AD #1604 – Fiat Catches Up To MINI, EV Sales Drained By SUVs, R-Class Production Starts

April 22nd, 2015 at 12:02pm

Runtime: 9:26

- Hybrid & EV Sales Drained By SUVs
- EVs Maintain Global Growth
- Fiat Catching Up To MINI
- AM General Begins R-Class Production
- Suppliers Venture into New Territory
- You Said It!

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49 Comments to “AD #1604 – Fiat Catches Up To MINI, EV Sales Drained By SUVs, R-Class Production Starts”

  1. dcars Says:

    Here’s a new topic for Autoline, you noted in a recent segment that Geely was planning on selling a CUV in the US. Has anyone discussed building barriers to Chinese products that China has forced on the US manufactures that sell cars in China? Seems only fair.

  2. Brett Says:

    I think that GM, a publicly-held corporation, was responding to Tex Thornton and the Whizkids at the privately-held Ford Motor Company. Look what happened to FMC when they hit the NYSE.

    If anyone has not read David Halberstam’s “The Reckoning”, I highly recommend it.

    Reading about GM’s brush with death keeps reminding me of the Lou & Peter Berryman song “Their Brains Were Small And They Died”.

  3. Bradley Says:

    Could not agree more with the comments on GM’s collapse…

    Through decades of short term decision making dozens of GM execs lined their pockets very, very well.

    GM collapses…no repercussions to those execs, no payback of all their wealth. We know how this story ends.

  4. Mark Bayer Says:

    John, interesting comments in your reply to Robert Morrison. You mentioned you’re still at the beginning of your research. Does that mean there’ll be a book from you on this topic in the offing?

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    1 If I remember right, most, or all of those R-Classes from Mishawaka are going to China. I don’t think they plan to re-introduce the “R” in the U.S. market. Is that right, John?

  6. Lex Says:

    I am very glad Mercedes Benz is bringing back the R-Class. I hope they will be offered for sale to North America.

  7. Fred Says:

    How can BMW continue to sell the Mini with so many design problems. Just google on BMW Mini problems – cam chain pensioner disintegrates, transmissions break, etc. before 30K miles!!

  8. Fred Says:

    GM’s decline was a real heartbreak and I how the back stabbing at corporate to kill off Oldsmobile and Pontiac hastened the end.

  9. Kit Gerhart Says:

    That is an awful sales number for MINI last year, given all of those models. I may have an “orphan” before long, if that doesn’t improve.

    Maybe it will pick up, though, when more models get updated, and switch from the PSA engines to the new, BMW engines. So far, the 3- and 5-door hardtops are the only models sold in the 3rd generation.

  10. HtG Says:


    I wonder how much GM’s response to antitrust threats from the US contributed to change in the organization. Was having semi-independent brands with the GM itself running central accounting a ripe target for a breakup? This was Sloan’s creation, I believe. Wasn’t IBM also being hounded by the feds over anti-trust in the 70′s and 80′s?

    Also, a financial system that got shot in the brain in 2008 was not a good thing for most people.

  11. Kit Gerhart Says:

    5 The R-Class has been built all along, since being dropped in the U.S. market, and has been built in the U.S., it so happens, but has been sold only in China for a few years.

  12. Kit Gerhart Says:

    7 I remember talk of breaking up IBM, probably when they nearly owned the mainframe computer business.

  13. w l simpson Says:

    Started wrenching in 1945, worked on everything, drove nothing but GM. My 3rd 2.4
    came with Chinese metallurgy, got jerked around
    by 2 dealers. No more GM’s for me except my cherry ol’ Sierra . No more FWD’s– period.

  14. Robert Sauter Says:

    John I have owned two Caddy’s with CUE. I share your frustrations, BUT, there is another way. Look on the steering wheel. Where you right thumb rests. Viola… radio channel and volume controls. Also there is what Caddy calls Natural Voice Recognition. Flawed to be sure. My new CTS V sport shows improvement.
    Robert Sauter
    PS-The combination of knobs and touch screen in my new Z06 is an improvement.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    14 It certainly helps that CUE-equipped Cadillacs have steering wheel controls and voice recognition, but let’s face it. CUE is the worst, or nearly the worst of the “infotainment” systems on the market. It is time for the people at Cadillac to admit it, and fix it. Chevy’s and Buick’s systems are much better than CUE. Chrysler’s is probably better yet, with steering wheel controls, voice recognition, and knobs, in addition to the touch screen. I liked the controls for the radio on the back of the steering wheel of a Challenger I recently drove.

    Cadillac has some great driving cars in the ATS and CTS, but CUE really needs to go. It is costing Cadillac sales.

  16. Bill Says:

    GM went from 400,000 active employees in the eighties to 40,000 active an 360,000 retired by 2009. The sacred cow that couldn’t be butchered…Thirty and Out.

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Huh? GM has about 200,000 employees.

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Sorry, that’s 207,000 worldwide, and about 75,000 in the U.S. (from a Forbes article that is mostly anti GM)

  19. HtG Says:

    212,000 according to the GM website.

  20. HtG Says:

    And that doesn’t count dealership employees.

