Episode 906 – GM & Ford Feud Over Tow Ratings, Inventory in China Grows, Jaguar XF Gets the Axe

June 7th, 2012 at 11:30am

Runtime: 7:46

Ford and GM are in a dispute over tow-ratings for pickup trucks. Car dealers in China are complaining about growing inventory levels that are hurting their profits. Jaguar designers recently “deconstructed” a model of its XF sedan by destroying it with axes. All that and more, plus we take a look at the new Scion iQ.

Visit our sponsors to thank them for their support of Autoline Daily: BorgWarner, Bosch, Bridgestone and Dow Automotive Systems

»Subscribe to Podcast | iTunes | Zune | RSS | Listen on Phone Stitcher

Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily for June 7. I’m John McElroy and here’s the latest of what’s happening in the automotive industry.

I remember when a four-speed manual was considered the hot ticket to have. But now the Porsche 911 features a seven-speed manual transmission, and according to patent filings we found on Autoblog, BMW is also working on a stick-shift with one forward gear for every day of the week. It’s reported the Bavarian automaker is also developing a shift-by-wire system to prevent drivers from inadvertently grabbing the wrong gear. It would prevent so-called “money shifts” – costly mistakes that can destroy a car’s engine by mechanically over-revving it or ruin a clutch disk. The setup would feature a coupling filled with an electromagnetic fluid that could change viscosity to prevent the lever from making a shift. It may sound like it’s pie-in-the-sky, but it is an ingenious idea.

Ford and GM love trying to one-up another, whether it’s in advertising, in products or even with arguments between their executives. Now the dispute is about tow ratings for pickup trucks. Ford and GM, along with Japanese automakers, agreed to new SAE guidelines for tow ratings that start for 2013 models as a way to better compare trucks. Toyota already adopted the standards and GM released info on its 2013 trucks using the new ratings. But the new standards usually result in lower tow ratings. So, according to Pickuptrucks.com, Ford will not adopt the new ratings until the redesigned F-series hits the market in a few years. GM released a statement criticizing “its competitors” for not using the standards, and then changed its tow-ratings to the pre-SAE ratings even though the new numbers were already released.

Car dealers in China are complaining because inventory levels are climbing to unsustainable levels. From April to May, inventory levels shot from 45 days to 60 days. What makes all that inventory all the more astonishing is that in 2010 China had 16,000 dealerships but now has 21,000. And yet Bloomberg reports that automakers believe the car market in China is about to grow strongly again and they say those inventory levels are not a problem. Chinese car dealers report that their profit margins are declining because they have to discount those cars to reduce their inventory levels.

U.S. INVENTORY LEVELS (subscription required)
By comparison, in the U.S. market, inventory levels stand at an average of 53 days, according to Ward’s. And that is considered low for this time of year. Inventory levels range from a low of 24 days for BMW, 25 days for Hyundai and Kia, all the way up to 104 days for Lincoln and 106 days for Cadillac.


Despite China’s 25 percent tariff on imported cars, import sales are soaring. According to Gasgoo, imports were up nearly 22 percent to 88,000 vehicles in April compared to last year. For the first quarter, over 372,000 vehicles were imported into China, an increase of 21 percent compared to 2011. And over half of the passenger vehicle imports are SUVs. German luxury automakers dominate import sales. BMW is number one, followed by Mercedes, VW, Audi and Lexus, in that order.

In spite of the advanced computer modeling that’s available today, automotive designers still mock cars up in clay. There’s just something about working the material by hand and seeing a vehicle in real life that can’t be replicated by bits and bytes. But what happens to these clay models when a vehicle goes into production? Do they get stuck in a museum? Are they recycled? Well, Jaguar recently “deconstructed” a model of its XF sedan. And by deconstruction I mean the designers attacked it with axes, destroying all of their hard work with a few merciless blows. That small mountain of foam and clay didn’t stand a chance!

Coming up next, we’ll take a look at the new Scion iQ.

