Episode 924 – Making More MINIs, Eurozone Woes Hit Thailand, Minivan Sales Soldier On

July 10th, 2012 at 12:15pm

Runtime: 8:45

MINI is investing major money into expanding its capacity in the U.K., yet the company is  looking to build cars elsewhere too. The Eurozone economic woes are hitting Thailand’s auto industry hard, that country’s exports to Europe fell 10 percent. Despite the popularity of crossovers, minivans soldier on to the tune of 500,000 annual sales. All that and more, plus Dodge launches the Dart’s ad campaign.

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Welcome to Autoline Daily for July 10th. I’m John McElroy and here’s some of the latest developments taking place in the global automotive industry.

Yesterday we showed you the Mini “Inspired by Goodwood” that costs $50,000. Today, Mini announced it will invest $388 million at three of its facilities in the United Kingdom to boost manufacturing capacity by 2015. This is on top of a $776 million investment it made in those operations last year. Yet, even with that increase Mini says its growth strategy means it will need to build cars outside of the UK and is in discussions with the Nedcar plant in the Netherlands, which is a subsidiary of Mitsubishi, to be a contract manufacturer for satellite production.

While Mini is expanding in Europe, overall car sales are plummeting and that’s now starting to hurt Thailand. According to Ward’s, car exports from Thailand to Europe have fallen nearly 10% in the first five months of 2012 compared to last year. Shipments to Europe represent about 6.5% of Thailand’s total car exports.

Even though crossover vehicles have moved a lot of people out of minivans, the minivan segment is still pretty important. There are 6 minivan models in the American market, but only four of the 6 enjoy significant sales. The sales ranking puts the Dodge Caravan as number one, followed by the Honda Odyssey, the Toyota Sienna and the Chrysler Town & Country. Nissan still sells the Quest and Kia has the Sedona, but their sales are not very good. So far this year they’ve each sold only 10,000 vans. And yet, by the end of the year, total minivan sales will run well over half a million units, which is a healthy number. Remember GM and Ford no longer have any entries in that segment, and that means the minivan survivors each get a bigger slice of the pie.

A year and a half ago on Autoline After Hours we had Bob Purcell on the show. He’s the CEO of Protean Electric, a US-based company that developed hub motors, that is, electric motors integrated into the hub of a wheel. Now the company announced it is getting $84 million in new investment to manufacture those hub motors in China. Each motor can generate 110 horsepower and 590 pound feet of torque. That’s 81 kilowatts and 800 newton meters. The motors weigh 68 pounds, or 31 kilos. And that sure is a lot of bolt-on power.

BMW is rolling out its 3-series Active-Hybrid this fall, but the engineers in München must have slept through Hybrid Car class in engineering school because they gave the car more power than the standard 3-series. The turbocharged straight six and electric motor combination makes 13 percent more horsepower and 11 percent more torque than the gas version. The gas-electric 3-series also can travel up to 2.5 miles at 45 miles-per-hour on electric power alone. But any money you save on fuel efficiency will be eaten up by the $7000 price hike over the standard sedan.

For the second time this year, someone is suing an automaker over fuel economy claims, and they seem to be getting out of hand. A California man accuses Hyundai of misleading ads because “40 MPG Hyundai Elantra” claim only reflect the car’s highway mileage and not city or combined fuel economy. The suit also accuses Hyundai of making any disclaimers about the mileage claims impossible to read in the ads. Honda was sued earlier this year in a case that got tossed out of court and my bet is that’s exactly what’s going to happen with this case. Full disclosure, Hyundai is an advertiser on other Autoline programs.

Speaking of car ads, the folks over at Chrysler have shown they’re pretty good at coming up with television ads for their different brands. And the newest one for the Dodge Dart is worth taking a look at.

We normally don’t like to run TV ads for car companies on this show unless that automaker is paying for them. But the new ad for the Dodge Dart is a well crafted, entertaining, 90-second piece that is worth taking a look at.

Now, if we can only convince the people at Dodge to pay us to keep running that ad!

Which team owner will have the strongest draft according to our expert analysts, Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press and Scott Burgess of AOL Autos? If you correctly match their final verdict, you could win a chance to appear on Autoline After Hours with John McElroy and Peter De Lorenzo.

To qualify for the contest there are two steps.  First you must convince a minimum of five new subscribers to sign up for our Autoline e-mail. They can do this by clicking the link on the left side of Autoline.tv. Then submit those names and addresses to contest@autolinedetroit.tv.  And then second, watch or listen to the show and try to determine who Mark and Scott will say won the draft.  Submit your guess also to contest@autolinedetroit.tv for a chance to win.

Remember there are two steps.  First qualify and then submit your team owner.  No submissions will be considered unless they have had a minimum of five new subscribers sign up for the Autoline e-mail.  Our winner will be announced on Thursday, July 19′s Autoline Daily. Good luck!

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

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23 Comments to “Episode 924 – Making More MINIs, Eurozone Woes Hit Thailand, Minivan Sales Soldier On”

  1. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Sounds like we’re heading down that same tired path of over production again (noting production increases and reduced sales in some markets). I guess the companies will continue till some (maybe some of their) models just can’t sustain (anymore).

    Surprised with Chrysler, holding two fairly high (and nearly equal) production models (mini-vans) considering dropping the T&C model; they risk losing some customers as all may not likely switch to their other offering (and choose a competitor).

    Gas mileage lawsuit sure sounds to be a nuisance lawsuit; come on now, who doesn’t know that EPA mileage estimates are just that estimates (and subject to driving conditions and driver inputs). I’m sure there is full disclosure on the EPA label on the window sticker.

