Episode 416 – Detroit #1 in Quality, Toyota’s into Algae, First Drive: Honda CR-Z Hybrid

June 18th, 2010 at 12:03pm

Runtime 6:52

For the first time since its introduction, domestic automakers beat foreign brands in the JD Power Initial Quality Survey. Toyota and other Japanese companies jump into algae-based fuel research. John jumps into the seat of the new Honda CR-Z hybrid and shares his first impressions. All that and more, plus a preview of this week’s Autoline Detroit with Jeep CEO Mike Manley.

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Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

This is Autoline Daily for Friday, June 18, 2010. And now, the news.

DETROIT #1 IN QUALITY
In an astonishing development, for the first time since it ever started publishing its Initial Quality Survey nearly a quarter of a century ago, J.D. Power announced that American automakers beat all other brands in the quality of their vehicles. The Ford brand did especially well, beating out all but some of the top luxury brands. And Toyota did particularly poorly, tumbling to twenty-first on the list. All of Chrysler’s brands made modest improvements, but GM’s brands slipped. The Initial Quality Survey measures quality after the first 90 days of ownership. You can follow the link in today’s script to get the full list of how all automakers performed.

TEMP WORKERS = LOWER QUALITY
In related news, GM announced that it will not hold its traditional summer shut down where it forced everyone in the company to go on vacation for the first two weeks in July. GM sees the car market in the U.S. recovering, and it wants to keep its assembly plants making vehicles with no summer shut down. So, how does that relate to the previous story on quality? One of the key reasons why automakers like the summer shut down is they do not have to hire temporary workers to keep the lines running. Temps just aren’t as good as the people who work those jobs day in and day out, and so quality goes down. Now GM plans to hire temps to keep the lines humming this summer, and let’s just hope they train them very well.

NO DIESEL RANGE ROVER FOR U.S.
Yesterday we showed you the new 2011 Range Rover. We reported that it will get 30 miles to the gallon thanks to a new turbo-diesel that will be offered, but Land Rover’s U.S. public relations office contacted Autoline Daily to point out the diesel will not be available in the American market. But it will be available in just about every other market in the world.

TOYOTA GETS INTO ALGAE-FUEL

Speaking of fuel economy–or at least fuel–last week we reported that Canadian researchers were studying how to make fuel from algae, and now Toyota and other Japanese companies and institutions are joining in. According to Bloomberg, an analyst in Japan says there will be what he calls a tug of war between industrial nations to find a new way to develop fuel from algae and that there needs to be better political leadership in Japan to study it. There are already 75 developers globally studying algae-based fuel. In addition to studying algae for fuel, the Japanese team wants to see if it can help produce food and cosmetics.

HONDA CR-Z HYBRID
Earlier this week I got a chance to test drive the new Honda CR-Z hybrid. We’ll have more coverage on the car in the days to come, but here’s my initial impression. Honda is going out on a limb here. The CR-Z is a hybrid that does not get spectacular fuel economy, so it may not appeal to hybrid enthusiasts. It’s also aimed at performance enthusiasts, but it only has a power-to-weight ratio of 21.6 so it’s not very quick. Look for fuel economy in the mid to high 30s, or in the six- to seven-liters-per-100-kilometers range. The price in the American market will be in the low $20,000 range, unless you want a nav system, which bumps the price to $28,000, or a little over €22,000. Honda knows it’s taking a risk here. It’s only projecting that sales will hit 15,000 units in the first year in the American market. The CR-Z is already on sale in other global markets, where it hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. But the company’s internal targets are to boost sales in the U.S. to nearly 50,000 units a year by 2015.

CHRYSLER INFO APP
Chrysler is introducing the industry’s first smartphone vehicle information application. Debuting with the new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the app, which is a free download, is much more than a mobile owner’s manual. It includes video demonstrations of features in the vehicle, access to customer assistance, 24-hour roadside assistance, maintenance schedules and much more. The app will first be available for the iPhone and later will be available on Blackberry and Android phones. The app, which is designed for the U.S. market, will be available in other Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram vehicles by the end of the year.

And speaking of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, it’s the first new product Chrysler’s coming out with since the Fiat takeover. So what makes this version of the Grand Cherokee worth noting? We’ll show you, right after this.

