Episode 1036 – Mercedes Lags Behind BMW, What’s Your Airbag’s IQ? The Noisy Dozen

December 18th, 2012 at 11:52am

Runtime: 8:50

Mercedes-Benz is not only lagging behind BMW in sales, it’s also lagging in market value. The 2013 Chevy Cruze will be equipped with a new single-stage “smart airbag.” An organization called Noise Free America just chose this month’s winner of what it calls the Noisy Dozen. All that and more, plus John McElroy sits down with (pun intended) Michael Miner, the manager of product planning at Faurecia Seating to show a future seat design that it’s showing to automakers.

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They used to say that the sun never sets on the British Empire. Well, it doesn’t set on the automotive industry, either. So let’s catch up with what’s going on from the industry that never sleeps.

Cadillac is way behind German luxury cars in China, so GM is out to boost the number of Cadillac dealerships there. It wants to add around 40 dealerships next year, currently it has 160. Caddy only sold about 27,000 cars in China so far this year. Audi sold close to 371,000, BMW is at 296,000 and Mercedes at 177,000.

Speaking of the German luxury brands, Mercedes-Benz is not only lagging behind BMW in sales, it’s also lagging in market value. Bloomberg reports that BMW market value is around 45 billion euros while Daimler is at 42 billion. However if you take out Daimler’s truck business, Mercedes is only valued at 25 billion euros, about half of BMW. Mercedes lags behind because it’s not as strong in China, was late getting into new segments like compact SUVs and is just not seen as a cool brand by younger buyers. One analyst says investors don’t have much confidence that CEO Dieter Zetsche and his team can turn things around.

Infiniti, Nissan’s premium brand will make it easier for customers to understand the model range by adopting Q as the first letter for each new sedan, coupe and convertible starting next year. QX will denote a crossover or SUV model. The first model up with the new name is the Q50, a sedan that makes its debut at the Detroit Auto Show next month.

The 2013 Chevy Cruze will be equipped with a new ‘smart airbag.’ It is a single-stage airbag that uses one inflator to manage both low-speed and high-speed crash forces as well as flexible venting technology that allows the driver’s momentum to push air out and away. Older dual-stage bags use two inflators, one for low-speed and one for high-speed. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tested out the Cruze and gave it a 5-star rating, including this single-stage technology. No doubt we’ll soon see this airbag in other GM vehicles.

An organization called Noise Free America just chose honking horns from remote key fobs as this month’s winner of what it calls the Noisy Dozen. It says two-thirds of all new cars now use the horn to signal that the doors have locked when you hit the lock button on your key fob. Noise Free America claims that Subaru and Toyota have recently changed to a soft chirping sound instead of using the horn, and that Europe mandates the use of flashing headlights instead of the horn. You know, these guys are right. We don’t need the horn to signal the doors are locked. So all you product planning people in the audience, take note. Just flash the lights.

How can you make a car lighter, roomier and more comfortable all at the same time? Well, you can come up with a completely different kind of car seat. We’ll fill you in on all the details right after this.

(Faurecia Seat can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show.)

Faurecia is one of the largest automotive suppliers in the world. Based in France, the company specializes in making interior components for cars, especially seats. Michael Miner, the manager of product planning at Faurecia Seating recently showed me a future seat design that it’s showing to automakers.

I would love to try that seat out in a car. It felt very comfortable in that static display, but I’d really like to experience it out on the road.

I think we’re going to have a lot of fun on Autoline After Hours this Thursday night. It’s our annual “naughty and nice” holiday version, where we hand our nice gifts to those people in the automotive industry who have impressed us this year, and lumps of coal to those who have not. Join me and the Autoextremist Peter DeLorenzo for the best insider opinions in the business. That’s Thursday at 6 pm eastern time or 2300 GMT on Autoline.tv.

That’s it for today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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65 Comments to “Episode 1036 – Mercedes Lags Behind BMW, What’s Your Airbag’s IQ? The Noisy Dozen”

  1. Brett Says:

    First evening home with my brand-new 2003 Crown Victoria LX Sport, I cracked open the manual and found the program sequence to turn off that damnable horn honk when the remote key fob was used.

  2. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I’m with Brett; turned off horn honk (and flashing lights) on my STS (first thing). I still have the panic button (hit once) to have vehicle honk (for locating a vehicle in a parking lot), and hit twice for the actual panic horn honking.

  3. Mike Shipley Says:

    Sorry, I’m sure it just me, but the new Fauricia seat reminds me of my grandmother’s toilet with the padded foam cushion riser.

