Episode 299 – New Smart USA President, CTS-V Coupe Revealed, Pirates Hijack Hyundai Ship

January 5th, 2010 at 12:00pm

Runtime 8:00

Jill Lajdziak, who used to run Saturn, will become president of smart USA. Cadillac is showing the “V” version of the CTS Coupe before its debut at next week’s NAIAS. Somali pirates hijack a ship-full of Hyundais. All that and more, plus a look at the new BMW 5 Series GT.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Smart USA gets a new president. First look at the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe. And Somali pirates hijack a ship-full of Hyundai’s.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, January 5, 2010. And now, the news.

Big changes for the little smart. Penske Automotive, which handles the distribution rights for the microcar in the American market, announced that Jill Lajdziak, who used to run Saturn, will become president of smart USA. Dave Schembri, who had held that position, will move into Penske Automotive’s retail operations. For Lajdziak this could be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Sales of the smart fortwo have been abysmal.

As we reported yesterday, the Indian auto industry looks like it’s about to take off, and now we’ve got some shots of cars that were unveiled at the auto show in Delhi. Honda revealed what is calls the New Small Concept. Not many details about it, except that it can seat five people and that it will be introduced in 2011 in both India and Thailand.

Toyota also unveiled a new small concept for the Indian market, called the Etios. The vehicle is offered with two gas engines, a 1.2- and a 1.5-liter. Sedan and hatchback versions are available as well. Toyota says it will be built in India with as many local parts as possible to keep costs low and production will start later this year. Toyota expects sales of 70,000 a year and will also export the car.

From the Delhi auto show we move to the Detroit show. And the embargoes are starting to come off for some of the products that will debut next week at the NAIAS. Cadillac is showing the “V” version of the CTS coupe. Unfortunately, they’re not releasing many photos, so you don’t get a really good angle of what the car looks like. The key stats include a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 with 556 horses, 551 pound feet of torque and a 0-60 time of 3.9 seconds. Another neat feature: no door handles. A touch pad opens the doors.

Well, here’s another reason to get an iPhone. According to Autoblog, BMW just released a new application called the “M Power Meter.” Using the handset’s built-in accelerometer, it gives you data for things like 0-60 acceleration, forward and lateral G’s, maximum speed and more. All you have to do is start the program, stash your phone in a horizontal or vertical position and drive . . . just don’t do anything to get yourself in trouble. Similar apps are available for anywhere from $5 to $10, but this one is F-R-E-E free! We’ll have to give it a road test in the coming days.

Arrrrrrgh matey, the high seas be a dangerous place! Ward’s reports that some 2,300 cars built by Hyundai and Kia have been seized by Somali pirates (subscription required). They captured the car carrier Asian Glory 620 miles – around 1,000 kilometers – off the coast of Somalia. It was headed to the Middle East. Hyundai and Kia say they’ve already been paid for the vehicles, plus they ARE insured, so they won’t be taking a hit for the loss. But maybe the insurance company will want to place a call to the Navy Seals. I hear they’re rather good at handling situations like this.

Coming up next, we’ll take a look at the new BMW 5 Series GT. Back in 16 seconds.

Being a luxury car maker hasn’t stopped BMW from adding to its Crossover portfolio. The X3, 5 and 6 — plus a couple M versions — will now have to make room for the 550i Gran Turismo.

Even though this is a “new” car, you can see glimpses of other BMWs in it. It’s a 5 Series with a touch of X6 on the outside and some interior nods to the 7. The 4.4-Liter, 400 horsepower V-8-version of the GT was released last month, while its six-cylinder cousin — the 535i — is due out in the Spring. Both come equipped with a smooth, new, eight-speed automatic transmission which BMW says adds to the fuel efficiency of the car, though at 17 combined mpgs for this V-8, about 14 l/100km, that’s really not one of its top attractions. What is, can be found inside and out back. While the cockpit and front seat have similar luxury touches of the 7, as well as the fourth generation and “some say” easier-to-use iDrive, it’s the backseat that BMW brags about. That’s because when you opt for the nearly $4,000 “luxury rear seating package” you get, well, LUXURY SEATING…with a center console for work and storage, and multi-adjustable power back seats that move back and forth as well as up and down. But in back, that’s not the only thing Brand Manager Willem Rombauts is bragging about.

