AD #1490 – Fiat Spins Off Ferrari, New Toyota Van Puts the Ugh In Ugly, Takata Airbag Fix

October 30th, 2014 at 11:53am

Runtime: 8:07

- Fiat Spins Off Ferrari
- FCA Earnings
- Fiat Reveals Wild Four-Door Coupe
- New Toyota Van Puts the Ugh In Ugly
- BMW Introduces M Versions of X5 & X6
- Takata Airbag Fix

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70 Comments to “AD #1490 – Fiat Spins Off Ferrari, New Toyota Van Puts the Ugh In Ugly, Takata Airbag Fix”

  1. DaveThompson Says:

    So will BMW’s new M version of the X-5 be the MX-5??

  2. Brett Says:

    That 3/4 rear view of the FIAT concept reminds me of a sectioned Chrysler Sebring convertible on a 4×4 chassis.

  3. Tony Gray Says:

    The Toyota Van is the grandson of a 1950 Buick in my eyes.

  4. Kit Gerhart Says:

    55, Sorry to go back to “old news,” but a couple days ago donfromnaples wrote “I repeat, the Vibe was not recommended while the Matrix was recommended until model years later when CR finally lumped the two cars together.

    CR lumped Vibe with Matrix at least as far back as 2004, the second model year for those cars. I have the the “buyers guide” in front of me, and under the Vibe listing it says “The Vibe, cousin to the Toyota Matrix is a roomy small wagon……” They recommended the Vibe, as they did the Matrix.

    I do remember “owner satisfaction” as being low for the AWD version of the Vibe in one of their reports.

  5. Tony Gray Says:

    Or Futurama’s Dr. Zoidberg.

  6. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The independent Ferrari will need to stay in the good graces of Bernie and his successors. Isn’t F1 where their money comes from? They can’t be making a lot of money selling their handful of road cars, even very expensive ones, can they?

  7. Chuck Grenci Says:

    On Fiat’s FCC4 (and the new design language): ‘no hablo’.

    And on Toyota’s minivan: keep it in Japan.

  8. Mike Says:

    Another solution for the Takata air bag problem is to simply wear your seat belts. The air bag was originally a “Supplemental Restraint system” meant to protect people who “forgot” to fasten their seatbelts. John: have you ever seen any data that shows the combination of the belt and the bag to be safer than the belt alone? I am aware of a case where an elderly driver, wearing a belt, was actually damaged more by the bag (broken arm, split the back of his head when slammed into the headrest) than by the collision.

  9. RumNCoke Says:

    The interior view of the new BMW X5/X6 got me thinking. So here is an AAH question for you. Why are designers making touch screens look like add-ons? These are expensive rides and it looks like you’ve got a 5 year old Garmin on the dash. I don’t get it.

  10. Goose Says:

    Regarding Air Bag deactivation, why not pull the fuse or relay out to deactivate the system? There is no cost associated with this solution.

  11. Kit Gerhart Says:

    8, Maybe those of us who always wear seat belts should disable our air bags.

  12. Jon M Says:

    “His five year plan calls for FCA to spend nearly $12 billion a year. What’s next? We think lemonade stands, bake sales and a paper drive could all be under consideration.” And if he offers Kool-Aid, DON’T DRINK IT!!

  13. Todd T Says:

    Airbags have transitioned beyond “SRS”. If vehicle manufactures could meet occupant protection requirements without them, they could argue with DOT/NHTSA and probably get a waiver from them. They can’t. So, airbags are a reality going forward.

    Anecdotal examples of injuries caused by airbags are no different than the anecdotal examples of injuries caused by seatbelts when they became mandated equipment.

  14. Buzzers Says:

    Kit- a friend of mine wanted to buy a small truck so he called the Toyota dealer and asked about trading in his Vibe. The salesman said he probably wouldn’t take it as it was North American and wasn’t quite up to their standards …. He bought a Nissan.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    12, I agree. I wasn’t being very serious in #10.

