Episode 998 – Black Cabs See Red, Chevy Needs New Truck, Over Capacity in Brazil

October 23rd, 2012 at 11:43am

Runtime: 6:41

You’d think that selling iconic London cabs would be an easy business proposition, but that’s not the case. The all-new Chevy Silverado will debut next year at the Detroit Auto Show, and the company really needs it to sell. Total automotive manufacturing capacity in Brazil will jump by 50 percent by 2014. Will that be too much? All that and more, plus our look at the 2013 Chevy Spark.

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily. Boy are we coming up on a milestone. This is show 998 and on Thursday we’ll hit show number 1000. That’s a lot of shows, and we’re so proud to hit that milestone. And now the news.

You’d think that selling iconic London cabs would be an easy business proposition, but that’s not the case. Despite having three quarters of the London taxi cab market, the company called Manganese Bronze, is going insolvent. Hit by competition from Mercedes, a recall involving a steering defect, and a financial irregularity that overstated earnings, the company is incapable of raising the money it needs. Manganese Bronze, working in conjunction with Chinese car company Geely, has only sold 1000 cabs this year.

Chevrolet is letting more details of the new Corvette leak out. The C7 is an all new design. In fact, the only carryover parts from the C6 are the cabin air filter and the rear latch for the removable roof panel. When Ed Welburn was on Autoline After Hours he told us we’ll be especially impressed by the new interior of the car, which also gets the newest version of GM’s small block V-8, and it even gets a newly designed crossed flag logo. The new C7 Corvette will debut at the Detroit auto show in January.

Speaking of Chevrolet leaking out details of new product, we had a little bit more information on the new Silverado pickup . It will be an all-new 1500 series with a new exterior design, projection beam headlamps, and enhanced capabilities. It too will debut at the Detroit auto show next month. Chevrolet definitely needs this new truck. So far this year sales of the Silverado are up only 0.6 percent compared to 11.4 percent for the F-series and 20 percent for the RAM pickup.

Uh-oh you’d think that the world’s automakers would learn not to put in too much capacity. Europe is swamped with too much production capacity, and China is headed in that direction. Now it looks like Brazil is next on the list. Yesterday we told you how BMW and Volkswagen will be building new assembly plants in Brazil. With all the other activity going on in Brazil that means its total automotive manufacturing capacity will jump by 50 percent by 2014. Look for declining profit margins as all that capacity comes on stream.

We’re still interested in getting any kind of photos or videos that you may have shot yourself. Check out these crazy art cars that our own producer Ben Sanders shot at the Maker Faire earlier this summer. I think we all need a little zaniness in our lives and these cars are about as zany as they get. So if you’ve got any interesting shots, send them our way and if we like what we see, we’ll put them in the show.

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

The Spark is the first truly small car from Chevy since the ill-fated 1970s-era Chevette. But it’s a whole lot better than the Chevette ever was, and is a decent little car as long as you use it as an urban runabout. It’s not meant for long trips.

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

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43 Comments to “Episode 998 – Black Cabs See Red, Chevy Needs New Truck, Over Capacity in Brazil”

  1. jim Says:

    I thought the Detroit Auto Show was in January. Has it been moved to December?

  2. pedro fernandez Says:

    The Versa costs the same and can be driven anywhere, besides the rear passengers will not be decapitated by rear end collision. The Chevette was $6k out the door.

  3. lsford Says:

    Question: Craig Cole

    how does this micro car solve parking problems? The smart car was supposed to do this, but it did not. We (USA) do not allow double parking or perpendicular parking so how does this solve the parking issue?

    Is the LA city parking enforcement going to allow perpendicular curbisde parking now for sub – sub compact cars? If not, then this car solves the parking issue in urban areas just the same as a Rolls Royce does.

    I think the market for small efficient vehicles is great. Especially in urban areas, but my thought is this: If it is easier for urbanites to have an fuel efficient vehicle, then does this not contribute even further to the parking density issue facing towns like LA, San Francisco, and NY?


