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Episode 293 – Honda Lawsuit, Automakers Look To Partner Up, NACTOY Finalists Announced

December 17th, 2009 at 1:18pm

Runtime 7:20

Honda faces lawsuit from 26 states over inflated mileage claims for the Civic hybrid. Car companies are seeking out partners to cut costs. The North American Car & Truck of the Year jury announces its finalists. All that and more, plus some of John’s thoughts on Lincoln’s new MKT crossover.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Honda faces a class action lawsuit over inflated claims for its Civic hybrid. Mercedes and Renault look at working together. And the UAW nominates a new leader.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, December 17, 2009. And now, the news.

In a development that has got to be highly embarrassing for Honda, it is facing a class action lawsuit over claims that it inflated the fuel economy rating delivered by the Civic hybrid. Though the car is rated at 49 miles per gallon in the city and 51 on the highway, many drivers claim they were only getting 32 mpg’s combined. Honda offered to send them DVD’s explaining how to improve their fuel economy, and a $100 cash or $1,000 towards the purchase of a new Honda. But the Detroit News reports 26 state attorneys general call the settlement meager and want more. They point out that lawyers involved in the case will get nearly $3 million, while the 158,000 people involved in the class action suit get to split $22,500.

We’re starting to see a lot more car companies figure out how they can work together to cut cost. Daimler is out searching for a partner to share development of the smart and engines for subcompact Mercedes-Benzes, Bloomberg reports that partner could be Renault. Meanwhile, Mazda is now looking for a partner, now that it and Ford are starting to go their separate ways, and that partner could be Toyota. And of course, this all follows on the heels of Mitsubishi and Suzuki announcing that they will work together. And this is a trend that is going to involve a lot more car companies.

The worst-kept secret around Detroit became official yesterday when the UAW nominated Bob King to be its next president. The Detroit Free Press reports that King, who currently leads the union’s Ford department, will replace Ron Gettelfinger in June at the next UAW convention. He’s been with the union almost 40 years and a vice president since 1998. Of course, now he has to be elected by the membership at large, and for the first time in the union’s history, that may not be a foregone conclusion.

The finalists for the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards were announced yesterday. The jury of 49 automotive journalists from throughout the United States and Canada chose the Ford Fusion Hybrid, the Buick Lacrosse and the Volkswagen Golf as the finalists for the Car of the Year award. They chose the Subaru Outback, the Chevrolet Equinox, and the Ford Transit Connect as finalists for the Truck of the Year. The winners will be announced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month. Full disclosure here, I am one of the jurors. And I like to point out that this is the only Car and Truck of the Year award that is not tied into any advertising or marketing promotion.

And it looks like there’s a SNOW GO problem on many midwest roads. Our friends at Autoblog report that communities with LED traffic lights, especially around the Great Lakes, are seeing weather-related backups. Since the low-watt, energy efficient LEDs are so much cooler than their incandescent counterparts they can’t melt the snow that packs up against them, so drivers can’t see the light. So far, the only answer to the problem seems to be the old tried and true method of the human hand physically moving the snow. And that can’t be fun or efficient for anyone.

Coming up next, some of my thoughts on Lincoln’s new MKT crossover, we’ll be back right after this.

Hey don’t forget to join us for Autoline After Hours when our guest will be Jim Dunne, master spy photographer. In fact, he practically invented the whole genre of automotive spy photography, and does he have a lot of good stories to tell. That’s tonight at 7 PM Eastern time, which is precisely zero hours, GMT

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

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog, The Auto Channel, Car Chat, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950

38 Comments to “Episode 293 – Honda Lawsuit, Automakers Look To Partner Up, NACTOY Finalists Announced”

  1. Nick Stevens Says:

    John Mc Elroy,

    You claim Honda should be embarassed by the lawsuits? Why? Honda does not make up the stupid MPG numbers, the EPA does, and they are NOT honest real numbers from a precise road test, but they are derived from some arbitrary voo-doo procedure done in a lab. I say voo doo because i have read the full EPA report that tries to justify the 2008 lowering of MPGs across the board. Previously, drivers claimed they were not easily aboe to exce3ed EPA numbers, now actually many exceed them, after the EPA cooked its books and lowered them.

    Logn story short, WHY is Honda to blame? it is NOT Honda’s derived MPG numbers, it is the EPA’s!

    And people should NOT be that stupid and ignorant as to believe that a CIVIC could get as high an MPG as the PRIUS!

