the Subie…Evidently, I was distracted and forgot about the rear side door that I had left open…Well, when I backed out, there was the sound of crinkling metal, and I looked over to see the side of my Jeep deformed badly…Well, the Subaru door was fine after all the damage it did to my Jeep…That really sold me on the toughness of these cheeky little cars…
    Subaru cars are not perfect, but fit/finish and quality are just fine…

  12. Lex Says:

    What is with Mazda? I prefer Zoom Zoom or Mazda Speed to SkyActive any day. The New CX-5 has great styling in the rear but the front grill is way too over stated for a vehicle of that size and portions. I hope Mazda and Fiat will be a good partnership between East and West.

  13. Lex Says:

    Subaru is a niche player in the Auto Industry.
    They realized that certain buyer want AWD in Compact and Midsize vehicles.

  14. aliisdad Says:

    #12.. It would be fun to see what Mazda and Fiat could come up with…I also think that a Mazda and Suzuki merger might be a good idea…AND it would be great to have the Mazda Miata with a new little brother brought into the US being the Suzuki Cappichino!!! (Sorry if spelling in wrong)

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    A BS marketing term like “EcoBoost” is working great for Ford, so Mazda wanted to come up with one of their own, thus “SkyActive.”

  16. pedro fernandez Says:

    Ecoboost, Skyactive,Hyundai direct injection all sound fine and dandy when new, but long term durability/reliability is a big question mark IMO. Re Subaru when I lived in NJ I would visit rural Pa a couple of times per year and was shocked at how many Subaru models were sold there, this is before SUV’s became popular, so I guess the volume has gone down since.

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Direct gas injection not only sounds like a potential long term reliability issue, but I don’t see that it buys you anything. A case in point is that the GDI-equipped Sonata performs no better than a non-GDI 4 cylinder Camry, in either acceleration or gas mileage. What’s the point of the GDI?

  18. HtG Says:

    Yes that’s correct, there are lots of Subies around here in Westchester. A few years ago a salesman told me the reason they kept the manual Impreza on the sales floor was that no one bought them, so they never had to clean it.
    Skyactive must be a true PR faceplant if even we think it’s about engines. Mazda had the notion of a ‘blue sky’ approach to designing efficient and fun cars. It’s also about lightweight structure and precise transmissions. Do any normal people know what Skyactive means?

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    In the case of the even more complex Ford “EcoBoost” GDI turbo, in an F150, the turbo seems to offer little advantage over a 5.0 liter V8. The turbo gets a 1 mpg better EPA combined gas mileage rating, 18 vs 17, but the two engines get nearly identical 0-60 times and gas mileage in CR’s tests.

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “Do any normal people know what Skyactive means?”

    Not really.

    To me, though, the most interesting part of “skyactive” is the automatic transmission that uses a torque converter for a smooth, and “normal” standing start, but the converter locks up and stays locked up except in first gear at very low speed.

  21. W L Simpson Says:

    Hong Kong—– where the money is

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit the auto tranny in the FRS is the most responsive multi-speed auto I have ever driven, besides my archaic 3 speed that after 25 mpg it goes to and stays on third until it’s time to slow down or stop. One complaint I’ve had of most new cars I have tested out is the sluggish, stay at high gear autos that are programmed for max mpg and nothing else. BTW when they had the ZOOM ZOOM campaign, I drove a couple of Mazdas and the Zoom went by w/o me noticing

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, you don’t notice the zoom much in my sister’s Mazda 5, but it’s a nice vehicle for her purposes.

  24. Alex Kovnat Says:

    According to item titled “crank up the carbon”

    > It sure sounds like the economic
    > downturn and debt crisis have
    > European governments worried
    > about burdening the auto industry
    > with too much regulation.

    Bravo! Would that our government could be as sensible.

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If having high fuel usage, which equals high carbon emissions is “sensible;” I guess the U.S. is currently a lot more sensible than Europe. I, for one, don’t see it that way. I’d rather share the road with a fleet more like what they have in Europe, rather than with a bunch of 5000 pound trucks used to transport one person, like we have here.

  26. cwolf Says:

    In my view,the most interesting words said about “skyactive” are the high rpm’s they operate at. It was reported that once the high rpm’s reach peak performance,mpg’s suffer and at less than maximum road speeds,such as on the pike. Still,my sons mazda 3 2.0 has been a swell car so far,but it is rather expensive to repair.

    Here is something I heard on Bloomburg: Did you know Germany exports more than China? German car sales slumped 6% last month. I would hate to predict what could result if the trend continues. Sure is ugly out there; but a great time to start buying valued stocks!

  27. cwolf Says:

    By the way: yesterday I mensioned the 2013 Ford Fiesta getting a 3 banger ecoboost and some of you stated reasons why small car sales have been rather poor. Well… first reported predictions think the Fiesta could get,”north of 50 mpg on the highway!” If true,this just might turn a few heads because the Fiesta is a nice riding car for the size,though higher priced than other econo-boxes.

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Do you mean Germany exports more total exports than China, or more cars? If Germany has more total exports, I’m surprised. Of course, one S-Class amounts to as much value as about a million Chinese dust pans at Wal Mart.

