AD #1258 – VW e-Golf Details, Ford’s New Subcompact Ka, Chevy’s Personal Touch

November 14th, 2013 at 11:58am

Runtime: 7:27

- Diesel Gains Traction in U.S.
- VW Reveals Electric Golf
- All-New Ford Subcompact Ka
- Chevy’s Personal Touch
- The Democratization of Luxury

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily. I’m Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, filling in for my AAH partner in crime, John. But now the news.

A new survey from Harris Interactive that was commissioned by Audi, shows that Americans want the government to do more to spur the use of diesels. 65% of those polled would support lawmaker efforts to make diesel more accessible and 66% think the government should offer a tax incentive for clean diesels. Interestingly, 57% feel the government has unfairly favored hybrids and electrics over diesel cars. But if diesel fuel was priced similar to gasoline it could have a bright future, 59% of 18 to 34 year olds said they would purchase a diesel-powered vehicle if the fuel costs were the same.

Back in August, Volkswagen revealed the electric version of the Golf at the Frankfurt Motor Show but now we’ve got details about the North American version. The e-Golf is powered by a 24.2 kilowatt hour lithium-ion battery pack and a 115 horsepower electric motor. It moves from 0 to 60 in a little over 10 seconds and has a top speed of 87MPH. And its average range is between 70 and 90 miles on a single charge. The e-Golf goes on sale late next year, in select U.S. markets.

The sub compact car segment is expected to hit approximately 6.2 million vehicles globally by 2017, which would represent a growth of about 35% and make it one of the most important segments in the industry. And yesterday in Brazil, Ford gave us a look at what its next global compact car will look like. Called the Ka Concept, it’s the second vehicle designed by Ford Brazil behind the EcoSport compact utility vehicle. Many of you may remember the Ka was first introduced in Europe and South America in the late-90’s. Ford says the new car will have class-leading fuel economy, a roomy interior and many features that are normally reserved for more expensive vehicles. The exterior of the Ka features many global Ford design cues, especially that front grille. But not much else was released about the car, so we will let you know more as soon as we do.

The SEMA show in Vegas was not just for automakers to show off their wild customs but also to show them how they can upgrade and personalize their ride. Much of Chevrolet’s display was littered with crate engines, brake upgrades, engine controller kits and this COPO Camaro that are all available in the brand’s performance parts catalog. But, of course, Chevy had its fair share of customs as well that featured some of those catalog parts but also some accessories that are being evaluated for production. Check out this Silverado Cheyenne Concept. It’s a performance-oriented version of the pickup that shares some of its parts with the wicked Z/28 Camaro, like its ceramic Brembo brakes, 19-inch wheels and its seats. The truck is powered by a 420 horsepower 6.2 liter V8, but was still able to shed over 200 pounds with carbon fiber replacements for the bumpers, tailgate and inner cargo box. Jeff Gordon also got in the mix with a custom version of the all-new SS sports sedan that he had direct input on. It features a satin paint finish with No. 24 graphics, custom 20-inch wheels, a carbon fiber spoiler and custom front grille. The concept also boasts a lowered suspension, high performance brakes and a performance exhaust system.

Coming up next: The Democratization of Luxury, coming to a Mercedes-Benz dealer near you.

You’ve probably heard of the term “democratization of technology” as it applies to this industry. It’s the idea that after new automotive technologies are developed and first applied by the various automakers to their racing machines, “show pony” supercars or super luxury cars, eventually that technology creeps down to models in lower-priced segments. This can be anything from electronics and safety gear, to suspension technology, tires, aerodynamic learning, engine performance and efficiency, with everything and anything in between.

But coming hard on the heels of that is a new concept that seems to be arriving at a breakneck pace but has heretofore remained unnamed – at least officially anyway – and that is the concept of the democratization of luxury.

This new notion that some luxury automakers are embracing suggests that luxury – or luxury themes as the case may be – can be transitioned into lower price points while still maintaining the image integrity of the participating brand.

And there are no bigger proponents of this notion than Mercedes-Benz, with its new compact entry, the CLA. With a base price just a few dollars under $30,000, this is the car that Daimler is pinning its hopes on, the Golden Calf on Wheels that will alter the company’s future once and for all. The CLA is a mildly interesting entry – though burdened with glaringly cheap details throughout – that Mercedes operatives insist will alter the course of automotive luxury as we know it. They’ve actually talked themselves into believing that they can rewrite history and change human nature all in one fell swoop with the new CLA.

