Episode 583 – Mazda May Leave Flat Rock Plant, House Blocks E-15, BMW M Performance Exhaust

February 21st, 2011 at 12:00pm

Runtime 7:56

Mazda is considering pulling out of its manufacturing plant in Flat Rock, Michigan which it shares with Ford. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to block E-15, gasoline that has 15 percent ethanol mixed with it. BMW just introduced a new performance exhaust system which reduces back pressure and allows the engine to produce an even more powerful sound. All that and more, plus John shares his impressions of Hyundai’s luxury car, the Equus.


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This is Autoline Daily for February 21, 2011. And now, the news.

Back in 1985 Mazda created a sensation when it announced it would start building cars in the United States. That’s back when the U.S. had an import quota on Japanese cars, which were then flooding the market. Mazda took over a casting plant in Flat Rock, Michigan that Ford had closed down and converted it into an assembly plant. Years later, when Mazda fell on hard times, Ford took over part of the plant, and started building Mustangs there, alongside the Mazda6. But as we’ve been reporting here for nearly two years, Ford and Mazda are increasingly going their separate ways. And now Mazda says it’s considering dropping out of the plant. Here’s my Autoline Insight. Mazda absolutely will drop out of Flat Rock. Sales of the Mazda6 have plummeted. Just a couple of years ago Mazda sold about 75,000 of them a year in the American market. This year it will be lucky to sell 33,000 of them. And I don’t see how Mazda can justify keeping that car in that plant at such low production volumes. They’ll move that production back to Japan.

OLD TECH DIES OFF (subscription required)
Technology keeps on advancing. More and more automakers are adding voice-controlled, GPS-enabled, touch-screen widgets to their vehicles which are killing off all kinds of old-fashioned features. Things that were pricey options 10 years ago are now standard on all but the cheapest models. Take power windows for instance. Back in 1990 roughly 60 percent of cars sold in the U.S. had them. Last year the number was damn-near 100. Look at the proliferation of power door locks, power mirrors and disc brakes. Same story. Even cassette-tape players are nearly extinct. The 2011 Ford Crown Victoria is the only vehicle in the U.S. that still offers one. It’s available as part of the “Dual Media Premium Electronic” options package. The venerable tape player will vanish from the market in the third quarter of this year when the last Vicky rolls off the line.

And speaking of new technology going in cars, regulators in Japan have already come up with rules to govern sound generators for electric cars and hybrids. The U.S. and Europe are looking at writing rules of their own. It’s all about warning pedestrians, because those cars can be so quiet. And so the supplier company Delphi has come out with not one, but two different sound generators, what it calls sounders. The first one creates a frequency range of 500 Hz to 10 KHz and can reproduce different melodies. But for more upscale cars, Delphi developed a high-fidelity sounder that uses a cone speaker. Delphi says every automaker is working on its own proprietary sound, but it gave Autoline Daily a sample of what the system can sound like.

Audi released a few sketches of a concept-version of the A3 it’s expected to intro in Geneva next month. Shown in red, the four-door notch-back sedan features a turbocharged five-cylinder engine with 408 horsepower. Quattro all-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission are also part of the powertrain equation. No news on production or pricing, but it show’ is purty in these pictures.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted early this morning to block E-15, gasoline that has 15 percent ethanol mixed with it. According to the Detroit News, the EPA already approved E-15 use for vehicles built after 2001 but the House vote blocks the agency from spending any money to use it. The House also approved an amendment that ends a tax subsidy for gas stations to install pumps that can dispense different amounts of gas and ethanol. Opponents of E-15 say its use will cause confusion among consumers and could cause damage to older engines. Those in favor say that’s ridiculous because tests already prove it won’t do any harm and it also helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

BMW just introduced a new performance exhaust system, specifically designed as an accessory for the M3 coupe, sedan and convertible, which reduces back-pressure and allows the engine to produce an even more powerful sound. The system is made from a heat-resistant and lightweight chrome-nickel alloy. Its light weight allowed engineers to reduce the thickness of the tubing which helped shave 20 pounds compared to the original system. The M Performance system includes perforated inner pipes and polished titanium tips, which are laser engraved with the M logo. It can be installed at any certified BMW Center for just $4,300 plus installation.

The Hyundai Equus is a very impressive car except for one thing. The way they styled it. I’ll show you what I’m talking about, right after this.

The Hyundai Equus is a true luxury car. It really shows that Hyundai has all the technical ability it needs to move more upscale. But there’s one aspect of this car where they really missed the mark. Recently I got to test drive one, and here is my reaction.