  29. cwolf Says:

    From my understanding,German total exports exceeds China’s. Can’t say if this is total revenue or percentage wise. I’ll check their site later, if I have time.

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I read somewhere, maybe AutoWeek, that Ford set some speed records with the turbo triple, in a Focus. I think it made about 120 hp from 1 liter. I don’t remember the power of the turbo Sprint, predecessor to the Geo Metro, but it was a lot less than that.

  31. cwolf Says:

    Question: Romney said today he would seek a quick exit with GM. This would result in a 16 BILLION dollar loss if shares were sold today. What’s with this?

  32. cwolf Says:

    # 30 Kit,I think it had only 98 hp.

  33. Jesse W. Henry Says:

    #19 KIt Gerhart

    The ecoboost has 40 more pound feet of torque 1700 RPM sooner and the torque is flat and steady after that. You put a 10,000 pound trailer behind it and you will see quite a difference in 0 to 60 times. Drive them both back to back and there is a noticable difference.

    That being said the 5.0 is a heck of a nice engine and all that most half ton truck buyers will ever need… heck the 3.7 V6 is all the more most truck buyers will ever need.

    To everyone worried about Direct Injection. I understand your concerns and like anything reliability wont be known for a long time. If they are built well why would they fail?

    Almost every diesel sold in the U.S. in the last 15 years is Direct Injected and Turbocharged and they last quite well… the same arguments were made about Electronic Fuel Injection in the 80′s about the high cost of fixing it down the road. Who here wants to trade in the EFI on the car they currently daily drive for a carb?

  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Here’s the last 1.0 liter, 3 cylinder turbo sold in the U.S. It had 73 hp.


  35. pedro fernandez Says:

    #33 TTAC published an article written by an automotive engineer explaining why he does not care for Direct Injection including issues with 10% ethanol in gas today.

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    All diesels are direct injection. Diesel fuel is “oily” compared to gasoline, which should make life easier for the pump and injectors than with GDI.

    My main point in my earlier post was, “what does GDI buy you?” If the gas mileage and power are the same, what’s the point? With EFI, everything improved, power, gas mileage, relibility, and emissions.

  37. HtG Says:

    36 I thought Toyota/Subaru was using an extra set of injectors in the manifold so that they could keep the direct injectors working right. I can’t remember what the risks are for direct injectors, but don’t they let you shape the ignition efficiently? At the Ford display in NY they showed how the piston head was contoured so that burning fuel near the direct injector nozzle could maximize cold engine efficiency.

  38. Jesse W. Henry Says:

    #35 & 36 Pedro & KIt

    There may be issues with gas and DI I have not read that article. The articles I have read concerning DI in the past were that the reasons were to be able to increase static compression ratios and the other reasons were that you could run the engine leaner while still meeting emission standards. All the articles I have read in the past they always stated the emissions were the issue with lean burn and modern port fuel injection.

    To the power, gas mileage, and reliability comment. Original EFI engines didn’t have many gains power and fuel mileage… not compared to the extra cost and people were arguing that there would be no long term reliability advantage and when it did come time to replace parts the expense would make the engine thrw away. We now know that there were long term reliability improvements because time has proven it. In the 80′s the arguments were the same against EFI as they are against DFI now.

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    GDI allows you to “stratify” the mixture, having it rich enough to ignite near the plug, which is near the injector, and progressively leaner in other parts of the combustion chamber. I guess it helps efficiency, but it doesn’t show up much in actual practice, from the research I’ve done on roughly equivalent GDI and port injection engines.

    The one exception I found, is that when M-B did a “makeover” of the 3.5 V6 used in the E-Class and a bunch of other vehicles, the power and EPA mileage ratings improved substantially. The gas mileage ratings went from among the worst for a car its size and power, to pretty good, at least in the E-Class. I don’t know what changes were made in addition to going to direct injection.

  40. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I had an ’85 Pontiac 6000 wagon with a 2.8 with EFI, which was an option. You’re right, in that the power was not hugely different. The carburetor version was 112 hp, and the EFI was 135 hp. As I remember, the gas mileage was probably about the same. From my memory of talking to friends with the carb version, the biggest advantage of the EFI one was that it had better drivability. There were only one or two years that they used both carburetor and EFI versions of that engine in cars. By ’87, they were all EFI. I’m pretty sure all of the EFI 2.8′s used in cars were port injection. They used some throttle body injection 2.8 engines in S-10/S-15 pickups for a while.

  41. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Here’s the article I mentioned earlier about the “EcoBoost” turbo triple in the Focus:


  42. Johndoe1 Says:

    Tony Gray Says:
    June 5th, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Boy, ya think Subaru could have taken five minutes to WASH that car before they gave it to you for your video review???

    Even if they did, it would still look butt-ugly.

  43. pedro fernandez Says:

    This is nothing new, but it is only power and weight that really matter, my 86 Camry had less than 100hp with a heavier body than the Crapolla,which in turn has 120hp and more torque as well, the diff between the 2 was quite a lot, in just about every driving situation