Episode 581 – Ford Passes Chevy in Dealer Count, Chinese Car Culture, Nissan’s New Moco

February 17th, 2011 at 12:20pm

Runtime 10:05

For the first time in what must be 80 years Ford has more dealerships than Chevrolet in the American market.  We’re really starting to see car culture develop in China, in fact, the Chinese love the American lifestyle and are really getting into motorhomes.  Over in Japan Nissan just introduced the third generation of its  Moco minicar.  All that and more, plus a walk around the brand-new 2011 Mini Countryman crossover.


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This is Autoline Daily for February 17, 2011. And now the news.

FORD VS. CHEVY (subscription required)
For the first time in what must be 80 years Ford has more dealerships than Chevrolet in the American market.  Ward’s reports that as of the end of last year blue oval stores numbered 3,131 while the bow tie had 3,084.  That’s a difference of just 47.  Chevy lost a lot of dealers over the last two years as it went through this little thing called Chapter 11.  Of course fewer dealers means more throughput for the remaining stores, which makes them more profitable.  For a little perspective, back in 1912 during the heyday of the Model T, Ford had some 12,000 stores in the U.S.!  Boy, have times changed.  But you know, maybe Chevy doesn’t need many dealers.  Ward’s reports Chevy Volts are already turning up on eBay (subscription required), some with hefty markups.  One Volt listed on the popular auction site had a “buy-it-now” price of $47,700!  That’s a $4,000 premium!  Yikes, it’s expensive being an early adopter.

What kind of fuel economy rating does a car get? Well that depends on which part of the world you live in. Different countries have different testing procedures, and it makes a massive difference in how a car gets rated. Take the Toyota Prius, one of the most efficient cars in the world. In the United States it’s rated at 50 miles per gallon, which translates into 4.7 l/100 km. But in the United Kingdom the Prius is rated at 60 miles per gallon, or 3.9 L/100 km. And in Japan the Prius is rated at 89 mpg, or 2.6 l/100 km. Remember, this is the exact same car. The only difference in how it gets rated is in how different government agencies test the car.

Speaking of fuel economy, engineers fight tooth and nail for each percentage point of efficiency they can wring out of a vehicle.  Anything that claims to cut fuel consumption by double digits is usually considered snake oil.  But according to Autoblog Green, BMI Corporation working with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed a set of aerodynamic fairings for tractor trailers.  They claim the kit improves efficiency by 7 to 12 percent.  Called the SmartTruck UnderTray System it consists of five individual components that cut drag.  This kit can be installed by OEMs or as an aftermarket add-on.  If every long-haul truck in the U.S. had these fairings BMI estimates we could save some 1.5 billion – BILLION – gallons of diesel fuel annually.

Now to Europe where Opel just introduced the refreshed Antara which was sold in the U.S. as the Saturn Vue until GM axed the brand during bankruptcy. The 2011 Antara features a reworked front grille along with new fog lights and rear lights. Inside it offers new upscale trim and upholstery, instruments with new graphics and a redesigned center console with extra storage. Under the hood the Antara can be equipped with a 2.2-liter CDTi diesel engine that has two output levels or a 2.4-liter Ecotec gasoline engine.  Both have been upgraded for 2011, and can be mated to a newly developed six-speed manual or automatic transmission.

Over in Japan, Nissan just introduced the third generation Moco minicar. Its refreshed exterior design helps to enhance the driver’s visibility. It’s got a longer wheelbase than previous models which helped to increase the head and legroom. And thanks to that extra room seating can be configured in six different ways. The Moco is equipped with a new engine which is mated to a CVT and is also available with a turbo. Fuel economy for a two-wheel drive model is about 60 MPG or 3.9 l/100km based on Japan’s test cycle. The Moco costs about $13,000.

We’re starting to see a real car culture develop in China. Check out these knuckleheads from Xi’an, which is in the middle of the country. They took a Lamborghini out on the expressway hitting speeds of 295 kilometers an hour, or about 180 miles an hour. And of course they posted a video of their experience for all to see. And than there’s a little known fact that came out of Chinese prime minister Hu Jintao’s visit to the U.S. Turns out the Chinese love the American lifestyle and are really getting into motorhomes. A California company called MVP RV signed a deal to export 30,000 Class-A and Class-C Recreational Vehicles worth $5 billion to China. Like I said, there’s a real car culture starting to emerge in China. I think the Detroit Three are missing an opportunity by not at least testing the market to see if the Chinese would like full-size pickups.