I think that if Hyundai stops worrying about the competition, and just goes out and styles the Equus as its own vision of a luxury car, it could truly break into the luxury segment. I’ll bet they do just that with the next generation of the car.

Don’t forget to tune into Open Line tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. Don’t just sit back and listen, it’s the kind of discussion about cars that you can get in on. Join host Michelle Naranjo tonight on Open Line.

And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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38 Comments to “Episode 583 – Mazda May Leave Flat Rock Plant, House Blocks E-15, BMW M Performance Exhaust”

  1. jesse Says:

    E15 is nothing but smoke and mirrors!Cars get LESS gas mileage with 10% ethanol,so 15% is supposed to be better for me,the consumer???GIVE ME A FREAKIN’ BREAK!!!

  2. jim Says:

    Speaking of power windows, how many times do you say to a passenger to “roll down your window” even though there are no longer window cranks. Old habits die off slowly.

  3. Don MacConnel Says:

    Hat’s off to the congress for blocking funds needed by the EPA to enforce E15.

    Thinking back, the Senate, in 1994, tried to eliminate the ethanol usage mandate by taking away EPA funds necessary to implement it. The tie vote was broken when then Vice President Al Gore voted against the measure and it failed to pass.

    Taking away EPA funds is the best way to limit their almost unlimited power. Ya’ gotta love this new bunch.

  4. Steve Says:

    Mazda leaving Flatrock for Japan. Sounds like Mazda doesn’t see a future in the American market. Don’t see how they are going to compete over here with the rising Yen and falling dollar.

  5. bob Says:

    While I admit the success of the new Sonata and expect the new Elantra to also be a home run, I have to agree with John McElroy 100% about the DISMAL, UGLY, undistinguished, mismach of a copy-cat exterior of the Equus. Maybe it is better inside, but on the outside, what a DOG!

  6. shan Says:

    @ Don MacConnel, So what if congress had blocked the EPA from mandating that automakers add catalytic converters and that oil refineries removing lead from gasoline? You’d be OK with that too? If we can eventually make the transition from corn derived ethanol to Cellulosic ethanol I think it will be worthwhile for the local economy and help rid some of the dependence on foreign oil.

  7. pedro fernandez Says:

    John, you’re gonna draw the ire of our resident Hyundai apologist for your opinion on the best car ever made, the Equus. BTW keep your stinkin’ power windows, locks, trunk lids, rear hatches, on dash screens,what’s next? power hoods? Rolls already has a door that closes electronically. Enough is enough, bring back 8 track tapes!

  8. Bob Gordon Says:

    Congressional know-nothings choose politics over science and OPEC over America…how sad

  9. Dale Leonard-Lakewood,Oh Says:

    Hi John, You know when you spend $4300 + on an exhaust system it just shows you have more money then brains.

  10. dcars Says:

    I agree with John, I saw the Eques at the auto show it’s nondescript. Mazda has lost it’s touch. the only nice car they sell is the MX5. I wonder if the consolidation of the Japanese manufactures has begun. The papers in Japan are calling for major changes in the way they’re auto companies do business.

  11. JT Lambert Says:

    $4300 exaust,I can purchase a nice used vehicle for that price.Hello to the 21st CENTURY.Now this is over and above the standard unit delivered on the 3.

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    If E15 can save a few million barrels a year and with the current unsteady middle east situation, this congress is indeed sending the wrong message to our enemies. We also need more nuclear and solar power plants. Saturday I went by the port of Miami to drop someone off and I’m looking at these gigantic cruise ships, all running on petroleum and I’m thinking: we’re really screwed!!!

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    Ford sells a lot more Fusions than Mazda sells 6′s and considering they’re basically the same car, Mazda has really lost whatever mojo they had going for it, perhaps they should join Honda now that Toyota and Subaru are partners.

  14. jesse Says:

    The EQUUS has a “BENTLEY-ESQUE” look to it.It’s good enough for at least 1 EXEC down in NYC who leased the 1st one out around here.It could probably use a nicer line or two,but all in all it’s not to bad.It’s what’s on the inside that matters anyway.

  15. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Agreeing with John, the Equus “got no soul”.

    If the ‘politicos’ have a grand scheme about ethanol (they need to share it); presently it just looks to be a cash cow for the farm subsidy states. There has been tons of denial about ethanol raising food prices but grain prices have been going up for quite some time now. If cellulosis works (I’m wondering how much push there will be from Congress then). Something fishy about corn ethanol in my opinion.

  16. Chris Says:

    Hyundai copying other’s design for the Equus? What’s new? They’ve done this for years, along with the other Asian automakers. This is to keep design costs down, and make their cars affordable and reach a greater audience. They’re cheap, reasonably adequate vehicles that get the job done. They have to keep costs down to be competitive, so why waste money on bold, innovative designs, John?

