Episode 209 – U.S. OEMs Match Japanese, GM Considers $4000 Car, BYD Sells Batteries to SAIC

August 18th, 2009 at 12:28pm

Runtime 7:00

American automakers match the Japanese in the latest customer satisfaction survey. General Motors is looking at building a car that only costs $4,000. Chinese auto company BYD will sell lithium-ion batteries to another Chinese automaker, SAIC. All that and more, plus a look at Suzuki’s new Kizashi midsize sedan.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. American automakers match the Japanese in the latest survey. GM looks at building a $4,000 car. And a look at the new Suzuki Kizashi.

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, August 18, 2009. And now, the news.

Well, we’ve been reporting on this for months and it’s finally over. GM finalized a deal with Swedish sports car maker Koenigsegg to take over Saab. Koenigsegg essentially gets Saab for free, though now it needs to raise a lot of money. It looks like the Swedish government will guarantee the bank loans that Koenigsegg will have to raise from the European Investment Bank. Saab says it’s excited, and can’t wait to bring out the 9.3X later this month.

Speaking of GM, the Wall Street Journal reports that the company is looking at building a car that only costs $4,000 (subscription required). But it probably will only be sold in Asian markets. An executive at Wuling, one of GM’s joint venture partners in China, told Autoline Daily that it is now moving into making passenger cars, and sees a big market in China and other developing countries for cars in the $4,000 to $5,000 range. GM has not announced where its low priced car will be designed and developed, but Wuling seems like a good bet.

More action on the battery front. Chinese auto company BYD will sell lithium-ion batteries to another Chinese automaker, SAIC. According to Gasgoo.com, the batteries will be used to power its Roewe hybrid vehicle.

Creditors of the old Chrysler sued Daimler on Monday. According to the Detroit Free Press, the creditors claim Daimler diverted billions by separating Chrysler Financial from its parent company days before Chrysler was sold to Cerberus. Because of this, Chrysler Financial’s assets avoided being a part of Chrysler’s bankruptcy which left less for Chrysler’s unsecured creditors. They want to split amongst themselves the assets that didn’t get sold to the new Chrysler which includes several factories.

Kia is readying an all-new multi-purpose vehicle (subscription required) for the European market. The Venga is a production version of the “No. 3″ concept it debuted at the Geneva Motor Show last March. The B-segment people-mover will offer a wide variety of gas and diesel engines, with output ranging from 75 to a scorching 115 horsepower. All drivetrains will feature stop/start functionality to save fuel. The MPV will be built at Kia’s plant in the Czech Republic. The company says it has no plans to bring the Venga to the U.S.

Despite all the problems facing the auto industry, OEMs are doing a better job keeping American car buyers happy. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (PDF), the industry improved its score over last year, and the Detroit Three all posted significant gains. The study reveals that American automakers now EQUAL their Asian competitors for the first time in a decade. Honda was up while Toyota’s score was unchanged. Nissan’s customer satisfaction score fell. Cadillac topped the list with Lexus in second place. Buick, Honda and Lincoln/Mercury round out the top-five brands.

Coming up next, a look at Suzuki’s new Kizashi midsize sedan, we’ll be back right after this.

Suzuki is best known for making small cars, and even more impressively, for making a profit on those small cars. But now the company is venturing up-market with its first midsize sedan, the Kizashi. The company tantalized us for a couple of years with dramatic concept cars to signal the styling direction of the Kizashi. The production car is kind of disappointing in that regard. But this is an impressive car. And Eddie Rayyan, a product planner with Suzuki, stopped by out offices to walk around and show us some of the highlights of the Kizashi.

Though Suzuki hasn’t announced pricing for the Kizashi, look for the base price to start just under twenty grand, while a fully loaded one like we just looked at should come in around $26,000.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

29 Comments to “Episode 209 – U.S. OEMs Match Japanese, GM Considers $4000 Car, BYD Sells Batteries to SAIC”

  1. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    The one study I want to see is the 5 yr study of how the “new Detroit” vehicles are gonna hold up, with everyday wear and tear, that’s what determines how good a car is built/designed. and if they hold up as well as the Japanese, then they get my vote.

