Episode 468 – Chrysler Reveals More Fiat News, Opel Plans Global Expansion, New Window Stickers

August 31st, 2010 at 12:00pm

Runtime 7:12

Chrysler reveals more of its plans for Fiat in the U.S., and some important numbers like sales and pricing leak out.  Opel is planning to expand globally, entering Australia and South-American markets.  The U.S. EPA is aiming to make it easier for consumers to compare fuel-economy ratings between different vehicles by introducing a new-type of window sticker.  All that and more, plus we take a look at the recently redesigned Saab 9-5 . . . from a designer’s perspective.

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Rod Meloni here from WDIV Channel-4 News, Detroit.  Welcome to Autoline Daily for Tuesday, the 31st of August, 2010 – the last day of the month.  Across town and around the world here’s the latest news from the automotive beat.

Chrysler revealed more details to its dealers about its plans to bring Fiat to the U.S. According to the Detroit News the company will choose 165 locations to sell the Fiat 500 at the end of the year. Dealers have three weeks to submit a proposal for a franchise.  Also, they learned that they won’t have to build separate facilities to sell the 500 but eventually they will need separate showrooms for Fiat. Pricing for the 500 won’t be announced until the LA Auto Show in November, but the Detroit Free Press reports that a dealer says the car will be priced between $16,000 and $19,000. Also the AFP reports that the company expects to sell 50,000 500s next year.

According to a report from Deutsche Welle that we found on Autoblog, Opel has big plans to grow around the world.  The German brand is looking to expand into at least four, new global markets. In the near-term, it will enter South America and Australia, as well as other Asian markets after that.  The company also wants to grow in China, reinventing itself as a premium brand with European design . . . a strategy not unlike Audi.  Last year Opel only sold some 4,000 cars there compared to Audi’s 130,000, so there’s a lot of room for sales to improve in China.

The U.S. EPA and NHTSA are aiming to make it easier for consumers to compare fuel-economy ratings between different vehicles.  The two government agencies are collaborating to design a new type of window sticker that clearly shows things like fuel economy and fuel costs, as well as emissions.  So far they’ve revealed two different designs and are looking for public input.  Part of the idea is to introduce a letter-grading system to the auto industry – something students are already very familiar with.  For example, depending on how efficient a vehicle is, a pure-electric car could get an “A+,” a plug-in hybrid an “A, ” a flex-fuel vehicle a “B” and so-on down the line.  New EPA labels could go into effect in 2012.

MAZDA’S NEXT-GEN ENGINES (subscription required)
While a number of automakers are gearing up to release electric vehicles over the next few years, one automaker is heading the other direction. According to Ward’s, Mazda is bucking the EV trend – at least for now – and is getting ready to release new, more-efficient internal-combustion engines. The company will have a new family of direct-injection, four-cylinder gas engines and a new diesel that was developed to sell around the globe. In fact, Mazda expects 75 percent of these engines will be equipped in its vehicles over the next five years. The engines will be built in Japan and all of them, including the diesel, can be produced on the same line. The first gas variant will make its way to the U.S. next year and the diesel will debut in North America in 2013.

And speaking of engines…  demand for four-cylinders in North America is starting to slide. According to Ward’s, about 62 percent of 2010 models are equipped with four-cylinder engines compared with 65 percent last year. Also more V-8s are being installed in cars this year, about 6 percent compared with about 5 percent in 2009. While car buyers are upgrading their engines, truck buyers are downsizing. V-8s are being equipped in about 37 percent of trucks this year compared with about 40 percent last year.

The Detroit Three aren’t the only automakers benefitting from Toyota’s problems.  According to USA Today, Nissan has been gaining ground in America this year with 10-straight months of sales increases.  Not surprisingly, Hyundai is making headway, too.  Among Asian automakers in the U.S. Toyota still holds onto the top-spot and Honda’s a strong second, but Nissan and Hyundai’s growth trajectories put them on a path to overtake Honda.  If one thing is clear, the old hierarchy of brands is changing.

Coming up after the break, a look at the brand-new Saab 95 . . . from a designer’s perspective.

Dutch businessman Victor Muller pulled Saab back from the brink of death after years of neglect at the hand of GM.  Now the company has to start the long, arduous process of rebuilding its product lineup.  One vehicle that’s well-past its prime is the brand’s midsize sedan, the 95.  Thankfully it’s one of the first cars to receive a ground-up redesign, and here’s a look at its design.