2012 SCION iQ
(The 2012 Scion iQ review is only available in the video version of today’s program.)

So far sales of the iQ are relatively weak, running at fewer than 1,000 cars a month in the American market.

Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours tonight starting at 6 p.m. Eastern Time. Our guest will be Dan Kapp, who is in charge of advanced powertrain engineering at Ford. We’ll be talking about where they go from here with their EcoBoost program. So join me and that inimitable Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo, for the best insider discussion in the world of cars.

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

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

37 Comments to “Episode 906 – GM & Ford Feud Over Tow Ratings, Inventory in China Grows, Jaguar XF Gets the Axe”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    Why would the Scion IQ need cruise control? it’s a city car. No need for it in city driving at all. Over priced but so is the Dumb and that one sold pretty well at start-up and it’s got a horrible transmission. BTW the Chinese are realizing their home made stuff stinks so they’ll pay more for the imported goodies, much like we did here in the 80′s and 90′s.

  2. Tony Gray Says:

    The tow rating issue reminds me of the early 70s change from gross to net HP ratings. I don’t know why they just don’t publish the old and new ratings and be done with it.

    Funny how back in the 50′s and early 60′s some HP ratings were rather optimistic…then due to insurance concerns they became pessimistic.

    It appears now with regards to truck power they want to wring every lb ft of twist on their advertising copy, regardless of whether it makes a difference in the real world.

  3. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Also, in the 60′s, some cars’ horsepower was “derated” so the cars would run in an easier “pure stock” class at the local drag strip.

  4. pedro fernandez Says:

    TTAC reports that Texas will have a toll road that will allow for a fee to go 85 mph. I can just see an increase in deaths due to bad drivers with deep pockets trying to prove how macho they are despite having poor driving skills, a disaster in the making.

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If I had an iQ, I’d want cruise control, and I’d want it to be able to set at low speed, like 25 mph, good for making sure speed does’t creep up in certain residential areas that are heavily patrolled.

    I can understand why some people would buy an iQ; it drives decently, and would work well as a city car. The smart is another story, mainly because of the tranmission, which still hasn’t been fixed after how many years?

  6. Kit Gerhart Says:

    …and probably most of the people taking advantage of the “pay to drive fast” scheme will probably be driving ill-handling, poor stopping pickups and big SUV’s.

  7. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit I did not think of that fact, but I guess in Texas, that is what you will get, BTW I have always been told NOT to use C C in the city with all its stop and go heavy traffic. Why would you need that, don’t you trust your right foot? Personally most of my driving is city and I don’t ever miss C C unless I hit the highway on along trip, then it becomes crucial to have.

  8. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Speed, in itself, is not dangerous (though exponentially more damage occurs when a crash occurs). Your ‘pretzel logic’ that, just deep pockets, (who you assume can’t drive) will slaughter themselves is highly speculative. A greater concern (with speed) is the differences between speeds, on the same roadway; now that is more dangerous, and this is what we are seeing on the current freeways now (speed bandits swerving between lanes at high speeds startling other drivers that have been overtaken that seemingly have come from nowhere because of these speed variances). Other than the extra use of our fuel resources, a toll road (with these higher speeds) on a limited access roadway makes some sense) especially in the open areas of rural Texas.

  9. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I don’t use CC in heavy traffic, but use it a lot in light traffic, whether at high speed on the interstate, or low speed in town. I suspect light traffic is a lot harder to find in South Florida than where I am, especially when I am in Indiana.

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The waste of fuel resources, along with the extra danger to those NOT driving 85+ mph in their Suburbans, etc., is enough reason to not have that pay-to-drive-fast scheme, IMHO.

  11. Todd T Says:

    I do hope the BMW system is less annoying that the old GM “GAGS” system.

    85 MPH? Why not? Many states have 80 and there some 85′s out the all ready, deaths have NOT increased. If you can’t drive at 85 on long boring stretches of road that doesn’t have a turn in sight, chances are you can’t drive at any other speed either.