Well, we didn’t have the time to let you see all the GT’s high-tech options or their matching prices, but we can tell you that the V-8 550i starts at just under 65-thousand while the I-6, when it arrives in four months, will be closer to 55.

Hey, a programming note here. We’re going to be doing “Autoline After Hours” tonight, at our regular time. Joining me and Peter De Lorenzo will be Doug Fox, the chairman of the Detroit Auto show. Steve Finlay from Ward’s Dealer Business magazine will also join us.

The reason we’re dong it tonight is that on Thursday morning we’re going to be doing a live webcast from the new battery plant that General Motors just built in Brownstown Township, Michigan. GM says it has a major announcement to make, but get this, they won’t even tell us what it is. Even so, GM invited Autoline to do a live webcast at that event, and we’re the only ones being invited to do that. We’ll have GM’s top EV and battery people on the show. But your guess is as good as mine as to what the announcement will be, and hopefully we’ll have more information tomorrow.

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

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

49 Comments to “Episode 299 – New Smart USA President, CTS-V Coupe Revealed, Pirates Hijack Hyundai Ship”

  1. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Even with an all new model lineup and an excellent dealer network, this woman couldn’t do crap for Saturn and now she gets a new job? Well, so-long Smart (stupid) car. And H/S must be in mourning, 2,300 of his children are in mortal danger of being dumped into the sea.

  2. Nick Stevens Says:

    Jill Laidzak, after a pitiful run at Saturn, was now hired to bury SMART. I don’t know why they needed to hire her, esp. at SMART. At GM, it was probably PC BS.. they needed some token females in upper mgmt.. now they got Susan Doherty, who is even worse… goog luck, Government Motors..

    PS John, this was no news, we knew about Jill and SMART for almost a month now.

    Re the Hyundai Ship, the company claimes that all the cars are insured, but also are already paid for by their buyers (dealers) at the destination, so I doubt H-S will worry about it.

  3. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Roger Penske isn’t stupid. He hired Jill Lajdziak to shut down smart, since she has experience with closing down car brands.

  4. Nick Stevens Says:

    Napoleon was 100 times smarter than Penske, but blundered anyway by invading Russia. Even brilliant people make grievous mistakes,

    and Penske made his when he got the SMART for the USA, long before he hired Laidzsak to bury it.

    He should at least have test driven it and experienced its horrible Transmission first hand.. not to say about its gross impracticality for most of the US market.

  5. Nick Stevens Says:

    The real news of the day, December and 2009 sales for the US, are slowly coming out this afternoon.

    Ford and Subaru, up 33% each for Dec. Fusion sold 18,500 pieces while the cheaper Focus only 14,000.

    Chrysler did dismally, down more than 30% for the year!

  6. LEX Says:

    Roger Penske has hopefully hired Jill Lajdziak to begin refocusing the remaining Smart Fleet towards a “Zip Car” franchise business model for use by College Students on College Campuses. The Smart for Two would be perfect for those students who need a car for a few hours or a day to go to the market, shopping mall, movies, or to go anywhere that is not close to their College Campus. The Students could sign-up, depending upon age and indivdual State and University requirements to rent these Smart Cars which would be available in designated parking spaces on campus. A Student College ID Card or other ID / Credit Card could be used to activate and charge the college student account for usage. This idea could promote brand / vehicle loyalty similar to the one experienced by the VW Bug back in the 1960′s.

    Best of Luck to Roger & Jill.

  7. Nick Stevens Says:

    the SMART has little, if anything, in common with the hugely successful VW Bug, the ORIGINAL beetle, which was a REAL car that could carry 4-5 people AND stuff. The SMART can do neither. College students have far better and usually FREE alternatives when they just need to move themselves and a small amount of stuff, but the SMART would be woefully inadequate if they need to move serious amounts of stuff and people.