Well, this just in: They can’t. And they won’t.

I find the marketing strategy for the CLA to be an excruciatingly cynical take on this business. The notion that you can throw that three-pointed star on anything and the people will come is ludicrous.

It’s true that the people may come – at least initially – to check out the CLA or even buy it, but Mercedes executives are destined to find out the hard way that the whim that brought those people into the showrooms will whisk them away just as easily.

With the CLA, Mercedes has brought itself within range of the Hyundais and KIAs of the world, removing any last vestiges of “specialness” from the brand.

And if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t take odds on Mercedes rising above the fray for long.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

And make sure you check out tonight’s Autoline After Hours. With John out of town, I’ll be joined by Frank Markus of Motor Trend, Todd Lassa from Automobile and Gary Vasilash from Automotive Design & Production to discuss a wide range of topics. So hop on over to tonight at 6PM eastern for some of the best insider discussion in the industry.

But that’s a wrap for today’s show. Once again, I’m Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, thanks for watching and i will see you tonight.

61 Comments to “AD #1258 – VW e-Golf Details, Ford’s New Subcompact Ka, Chevy’s Personal Touch”

  1. Brett Says:

    The same dynamic that has proven that VW really shouldn’t try to sell a $70-80,000 car as a Volkswagen will prove that Mercedes shouldn’t try to sell a $30,000 car.

  2. Danny Turnpaugh Says:

    Told you a couple weeks ago, younger people and people whom are new to the U.S. Don’t hold it against diesels. If fuel were closer in price diesel sales would skyrocket.
    Trucks the size of Ford ranger & old Chevy Luv would be great with 4 cylinder diesels.

  3. Ron Paris Says:

    So let me get this straight. Audi commissions a survey which concludes the federal government should meddle even more than it already does in the US automotive market to promote and incentivize the use of diesel powertrains (which, just happens to be Audi’s powertrain of choice!) and we’re supposed to take this seriously? How about advocating for the government to divest itself of all activities in which it tries to pick winners and losers in the market and let each technology stand or fall on its own merits?!

  4. M360 Says:

    Peter, do you think the MB CLA will go the same way as the Cadillac Cimarron and Cadillac Catera? Remember how those so-called Cadillacs actually diminished the brand? Do you think the CLA do the same for MB?

  5. HtG Says:

    How upscale are MB’s current ‘leasing’ customers in dey big E-class kars? They can’t afford one either; they’re paying depreciation plus tax. I see those ads on the TV. Zetsche is letting us down easy.

    Lowered Expectations, America.

  6. HtG Says:

    Didn’t VW’s DC offices also recently make some noise about added tax on diesels? Got to be a connection there somewhere. Hmmmm, need to think.

  7. Chuck Grenci Says:

    #3 Ron,
    Agree 100%, put out the technology, give it your best shot…………….and let the consumers decide. The Government, at least in this case (IMO) doesn’t know any better than anyone else. Case in point flip/flop (couple of days ago) changing to incentive on fuel cells after (dumping/reducing their support and money, previously) on electrics. Money in both instances they/we don’t have to flitter away.

  8. HtG Says:

    Get the govt out of it? Seriously? Take away tax incentives and waivers? Stop protecting oil emirates and sea lanes? Ridiculous. How about eliminate technology development programs at the carcos, which are govt supported? Not gonna happen.

  9. Kit Gerhart Says:

    To me, improvements in the cars, not the emblem applied to a car, is today’s example of “democratization of luxury.” I consider the new Impala a prime example. It is attractive, quiet, roomy, and comfortable, even in base form at a semi-affordable price in the high $20′s, if you are not in a hurry and are happy with ~200 hp.

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    When I first saw pictures of the CLA, I thought it looked good, but it just wasn’t a real Benz, being front drive, and built by Nissan. I figured, though, that it would at least be a very well-detailed, comfortable, quiet, good-riding front driver. It seems that it didn’t turn out that way, and that other, less expensive cars are better in ways that Benzes normally excel. That is going to diminish the brand.

    They are not going to drop the CLA in two years, even if the guys in Stuttgart realize is was a mistake, so I guess they need to make it better, as in better riding, quieter, and generally more like a Mercedes-Benz. I wish them luck.

  11. mike smith Says:

    Did u tell us whatt kind of car was the barn find this week

  12. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The thing the government should do to spur the use of diesel cars, is to withhold the billions in corporate welfare to the oil companies, until they adjust refinery capacity for gas and diesel/fuel oil, so the prices are about the same. Also, they should tax diesel and gas the same, but the current difference is small, so that alone wouldn’t change pump prices much.