  12. C-Tech Says:

    The saddest thing about the towing rating feud is that this only further confuses consumers, and automakers will leave it to the dealers to try to explain it to the customers. Many salespeople, because of high turnover and poor training, have enough trouble explaining the features and benefits of the various cars that are sold. It will add to the consumer distrust of dealers.

    Whew! I thought in the teaser that Jaguar was discontinuing the XF when I read it was “getting the axe”.

    The problem with the 17K IQ is that if you wander over to a Carmax-type of used car dealer you will find good looking 2-3-4 year old Camry’s, Malibu’s, Civic’s, Corolla’s, Accord’s, etc. which are roomier, more comfortable, and more versatile. You really have to want to own an IQ to buy one.

    Can you ask tonight’s guest, Dan Kapp, who is the person in charge of “Hidden Bolt Engineering” Manufacturers seem to make it more difficult to service these vehicles.

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    But how can you stop that from happening the other day driving on the Fl T pike on the right lane some bimbo doing about 40 I had to see what the issue was and she was texting!! I wanted to sideswipe her and then slap her a couple of times for being so damn stupid and dangerous to all those around her.

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    #11, Todd T.
    “Many states have 80 and there some 85’s out the all ready, ”

    What are all these states? I haven’t driven west of the Mississippi in a few years, so have missed them. TIA for a list.

    Sorry about being lazy. I suppose I could look it up.

  15. HtG Says:

    85mph. I’ve done 90 for hours in Montana with light traffic, and it just isn’t a big deal. But 85 between Baltimore and DC on 95 is asking for pain. So much commuter traffic, pickups in the left lane, turns–I get sick thinking about the moments when traffic got up to 85. You just can’t react to anything. I guess it depends where you go fast.

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I looked it up. The “many states with speed limits of 80 and 85″ include 2, Utah and Texas, and only on specified segments of rural interstates.

  17. Brett Says:


    I lived in Houston for several years and did travel about the state of Texas a bit. Once you’re out of town, you’d be taking your life in your hands to drive anything LESS than 85 MPH on the Interstates and freeways.

    #13, #15

    I wish to God that we could have STRICT laws regarding lane discipline in this country. Most American drivers would be walking within weeks if they moved to Europe and tried to drive there.

  18. HtG Says:

    If there were lane discipline in this country I wouldn’t be selling my Miata. Schleppers just love to pull into the left lane as we approach nice turns. I’ve even dodged someone switching from the left into the right lane just as I’m merging; I guess their GPS told them their exit was approaching. Sometimes, it’s such shit to drive.

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “I wish to God that we could have STRICT laws regarding lane discipline in this country. Most American drivers would be walking within weeks if they moved to Europe and tried to drive there.”

    AMEN. That is absolutely essential for safety of traffic with a wide disparity of vehicle speed.

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    HtG where you drive makes all the diff in the world, back in te early 80′s we drove on I15 from LA to Vegas, barely any traffic, wide open road, I felt I could have done 3 digits with no problems, except for the rental Fairmont that we had that was on its last legs with only 36k miles, my how times have changed, now cars are like new at 100k, drive easily at 90 but the roads are to busy.

  21. geelong vic Says:

    Recently traveled on I75 from Florida to Georgia. If you didn’t do 85+ in Atlanta, you would be run over. So in Georgia, you don’t need to pay a toll to travel over 85.

  22. cwolf Says:

    Perhaps the people who buy an iQ are the ones who don’t have one!

    You guys have me feeling guilty about driving speeds. One the pike I often avg. 83 mph on the way home,except near interchanges and the frequent places the troopers like to park. But I never change lanes eratically and know from my yyears on the road that this type of driving is most ticketed.

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I go through Atlanta twice a year, and yeah, I-75 in the Atlanta area is often the fastest part of the trip. I generally go around 75 on the rural part of I-75, but go with the traffic flow in the urban areas, and that is sometimes pretty fast, but, too often, standing still. I had two stoppages resulting from accidents in the Atlanta area on a recent trip from Florida to Indiana, but, fortunately, the crashes appeared to be minor.