Coming up next, we’ll take a look at the new Mini Countryman.

Autoline recently caught up with Vinnie Kung, the product manager for Mini USA. We asked him to talk about the new car, especially about the exterior design details.

Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern time. Joining us tonight is Art Spinella from CNW Marketing with some very interesting insights into what’s going on in the market right now. Join me and the Autoextremist, Peter DeLorenzo, tonight on Autoline After Hours.

And that’s today’s report on the 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, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950

46 Comments to “Episode 581 – Ford Passes Chevy in Dealer Count, Chinese Car Culture, Nissan’s New Moco”

  1. shan Says:

    I have been to Shanghai, China two times and it is very common for families to pay to rent or pay for services that requires a truck. They simply do not have the extra space for parking an extra vehicle. Toyota and Nissan already sell stripped down trucks there for years, i.e. Toyota Hilux.

  2. Phoenix Mark Says:

    Regarding the fuel economy measurements of the three countries I think the differences are skewed by you pick of the Prius. I think the UK test would have more city driving than the US and Japan even more. The Prius being a hybrid would return better city numbers and therefore favor more city miles for MPG testing. Do you have the number for let’s say a Toyota Yaris or Honda Civic (without start/stop technology)? Maybe the numbers would look a lot different.

  3. RichardS Says:

    John, you did not mention whether the economy ratings for the different countries took into account that a US gallon is 25% smaller than a UK gallon. That could explain most of the difference between the US and British economy ratings because a British quart has 40 ounces while the US quart has 32 ounces. So a British gallon has 5 US quarts or 160 ounces. If you do the math, the exact economy ratings would be very close – 50 MPG US is the same as 62.5 MPG UK.
    I have no idea why the Japanese ratings are so wildly optimistic.

  4. tj Martin Says:

    MINI Countryman;

    Last December the local MINI dealer got a hold of one of the Press Countyrman’s and invited those of us that had bought our MINI’s from them and had signed up to show interest in the Countryman to get a preview and a test drive .

    Honestly I was very disappointed . The Interior felt much cheaper than my 2007 MINI Cooper . The power in spite of the CM being an S and mine being just a Cooper felt inadequate and lifeless .

    The handling was very good for a small CUV , but the ride once again wasn’t up to my Cooper .

    Exterior bits were already falling off of the CM leading me to believe yes a bit of abuse but once again like the interior less quality than the Coupe .

    The AWD wasn’t very convincing in the snow either . Hence my upcoming trip to the Toyota dealer for my bit of madness that HtG likes as well .

    Overall I’d give the Countryman a C+ , but wouldn’t recommend one to a friend . It needs more power and a return to the build quality of the Coupes .

  5. Darron65 Says:

    Re: “How You Measure”. John, I’m sure you are aware a UK gallon is approximately 120% of a US gallon. The metric conversion should have come out the same (4.7l/100km).

  6. tj Martin Says:

    Another little known fact about China is their favorite American Car Brand is BUICK . Something to do with the former King and such . Which is why GM axed Pontiac instead of BUICK .

    But MOTORHOMES in China ??? Are they insane ? Just last week the Chinese Government was complaining of over congestion and crowded streets .

    And they’re letting them import Motorhomes ?

    Clueless as our government .

  7. tj Martin Says:

    Oh and the weirdest thing about the Countryman was the interior space .

    In my coupe i have the drivers seat two notches up and three forward so I can reach the pedals ( I’m 6’4″) But in the Countryman I had the seat all the way back and all the way down and just fit !

    Makes no sense . Bigger car . Less room . BMW/MINI should of spent a bit more time on the design before building the Countryman .

  8. HtG Says:

    Darron65, I also wonder about the mileage comparison to the Imperial units. But how do we know not to compare the Liter figures first, and ignore the gallon number? John was talking about differences in the test cycles.

