Episode 1038 – IIHS Crash Testing, Approval for Autonomy, Lead-Acid Making a Comeback

December 20th, 2012 at 11:28am

Runtime: 7:03

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety lambasted one car company for having some of the worst crash test results in its new small overlap test. Nevada has granted a German auto supplier approval to test autonomous cars on its public roads. A company called Energy Power Systems says the lead-acid battery is going to make a comeback and it has a prototype that could prove it. All that and more, plus John McElroy talks with Dan Barile of Mercedes about its wild looking concept, the Ener-G-Force.

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Hello everybody, John McElroy here with the latest news.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety lambasted the Toyota Camry and Prius V for having some of the worst crash test results. Of course, this is all about the institute’s new small overlap test, where it smashes the front corner of a car into a 5-foot rigid barrier at 40 miles an hour. That’s the equivalent of clipping another car at 80 mph, or almost 130 km/h. Honda’s new Accord passed the test with flying colors. Honda executives tell Autoline Daily that they worked closely with the IIHS and knew this small overlap test was coming. Since it takes at least 3 years to develop a new car, that suggests Honda knew this at least three years ago. The Institute claims it gives automakers fair warning about any changes in its test. But Toyota executives and engineers tell Autoline they really didn’t know it was coming. Very few of today’s cars are capable of achieving good results in this test.

Geely, the Chinese automaker that owns Volvo, wants to buy Manganese Bronze Holdings, the company that makes London’s iconic black cabs. Geely is offering to buy 80 percent of Manganese. It already owns the rest. In 2006 the two companies entered a joint venture to build taxi cabs. Parts are manufactured in China, then the taxis are assembled in England. Geely also sells the cabs in China and other parts of Asia.

Continental, the German auto supplier, became the first automotive supplier to get state approval to start testing autonomous cars on public roads in Nevada. Interestingly, Conti has already been testing this system on public roads, so I guess this just makes it official. Conti says its semi-autonomous system, which is more like cruise control that also does the steering at speeds up to 30 miles an hour, could be ready by the end of the decade.

Last Monday we gave you the results of our weekly poll in which we asked you to vote on the finalists for the North American Car & Truck Of The Year award, and choose who you think should be the winners. Well, on Monday we announced that the Ram pick-up and Ford Fusion came out on top. But even though we closed the polls, some of you kept on voting! And right now the Cadillac ATS is ahead of the Fusion. And I mention this because I think this is how the official vote is going to turn out, and we’ll have the official results in about three weeks.

GM is moving production of the next-generation Camaro from Oshawa, Ontario to its Lansing Grand River Plant in Michigan. It will join the Cadillac ATS and CTS production lines, which like the Camaro are rear-wheel-drive cars. However, the Canadian Auto Workers union called the move a “betrayal” after Canada gave GM $10 billion to keep it alive during its bankruptcy as well as demanding GM replace, 1-for-1, the jobs that plant is going to lose.

A company called Energy Power Systems located in Troy, Michigan says the lead-acid battery is going to make a comeback. It has developed a new type of lead-acid battery that is a fraction of the cost of a lithium-ion battery but is still capable of producing the power needed for most hybrid applications. The new battery changes the size and shape of the lead plates as well as the thickness of the electrodes and how it’s assembled. The company says its new design will be about half the cost of a lithium-ion pack and only add 4 to 5 pounds in a mild hybrid application.

Remember that wild and crazy concept car that Mercedes had at the LA Auto Show. Let’s take a closer look at it, right after this.

(G-Force can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show.)

At last month’s LA Auto Show, Mercedes took the wraps off a wild looking concept called the Ener-G-Force. I asked Dan Barile, who is in public relations for Mercedes, what this crazy looking machine is all about.

To my eye it looks like if you pulled the three-pointed star off the grille, there aren’t any other design cues that tells you this is a Mercedes. But that’s not the case.

So, will any of these styling elements be used in any future Mercedes?

Crazy or not, that G-Force sure got a lot of attention.

Be sure to tune into Autoline After Hours tonight as we hand out presents or lumps of coal to those who have been naughty or nice in the automotive industry this year. Join me and the Autoextremist Peter De Lorenzo for the best insider look into this business. That’s tonight at 6 pm eastern time or 2300 GMT.

Also, be forewarned, the Autoline crew will be taking a much appreciated holiday next week. We’ll be back tomorrow, but then we’ll be off until January 2nd. So, my friends, until tomorrow.