  4. Lex Says:

    I see no spike in Chevy Sales with the introduction of the Chevy Spark. I would have rather liked to have seen Chevy introduce a Cruze hatchback or wagon. The Spark cannot compete against similar vehicles in it’s class!
    Chevy Engineer said it best “Bringing to the level of a Chevy”. He was referring to the Daewoo inspired Spark being brought up to the level of a Chevy. Chevy need to think more like Ford and give it’s customers in all markets around the world similar products with great driving characterists and fuel economy at a great price. Welburn loves impractical muscle cars more than sensible / affordable transportation for the masses.

    Too Bad about the Black Cabs, but isn’t Nissan going to fill that space with it’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” which are slated for both NYC (Yellow) and London (Black)?

  5. pedro fernandez Says:

    These automakers think that just by putting infotainment systems in cars they will draw in buyers in droves, tech geeks are NOT interested in cars.

  6. Kit Gerhart Says:

    John, the Chevette wasn’t that “ill-fated,” at least in sales. It sold fairly well for most of its 1975-1987 run. You don’t see any of them now, though, I suspect mostly because the shock towers and floor boards rusted quickly.

    Corrected for inflation, the Spark is cheaper than the 1983 Chevette I had. I don’t remember the exact price of my car, but it was over $6,000, and my Chevette was less well equipped than a base Spark. According to:


    $6000 in 1983 is equivalent to $13,940.18 in 2012 dollars.

    Yeah, the Versa would be a better “road car” than a Spark. The main reason to buy any of these “mini cars” is if parking is at a premium, and having a very short car helps in that regard.

    Speaking of “mini cars,” I saw two smarts during my recent trip from Indiana to Florida, and they were going with the 75-80 mph traffic flow on the interstates. I don’t think I’d want to use on for road trips like that, but the car is capable of going anywhere.

  7. Duke Says:

    pedro, ok we get it! You love Japanese (and probably Korean) cars. Get in your almost 2 decade-old crapolla, crank down the windows, go for a ride and chill, will ya? You can shout out to the world how you hate everything American.

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    JUst did a quick comparison of the Spark vs the Versa and it shows the Versa hatch is about $800 less while the sedan is over a thousand less, too much money for a Daewoo-built tiny mobile, the son of Aveo.

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    I don’t see how “mini” cars help with the parking situation in big cities, you pay the same fee whether you got a big car or a tiny one, it’s not like you’re riding a bike, btw the Spark is as American as sushi, Daewoo makes it, call it GM Korea or whatever you want, it’s still Korean-made.

  10. Roger T Says:

    No intention to “bash” your sponsor, but are diesel cars estimates for 2014 continuing to go up? Obviously as we approach 2014, we need to update the message, as doubling means a higher absolute number as each day goes by.

    Regarding the Brazilian overcapacity, mind that is the most profitable market in the world, I see overcapacity as good news to consumers as prices should come down from the stratosphere – hopefully.

  11. HtG Says:

    In my experience, Versa is great for long highway treks. You sit high, the seats are great, the steering numb beyond compare. Great visibility all around also makes it a fine city car which is easily parked. It’s no enthusiast icon, but it’s some appliance.

  12. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Small cars can help with parking (as long as we are talking about non-metered parking spaces); now if they’d allow two small cars take up one metered space, then we’d have something (for the city dwellers).

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    Chuck, you assume people are decent enough to only take up as little space as needed,many times I have seen cars taking 2 spaces in malls and other places just so no one parks next to their prized possessions and dings their doors.

  14. Julius Lambert Says:

    I have a method to increase almost any vehicle with TRANSVERSE motor/trans,BY 2+ miles/gallon of fuel
    Would have Bob Lutz contact me by Email?

  15. Brett Says:

    My recollection is that the Chevette was discontinued because the GM manufacturing facility somewhere in Europe where they made the transmissions begged Chevy to stop making them because they were the only ones still using that tranny and they wanted to shut down that assembly line and use it for something else.