  16. RonE Says:

    #4, Kit, I believe the Vibe was assembled at the NUMI plant in California and the Matrix in Canada. Perhaps poor workmanship at the NUMI made the Vibe inferior to the Matrix.

  17. Hunter Says:

    8. The problem is that some of these airbags send out shrapnel when you’re involved in a crash. Regardless of whether or not you’re wearing your seatbelt, if the crash is severe enough, the airbag will deploy unless it’s disabled.

  18. HtG Says:


    I checked the Honda site for my ’02 Civic, and they say it’s on the list to have the passenger bag replaced. There are no instruction for whether to immediately panic. The site says they will send a letter when the part becomes available. My car also had its driver side bag replaced for shrapnel reasons.

    9 RumNcoke, I think it was here that we heard the standing screens are intended to allow a smaller dashboard, so the car feels roomier.


    Always with the drama

  19. HtG Says:


    I guess people can just ask passengers to sit in the back seat.

    I also guess that new bags will be shipped to southern,humid states first, as that’s where the biggest risk is

    I also guess that the acting NHTSA head will be returning to the advocacy community. At least that’s what you read.

  20. HtG Says:

    trash talk

    Can anyone explain why a couple of days after I read some auto news, TTAC does a little cut and paste piece from the same article? Why are they so dinkin slow?

    I don’t get their business model here.

  21. MJB Says:

    I know I probably shouldn’t (admit this), but I actually don’t find the grille on that Toyota Esquire as offensive as you do, John. Not saying I’d drive one, but…

    I’ll tell you a front facia treatment I DON’T like. The new Navigator. Not calling it hideous or anything. But it just feels like some junior designer’s failed attempt at a refresh. Heck, that entire Navigator looks a bit clumsy to me.

  22. Bob Aubertin Says:

    Hey Tony,
    I don’t know what you had for lunch, but stop eating it now.It seems that you are suffering from a bad case of “KRAFT” seeing that you can’t remember how Beautiful a ’55 Buick was.

    Today the new Toyota Empire van will go immediately into “The Ugly Vehicle Hall of Fame” along side the “Juke” “The Cube” “The Soul” “The Element” and finally “The Aztek”.Try and eat something better later.

  23. J Hundertmark Says:

    #10, 12, 14 – While I agree air bags have moved beyond SRS & I’m not totally up on the performance, I still have issues, & have for many years, with air bags being required to protect individuals who do not wear the seat belts installed in vehicles since the mid to late 60′s. Those of us that wear seat belts have spend a lot of extra money over the years due to the standards in place.

  24. pedro fernandez Says:

    Regarding the whole Matrix/Vibe thing, I am familiar with the Corolla and the Corolla based Prizm, both made in NUMMI, up to 1997, the Corolla had better quality interior than the Chevy brother, however starting with the ’98 model year, they both sucked as far as interior quality was concerned, Toyota decided to save money by putting in inferior plastics and other materials to the point that most Corollas from that period have interiors that are falling apart.

  25. pedro fernandez Says:

    Toyota was trying to out-ugly the Quest, well they did it! Maybe now people will stop picking on the Aztek.

  26. HtG Says:

    Aztek is like Pinto. Forever

    When I first saw the Aztek I seriously thought GM was trying to kill Pontiac. When the 92 Buick Skylark came out I thought they were trying to kill off the weaker dealers.

  27. HtG Says:

    What I object to is the enormous front grills we’re having forced on us. This vulgar excess is an eyesore coming at you from a quarter mile away. Part of the reason for this is that Chinese buyers like a ‘big belt buckle,’ so to speak, and we have to live with it. Remember the Audi US boss telling John in Paris that they were spreading the grill wider? QED

    I also think the colorful lighting features inside cars is aimed at pleasing the Chinese consumer, who likes night lighting in the cityscape.