  21. Ziggy Says:

    The reason CUE is such a mess is because the Human Factors department at GM is staffed by a bunch of yes men (and women) who are more concerned with their careers than standing up to management and the bad designs they endorse. GM got rid of the only HF engineers with spines during the last round of layoffs and now the department is made up of a bunch of brown nosers and suckups. Sad to say I know this is true because I used to work in that department and got layed off with the rest of the truth tellers. Rock the boat and you are soon looking for another job. As you do more research you will see that this is true in most of GM’s departments.

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    20 …or supplier employees.

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    21 Does each division of GM have its own HF people? CUE is unique to Cadillac, but Chevy and Buicks systems are decent.

  24. C-Tech Says:

    I absolutely agree with #14. I don’t usually use the steering wheel controls on cars, except when driving the Cadillacs.

    The there are multiple books covering the decline of GM, such as The Reckoning, On A Clear Day You Can See GM, and The Machine That Changed The World. John I look forward to yours (or PBS Mini-series ala Ken Burns).

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Things were so completely different when GM ruled the U.S. car market, that it is impossible to pinpoint GM’s “decline.” People were pointing out what was wrong with GM, even when they still had almost half the U.S. market. GM had over 40% of the market when DeLorean wrote “On a Clear Day.”

    One thing is clear. The arrival of Japanese imports, especially after they didn’t rust out in 2 years and generally had good quality, hurt all of the “big 3″ tremendously. Interestingly, the one market segment that GM and Ford “took back” from the Asians in the early 1980′s was small pickups, but they later abandoned that market.

  26. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I can tell you this about the system in my 12 nox.Yes it has a big touch screen and such,but it works like crap compared to the basic system in my wifes 14 Soul.Hands down far easier and it uses my s4 infinitely better the what’s in my chebby.I have been told that it is more geared towards the iphones.That would explain why I hate my system.

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    G. A., does your S4 not connect properly in your Chebby, or does the mike/speaker setup just not work very well?

  28. G.A.Branigan Says:

    It doesn’t connect well,voice calling doesn’t respond to who I want to call from my downloaded directory,and when I use the nav function on my s4,the chebby bluetooth shuts off,and I can’t play my music and stream it using bluetooth.A totally useless sytem to me,yet my wife’s basic system in light years ahead of the big gaudy pos in my center stack.The dealer says nothing is wrong….

  29. G.A.Branigan Says:

    To tell you the truth Kit,I am completely burned out on gm products.They have nothing that excites me at all,and their systems for my phone sux.

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Phone connecting is something I haven’t experienced with any cars. I’ve driven some recent cars, but never connected my phone. Neither my MINI nor Prius have bluetooth. They are both a year or two before that was standard on base cars like mine.

  31. HoboBob Says:


    I disagree with you about the CUE. I have a ’14 XTS and I love the thing. If you do your homework and set it up to do the things you want to do, you never have to take your eyes off the road. You don’t have to move the slider bar, because the volume control is on the steering wheel. It takes a while to learn the thing, but I really like it.

  32. HoboBob Says:


    I have a ’14 XTS with CUE and you gave it a bum rap. If you take the time to learn it and really use it, it is a great system. As for taking your eyes off the road, if you set it up properly for the stuff you like, you don’t have to look at the panel display. As for adjusting the volume control, it is right on the steering wheel.

  33. Anthony Thomas (@djfourmoney) Says:

    A few things.

    When John tried to offer his reasoning for the decline in EV/Hybrid sales he said a acquaintance did buy a Grand Cherokee based on having something different, which is only allowed because of LOW GAS PRICES.

    Edumnds in correct. Its because of low(ish) gas prices that people are buying factory hot rods and SUV’s, I bet his friend didn’t buy a GC Diesel.

    My ’15 Accent has USB, AUX and Bluetooth; these are features I specifically was looking for. If I had anything else I would have immediately tossed it for a Double DIN unit from Kenwood, Alpine, Sony or Pioneer.

    People not interested in taking advantage of especially Bluetooth in cars I have to really question. I never have to look at my phone, it tells me who is calling, keeps my call history and allows me to easily dial anybody in my contacts/favorites.

    I have YET to insert a CD into the drive, I’ve use a USB flash drive, Bluetooth A2DP Streaming and XM/Sirius radio exclusively.

    LOL, I also added a 12″ sub, Digital Signal Processing (Time Alignment) and 1,000 watts worth of Alpine PDX power.

    I really have wonder about Autoline audience, they aren’t car enthusiast they are just consumers. Because CUE doesn’t behave like a typical car audio interface there is constant whining about it.

    There is never any mention of the steering wheel controls, don’t these exist with CUE?

    I am not defending GM’s use of CUE for its teleamatics but seriously the learning curve can’t be that steep if everybody posting on here has a PC/Mac and a smartphone…..

  34. C-Tech Says:

    G.A. I do like the screen better in the equinox than the soul, but you are right the soul is easier to operate. Given the size, shape, and utility of the Soul, it reminds me of the PT Cruiser and what a 2nd gen PT could have been.