  2. Thor Says:

    The new, unpronounceable Suzuki was really lame, but its presentation was even lamer. The idiot in the white T-shirt wasted our time with all kinds of irrelevant details, and even when it ENDED, we STILL do not know what engine and HP this POS will have.

    And, John, you need to be more careful with your facts on Suzuki, this is NOT the first midsize Sedan it offered in the US, the lame Verona (which was far easier to pronounce than this POS) has been around for years before it also failed.

    As for these idiotic JD Power indices, give me a break. Lookm at the top 5. Mercedes and BMW are absent, but … Buiuck and Lincoln are present? Give me a break. This signifies NOTHING. Obviously, BMW and M-B owners are FAR, FAR harder to please, esp. when they have to shell out $50k – $200k per car, than owners of STUPID Buicks, who are happy if the ugly barge starts in the morning, and do not care if it handles like a slow boat.

  3. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @Pedro,I agree.We’ve had our Focus for one year now,and zero complaints.That in itself is a good sign.

    How about GM coming out with a 4k dollar car for the US? Lord knows theres plenty of people here that can’t afford much more then that.Americans deserve a break too ya know.

  4. Thor Says:

    GM’s $4-$5,000 car for Asia was more interesting news. China currently has a new car market greater than the current market, and most of these cars are NOT $4,000 but over $12,000 cars.

    Maybe GM wants to enlarge that market (about 12 million vehicles a year) by adding another 20 million maybe that people can afford if sold at $5,000. But t6he way the $ is losing its value over the last 100 years, and 3esp. recently, $5,000 will be peanuts when the cars are finally available.

    Maybe GM is afraid that Tata will export the NANO in large quantities in China and it may lose market share there. WHo knows.

    But it makes sense anyway to develop cheaper cars for the third world. Of course, these guys can wise up and buy a 5 yr old Civic or Corolla instead of wasting the same $5,000 to buy a new but sorry POS cheapo Nano or GM Econobox.

  5. Thor Says:

    I meant above, China’s market in 2009 is greater than the US car market in number of vehicles sold.

  6. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    @GA GM has had a $4k car for a long time, its a 4 year old Cavalier or an Aveo.

  7. Robert Says:

    I think the Kzashi has styiling cue ripoffs from nearly everyone. It’s as if the took the best styling cues from Ford, Toyota, Volvo and Mazda and combined them into one car. The Koreans are masters at standing on the shoulders of real Engineers and Designers, ripping off their product and calling it their own, now Suzuki has followed suit, but it’s losing it’s tail in the US market. They were told by one of their own financial people to get out of the US market before it’s too late.

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  9. Tony Gray Says:

    Props to the cameraman and editor on the Suzuki piece. That shot where he was aiming through the passthrough and then blended it into a following shot from the OUTSIDE was really cool.

    Had to watch it a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t nuts. Well, maybe I AM nuts, but that was a neat shot anyway.

  10. Drew Says:

    @Thor Says:
    August 18th, 2009 at 12:55 pm:

    You need to REALLY tell us how you feel. Quit holding it in…..

  11. Thor Says:

    I looked at the post you mentioned, which starts with

    “The idiot in the white T-shirt wasted our time with all kinds of irrelevant details, and even when it ENDED, we STILL do not know what engine and HP this POS will have.”

    You are right, I should not hold it in, the white t-shirt salesperson also did not bother to tell us anything about how big this new car is, L-B-H-and Wheelbase especially.

  12. bobnally Says:

    Pedro…I have 2007 Chevy Impala with 55K on it 3 years old, never had any kind of a problem, squeak, rattle, etc. this vehicle has excellent fit & finish, I get about 30 mpg hwy & 22 city mpg this is not my first I had a 2000 impala with 90k on it …also no problems…so give the American owned big 3 a fare shake…they been here a long time & hope they continue !