    First of, the civic is a MILD hybrid only, while the prius is a FULL hybrid, and

    Second, the Civic Hybrid is the same plain jane body that the regualr civic has, WHILE the Prius has a unique aerodynamic body to maximize its MPG!

  2. T Turner Says:

    Talk about a miss-use of justice and the court system in general. Tragic.

    The EPA sets mileage numbers, NOT the car company. If fact car companies are barred from posting any number other than the one provided by the EPA. If these idiots want to sue someone it should be the Federal EPA (good luck with that).

  3. Alex Kovnat Says:

    >Since the low-watt, energy efficient
    >LEDs are so much cooler than their
    >incandescent counterparts they can’t
    >melt the snow that packs up against
    >them, so drivers can’t see the light.

    My suggestion would be to have electric resistance heating wires embedded in the traffic light, which would be activated only when necessary. That way, you wouldn’t be generating heat with an incandescent bulb whether you need the heat or not.

  4. T. Bejma Says:

    The reason Honda should be embarassed is because they purposely calibrated their transmission and fuel map to exploit the EPA mileage testing with absolutely no regards for real world driving. My father has worked for the EPA for 40 years and this is FACT.

  5. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    So how many law suits are we going to see when Volt does not meet its 240 mpg dream mpg figure? I’ll bet they will soon lower that figure by quite a bit, and Nick is right they should sue the feds, not Honda.

  6. T Turner Says:

    To T. Bejma:

    And no one else does this?

  7. Salvador G. Says:

    JohnMcElroys reports:
    They chose the Subaru Outback, the Chevrolet Equinox, and the Ford Transit Connect as finalists for the Truck of the Year

    -JohnMc. Explain to me why is it that the Subaru Outback and the Chevrolet Equinox won for Best Truck of the year, I mean I get the Ford Transit as a Truck; but the Outback and the Equinox.
    I know that SUV’s still technically classified as trucks, but lets be honest -they’re not trucks, if anything they’re more like full side crossovers.

  8. G.A.Branigan Says:

    “Cooking th’ books”…..very appropriate.The feds have EVERYTHING FUBAR,why would the epa be any different.And yes,the epa should be sued,not honda.

  9. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Lincoln may be getting-it-right now, but I still don’t like their styling. (But if what they are designing) is pleasing to ‘your’ eye, well then, full speed ahead; another car company making a good/great vehicle.

    Looking at the numbers (I’m talking about the settlement numbers not the mileage numbers), it looks pretty clear that it’s just another litigious deal that the lawyers have concocted and consumers looking for something for free are jumping on the bandwagon with.

  10. Chuck Says:

    I miss the old days when we had actual trucks be final candidates for Truck Of the Year. Is it too cumbersome to have SUV of the Year and CUV of the Year?

  11. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Truck of the year is a joke,and they just proved it.I don’t even consider the transit a ‘real” truck let alone a couple of crossover wannabes.I’m curious as to what “trucks” were competing.

  12. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    The EPA lowered all of its “estimates” a few years back when they realized that not even dear old grandma was getting any where near those mpg’s they had posted originally. Now their website even reports on what average drivers get and the figures are all over the place. The one consistent high mpg vehicle that everybody reports getting the advertised mileage is the Prius.

  13. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Ps. If it’s built on a car chassis, then it’s not a truck. Period.

  14. Alex Kovnat Says:

    I hope the LaCrosse and Ford Fusion Hybrid were NOT chosen for political reasons, to bolster domestic car sales. I truly hope those cars are really worthy of being chosen Car of the Year. If so, it will be a welcome relief for the southeastern Michigan automotive community.

    As for the Golf: I am amazed that VW continues to stick with the two-box front wheel drive hatchback (“econobox”) configuration. When the time comes for VW to join the hybrid electric bandwagon, will they devise a H-E drivetrain for the Golf and Jetta, or will they come up with an entirely new chassis, as Toyota did with the Prius?

  15. Tony Gray Says:

    That blinking instrument panel on the Lincoln was freaking me out man!

  16. Edward Lipman Says:

    I think the EPA is a bunch of RAVING LUNATICS more worried about their own jobs than about emissions and the environment !
    They want to control Carbon Dioxide !
    Are they for F(*&^K’N REAL !
    Next these MORONS will want to control OUR Oxygen intake !
    Think about it , We will wear a meter to measure the amount of oxygen we breathe and then charge us for it !
    How about a meter to put on our cars intake to measure the amount of Oxygen it uses ?
    The EPA has SCREWED UP everything that it touches , why will regulating CO 2 be any different ?
    Government bureaucrats DO NOT know ANYTHING about clean air. Disband the EPA and have people that do to make rules for cleaning the air.