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40 Comments to “Episode 1038 – IIHS Crash Testing, Approval for Autonomy, Lead-Acid Making a Comeback”

  1. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I’m wondering how the ‘new’ lead-acid batteries for ev’s/hybrids would do in a crash ie: battery acid all over the road? Hazmat?

  2. bill kohn Says:

    Although we haven’t seen the new corvette yet, the “spy” photos and artist renderings make it look like a massaged camaro. Am I missing something? Thanks

  3. pedro fernandez Says:

    So Honda and IIHS working together is just not fair, I mean that’s like having a teacher telling one student only what the test will be like. Good place to test the autonomous system in the secondary roads in Nevada where you have more chance of running into a rattlesnake than into another motorist.

  4. Mike Dale Says:

    I admire the guys who are willing to dust off an old technology to see if something new can be done with it. Sometimes yes, sometimes no, it will be interesting to watch and see if this pans out. Does anyone know what it has cost in development money to rise the range of an EV from 40 miles to 50? Are we there yet? What more will it take to get to a 60 mile range?

  5. ColoradoKid Says:

    GM & PSA

    ” To be or not to be … that is the question ”

    …everybody’s once again asking ;


    One minute they’re all buddy buddy . Next minute GM’s claiming fowl and PSA’s in a rumored affair with TATA . And now reconciliation seems to be in the cards .

    If these two ‘ dance ‘ any harder they’ll both wind up in a heap on the ground .

    Regardless though … if this PSA – GM thing does happen al bets are it’ll end up in tears ( as has every other GM Foreign manufacture collaboration/partnership ) with PSA getting the short end of the stick

    Nice bit of Betrayal on GM’s part with the CAW by the way

    Mercedes Benz Ener-G-Force – Take a Toyota FJ – stick the Three Pointed Star on its nose – Toss in a bit of OTT styling cues ( even for the FJ ) And there you have it . One hideous and vulgar excuse for a Mercedes Benz .

    What with this .. the upcoming GLA and A- Class designs : as well as several other ‘ new ‘ designs in the Mercedes pipeline I’m beginning to think Mercedes is losing the Plot as well as having serious doubts about Mercedes Benz’s future ….. as a company as well as in my garage

  6. ColoradoKid Says:

    And so … as predicted by moi …. the ATS gets the ‘ sympathy ‘ vote . Oh well :(

  7. HtG Says:

    I got the special deal on an ATS email today. 299 a month and about two and a half grand down. This is good, right?

    Did you guys check out Peter’s year end issue? When he gets his rants in a bunch….

    Dude’s been ripe with bile the last few weeks.

  8. Earl Says:

    Kaptain Kenny at the CAW wrung a better deal out of GM than what King Bob did over at the UAW. The new CAW worker gets 5.00 an hour more but if he or she is on the Camaro line there is no job. I suspect GM will move another vehicle there. But in the meantime a lot of workers won’t be having a merry Christmas as they’re dangling in the wind for now. However,irregardless Kenny will have his usual merry Christmas.

  9. ColoradoKid Says:


    Sure thats an OK deal assuming its a lease for the duration of the warranty and free maintenance ( Cadillac is offering free maintenance … aren’t they ? ) But if thats a purchase … well suffice it to say : Do you really want to become yet another ‘ victim ‘ of Cadillacs lousy reliability as well as excessive repair costs ?

    As to Peter. Funny thing . When it comes to the overall issues I’m 99.999% in total agreement with his opinions /rants . But on the specific details / rants / opinions .. especially when it comes to car buying advice , specific models etc .. then I find myself in total opposition to at least 80% of what he says .

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Those “high tech” lead-acid batteries sound interesting. If EPS’ claims are accurate, the batteries would certainly be a viable alternative to the NiMH batteries used in a Prius, if they would hold up. Regular lead-acid batteries last the longest, if kept at near full charge most of the time, and that is not what happens with a hybrid, so it would be a lot tougher life for them than for a regular car battery use.

    If these lead-acids would last long enough to be a viable alternative, in addition to being cheaper than other battery types, they have the advantage of there being a very mature system of recycling lead-acid batteries, developed over a hundred years or so.

  11. HtG Says:

    ATS 36mo lease, $0.25/mile over 30k OR
    3.9%APR 60mo

  12. Bob Petrach Says:

    How is moving Camaro to Lansing a “betrayal”? Oshawa will survive. – Norwood RIP 1987, Van Nuys RIP 1992, St. Therese RIP 2002 It’s just a business decision. Yes, Oshawa has a history of good quality, but so did Buick City. CAW shouldn’t be crying, they should work harder to make GM profitable.

