Episode 599 – Renault Honchos Apologize, Toyota Vulnerable, Charger vs. Charger

March 15th, 2011 at 11:28am

Runtime 7:48

Renault’s Carlos Ghosn and Patrick Pélata have apologized profusely for the company’s bungled espionage caper and Ghosn is giving up his bonus.  Of automakers in the American market Toyota is the most vulnerable to production disruptions because it imports more models from Japan than any other.  Our colleagues at Edmunds Insideline put together an unusual comparison test, pitting the hot new 2011 Dodge Charger R/T against the General Lee.  Yes, that General Lee.  All that and more, plus a look at how Visteon is integrating cars and consumer electronics.


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Well, not unexpectedly, Renault’s Carlos Ghosn and Patrick Pélata have apologized profusely for this bungled espionage caper. Not only are they hiring back the three executives they fired for allegedly selling electric-vehicle technology to the Chinese, Ghosn is giving up his bonus. That may not be that big of a sacrifice. Last year Ghosn’s total compensation from Nissan was $9.5 million, but he only earned $1.5 million at Renault. Also, he rejected Pélata’s offer to resign. Bloomberg reports Renault has no obvious successor to Pelata, which, if true, does not sound like a very good management structure for the car company.

Now to that devastating situation in Japan. Most automakers expect to be back in production by the end of this week. If so, the impact on Japanese automakers will be minimal. However, in the American market, Toyota is clearly the most vulnerable to production disruptions. Not only does it import more models from Japan than any other automaker, Ward’s reports it has very-low supplies of the Prius, LX 570, Highlander and Land Cruiser. Nissan also has tight supplies of the Quest, as well as the Infiniti EX and FX.

SUBARU’S SUCCESSFUL STRATEGY (subscription required)
Subaru says the sales success it’s enjoying in the U.S. is because its cars are larger than they were in the past. The company says that the size of the vehicle is one of the main reasons consumers do or don’t buy a car, and nowadays people want bigger. Three years ago Subaru sold 170,000 cars in the U.S. market. Now, with bigger cars, that number jumped to 263,000 last year. However, people only want bigger up to a certain point. Subaru also attributes its strong sales to consumers moving out of larger, more expensive SUVs into its smaller, more affordable crossovers.

But over in Europe car buyers prefer smaller cars. The Ford Fiesta has been the top-selling car in Europe for the last two years and now Ward’s reports sales have passed 1 million units. In the U.S. the Fiesta has a ways to go to reach that number. Sales average about 5,000 in the U.S., while they’re running at more than 35,000 a month in Europe.

The American Public Transportation Association released its monthly “Transit Savings Report” detailing how much money an individual living in a two-person household can save by NOT driving.  And the numbers may shock you.  The national average for a monthly, unreserved parking space in a downtown business district is about $162.  Factored out over 12 months, that’s nearly $2,000!  When you add in the annual cost of fuel, public transportation starts to look like a pretty appealing option for city dwellers.  Of the top 20 cities on the list New York was No. 1 with an eye-watering annual savings potential of more than $14,000!  Boston was second followed by San Francisco and Chicago.

Our colleagues over at Edmunds Insideline put together an unusual comparison test.  They pit the hot new 2011 Dodge Charger R/T against – are you ready for this? – the General Lee.  Yes, that General Lee . . . litera-LEE.  Ha, ha.  This orange ‘69 model is an ACTUAL survivor from the Dukes of Hazzard series.  Of the hundreds of copies used during the show’s run it’s the only left with a 440 big-block under the hood.   Insideline put these two cars through a variety of challenges on its test track.  How well did the vintage iron fare?  You might be surprised . . .  it pretty much got skinned by its modern doppelganger.    It fell behind in zero to 60, 60 to zero, quarter mile time and trap speed as well as handling on the skidpad and through the slalom.  Edmunds DID pick a winner between these two cars, and that may also surprise you.  Hit the link in today’s show notes to find out which one took home gold.

Coming up next, Visteon demonstrates technology to show how well consumer electronics can be integrated in a car, we’ll be back right after this.

Infotainment systems like Ford SYNC allow drivers to make phone calls or access music via hands-free controls in the car. Visteon has developed technology that allows you to do the opposite; use your smartphone or computer tablet to control the features in the vehicle.

Visteon says it doesn’t expect this to replace the center stack. They wanted to demonstrate how well consumer electronics — like smartphones and computer tablets — can be integrated in a car and be used as an advanced center stack.

Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours Thursday night. Our guest will be Ken Lingenfelter, who makes magnificent modifications to Corvettes and Camaros as well as produces an impressive assortment of engine packages. Join me and Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, Thursday night live on Autoline After Hours.

