Episode 956 – Nissan Champions Testing, How to Beat a Crash Test, First Look Toyota Auris

August 23rd, 2012 at 11:56am

Runtime: 7:55

Nissan hires the top car tester away from Consumer Reports. Engineers explain what has to be done to meet the new small off-set crash test devised by IIHS. We get a first look at the Toyota Auris, set to debut in Paris next month. All that and more, plus John responds to your questions and comments in this week’s edition of You Said It!

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily. It’s August 23, I’m John McElroy and here’s the news.

Nissan is hiring the top car tester away from Consumer Reports. David Champion, who has appeared a number of times on Autoline This Week, will start working at Nissan’s proving ground in Arizona next month. Nissan points out it will launch 5 new models in the next 15 months and hiring David Champion will help the company make sure those models are thoroughly tested before putting them in showrooms. Champion used to work for Nissan back in the mid ’90s when he was a quality assurance engineer. He’s also been a very vocal critic of MyFord Touch, and I wonder if he’s been criticizing it so hard, knowing he was going to work for one of Ford’s competitors?

Automakers were blind-sided by a new crash test from the IIHS. In what they call a small off-set crash test, a car is run into a barrier that catches the outer edge of the front end of a car. It almost looks as if the test is designed to rip the side right off the car. Of the 11 mid-size luxury cars tested so far, only the Acura TL and the Volvo S60 received good crash ratings. To meet the new test, engineers tell me that automakers need to make the outer sides of structure much stronger. And they especially have to strengthen the A-pillar down through the cowl where the door hinges are located, and into the rocker panels. The firewall also has to be strengthened to prevent wheel intrusion. Of course, that extra structure adds weight to a car which hurts fuel economy. But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety test gets so much media coverage, that is literally will force this to become a new standard, even though it’s not mandated by the government.

Chinese domestic automakers continue to face headwinds. All but one of the 9 publicly listed Chinese car companies reported lower profits in the first half of the year, due to falling sales and lower market share. FAW reported a 35% drop in profits and also admitted it is getting subsidies from the state government of Changchun, where it is located.

We just got details on the new Toyota Auris hatchback which debuts at the Paris Motor Show. The car, which is built on the Corolla platform, is sold in Japan and Europe, and is available as a pure hybrid, or can be fitted with a 1.4 liter diesel, or 1.3 liter or 1.6 liter gasoline engines. The company expects each option to account for a third of its sales in Europe. The car offers more upscale features like a panoramic sunroof, a leather trimmed dash and a leather stitched steering wheel. The new Auris will be built at Toyota’s Burnaston plant in the U.K.

Lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems just can’t catch a break. According to Reuters, the company received a warning from the NASDAQ that said its stock price is too low and will be delisted if it doesn’t improve to over $1 a share within the next six months. And it must stay at that price or higher for 10 straight business days. Yesterday A123’s stock price closed at 37 cents.

Coming up next, it’s You Said It!

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

Mike doesn’t like the fact the EPA has approved E15. “Ethanol in gasoline – my understanding is that not only does it decrease power but it damages the engine, wearing it down prematurely. Every industry is opposed to its use, but the government wants to increase the allowed amount. WHY? Guess they want Americans to have to replace their vehicles sooner.” Actually, ethanol has a much higher octane rating, about 105, so engine power increases. Also, ethanol burns cleaner so its does not wear down the engine. In fact most modern engines could probably tolerate E20. Automakers and others are worried about E15 in older cars and by older I mean older than 20 years old. We have a great Autoline This Week coming up in a few weeks where we take a deep dive into ethanol.

C-tech wants to know how Ford figures out the hourly labor rate it pays in different countries. “As Ford provides these “hourly” labor rates in a contract negotiation, how do they determine these rates? What goes into the calculations? How are the various factors weighed? I noticed Mexico was left out, why?” C-Tech, they count wages, including all overtime. They count all benefits, including pension contributions. It also includes retiree pension and health care costs. And Ford only publicly disclosed its labor costs in a few countries, it did not list every single country where it makes vehicles.

fatboy19831 likes the performance version of the Cinquecento. “The Abarth is the best sounding car under 30k. It sounds like a little Ferrari. Most of the good performance stuff is there for the 23k base price.” A Ferrari? It may sound good, but to my ear it does not sound like a V-12.