  13. ColoradoKid Says:

    #12 – Its betrayal plain and simple because the CAW dropped a pant load of cash on GM to both insure GM’s survival as well as keep jobs in Canada and now GM’s saying hasta la bye bye and muchos gracias for the cash … suckers ?

    Speaking of GM Betrayals ;

    Heard the one about the Fairfax KS plant yet ?

    GM to the town of Fairfax – ” Build us a paint shop and give us the land underneath it or we’ll close the plant down ”

    Fairfax KS to GM ( after much consternation because the town is in financial difficulty ) ” OK , here’s a the land and the money to build your paint shop so now keep up your end of the bargain ”

    And what does GM this very week announce ? ‘ No Jobs for you Fairfax KS ! As well as hasta la bye bye and thanks for the cash to you as well ….. suckers !

  14. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I’ll wait till 1/13/13 before I make any comparisons (to a Camaro); doubt it looks like a Camaro though.

  15. ColoradoKid Says:


    This ;


    Is what the C7 will look like . Does that in any way shape or form resemble a Camaro ? Methinks not .

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    where does anyone say the Fairfax plant is closing? I can’t find anything.

  17. shan Says:

    It’s impressive that the 2013 Honda Accord passed that small overlap test. Good engineering…Seems Honda is getting back some of it’s mojo!

  18. Ckernzie Says:

    #12 Bob, You are correct it’s just a logical business decision in a very integrated North American industry. Now having said that GM will turn the screws on the CAW for more concessions before they announce what car (Impala?) will be built in the top notch plant in Oshawa and it helps the optics of having GM’s standard of ‘American Muscle’ actually built in America. With ‘Right to Work’ next door and the weak American dollar the CAW will have to put up or be shut out. I think there should be no worries on jobs in Canada but our Government will be holding on to its GM stock ‘just in case’ for what ever leverage that will give under the pretence that the stock price it too low to sell. Unlike the US, the majority of Canadians and our Conservative Government (Center-right Republicans)& especially the opposition NDP (Far left Democrats) are just fine with owning a chunk of GM and you won’t see us selling our GM stock anytime soon as there is no political or financial reason to do so. Once you get in bed with Government it can get messy trying to get out.

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If Honda actually did have early information on that crash test, it’s not too impressive that the Accord did well compared to other cars, but I certainly agree that Honda is coming back.

    The new Accord does not have the “issues” of the 2012 Civic. The cabin decor is decent. It still drives better than most cars in its segment, and it is roomy. They did a good job with the car.

  20. Roland Says:

    May I recommend an ultra-small overlap crashtest with only the left external mirrors overlapping and with ratings depending on the crash-worthiness of the mirrors and on the deceleration of the cars during this crash.

  21. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit, you gotta give Honda engineers some credit here, even though they had an unfair advantage, the Chinese can’t get a car to pass European nor US crash standards even though they’ve been building cars alongside Western OEM’s for decades now and they still can’t get it done.

  22. T. Bejma Says:


    Don’t know where you come up with the crap your spewing CK. Cadillac is 3rd in dependability behind Lexus and Porsche. You must be confusing them with BMW who is towards the bottom and has the highest repair cost of any manufacturer…


    And no, Fairfax is not closing either.

    Wake up on the stupid side of the bed today?

  23. ColoradoKid Says:

    # 22

    Now resorting to petty insults . Hmmn . That comes as a surprise .

    To respond though

    1) JD Power is not a survey of overall reliability etc. JD Power is basically public opinion poll … not an attempt to discern the facts . Thats CR’s department and there Cadillac is a failure . As well as having the worst residual used car value in its class

    2) Fairfax is not indeed being closed … its being Idled … for the moment . But get beyond the GM rhetoric and read the back story behind it . All bets are Fairfax will be coming under the axe … because of course GM’s sales are so very good .

    3) Back to the Cadillac reliability issue . Better have a look at the Third Party information and not that GM dogma and Rhetoric you’re so engrossed in . Cadillac’s repairs are in fact amongst the most expensive in the business . Only exceeded by the exotic brands such as Ferrari Maserati etc I might add

    Go ahead T. Call a few dealers yourself and compare prices . I did and Cadillac came out equal or worse to each of its competitors I was comparing repair costs with . Oh yeah . Cadillac insurance is also more expensive than its competitors as well

    I woke up in sunlight for your information . Hows that GM/Detroit Fog you arose in today ? ;-)

    Nice try T … but another miss on your part I’m afraid

  24. ColoradoKid Says:

    Now for something completely different as well as a heck of a lot more pleasant than any GM discussion could ever hope to be .