Michael Manley is the CEO of the Jeep brand, and he’s also my guest on Autoline Detroit this week. In the following clip he talks about the attributes that Jeep believes are going to bring a lot of new customers into their showrooms.

You can watch that entire interview with Michael Manley at our website, AutolineDetroit.tv. And by the way, Scott Burgess of the Detroit News and Bob Gritzinger of Autoweek are on my journalist panel for that program.

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

34 Comments to “Episode 416 – Detroit #1 in Quality, Toyota’s into Algae, First Drive: Honda CR-Z Hybrid”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    Before you domestic 3 lovers out there get drunk on champagne, remember as expensive as cars are now, buyers are expecting at least 5 years of relatively problem-free driving and a vehicle that’s not gonna fall apart soon after you finish paying it, and then have to run and buy a new one and get nothing in the trade, you know, the way it’s been traditionally. Let’s wait for the 5 yr JD Power survey and then we’ll see who the big boys really are.

  2. tj Martin Says:

    I have to be honest here , Having put 430 miles on the new Cadillac SRX as well has having spent the day in a 2010 Camaro I’m not sure I can take J.D Powers findings very seriously .

    Like I said in my review of the SRX ( and the same would hold true for the Camaro ) the first twenty minutes were Nirvana . Then it all went down hill rapidly from there .

    So if the J.D. Power survey is correct I’d guess the responses are more a matter of PDV ( Post Decision Validation ) then well thought out and critical observations about their purchases .

    Pedro Fernandez ;

    We don’t have to wait . We all know what the 5 year survey will look like . Crocodile tears from end to end with a healthy dose of buyers remorse .

  3. rudy_in_LA Says:

    I thought Lincoln and Mercury were at or very near the top in the 3 year reliability survey? No?

  4. EAB Says:

    Ok, what’s the point of the new Honda CR-Z? It’s performance and economy stats are not all that much higher than a straight up gasser, and the hybrid drivetrain doesn’t provide any more performance. In fact, I would guess if they took weight out of the car that supports all of the gee whiz stuff as well as the hybrid drivetrain, it probalby would perform the same as it does with the toys and hybrid drivetrain.

  5. Mohammad Rafi Says:

    The CR-Z, like many of recent Honda/Acura products, is ugly as hell. I was hoping that the performance numbers would be good since the CR-Z is the only Hybrid in the market that’s available with a manual transmission. But since the fuel economy and performance numbers are about as bad as the looks, I’d like to wish Honda the best of luck in selling this truly ugly car.

  6. Salvador G. Says:

    1. The Honda CR-Z, I said before and I say it again… Honda is really droping the ball with this one – 50,000 units a year by 2015, Not happening; it just won’t happen.

    2. Ohh! I think Toyota is sneaking out from hybrids.

    3. Finally..

    Pedro, Damn… calm down killer, no one is planning a parade – its a 90 day quality test for NEW cars And where do you get a 5 year test from, by the time JD Powers finish a 5yr test – a whole new generation of cars would have come out.

  7. HtG Says:

    I must be sipping different octane sake from the rest of you guys, because I think the CRZ is HOT. I walked around it at the NY Auto show and especially responded to the slashing character lines which make the car look like its accelerating and darting furiously. As far as power in this hybrid, I think one needs to keep in mind that an electrical engine gives instant torque. So what the engine gods at Honda may have done is to map out the throttle response to give the driver instant response on tip in. You’ll be able to drive aggressively in twisties, changing speed and direction as though you had a big engine, even if the strict power to weight metric doesn’t look so hot.

    I admit, I like Hondas a bit more than is cool.

  8. Roger T Says:

    On the JD result for Ford – talking from experience, the 03 Mustang I had was better in quality than my current 07 Camry (bought both new), I think part of this is that people are coming to their senses. Can make similar observations about my wife’s Honda Odyssey.
    On the CRZ, not sure how you market a tiny ugly yet porky two door hatchback that gets midsize sedan fuel economy… who the heck will go for that?

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    Honda planners must be under the influence, of stupidity and poor taste. Why this car? why not a modern version of the classic CRX, never mind the hybrid bs, since when are enthusiasts interested in Hybrids. I have yet to meet an “enthusiast” Prius owner.

