Episode 986 – Japanese Sales Plummet in China, Europe’s Woes Continue, Chevy Trax

October 5th, 2012 at 11:45am

Runtime: 9:27

Anti-Japanese sentiment in China is crushing car sales for Japanese automakers. The auto industry in Europe continues to struggle. VW just slashed its European sales forecast for the year and Renault is moving more production out of France. But there is one bright spot in Europe. Sales last month in the UK were up 8 percent. All that and more, plus a look at one of Chevrolet’s most important reveals from the Paris Motor Show, the Trax.

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily. It’s FRIDAY October 5th, 2012. Thanks for joining us today. I’m Craig Cole filling in for John McElroy. Here’s the news.

Anti-Japanese sentiment in China is crushing car sales for Japanese automakers. Bloomberg reports Mazda’s sales were down 35 percent last month while Mitsubishi’s dropped 63 percent. According to Reuters Toyota’s sales were off 40 percent. Since it’s not known when the dispute will end, analysts say Japanese automakers will continue to reduce production in China.

In-car technology is the topic on Autoline This Week. John McElroy sits down with a variety of experts in the field to delve into the issues facing automakers as they try to add more features to vehicles. Naturally usability is one of the top concerns.

As always, this entire episode of Autoline, show number 1641, is available for your viewing pleasure on our website, Autoline.tv. It’s posted right now so give it a look-see.

Back to the news . . . as we’ve been reporting for some time now, Europe’s auto industry is in trouble and even Volkswagen is feeling the pain. Reuters reports the company just slashed its European sales forecast for 2012 by 140,000 vehicles. It will also cut production. In other European news, Renault will increase manufacturing in Turkey. It plans to build more than 70 percent of its next-generation Clio subcompact in the country. Currently about 45 percent of Clios are built in Turkey, the rest are made in Spain and France.

UK SALES UP (subscription required)
An island of hope in Europe’s ocean of automotive despair is, surprisingly, the United Kingdom. WardsAuto.com reports September sales rose by more than 8 percent, totaling nearly 360,000 units. That’s some 26,000 more than predicted by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Commercial vehicle deliveries were also up nearly 1 percent. As for a full-year forecast, the SMMT will revise its current guesstimation later this month. Right now it stands at 1.97 million for 2012. Ford’s B-segment Fiesta was the top selling car for the month. It also leads the year with about 89,000 deliveries. The Opel Corsa is a close second. Hopefully some UK magic will rub off on the rest of Europe.

After the break we’ll take a look at one of Chevrolet’s most important reveals from the Paris Motor Show. Stick around . . .

Last week’s Paris Motor Show may be history, but a treasure-trove of news and information came out of the event. While in the City of Light John ran across Susan Docherty. She’s the president and managing director for Chevrolet and Cadillac in Central and Western Europe. Quite the title! In the following interview John and she talk about Chevy’s big reveal at the show.

(Today’s look at the Chevy Trax is only available in the video version of the show.)

As she mentioned the Trax is sized for Europe, which means it will most likely NOT make the trans-Atlantic trip to North America. Too bad for us.

Hey, make sure you check out tonight’s installment of RoundAbout. The crew bids bon voyage on this extra-special finale episode. They’ve called in a slew of past guests and panelists for a show that promises to be off the rails. Join in the fun starting at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time at Autoline.tv.

And that’s the end of the line for today. Again, I’m Craig Cole. Thank you for watching, please join us again on Monday.

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

47 Comments to “Episode 986 – Japanese Sales Plummet in China, Europe’s Woes Continue, Chevy Trax”

  1. Bradley Says:

    I believe a complication of usability, is the best user-interface is one that is transparent to the user. Meaning the user doesn’t even have to think about using it. Therefore the best user interface would be a harder to sell or market. The average consumer would not see a cost benefit.

  2. T. Bejma Says:

    Craig Cole -

    Trax IS coming to the US, but it is in the form of a Buick – the Encore…

  3. G.A.Branigan Says:

    The new chevy trax looks good and it has awd.The minute she said the engines options included a diesel I knew we’d never see it here in the USA.Kinda sad in a way….whenever you mention a new model that includes a option for diesel power,I instinctively know that it ain’t for here.That is wrong on every level imho.

  4. pedro fernandez Says:

    More complicated controls and we had more fatalities in traffic accidents, why can’t these “experts” get this through their heads, plus it adds costs to the cars, not to mention the extra costs of achieving govt mandated MPG numbers.

  5. HtG Says:

    I’m sorry to see RoAb go. I’ve been a frequent lurker, uh, viewer. How will Bwob get his message out to the world now?

  6. HtG Says:

    Here’s a link to an extended interview with Adrian Newey. For F1 fans only. Fair warning


  7. HtG Says:

    Others may enjoy this funny cat video. You can replay it as many times as you like.


  8. Mark Says:

    Great job Craig filling in for John. Your enthusiasm makes watching the show fun to watch.

  9. Lex Says:

    I know the Chevy Captiva is sold as a fleet vehicle here in the USA, but a 2.4 Ecotech 4 in the Chevy Trax if sold in the US would be a home run for Chevy. I would attract a wide range of age groups to the Chevy brand.