    An excellent interview/article with that master of comedy as well as gearhead and Porschophile Jerry Seinfeld


    Till tomorrow … and a better tomorrow may it be

  25. ColoradoKid Says:

    @ T Bejima

    For your edification . So’s you’ll understand what it is the ‘ marketing ‘ dept really does ;


    Keep up with the Spin Doctor routine as well as following GM’s dogma and rhetoric in perfect lock step and you’ll fit right in …. unfortunately :(

  26. T. Bejma Says:


    If Cadillac’s cost so much to maintain, why are there 2 of them on the list of the 10 Cheapest cars to maintain? Oh, I know, it must be bad information because it doesn’t support you…


    And to even make buyers even more comfortable, Cadillac offers the best warranty in the luxury car industry…

    “Cadillac’s Powertrain Warranty offers more years and miles standard than BMW and Mercedes-Benz with 6 years or 70,000 miles for 2013 and newer models (5 years or 100,000 miles for 2012 and older models). The 4-year or 50,000-mile Bumper-To-Bumper Warranty covers repairs on your entire vehicle, including parts and labor, to correct problems in materials or workmanship.”

  27. T. Bejma Says:

    Looks like you were mistaken (cloudy in KC also?) about Consumer Reports not liking Cadillac either since the CTS made the most reliable Sporty Car…


  28. T. Bejma Says:

    Oh, and just to be thorough, you are also incorrect about residuals…

    “Considering the 2013 XTS’s strong value proposition and high-quality interior materials, we predict it will preserve slightly above average 5-year residual values.”

  29. C-Tech Says:

    Interesting, 2 top Toyotas fail the insurance crash tests and these is no one unleashing hell about how Toyota aren’t what they used to be? If this were an American make they would probably be 27 (bad) comments.

  30. C-Tech Says:

    If EPS can make a better lead-acid battery for hybrid use, will that lead to a better, LIGHTER, battery for regular car use? After all, manufacturers will be looking to shed pounds from their bread and butter vehicles too and conventional batteries are pretty heavy!

  31. C-Tech Says:

    John and esteemed staff, how can there be voting AFTER the polls have closed? Did you get the voting software from Florida?

  32. C-Tech Says:

    @ #20 That is called the (ex)wife backing out of the garage test. The reason for rear view mirrors that fold-away.

  33. cwolf Says:

    Don’t lead acid batteries have a decreasing power level, where lith. maintains the charge,then drops off rapidly when depleted?

    After a hard day at work I like nothing better than to experience CK and Bejma pummel one another. Life is good! I must say I can’t recall seeing a higher labor cost for Caddys when at a GM dealership. And their parts are far less expensive than the Euro brands.

  34. C-Tech Says:

    @ #33 With a mild hybrid system like GM’s Malibu/LaCrosse the battery does not have to draw down below 50% so it (lead-acid) works. Add +1 to your second comment.

  35. RonE Says:

    @#15, Car and Driver, Jan ’13, has the same pics.

    What’s the funky tag hanging out of the side vent on the fender? Looks like something you find near the collar on your shirt. Wash using cold water only.

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    #22, 23,
    They are idling Fairfax an extra 2-3 weeks to adjust for excess inventory, and to do some maintenance and updates to the plant. That makes sense, at least to me.

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    33, 34,
    Since lead-acid batteries like to be fully charged, or nearly so, I suspect that if they are used in hybrids, they would be operated at the “top” of the charge/discharge cycle, rather than the “middle” which is best for lithium batteries.

  38. C-Tech Says:

    @ #37 Would that include the gel-type and deep-discharge batteries like in trucks and golf carts?

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I would think so. Of what I know, even deep-discharge batteries last the longest if they spend most of the time near full charge. With golf carts, the batteries probably last the longest if the charger is plugged in any time they are not in use, rather than when the batteries are almost run down.

    My experience with gel batteries, with robots for a competition, is that with very abusive use involving deep discharges at high current drain, they will last a year, two if we’re lucky. On the other hand, a similar battery in my “mega scooter” has been working to start the engine for 9 years. I’ll know in the spring if it might make it through 10.

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