Bradley and a bunch of you have bemoaned the fact that Ford stopped building the Ranger, the last true compact pick-up in the US market. “Compact trucks fit into suburbia better than full-size trucks and can fulfill most truck owner’s needs. The question is which automaker will be first to reopen this segment? Maybe eager Hyundai or VW will see the opportunity.” Or maybe Chrysler. We keep hearing that it’s working on a lifestyle pickup built off its minivan platform.

Thanks for all your comments on our website. It’s amazing to see how engaged you all are. And there is some really good discussions taking place there.

Hey don’t forget that tonight on Autoline After Hours we have Al Oppenheiser, the chief engineer for the Camaro, who will be bringing a ZL-1 along with him. So join me and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo for the best car talk in the business. That’s tonight starting at 6 pm eastern time, or 22 GMT at Autoline.tv

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

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

44 Comments to “Episode 956 – Nissan Champions Testing, How to Beat a Crash Test, First Look Toyota Auris”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    This new crash test just means more weight, worse fuel economy and thicker A pillars not to mention higher prices, the auto industry is getting attacked by all sectors, not even the Batmobile could pass these new tests. Champion going to Nissan? I don’t see how his input is gonna help, I mean we all know it takes a lot of time and effort to make significant changes to any car that he might find fault in.

  2. Bradley Says:

    Not sure on what basis Ethanol has more power than gasoline, according to Wikipedia it only beats methanol and dry wood.

    Love the show!

  3. G.A.Branigan Says:

    As Ive said many times before,whoever brings in a compact diesel pickup truck will rule,here at any rate.Ford let the Ranger lapse into mediocrity and threw away future sales of a very good selling truck.Their way of thinking was to sell more full size F-150′s because of higher profits.

    That,imho,leaves the door open to it’s competitors whom I believe will act on this once thriving segment.Even the Tacoma has become a heavyweight and lacks in economy.Too bad for them,and too bad for us.For me,I’m tired of waiting so I bought a utility trailer that I can tow behind my cuv,thus eliminating a pickup altogether.Way to go auto makers.Smart thinking on their part…………NOT.

  4. Bradley Says:

    #3 Definitely…Put a generation 1 or 2 Tacoma with a diesel on the car lot, and I’ll be there cash in hand.

  5. Steve Says:

    Below is a link to an article on using methanol.


  6. HtG Says:

    I got a clear shot today at a twisty section of highway marked 20mph. Exit speed of 69mph attained, no crossing of lane lines. 2002 Civic DX, vague steering, all weather Goodyear tires-185 width.

    Yeah, I need to kept away from sports cars

  7. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I’m with pedro (on this one); at what point is a thicker “A” pillar causing more accidents (visual impairment) than a stronger structure is in protecting someone in a crash (that might not have happened in the first place). So, either bigger framework or stronger materials, and those, (stronger materials) are going to price even more people out of the ‘new’ car market(s).

  8. Jon M Says:

    I realize the Auris may be too similar to other Toyota models, but it at least sounds and looks better than the Yaris, so why not bring it here? But then again, being a compact hybrid, Toyota probably doesn’t want it to interfere with Prius sales.

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    Enforce texting and cell phone use laws the same way they enforce seat belt and other laws and you cut back on stupid, bone head accidents which have increased due to driver distractions which I see every single day all around me and you won’t need to make cars like Abrams armor carriers.

  10. HtG Says:

    9 Too late, Pedro. Smartphones have 50% saturation in the US, and more cars have sophisticated displays. Today I watched a guy in a giant Merc SUV reading his Iphone messages in the lane next to me. People crossing streets with a phone at their ear or looking down. Smartphone prices are only coming down and processors get more powerful. Living north of NYC I see many wealthy people in expensive performance cars, so maybe I’m living in the near future. People just aren’t paying much attention to the world immediately around them.