  17. Nick Stevens Says:

    # Alex Kovnat Says:
    December 17th, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    >Since the low-watt, energy efficient
    >LEDs are so much cooler than their
    >incandescent counterparts they can’t
    >melt the snow that packs up against
    >them, so drivers can’t see the light.

    “My suggestion would be to have electric resistance heating wires embedded in the traffic light, which would be activated only when necessary. That way, you wouldn’t be generating heat with an incandescent bulb whether you need the heat or not.”

    That should work, but there could be other solutions that do not waste any electricity, such as have a glass cover of the lights at such an angle that snow can’t accumulate on it.

  18. Nick Stevens Says:

    “# Pedro Fernandez Says:
    December 17th, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    The EPA lowered all of its “estimates” a few years back when they realized that not even dear old grandma was getting any where near those mpg’s they had posted originally.”

    And this is because they did not change their rules since 84 or so, when the national speed limit was 55. By 2008 all cars used A/C and other energy absorbing accessories, and, more important, they set their cruise controls at 80+ instead of 55 or 65.

    ” Now their website even reports on what average drivers get and the figures are all over the place.”

    I’ve seen them, they are far more useful numbers than the official EPA MPGs.

    ” The one consistent high mpg vehicle that everybody reports getting the advertised mileage is the Prius.”

    Among hybrids, sure. But under the new 2008 EPA rules, plenty of cars and SUVs now get better MPG than the EPA. A recent case was Motorweek’s test of the BMW X5 diesel, which is rated 26 highway MPG, but the ACTUAL and Average (“mixed loop”) MW MPG was an astounding 27+!!!

  19. Nick Stevens Says:

    Lots of stuff to comment on today’s AD. Re the car and truck of the year, I’d give poor GM two thumbs up. Having to choose from the very short list, of course, I’d go for the stunning styled (but still imperfect inside) Lacrosse and the also imopressive 32 MPG 3,800 lbs Equinox

  20. Nick Stevens Says:

    “# T. Bejma Says:
    December 17th, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    The reason Honda should be embarassed is because they purposely calibrated their transmission and fuel map to exploit the EPA mileage testing with absolutely no regards for real world driving. My father has worked for the EPA for 40 years and this is FACT.”

    Even based on your own statement, it is still the EPA that should be MIGHTILY Embarassed for providing a very imperfect system of MPG measurement and thus inviting every manufacturer to “game the system’ to their benefit, which is utterly legal AND ethical.

  21. Nick Stevens Says:

    John: re the Ford MKT: what a DOG!

    THis is a $50,000 LUXURY wagon or crossover or whatever Ford wants to call it today, but there is not even an ounce of luxury inside, from your own photos. The exterior styling is GROTESQUELY ugly. The vehicle is GROSSLY Obese, at 5,000 lbs for a stupid wagon? Gimme a break. it is a 100%, USDA choice dog, and the sales numbers will prove it to all of us soon.

  22. ‘honda civic hybrid’ on the web « wandaredman Says:

    [...] http://www.autolinedetroit.tv/journal/?p=7409Honda faces lawsuit from 26 states over inflated mileage claims for the Civic hybrid. Car companies are seeking out partners to cut costs. The North American Car & Truck of the Year jury announces its finalists. All that and more, … [...]

  23. Dan D Says:

    Regarding your report about car companies working together, Suzuki will begin to work with (and become partly owned by) Volkswagen, not Mitsubishi. I seem to recall reading something about PSA (Peugeot) announcing a small (electric?) car project with Mitsu. Your point about these cooperations becoming more common is even more true, even if your facts could use some checking.

  24. dcars Says:

    “Auto makers are working together to lower costs”. Wasn’t that the idea behind original General Motors?

  25. Max Christensen Says:

    Ah, the “Nick Stevens Show” continues…..

    But hey bud, you’re slipping a bit ….. you’ve only done 29% of the posts today instead of your usual 38-40% …….. you better get with it!

  26. Clarence Erickson Says:

    “My suggestion would be to have electric resistance heating wires embedded in the traffic light, which would be activated only when necessary. That way, you wouldn’t be generating heat with an incandescent bulb whether you need the heat or not.”