  2. Todd T Says:

    Hyundai claims:

    This guy will have to prove how Hyundai has done anything outside the industry norms. Which it has not. All manufacturers advertise only the HWY mileage unless it’s a Hybrid. If any manufacture is more culpable of this misleading behaviour I’d have to say it’s GM. Personally, I like to see a mandate that if only ONE number is advertised it be the COMBINED number, otherwise all numbers have to be advertised. And sadly, as much as small government is wanted by most, these kinds of things don’t happen without mandates.

  3. HtG Says:

    I’m going to sue Honda for giving me better than advertised mileage on my Civic. I am forced to drive significantly above highway speed limits in order to match their claims. You have awakened the wrong sleeping giant, Honda.

  4. Kit Gerhart Says:

    68 pounds sounds like a lot of unsprung weight to add to one wheel of a car with these “power hub” motors. Maybe there is a reason this technology seems to be used only for railroad locomotives.

  5. Bradley Says:

    The Fia-sler (phee-ah-slur) Dart Ad is really good.

    Not sure why sliced bread is an original idea, but I like where the ad went and the result it produced.

  6. C-Tech Says:

    68 pound wheel/hub combo? My back aches thinking about doing a tire rotation :) Seriously the unsprung weight will be a tremendous suspension challenge.

    The guy will probably lose the lawsuit, but how many eyes will be opened to these fuel economy (fake) numbers?

    The BMW 3-series hybrid sounds like money better spent compared to the Goodwood Mini.

  7. HtG Says:

    The Dart advert reminds me of Mazda’s Skyactive spot.


    (yes, sometimes I am a narc.)

  8. HtG Says:

    Oh yeah, is Dartvert a word? No?

  9. Lex Says:

    Chyrsler show drop the Town & Country and bring back the Pacifica to competite against the Toyota Venzia. The new Honda Odyssey seems to me to be positioned directly between the Sienna and and Venzia. I am still waiting to see what the new Hyundai / Kia Sedona Minivan is going to look like.

  10. Charles Domanski Says:

    Power hub motors,,,,,,, made in China, what a shock. Lets quit fooling around and ship each and every job in thr US to China. It will end up that way anyway, so why waste time. I can’t tell you how much I hate these greedy dirt bags for wanting to send ALL jobs over to Chins. They just don’t give a damn about the working American’s.

  11. Jesse Says:

    Any idiot who has even half his or her eyesight can plainly see in big numbers the combined mileage in an ELantra is 33! It’s 40 mpg on the highway and down below on the sticker is actual mileage between x and z. Leave it to those air heads in la la land to waste te courts time and taxpayer dollars! Please kaliformia. Cecede from the nation already so you can live in you’re own fantasyland without harm to others…

  12. aliisdad Says:

    After having a Dodge minivan and having nothing but trouble, which Dodge could not care less about, I don’t see how they sell any minivans…or any other POS they make for that matter!!! I have told about its problems here before, I know, but it still makes me SOOOO mad that I am still angry over a year later!!!!!

    “…friends don’t let friends by Chrysler products…” Amen!!

  13. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It certainly doesn’t justify these these crazy law suits, but you don’t get much information about mpg, other than the EPA highway rating, from car ads. That is, unless you are a speed reader with very good eye sight. Try to read even one line of the “disclaimer” stuff as is goes by during an ad.

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I have a Dodge minivan, and I’ve had very little trouble with it during 23 years of ownership.

  15. pedro fernandez Says:

    If Dr Doom is correct in his dire predictions for the world economy in 2013, then a lot of dealers won’t have to worry about overstock cause they’ll be out of business.

  16. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Todd #2
    What’s with the GM accusation? Name an instance. A blatant accusation, without even an example, is irresponsible. I don’t particularly care for Hyundai (but I supported them in this issue) when they were right; don’t know why GM was in the equation (in your reply).

    aliisaad #12
    You are one owner, again, how can you ‘damn’ the whole car company (by your experience). You’re certainly welcome to make a comment but your experience may be a dealer problem (not Dodge, as a whole); and I’ll second Kit’s observation (again, it’s only me) I had a ’95 Dodge Grand Caravan with excellent ownership experience (my one comment doesn’t mean much either).

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    My comment regarding my ’89 Caravan was not intended to indicate much about today’s Chrysler vans, but I know some people with the newer ones who’ve had few problems. The problems I’ve heard mentioned the most are power windows and locks.

  18. pedro fernandez Says:

    I know that the first gen minivans were a lot more reliable and durable than the 2nd gen. Perhaps the fact that they were so simple and based on the already mostly bug-free K car platforms they were based on most likely made the difference.

  19. George Squared Says:

    Have a look at the Dodge Dart Commercial once again. I think the rear facia on the drivers side has a dent in it. It could be just the light but it looks like a dent. Battle scars on a new car, now that takes guts.

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The first gen vans even have a vent to blow air on your feet when you pull a handle, kind of like a 60′s car. The bad thing about the vent is that it lets in transmission whine. Maybe my manual would have more whine than an automatic, though.

  21. RonE Says:

    We rented a Chrysler T&C minivan while on a Western vacation last year and the van performed flawlessly. I was very impressed with this vehicle.

    The mountains of New Mexico and Colorado presented no problems for the van.

    The van was very comfortable and had tons of storage space.

    If my wife and I were young again w/children, I’d buy one in a NY minute.

  22. Terry Says:

    Having owned two Chrysler mini vans, I can vouch for their reliability. It’s just that the Toyota is soooooo stylish and in this league style makes the difference

  23. Roland Martin Says:

    I absolutely love the Dodge Dart ad, hilarious and funny, … but … what coffee are they advertizing?