  4. john 878 Says:

    That chirping sound that comes from the Toyota’s is not much different than the horn. When I owned a Toyota years ago, that’s was the first thing I replaced, the horn. I put a good old American horn and took out that tiny bitty Toyota horn.

  5. C-Tech Says:

    How many Audi, BMW, and Mercedes dealers are there in China?

    The “Q” moniker won’t help Infiniti. James Bond’s Q could help Infiniti.

    Is there really a Noise Free America?

  6. C-Tech Says:

    What does Noise Free America think about adding noise to electric cars?

  7. Lex Says:

    So GM thinks openning more Cadillac Dealers in China will increase sales. This sounds idiotic to me. How many dealers does BMW and Mercedes have in China? If you take 27000 Cadillac’s sold in China this year and divide them equally amoung the 160 dealers you get approxiately 168.75 units sold per dealership annually. My local Honda Dealership sells that many vehicles a month! Bring the “Bean Counters” back to GM because this strategy makes no sense to me.
    How is Buick doing in China? How many vehicles sold annually amoung how many dealerships. I have suggested in the past that GM should fold Buick into Cadillac in North America, maybe GM should fold Cadillac into Buick in China.

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    I nominate Rap and Salsa music as the most annoying noise that a car emits.

  9. C-Tech Says:

    @ #8 I nominate Christmas music

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    Jingle Bell Rock or The 12 days of Christmas?

  11. T. Bejma Says:

    pedro – Tacoma sales from your request on Episode #1035 – basically higher, but still declining…

    2000 147,295
    2001 161,983
    2002 151,960
    2003 154,154
    2004 152,933
    2005 168,831
    2006 178,351
    2007 173,238
    2008 144,655
    2009 data missing
    2010 106,198
    2011 110,705

  12. motorman Says:

    On some GM vehicles by going into the DIC you can shut off the horns and still have the lights flash when using the fob.

  13. ColoradoKid Says:

    From the department of corrections ;

    #1 Mercedes is not in fact ‘ lagging ‘ behind BMW but is in fact in front albeit by a small margin at present ( WSJ . Bloomberg etc )

    #2 It is not the Market that is claiming Mercedes stock is not worth as much as BMW stock but rather one very small insignificant as well as somewhat questionable Investment Advisor ( Mr Wodnioc at FaireSearch ) in Germany that is in fact making this rather ludicrous claim ( the EU and UK press has already caught wind behind the underlying facts in this situation

    Seriously .. beware of taking financial news at face value without completely researching the matter before using it .

  14. Seth Says:

    Sorry John but your wrong about the horn. I listen for my horn to beep all of the time. Also my vehicle a ford excursion will make a different horn beep if any of the doors aren’t completely closed.

  15. ColoradoKid Says:


    Anything with a subwoofer loud enough to rattle the trunk lid on its hinges

  16. pedro fernandez Says:

    #11 do you suppose this is due to the fact that the gap in size and price between the midsize trucks and the full sized ones has narrowed so people feel they get a better deal spending a bit more and getting more for their money?

  17. ColoradoKid Says:

    Am I the only one after watching Ken Burn’s documentary on the Dust Bowl era thats seeing a direct analogy to the way almost all auto manufactures are doing business these days ?

    e.g. Business is down . Money is tight . People aren’t buying cars .So ……… Lets build even more cars and dealerships

    Yeah that’ll work now for Cadillac in China about as well as it did for those farmers planting even more crops in the Midwest did back then .

  18. T. Bejma Says:

    John McE – Just about every single GM vehicle sold today (might be every one) has the ability to customize the signal for the door locks with the Driver Information Center, so eliminating the horn is as simple as scrolling through a few menu items.

  19. T. Bejma Says:


    Probably pedro, I know that was the case with the Colorado/Canyon and the Dakato, but they were midsized. Tacoma looks like it upsized quite a bit but the Ranger stayed small.

    If anyone could predict the fickleness of the buying public these days, that person could write their own ticket…

  20. C-Tech Says:

    Holly Jolly Christmas and every variation of Santa Claus is coming to town is making me more of an Atheist everyday.

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I find the horn-when-locking very annoying, especially when it is a car just outside my condo building that is doing the honking.

    Here is what I’ve had with my own cars when hitting the lock on the fob.

    –’01 VW Jetta Wagon–it used a different, less loud horn than the regular two-note horn, but it was still kind of loud, and could not be turned off. As I remember, the car also flashed lights.

    –’05 Chevy Malibu Maxx–it used the regular 2 note horn, but you could turn the horn off, but still flash some lights. That is what I did.