  11. Joe Says:

    John, not sure if you have a lot of UK attendees for AAH but 6 pm eastern time is 23 GMT not 22 GMT.

    BTW I heard GM is bringing the new Colorado stateside. It was launched in Brazil in March and in Mexico this month.

  12. gmveteran Says:

    Hey, is it just me or does that new Auris look an awful lot like the current Lexus CT Hybrid? Is the CT a gussied-up Auris?

  13. MichaelWine Says:

    The new Toyota Auris i better looking than the Prius (which I own) and the body style appears more functional. Why are there so many models that are built for Europe and never get to North America? Oh yes and what about diesels…

  14. jack879 Says:

    It looks to me Nissan is trying to please the morons at Consumer Reports, by hiring one of CR’s employees. Many auto enthusiast will tell you CR is a very bias company, and hiring one of CR’s employees is a way of negating CR negative opinions.

  15. HtG Says:

    Hiring Champion tells me Nissan knows something about how people select Nissans. When we got a Versa a few years ago, the company sent us a detailed questionnaire about how we liked the car, how we selected it, how the dealer treated us. Today, my experience at the service dept. reveals Nissan to be keen on pleasing owners. I bet lots of buyers used CR; would you otherwise even notice cars like Altima or Versa?

  16. jakeryan Says:

    Wow John, make a veiled accusation why don’t you! Calling Champion as biased towards ford because he takes a job at Nissan? Pretty big accusation. Where is your proof?

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    HtG I think all OEM’s send out these surveys, my sis got one from Dodge and I remember when I got my Crapola the sales guy told me I’d be getting one and to please put in a favorable response, I told him he was ok but the finance guy was a mafioso who tried to rip me off by lying to me about having to buy an extended warranty in order to get the special financing, he tried to tell me it was a misunderstanding, which was not at all.

  18. pedro fernandez Says:

    10 true HtG there is no turning back from this, just like we won’t become the once mighty industrialized nation we once were, it will continue to be I scratch your back an you scratch mine. Mr Champion was the head of CR auto testing, I don’t see how this will help Nissan get better reviews from CR for their products, the recent negative reviews for Honda and other Japanese models is well-deserved.

  19. Scott M Says:

    Interesting comment on “you said it” and the possibility of Hyundai or VW offering a compact pickup. VW used to sell a Rabbit based pickup and today sells the Saviero in South America (think Tiguan but with a truck bed). Hey VW here is an opportunity to capture the truly light commercial vehicle segment. Ford blew it by killing the Ranger–it was one of a few models they offer that didn’t have MyFordTouch.

  20. HtG Says:

    The local Nissan dealer has been calling on the phone for a few days, trying to generate a trade or sale. I spoke to the man just so he wouldn’t spend more time on us.

    Ruh Roh

  21. HtG Says:

    After Hours Pop Quiz.What was she driving?

    Walking up to the cashier today at TraderJoe’s a 40ish gal cut me off to get in the line. Then she realized that she had forgotten an item, so she ran off to get her bananas. After waiting for her to return, I took note of her aviator sunglasses worn indoors, gold Rolex, flip flops, and tank top/pot belly combo.

    So, what car did she get into? Extra bonus points for the color.

  22. Chuck Grenci Says:

    #19; red Mustang convertible?

  23. W L Simpson Says:

    e gas is a subsidized scam. I got better mileage w/real gas,all three test runs.

  24. HtG Says:

    20 nope

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    BMW 3 series?

  26. pedro fernandez Says:

    White German 2 door?

  27. HtG Says:

    23,24 BMW X3, black

  28. HtG Says:

    you guys are good

  29. pedro fernandez Says:

    well, I had the country right, good going there Kit, did you run into a similar Bimbette

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yep, I’m pretty sure the CT is based on the Auris, or at least I’ve heard that to be the case. It would be the “old” Auris.

    Part of the reason a Prius gets its exceptional gas mileage, especially at highway speed, is the low aero drag of the Prius body. For that reason, an Auris hybrid, even at lower prices without the Lexis name, would not be a Prius replacement.