  24. HtG Says:

    Spotted in the health food store parking lot today. One Fiat 500 painted Rame(that’s copper, cwolf) with one short hair Russian toy terrier inside. Photo of doggie below.


  25. pedro fernandez Says:

    cwolf: if you think IQ buyers don’t have any, what do you think of Smart buyers, they’re not too smart either?

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    People buy the iQ mainly to have something different, but it is not a bad car if used for its intended purpose, which is as a city car. It’s not a good value, but neither is a 3 Series BMW, but people buy them.

  27. HtG Says:

    The fascination with iPhone meets vehicular manslaughter on the pages of the NY Post.


    Pedro, what does your wisdom tell you?

  28. pedro fernandez Says:

    These “samrt” phones have become this generation’s drug of choice, most of these people are so addicted to these devices, they act like zombies when they’re using them, disregarding all their surroundings including people and cars around them, for ex. in a parking lot. I will be going to Disney in 2 weeks and I am curious to see if the same happens in there, teens walking around tuning out their surroundings including the rides and attractions. I wish I had a dollar for every driver I see talking or texting and not paying attention to the driving, last week I got rear ended by one, no damage so I let it pass.

  29. Johndoe1 Says:

    pedro fernandez Says:
    June 7th, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    TTAC reports that Texas will have a toll road that will allow for a fee to go 85 mph. ”

    Why would any fool pay to do what he or she can already do for free??? Many states have 75mph limits where you can safely drive 8-10 MPH above the limit without any risk of being ticketed.

    “I can just see an increase in deaths due to bad drivers with deep pockets trying to prove how macho they are despite having poor driving skills, a disaster in the making.”

    85 mph in a typical US highway out west, meaning a long, empty stretch of road, is perfectly safe. 85 mph is way too low a speed for today’s cars to be dangerous. Try a twisting mountain road and even 65 mph are far more risky.

  30. Johndoe1 Says:

    Re the Toyota iQ:

    Another tiny vehicle named something sounding intelligent, but being a very DUMB decision for most US buyers.

    It may be a bit better to drive than the original “Dumb”, and have some kind of a back seat for mutilated dwarfs, but it is still dumb for most US buyers.

    ‘People buy the iQ mainly to have something different’

    that is sure the dumb as ox auto iliterate demographic. But there are people who legitimately profit from paying the same or more $ for an IQ than for a much larger Yaris. These are the (few %c wise in the US and many more in Europe and Japan) for whom finding a parking spot on the street is a major issue every day, and such spots are tiny even if found.,

    ‘but it is not a bad car if used for its intended purpose, which is as a city car. ‘

    if you want a Toyota city car, buy a Prius C and have a far, far more useful back seat AND far, far better City MPG.

    “It’s not a good value, but neither is a 3 Series BMW, but people buy them.”

    Apples and oranges again. The 3 series has been copied by everybody and his mother-in-law and every single attempt has failed miserably in sales, even the Lexus IS. The modest price premium of the 3 over equally capable sports sedans offers a far better driving experience.

    “Value” is NOT just doing the 1st grade math and figuring out which car gives you the highest length, width, interior space, HP and torque, per dollar. If you did that, you’d end up with a Chevy Impala. I know. An Israeli engineer I know does that and has been driving one as long as I know him…LOL.

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    That’s an interesting thought about Disney. I haven’t been there since the “smart phone era” really took hold. In today’s world, do all these people who paid almost $100 for the sensory experience of Disney miss it because they are playing with their electronic gadgets? I suppose many of them do.

  32. Johndoe1 Says:

    A reply to a reply of my post in last AD:

    Kit Gerhart Says:
    June 7th, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    The Prius plug-in is not equally capable with the Volt, if you are talking about what it will do on plug-in power.”

    No, it is not. But unlike what you may think, the PPI is actually far superior to the Ugly, impractical VOlt from the point of view of the consumer, who cares about fuel efficiency and cost regardless how it is obtained.