    This is wishful thinking of the most laughable type.

    But the nail in the coffin of the SMART is that it was on sale in EUROPE for a full decade, where it did not make a dime for 9 straight years, DESPITE 1) the double or triple gas prices there, and 2) the far tighter parking situation there vs the average US location. Penske should have read the handwriting on the wall. If the SMART could not make a DIME in EUROPE, how in the world could it make $ in the USA??? ABSURD!

  8. Nick Stevens Says:

    PS its MPG is PITIFUL for such a small car with such a small engine. Added to its CRIMINALLY poor Transmission, you got the perfect DOG in this silly vehicle. it is laughable that the SMART can’t get 40 MPG when the prius, which has 50% more weight and capacity and power, can easily get 50 MPG!

  9. Nick Stevens Says:

    Nissan was also down 19% for the year, while up 18% Dec 09 vs Dec 08.

  10. Alex Kovnat Says:

    We note that while the Cadillac super-power engine for the CTS-V is mechanically supercharged, the engine used in a performance version of the Ford Mustang uses neither positive displacement supercharging nor turbocharging. The Ford engine does feature cam phasing on both intake and exhaust valves. I would like to ask whoever’s here that would know: Does the Cadillac engine mentioned above, have this feature too?

    It will be of interest to see which super-power engine, the Caddy (GM) or the Ford, delivers the most performance in proportion to cost and fuel consumption.

  11. Nick Stevens Says:

    ” “smart” (LOL) USA recorded 864 sales in December 2009.’

    compare this with the 53,000 Civics sold in May 2008, when gas prices went over $4 eventually.

  12. Nick Stevens Says:

    Mazda also reported, up 2% for Dec but down a dismal 20% or so for 2009.

  13. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “While the car fit the eco-sensibilities of some consumers, its abysmal transmission remains its Achilles’ heel.”

    This quote about the smart is from the “best and worst vehicle of the decade” article in Detroit News, and I agree. While the gas mileage is bad for the size of the car, the transmission is the thing that makes the smart just plain unpleasant to drive. Diff’rent strokes, though. “Winding Road,” an electronic magazine liked the smart better than a Honda Fit in a comparison a few months ago.

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    Saturn, Smart, Saab is there a correlation here or just coincidence?

  15. Nick Stevens Says:

    More news:

    Hyundai and Kia were up 8-9% for the y4ear and up strongly in Dec, but were unable to pass Nissan as the 6th automaker in sales to the US market.

    (H-K 2009: 735,063 vs 770,103 for Nissan. But note Nissan sold 951,350 in 08!)

    And dismal Government Motors failed even in Dec, down 6%, and down a whopping 30% for 2009…

    COnsumers have spoken: They detest the bailout of these two losers (GM and Chrysler) and make a point by buying FORDS instead.

  16. Nick Stevens Says:

    I also get Winding Road and I am amazed they claimed the Smart was better than the Fit, esp. the current 2nd gen Fit which is more attractively styled than the original, Aveo-hatch like Fit. What was their rationale (if any!)?

  17. Nick Stevens Says:

    The once mighty Honda, who could do no wrong, was up 16% or so in Dec, but fell almost 20% for the whole 2009 year. THis may be partly due to no new and attractive product, at least not in their top sellers, Acura’s debacle, and pressure from Hyundai-Kia.

  18. JaredN Says:

    Jill Laidzak can’t fix Smart by tinkering with the sales channel. The Smart car is overpriced, gets poor mileage, and has a terrible transmission. It’s the product, stupid.

  19. Nick Stevens Says:

    Jared has summarized it perfectly, all very important defects of the “Dumb”.

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Nick Stevens Says:
    January 5th, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    “I also get Winding Road and I am amazed they claimed the Smart was better than the Fit, esp. the current 2nd gen Fit which is more attractively styled than the original, Aveo-hatch like Fit. What was their rationale (if any!)?”