  17. G.A.Branigan Says:

    $4300.00 for a add-on factory performance exhaust.I wouldn’t be surprised if some automotive tards buy em just to show off to the next guy.WOW.

    Flowmaster cat-back duals….installed on my new truck,$235.00 “priceless”.LMFAO!!

  18. pedro fernandez Says:

    You people forget that when someone blows all that money on a luxury car, brand name is of the utmost importance, I don’t think anyone is gonna think of Hyundai when they think of a luxury brand.

  19. pedro fernandez Says:

    GA you don’t write much here, but when you do, it’s always a zinger!!!

  20. Michael Says:

    I don’t know whether or not ethanol content in gasoline will harm my 1993 engine, but it certainly HAS harmed my Toro snow blower.

    After using it all of 3 times last winter (brand, spanking new) I pull it out this winter and the thing won’t start at all. Took it back to where I got it, and the guy tells me that gasoline containing (any amount of) ethanol will fry the carb (on that model). He goes on to say that Mobil and BP are two that do still supply non-ethanol gasoline. So, needless to say, after getting my unit back (with new carburator) I only fill it with Mobil now.

  21. HtG Says:

    What’s 4300 dollars? That’s what I paid last year for my 96 Miata, with hardtop. You just know BMW is snickering at the swine that get that titanium exhaust installed.

    E15; to make corn ethanol you need fertilizer whose nitrate is fixed using natural gas as a feed stock. It may not be oil, but it’s still not butterflies either.

  22. bob Says:

    “jesse Says:
    February 21st, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    The EQUUS has a “BENTLEY-ESQUE” look to it”

    Are you serious? Really?

    There is NOTHING in the Equus ‘s FUGLY exterior to even REMOTELY bring ANY bentley to mind.

    John Mc Elroy very correctly pointed out the obvious copying of the Mercedes grille. The rest of that ugly POS is a horse designed by a commitee, ie a Camel.

  23. HtG Says:

    I have to agree with you about Bentleys, bob. Those are some beauties. Park one next to the Hyundai and it will spontaneously crumple.

  24. XA351GT Says:

    be careful only certain stations carry non ethanol fuel. Most Mobils and BPs carry ethanol fuel . There us a site called realgas.com or something that lists stations that carry non ethanol blended fuel. I know my 1972 351 Cleveland hates that alcohol crap. It hasn’t run worth a damn since they started selling it. I have to learn how to retune the engine all over again.

    as long as there is oil in the ground we will be dependent on it. As someone here said it is the most effiecent fuel for vehicles right now. I also agree with the comment that it kills gas mileage also when they oxygenate the fuel it also hits the gas mileage ,by about 10% or more.

  25. XA351GT Says:

    Its http://www.pure-gas.org for a list of stations in your area that carry old school fuel.

  26. Zieke Says:

    E-15 is one of the last things we need for our fuel. Can’t imagine it’s real good for the engines unless they were specifically designed for it. Besides corn now costs more, and alot of people can still eat it. 10% is quite enough. You are right about the snowblower engine. Lawn mowers also struggle with the stuff and do not run near as well, if at all.

  27. cwolf Says:

    Just a few observations over the last couple days: Saw 6 Transit Connects around the Sandusky,Oh. area and another 3 in Toledo on the way home today. This has to be a record of some sort.
    Bought new rubber for the Milan on Sat. and stopped in the BMW/Audi dealer for a look-see. In the sevice dept. were 2 BMW,3 merc. and 6 Audi. Five of the Audi/merc. engines seemed in a $$$$ state of repair. Still, I wish I was wealthy or foolish enough to buy a BMW!
    During my monthly oil change at the Linc./Merc. dealer I was stunned to see used cars along side new Lincolns on the show room floor! Asked NC Mgr. if this was a wise choice. Reply was that used car profits are better than new right now. I don’t think Linc. buyers will be so understanding. Do you?

  28. bob Says:

    Fact1: 2-3,000 Butt-ugly, stinky Transit connects are sold in the ENTIRE USA every month, vs 22,000 AWESOME EQUINOXES…LOL. I have said it before, but repeat it for the sake of Cwolf… who is VERY Slow, it seems.

    Fact2: I bought my MAGNIFICENT 7 for ONE TENTH of the $100k++ it costs new now. So you DO NOT have to be “wealthy”, you just have to be ECON LITERATE, CWOLF, and AUTO LITERATE. You obviously are NONE of the two.