Strong design cues and a sense of identity will probably go a long way to help Saab recover.  We’ll have to wait and see if the new 95 can do its part to help revive this struggling brand.

And that’s it for Autoline Daily this month.  Again, I’m Rod Meloni, Business Editor at WDIV Channel-4 News, Detroit.  Thanks for watching John should be back tomorrow.

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

24 Comments to “Episode 468 – Chrysler Reveals More Fiat News, Opel Plans Global Expansion, New Window Stickers”

  1. Tony Gray Says:

    That 9-5 doesn’t look half bad.

  2. Greg Richard Says:

    How foolish with the stickers. Just give us an accurate MPG and forget the cost. The way gas prices go up and down and in different parts of the country it is a waste of time and effort.

  3. M W Says:

    So, you said SAAB suffered from “years of neglect at the hands of GM”. When GM bought SAAB, factory workers took their breaks by louging in car bodies, waiting for the line go start. SAAB was asleep. GM poured millions into SAAB, but GM never understand how to make them successful.

  4. Dan Clemons Says:

    Nice Internet web caste.

    Thank you Rod for sitting in for John.

    I was hoping Saab would bring some design all the way around the car. I liked what they did with the rear.

  5. pedro fernandez Says:

    First off, enough with the “born from jets” BS please. It’s more like “born from desperation” and we keep having designers glowing about what they created,how about having auto experts and critics go over the car and give an objective opinion. That’s like asking a parent to give a review of their own child, nonsense.

  6. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I agree that the stickers are more ‘smoke and mirrors’ than any real improvement. MPG is paramount, pollution status (important, but probably not important enough to the players involved to determine which car is purchased), and the alpha grading system (practically worthless).

    The Saab does look pretty good in its new clothes; at least a ‘nod’ needs to be given to GM (as this is where the 9-5 was conceived; or at least it was ‘green-lighted’ on GM’s watch).

  7. Chuck Grenci Says:

    RE. Pedro; exactly, that plane baloney was pure rhetoric (and could be said for just about any car design these days).

  8. Gary Taylor Says:

    IMHO the 95 looks terrible. Final nail in Saab coffin methinks.

  9. martin Says:

    Great Job Rod! Nothing against John, he does just fine, but it’s neat to see a seasoned TV broadcaster to Autoline. Kinda takes it to the next level IMHO.

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    Does anyone think that the idea of a mild hybrid luxo car is smart, I mean like the LS and now THE 7 hybrid, just too much more money for a few xtra horses and slightly better mpg numbers.

  11. mike g Says:

    Since most folks here love to look at cars and proclaim their superior knowledge of them (only a slight, friendly jab intended by that) I thought I’d include this site: http://www.netcarshow.com/

    One of the most unique cars I found was the Donkervoort D8. That’s not to say I like it … just can’t stop staring at it.

    For what it’s worth, I think Fiat 500 is no Mini, the letter grade system is STUPID, Mazda is right that there is plenty of room to improve the ICE and the Saab 9=5 is too little, too late … and doesn’t remind me of a jet at all. Good show Rod.

  12. Salvador G. Says:

    What grade would you give a car, that creates three times as much pollution than it actually saves?

    ‘Saab – Born from jets’… and the company crash like one too.

  13. Kit Gerhart Says:

    pedro fernandez Says:
    August 31st, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    “Does anyone think that the idea of a mild hybrid luxo car is smart, I mean like the LS and now THE 7 hybrid, just too much more money for a few xtra horses and slightly better mpg numbers.”

    To me, all mild hybrids are stupid. Chevy tried that with the Malibu. It cost about 2K more, and got only slightly better mpg than a regular 4 cylinder Malibu. What’s the point?

    If you are going to do a hybrid, do it right, like a Prius. A Prius gets twice the city mpg of a similar size conventional car, and about 50% better highway mileage. The advantage in highway mileage may be mainly due to the low aero drag, but the end result is a very efficient, practical car.

    A serious hybrid luxo car which would double the city mileage of the regular version would make sense. The planned “mild hybrid” ones do not. If Toyota would “scale up” the Prius power train, they could make an LS that would get 35 city mpg. That would be cool.