  10. tj Martin Says:

    With the CR-Z I could perhaps live with the looks if it had the performance to match . But from everything I’ve read in the press its a funky looking little dog . Your kid on his tricycle could give it a go . Well OK thats a bit of an exaggeration , but the reality is the thing is too darned slow .

    So no personality points to compensate for its ugly looks.

    But thats Post Modernism ( or what ever ism we’re supposedly in at this point )

    Ugly and senseless is the new practical and beautiful

    Practical and beautiful is the new Ugly and Senseless

  11. HtG Says:

    We’ll have you driving away in yours very soon Mr Fernandez.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHb89a207e8

    I recall Mazda Miata was also conceived as a fun to drive car. It’s no supercar, but does it ever sell.

  12. Alex Kovnat Says:

    I’m glad to hear our domestic OEM’s have caught up in quality. I am still opposed to any kind of local content laws or any other limits on consumer access to what the Japanese and South Koreans have to offer. But its nice to hear that Ford, for example, appears to have put behind them the days when someone would buy one of their cars and have to take it back to the dealer 14 times in 13 months.

  13. XA351GT Says:

    Does anyone else find it strange that when Honda produced the 1st CRX back in what 1985 that the lo-po version got 49MPG on gas ? There isn’t a Honda hybrid or otherwise that comes close to those numbers. If they could do that 25 years ago why the hell can they only get mid 30s now with all the advancements that have ben made since 85?? answer probably is wieght because with all the gadgets that are in cars nows they wiegh more than ever even though they are not any bigger than before.

  14. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    By the way Tj, people are tired of this gradual evoloution of the Box car look from the 80s. So if new products are ugly to you then fine. That’s what car companies want it to be too. They dont want aged guys like yourself to like these cars, and neither do I. If a majority of seasoned buyers like a particular car, then its not the car Id want to buy.

    Another 10 more years of Camry Shaped cars, and Rav 4 Shaped Trucks are you Efing kidding me? The public cant take 5 more seconds of that crap, and that was BACK IN 2005. Too bad GM Doesnt get it with Chevy and the way they have styled Cruze, Equinox (Looks like a stretched and melted van), and this coming new Malibu. The New Aveo looks sweet, but everything else coming besides the Camaro still looks like shit at the worst, and ok at best. I love this current Malibu look, but GM is going to destroy it and make a Camry for 2012.

    Most of you are banking on Ford, but if GM can get its act together, they are the real sleeper. I understand you guys dont trust them. After all of the lies and BS youve heard from GM over the years, I dont blame you. However, think about this. At least GM has somewhat clearly defined brands. Ford confuses me a lot. Ford is supposed to be an Economy car brand, SO WHY DO THEY HAVE A FUSION PRICED FIESTA in the upper trims when its a Ford, and a Ford Subcompact should be $18K tops? Why is it one day Lincoln wants to be BMW, and the next Day it wants to be Buick? Its not even a Global Luxury brand. At least GM has a Global Luxury brand. Lincoln cant make BMW like cars without ACTUALLY SELLING THEIR CARS IN EUROPE FIRST. Start selling your fars abroad first, gauge the global reaction to learn what they want first before you clearly define your brand.

    I pray to the car gods that Chinese deisgners yet again trump American deisgners and style Lincoln in a manner like Buick gets styled by the Chinese. Most of the American designers just dont get it anymore, and if they are good they are usually working for a foreign brand. Most of the good American Designers are probably a little too young for the corporate brass to be taken seriously anyway.

    People are asking for a transportation revolution, and its time for a lot of trial and error until they get the styling in cars truly right.

    Im sorry but after looking at Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture, KIA new Design, Bugatti, Land Rover, Maserati, Acura’s new Look, and New Cadillac Design everything else is just absolute asthetic rubbish in my eyes. Nissan, Mazda, and Buick are almost there. If Audi styled every single Sedan like the coming A7 they would be there too. That Buick Compact needs to look a little bit more fresh. Its a damm good try by GM, but its not quite there. It if had a Body kit that looked like a Regal GS then it would be there. Its catering to a younger audience, so whats with the current kit it has now?

    Those cars to me=21st century. The rest are extensions of the 90s (Toyota/Lexus, BMW, Merc, and Honda are the worst offenders), and nothing more.

