AD #1179 – Impala Tops Sedan List, Daimler Takes Stake in Aston, Mazda3 Pricing and MPG

July 25th, 2013 at 11:33am

Runtime: 7:27

The Chevy Impala has moved from the bottom of Consumer Reports’ rankings to the top spot overall for all sedans. Daimler announces it’s taking a small stake in Aston Martin in exchange for sharing engines and other components. In an all-new Design Handbook, Jim Hall explains why gas caps are located on both sides of the vehicle. All that and more, plus guest host Peter De Lorenzo shares his thoughts on why Cadillac needs to do more to define the brand.

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Hello and welcome to the Thursday edition of Autoline Daily. I’m Peter De Lorenzo the Autoextremist filling in for John while he’s out of town. We’ve got an all-new Design Handbook with Jim Hall coming up in a little bit, but first the news.

The 2014 Chevy Impala has earned a lot of praise and even one of the car’s harshest critics agrees it’s much better. The Impala has moved from the bottom of Consumer Reports rankings to the top spot overall for all sedans. It’s the first domestic car to hold that position in 20 years. Engineers said the car rides like a luxury sedan with good handling, acceleration and braking. They were also impressed with the Impala’s roomy and comfortable interior. Overall Consumer Reports says the Impala is competitive with cars that cost $20,000 dollars more than it, including the Audi A6, Lexus 460L, Jaguar XF and Acura RLX.

Daimler and Aston Martin are teaming up. The German automaker will provide the British luxury maker with V8 engines from Mercedes and also provide electric and electronic components. In exchange, Daimler gets up to a five percent stake in Aston. This is just a preliminary agreement, it still faces regulatory approval, but the two companies expect a definitive agreement during the second half of the year.

Mazda announced pricing and fuel economy for the 2014 Mazda3 in the U.S. It starts at just over $17,000 with the 2.0 Liter SkyActiv gasoline engine and six-speed manual transmission. The top of the line Mazda3, with the 2.5 liter SkyActive gasoline engine, starts just over $27,000. Fuel economy for the 2.0 liter sedan and hatch versions range from the high twenties in the city, to the low forties on the highway. MPGs for the 2.5 Liter, range from the high twenties in the city, to the high thirties on the highway. You can click the link in today’s show notes for all the details. The 2014 Mazda3 goes on sale this September.

Jim Hall’s Design Handbook been on hiatus for awhile, but it’s back! We’ve been getting a ton of responses to this segment including the following e-mail from Rob who writes:

“Here is a question that has baffled scientists for years. Why do some car designers and manufacturers put the fuel filler on the passenger, right-rear, side of the car (instead of the driver’s side)? I’ve watched in amazement how people fight, cuss and raise their center finger at other gas buying customers, when trying to get in and around pumps. Not to mention how pissed people are when they have to walk around to the right rear of the car in rain and snow to fill their car.”

Well, Rob, Jim Hall has your answer.

(This edition of Design Handbook is only available in the video version of today’s show.)

If you’ve got a question or comment for Design Handbook, send an e-mail to Thanks to Rob for his question.

Coming up, GM minions tweak Cadillac’s signature crest again. What does it all mean?

The last time Cadillac redesigned their emblem they made a big deal of it, suggesting that they were hip and forward thinking by doing so. Now, according to reports, they’re doing it again.

This comes after CEO Dan Akerson announced that GM is bringing a new “big” Cadillac to market. No, not the Ciel-based showstopper that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, this “big” Cadillac is the car that GM’s brain trust – and Captain Queeg’s cost-cutting minions – deems to be acceptable to go up against the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series and Audi A8.

In other words, “good enough” to go after the German luxury-performance stars without reaching for the ultimate rung and making a statement about what Cadillac is and what it will stand for in the future. “Good enough” – in their estimation – to dispense with a halo vehicle that won’t make enough money and consume a lot of time, talent and resources.

Akerson & Co. figures that the new CTS, the new ELR and the upcoming bigger Cadillac will accomplish that just fine.

Needless to say in GM’s narrow little world that may make perfect sense.

In the real world, however, it means more of the same. This just in – good enough is never good enough in this business

And about that redesign of the Cadillac crest? It won’t matter, because what’s holding Cadillac back isn’t their emblem, it’s the way they go about their business. When it comes to Cadillac’s perpetual struggle with defining itself, GM always seems to come up short.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for Thursday, July 25th… stay tuned for another Autoline After Hours this evening.