  13. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Of course M/B and BMW are absent; there initial quality is not very good. Buick has been tops for the last couple/five years; maybe not the top in innovation, however, their cars are stout and perform well. “Slow boat”, hardly; even the outgoing Lacrosse is crisp and taunt in its suspension and execution (AND the new LaCrosse is likely going to be a world class leader…. or at least a contender). You guys that take ‘cheap shots’ at Detroit only look at the negative; give the brand an even chance and they are right up there with anyone (and especially for the price). JMO, of course; Detroit is coming and isn’t afraid of a little competetion.

  14. jeff mohr Says:

    04 ram — 08 sebring—-07 caliber— not 1 problem with any, 8 total years of use, 0 problems, just more golf time for me—-automation/production quality testing gizmos etc. are working.

  15. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I believe tomorrow will be part II of John’s review of the new susie.Maybe then we’ll learn the rest of the mechanical details.

  16. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    This “study” was nothing more than a phone survey done by some company. These were not recent car buyers or any such thing, it is absolutely meaningless, I can’t believe any BS survey makes the news nowadays, I think “SOMEONE” is trying very hard to convince the public that the Detroit 3 are now just as good as the Japanese brands. even if it means lies and exaggerations.

  17. Todd Turner Says:

    Really? I am shocked, a study funded by the American Society for Quality and the “CFI Group” the latter lists as its automotive clients ONLY General Motors and Ford. This kind of artificial “study” only serves to continue making consumers suspect of the quality of American products. A tragedy, since the quality has indeed improved. The problem with ALL these indexes as another writer points out is the time of ownership is too short, to be meaningful.

  18. Episode 209 - U.S. OEMs Match Japanese, GM Considers $4000 Car, BYD Sells Batteries to SAIC « Honda Says:

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  19. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I’m not going to let the Detroilt bashing continue unanswered. Even John (our John McElroy) purports the equality of the American product as equal to anything out there. Of course not all vehicles (just like not all the foreign vehicles) perform to the highest standard, yet on a whole, the quality (out there) is just too close to call.

  20. Todd Turner Says:

    Bashing? Only from the most myoptic point of view. Perhaps the equality (quality) of American product is equal to anything out there; but guess what? That would include the Korean brands as well, which really should be the focus of the Domestic brands right now. But, just like they didn’t respect the Japanese as competitors in the 70′s and 80′s the same is true right now for the Korean brands. Detroit fearing competition has never been the problem. Face it, the Domestic brands had the market, they owned it, it was theirs to lose…and lose it they did. Now only Ford seems to be likely to regain its share, and I do indeed hope they do. But, as with any competition, the best always wins luckly this isn’t a timed event (you can play till you run out of money, or until the government bails you out with my money).

  21. Thor Says:

    Some people here must have never even driven a BMW or MErc, mush less owned one. COmparing them with Buicks is ludicrous, there is no comparison at any level. No person who appreciates and enjoys driving should torture oneself in a buick. And what these surveys say, that allegedly Buicks are so reliable, is 100% BS. I know a fool (truly a fool) whose family owns a Toyota dealership, and who bought a buick park avenue when a grad student. The POS keeps breaking down. Even after he replaced brakes and rotors, now the pipes with the brake fluid are coming apart, another big repair, and Midas asked for $700+ just for that, and the owner had to sign a liability form and pay only $300 for some unsafe partial solution.

    Also, plases like Consumer Reports tell people to avoid Mercs and BMWs, based on their very demanding owners claiming all kinds of insignificant initial ‘glitches’ as ‘failures’, but my experience owning a very complex, top of the line BMW 740iL, now with far more than 125k miles, is that it is a very high-quality and DURABILITY car, that will last for ever if properly maintained, and whose engine and transmission and exhaust etc are in perfect shape. My previous car was an Accord coupe I had for 14 out of its 18 years and it was far worse than the BMW in some areas (eg exhaust, I kept replacing parts on the Accord every few years due to the stop-go driving, but the BMW appparently has a far higher quality exhaust that never fails)

  22. Thor Says:

    “# G.A.Branigan Says:
    August 18th, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    I believe tomorrow will be part II of John’s review of the new susie.Maybe then we’ll learn the rest of the mechanical details.”

    Maybe I am wrong, but I distinctly remember that Suzuki had decided to pack and leave the US market earlier this year, then why do they bother introducing another compact sedan, especially after theiur previous one failed (the Forgettable Suzuki Verona)???