  13. HtG Says:

    I’ve seen at least one CLA on the road. Driven by a 55+ yo guy. It’ll be interesting to see which cohorts actually get the car. (hint, silver paint isn’t the best choice to look upscale in your CLA. It matches my Civic)

  14. HtG Says:

    11 We’re both having a laugh now, Kit. Keeping the subsidies conversation firmly on bashing electrics, Obama and GM is the strategy.

  15. HtG Says:

    Kit, check out this segment from Living On Earth, called Fossil Fuel Subsidies Under Fire.It’s the show’s first segment…

  16. GM Veteran Says:

    Two comments.

    Democratization of Luxury. One of the key elements of luxury has always been that not everyone can get it or afford it. If features trickle down to cars sold at lower prices and in large volumes, will they really still be luxury features? What features on true luxury cars will then separate them from lower priced cars?

    Diesel Incentives. Why are they needed? I understand VW and Audi wanting to sell more of a technology they have invested heavily in, but that is not a reason for the government to subsidize. Diesel does not have an infrastructure problem like electric, CNG or hydrogen. It is readily available at every gas station I go to. And, the technology is fully developed, unlike batteries and fuel cell stacks. To me, the only issue is the way the fuel is priced and revising that is something that could be explored.

  17. HtG Says:

    I think one thing Peter’s talking about is the ‘democratization of conspicuous consumption.’

    You wanna pull off high class? Be thin, polite and pay your bills. The secret is out now.

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    14, Thanks for the link

    16, Yeah, I think you are right. A lot of people equate 3 pointed stars with luxury, rather than things like ride, quietness, and comfort. Traditionally, 3 pointed stars, and those other things went together, but it seems less so with the CLA.

    I’ll have to work on the “polite,” but I have the other parts. I’m thin, and I pay my bills.

  19. Josu Says:

    I agree with Peter De Lorenzo on this, but with a grain of salt, I think the holy grail of Mercedes is the S-Class, and as long as Mercedes keep the car as the benchmark for which all other top end luxury cars are rated its status is safe. But only if they don’t repeat things like the W220.

  20. Bradley Says:

    If Diesel were foreclosing our Government would help it out. :)

    Sorry…couldn’t resist.

  21. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I’ve been a strong diesel advocate here since the beginning,and will continue in my beliefs.One thing that I never understood is the difference in prices between diesel and gas.It doesn’t make any sense to me at all,and has contributed to the overall increase in prices of everything delivered to all the stores we go to,food/clothing etc.Personally,I think it’s pure bullsh!t on the part of ‘big oil’.Blatant greed…..gotta hate it.

  22. gary susie Says:

    I believe Benz will regret the CLA

  23. gary susie Says:

    I believe Benz will regret the CLA

  24. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’ll wait for more reviews, but of what I’m hearing so far, the CLA probably isn’t much, or any better than an Accord or Malibu that costs a whole lot less, comparably equipped. I’d think that would diminish the Mercedes brand, no matter how good the $100K S-Class may be.

  25. Tony Gray Says:

    The CLA may result in the same tarnishment of Mercedes as did the Packard 115C (later 110). Can the 3 pointed star recover? Certainly. But this is the first Benz I can think of that to me, is a questionable product, at least in the US market.

  26. Duke Says:

    #3 Ron, I take it that you are totally in favor then of cessation of all farm, oil, and all other subsidies then? Have you written your congressman/senator – and demanded same?

    M-B. I wonder if M-B dealers are pushing for cars like the CLA? Here in So Fla, they have been regularly advertising leasing of USED C-class cars. Can’t even get people to buy used M-B’s? Is it because there really is a gap in consumer faith of German engineering, or that people that “want” to drive them really can only afford to lease them? Even used ones.

    Diesel? Who is going to alert and get the oil companies to build more diesel refineries/ facilities? It wouldn’t take long for demand/ supply issues to present themselves if supply of diesel powered vehicles increases substantially. What does that do to the price for same?

    . . . be careful what you wish for . . .

  27. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit I am convinced that you need to check out any car that you may be interested in for yourself and not count on any one reviewer, CR blasted both the CLA and the Lexus IS, while I’ve read other reviews praising both vehicles and Mr. If it’s got 4 wheels, I like Davis from Motorweek gave the CLA a glowing review, PDL is right, anything get called luxury nowadays, I don’t consider the Buick Encore or Verano as luxury cars, but many do.