    The Chevette was long enough of tooth that Chevrolet finally conceded.

  16. pedro fernandez Says:

    I had one of those Chevettes (1977)and it was not a bad car, it had at least RWD and was not too good on long trips, but it proved reliable for the 3 yrs I owned it, looking back, I should have kept it longer, it was replaced by the awful X-car Buick Skylark.

  17. Chuck Grenci Says:

    #12 pedro
    Point taken; I should have prefaced my comment with “hypothetically”. :)

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Some big city parking garages charge based on the size of the car. Yeah, the street parking rules in the U.S. aren’t like many places in Europe, where you can park anywhere your car will fit, including on sidewalks.

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I see people doing that too, and I’d think they would be prime candidates for getting keyed by those who do such things.

    I don’t want door dings, so I try to find end parking places, and park farther out in the lot where things should be “safer” in that regard.

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I think the Chevette engine was also unique to that car, by ’87 when they dropped the Chevette. It was too outdated to be used in any cars sold in Europe.

  21. pedro fernandez Says:

    17 I was not aware of that, not here in So Fl, you pay the same, but some garages are so damn tight, I just don’t see a large SUV or truck being able to fit w/o banging every door around them. Something to be said for small, maneuverable cars.

  22. gmveteran Says:

    I am sure it will bring great pain to pedro, but so far, the Spark is a big success. It has already exceeded Chevy’s sales estimates and they are increasing the quantity they will bring over from their plant in Korea for the U.S. market. It is easily outselling its competition, which is the Fiat 500, the Smart fortwo and the Scion IQ. These are the only cars in the micro-car category that are sold in the U.S. The compact size is attractive to city dwellers because it increases the number of parking spots they can choose from due to its trim size. We aren’t talking about owned parking spots or parking at the mall. Its a problem in any large, congested city and the Spark helps with its trim exterior dimensions. The fact that it has four doors and can actually fit real adults in the back seat also increases its appeal.

    I guess the fact that the Chevy Sonic is dominating the sub-compact market and the Chevy Cruze is among the compact car sales leaders each month is very disturbing for you pedro. The Spark completes a Chevy small-car triple threat that shows that America can compete with the Japanese and Koreans. FYI: GM bought the remains of the bankrupt Daewoo in 2002. All of the current models built by GM Korea were designed and engineered by the General.

  23. Jon M Says:

    @ #12

    I would add to your point, Pedro, that many people take up more than one space, hug the lines, and even park on the lines because they can’t park and/or are too lazy to straighten out their car. I always say if you can’t park, don’t drive it!

  24. pedro fernandez Says:

    The pain will be felt by those who buy this thing, not realizing its “Son of Aveo” and will be sorry they did not choose better, the few cars I have sen taking up 2 spaces are usually homie-mobiles and expensive cars whose owners love more than their own families

  25. G.A.Branigan Says:

    With gas prices staying around the 4 bux a gallon area I can see more and more people buying the small chevy for the price point and for the economy.It is our future or so it seems…..

  26. dcars Says:

    Chevy needs to add Medium duty trucks to it’s lineup. It’s hard to believe that the bailout cut backs included these high profit vehicles. I know they weren’t selling at the time, but nothing else was either.

  27. shan Says:

    the chevy spark is a pathetic car compared to the honda fit….i can not believe gm would sign off on something so cheap looking inside…..

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Time wilI suspect a lot of people will like the Spark’s interior, which has some COLOR rather than the usual “nothing but grey or beige.”. Also, time will tell if Spark is reliable. It is a real stretch to assume that the Spark will be unreliable, just because Aveo was. That other Korean car company has made great strides, so why assume Daewoo/GM Korea couldn’t do likewise?

