September 5th, 2012 at 12:00pm
August sales are in and the results have taken many analysts by surprise. GM may be having second thoughts about its alliance with PSA. Volkswagen just unveiled its seventh-generation Golf in Berlin, Germany. All that and more, plus John dives into all the technical details of the new 2013 Honda Accord.
Welcome to Autoline Daily. Boy is there a lot to cover today, so let’s get to it!
AUGUST SALES (subscription required)
August sales in the U.S. took most analysts by surprise. As good as they thought sales would be they came in even better. Total units came in at 1.28 million vehicles. That’s up more than 15 percent compared to a year ago. But here’s where the numbers get tricky. As measured on a daily-selling basis by Ward’s, sales were down 1 percent compared to the month before. But the SAAR came in at 14.46 million, the highest it’s been since cash for clunkers. And in a sign of how strongly the market is growing, automakers cut their incentives by 5 percent, although Honda increased incentives by more than 8 percent. And that really paid off for Honda, which enjoyed the highest year-over-year sales of any automaker. VW/Audi was next, followed by Toyota, Porsche and Subaru. If you look at individual brands, the hottest ones were Acura, up a jaw-dropping 66 percent, and Volkswagen, which shot up 56 percent mainly thanks to the Passat. The worst performers were Mitsubishi, which plunged by a scary 49 percent. Suzuki, Mazda, Hyundai and Nissan were the others who saw sales fall, or grow by the smallest amount. And a historical note here. While Saab’s sales have been dwindling for years, last month marked the first time in over half a century that not one Saab was sold in the American market. I think this is the end of the end. Sales comparisons to a year ago are skewed by the Japanese automakers and their production stoppages due to the earthquake. So if we look at a month-over-month comparison, the best performers are General Motors, Chrysler, Mazda, and Toyota, and Ford.
GM HAVING SECOND THOUGHTS?
When GM announced an alliance with PSA, most analysts didn’t understand how it would help GM. And now it seems GM may be thinking the same thing. Reuters reports GM is backing away from plans to share its midsize car platforms with PSA. The deal was to have Opel, Peugeot and Citroen cars built at Opel’s plant in Ruesselsheim, Germany. However, the plan was vetoed by management at GM China and Buick because they’re worried the French models would directly compete with their own vehicles. The two companies are still finalizing the partnership but a GM spokesman indicated that the deal won’t include shared manufacturing and would focus instead on purchasing, logistics and product development.
“SI” YOU IN MEXICO!
Audi will manufacture vehicles in North America. It will build a new plant in Mexico next year to make the next-generation Q5 starting in 2016. That will boost Audi’s annual capacity by 150,000 units.
VOLKSWAGEN GOLF MK VII
Volkswagen just unveiled its seventh-generation Golf in Berlin. The biggest news is probably the amount of fat VW cut from the car’s waistline. The new Golf is up to 220 pounds lighter than its predecessor, thanks to attention to detail and high-strength steel. Fuel efficiency is up to 23 percent, and that’s in spite of the car being longer, wider and more spacious inside. You can bet a variety of engines will be offered including a 1.4-liter TSI turbo with cylinder deactivation and of course a TDI clean diesel. More information will be available at the Paris Motor Show in the coming weeks. Pricing has not been announced. The car is expected to go on sale in North America by early 2014.
2013 FORD FIESTA
In other small-car news Ford redesigned the Fiesta. The blue-oval B-segment offering gets a brand-new front end that looks like it came right off the 2013 Fusion. I think it’s a HUGE improvement over today’s model. Other highlights include the company’s award-winning 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder engine for best-in-class efficiency and lots of technology. Details on the North American version of the 2013 Ford Fiesta will be announced at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.
Speaking of details on new cars, today is the day the embargo lifts for technical details on the 2013 Honda Accord. That is coming up next.
2013 HONDA ACCORD
Honda can’t wait to get the 2013, ninth-generation Accord into its showrooms. It’s 3.6 inches shorter overall, with a one-inch shorter wheelbase, and yet it has more than one cubic foot more of cargo room. Honda says it’s the quietest cabin it ever made, thanks to active noise control that uses a microphone in the headliner and pumps sound in via the speakers to cancel out harsher noises. And yes, it’s quiet, but not as quiet as other cars in its segment.
Honda says it doesn’t care about having the best styling in its class, which is kind of a strange thing to say. Instead, it says it wants the best overall car as measured in different categories. In our view, there are no problems with the styling, but it’s so similar looking to the old model that the general public may not be aware that there’s a new Accord in the showroom.
There’s a new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that develops 185 horsepower and 181 pound feet of torque. It delivers a combined 30 miles per gallon. That’s with the six-speed manual. For the first time ever Honda is offering a CVT with the four. Then there’s the 3.5-liter that V-6 develops 278 horsepower and 252 foot-pounds, and a combined 25 MPG.
Later, sometime after launch, Honda will introduce a plug-in hybrid version. This will get intense scrutiny from other car companies because it’s a completely different type of hybrid that can run in pure EV mode for 10 to 15 miles, or can run in hybrid mode where it becomes a series hybrid just like the Chevy Volt, and can run in engine mode, where the engine is mechanically connected to the wheels yet still gets electric assist from one of two electric motors. Honda uses a small battery pack, but the car has a higher capacity charger, that will add 8 miles of range in 30 minutes of charging with a 240 volt charger. No fuel economy numbers are available yet.
Under the skin they dropped the double-wishbone suspension and went with McPherson struts instead. Honda says this reduces vibration and cuts weight by 15.2 kilograms. I’ll point out that it’s also a cheaper way to go.
By using high-strength and hot-stamped steel they cut the weight of the body by 26 kilograms. Interestingly, the front subframe is made of aluminum and is bonded to the steel with what they call the friction stir welding. We’re going to have to learn more about that.
A base Accord with a six-speed automatic starts at $22,480, while a fully loaded touring version comes in at $33,430. Honda says the coupe market is small and difficult, but they went ahead and did one anyway.
Those are some of the technical highlights. The embargo for driving impressions comes off next week and we’ll let you know what we think it’s like to drive one.
And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.