    Maybe someone can set me right :(

  28. HtG Says:

    Also, the butt ugly rear end roofline of the Porsche Panamera is there to accommodate princely back seat passengers. Again, China

  29. Bob Carpenter Says:

    I think we are getting ahead of ourselves recommending disabeling the Takata airbags. It’s my understanding that only a very small number of airbag canisters have expoded. A systematic evaluation needs to be made of the risk of injury from a defective canisters exploding and the added risk of traffic accident injury if the airbag is disabled. Let’s make decisions based on science not emotion!

  30. MJB Says:


    Guess I am clearly in the extreme minority here, as I happen to love the over-stated grilles of Audi.

    I’m not saying understated luxury has no place, as it clearly does. But I, for one, don’t want to see everyone stuck in that boring rut. Same reason I loved the design language of the Cadillac CTS Coupe from day one.

  31. Sean McElroy Says:

    #8 Mike – If you have some time, click the link for the NHTSA brochure on airbag on-off switches. While some of the data is old it does have some stats on occupant safety with and without the airbag and/or seat belt. As well as some info on the recommended distance to sit from the airbag to not get injured by it.

  32. MJB Says:


    Do these canisters explode absent of vehicular crashes? Or have they done so only in collisions?

  33. Sean McElroy Says:

    #10 Goose – That was one of the options I thought may have been possible (pulling the fuse.) But after looking into it, most newer vehicles have some other feature running off the same fuse as well. Some may just control the airbags, but one that I looked at also ran the heater control unit. I’m not sure people would be willing to give up whatever the other feature may be.

  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    15, I think all Vibes were from NUMMI, and most Matrices were from Cambridge, but I think some from NUMMI. Still, CR lumped them together for almost there entire production life, and recommended both.

    I think the Matrix is still in production in Cambridge for sale in Canada, but not the US.

  35. pedro fernandez Says:

    I never understood why the Matrix did so poorly compared to the Corolla, it was a lot more practical but not much more money, we just don’t like hatchbacks that much.

  36. HtG Says:

    It is odd. Matrix is just as you say, Pedro, so practical. It’s also small enough for city parking; maybe it was too small? But dang, what a product.

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    A friend in Indiana had a Vibe, which he recently traded on a Prius. The Prius has a longer load floor and is quieter and, of course, uses less gas, but the Vibe served very well for 8-10 years.

  38. donfromnaples Says:

    With the new CR scale adopted with a much narrower range for reliability, a full- or half-black dot can be earned with any problem rate over three percent. A clear, “average” dot means the problem rate is under three percent and a half-red dot means the rate is under two percent. Finally, if the problem rate is below one percent, the system automatically gets a full-red dot.

  39. donfromnaples Says:

    19 questions are sent out with the annual auto survey of which only one question relates directly to reliability. Just in time for Halloween, it is question number 13.
    “If you had any problems with your car in the last year that you considered SERIOUS because of cost, failure, safety or downtime, click the appropriate box(es) for each car. INCLUDE problems covered by warranty. DO NOT INCLUDE 1) problems resulting from accident damage; or 2) replacement of normal maintenance items (brake pads, batteries, mufflers) unless they were replaced much sooner or more often than expected.”

    All other questions are subjective non-reliability type questions. Very interesting. If the Vibe was not recommended at anytime the Matrix was, then bias existed. This was the case in 2002-2004 I believe if memory serves me.

  40. donfromnaples Says:

    The Prius was recommended despite its over inflated mpg ratings of 60 mpg city and 51 mpg highway, while the average reported mpg by Prius owners was 44 mpg. Wow! Quite a difference. This continued for several years as did the outdated use of NiMh batteries for 13 years despite the availability of Li-ion batteries years earlier which weren’t introduced in the Prius until 2010. I personally like the Prius and would recommend it. I just think if the same discrepancy between EPA window sticker mpg ratings and real life mpg as well as the use of antiquated batteries were part of a Ford, VW, Dodge, or Chevy than Consumer Reports would have been all over that with strong criticism.

