Episode 617 – U.S. Tops China in Car Sales, Honda to Make Up Lost Production, Jag and Jeep Diesels

April 8th, 2011 at 12:00pm

Runtime 8:05

Car sales in the U.S. and China are neck and neck, but America squeezes out a win — for now. John Mendel reports that Honda will make up for production lost during the Japanese crisis. Jaguar and Jeep both seem to be digging diesels. All that and more, plus maybe cell phones aren’t quite as bad as we thought.


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This is Autoline Daily for the 8th of April, 2011. And now, the news.

And here’s some unexpected news. New-car sales in the United States last month were higher than they were in China. Sales were 1.23 million in China, they were 1.24 million in the U.S., putting it more than 2,000 vehicles in the lead. How can that be possible? Because when China typically reports sales, it throws in everything: delivery vans, medium-duty trucks, busses and semis. But when you compare what the industry calls light vehicles—passenger cars and light trucks—then the U.S. and China are about even-steven. But, while U.S. sales are strong right now, it’s only a matter of time that China, with four times the population of the U.S., is going to take the lead.

The free trade agreement between the United States and South Korea is going to benefit both countries, but when it comes to automobiles, it’s going to benefit Korea the most. The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that exports of American cars and car parts will jump 54 percent, worth another $194 million. But Korean exports to the U.S. will increase by more than four times that amount to more than $900 million. Even though the U.S. government is constantly trying to establish free-trade pacts with other countries, GM, Ford and Chrysler do not do a very good job of exporting cars from the United States to markets overseas.

Japanese automakers seem to be having a hard time figuring out just how much their production will be disrupted by last month’s earthquake, or for how long. We asked John Mendel, the executive vice president of American Honda, about the situation.

By the way, John Mendel was speaking at the introduction of the new Honda Civic, and we’ll have more on that car when the embargo comes off next week.

More New York Auto Show reveals are making headlines. Ward’s reports Jaguar is set to premiere its most efficient engine ever, a 2.2-liter four-cylinder diesel. It’s expected to deliver 187 horsepower and a mountain of torque, 332 pound-feet! It’ll be teamed with an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. Fuel economy should be around 52 miles per gallon, about 4.5 L/100 km, but the big-cat carmaker doesn’t say which vehicle delivers those figures. Boosting efficiency, the engine features an intelligent stop/start system that reportedly responds a lot faster than other systems on the market.

In related news, the Detroit Free Press reports Jeep may once again offer diesel engines. The brand could make them available on some models within three years. This would an all-around win. The improved fuel economy is great for customers’ wallets and the company’s CAFÉ score, PLUS low-end torque is great off road.

In related news, Jeep showed off a host of modified vehicles it’s built for the annual Easter Safari out in Moab, Utah. Some of the “Moparized” models – yes, that’s a new verb – include a special Wrangler called the “Pork Chop” that features extensive weight savings, a Compass with upgraded suspension and wheels, plus a special version the Ram Runner. Altogether, seven modified vehicles were featured ahead of the Easter Safari, which starts next week. Hit the link in today’s show notes on our website, AutolineDetroit.tv, to find out more.

They tell you that using your cell phone while driving is a big problem, but maybe some of the safety tests they conduct make it look more dangerous than it really is. That’s coming up next.

The topic on Autoline Detroit this week is all about distracted driving. It turns out that using your cell phone is dangerous, but mostly that involves picking it up and dialing. Just talking on the phone doesn’t seem to be that bad. Louis Tijerina is one of Ford’s top safety experts in this area.

You can catch that entire episode about distracted driving on Autoline Detroit on our website right now. Or check your local listings for your public television station. Autoline is now seen throughout the United States and Canada.

Before we go today, a quick programming note: RoundAbout is off this week, but the crew invites you to enjoy a “classic” episode with Dick DeBartolo from Mad Magazine. That’s available on AutolineDetroit.TV right now.

And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global auto industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you on Monday.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog and WardsAuto.com

24 Comments to “Episode 617 – U.S. Tops China in Car Sales, Honda to Make Up Lost Production, Jag and Jeep Diesels”

  1. RAR Says:

    I don’t know who the researchers are following on the road, but I can pick out a driver who’s on the phone from a mile away. Dialing or not.

  2. Mike Says:

    In case you haven’t noticed, the currency exchange rate between the Euro and the Dollar has gone from 1.30 to 1.45 this year. Those Euro cars are going to get more expensive. Here’s something from the Peterson Institute:The foreign exchange value of the dollar has to substantially decline to make a serious dent in the record US current account deficit of nearly $800 billion, almost 7 percent of US GDP. Asian currencies that have not yet appreciated significantly against the dollar, especially the Chinese renminbi, will need to rise sharply. Asian and other central banks must cease intervening in the exchange markets and accumulating massive amounts of dollar reserves to permit the market to begin the needed exchange rate corrections. An Asian Plaza Agreement to coordinate exchange rate realignments in that region may be necessary given the reluctance of the individual countries to appreciate sharply and lose competitiveness”

    It is just their opinion. Maybe mine too.