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

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

29 Comments to “Episode 599 – Renault Honchos Apologize, Toyota Vulnerable, Charger vs. Charger”

  1. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Oh the intrigue in frogland is so,so,well it’s boring as hell.They need to square off and settle on maybe one culprit.How about a dual….say day old baguettes at close quarters.Loser buys the bree and wine,or is it whine?

  2. tj Martin Says:

    G. A. Branigan ;

    They’re French . What else do they have to do other than create unsubstantiated controversies and Argue . And of course its Whine !

    Me thinks perhaps Frogs Legs and Vichyssoise at Twenty Paces and the Loser has to eat English Food for a Month and wash the others 2CV .

    FYI; The Inside Line says the whole Froggy ordeal ( breep breep ) was in fact an elaborate promotional scheme

  3. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ tj Martin: Aww hell,them frogs didn’t need to go through all that trouble to promote the fact they still build garbage.

  4. Brett Says:

    “They’re French . What else do they have to do other than create unsubstantiated controversies and Argue . And of course its Whine ! ”

    What with enlightened “socialized” medicine and intelligent, fast, and efficient mass transit, it seems rather provincial to attempt to look down one’s nose at them.

    Perhaps because they’re not fighting lines at airports, arguing with health insurance companies, or simply are not wage slaves, tied to oppressive, dead-end jobs because they desperately need the health insurance coverage, they have more free time for “leisure” activities such as you describe

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The new Charger soundly beat the old one in acceleration, even though they had modern tires on the old one. I would have expected the 600 pound lighter General Lee with the bigger engine to beat the new one, but it was .8 sec slower 0-60 and .6 seconds slower in the quarter mile than the new one, and the new one was an R/T, not the faster SRT-8.

  6. Glien Says:

    A while ago there was talk about how car electrical systems in the future will have to be higher than 12 volt. I presume the new VISTEON system is 12v. Has that talk of raising the voltage disappeared?

  7. Alex C. Says:

    Fiesta and other compact car sales are so much higher in socialistic EU nations because the governments tax the hell out of the citizens and fuel so it is near $8.00 per gallon! If the left liberal Democrat environment extreme socialists had their way in the USA they would do the same here. At $8.00 per gallon USA sales of sub-compacts and compacts would shoot through the roof. So HIGH TAXES and socialism is very BAD for consumers and the auto industry in the USA and EU. Thank God American’s are waking up with the Tea Party movement. November 2010 was step 1 – November 2012 is step 2. In 2013 when we get the socialists out of office and take over the US Senate with more “founding father” common sense politicians we will make an energy policy to DRILL DRILL DRILL so we can be independent 100% of middle easty dictatorship oil and drive fuel prices in USA down to under $2.00 a gallon by 2020. Then we will be back to the good old days of large SUV’s, large sedans, large pick-ups, and sports cars. WE THE PEOPLE can and will make this a future reality. WAKE UP USA!

  8. motorman Says:

    The reason Europe prefers smaller cars than the USA is they don’t have a lot of overweight soccer moms in Europe that would have trouble fitting into small cars

  9. steve Says:

    Motorman – never been to Italy have you?

    Is it just me, or is anyone else tired of hearing about mass transit? I get where if you don’t have it, you need to start somewhere, but we don’t have it here in Detroit. So why am I constantly bombarded like I live in Chicago or DC or someplace that does? Shutup, build it and then I will use it, maybe, if you build it before I die.

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    It’s not just Europe that prefers the smaller cars, Asia, So America, Africa, let’s face it we’re unique, except maybe Australia and Arab states (cheap gas) Look closely at the tsunami videos, most vehicles being swept away are small, not to mention the emergency vehicles too.

  11. dcars Says:

    Politics and racism; I think we need some shots at religions to make it even more interesting!
    I know its no consolation for Toyota, but at least their cars will sell at a premium until they can get back up to speed. I hope they can get going again soon and help rebuild their shattered communities.

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    I think Forbes should stick to financial advice and not automotive, they rated the Volt a great value for the money as well as the overpriced, unreliable MB M-Class hybrid, jeez!

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    Has anyone noticed despite the loss of life and tough conditions in Japan, you see no unrest, riots, looting, people killing each other for the few goods available, that is truly a civilized nation.

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yes, I suspect Japan is the most civilized nation in the world.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The U.S., and the world would be a lot better off if we had started gradually increasing gas taxes about 30 years ago, and now had similar gas prices to Europe. We wouldn’t be constantly embroiled in the middle east to protect sources of cheap oil. We would have decent public transportation like in Europe and Japan.

    Also, if we had a little more “socialism,” we might even have a health care system more like those of France and Germany, the best in the world by most criteria, rather than our current mish mash that leaves tens of millions of people without access to health care, but creates billionaire crooks like the guy who “bought” the governorship of Florida.