    –’10 MINI Cooper–no horn, and no other sound except the locks clicking, and flashing lights.

    –’10 Prius–electronic “beep” which is not too loud, even at full volume, and you can turn the volume down. I have mine at 3 of 7, if I remember correctly, where it is not loud at all. The car also flashes the lights when you lock the doors. I think you can turn that off too, if you want.

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “If anyone could predict the fickleness of the buying public these days, that person could write their own ticket…”

    Maybe Nate Silver, the guy who correctly predicted how all 50 states would go in the presidential election, and who correctly predicted all except one senate election. I suppose that is easier than predicting what cars people will want, though.

  23. T. Bejma Says:


    Their are about 400 Shanghai-GM dealerships in China that sell several different brands, including Buick.

    2012 YTD Sales – Not including imports or joint ventures
    Buick 524,078
    GM Total 1,145,473

  24. T. Bejma Says:



    John McE – weren’t we supposed to get a different comment section on here (with edit, hopefully) sometime soon? Think I remember reading about it happening at the beginning of 2013. Do you have an update?

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Speaking of Daimler stock, I have 62 shares which came from the 10 or 20 shares of Chrysler that my dad bought in 1966, and which I inherited 14 years ago. In addition to the Daimler stock, I think I got a small amount of cash when the Daimler-Chrysler thing ended.

  26. RonE Says:

    Kit and Pedro, Annoying horns may soon be the least of your problems. The Florida Supreme Court struck down the law that banned loud music from cars.


  27. pedro fernandez Says:

    I must be some kind of cro magnon creature who neither needs or desires any of these beeps and blimps and buzzers and electronic keys to unlock the car, just happy to have a key that opens up and starts the thing so I can go earn my daily bread. Thanks!

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    That sux.

  29. HtG Says:

    26 We are not alone, Pedro.

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I wonder if a federal law against loud music from cars would stand up?

    The feds require mufflers on new cars, and, so far, that law seems to still be in effect, but once you leave the dealer, it seems that you can remove the muffler(s), at least in Indiana and Florida.

  31. pedro fernandez Says:

    Yeah I read about it, the problem is that the police refused to enforce it evenly for all, they exempt political messages blaring from loudspeakers as well as ice cream trucks and other advertising messages and only enforced it on music, I am sure these judges do not live in areas where this is an issue, like everything else, since they don’t experience it or are bothered by it, they simply strike it down. For example where I live, you got guys selling goods or services from trucks or vans blaring away trying to get people to come out of their houses and buy from them.

  32. T. Bejma Says:

    Sorry CK…


  33. doubleeagle Says:

    I got my first car with a remote unlock, about eight months ago. Until today I didn’t know I was supposed to hate the horn blowing. Now I have one more thing to hate. Thanks Guys

  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I never much liked the horn blowing, but I only came to hate it when I moved into my condo in Florida, and started hearing horns blowing at 2:00 am sometimes, about 20 feet from my door.

    There is all kinds of noise pollution, but this is one that is totally silly, and hard for anyone to justify. You can look at the car to see if the lights flash when you push the button, if you really need some confirmation that you pushed the button. Even the crazies with the woofers that shake the ground say they are “entertained” by what they have. I doubt if soccer moms are particularly entertained when the horn blows when they lock the doors on their SUV.

  35. Scott-in-Cleveland Says:

    I’ve noticed that both Toyota and Hyundai uses a small ‘chirp’ sound instead of the horn. I think the sound is more useful than just flashing lights. On my car, when I dont hear the horn honk, I know that my trunk or door is ajar (it’s happened on more than one occasion).

  36. pedro fernandez Says:

    #34 I guess the horn is to let know sight-hearing impaired drivers that the car is locked/unlocked.

  37. Brian Little Says:

    The Fauricia seat reminds me of a dentist chair. It may be comfortable but it is so ugly that its momma won’t claim it.

  38. pedro fernandez Says:

    My air bags are so old, they require weekly feedings of Mexican beans with guacamole to maintain its gaseous levels ready to blast away in case of an accident.

  39. cwolf Says:

    Guess you don’t want me for a neighbor; I depend upon hearing the beep as a double check the car is locked.

    @#13: You got it right,as usual. I wouldn’t choose the word “older” as the typical Merc. buyer. I think “wiser” is more fitting.

    Y’all hear Toyota suffered the largest fine possible for deliberately not reporting the problem of floor mats under the accelerator. My point? This is the fourth offence for Toyota within a few short years. Must be cheaper than fixing the problem cuz it sure seems deliberate to me! Or maybe some people never learn or don’t care.