  29. HtG Says:

    I’m looking at the new Corvette emblem and some spy pics, and I’m getting the feeling the C7 will be very angular with straight elements and sharp corners.

    disclaimer: lord do I like Corvettes and dammit Wellburn is good

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Spark doesn’t compete with Fit. Base MSRP of Spark is about $3000 cheaper. Sure, the Fit is “more car,” but if you don’t need the space, and if Spark turns out to be reliable, it could be a decent city car.

  31. pedro fernandez Says:

    I still say get an older used Civic or Corolla similar MPG’s and lot more car for the money, much safer as well, specially in the back seat where these tiny tin cans pretending to be cars are death traps.

  32. pedro fernandez Says:

    Yes and I do include the IQ in this group.

  33. HtG Says:

    32 I sat in the iQ. I sat in the back. I was scared to sit there.

    I sat in the Spark. Same deal.

    With all the large steel on the road, I get physically sick thinking about some little cars. And I like little cars, but there’s a limit.

  34. pedro fernandez Says:

    HtG remember the Geo Metro hatchback? same thing nothing between the rear hatch and the back seat passengers unless you stuff it with bags of popcorn styrofoam.

  35. pedro fernandez Says:

    I once saw a Chevy dustbuster minivan that had been hit from behind by a dump truck in the C pillar, if someone had been sitting there, they would have died from injuries,from the way this thing had just given way to the force of the truck.

  36. HtG Says:

    34 Sure, Pedro. But I guess people are either oblivious or trusting. I know from driving the Miata that it’s frightening to be exposed, so much so that I took some courses to be more competent. You won’t catch me in the back of the iQ, though.

  37. aliisdad Says:

    Some of you mentioned the Chevy Chevette, and I know that it had a pretty bad reputation, but I had one for a while as a company car (during a cost reduction period, I assume) and I actually really liked it…Yes, it was slow, but it was great for driving in the congested city and was always dependable…It was also sold in other countries including as a Vauxhall in England where it was even even a rally car…I actually think it was about equal to a lot of the small cars in the US at that time, and although I am not a GM fan I have to give them credit for producing such a nice little car…Sorry, maybe I am just an automotive loser, but I actually have good memories about my time with the little Chevette..

  38. Ed K Says:

    My sister had a Chevette, it was light blue on top and dark blue at the bottom, we used to call it her “two tone ‘vette” which really got peoples attention since there was no way she could afford the real thing.

  39. Brett Says:

    I always thought the Chevette was a decent little car in it’s segment.

    The fact that it was RWD is what finally killed it. That European factory was building trannys only for it because all the rest of the world had moved on to FWD and they needed the factory line to build transaxles.

    It always struck me as a simple, honest vehicle.

  40. David B. Fishburn Says:

    John, the Chevette was not that bad of a car. It was basically GM’s try at small cars for the american market, which was not ready for small cars.But, it got decent gas mileage for the time despite being carbed. There was also a comment about seeing the Smart cars on the freeways~ i drive on I696 to and from my job every day, and see at least one or two that is cruising in the fast lane, which averages 80+ mph. Gotta have nerves of steel to drive a car the size of a grocery cart that fast on a road that is dominated by large trucks, cars, and crazy drivers.

  41. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I took my ’83 Chevette on one road trip from Indiana to Massachusetts, and it was ok. I had put a Dana cruise control on it. You couldn’t get factory cruise control, at least with a manual. The Chevette was slow, noisy, and had unusually narrow driver foot space, but mine was reliable. My parents had an Omni at the same time, and the Omni was a better car, roomier, faster, and quieter, and got about the same mpg as the Chevette.

  42. Kit Gerhart Says:

    These really small cars are a lot safer in a crash than motorcycles, and I ride motorcycles. Maybe that is why I would consider one of these mini cars if I really liked the way it drove, the mpg, etc.

  43. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I mentioned earlier, but the biggest weakness of Chevettes, was that the floor boards and shock towers rusted out in about 3 or 4 years, if you were where they use lots of road salt. I worked for GM when they were being made, and knew a lot of people who had Chevettes. Those who kept them for a few years had rust issues.