No, It’s Not Just About Quality

January 31st, 2008 at 9:36am

As published by

Buick Enclave

Being the best is no ticket to the top.

“Thou shalt have great quality.” It’s practically a commandment in the auto industry. Indeed, it’s become so entrenched as part of our conventional wisdom that it ought to be chiseled in stone tablets for all to worship.

One of the main reasons cited as to why the Detroit automakers are losing share in their home market is because their quality is not as good as the Japanese. However, the data tell us a different story.

Take a look at J.D. Power’s 2007 Vehicle Dependability Survey. This measures the quality and reliability of vehicles after three year’s of service, which provides a pretty good track record. Astonishingly, Buick is #1, tied with Lexus. And this is no flash in the pan. Buick consistently scores well in most quality surveys and has for years.

Cadillac is in third place. Mercury is in fourth. Lincoln is tied with BMW!

Jaguar is rated better than Acura, Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti. And all these brands score better than the industry average.

But you know what Buick, Cadillac, Mercury, Lincoln and Jaguar all have in common? They are losing sales and market share. In fact, there almost seems to be a perverse relationship between their gains in quality and their losses in market share.

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AUTOLINE ON AUTOBLOG: The Breakthrough We’ve Been Waiting For?

January 28th, 2008 at 9:27am

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Runtime: 2:51

There seems to be an anti-ethanol bias in so much of the media that GM’s recent announcement didn’t get the kind of coverage it deserves. Did you miss it, too? Here’s the news: GM is teaming up with a company called Coskata that’s come up with a breakthrough to make cellulosic ethanol.

But there’s a big difference between their effort and everyone else’s. Coskata’s process goes way beyond using switch grass. It can use . . .

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My Car the Studio: Elliot Scheiner on Perfecting Car Audio

January 24th, 2008 at 6:24pm

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You’ve probably never heard of Elliot Scheiner, but if you’ve listened to any music over the past 30 years you’ve definitely heard his work. As a Grammy Award-winning audio engineer he’s tuned songs for artists from Faith Hill and Steely Dan to Fleetwood Mac and B.B. King. He stands as a legend in the recording industry and remains one of the most renowned producers in the business.

Helping bring studio-quality sound to the masses, Scheiner has teamed up with Panasonic and Acura to deliver an in-car sound system with quality that bests professional equipment. Available on three Acura models (MDX, RDX and TL) ELS 5.1 Surround Sound brings the depth and clarity of six separate channels to your daily commute, making the breathtaking sound of the recording studio as close as your driveway.

Turn On, Plug In, Drive Off

January 21st, 2008 at 6:16pm

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Toyota probably didn’t realize the cultural phenomenon they’d start when the Prius was launched in 1997. No other car, before or since, has come to symbolize the modern environmental movement the way the eco-friendly Prius has. The curiously-styled sedan has become as much a political statement as it is a fashion statement; it’s no doubt the car every modern-day hippie aspires to drive.

Taking the green persona one step further, Toyota is experimenting with a plug-in Prius hybrid. By doubling its battery pack, Toyota has given this souped up Prius an electric-only range of seven miles and an electric-only top speed of 62 miles per hour. The biggest advantage of drawing power off the electric grid is that as commodity electricity is a lot cheaper than gasoline. Besides reduced ‘fuel’ costs, plug-in technology can also eliminate tailpipe emissions, an important consideration for densely populated urban areas.

AUTOLINE ON AUTOBLOG: Best Kept Secret at the Detroit Auto Show

January 18th, 2008 at 2:44pm

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Cadillac CTS-V
Click the above image to see photos of all the winners

The Detroit auto show gets unbelievable international coverage from thousands of journalists, and they’re all hoping to come out of the show with some kind of scoop. But with everyone attending the same press conferences and interviewing the same executives, that’s practically impossible to do. And yet, this year they made it easy for me to get my own scoop, because most of the media ignored what may be the most important design awards in the industry.