  41. HtG Says:

    38-40 Bob Lutz was on AAH some time ago, and decried the same phenomenon you’re talking about Don. People like their car or brand and don’t want to say bad things about it in a CR survey. Maybe they don’t even get upset. Yesterday, I fessed up to not making a big deal about faults in my Civic. And I love my Civic

  42. HtG Says:

    OK, I respect my Civic more than I love it

  43. donfromnaples Says:

    I think 99% of all new cars are decent well engineered vehicles. Personal preference and practical needs I feel are more likely to influence my choice of a new vehicle. Poor reliability is not real but I created phenomenon in my opinion.

  44. Kit Gerhart Says:

    40, Huh? The EPA ratings for the Prius are 51 city, 48 highway, and 50 combined. I get about 47 average for mixed driving including city, and interstate driving at 75+ mph. Yeah, it’s less than the EPA combined rating, but it’s better than any other car sold in the US with nearly as much room.

  45. HtG Says:

    AAH, #technologyandstuff at the World Series

    Holy moly, that was funny. I love that cheat sheet in the guy’s hand, and Erin Andrews and Bud Selig not breaking the fourth wall. That was great.

    GM, on it! (who will Mary ask to leave now?)

  46. HtG Says:

    44 Kit, I think Don’s point is that owners’ complaints/praise of their cars isn’t so objective.

    You should have seen my sister using CR to select a car, though. Too many recalls? Rejected. She knows squat about cars. So a quick reference like CR really sways her. Nothing I might say matters, in my experience.

  47. Kit Gerhart Says:

    39, All of the questions in the CR survey, for many different trouble areas, are worded “Did you have a problem you considered serious, based on cost, inconvenience, or……

    Each “trouble area” has the same question, worded the same way.

    I agree, though, about what you say in #43. I’d consider any car now in the US market, if I liked the car generally. Well, maybe not a Fiat 500L.

  48. Dan Says:

    8, There are many studies that show the effectiveness of air bags. NHTSA has a report here that air bags and seat belts when used together reduce fatalities by 51%.
    This study here says 67%:
    NHTSA also says that frontal air bags have saved over 25,000 lives here:
    Air bags help to reduce impact between passengers and hard objects in the vehicle (like a steering wheel), no matter if you are belted or not, but are most effective when you are belted. It sounds more risky to me to disconnect your air bags. Some people have been hurt by their air bags which is terrible, but air bags save people’s lives daily.

    (Full disclosure: I work at Ford, but this is my own opinion and is not the opinion of Ford Motor Company. I am also not an expert in air bags or crash statistics, I just searched for this data for this post)

  49. Kit Gerhart Says:

    40, I’m GLAD my Prius has NiMH batteries, because they have a history of lasting 10 years or more. My experience with Lithium batteries in laptop computers is that they are doing well to last 4 years.

  50. donfromnaples Says:

    If all the questions are worded that way, that is a new format. I stopped participating a while back since I felt too many other variables were more salient that were overlooked or ignored in the ratings and on the survey.

  51. HtG Says:


    44 Kit, I think Don’s point is that owners’ complaints/praise of their cars isn’t so objective.

    You should have seen my sister using CR to select a car, though. Too many recalls? Rejected. She knows squat about cars. So a quick reference like CR really sways her. Nothing I might say matters, in my experience.

  52. HtG Says:

    46 yeah, 500L, nope

  53. donfromnaples Says:

    44 Kit, sorry i should have specified. The 1st generation Prius had those over inflated EPA ratings that were never seen by real world driving.

  54. Kit Gerhart Says:

    48, The questions are worded that way for each individual “trouble area” and have been for years. Obviously, there is subjectivity in what people consider “serious,” but I figure they are one of the best sources of info on car reliability, along with JD Power and TrueDelta. On popular car models, CR may have the most data of any of them.

  55. donfromnaples Says:

    Of the survey’s 19 questions, one is the source of the dots, number 13.

  56. donfromnaples Says:

    Of the survey’s 19 questions, one is the source of the reliability dots, question number 13.

  57. Kit Gerhart Says:

    51, I’m talking about 3rd generation, 2010-present. Still, hybrids tend to under-perform their EPA ratings, and diesels over-perform theirs. Still, all indications are that the current Prius is more fuel efficient than any other car in the US market with comparable space.