    I suspect they wanted to get some attention, and it worked.

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I guess I’m not a typical car buyer, but, since Ford dropped the Focus 3-door, 5-door, and wagon, they haven’t had a single car that would be on shopping list if I were in the market for a new car today.

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Nick Stevens Says:
    January 5th, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    “The once mighty Honda, who could do no wrong, was up 16% or so in Dec, but fell almost 20% for the whole 2009 year. THis may be partly due to no new and attractive product, at least not in their top sellers,”

    They need to start selling 3-door Civics again.

  23. Nick Stevens Says:

    yes, these were very neat, my family still owns a 91 hatch, rather low seats and not that tall for a mostly urban car, but great MPG from only 75 HP and a 1,875 lb weight. Low miles, looks like new, but is very basic, no power anything and the dash looks a bit dated and 80s-lousy now.

    Well, all have reported now, incl. Toyota. Total sales in 09 , 10.4 million as predicted. way down from the 17 mill average from 99-07. China will sell more in 09 than this, for the first time ever.

    The prius sold twice as many copies as the yaris, BTW, and five times as the buick-like Avalon.

  24. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “The prius sold twice as many copies as the yaris, BTW, and five times as the buick-like Avalon”

    I’m glad the Prius is doing so well. It is by far the best car out there for those who want great fuel economy in a car that will “do everything” for most people.

  25. Alex Kovnat Says:

    The Prius, while more expensive to build (hence also, to buy) than the SmartCar, gets at least as many miles per gallon. It may well be that the disadvantage of a car as small as the “Smart”, is that there’s very little room for all the components you need (i.e. batteries, electrical components) for hybrid-electric operation.

    If there’s a genuine need to reduce carbon dioxide puffing, I look forward to seeing what kind of fuel economy is achievable if design engineers can package batteries, motors and generators, etc. into small packages like the SmartCar.

  26. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Can someone explain to me why the Prius is not a finalist for the North America car of the year award? is this a case of the US auto media trying to give Ford a nod for not asking for a bailout?

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Pedro Fernandez Says:
    January 5th, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    “Can someone explain to me why the Prius is not a finalist for the North America car of the year award? is this a case of the US auto media trying to give Ford a nod for not asking for a bailout?”

    My guess is that the new Prius is too much like the previous one to get the attention of the voters.

  28. pedro fernandez Says:

    So I guess that it doesn’t matter to the judges that it is selling so well in a down market?

  29. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Pedro, believe it or not, you go some of the Hyundai Community websites there are Africans that come on begging for info on how they can a Hyundai product.

    Those cars=Sold on the Black Market for twice the price, an African or a Middle Easterner will pay twice the price for a Hyundai. If you look at the world, Hyundais perception problem is about dead in the US, needs a little more work in Europe, but everywhere else people cant get enough of the things. Outside of the US and Europe Hyundai hardly has any perception problems at all anymore.

    Hyundai is trying to duplicate its upmarket success they had in the Middle East starting with first Gen Equus/Centennial and XG series cars. To its product line today, here in the US. Hyundai made the upmrket push years ago in the third world under our noses.

  30. pedro fernandez Says:

    H/S I think these so-called pirates could give a rat’s behind about what’s on those ships, they’re just looking for ransom or payout $. it could be a boatload of Smarts (I hope they sink them) or whatever they just want the cash, baby!

  31. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Hyundai sells double in China what it sells here a year. The Elantra for Example is the 3rd best selling car in China. Behind Buick Excelle/Astra (Nex Gen Elantra’s main competitor), and BYD F3. http://www.chinacartimes.com/2009/12/09/byd-king-of-the-charts-in-november-sales/

    People in China aspire to get a Hyundai, and that’s the perception they are now trying to create in the US.

    That’s what the North American CEO means by “Aspirational” when he talks about Hyundai’s US future.

  32. Dave Says:

    @ Kit,
    I am with you. As a past owner of a 98 Sport SE Contour I will NOT be in the market for anything that has the blue oval, or was made by the blue oval..