  3. Rope-Pusher Says:

    I dunno about that cellphone safety study purporting that cell phone usage doesn’t significantly degrade driving safety unless the driver is hand-dialing a number. I see folks making bone-headed driving mistakes, like drifting out of their lanes, not keeping their speeds or trailing distances consistent, almost missing their exits, etc. – the kind of mistakes that drunk drivers used to lay strong claims to, but now most often I observe the drivers in question have a hand plastered against their ear and are staring blankly into the distance. I don’t believe it’s dialing the phone that causes the distraction. These people are clearly in mid-conversation, not dialing a number.

    Also, shouldn’t drunk drivers be getting together a class-action lawsuit to keep cell phone users from infringing on their territory?

  4. Lex Says:


    If the Earthquake in Japan is excepted to result in reduced vehicle production, what is the number of days on hand of vehicles for those OEM’s who are affected? Will any of the Japan OEM’s move production to the USA in the future?

    The increase in the Euro versus the US Dollar will make Germany vehicles more expensive for US Buyers. What efforts have the Germany OEM’S, besides VW and BMW who both built assembly plants in the US, done to protect themselves from monetary fluctuations and inflation? Maybe David Welch is writing his MBA Thesis on the very subject. How is he doing, and will he return to AAH?

  5. len simpson Says:

    My nearfuture phone will answer an incoming when I tell it to, will call whatever name I give it & never leave my shirt pocket!

  6. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Hands free bluetooth devices abound,and are inexpensive compared to a ticket.I make and answer calls without taking my hands off the wheel,no problem and it’s even safer then talking to a passenger when you take into account the inadvertent looking at said passenger.Common sense folks,try it,it’s easy.

  7. tj Martin Says:

    Cell Phone’s in Cars

    My favorite Cell Phone ( BlueTooth ) using driver behavior to observe is when the IDIOTs are flailing their hands about ( usually both right and left ) trying to be Italian ( nice to know we’re in such fashion these days ) ” Talking ” with their hands .

    I’d guess close to 80% of the BlueTooth/CellPhone users I observe in front of me when on the road exhibit this behavior .

    So don’t try to feed me the BS that its ONLY when dialing they’re endangering others or BlueTooth is the solution .

    The SOLUTION is . Wait till you get out of the car or are parked before conducting your Phone Business .

    Reality is you’re NOT that important , and the business can wait .

    Any way you look at it , talking on the Cel/BlueTooth while driving is a DISTRACTION . Taking your mind away from the potentially deadly Task at Hand .

    Sheesh . Used to be success was measured by having ” People ” to deal with your immediate needs . Now everyone is convinced they’re indispensable and THEY need to deal with it themselves ( Umberto Ecco ” Traveling with a Salmon “)

  8. tj Martin Says:

    @len simpson ;

    My Future Cell Phone is right here and now . An iPhone , left in the OFF position until I’m in a damn good mood , or out of the car to answer it .

    Amazing how effective VoiceMail can be . Never missed a business deal or an emergency yet , using it .

  9. HtG Says:

    Why is it only death, injury, and property damage that matters? People talking or texting drive like zombies, forcing good citizens to accommodate them. The data coming from a Ford guy with an interest in getting electronics into cars needs to be held up by the tail. I say this as someone with a substantial interest($) in the success of in-car electronics, but who is also tired of following some rolling road block.

    I once tried dialing while driving…SHEEEZUSS!

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    It never fails, every time I see someone either going too slow, not keeping within their lane or not moving when the light turns green, its either a geezer or they’re using a cell phone.

  11. Andy S Says:

    This week’s Autoline Detroit should be very educational. I believe this preview from Dr. Tijerina can be summarized to say that ‘driving while using your cell phone may not be as dangerous as claimed by some Chicken Littles.’ Specifically, drivers are at lower risk if they keep their hands on the wheel, keep their eyes on the road, and limit their cognitive attention to simple, casual conversation.

    I have observed two types of people engaged in discussions while driving. The 1st type just seems to drive a little slower (not risky, but may be irritating to trailing motorists). The second type is holding the phone to their ear and does not have a free hand to use their lane change signals (I know, only half of them would use the signal under normal conditions). It is this second group that concerns me.

    So, if voice-activiated systems (Bluetooth, SYNC, OnStar, etc.) enable drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, I am OK with it. I believe there are studies that indicate the brain will shift its attention away from the conversation if a traffic threat arise.