  9. tj Martin Says:

    Recall time again gentlemen.

    This round ; 100,000 Honda Fits ( the Fit is throwing a fit ) for faulty engine valve springs .

    It’ll be a miracle if we ever see a week go by these days without a single major recall .

  10. Darron65 Says:

    HtG, people in the UK use miles and gallons (big ones!) so I am assuming their figures are mpg first, then converted to metric.

  11. pedro fernandez Says:

    Volt for thousands over msrp on Ebay, LOL fools, there are fools everywhere even during bad economic times, I suppose they also have a Yugo for $15,000 and a Pinto for #10,000. tj the more complicated they make these babies, the more problems and recalls there will be. I dont think I want my next car to be from this century.

  12. Don B. Says:

    As I undersstand it most other countries don’t have the emission standards we do among other things. So no catalyst, and other emission controls for that. Heck that’s why clean diesel is so slow getting here.

  13. HtG Says:

    are the springs cracking, tj?

    ps. Did you check out the video of Sutty driving the new MP4. It’s up, over there.

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I can’t imagine how the Japanese would actually achieve 89 mpg with a Prius in any kind of test, unless it is going downhill. I get a very good mid 40′s with mine in mixed driving, but I don’t get much over 60 mpg under any conditions, even in low speed “highway” driving, like 50 mph. It sounds like the Japanese numbers must come from running a test, and then upwardly adjusting the results.

  15. Don B. Says:

    Forgot my point, thats why MPG is so different country to country

  16. HtG Says:

    On the CM, maybe the seating differences can be explained by the much higher seat of the CM. It felt to me, when I looked at one, like BMW is making a car that is accessible to more people. Also, less scary small.

  17. bob Says:

    I am pretty sure John Mc’s lumbers are all correct, and include conversion from Imperial to US gallons for the Brit numbers. After all they do no tuse gallons at all in the UK any more, they use liters, while we keep using the “british” units, dinosaurs that we are.

    The three systems are quite different in their LENIENCE, the EPA ratings are the toughest, especially after the latest 2008 revision responding to criticisms from Prius and other hybrud owners who did not achieve the old EPA 60 MPG city numbers and the like.

    The Euro numbers are much more optimistic, that’s why in real testing the cars rarely achieve their advertised MPG,

    and in Japan they are crazy-lenient and probably correspond to the best you can possibly achieve (probably at… 35 MPG with no A/C..LOL)

  18. bob Says:

    I meant Numbers, not Lumbers, of course, and MPH, not MPG in the last line above.

  19. bob Says:

    “I get a very good mid 40’s with mine in mixed driving,”


    You nave mentioned this before, and while it may be “very good” for a Civic Hybrid (a great car that you can currently get at 20% discount BTW!!), they are not even good, let alone very good, for the prius, unless you use it in Alaska and fro 1-mile trips with cold starts. You DO NOT need to be a hypermiler to exceed 50 MPG average lifetime MPG with the prius, and the thousands of owners that report their MPG on the web are there.

  20. len simpson Says:

    2 car lengths behind a semi,there is massive turbulence,but tailgating will improve your mileage. neither position is recommended.

  21. bob Says:

    I don’t recommend tailgating either, but want to stress that you can easily get 50 MPG lifetime average with even the prius II, let alone the current improved version, without ever have to resort in hypermiling activities of any kind.

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    So anyone cares to guess what is going to happen to Ford and its overpriced Siesta and Focus when the even better, cheaper Elantra hits the showrooms? I guess Ford dealers will need more storage space to put all those unsold F/F’s getting a suntan.

  23. Les Talcott Says:

    Out here in Arizona, someone made three runs on a newly-opened stretch of our 202 Loop with a Lambo, and the final speed was 219 mph. I think the other two attempst were 211 and 214 mph. The three attempts were published on YouTube. The chinese need some help if they expect to catch us.

  24. Dale Leonard-Lakewood,Oh Says:

    Hi John, I can see it now. Instead of the Prime Minister of China tooling around in a Limousine it will be replaced by a Ford 4 door Cab Diesel Dually “King Ranch”.