  23. Thor Says:

    “# bobnally Says:
    August 18th, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Pedro…I have 2007 Chevy Impala with 55K on it 3 years old, never had any kind of a problem, squeak, rattle, etc. this vehicle has excellent fit & finish, I get about 30 mpg hwy & 22 city mpg”

    I would buy most of the above (exccept the bit about the fit and finish). But big deal, the car is hardly 3 years old, people keep their cars for DECADES and 200-300,000 miles (half a million KM!) today! That’s why sales of new cars, which used to be 17 million a year, are down to 13 million in 2008 and so far in 2009 are at 11 million annual rate!

  24. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Thor: Most buyers are looking for a car with a comfy ride, quiet , and trouble free, which explains the success of Honda and TOyota and yes some even love their Buicks. What keeps people away from some of these American cars is that they don’t trust the quality, they think they’re gonna be stuck with a lemon, (even though most states have lemon laws) and they have to fight the dealer, manufacturer ect to get it replaced and it just becomes a big hassle. AS far as durability is concerned, yes the foreign makes were built for longer service and this is one issue the domestics have not been able to prove, perhaps the new models will be more reliable, only time will tell

  25. Thor Says:

    Pedro: Honda and TOyota became successful int he US primarily after the 1st and 2nd oil crisis, it was primarily fuel economy that brought the buyers to their dealerships, when the Big 3 had few, if any, fuel effiicent models, and those they had were utter POS’s. Honda is not anything like Buick, its cars had always good to excellent handling and were sporty. Toyota was more conservative, and one of its models, the Avalon, was designed specifically to take a share of the Buick market.

    There were a few Buicks with good styling (exterior only!) that even looked like Jags when they came out, like the 90s park avenue, but the interior was unacceptable. Even for a $15k car, much more for the $35-40k, to me an unbelievable amount, that people were willing to pay to buy that POS!

    Some even criticize the Lexus brand, which may look like Mercedes in style, for making cars that drive like Buicks, some call the Lexus LS400-430-460 the Buick LS400! (LOL)

    But the greatest defeat of the big 3 has not been in the mid-priced new car segment, but in the luxury car segment, where the big 3 used to own 90% of that segment, with Caddilac and Lincoln, only a few dedcades ago, and today they do not even own 17%!!!

    Supporters of the onetime big 3 should try to analyze the causes of the above debacle.

    In my case, the big 3 do not even make any vehicle remotely comparable to the BMW 7 series (or the Merc S class, or the 5 series or the E class) which i was looking to buy (used; I ended up with the 740), so why bother to visit their dealerships?

    And please do not tell me that some Caddilac or the pontiac G8 are equivalent vehicles, they are not.

  26. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Thor: My first foreign car that i drove was a Volvo 240 from the mid 80′s. It was like nothing I had ever driven, it was so solid and well built, then I got a 92 Camry, very close to the Volvo and far better than even my in-laws 86 Caddy. I knew then than the “Big 3″ were in trouble.

  27. Thor Says:

    I especially liked the 92 Camry styling. The old Volvo 240 was a honest design that was and looked safe, but a colleague who bought one in 79 new ($9,300 at the time), had all kinds of mechanical problems, and at the end thought that the dealer’s service unit was a bunch of crooks that sabotaged the car (!). TOday we know that most likely it was the car that lost reliability with time. Then Volvo tried to move away from the boxy styling and became just another car and failed, now Ford wants to get rid of it, its sales are really bad. 20-30 years ago, many drove Volvo 240 wagons, then they changed to Camrys and Accords and some Subarus.

  28. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Volvo has suffered the same fate as Saab, they let themselves be bought by a clueless company which went ahead and drained whatever soul and character that company had and turned it into another mediocre run of the mill car maker. Subaru was smarter and bailed out of the GM deal before it too got killed, I remember when Saab and Subaru started sharing platforms under GM.

  29. Who Me Says:

    Ugliest exhaust tips I’ve seen on a car yet. What a waste of steel having duals on a 4 banger and it’s almost as much a waste as having a wing on any car.