My guest will be Rich Bartlett, the Assistant Chief Engineer of the Cadillac Twin Turbo V6. Also joining me will be Scott Burgess from Motor Trend and Todd Lassa of Automobile. So tune in tonight at 6PM ET for some of the best insider discussion in the auto industry.

And that wraps up today’s show. I’m Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, thanks for watching and I will see you tonight.

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51 Comments to “AD #1179 – Impala Tops Sedan List, Daimler Takes Stake in Aston, Mazda3 Pricing and MPG”

  1. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Great question (about the gas cap location), I didn’t like the answer (that it won’t be standardized anytime soon); but at least I know (a little) about how (some) got where they got. I have two GM vehicles, and both produced for the American market, and yes, they are on opposite sides (go figure).

    Nice commentary Peter, I have to agree pretty much with everything you said; perhaps the divisions within GM need to get (from under) the umbrella of GM central (like days of old and how you and John lamented that they still should be) and share what can be shared but not encumbered by corporate dictate when ‘the whole’ might be greater than the sum of all parts if left to the divisions original direction.

  2. Brett Says:

    I question the logic of Cadillac’s current approach. It doesn’t sound like they can produce a flagship that is strongly differentiated from the new Impala in the eyes of potential customers.

    Nobody is going to throw down a big premium for a big Cadillac that is distinctive, but delivers little more experiential value than the new Chevrolet. Sure people are status-conscious, but they’re not stupid, either.

    Isn’t this sort of what Lincoln is struggling with vis–à–vis the MKZ and Fusion?

  3. Mike Says:

    I wish you wouldn’t do “This edition of Design Handbook is only available in the video version of today’s show” type thing. I doo would like to know why the gas caps are on both sides. The IT guys here at work feel the videos soak up a chunk of their bandwidth and so they won’t let us go there. Also an 8 minute sgement is more than I have time for. Just sayin…

  4. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Jim Hall’s explanation of the fuel filler location is spot on. I experienced it when I was in Scotland in the U.S. Navy in 1970. The Brit cars had the filler on the left, and most of the cars from the continent, even the RHD version sold in the UK, had the filler on the right.

    Also, Jim’s explanation involving platform sharing is what I experienced when at GM. Most Opel-based cars, like my ’05 Malibu, had in on the right, while the cars designed in, and for the North America have it on the left. My ’06 VW Golf Cabrio, designed mostly for the LHD European markets, also has it on the right.

    Actually, I’m old enough to remember a few curb side stations in the U.S., where having the filler on the right was clearly better.

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’d like to see Cadillac build a big rear drive car that has the comfort, performance, and room of an S-Class, that is “just a car” without all the gadgets the existing big luxury cars now have. That would be very appealing to me, but I guess gadgets are now a big part of what defines a “flagship” car. That is unfortunate.

  6. john897 Says:

    So in your eyes GM always comes short. That far from being the truth and shows much negative bias and……we all know you hate Ackerson. You could never say anything good about him no matter what!

    Cadillac has come a long ways and is now beating the German cars, or have you not notice? Come on and be honest.

  7. HtG Says:

    Did you guys see that old time pump at the curbside? Where in Infernal Heck did they keep the tanks? The basement?

  8. HtG Says:

    Kit, whatever happened to center gas caps under the license plate? I thought was so cool

  9. M360 Says:

    Correct – Good enough is not good enough. In that light, too bad the Impala got the award for top sedan: GM may decide the Impala has too much content and start to remove same. After all, it’s better than “good enough” and we can’t have that, now, can we?

  10. M360 Says:

    #5 – You’re looking for “just a car”? What do you think of the current XTS?

  11. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, a lot of GM cars had that at one time. I suspect it would not be so good if you are rear ended, though.

  12. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The XTS is basically an Impala, but with bunch of stuff I wouldn’t wanted, most obviously, CUE. It’s a pretty nice car, but I’d rather have the Impala, even if the price premium for the XTS were smaller.

    What I’d like to see, though I probably wouldn’t buy it, at least new, would be a rear drive sedan with the ride, seat comfort, performance, etc. of an S-Class, but with controls more like the best of the 90′s cars had.

  13. Docman Says:

    Hmmm…. My older British cars, Jaguar XJR and Triumph GT6, have fillers on the left, because of right hand drive countries?
    And my Fox body Mustang has it on the right side, why? I don’t think that platform originated in continental Europe?!?
    JH – did you just make this segment up?

  14. GM Veteran Says:

    It would be interesting to ask top GM management what they think another well-run company would do with Cadillac if they bought it from GM. Thinking about how it would have to be run as a standalone brand and still be profitable might lead to some interesting insights and answers in contrast to their current plans.