  25. XA351GT Says:

    Great so the Chinese are buying even bigger vehicles with bad mileage and you suggest sending them full size pickups too. Thanks John are you going to pick up my gas tab when it hits $5 @ gal,because the Chinese are burning even more fuel??

  26. HtG Says:

    Les@23. I hope that guy in the Lambo is also smart enough not to get caught by the Law. Too much info in that video; gold exterior, charcoal interior, ~3700 miles on the clock, driver about 30 yrs, near Mesa. Got to be plenty of Lambos fitting that description in the area.

  27. Andrew Charles Says:

    The British still quote mileage in mpg, vary rarely, and only as a secondary measure, in l/100 km.

    In any case I happen to have the raw figures handy, and the European combined cycle for the Prius is indeed 3.9 L/100 km (60 mpg US), the Japanese JC08 32.6 km/l (76.7 mpg), and the Japanese 10-15 38 km/l (89 mpg).

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’m beginning to think there is something wrong with my Prius. I don’t think there are any conditions where I would get 89 mpg, short of downhill runs or strong tail winds. I can further explain why I say this, if anyone cares.

  29. JeffH Says:

    I am afraid that while the UK uses gallons, they are not the same as US gallons. An Imperial gallon is abit more than 1.2 US gallons. Do the math and the UK consuption comes to 4.7 l/100km vs the US 4.9 l/100km. Not the same, but a lot closer. I have no Idea about the Japanese figure. Maybe its all downhill?

  30. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    That Civic is Horrible.

    The Interior leather in the EX-L is loose, the Dash ergonomics are jacked up, and DID I MENTION THAT IT LOOKS BAD.

    Hey most Americans like Vanilla ice cream, I see. Just look at the trash on the roads, my car lord what rubbish.

    Speaking about bad examples, the Chinese people following the HORRIBLE American example is OUR FAULT!!

    Let’s face it, we brainwashed the Chinese to think the American lifestyle is the “way to live” when even Americans themselves are now rejecting the classical 2 car garage Suburban home with a midsizer for Mommy and a 21 MPG Pickup for Daddy.

    Americans by the millions are starting to ecschew the Suburban lifestyle for an Urban lifestyle using transit and MAYBE some small cars. Look at many cities on the coasts. $250K Suburban houses are now starting to go vacant, while people would rather buy a gussied-up $2 Million Rowhome 10 MILES AWAY.

    The Backwards Conservative middle of the country (Midwestern and Southern States) are slower to pickup on this trend, but it will hit Middle America too.

    American Suburbs are starting to become Ghettoes, while cities are starting to become gems- LIKE HOW THINGS ARE IN 3RD WORLD COUNTRIES AND EUROPE.

    As more Americans migrate back to the cities, the days of the 2.5-3.5 ton behemoths are over.
    No wonder why Hyundai/KIA are smart enough to read the tea leaves and not bother with building a Traditional Luxury Marque with 4000 LB+ whales.

    The dictatorial government in China really needs to crack down on the big cars and trucks. They are using up the oil that belongs to the rest of the world. If China doesnt stop their people from buying what they want, then we as Americans need to do it by force- MILITARY FORCE.

    Yeah, start a war with China over their car buying choices.

    You might as well, as if they keep going to the way they are going, there will be a US VS China war over oil in 15 years anyway.

    It’s a dog eat dog world. It’s us or them, and their new found “American lifestyle” is seriously jeopardizing the future of this country.

    They will buy American big cars, while we will be forced to buy Chinese rattletraps with 2 HP 45 MPG and an interior that’s cheaper than a roach motel SINCE THAT’S ALL WE WILL BE ABLE TO AFFORD- 10 years from now.

    Our government needs to be more dictatorial on our car buying choices as well. But no, they instead are dictaorial about Drug use, and maintaining the status quo of 2 political parties (Which is nothing more than a 2 headed one party rule=a dictatorship), and various other things.

    Yeah, I said it. America is a 2 party Dictatorship, and that gives the people a license to walk like an Egyptian (if you know what I mean).

  31. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Revolution is an Inalieanable right in this country. The masters know that, that’s why they are cracking down on sites, and closing down sites with controversial topics and rhetoric.