  14. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Mahindra Scorpio SUV Spotted Testing in America.


  15. pedro fernandez Says:

    Wow, if those Mahindras make it over here then the X6, Crosstour and Acuras will give up their ugliest title away in a jiffy. Kit, don’t forget GM tried the mild hybrid also with some of their trucks and that was a big failure as well. Who comes up with this crap, anyway?

  16. Mike W Says:

    Hey, Rod – You said SAAB has suffered from years of neglect at the hands of GM. That’s funny – In the August 30, 2010, issue of Automotive News, on page 17,it says “Thanks to GM, new SAAB has product plan in place”. I wonder who is right? Looks like GM actually benefited SAAB, not neglect it, like Rod would lead us to believe. Rod, please get your facts straight.

  17. Nick Stevens Says:

    The new EPA System is worthless and idiotic, and offers no useful info. If at least they copied the EURO metric rules we could be able to compare ours to theirs… they are far better defined, lt/100km for steady 120 KPH, steady 90 KPH (country road), city and average, and I don’t think they have the VOO DOO arbitrary adjustments even the current EPA rules have.

    As for bankrupt Saab, it is still as dead as Generalissimo Francisco Franco has been since 1975 or so.

  18. Nick Stevens Says:

    PS I diaagree 100% with Martin, who prefered this ugly-faced dude from TV to John’s far more interesting insights.

  19. Nick Stevens Says:

    PS it is NOT just this guy Rod, the ENTIRE channel 4 so-called auto team sucks big time, and nowhere can this be seen so well as in Channel 4′s DISMAL, SICKENING, annual coverage of the Detroit Auto Show.

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    I’ve been thinking of any possible reason anyone would have to buy a new 9-5 over their excellent, well established competition, I can’t think of any, frankly.

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Nick Stevens Says:
    September 1st, 2010 at 3:09 am

    “If at least they copied the EURO metric rules we could be able to compare ours to theirs… they are far better defined, lt/100km for steady 120 KPH, steady 90 KPH (country road), city and average,”

    I like the way the Euro measurements are done, but after 40-some years of driving, I’m way too accustomed to thinking of fuel economy in mpg.

  22. willi Says:

    sorry i missed out on yesterday’s fray
    i very much look forward to all the buzz you guys add to this wonderful daily

    i wanted my two cents in the design thingy:

    - it’s all about the design – i remember being able to tell them all apart ( including AMC ) on the continental side, then the foreigns got really big, now even bigger, and they copy the crap out of things, hell, they even copy from each other, can’t tell the cross overs apart! the sedans are all generic blobs, had to go to a ‘three bar grill’ just to be different, joke

    - yes, let the customer decide, which we do indicated by sales, but i haven’t seen anything worth getting exited over, but surprisingly the uglies sell as well, because we’re not all the same !!! for sure the designers are not what they used to be, some of the crap makes me wanna puke, soooo boring, so generic

    - mustang, camaro, challenger, all a good job, but the interior is made to be cheap, quick assemblies, flat as hell, and just cheap – where is the neat shit? it’s all so whimpy, bring back the Hurst shifter, bold and strong

  23. Nick Stevens Says:

    I also have been used to MPG, but can also han dle lt/100kms. (or gallons/100 miles)

    Now with the EVs and plug-ins, we could scrap both systems and have one, miles per dollar or dollars per 100 miles, regardless of the energy source (regular, premium, diesel, ethanol OR electricity!)

  24. ulisse di bartolomei Says:

    The Fiat patent fraud. About the Fiat hybrids, the technology double clutch with electric motor between has been stolen by a patent that Fiat Company has never wanted to purchase, but only shamelessly to copy. This hybrid solution will be the basic technology with Chrysler’s electric and hybrid car program. Please give a look in my blog where her “vitality” and boldness of the Fiat planners it appears in all of evidence: http://dualsymbioticelectromechanicalengine.blogspot.com/
    If the industries can afford unpunished to copy the ideas and defending it need very expensive trial, to which target need the patents? How our young people can find intellectual courage if the economic potentates crush the rights of the single ones? How to defend the rights of private inventors? Whoever is about to ask for a patent or wants to propose a proper patent to a great firm I suggest to give a look to my experience with the Fiat, to get able to operate with best adroitness. Thanks and good time to everybody. Ulisse Di Bartolomei