    I can’t help but think that some top Ford managers are looking at the current success of Jaguar and especially Land Rover and wonder why Ford could not have done that.

  15. Bradley Says:

    I think Center gas caps went away as a result of crash safety.

    GM and its talking heads DEMAND immediate recognition for any little thing. The reality is, the more they DEMAND, the more it reinforces they are still not leading the pack. The best compliment is the unsolicited one.

  16. T. Bejma Says:

    So PDL’s big beef that GM decided instead of building a $250,000 Cadillac CONVERTIBLE, we instead decided to build a $125,000 Rear Wheel Drive Sedan?

    Cadillac needs to walk before it can run and going from the XTS as the high end to an ultra-luxury convertible is not what people want (or would accept) from them. Once Cadillac has a few years under their belt of putting out great products and starts to repair their image as a major player in the luxury market (like they have done with the ATS and soon the CTS), then maybe a Ciel. This seems like a good progression and not just “good enough”.

    Ok, here comes CK’s slobbering praise of Peter along with a couple more jabs at Cadillac in 3… 2… 1… ;-)

  17. CanadienRick Says:

    People in that market are very status conscious …and Cadillac is just NOT there with Mercedes, BMW, Audi or even Lexus.
    “Good Enough” … doesn’t get that market to switch ..You need to be “much better” .. That market is all about status, not about getting from A to B … but how you get from A to B.
    I just don’t think GM really ever gets that and therefore always playing catch up.

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The deal with Daimler should be very good for Aston. It is time for Aston to replace the aging Ford/Jag engines with something current, and the Benz V8′s are as good as any. Will they keeping using the V12′s made from the 3.0 V6′s built end to end?

  19. HtG Says:

    And the countdown until someone takes an upward nut kick at CR begins now…99..98..97..96….

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It would seem to me the “much better” is quite impossible, unless better would mean something like user friendly controls, or using half as much fuel while maintaining the luxury and performance of the LS or S-Class.

    I guess a properly done diesel hybrid might do the latter, but would be expensive to develop, and would difficult to make drive as pleasantly as a standard powertrain.

  21. The Autoextremist Says:

    6: Beating the German cars? At what exactly? I’ve consistently praised the V-Series cars because they deserve it, but Cadillac continues to flail away trying to be everyone BUT Cadillac and that is a fool’s errand.

    You clearly don’t read what I write, you only read what you want to see, but then again that seems to be a common- and pathetic – affliction with most instant Internet auto experts these days.

    Some of you guys need to take up gardening, because your sum total contribution to discussions of merit about this business amounts to a big fat zero.

    Oh and one more thing, ask anyone who knows – really knows – about this business, especially inside GM, and Akerson is everything I’ve portrayed him to be. But then you wouldn’t know anything about that would you?

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    Congrats to GM and Chevy for slowly but surely becoming America’s car brand again. They got something for just about everyone now.

  23. ColoradoKid Says:

    Impala Tops Sedan List ( according to CR that is )

    This coming from the same bunch that claims the BOSE Wave System is the best sounding home stereo ever … the TESLA S being a paragon of technological innovation .. and the ATS is in any way a direct competitor for the BMW 3-Series …. which is to say …

    ….. Consumer Reports credibility is ….. errr …. questionable …. at best ;-)


    @ PDL – 20 – Mille Bene …. Amen … and a huge Plus 1 x 1000 squared and then some …. on all counts … but especially for the comment about Cadillac trying to be everything and everybody BUT Cadillac

    And just for the record … I’ve thought IMHO .. if anything you might be holding back just a bit ( out of professional courtesy which is to your credit ) when it comes to GM , Akerson and Cadillac specifically

  24. HtG Says:

    20 I am somebody

    Personally, I consider myself a sports fan at a bar. Can you imagine what you’d hear from the majority of consumers who don’t even care about cars? For an industry like autos that’s so vast and interconnectd with the rest of world, knowing a bit about other fields has kept me from writing some pretty dim things.

  25. HtG Says:

    Also, who takes everything they hear at a bar so seriously? Unless of course they want to step outside.

  26. ColoradoKid Says:


    Errr …. Pedro ….. if you scour the financials today you’d notice GM’s losing money ( profit Mr Bejma … Profit ) hand over fist …. all while Ford is swimming in profit left and right .