  28. pedro fernandez Says:

    The replacement parts problems continue, I just had a 3 mo old FWD axle replaced under warranty, incredible! in all the years of FWD cars, never had an axle fail on me so soon!

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Pedro, do Toyota dealers use OEM mechanical parts, or do they get whatever they can get cheap.

    It’s kind of unrelated, but all of the axles and CV joints on my friend’s Sunfire are original at 200K miles. He’s easy on cars, but still, I’m impressed.

  30. pedro fernandez Says:

    I wonder if MB salesmen will try to sell these things to their long-time customers or will they steer them away from it fearing that said customer might be so disappointed that he or she may abandon the brand altogether

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I agree that you need to check out cars, and not base everything on reviews. Different people, including reviewers, are looking for different things in cars.

  32. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit I believe you can still get genuine good quality at the dealer at a premium price, if my car was newer, I would opt only for those, however to have ball bearings fail after 1 month, and now a CV axle after 3, is incredible. I’ve read a bunch of reports on various media re bad replacement parts for even luxury brands, like the guy who got bum engine mounts for his Audi, turning it into a lawn mower.

  33. HtG Says:

    I’ll assume your axle parts are Chinese made, Pedro. A few weeks ago I spoke to the owner of a local bike shop, who had a lot of bad things to say about bikes coming from China. Manufacturers there were buying up brands in the US, but then making very poor quality bikes under the brand. The shop owner was saying that it’s a deliberate strategy.

    I also recently heard a BBC radio report on Haier appliances, where the topic of discussion was on the company’s determination to make quality goods. This in contradistinction to other Chinese firms. The Heier boss said that most Chinese companies just did ‘copy and paste.’

    The link, if you wish to listen. 30min

  34. pedro fernandez Says:

    I spent a few hours testing a Kia Cadenza and I would not quite call it a luxury car, it’s nice, but luxurious??? I don’t think so!

  35. pedro fernandez Says:

    HtG this shop had a bunch of parts there waiting to be installed on diff vehicles, incl. pickups, US and Japanese brands and ALL of them were made in China. Might as well bring Chinese cars here already, what’s the difference? Now my “Japanese” car has Chinese parts all over the place, axles, shocks, tires, rack and pinion, alternator and who knows what else!

  36. HtG Says:

    Yeah, this is why I only let the Honda dealer touch my car. What’s pernicious is when brands associated with quality are undermined by new owners. I learned that brands are a promise of quality, but not so much now.

  37. pedro fernandez Says:

    HtG at least these were labeled as such, but I recall seeing a report a couple of yrs ago, whereby they would take Chinese parts and re-box them in one that said “Made in Japan”. That is bad! The FTC or some other group should look into this problem just like they did with the China tires issue last year, defective new parts end up costing consumers money, cause though you may get a new replacement, you still gotta pay labor, the shop won’t stand behind the part.

  38. HtG Says:

    China will be truly pressing the muzzle into its own forehead if they enter developed markets with junk. The govt just had a big meeting out of which one of the stated intentions was to diminish corruption and shoddiness. But there’s only so much the apparat in Beijing can do.

  39. HtG Says:

    Off Topic, Pedro

    If you want to rev your outrage engine a little(guessing you’re in the mood), here’s a Businessweek piece on illegal honey imports conducted by Germans and Chinese parties. Crack open a cold one, open a bag of munchies…

  40. C-Tech Says:

    If M-B keeps its commitment to quality then they will not let the CLA be a bottom-feeder. PDL may be wrong about this car in the long run, however we’ll see.

    Its cheap parts from China which keep the d-i-y techs and small shops busy. Not all Chinese parts are cheaply made.

  41. C-Tech Says:

    Haier has a plant in Indiana

  42. pedro fernandez Says:

    Oh great! so that little plastic bear container with honey turns out to be a Panda after all? What’s next Chinese spring water? HtG if the Chinese made parts are so inferior and they’re supposed to be built to mfg standards, how crappy must their vehicles be, that are built to their own shoddy specs?

  43. C-Tech Says:

    As I looked at a 2007 Malibu with 1 headlamp bulb out, perhaps the Autoline garage needs to do a segment about the $170 headlamp bulb change. It seems you have to remove the front bumper to have access to replace the bulb. It is cheaper to get the brakes done.