They call it the Eyes on Design award, and it attracts the top . . .

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Nissan’s Little Rascal

January 17th, 2008 at 5:09pm

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With unrest plaguing oil-producing regions from Venezuela to the Middle East, and global oil demand growing hand over fist, the price of a gallon of gasoline can only go up. Accordingly, consumers in need of cargo and seating capacity are crossing over to more efficient car-based utilities, which explains why Ford Explorer sales are in freefall.

No doubt eager to enter this hot segment, Nissan has taken its sweet time building a compact crossover of its own. Christened Rogue, Nissan’s entry is squarely aimed at the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4, arguably the segment’s top dogs. To separate the Rogue from the rest of the pack, Nissan gave it a few unique features, like a CVT and a rear cargo organizer. While it’s hard to say if the Rogue is best in class, it is as good as any compact utility. Anyone shopping for a vehicle in this segment should definitely put Rogue on his or her shortlist.

AUTOLINE ON AUTOBLOG: Please Make Motor Racing More Relevant

January 14th, 2008 at 5:36pm

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First, a confession. I love motor racing. Been following it since I was a kid. And back then you really had to be a fanatic to follow it since the media devoted so little attention to it.

There was no such thing as live TV coverage. The best we got was a . . .

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This CVT’s a Ball

January 8th, 2008 at 3:10pm

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CVTs aren’t a new idea. Snowmobiles have used similar drive-trains for years; and why not? They’re generally more efficient and they don’t have fixed shift points like traditional gearboxes. Yet, with the exception of Nissan and maybe Audi, automakers have been reluctant to embrace the CVT.

But that may soon change. A company called Fallbrook Technologies has developed an all-new type of CVT they call a continuously variable planetary transmission. In fact, it’s so different it uses ball bearings and plates instead of pulleys and chains. Named after Leonardo da Vinci, the NuVinci CVP as they call it can be used in countless applications ranging from bicycles to power-generating wind turbines.

AUTOLINE ON AUTOBLOG: How the UAW Will Get in the Transplants

January 4th, 2008 at 1:31pm

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For years, there’s been a drumbeat of media reports about sliding union membership. Today fewer than 12% of American workers belong to a union. Twenty years ago it was close to twice that. And this is why a number of auto industry experts believe the United Auto Workers union is a spent force.

Sounds logical. The Detroit automakers have been. . .

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Time-Lapse Video: The New Autoline Set

January 3rd, 2008 at 6:19pm

Before and After

After months of negotiating, designing, deciding and sweating, we’ve finally and completely revamped and restyled the set of Autoline Detroit. The entire collection, from the structural trusses and backdrops to the futuristic Aeron chairs come courtesy of furniture distributor WorkSquared, a certified dealer of Herman Miller furnishings. I’d like to give the hard-working folks at WorkSquared and Herman Miller a hand for all they’ve done for us, but I think a standing ovation would be much more appropriate. We couldn’t be happier with our new studio arrangements, and I think you’ll agree, it takes Autoline to a whole new level. Thanks, guys.

To show you how much better the Autoline set has become, we’ve created a time-lapse video of everything being assembled.

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Runtime: 1:25

Here are a few photos of the new set. Click the thumbnails to see a larger image.

Wide View of the Set John Takes the New Desk for a Test Drive Looking at Autoline’s New Table
Autoline’s Producer and Host Front View of New Autoline Set Upshot of the Autoline Desk

And what better way to celebrate an all-new set than with an all-new guest. Like smashing a bottle of Champagne on the prow of a ship, the Autoline set has been christened with the taping of its inaugural episode. Kicking things off is first-time guest Alan Mulally, the CEO of Ford Motor Company. Of course we think the new set is really snazzy, but even Mr. Mulally thought it was worthy of a few photos.

Shutterbug Alan Mulally A Fun Bunch
Hello Down There Alan and John Executive Profile