    So ….. errr …. mi amigo … unless Losing money has suddenly become the definition of an ‘ American ‘ brand [ which in light of GMObamanomics it just might be ] … well … methinks its Ford who’s on point when it comes to being America’s brand .. Jes sayin ;-)

  27. ColoradoKid Says:

    One last if I may ( I’m ahead of schedule HtG so no worries )

    Marchionne’s Madness Strikes Again

    What ? Its been a whole … lets see now … 30 days since ol Sergio last changed his mind on something/anything for the umpteenth time ?

    Jeeze .. the man is making an Art Form out of waffling . His theme song ought to be ;

    ” Is You Is or Is You Aint “

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Peter, this uninformed poster agrees with you completely that Cadillac will never compete with the S-Class et. al. head to head, but there is a market for a big, luxurious sedan, but without so much driver distraction crap. it would need to be cheaper, substantially cheaper than an S-Class. Maybe it should be a Chevy and not a Cadillac, or maybe Cadillac should go back to their roots and make a modern Sedan de Ville, and call it that.

    But I, for one, am glad that the “true believers” within GM apparently did a good job with the new Impala, and I hope those people will stick around and maintain their morale, and maybe some day they will have upper management they can be proud to work for.

  29. HtG Says:

    My perusal of DetroitNews shows that GM earned 1.2B overall and 2B domestically, while Ford earned 1.23B overall and 2.3B domestically. GM had a special charge this quarter for shares purchased in Korea. Looks alright to me.

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It makes sense to extend to the “sell by” date of the Wrangler, since is is selling well, and making money. Maybe the same with the Grand Caravan. They should keep the Caravan name, regardless of whether they extend the current version longer than planned.

    It seems crazy, though, the they would extend the Avenger. it sells only to fleets, where they don’t make money, and probably results in people who rent them scratching all Chrysler products from their shopping lists.

  31. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ CK:I read that article earlier today,and I can’t say I was surprised,especially about the jeep jk.The jk needs to have some quality competition from other oems,sadly that won’t happen unless the RR defender with a diesel and stripped down would magically appear.Highly doubtful.

    As for gm,I don’t know squat about the cars,don’t want to either.The 1/2 ton pickups though is what I’m into,and they,as I say it again,dropped the ball.All that meat and no potatoes so to say.Trailer towing up the yingyang yet they don’t offer the mirrors to go along with that anymore= useless to me.

    They stayed with the 4 spd auto much longer then they should have,finally moved to a 6 spd and they are still playing ‘catch-up’.They also decreed there isn’t a need for a light duty diesel so watch as the ram 1500 diesel kicks it’s a$$ this coming year.Especially with an 8 spd auto.The ‘General’,in general motors implies leadership,too lead…………when does that happen?

  32. ColoradoKid Says:


    I’d like to see Cadillac finally build a CADILLAC again …. of any size or class …. rather than the constant stream of EuroJap wanna be pretentious pretenders they keep trying to flog off on an unsuspecting public ! Then I’d like to see Cadillacs marketing Mad Men actually advertise and promote the darn things AS a CADILLAC .. rather than their constant diatribe that feebly attempts to portray them as direct ‘ competitors’ for the EuroJaps rather than as an ‘ Alternative ‘ to ..


    FYI ; Note to Cadillac . Please terminate those pathetic ATS in Exotic Locations commercials and fire/toss under the bus the entire bunch that created them . After 3 weeks of being inundated by those ludicrous travesties during the Le Tour coverage I’ve had enough …Even with the Mute on those things are intolerable and annoying .

  33. HtG Says:

    26,29 I must admit to getting a guilty giggle at the ColoradoKid/Marchionne row.

  34. HtG Says:

    31 come on Kid, you’re the target buyer for Cadillac. Don’t you know cycling skews high?

  35. ColoradoKid Says:

    HtG- 28 – WSJ – TTAC – Bloomberg – CNBC Financial -NYTimes etc … GM’s taking it in the shorts P-R-O-F-I-T wise along with Akerson …. taking a cue from Marchionne .. is affirming and denying the same thing at the same time depending on who he’s talking to .. { one minute blaming the lack of profits on the Asian market .. the next on development costs of the new P/U ] …. all while things at Ford are happily swimming along ( in profit that is )

  36. ColoradoKid Says:

    32 – If you only knew the ‘ inside ‘ story behind it all HtG … ;-)

    As to # 33 . Yeah right … when pigs fly – Marchionne actually sticks to his promises/stories and Lance Armstrong is proven innocent of all charges

  37. HtG Says:

    What am I missing? Bloomberg on GM

    “GM’s North American operations reported adjusted earnings before interest and taxes that rose 4.5 percent to $1.98 billion. That exceeded the $1.73 billion average of three analysts’ estimates. Companywide net income fell 23 percent to $1.41 billion in the second quarter, the automaker said today in a statement.”