  16. Bob in Atlanta Says:

    This comment string is starting to sound like the “Puffington Host”.

    “Charger” sounds like a great name for the Fiat electric car of the future.

  17. SalvadorG Says:

    Those are some real nice numbers for an old car.

    This does beg the question, What will Subaru do to screw-it up? and may I remind everyone that Toyota (company knownnn! for not screwing things up) has taking up a major stake in Subaru parent company Fuji H.I. So! yeah, I’m optimist for Subaru’s future.

  18. XA351GT Says:

    Japan hasn’t had all the BS with looting and such because their society teaches them it IS wrong to do so. The floods in New Orleans showed pretty clearly the mental attitude that if you want something just take it. Funny though when Nashville flooded last year I didn’t see reports of this behavior. There was bad flooding in a Mid west town last year and I didn’t see or hear any New Orleans like behavior either. I think you’ll find that those towns don’t have the HIP HOP gangsta attitude of NOLA.

  19. dcars Says:

    This morning I watched the people of Japan in devastated areas offering food to reporters and making chop sticks from bamboo. No looting, no demands for outside help, civility.

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Subaru’s mandatory AWD has kept them off my shopping list for years, but it seems to be working for them with another group of people. They may need to adjust in the future, though. The demand for “bigger” Subarus with mandatory AWD will diminish when goes up to $6-8 a gallon.

  21. cwolf Says:

    Just out of curiosity,has anyone driven a Fiesta? If so,what did you think of the characteristics,not the price?

  22. XA351GT Says:

    I haven’t driven the Fiesta ,but did sit in one and check it out at the Philly Car show. I found it comfortable with good seats, Well laid out dash. Nice fit and finish and decent materials especially for a car in the subcompact class. I know there are many here that don’t care for it ,but if I were in the market for a small car it would be on the short list.

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    cwolf, brief drive at a dealership, reminded me of a previous gen Honda Civic, could have never guessed I was driving an “American” car.

  24. pedro fernandez Says:

    I predict that if middle America belt had a similar tragedy, we would not see much, if any, looting either.

  25. tj Martin Says:

    @Brett ;

    Let me suggest you spend a little time over in that “Socially Enlightened ” country before you go condemning a little well deserved humor from G.A. and myself .

    You might just find ( actually you will ) that their Enlightenment is a whole lot ” Duller ” than your perceptions may have you to believe .

    Just try repairing your house , getting a boat licensed , registering a car or better yet a Childs birth ( and GOD forbid you give that child an unconventional in the Rigid French mindset name ) etc.

    You see very quickly how unenlightened xenophobic insular and the epitome of Bureaucracy Gone Mad the French really are .

    Wish I had the time , or i’d share my 2 years in Nice ( living with a French National )

    Damn if I didn’t miss the US by the time I’d left Bebe behind . Never looked back . Never will

  26. C-tech Says:

    John, how are the Japanese auto suppliers doing? I know many U.S. and European assembly plants use Japanese components (radios, alternators, pcms). How does the this disaster affect them?

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Was the Fiesta you drove an automatic? If so, how was the transmission? I’m curious about how well Ford’s torque converterless auto box works compared to VW’s DSG.

  28. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit, honestly I was paying more attention to the handling and ride qualities than anything else, don’t recall feeling any abrupt or annoying untimely shifts which plague so many modern automatics (for the sake of better mpg numbers)

  29. GPL Says:

    I’m starting to doubt some claims made here regarding the Fiesta. I hadn’t really paid any attention to the price and had just taken other commenters’ word that it was overpriced, but then I “built” a Fiesta on Ford’s website, and, because someone here often compares it to the “superior” Cruze, I did the same on Chevy’s website.

    I was shocked at the result. The Fiesta’s base MSRP is $3000 less than the Cruze and, option for option, remained at least $2000 cheaper for every comparison I made. Further, with the exception of the Cruze Eco, the Fiesta had a better EPA rating, especially when comparing cars with automatics, because the Fiesta’s dual clutch box improved its rating, where the Cruze’s slush box dropped a few MPG’s.

    Then, I recalled someone saying it was hard to find anything other than a loaded Fiesta, so I checked the inventory of my local dealer, and for comparison, did the same for Cruzes at the local Chevy dealer, and for additional measure, Fits at the local Honda dealer. The Fiestas were priced from $14k to $20.5k. The Fits were $16.6k to $19.9k, and the Cruzes were $17.1k to $25.2k!!! That’s right, I said twenty-five thousand dollars. More than half the Chevy dealer’s inventory of Cruzes were over $20k – as much as the most expensive Fiesta on the Ford dealer’s lot.

    I think I have been bamboozled. I guess that’s what I get for listening to someone that has nothing better to do than argue on the intenet all day.