    The PPI has vastly superior MPG OVERALL due to its outstanding HWY MPG vs the pitiful HWY MPG of the Volt. Around town, the PPI may run on battery for fewer miles, but why would anybody care? After the first 12-14 miles, it will switch to the OUTSTANDING MPG the prius achieves on its gas engine alone, and you sure know that better than anybody. Therefore, who cares if “The Prius has less than half the electric-only range of the Volt, and does not have full power on electric power.”? The consumer sure does not.

    ” The gas engine will run, even with a full battery, if you accelerate very fast. There’s nothing wrong with the plug in Prius, but it will not operate as an EV, even for short trips of normal driving.”

    Again, who cares about these internal differences? I will look at my WALLET, and the $10k cheaper the PPI costs, plus its outstanging overall, real world MPG, will make it a far more satisfying buy.

    And furthermore, the VOlt’s idiotic design gives it far, far less cargo space, and even less passenger space, than the very practical prius.

    But there is one thing wrong with the Prius C. Very, very few people will find it better for their needs than the already excellent regular Prius hybrid non-plug-in and non-EV. You are living proof of this. LOL.

    “The biggest potential advantage of the plug-in Prius over a regular Prius could be performance in mountains. The extra bsttery capacity can be used to provide more energy for climbing, and store more energy for decending in places like the Colorado Rockies.”

    for most people living in the Midwestern plains but even in the Northeast and the South, this is just icing on the cake. If you live in the Rockies, I’m not sure any Prius is for you.

  33. Johndoe1 Says:

    pedro fernendez wrote:

    “we drove on I15 from LA to Vegas, barely any traffic, wide open road, I felt I could have done 3 digits with no problems, except for the rental Fairmont that we had that was on its last legs with only 36k miles, ”

    I remember a friend renting one of these turkeys in San Diego (he chose or was given it, I had no part in the selection) I just drove it a few miles). These cars would not attain 3 digit speeds even when brand new, except going downhill. They were just too damned underpowered.

  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yes, all of that is true, but, as with the iQ and 3-Series, some people buy certain cars that are not a “good value” because they like something about the car. In the case of the 3-Series, people buy them, especially the convertible, and don’t even know which wheels the power goes to. Some people buy Volts, because they like the though of being able to do nearly all of their driving without using a drop of gas. They don’t save money, and yes, the Volt has less space than a Prius, but they like the car.

    I’ve driven a Prius C, and about the only reason to buy it over a regular Prius is price. If you are going to use it only, or mostly as a “city car,” and if you don’t need much space, it could make sense. For me, it wouldn’t; my Prius is a “do everything” car, and the regular Prius is much better for that. It’s roomier, it’s quieter, especially at highway speed, and it’s a little quicker.

  35. Brett Says:


    Not to mention they had the aerodynamics of a barn…

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Today I went to a car show in a parking lot of what remains of Delphi Automotive, the company I retired from. In addition to the usual 40′s to early 70′s cars, there were some new cars on display, mainly new cars with “new tech.” There was a Leaf, a Sonata hybrid, a Tahoe hybrid, a couple Prii, and a couple Volts. There was also one of the few existing EV-1′s. One of the Volts, it turned out, belonged to a recently retired Delphi engineer who has been a friend for many years. He is not just any retired engineer. He is very smart in the usual ways, but beyond that, a very creative guy. He realizes that the car is not going to saving him money, at least at today’s gas prices, but he “just likes it.” He plans to install a solar array to charge it, knowing that it is unlikely to ever be cost-effective, but he just likes doing such things.

    Some people spend a lot more than $40K for a 180 mph car that they will never driver over 80. This guy, and I’m sure other Volt buyers, buy them just because they like the technology, and the way they drive. In my friend’s case, it will also provide most of his transportation without a drop of gas, though he will be powering it with mostly coal until he has his solar array.

  37. Milo Atkinson Says:

    Seven gear manual seems like too much to me, I’m just so used to 5-gear shifts, I’m not sure I’d ever get used to it, even with all the wrong-shift preventions they’re developing.