  35. Ziggy Says:

    23 No, one department handles all of GM, HF engineers are assigned to each platform based on work load and who ever just finished up with a platform that just launched and now has nothing to do, which explains why some platforms fare better than others. Sometimes the design-release engineer gets it right from the start and the HF engineer really doesn’t have to do much, and then there are the DREs that just want to push their POS component through the system as fast as possible and if the HF engineer doesn’t speak up and demand changes to make the component as user friendly as possible it ends up being another CUE.

  36. Rob Says:

    My 2011 Cruze had a much better infotainment system than my 2012 CTS. Very sad to see the entry level vehicle having the system I wish was in my Cadillac.

    Also on the amount of EV trade-ins going to SUV’s it would interesting if this trend is for (as you mention) just waning something different or customer dis-satisfaction with the EV.

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    32 Ziggy, thanks for the explanation.

    32, 33 I suspect part of why Cadillac ended up with CUE, was to make Cadillac more “exclusive,” even if that made it worse. That sort of thing has been going on for years, with many car companies, as when BMW introduced this wonderful thing called idrive, that sucked, especially in its early form.

  38. Kit Gerhart` Says:

    22% of people trading in EV’s and hybrids replaced then with an SUV. That means 78% replaced them with something other than an SUV. Since SUV/CUV’s account for almost 35% the market, I’d say the EV/hybrids are being replaced with non-SUV’s at a rather high rate, especially in a time of cheap gas.

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If 22% of people trading in EV’s and hybrids replaced then with an SUV. That means 78% replaced them with something other than an SUV. Since SUV/CUV’s account for almost 35% the market, I’d say the EV/hybrids are being replaced with non-SUV’s at a rather high rate, especially in a time of cheap gas.

  40. Bradley Says:


    That isn’t the headline John was looking for.


  41. C-Tech Says:

    I don’t see the trading of ev’s for suv’s as being a big deal because most ev’s are small and the natural trend in this country is to move to a larger vehicle from a smaller vehicle. The exception is for mature buyers realize they don’t need a large vehicle anymore. The key for ev success is how many 1st time buyers will choose an ev / plug-in and will OEM’s offer a variety of ev and plug-in styles.

  42. Marshall Says:

    I’m confused by your post today. What is a GLE? Did you mean the GLA? And the M-class is still very much alive according to my buyers guide, and the Mercedes USA web site.

    BTW, funny thing; I typed in by accident and it redirected me to WALMART of all places. He he he. The correct website is of course

  43. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ C-Tech: Every time I drive my wifes car it just impresses me more and more,especially the quality in a low end vehicle.One of my granddaughters was so impressed with granmas car she went and bought one for herself.If I could get one a couple of feet longer,I would own it.

  44. John McElroy Says:

    #42 – Mercedes has changed its entire naming structure and M-Class is now the GLE. Here’s a link:

  45. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ John Mc: All these letters etc,makes me glad to see Lincoln at least for one model is going back to Continental.To me,it says more them just letters.

  46. Kit Gerhart Says:

    43 I’m seeing a lot of Souls in my condo parking lot, for two reasons. The car is a great value, if you don’t “load it up” too much, and the dealer is only about 3 miles away.

  47. Anthony Thomas (@djfourmoney) Says:

    Kia Souls appeal to a large segment of society.

    My 81 year old father wants one, but they have other issues, I doubt he’ll get one.

    Your right that if you opt for the middle car with a few standard features + options the price is reasonable.

    That said Toyota is still selling lots of XB’s (and Matrix) , it’s that overall shape and utility that’s winning the day. It easily is something sporty but also can be grown into especially for young families who won’t be forced to upgrade just to accommodate children.

    I get what Kit is saying about choices and I agree that low fuel prices is powering things. A friend of mine’s wife had to be talked out of getting a 2015 Nissan Armada and was only swayed by user feedback. All of their children are out of the house but ONE but she still wanted something sizable, so they got a ’15 Toyota Highlander SE.

    Its only slightly worse or the same on gas as her former Nissan Altima which was one of the 4 % that was V6 and manual transmission…

  48. Bob Wilson Says:

    Trading out of a hybrid or EV back to a gasser is less bad than it was even 5 years ago. CAFE has led to improved efficiency in just about every make and model. But Friday I was reminded why it has no appeal when I put in 10.5 gallons, $23 that covered 525 miles.

    The Edmunds article means used hybrids and EVs are a buyer’s market. Rather than wait for gas prices to rebound, today’s buyers have negotiating leverage.

    As I explained to a couple of co-workers, our Prius saved two car payments in gas every year and now they are paid off . . . we still pocket nearly $1,000/year gas savings.

    It takes $1,250 of pre-tax money to make $1,000 gas money. Our hybrids have given us a significant, net income raise for the past 10 years. If others choose to waste their money, fine by me.

    Bob Wilson

  49. Joe Engelhardt Says:

    John John John,

    Very disappointing, how many years have you followed the auto industry? I will save you a lot of research with one word, UNIONS!!! Look at UK in the fifties, unions destroyed the auto industry. I blame the executives for not having the guts to put a stake in the heart of the unions. When labor eats up large chunks of your income, you have no money left for innovation and materials. Notice when the unions were busted after bankruptcy, the auto industry turned around !