  10. tp1943 Says:

    The TRAX is certainly interesting. Here in Canada we have had the ORLANDO from Chev which is sourced from S. Korea. (7-pass capacity) This TRAX vehicle was reported on a Canadian web site Auto123 this week also. The video shown has a TRAX with an “Ontario” white/blue licence plate, which was shown in more clarity on Auto123. Perhaps here in Canada we may really get this compact (Matrix/Vibe) sized vehicle which would be terrific. I don’t require 7-passenger seating which just adds extra weight.
    Here in Canada a diesel would be an advantage as diesel prices in Canada are less expensive than gasoline. IMO.

  11. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I think the TRAX is smaller than the Captiva; Captiva is Saturn Vue sized. I think that the TRAX could make a dent in the segment here (especially if they include the diesel); maybe after the emissions get ironed out between Europe and North America they (Chevy) may take the plunge.

  12. HtG Says:

    Craig, will you be selling off the design specs to the Bristol Crimper?

  13. Dave Says:

    Trax is definitely coming to Canada, I was talking to one of my GM dealers yesterday and they’re expecting them soon (Buick’s Encore version as well). As someone else pointed out some of the video had Ontario plates. Not sure what that really means for the US market, though. Canada has recently had lots of hatchbacks that for whatever reason don’t do as well in the States. KIA Rondo is still a good seller here, and I’ll be a bit surprised if the Toyota Matrix disappears, perhaps imported from somewhere?

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Almost every time a new vehicle is reviewed, in this case the Trax, the topic of diesels seems to come up. I like car diesels, but, to be honest, we aren’t missing THAT much. I had a Jetta wagon a few years back with the 1.9 TDI. It was a manual transmission, which was much better than the automatic at that time, before the DSG. It drove well, it got about 30% better mpg than it’s gas counterpart, a side benefit of the good mpg being that it went over 500 miles between fill ups, almost no matter what, BUT….

    It seems that diesel fuel is always more expensive than gas in the U.S. Part of the time I had my Jetta, it was enough more expensive to eat up most of the savings in fuel cost. Also, diesels need more maintenance than today’s gas cars. They have an expensive fuel filter that doesn’t last forever. They have a water separator that is supposed to be drained every oil change. They need synthetic oil, and it is supposed to be changed more often than in many of today’s gas cars. Also, many of the new diesels have urea injection, another additional cost of operation. Meanwhile, today’s gas cars maybe need plugs at 100K miles, and that’s about it.

    Even though it was slow, the 1.9 TDI “felt good” going through the gears, with it’s fairly flat torque band, and relaxed feel, being a low rpm engine with a red line of 4500 or 5000 rpm. As far as saving money, though, at today’s fuel prices, the payback would be a long time, probably longer than with, say, a Camry or Fusion hybrid compared to a regular Camry or Fusion.

    If diesel fuel were cheaper than gas, as in most of Europe, that would change the equation, but as things are now, we aren’t missing that much having the VW’s as the only high mpg diesel cars available.

  15. HtG Says:

    what does the water separator do, Kit?

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It is a thing with a “low spot” that traps small amounts of water that may be in the fuel, and which I hear diesel injection systems really don’t like.

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I just searched the VW TDI forum, and they no longer have water separator as routine service. From what I read, there will be little enough water in today’s fuel that it can collect in the bottom of the fuel filter, which is supposed to be changed at 20K or 30K miles, depending on the year of the car.

  18. HtG Says:

    I’d imagine that with today’s 9 gear transmissions and the good low end torque of a diesel, that small motors might do more than a decent job, excepting top speed.

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The current VW TDI is 140 hp, as opposed to 90 for the one I had. They have decent acceleration, like around 8 seconds 0-60 in a Golf/Jetta, and would have good top speed.

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    Gentlemen: it’s the old “The others man’s grass is always greener” They must be saying the same about how much cheaper our petrol is.

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:


    The current 140 hp, 2.0 liter VW TDI’s take 9 seconds and change 0-60, according to CR. The enthusiast magazines would probably do a little better.

    For comparison, a manual MINI hatch like mine is 0.2 seconds quicker than a manual Golf TDI. An automatic MINI Clubman is 1.1 seconds slower. By my, kind of lax standards, all of them are quick enough. For a little more comparison, the automatic Clubman and a Prius have nearly identical acceleration.

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    A Brit that I used to work referred to “America, land of free petrol.” At that time, it was probably about 3 times as expensive in Europe as in the U.S., rather than only ~twice as expensive as it is now.

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    I’ve actually met a couple of single women in their 50′s who sold their cars and moved near work, now only take buses or taxi if need be, I see this trend continuing in urban areas as the cost of driving becomes intolerable.

  24. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I was thinking (uh-oh, not again), that if Chevy brought the TRAX here, that it could be the ‘Fiesta(vus) for the rest of us’. Apology’s to Frank Costanza’s holiday, and yeah I know they’re not totally like-vehicles (but so goes the ramblings of a terribly twisted mind).

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    In some cities, like NYC and many Eutopean cities, it makes little sense to have a car, even if you have a lot of money. Good public transportation is available, and there is no place to park the cars. Driving in these places isn’t much fun either.