  12. SalvadorG. Says:

    Distracted Driving
    I’m not sure what is so surprising about that study, everyone is capable of carrying on a conversation while driving, but picking/dialing or even putting away a cellphone is simple the act of taking you eyes away from the road, a distance of several feet can pass by (nevermind the distance require for proper braking) while looking for your cellphone.

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    Carconnection.com just put out a list of the car brands with the worst reputation, not surprisingly everything from the Fiat/Chrysler grou is there, along with the “Stupid” and even Kia.

  14. G.A.Branigan Says:

    It’s not surprising that the fiat/chrysler group would head that up.So jeep may offer diesels in 3 to 4 years? By then who will care? Diesel fuel is a lot more expensive around here,and diesels are now overall,more expensive to own/operate.For the occasional pulling/towing that I do,my 17.5 mpg chevy Silverado will do just fine.

  15. pedro fernandez Says:

    This proposed 85 mph limit for Texas is wrong in many ways, safety of course, but also gas mileage. What kind of message is this sending to the rest of the world about our need to cut back on oil consumption. The road may be clear and wide open, but even a blowout could result in a really bad crash.

  16. HtG Says:

    Agree with you Pedro. The times I’ve been silly enough to go 85+ in traffic taught me fast. Things happen so fast at 85, and if the limit is set there just think where Officer Bob will start issuing tickets. 90? Will cops even dare to stop people when if means they will have to stand next to traffic? When I drove across country(Ford Focus wagon, suspension and drivetrain made for speed) I noticed that in the big open places like Wyoming there were just no police cars except at construction areas. You could easily go 85+, but it was clear you’d be toast if you sped in a work area. If people don’t make sure they have the right pressure in their tires on a hot day in Texas….

  17. HtG Says:

    A little more on driver distraction.

    Today I started shopping for car insurance, and was asked if I had recently taken a defensive driving course. I answered that in fact I took a performance driving course with Skip Barber wherein we were taught essential car control skills like at the limit braking, braking and turning, lane toss exercise, skid recoveries on a wet circular pad. All those things that you need in extremis, or ‘at the limit.’

    But this meant nothing to one insurer. Rather, the single lesson of a one day, classroom course which is to avoid distraction, was the only thing that mattered if I wanted a discount on my policy.

    Driver distraction is IT for the insurer. (It’s only a 50 dollar annual discount, and I took the course years ago. Yes, I had to. No, I don’t want to take it again.)

  18. Tom Dingman Says:

    In a world economy, why it it news when the US production is slightly ahead of china?

  19. Wayne Says:

    To Pedro and HtG;
    Think Autobahn folks. Relatively safe even at high speeds because drivers respect each other and drive responsibly. Speed limits are present in conjested areas and construction zones and are certainly warranted. A blowout at 65 isn’t going to be much different than at 85. The point about the fuel usage is a good one though and I do agree on that.

  20. HtG Says:

    Wayne, what I meant about inflating tires is that people don’t. An underinflated tire, run at high speeds will get pretty hot. Hotter than it’s designed for; and boom! I think that’s why we need the gummint to save us with them TP monitors.

  21. pedro fernandez Says:

    Wayne, do you know what they do when ther’s an accident on the autobahn? They extend a vertical tarp to cover up the whole accident scene to keep rubber-neckers from causing any further mishaps and to cover up the carnage that occurs. BTW the problem with such a high mpg is that it should only be driven under ideal conditions, dry, no fog, no congestion. The problem is that when many motorists see the 85 mph sign they think they have the god-given right to go that fast regardless of conditions, and that is how you have these horrific accidents

  22. XA351GT Says:

    Guys the other thing is that if it’s posted 85 people will do 90/95 just to push it. Comparing US drivers to Germany’s autobahn users is like apples and oranges. People here just don’t pay attention enough. Closing distances dramaticly change as speeds increase. I agree with you Pedro that conditions should dictate your speed ,but how many people do you see blow by you in the snow doing 55/65 MPH because they have a 4 X $ /SUV ? They think it excludes them for using common sense while driving.

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    There are many differences between the
    German autobahns and Texas. For a start, Germans know the concept of keeping right except to pass, and lane discipline in general. It is much harder to get a license in Germany with more training required than in the US. This is important on roads with large speed differences between the fast and slow vehicles.

    Then, there is the huge difference in the vehicle fleet. In Europe, most of the cars are cars, rather than almost half of the fleet being ill-handling, ill-braking trucks that have the power to go fast, but not safely in emergency situations.

  24. pedro fernandez Says:

    To further add to Kit’s point, due to the economy, the avg age of the American car on the road keeps going up and the level of maintenance and upkeep is also on the decline, add to that all the poor handling SUV’s on the road and the American auto landscape is nothing like Germany. BTW a lot of states no longer have mandatory inspections while I’m sure Germany does.