    FACT3: It is AUDIS, NOT BMWs, that have the horrible reliability record. My 7 has been FAR MORE reliable than even my boring ACCORD coupe 5 speed. Maybe I was lucky, it was so unbelievably reliable, given the internet gossiping hens that say the opposite…

    But why let the facts stand in your way…LOL

  29. bob Says:

    $10.5k does not buy you even the most worthless, ugly, little new car out there today in the US market. But if you have an ounce of BRAINS, CWOLF, it will buy you a MAGNIFICENT 7, the car whose platform is shared by ALL CURRENT ROLLS ROYCES. Cars that cost three times what your little home costs, CWOLF.

  30. bob Says:

    Diesel Cruze apparently approved and to be made in OH

    “According to the crew at GMInsideNews, General Motors is mulling the notion of introducing a diesel Chevrolet Cruze to the American market. Sources within the Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant responsible for piecing the compact sedan together have confirmed that a diesel Cruze will be built for 2013. If that’s not enough to wipe the stink of skepticism off your person, GMI says that additional sources within The General’s engineering team have confirmed that an oil-burning Cruze is on the company’s schedule.

    Production is rumored to kick off on the project at some point next year.

    There’s even rumor that GM is currently testing diesel Cruze models around the greater Detroit area right now. While no power or fuel economy numbers are available at the moment, GM is expected to make use of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine for the new model. That would be the same lump found in the Holden Cruze CDX, which turns out 147 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque with up to 34 miles per gallon combined.”

    If gas prices keep rising, as they have been doing for more than a year now, and with all the unrest in the Middle East, are going to keep rising well into the future, the Diesel Cruze will be a HUGE Home run, as long as GM prices it REASONABLY and NOT like FOrd has overpriced the Siesta and the 2012 NEW Focus.

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Any word on what transmissions they will use for the diesel Cruze? Hopefully they will have a non torque converter automatic for the majority of Americans who would want an autobox. The 1.9 VW TDI’s got exceptional fuel economy with a manual, but so-so with the torque converter automatic automatic. The current VW diesels get the same mileage, whether manual or the DSG automatic.

  32. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Speaking of “Bentleyesque” cars, I thought the Chrysler 300 looked a little like a 60′s Bentley when it came out in around ’03.

  33. bob Says:

    The original 300 had lots of good exterior styling. I especially liked its long 120 inch wheelbase and short overhangs. However, the styling sacrificed big panoramic windows in order to have the high belt line.

    It was a bit extroverted and loud, while the current 2nd edition is far milder.

    There were some amazingly good looking Bentley Coupes back in the 50s. In the 60s, there was a Bentley twin to the Silver Shadow (different grille only). Some 300 owners replace the chrysler grille with a grille similar to that of some Bentleys.

  34. bob Says:

    Transmissions is another area where Honda and others have fallen behind. Even the brand new 2012 civic will use, I believe, the old 5-speed auto, while its competitors have switched already to 6 speed (and up to 8 speed autos for upscale and luxury models).

    The extra speeds make a big difference in HWY MPG, which is much higher than that of the previous models, even tho they had less or much less HP and Torque.

    Last night I looked at a booklet with the specs of all 2010 BMW models, and tried to extrapolate what would be the MPG of diesel versions of the 5 and 7 series, using the MPG of the 335d vs the 335i and the X5d vs the X5 4.8 lt. I don’t remember my exact conclusions, but here is, from memory:

    335d: EPA 23/36, 3750 lbs?

    535dEst: EPA 22/33?, about 4000 lbs

    735dEst: EPA 21/29-30, about 4500 lbs

    X5d: EPA 19/26, 5300 lbs

  35. bob Says:

    Replace ‘extrapolate” with the more appropriate “interpolate” above, since the existing 335d and X5d provide upper and lower MPG limits.

    Note that Motorweek’s X5d did the mixed loop with over 27 average real MPG, so I would expect well over 30 MPG with a far more aerodynamic (much less frontal area), and 700 lbs lighter, 735d!

  36. bob Says:

    (30 HWY MPG above for the 735d. In Mixed driving, maybe 26-28, if the X5d was able to get a mixed 27+)

  37. jim little Says:

    Mazda didn’t refurbish the Casting Center they tore down a section of it to put in a road going to the assembly plant they built next to the old casting center. What was left of MCC was turned into a warehouse. I know I once worked at the Casting Center until it was shut down.

  38. XA351GT Says:

    Bob, Do you own a Equinox??? If not please spare me/us the sales pitch. If you won’t spend your own money then shut your hole about it. You sound like a broken freakin record . We get the idea you hate Ford love Chevys ,but own a used foreign car.