  26. HtG Says:

    My cousin in Berlin has a twenty year old BMW which was given to him. He has no license and his wife gets the honors. He has no interest in driving.

    If you live in DC there’s fine mass trasnport, ZipCar, Cars2Go, rental bikes, and the DC govt is always looking to bust you for parking violations(wisely, DC govt uses this technique to discourage suburbanites from driving into town for dinner). What would you do?

  27. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Kit #25
    Reading your post, i.e. “Eutopean” cities, I’m thinking Freudian slip (Utopian) cities; as some there may think so. :)

    While our cities are getting bigger, we still have the ‘burbs’ and country living; trends may be trends, but driving isn’t quite ‘dead’ yet. While America isn’t unique, we do ‘enjoy’ a lot of differences than other parts of the world.

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Typo. I meant “European.”

  29. pedro fernandez Says:

    Add to that trend the lack of interest of young people to start driving and getting a car, it has to do with the explosion of social media and the new way to “get together” by texting and tweeting and all that other crap, and let Mom be our chauffeur so we don’t need to bother with all that driving stuff!

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Where I am, both in Florida and in Indiana, most young people seem to want to drive, but not because many of them are car enthusiasts. I work with a group of mostly “geeky” high schoolers on a robotics team, and while most drive, if they can afford to, few are car enthusiasts. About two out of the ~50 kids on the team even know how to drive a manual transmission. In a large urban area, I suspect a lot fewer of them would even want to drive.

  31. pedro fernandez Says:

    From what I’ve experienced, these kids want new and nice and if they cannot get what they want they’d rather have nothing, it’s not like the old days when we were happy with whatever we could afford, but now since even used cars have gotten so expensive and insuring kids is very high as well, I guess that leaves a lot of them out of the market.

  32. HtG Says:

    car payment+gas+insurance+maintenance=loser lounge. Unless you must have a car, don’t.

    get your kicks from Forza4 like Bwob, or watch Young Frankenstein like Htg.

  33. pedro fernandez Says:

    You mean Frankensteen? No more thrills in Blueberry Hill?

  34. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Ford and GM also looking to a nine and ten speed transmission; link:

  35. pedro fernandez Says:

    Gee, and I’m still driving a 3 speed, but you know what? it don’t break, not even with all the miles and the daily grind of bumper to bumper 100 degree weather/traffic.

  36. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Most tranny’s (automatics) are remarkably robust going back to the two speed (powerglides) forward to three, four, five, six, eight (haven’t heard of any ‘sevens’ and the upcoming nines and tens. Probably the most complex mechanisms of the modern automobile, automatics are darn near bulletproof. In search of mpg, the automobile gets more and more complex and costly (to buy AND repair).

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Mercedes-Benz has been using a lot of “sevens” for years. I’m pretty sure most of their high volume cars, like C-Class and E-Class still use them.

  38. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Thanks Kit, been hard to stay up with all the development (in recent years, especially transmissions); I’m guessing ‘tens’ will probably max out (number of gears) for quite a while (but I thought six was going to be the standard for a foreseeable future and that didn’t happen).

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Maybe after the 10-speeds, everyone will just start using CVT’s and be done with it.

  40. HtG Says:

    My BiL, Motown native and former tranny store grunt, tells me that transmissions used to get wrecked in winter because drivers would try to get out of snow by shifting from D to R and gassing. This was before all the front wheel drive cars.

  41. pedro fernandez Says:

    Honda tech I know tells me Honda Civics with 5 speeds have been troublesome since they came out, no wonder that brand does not get into units with more than 5 gears and now the new Accord has a CVT as well.

  42. pedro fernandez Says:

    Also Toyota has been very conservative with their high gear autos, the exception being the Lexus LS and GS, they try their new technology first on expensive models and then trickle them down to their bread and butter models.

  43. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Corolla still uses a 4 speed, but they get competitive mpg with it, at least in CR tests.

  44. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I drove through the local Chevy dealer, and saw my first Spark. It has a not-too-many speed automatic, four, to be exact. I kind of like the partly body color interior, but the exterior, not so much. It seemed kind of pricey, 15K, but the one I saw is fairly “loaded.”. The color was matallic yellow-green, not something I like.

  45. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit, for guys like us who have bought worthy cars for around $15k many years ago, these prices nowadays seem astronomic even for entry level stuff like Spark and Accent. Used 2 and 3 yr old Civics and Corollas are a no brainer in my opinion unless that new car smell is a must for you.

  46. pedro fernandez Says:

    I’ve read many reviews and opinions where gear heads are questioning the dependability and durability of some of these new popular systems, incl direct injection, turbos and multi speed automatics, no wonder the Corolla with its antiquated engine and 4 speed tranny, continues being one of the most reliable cars out there

  47. Kit Gerhart Says:

    To me, GDI is the big unknown that is showing up in a lot of mainstream cars. A TTAC article a while back said that GDI increased engine efficiency by about 3%. That’s not enough to make me want it, until these high volume Hyundais, Fords, etc. have been around a few years so we’ll know more about how the systems hold up.