  38. ColoradoKid Says:

    HtG – If you must know …. this is what has my attention at present ;

    Talk about hitting the demographic right on the head ! Heck … if you and I ever met face to face you’d realize BMW even nailed the models posing to a tee.. as well as the location ( except in CO of course . Thats pretty much me and SG .. almost to the letter ! Had a very nice talk with BMWNA about this … told them as much …. and guess what ? We’re #1 on the list should BMW produce and export this little gem .

  39. ColoradoKid Says:

    36 – This ;

    as well as every other financial reporting the full story ( Bloomberg is doing so on TV today )

  40. HtG Says:

    37 Yup. That’s the car BMW put on the floor at the NY show, to see what reactions were like. A dealer on the floor said people loved it. I thought it was great looking and just the right size.

  41. HtG Says:

    CK, here’s a link to some shots I took of your Bimmer(among others) in NY…

  42. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Is this the BMW version of the Countryman?

  43. Alex Kovnat Says:


    > The 2014 Chevy Impala has earned
    > a lot of praise and even one of
    > the car’s harshest critics agrees
    > it’s much better.

    I’m no Obama-lover but reading the above, it makes me glad GM was bailed out.

  44. Brett Says:

    re: Keeping Avenger in production

    Even if the thing is not profitable, it churns money through the system and keeps a factory running and workers employed. It may just be a timing issue. Perhaps they don’t have things lined up to put that capacity to more profitable use right now and they don’t want to shed capacity because of future plans so… they keep making and selling a car that is not profitable so they don’t incur big costs shutting down an assembly plant for some time period and then starting it back up again. It will be costly enough just to retool.

  45. john897 Says:

    The ATS comes to mine….beating the BMW 2-Series.

    “pathetic – affliction with most instant Internet auto experts these days”. This must be me.

    “Oh and one more thing, ask anyone who knows – really knows – about this business, especially inside GM, and Akerson is everything I’ve portrayed him to be. But then you wouldn’t know anything about that would you?”

    One thing you don’t know about me is, I’ve worked “inside GM” therefore according to your quote, I should know.

    Give Ackerson a break, GM is doing well and he’s at the helm.


  46. Earl Says:

    Cadillac has some good looking cars but come up short in many areas. I had a 2009 CTS and the front seats left a lot to be desired. Also no leg room in the back. It raided it off for a Hyundai Genesis that has a 3.8L,333 HP engine and an 8 speed transmission. Does 26 mpg. Have 20,000 miles on it now and haven’t regretted switching
    A friend of mine bought a XTS,nice car but a little underpowered. He let the dealer know that was the only area of being unhappy. The dealer told him that he hasn’t had any complaints from the widows and octogenarians that are buying them.

  47. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Does your friend with the XTS like CUE?

  48. XA351GT Says:

    Maybe the answer to the gas filler location is like a bunch of old Fords I had/have. Put it between the taillights or behind the license plate. Okay okay I know they won’t do that for safety reasons anymore.
    I had a nasty experience once filling My 70 Mach 1 . I was filling the car and a woman pulled in behind me. The car on the other side finished first and she decided to move over there. She put the car in reverse and it stalled . She pulled the shifter “down” in neutral . Started the car and pulled “down ” again shifting to drive instead of reverse as she thought she had been in park. The car lurched forward pinning me to my trunk lid with the gas nozzle embedding itself into my crotch . Luckily I was unhurt although I spoke High soprano for a while. So maybe that isn’t such a great idea after all . LOL

  49. Earl Says:

    #47 The salesman explained the basics but being a senior and like most of them is intimidated by it all. I offered to show him some of its features and told him if he was interested at all I would take home his owners manual and study it. Didn’t take me up on it. I understand the instrument panel can be configured in a number of formats.

  50. T. Bejma Says:


    I currently work “inside GM” and totally agree with you @john897. Maybe the people talking to Peter are just disgruntled. All of the people I work with at ALL levels from CAD Designers to Vice Presidents get it and are making the right decisions to get this big ship moving in the right direction. 25 years of experience in the Auto Industry right here in Southeast Michigan should give me some credibility…

  51. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Thanks for the report.

    It seems to me that, even more so than on their other cars, Cadillac should make CUE optional, rather than standard on the XTS. Like it or not, most XTS customers and prospects are “seniors,” often replacing DTS/de Villes, and they want simple, intuitive controls.