  44. pedro fernandez Says:

    #40 how do you tell? they don’t exactly come with ratings, the last tires I bought are Chinese and they’re pretty nice riding and so far so good. The brand is Hercules and the model is Ironman, surprised that Marvel doesn’t take them to court!

  45. HtG Says:

    40 Nothing against Chinese parts, but they have to make good parts.

    43 didn’t Sean M. do just such a segment on access for techs?

  46. HtG Says:

    Am I off base, CTech, to wonder if Peter’s rant this week and the spread of lower priced Chinese parts are saying something about the high costs of car ownership across the spectrum? Monthly payments, insurance, gas; It’s a lot. Perhaps MB has a problem.

  47. cwolf Says:

    Did you know the casualty rate went up for the first time since 2011, or something like that? Pedestrians and bikers are the reason for most deaths, as before. But this made me wonder what good has all these safety devises done besides increasing costs and adding more complications? How much technology is enough to make a difference? I know cell phones and that obnoxious sreen on the dash has… in a negative way.

  48. C-Tech Says:

    @ #40 HtG No offense taken. Just trying to point out there are some higher quality Chinese parts and many lower quality. Unfortunately you get what you pay for and at some shops they take advantage of customers who do not ask about the parts which go into their vehicles.

    I don’t see PDL’s latest rant about the high cost of ownership. After all if you are choosing M-B, Lexus, Caddy, BMW, etc., YOU are choosing to pay the extra premium for associated exclusive club brand. The risk M-B takes is cheapening the brand in the long run for the sake of gaining higher profits in the short run.

    The cost of owning a car and cheap parts (regardless of origin, some substandard parts come from Korea and India too) has (IMHO) to do with raising the profit margin at some repair shops and customers CHOOSING the cheaper part (I can get that cheaper motor mount for $50 less, why not? Because the cheap motor will rattle your teeth in six months and it has only a 3 month warranty)

  49. C-Tech Says:

    @ #47 If you state the casualty rate as a percentage of miles driven , did the rate really go up, or is it a function of more miles driven due to more people working (improving economy)?

  50. pedro fernandez Says:

    Fl is considering a bill to increase the MPH to 75 in the interstates and pike at certain remote areas, this is crazy, more fuel usage, more accidents because if I know these people here, they’ll turn 75 into 85 and with the distractions, there should be massacre on the roadways.

  51. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I guess if you can really count on getting OEM parts at a dealer, you’d be better off to do so if, say, a CV joint fails at 200K miles. If the replacement lasts 200K miles, that will probably be long enough.

  52. C-Tech Says:

    @ #50 People already drive 75-85 on the tollways and freeways. This will just decrease speeding ticket revenue, unless they increase it for drivers over the 75 mph level.

  53. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If they do that, I will probably drive faster, like everyone else. I now go around 75 on the interstates with the 70 mph speed limit, and get 43-44 mpg with the Prius. Another 5 mph would probably drop it to around 40-41. The amount of extra fuel used would be greater with other vehicles.

  54. HtG Says:

    What scares me is driving 80mph on a congested highway. High volume traffic going that fast is sick. One mistake….

    Go fast out in Wyoming. Now that’s fun. Something about those vistas.

  55. Steve Weintraub Says:

    I think Peter DiLorenzo hit the nail on the head regarding the Mercedes CLA being bad for the Mercedes image. It reminds me (And I admit I’m old) of when Packard shot itself in the foot by introducing the Clipper,a lower priced car.It was straight downhill after that!

  56. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit, I never figured you to be Speedy Gonzalez, I on the other hand, will now have cars wheezing by even faster around my Slorolla, this is bad for me.

  57. Kit Gerhart Says:

    When on long road trips, I tend to drive as fast as I figure I can get by with and not get speeding tickets, and/or as fast as I feel comfortable.

    The times I drive faster that I really feel comfortable, are through cities, like Atlanta. The traffic is heavy, and going 75-80 mph, but it seems safest to “go with the flow,” which I do.

  58. RonE Says:

    Pedro, Crapolla and now Slorolla. I love it. It’s always nice to start the day with a smile. Keep it going.

  59. John McElroy Says:

    #43 We did an Autoline Garage on just that topic. Just search for Autoline Garage or headlights on either our site here or on our YouTube channel (Autoline Network) and it should pop right up.

  60. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The expensive headlight replacement I heard about on a South Florida call-in show, was for a Nissan Altima. It cost $300, or something like that. I don’t know which generation Altima it was.

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