  40. pedro fernandez Says:

    Hey don’t complain, they’re helping pay off the national debt.

  41. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The military will spend that 24M in about two seconds.

  42. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ # 19 T: The venerable and much loved ‘taco’ is suffering from the same thing that did in the ranger etc.Toyota has let it lapse into mediocrity.It’s old and outdated,and has become somewhat bloated.Same same with Nissan’s Frontier.

    By not paying attention to those lines of vehicles sales is going down,and it will continue imho.

    Styling,the same.Options…..the same.Engine and driveline…..the same.Price….always going up,especially with the tacoma,and for what? Yesterdays stale bread.And they wonder why people aren’t buying the smaller trucks anymore?? Ya gotta be kidding me ;}>

  43. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Meant 39, not 24. Don’t know how that happened.

  44. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’d think that if the long-of-tooth Tacoma and Frontier were cheaper relative to the big pickups, they would sell pretty well. They have grown too big, but there isn’t that much difference in price between Tacoma and Frontier, and the much more refined big pickups. If you want a manual transmission, though, I think you have to go with the Tacoma or Frontier.

  45. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Kit: Yeah they probably would for a little while.Decently equipped they run about the same,or a little more then a base full size American pu.But they are falling way behind in even engine/trans tech.If nothing changes more then a small cosmetic change,watch them disappear and watch them blame the truck buying public for their demise.Right or wrong,no matter how we may feel about it personally,trucks are an upscale thing no matter the size.If someone comes out with a modern high tech compact pickup,even without a diesel option,they will sell all they can make IF it’s a quality product.However,as ford kept putting lipstick on their pig (ranger)if toyota and nissan don’t come out with something compact or even mid-size that’s competitive,say goodbye to both.

  46. pedro fernandez Says:

    Just met a new client who recently bought a new Corolla, I asked her how she liked it and she told me “ok, I guess, but it’s kind of slow off the line” I was surprised cause mine is kind of “snappy” off the line and quickly runs out of steam at about 30 mph or so, then I looked online and found that the new one is over 300 lbs heavier than mine, with little increase in the HP and this electronic throttle control which most likely interferes with acceleration,

  47. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The 2013 Ram pickup with the V6/8-speed auto gets only 3 mpg worse EPA combined than a 4 cylinder manual Tacoma. No wonder the Tacoma isn’t selling that great. The Tacoma base price is a lot cheaper, about $6K, but if you sort out the standard equipment, the difference would be a lot less than that.

  48. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Yeah Kit,it is a shame the way they are going.Now,the 4 cyl taco I don’t think is available in the 4×4 anymore…I could be wrong on that though.But,if I’m right,I would say offhand that the 13 Ram 1500 V6 4×4 would get better mpg.V-6,3:21′s with an 8 spd.That would be pretty good mpg considering the size etc.

  49. Kit Gerhart Says:

    You can get a 4 cyl 4wd Tacoma, according to the Toyota web site, but I bet you would have a hard time finding one at a dealer. A clear indication that the Tacoma is a low priority product, is that they still use a 4-speed automatic with the 4 cylinder engine.

  50. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The ’13 Ram V6 8-speed 4wd and Tacoma 4 cyl auto 4wd get the same EPA combined mpg. The Ram is better highway, and the Toyota better city. See:


  51. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Thanks for that link Kit.I guess that says it all about the taco.Say goodbye to that vehicle soon.I wonder if toyota has any replacement ideas for this country,or will it be the usual,to hell with us?

  52. dcars Says:

    Why I’m not surprised that a Dr. Z lead company lost value during his rein. He turned Chrysler into a basket case and it took Sergio just a few years to turn it around.

  53. ColoradoKid Says:


    Seems to me that Antipode auto business mate of mine already told me ” No Nomad/Ute for You ” which I then talked about here .

    Told ya not to get my hopes up !!!!

    So here’s a bit of vengeance if you will in the form of a question there Mr Bejima

    As to the Vette / CF discussion .

    Please name one body panel on the C6 as well as the upcoming C7 that Is Not structural .

    Its a trick question T and you might wish to inquire of the Corvette engineers before answering .

  54. ColoradoKid Says:

    Why no Anti Loud Music in cars will never pass … Federal or otherwise ;

    Simple answer

    The In Car Entertainment Industry’s lobby is huge and very very well funded …. because they make billions on those trunk rattling sub woofers – mega watt power amps – etc etc .