  33. Kit Gerhart Says:

    pedro fernandez Says:
    January 5th, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    “So I guess that it doesn’t matter to the judges that it is selling so well in a down market?”

    I doubt that sales numbers matter at all to the judges, nor should they. There is no reason that a good “niche” vehicle shouldn’t have a chance at the award.

  34. Nick Stevens Says:

    GROUND BREAKING STATS, MUCH WORSE THAN I THOUGHT:

    “China’s mushrooming car market was flooded with by a tsunami of new cars in 2009, Xinhua reports via Gasgoo. A record 221 new models were introduced last year.

    Auto sales in China are projected to have surged 44 percent to 13.5m units last year. Chinese automakers are expected to launch about 100 more new models in 2010.”

    It was not even CLOSE!!!! 2009 sales in the US were a meager 10.4 million! I wonder when, if EVER, the US market will be no. 1 in the world again.

    And, we discussed this before with the facts and the figures, maybe HALF or tweo thirds of the 13.5 million cars sold in China are serious, expensive imports or transplant made cars (like the very successful Buicks and esp. VWs), NOT “tata nanos” and indian “suzuki maruti” pos’s.

    “Yellow Peril” anyone? How many decades ago wass the last time we heard this term (japan excluded)? LOL!

  35. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Pedro Fernandez Says:
    January 5th, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    in response to Kit’s “Can someone explain to me why the Prius is not a finalist for the North America car of the year award? is this a case of the US auto media trying to give Ford a nod for not asking for a bailout?”

    My guess is that the new Prius is too much like the previous one to get the attention of the voters.”

    I think Pedro knows the answer, and it is not the above. As good as the previous prius was, the new is far improved to be a totally new car. The real reason is that the contest is for North Am car, not World car of the year, and the judges are not from all over the world, but largely from detroit, within a lunch invitation (plus much more) from the Automakers. No matter how much John McElroy protests that the awards are clean. Ask the Autoextremist guy. He really threw the book at them.

  36. Nick Stevens Says:

    and PS Alex, the prius does NOT get the same lousy MPG as the Smart, it gets 10 MPG MORE plus! And I think now they can build the Prius at a profit for several years now.

  37. Nick Stevens Says:

    “People in China aspire to get a Hyundai, and that’s the perception they are now trying to create in the US.”

    NO THEY DO NOT!@!! I have been there and I know, they aspire to buy a BUICK!!! Not a Hyundai, Kia or Daewoo, and this is exactly why IDENTICAL vehicles to the above are rebadged as BUICKS, even small silly Aveos!

  38. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Nick writes:

    “My guess is that the new Prius is too much like the previous one to get the attention of the voters.”

    I think Pedro knows the answer, and it is not the above.”

    I agree that the new Prius is a different, and better car, but look at the history of NACOTY. Past car winners include 2 different Mercedes, Nissan Altima, MINI Cooper, Prius, Civic, Genesis. The truck list is similar with lots of non-American name plates. There may be some “pro-American-nameplate” prejudice in NACOTY, but it is not that great.

  39. Nick Stevens Says:

    I was thinking about Kit’s comment that Honda is sufferign because it does not offer the 3-door civic hatch any more.

    But Honda does offer a 5-door sporty small wagon, the Fit, that has similar weight and power with those hatches. it styling may be less sporty due to its increased height, but I bet it is far more useful to carry cargo and people than the old, low civic hatch.

    The problem is, people do not want to buy the Fit! its sales are a tiny niche of the overall Honda sales, which really rely on only 3 vehicles, the Accord, the Civic and lately the very popular CR-V.

  40. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I mentioned the Civic 3-door hatchback because I like such cars, but you’re right. The Fit is a functionally better car, and it’s not selling that well. I checked out the current Civic 3-door on the Honda UK web site, and from the picture I saw, it didn’t look that great to me anyway. Also, the mileage ratings of the Fit are not much better than those of the Civic, which might affect sales. Of course, a return of $4+ gas would help sales of both Fit and Civic.