    Wouldn’t a heated resistance wire use more power than the old incandescent bulbs? Seems like we need a different solution than that?

  27. Donan Says:

    I am surprise by this lawsuit since the Toyota Prius was reported (by owners) to be achieving 16 mpg less than the EPA numbers from 1998 until 2007. This was deceptive. Consumers buying the Prius thinking that they would achieve 60 mpg and reality was more like 44 mpg. The Honda is reported by owners to achieve very near the EPA estimate.

  28. Bill Says:

    Let’s review…The Lawyers get 3 MILLION Dollars, and each Honda Civic owner gets $.14 cents. Is this a great country or what!!!

  29. Edward Lipman Says:

    Like Bill says above only lets have the Lawyers get the $22,500 and the plaintiffs get the Three Million Dollars.
    Now isn’t that more equitable ?
    I like that !

  30. Nick Stevens Says:

    That AAH show last night was boring as hell, I had a very hard time listening to it at th ebeginning, when that old geezwer was pluggin his book and took inordinate amounts of time to brag about how cheap he got some piece of land… as if anybody cared, even himself, who is really well advanced in years, he should worry far more about his health than about his wealth!

    In fact, the spy photo segment was SO boring, I paid less and less attention and did not get a good hear of the(far more interesting) viewer’s questions that followed..

  31. Nick Stevens Says:

    http://www.autoblog.com/2009/12/17/gm-chevy-volt-dance-a-major-marketing-gaffe-sure-lets-move-o/#continued

    You will not realize how pathetic the Volt video is until you actually see it. And if you thought the VPs and CEOS in the OLD GM were dumb and clueless, wait till you see the silly nonsense coming from the Susan Docherty Government Motors socially promoted VP who rose in the GM hierarchy by failing at every job and position given to her!

    See the video. Be near a restroom if you feel the need to throw up. It is clear now that the Audi Boss was 100% right. GM knows it too, that only an idiot would pay $40,000 for a $17,000 Chevy Cruze with an electric motor, so the video is tailor-made for idiots only.

  32. Jonathan Says:

    Once I muted that horrible jingle, I thought the dancing was quite good.

  33. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    I did enjoy Mr. Dunne’s appearance in last night’s AAH, I grew up looking forward to his spy photos every month, since back then we had no internet and car companies actually tried to hide their new products, where now they display them for the whole world to see months and even years before production. To this day the Japanese makers still hide their upcoming product very well. The Volt ad will be as unsuccessful as the car itself.

  34. Nick Stevens Says:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/ev-range-high-anxiety-normal-driving-may-cut-range-in-half/#more-339584

    VERY bad news for Pure EVs and their pathetically small range, and from Consumer Reports no less.

    Pedro: Not only I got really bored with that guest, I never found spy photos useful at all. Forst of all, they only give you a hint of exterior styling of a model (usually without even a clue as to how long, wide and high it is), and these hints are very, very small, even after you see a spy photo of a disguised vehicle, its actual shape is well disguised.

    But for those of us who want the full stats for a new model, even if we had the exterior styling 100% correct, it would still give us zero info on the weight, HP, Torque, MPG etc etc.

    These are marketing tricks and games I really don’t feel like playing. Whenever these clowns are ready, they should introduce thre new model with ALL the important info, full exterior AND interior videos, and test drives by the press. I can wait.

  35. Nick Stevens Says:

    I think Honda waits until the last minute to unveil the new Accord or Civic, only a month or so before you can actually buy them from the dealer. The Stupid Volt (but I am repeating myself) is the exact opposite, they have been bragging about it for a decade, or it seems that long…

  36. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    I always suspected that these electrics could not get the range that their makers claimed simply because normal folks don’t drive in “ideal” conditions, What happens with a/c on, or an amp or a sub or hilly areas or maybe someone that doesn’t drive like an 80 yr old granny. Top Gear had a Tesla, and it ran out of juice way before it was supposed to (they did drive it hard) but after all it’s supposed to be a sports car.

  37. dcars Says:

    To give a little peak into the EV world. The Honda EV I had was plugged into a 220 outlet. Environmental controls were always operating when plugged in; additionally, the defroster/heater was always on and I never scraped a window. I used it on a college campus where I work, but drove it 13 miles home (once) via the high way. It cruised nicely. At home I plugged it into my 120 line. The ride was nice but not sporting, it was a nice commuter car.

  38. isaiah Says:

    why were the gauge cluster lights glashing like a night club in the mkt? is that normal?