    So once again …. Money Rules and Common Sense , Decency and Respect go out the proverbial window

    #52 Meant to say Not structural other than the rear hatch

    I second T’s motion for an editing function . There’s only so much coffee one man can drink in a day if’n you get my drift ;-)

  55. ColoradoKid Says:


    Excuse me ! Seriously . You believe all that Marchionne hype ?

    And let me remind you dcars . It was Chrysler that dragged Mercedes down …. not visa versa ..

    While you’re at it you might want to look at the sales numbers FIAT /Chrysler is presenting . Oh the percentages look so very good …… until you take notice as to what year ( when Daimler was selling Chrysler off with no buyers in sight ) FIAT/Chrysler is comparing the present to

    Suffice it to say Chrysler is in deeper doo now more than ever … despite all the Detroit Hype and Hyperbole

  56. 97 Sentra Says:

    I wonder if Michael Miner of Faurecia Seating has ever worked with Mike Easter, the seat cushion tester at Car Talk?

  57. pedro fernandez Says:

    GA despite our own feelings re compact trucks, they will never catch on here unless gas gets to the same level as it is in other parts of the world, in 3rd world countries it’s different, low wages and expensive gas make small vehicles a must.

  58. Kit Gerhart Says:

    While Mercedes certainly contributed a lot to Chrysler, as with the foundation for the 300 et. all, they “dragged Chrysler down” too. The most memorable case was the second generation “cloud cars,” and later the Sebring/Avenger. There were great expectations for those cars, introduced ~3 years after the Daimler-Chrysler “merger.” Some of the magazine people were hoping for “a Benz at a Honda price.” What they got, was a worse car than the first generation Cirrus/Stratus. It seems that there was “dragging down” in both directions, but yeah, probably little “dragging up” for Mercedes. They hoped to learn to make their cars more cheaply, while maintaining quality, but that didn’t seem to happen.

    As far as today’s Chrysler products, there are some good ones, but they are weak where they need to be strong in the future, which is fuel-efficient smaller cars. For now, the 300 and Charger are good cars, and good values. The pickups and some of the SUV’s are very good. The trouble is, the 200, while a lot better than the Sebring, is still worst-in-class, and the Dart seems directed at the wrong people. Buyers in Dart’s segment want basic transportation, not wide availability of manual transmissions, which seems to be the car’s unique feature.

  59. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Small pickups are the segment where China will enter the U.S. market. Within three years, the Great Wall will visit our shores.
    No, I haven’t heard that will happen, but it is happening in Europe.


  60. HtG Says:

    I read somewhere that small pickups were a crippled product due to CAFE rules which are graded according to footprint of the truck. Someone here must know why it doesn’t make sense, regulationswise, to build small trucks.

  61. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’d think small trucks, if they have modern power trains, would be good for CAFE. They are figured as trucks, which have the lower mpg requirements than cars, which should be a good thing for the manufacturers. Maybe I’m missing something, though.

    If a lot of people bought the small pickups instead of small cars, that would hurt the companies’ car CAFE, though. Maybe that is part of why the companies don’t want to sell them.

  62. HtG Says:

    But a small truck has to get better mileage than a larger one, at least in the US.

  63. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If the small truck were sold instead of a large one from the same company, it could get the same mpg as the large one and not affect the mfg’s truck CAFE.

    If the small pickup is bought instead of a high mpg car from the same company, it would hurt the company’s car mpg, like if someone bought a Ranger instead of a Focus. The Focus’ mpg is better than the average of Ford cars, so selling one fewer Focus would hurt Ford’s car CAFE.

  64. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I think with the small ‘boosted’ engines of today that a small truck might just have a chance (in the market) today. My old ’98 S-10 (4.3 V-6 with automatic) used to get right at 25mpg hwy; the big trucks are just getting there (today). JMO; I just think that a ‘smaller’ truck would make a lot of sense.

  65. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ 63: I agree Chuck.Yes gas prices are in a slight decline……for now,but when they start creeping back up and get closer to the $5.00 a gal that the oil companies want then people will look for smaller efficient work trucks,that really don’t exist here.And I will say open bed pickups are more versatile then vans are for many truck buyers.

    @ Pedro:I have to disagree.Small compact trucks have always been very popular here for many decades now.It’s the oem’s that don’t want us to have them due to the much smaller mark up.Ford didn’t discontinue the ranger because it wasn’t selling.It just wasn’t the money maker the F 150 is,which in turn led to the demise of the ranger.Minimal updating of the very old ranger just added to the death of it,in this country.The oem’s just don’t seem to want to keep up on the small trucks so they are disappearing.Jmho….