    The Homeland Security has focused an offensive on Americans. That offensive will be focused on them by the people soon enough as the people aren’t going to take it anymore.

    The masters thought it was great that the Egyptian Army didnt shoot their people, but like typical Baby Boomer Hypocrites they will shoot on us, and shut down as much of the internet as they can when it happens here in 18-24 months.

    Yeah, 18-24 Months. It may even happen sooner. The Americans will request International troops, as 200 million or so screaming Americans will prove to much to handle for the masters.

  32. bob Says:

    BREAKING NEWS: The new Civic: Too Little, Too Late…

    “Under fire from a surging Hyundai that seems bent on winning the fuel economy PR battle, Honda is bringing back the HF trim-level for a non-hybrid 2012 Civic that will get an “EPA-estimated 41 MPG on the highway.”

    (vs 44 MPG of the old HF under the OLD EPA rules that were MORE lenient!)

    That’s two EmmPeeGees better on the freeway than the standard 2012 Civic Sedan or Coupe (with the same 140 HP), which Honda estimates at 39 MPG.

    Still, that’s considerably less than the 45 MPG combined that Honda claims for the 2012 Civic Hybrid, in order to leave room for the 41 MPG combined Insight.

    Meanwhile, the 200 HP Civic Si gets a 31 MPG estimate, a number that will likely fail to impress a world that’s getting used to 300 HP muscle-coupes offering similar numbers (in case you’re wondering, Honda hasn’t released City MPG estimates).

    And then there’s the question of looks… provided you can spot the changes from the outgoing model. Still, conservative looks and a palate of efficiency levels sound like a safe bet for a traditional segment leader…”

  33. bob Says:

    “# Kit Gerhart Says:
    February 17th, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    I’m beginning to think there is something wrong with my Prius. I don’t think there are any conditions where I would get 89 mpg, short of downhill runs or strong tail winds. I can further explain why I say this, if anyone cares.”

    You probably weigh twice as much as the 4′ 10″ female drivers the Japanese EPA types use, but even this would not explain the diff. You sure you tried 35 MPH? With fully inflated tires?

    I never got anything above 69 MPG with the Prius II, and my average was 50ish without hypermiling (and 47 MPG highway for a 300 mile trip from LA to San Diego back in April 09)

  34. bob Says:


    I tried to find the rules (if any!) under which the Japanese claim 89 MPG for the Prius. I start to suspect that THEY may be using Imperial gallons, but even then, 4/5ths of 90 is still a respectable 72 MPG. Now this is a MPG I can believe in, since as I said I DID get 69 MPG briefly and without really trying, with the Prius II, on a relaxed drive around Palos Verdes, a few miles south of LAX.

  35. bob Says:

    BREAKING NEWS: The new Civic: Too Little, Too Late…

    See above post of mine.

    I am saying the above because ALL New Elantras, a vehicle that has got rave reviews, get 40 MPG EPA, while ONLY special and more expensive versions of any of the Fiestas, Foci, Civics or even Cruzes get 40 or 41, and the rest get 39 or much less MPG.

  36. bob Says:

    Some other hybrid numbers, in a recent issue of a car mag I saw a comparo between the ueber-expensive LExus LS 600h FULL Hybrid (4WD too?) 5,000+ lb behemoth and the smaller, MILD hybrid Mercedes S400h.

    The S400 got actual 29 MPG at 65 MPH, Impressive. It only has a small electric motor assisting the engine. Mixed MPG was 22.3 MPG, both sure much better than my 22 MPG Highway with the 7 (admittedly at far above 65 MPH) and my 16-18 MPG overall.

    The LS600h is rated EPA 20/22, and in real driving it got 23 MPG at 77 MPH, but when it was stuck in ugly LA traffic, it got a STELLAR, UN-frigging-believable, 32 MPG!!!

    (this is like a prius getting the old advertised EPA 60 MPG)

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I don’t have a good place to drive at a steady 35 mph long enough to get much of a check, even with the trip computer, but if you started with the battery at a nominal full charge and the car warmed up, those very high numbers seem possible. I find that if I have been driving at 50-55 across a long bridge near here, and then turn onto my 25 mph street, I go the mile home on electric only. If you start a test with a mile of infinite mpg, and then go 30-35 for a couple miles, you should get 89 mpg.