  15. Salvador G. Says:

    Ok – Fun cars to drive…

    Mazda Miata: Small -Convertible and Sporty

    -Is the CR-Z a convertible : No

    Honda had the S2000 or the NSX
    Is the CR-Z looks or its as fast: No
    -In fact, if the CR-Z would get rid-off the weight of its electric battery, it would most likely perform better.

    Finally…

    I just don’t like the egg like design of this car – And does look like an egg.

  16. HtG Says:

    …or like a frog someone is just squishing under his boot. There is a certain urgency to the look.

  17. bob Says:

    I think people have had higher expectations for domestic cars compared to foreign cars. For instance I have a 2002 wrangler used as a daily driver, that for the first time had to go to the dealer for a new senser, whereas a BMW would have been required to go to the dealer over a dozen times for maintenance and others already. How can people put up with that?

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I don’t know about “regular” BMW’s, but a Mini only needs to go to the dealer once a year, or 15K miles, whichever comes first. Three years of 1 year/15K mile services come with the car, and are automatically transferred to a second owner.

  19. dcars Says:

    I don’t like the grille of the CRZ, it looks like an Audi and I don’t like the Audi’s looks! The interior looks good. Good to see US auto makers improving thier defect scores.

  20. BOB LONGMATE Says:

    06.17.2010: Highest quality of any full-line manufacturer – except luxury – 5th place overall.

    THIS IS THE FORD NEWS ( PRONOUNCEMENT TO AMERICA & THE WORLD ) THAT IS SURE TO BRING ‘TEARS OF JOY’ FROM HEAVEN ABOVE:

    HENRY, HIMSELF, DISPLAYING HIS GRATITUDE AND ADMIRATION FOR FoMoCo’s ‘WORLD CLASS’ MANAGEMENT TEAM, EACH WHO SHARE ALAN MULALLY’S VISION OF THE FUTURE, THIS 21st CENTURY – THE COMMENCEMENT OF FORD MOTOR COMPANY’S NEXT ONE HUNDRED YEARS …

    JUST, ONE DAY AFTER CELEBRATION OF HIS ‘NAMESAKE’ COMPANY’S 107nd BIRTHDAY.
    HISTORY IN THE MAKING: THIS DAY OF JUNE, 16th, 1903

    RH LONGMATE

  21. BOB LONGMATE Says:

    06.17.2010

    GREAT NEWS FOR FORD MOTOR COMPANY:

    WHEN FIESTA, EXPLORER, THEN, FOCUS ‘PENETRATE’ THE NORTH AMERICAN MARKET -

    PERCEPTION ‘WILL EQUAL’ REALITY WHICH, IN TURN, WILL, EQUAL “CRITICAL MASS”.

    TOYOTA’S ILLIMITABLE “MARCH” DOWN THEIR SELF-MADE ‘ROAD OF SUCCESS’ – NOW FOUND “STALLED” ON THEIR ‘ROAD OF BROKEN DREAMS’.

    FINALLY, CONFRONTED WITH THE BRUTAL REALIZATION THAT THEIR SECRET ‘HIDDEN’ RECALL NON-NOTIFICATIONS WERE “SHEER FOLLY”, WHICH ONLY DELAYED THE INEVITABLE – AND, in turn, INSTIGATED THE AMERICAN MANTRA: “WE’RE NOT GOING TO ‘TAKE IT’, ANYMORE !!!”

    ‘TRUTHFULNESS’ CAN MAKE OR BREAK A COMPANY – FOR TOYOTA: LYING IS (WAS?) CONTAGIOUS !!!

    FOR FORD, QUALITY IS THE ‘KEY’ DRIVER OF ALL OF THEIR IMPROVEMENTS: BEST PRACTICES, SIX SIGMA, & BEYOND.

    Without question: ALAN MULALLY IS FORD’S VISIONARY – ITS 21st CENTURY – HENRY FORD!

    RH LONGMATE

  22. Ed Jenkins Says:

    WOW the CR-Z gets into the 30″s in MPG. Well big deal. A psh rod V-8 Corvette with 400 hp and will do in excess of 160 mph gets 28 mpg on the road. Beat that Honda!