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Not in the last few days, but I have in the past, and way too often.

  32. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Congrats, G. A., on the utility trailer. That is the sensible apoach for people who want to carry bulky/dirty/heavy cargo from time to time, without driving a thirsty, expensive, ill-handling truck all the time. It has worked for me for about 30 years.

  33. Gary Paul Says:

    This is a long comment so skip it if desired!

    Yes, use of a properly sized utility trailer is a good way to get around the need for a compact pickup truck. But one of the handy appeals of driving a compact pickup is that, when properly equipped with 2wd, a manual trans, 4-cylinder engine, and a long bed it can be used as a daily economical transportation machine, yet be at the ready at any time to pick up trees, or landscape materials or transporting my little “tank” –a’69 Cub Cadet–around. That’s how I have used my FIVE Ford Rangers I have owned over the last 20 years from the first 1983 model to my present Ranger. And the best of them, when taking the ownership cost, usefulness, fuel mileage, insurance costs, etc., into consideration was the 2wd, 4-cyl., long bed, manual trans model I described up above. I just used mine to run up my new restored tractor from Alabama and it was perfect for the trip, with the 1200 lb. load comfortably snug in the over 7-foot long bed (notice how almost all the compact trucks today have a short, less useful bed).

    The fact that the now retired US Ranger was a down-scaled F150 with full frame rails front to rear and even a copy of the twin I-beam suspension, (which I heartily endorse for its ruggedness) helped seal the deal. This helped make the Ranger a relatively rugged, yet inexpensive truck to engineer, & update, and darn handy to the homeowner! This makes it difficult to understand Ford’s refusal to update the vehicle.

    Claims that the desire for this type of truly compact-sized pickup truck (only about 3,000 lbs., in its most basic form) were fading from a peak may have validity, BUT–there is also evidence that Ford did not support this truck platform during the last 10 years of its life in the US as indicated by limited style/interior/engineering input (the instrument panel/door panels had no major update for more than 15 years(!), and Ford engineering generally ignored a number of well-known issues with the vehicle that could have been addressed for relatively little cost (such as the the rear leaf spring shackles snapping prematurely–ask any good auto mechanic or a Ford Dealer about this)). In addition, Ford also placed almost no $$ into advertising/marketing for the vehicle (Can any of you gentlemen recall an ad for the Ranger over the last 10 years of its existence in the US?–I can’t!)

    Now if you were at Ford and saw the huge profits generated by the F150 line you might think that there was good reason to ignore the little pickup. But this misses the point. This was not an all or nothing situation. The resources needed to keep the Ranger in the hunt were not THAT huge and its qualities could have been improved if Ford had devoted a tiny team to that task.

    This reminds me of another analogy at Ford where by trucks & body on frame sport utes took over the attention of Ford AT THE EXPENSE OF automobile development which generally took place in the US market in the 1990s. Again this was not an all or nothing proposition. Instead Ford put out a number of underdeveloped and rather poorly planned vehicles like the 1996 Ford Taurus which was such a disappointment. They could have improved both traditional truck lines and their cars with proper world wide integration (as was supposed to occur with “Ford 2000″ which failed dramatically and helped lead to Ford’s near death experience).

    As many of you know, Ford has a solid (if a rather large) new Ranger being sold in other markets partly because of older draconian import restrictions put in place decades ago that slap a tariff on Ford for importing these trucks if they did wish to sell them here. Yet with their new-found added bulk/weight abandoning the compact truck category, perhaps there would indeed be rather low sales for such a mid-sized truck so close in size to the F150.

  34. Gary Paul Says:

    By the way I have a “compact” utility trailer as well–and you guys are exactly right. They are darn handy, often have a higher load capacity, and often easier to load. Makes my ‘lil truck even more useful, I just don’t always have the trailer with me when i am driving around town and need recall a need for supplies. When attached to my Lincoln Town Car (with the Class 3 factory tow package–another vehicle Ford abandoned) I can move some serious loads! Thanks for the comments guys!