  41. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Should Honda reconsider selling those diesels here? VW is easily selling theirs as fast as they arrive, so I’d think Honda should do well with their diesels here.

  42. Nick Stevens Says:

    While current Honda declines (I think) are largely due to no new product in any of its top 3 sellers (Accord, Civic or CRV), I think it made some bad decisions that will not allow it to seize the day when gas exceeds $4 again… and it will be sooner than many think, maybe this summer 2010, given China’s truly Awsome appetite for new cars (up 44% (!!!!!!) in a deep world recession!)

    Honda did an 180 re its diesels. Forst it correctly planned to offer them in the US market, then the beancounters (I bet) at Honda showed it would not make much $, but the counting is as good as their assumptions about gas prices… and I bet they did not assume a return of $4 gas.

    The new civic and Accord can’t just keep growing any bigger, the accord is already a EPA classed “LARGE” car (!). They either have to use exotic materials to make it bigger but lighter and more fuel efficient or make it smaller (or unchanged) and also more fuel efficient.

  43. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    They say you should never turn back the clock, but as far as the 3 door Civic I think they should indeed, it was a fun, practical , economical car, but was not thought of as an “economy car” like the Fit is. For one thing. enthusiasts would be laughed upon if they tried to do anything with the Fit, while the Civic was an enthusiast’s (affordable) choice. Until Honda changed the suspension and made it impractical to do so. I can’t hardly find any Civic hatchbacks for sale anywhere. If you got one, you hold on to it for dear life.

  44. Nick Stevens Says:

    The fit is more similar to the old 5-door 6-sp manual Civic Wagon, a tall, lightweight, angular vehicle. I remember my neighbor had one back in 87 when I bought my present home. The 3-door hatch was too low and sporty and had a very low seating position, that would not be popular today with most individuals and families..

  45. Nick Stevens Says:

    I can’t hardly find any Civic hatchbacks for sale anywhere. If you got one, you hold on to it for dear life

    The one my parents (now just my mother, who does not drive it any more) bougth new in Dec 91 has only 45k miles. It is very nice, esp. after I replaced the unsafe at any serious speed tires (the second set) that were terrible in corners, with wider ones (same wheels) 2 years ago. But it does not have A/C, a major defect in the summer when I rarely drive it to the big city. There are a ton of them over in Europe, and their prices are very low, maybe $2k Euros. And for such a low mile car with no rust, it is a bargain. Aftermarket A/C woudl cost over 1,000 Euros and some who installed them were not happy with their performance.

    My significant other bought a Euro-spec Corolla in 05, a 1.4 lt, very nice and high quality, 5-sp manual, but 17,000 Euros. Now she wants to get rid of it, but it has very few miles, maybe 10k or 15k. and it will not fetch more than 11k euros, a steal for an almost new car there, so I tell her to give it or sell it to her brother who does need a new car and puts a lot of miles every year with his kids and work etc.

  46. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’d like the Euro Accord wagon, which gets 47.9 combined MPG with the diesel and manual trans. It would be kind of pricey, though, if sold here.

  47. Nick Stevens Says:

    Re the 47.9 combined for the Accord, have in mind that Euro MPG rules, while more accurate and specific than US EPA rules, (they specify at ehat speed, country road at 90 KM, Highway at 120 KM, and city) are way more optimistic than EPA rules. You’d be lucky to get 47 HIGHWAY, but forget about getting 47 city! The smaller Jetta Diesel gets about 44 HWY and 32? or so city in real-life tests in the US, not the low EPA nos. The accord diesel should do worse.

  48. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Accord would probably do worse than the Jetta, but it’s a larger car than the Jetta. It would still do very well.

  49. Kit Gerhart Says:

    VW Golf Estate Euro combined MPG with 2.0 TDI:

    56.5 with manual
    51.4 with DSG

    Yep, the “Jetta” does do better than the Accord.