  23. dcars Says:

    Hi Ed, Ok I take the Vette! The Vette is one of America’s great cars. I was disappointed to hear that GM wants to open the next generation design to all it’s design studios through out the world. Their are so few cars that are so unique to the US.

  24. Kit Gerhart Says:

    While not cheap, the ‘Vette is a performance bargain, competing well with cars that cost 3-4 times as much in lap times around a race track. The styling of the recent versions, though, has been underwhelming. I’d think there might be something to be learned from using design studios around the world.

  25. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    John,

    Why is that GM wont Remake the Hummer under the GMC Brand? They should make it a “Halo” Truck like the Corvette is for the Chevy brand. It should have its own unique Hummer Look. Badge it as Hummer, and place a small GMC Logo on the side or rear.

    It should be a Luxury Performance Beast with Diesels that get 30 MPG and 500 HP. It should have a Monster V8 from the CTS-V as well.

    The Corvette of Trucks.

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I, for one, will be glad to see Hummer die and go away. It should have never existed, with its 3 foot high bumpers designed to kill people in other vehicles who might be so unfortunate as to be T-boned by the Hummer.

  27. Thunder Dump Says:

    John,

    A small correction to one of your stories on today’s broadcast. You stated that “Chrysler is introducing the industry’s first smartphone vehicle information application.” This is incorrect. BMW NA has had a smartphone app (for the iPhone) called BMW Roadside for several months now. It’s an app version of the BMW Assist program, so it can provide 24-hour Roadside Assistance help, give service details for your registered vehicle(s), retrieve messages from BMW Assist, find the dealership closest to your current location, contact customer relations, even let you report your vehicle stolen.

    It may not be as in-depth as the Chrysler app (the BMW one does not have any owner’s manual info), but Chrysler is definitely not the first to bring one to market.

  28. dcars Says:

    I would have loved to see a second brand of Corvette, the stingray. GM was talking about it before the melt down using the SKY or the Camaro platforms.

  29. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Kit, I used to hate Hummers with a Passion too, but a good Diesel in one of those trucks is what the truck should really be about.

  30. Nick Stevens Says:

    I am a long time (still am) Honda owner and driver and a big fan of what I had, my 5-sp 1990 Accord Coupe and my 1991-2 Civic hatch I still drive, but I have to say that the CR-Z is an idiotic POS that will fail just like many recent low-volume Hondas and Acuras have failed.

    Re the Power surveys, 90 days is utterly ludicrous, even of it was 360 days, 4 times as long, every model of every maker is covered by a full warranty so who cares?

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “Re the Power surveys, 90 days is utterly ludicrous, even of it was 360 days, 4 times as long, every model of every maker is covered by a full warranty so who cares?

    I agree that a 90 day survey is of limited usefulness, but as far as “who cares?” I care. It is a major inconvenience to take a car in for warranty work, even if it doesn’t cost anything. Also, I have had more than one case over the years when I have had something fixed on warranty, but they break something else.

  32. Nick Stevens Says:

    Kit:
    \
    Those who should actually really care are not the consumers for the minor inconvenience of taking the car for free repairs and service, but the manufacturers that have to pay the dealers an arm and a leg to do it! I know, since I had supervised two summer projects for Chrysler when it hired a consulting firm to help it lower its huge Warranty Costs.

  33. Roy Says:

    Quality of domestics has been on a par with imports for decades, but domestic dealer service quality sucked until about 10 years ago, and perceptions are very difficult to change. Perception affects quality ratings because minor annoyances are assumed to be major problems when the perception is poor, but no big thing when the perception is good. The biggest factor in the domestic improvement is Toyota’s adverse publicity debacle. Vehicle quality in general has improved over time, but all OEMs have occasional quality issues. Those issues will also never go away completely regardless of quality control systems. It bugs the heck out of me when I find out about sourcing decisions that sacrifice quality to save a few pennies, dimes, or even dollars, but bonehead decisions in the car development process plague all OEMs, and even paying double or more for an elite or luxury brand does not insulate a consumer from experiencing quality issues.

  34. Roy Says:

    The worst car I ever owned was a Fiat, and Jaguar was known for awesome styling and for being notoriously unreliable until after Ford took over. The domestics know how to build quality. That isn’t to say that they never make bad decisions when developing a new vehicle, but I’ve already commented on that.