    I don’t know how accurate the computer is for short, like 1-2 miles between resets, but I’ll try checking low speed mileage when I get the chance.

  38. bob Says:

    I don’t know why but I am almost sure that the 89 MPG is IMPERIAL gallons and converts to a more attainable 70-72 US MPG.

    Anyway, what is your lifetime MPG so far, and are your typical drives a few miles each with cold starts all the time, like mine are here?

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Lifetime mileage is 46.6 mpg for 5,695 miles over about 5 months.

    My driving a a mix of everthing, short trips of 2-3 miles from cold starts, trips of 5-6 miles with speeds from 35-60 with a few stops, ~20 mile trips at speed from 35-55 with very few stops, and some interstate. About 1500 of the 5700 miles on the car are on interstates at 70-75 mph.

    The last time I divided it out, I was getting about 36 mpg with my Mini for a similar mix of driving, but with less interstate.

  40. GPL Says:

    “…in Japan they are crazy-lenient and probably correspond to the best you can possibly achieve (probably at… 35 [MPH] with no A/C…”

    For the most part, less, actually. That 89 mpg is probably for the 10-15 mode. The whole test is only a little over 10 minutes long, and they probably start with a fully charged battery.

    There are three repetitions of cylces up to 20km/h (12.5mph) to 40km/h (25mph), which are sustained for several seconds, during most of which the Prius is probably still in electric-only mode. Then there is one repetition of cylces up to 50km/h (31mph) to 70 km/h (43 mph), also sustained breifly, and between most cycles are idle periods. The ICE engine of the Prius would run very little during this test.

    For comparison the EPA urban cycle, FTP-72, runs twice as long, at speeds up to 55mph, with many agressive acceleration cycles, and with no steady-state.

    The Japan 10-15 mode is due to be replace with the slightly less lenient JC08 cycle this year, so I wouldn’t be surprised if next years Japanese vehicles get a few less mpg’s…or km/l…or l/100km or whatever.

    Graphs of these and other test cycles can be seen here.

  41. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Thanks for the link, GPL.

    A Prius tested from a “warm start,” and with a full battery will produce numbers much better than you’ll ever get in real driving. I’ve averaged 46.6 mpg since I’ve had my Prius, pretty good for the mix of the driving I do, but I could get infinite mpg for one mile at 25 mph, if you test it that way.

  42. Lawrence Says:

    If I wanted to see the rotating candy cane I’d go to my local barber shop….:-(

  43. bob Says:

    “Lifetime mileage is 46.6 mpg for 5,695 miles over about 5 months.

    My driving a a mix of everthing, short trips of 2-3 miles from cold starts, trips of 5-6 miles with speeds from 35-60 with a few stops, ~20 mile trips at speed from 35-55 with very few stops, and some interstate. About 1500 of the 5700 miles on the car are on interstates at 70-75 mph.”

    I think the 46.6 mpg is pretty good considering the driving mix and the cold starts, and also the interstate at 75 MPH where you get less MPG than in the city w the prius. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the car, and the lifetime MPG will probably increase with time.

  44. bob Says:

    Nice link, GPL, thanks!

  45. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “I don’t think there is anything wrong with the car,”

    You’re probably right. The only reason I sometimes wonder, is that I don’t seem to get as good of mileage as I would expect at a steady 50 mph. I barely get 60 mpg, to the extent that I can trust the computer for a ~3 mile run, or the instantanious mileage readout.

    I’m very happy with the 46.6. It’s almost twice what I got with my Malibu Maxx for a similar mix of driving, and the Prius matches the Malibu in the type of people and cargo space I need.

  46. billy bob Says:

    Yes, a car culture would be nice for Chinese folks and would help bridge the gap between them and us. But unless their authorities get the huge traffic congestion problem under control, all the fun will taken out of “happy motoring” in that big and fascinating landscape.
    It seems in large part to be a problem arising from a lack of “rule of law”, and a lack of good traffic engineering.