  35. G.A.Branigan Says:

    A 2wd truck for me is useless as I live up in the mountains,and a 4wd truck is just too damned expensive to own/operate anymore.The trailer is a no brainer,no insurance/maint etc.I don’t have a need for a pickup anymore.I used to pull a camper and a flatbed car hauler for my tractor and stuff.Got rid of all of it.

  36. Dave Says:

    That Toyota Auris (needs a new name for North America!) looks like it’s aimed squarely at Ford’s Focus/C-Max products. It will be interesting to see what happens with it going forward, I bet it comes here at some point. I’ve always wondered why they didn’t just make a Corolla hybrid rather than splitting it off into a completely different vehicle.

    A123 is starting to look like a takeover target to me as their stock sinks ever lower. They certainly have some issues, but they must also have a ton of patents, talent, and the like that would be extremely valuable to a company looking to catch up in the EV/hybrid race. I know they’re not selling all that well just yet, but it only takes one good advancement in technology or manufacturing to up the range or drop the price and suddenly they’re squarely in the market’s sweet spot.

  37. Lex Says:

    I am really disappointed with what Honda has been or has not doing lately. David Champion has given many consumers’s like myself the confidence to purchase vehicles based upon Consumer Reports recommendations. I can truely see myself in a Nissan / Infintie the next time I need new wheels. David Champion will provide Nissan with the winner formula to push Nissan way beyond Honda in the the areas of realibilty and quality. Nissan has already beat Honda in styling!

  38. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Maybe that Auris hatch will be the next Matrix.

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “I’ve always wondered why they didn’t just make a Corolla hybrid rather than splitting it off into a completely different vehicle.”

    There is more to the Prius than the power train. It’s having much lower aero drag than other cars its size, and being a hatchback, makes it a much different car than a U.S. Corolla with the Prius power train would be.

  40. 97 Sentra Says:

    The Auris is the European Corolla. VW has a pickup almost everywhere, the Amarok. Maybe with the Ranger gone, they will reconsider bringing it here.

  41. Andrew Charles Says:

    To be exact the Auris is based off the “wide-body” Corolla Matrix/Pontiac Vibe platform from 2002, which gets a different series number to the “standard-body” Corolla sedans (there is more than one for different markets) and wagon. The late Japanese Corolla Axio sedan and Corolla Fielder wagon were E14 As and the export market Corolla (Altis) is the E14 G. The E15 widebody supported the Vibe and Matrix introduced with the E13, and added the E15 B Auris (replacing the standard-body E12 A Corolla Runx hatch), the E15 C Toyota Blade (an Auris with Camry 4- and 6-cylinder engines), the E15 F Corolla Rumion/Scion xB (replacing the standard-body E12 F Corolla Spacio). There is also a lwb version of the E-body Corolla platform, supporting the narrow-body Toyota Wish and the wide-body Toyota (Corolla) Verso. While the last Celica was nominally a T-body it used the engines and floor-pan from the smaller E12 Corolla, and rather than the platform of the T-body sedans used by earlier generations. The latest T-body coupe (the Scion tC/Toyota Zelas) returned to the T-body platform, with the larger engine and longer wheelbase of the T-body sedans. The standard W-body Prius also uses the T-body variant, while the W-body Prius V shares the extended floorpan of the E-body Toyota Verso.

    The “new” E16 A Corolla is actually cheaper than the Yaris, and almost as small—more a competitor for the Nissan Sunny/Versa than the Sentra, Cruze or Focus. The Auris skips from E15 B all the way to E18 B. Although it’s lower and longer, it’s not any wider and the platform hasn’t changed much since Vibe in 2002.

  42. pedro fernandez Says:

    I’m glad the Toyota is bucking the trend of making cars larger as the new model comes along, they’ve held the line with the Camry and now the upcoming Corolla is actually smaller length while not losing any interior room.

  43. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Thanks. Lots of info there. I didn’t realize there were that many Corolla variants.

  44. pedro fernandez Says:

    Perhaps Toyota should take a clue from Ford and have one world-wide Corolla with just different engines, they would save a ton of money, and it would be a better car, specially in the handling dept, where it takes so much heat for.