  58. Kit Gerhart Says:

    53, After this, I’m done discussing it, but a bunch of different questions are responsible for individual dots. The question about rattles causes the dot for “body integrity.” The question about blown engines causes the dots about “engine major.” Yeah, they don’t actually use the term “blown engines.”

  59. donfromnaples Says:

    Hey Kit, I only continued the discussion because you picked it back up from yesterday. No worries. The new Prius is definitely more fuel efficient than any other car in the US. If the pure electrics were able to increase range and lower costs to comparable other cars, then they would give the Prius a run for the money.

  60. pedro fernandez Says:

    Just had a conversation with a local Toyota dealer’s service manager and he told me flat out the new Toyota products are not nearly as good as the stuff from even 10 yrs ago, “Too many damn electronics” was his quote. That is why he hangs on to a 2002 4Runner and a 2004 Lexus.

  61. HtG Says:

    58 ’02 Civic here, Pedro. It’s an anachronism. (I won’t bother Autoline fans with my personal atavistic disposition. But stand back kids, there’s reading involved.)

  62. Dan Says:

    59, It sounds like his measure of “good” is lower complexity. This makes sense since more complex vehicles are more challenging to service. If his measure of good was fuel efficiency, handling, safety, performance, roominess, towing/hauling ability, interior material quality, emissions, connectivity, or really any other measure of a vehicle, then he would be wrong to say that a 10 year old car is better than a current one.

  63. techrat77 Says:

    With the Toyota van obviously designed by Darth Vader, can a hybrid Death Star be far behind?

  64. donfromnaples Says:

    How about the new diminutive Toyoda which has flared side mirrors?

  65. MJB Says:

    #58 I’d be interested to know what precisely his definition of ‘not nearly as good’ is.

    Like Dan (60) said, it could just be that they are more challenging to work on. Being a weekend grease monkey myself, I know first-hand how easily the frustration of getting a job done can negatively influence one’s disposition – causing a particular car to be branded as a pain in the butt even though it out-performs and is more reliable than a car 10 years younger and much easier to fix.

  66. Kit Gerhart Says:

    For the most part, cars are getting more reliable, even as they get more complex. To me, the only thing worse about the new ones, is that they have this “infotainment” stuff that makes it unsafe to tune the radio while driving the car.

    Yes, “back yard mechanic” work is now mostly limited to oil changes and brake work.

  67. C-Tech Says:

    My suggestion for those driving a car with a Takata airbag is to find the airbag module (usually below the center console of most cars) and unplug it. This disables both airbags without disabling any other system. If your car does have the airbag module on a committed fuse circuit, just pull the fuse. Unfortunately there are so many different vehicle affected there is no one solution. As I posted before there is one case of a 2001 Honda Accord in the Orlando area where the airbag deployed by itself killing the driver.

  68. C-Tech Says:

    There are still a number of things a shadetree mechanic can do IF he or she has the right tools. The fact is the mechanical pieces a shadetree mechanic used to change are GONE from newer cars! There are no points, distributor, ign. wires, of carburetor to tinker with. Spark plugs last 100,000 miles or more (except on Ford V-8′s).

  69. MJB Says:

    I still do oil, brakes all components), suspension components (even did my own strut replacement a few years back, but never again. I’ll admit I took my hands into my own hands when fooling around with that spring compressor) alternator, starter, power steering pump, head gasket, valve stem seals, serpentine belt, would have done my timing belt myself too, if I didn’t have two toddler-aged boys keeping me from being able to spend the time necessary to complete that job…

  70. pedro fernandez Says:

    It’s the electronics, fellers, also the outsourcing of parts coming from 3rd world rat holes, the one suggestion he gave me was to stick with Denso parts and avoid the much inferior Chinese knock offs, even if they’re more expensive, I will get more and better service out of them, this is true with everything related to autos, tires, brake pads,etc