Episode 700 – Wimpy Economy, Hapless Honda, Leadership at Lear

August 11th, 2011 at 11:55am

Runtime: 7:56

Many auto analysts are a bit weary, and rightfully so given the threat of another economic downturn.  Honda, long the darling of Consumer Reports has come under the gun as its model line loses favor with the reviewers at CR.  Chrysler is back to partnering with Kettering University for engineering students, after eliminating the program during bankruptcy.  All that and more, plus You Said It!


Visit our sponsors to thank them for their support of Autoline Daily: Bridgestone, Dow Automotive Systems and Hyundai

»Subscribe to Podcast | iTunes | Zune | RSS | Listen on Phone Stitcher

This is Autoline Daily for August 11, 2011. And the turmoil in the global stock markets are starting to take a toll on the automotive outlook.

A lot of analysts are taking another look at the US economy and don’t like what they see. IHS Automotive is today changing its outlook for the rest of this year regarding car sales.  Our team caught up with Rebecca Lindland, the firm’s director of Strategic Review, who tells us that based on American consumer confidence, they see the market continuing to soften.

Consumer Reports lately has been hammering Honda for things the Japanese carmaker is not typically criticized for. Brakes, fit and finish, and driving dynamics are tops on their list of gripes for the 2012 Civic. While the outgoing Civic scored a 78 on the CR survey in 2006, the new model musters only a 61. Other models in their lineup have seen similar drops like the Odyssey moving from 91 for the prior model to 83 in 2011. While the redesigned vehicles at Honda are earning poor marks from Consumer Reports, the new designs are faring even worse. The all new Insight managed a measly 54 and the CR-z a 57 rating. Here’s some Autoline Insight, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before strong selling models like the Accord begin to fade in the marketplace in the face of stiff competition with newer and better vehicles.

Auto supplier Lear announced that its CEO, Bob Rossiter will step down from the position on September 1st. He will remain as an advisor until next May to help with the transition. Replacing Rossiter is company CFO, Matt Simoncini, who helped restructure the company while it was in bankruptcy.

Chrysler announced that customers who get financing through its leasing arm, Ally Financial, will not have to make payments for 90 days. The promotion includes all 2011 and 2012 Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram truck models. And applies to contracts of up to 60 months. The program is part of the company’s “Summer Clearance Event” which ends on September 6th.

And speaking of Chrysler, in order to help develop engineering talent, the company announced that it will renew its relationship with Kettering University which is located in Flint, Michigan. Chrysler ended its relationship with the engineering school when the financial crisis sent it into bankruptcy three years ago. It’s a co-op program that starts in the fall and allows students to work at Chrysler from freshmen year until graduation.

A Vietnamese crosswalk is a great place if you’re in a car, or even on one of the multitudes of motorcycles seen in this video. It is, however, not so wonderful for the comparatively soft and squishy humans trying to cross the street. This brave soul would draw praise from Evel Knievel for his death defying stroll through traffic.

Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!

And now it’s time for some of your feedback.

Mark Says: GM unveils their products too far in advance, like the Camaro and Volt. They unveil them years in advance. Honda and Toyota that show their products 2 to 3 months before you can buy them. Why does GM do this? Doesn’t this just help their competition with detailed information and dampen demand on existing GM products?

Mark, you’re exactly right. GM should surprise and delight people just before the cars hit the showrooms.

HtG saw our report on the power to weight ratio of cars and says.

I’m working on lowering the power to weight ratio of my cars. It involves backing off the starches and booze.

HtG, I bet that works!

Dave Says: Everyone seems to hate Smart cars, but yet a number of other brands are introducing cars that seem to be about the same shape and size. Do these other auto makers know something we don’t?

Dave, the problem with the smart is not the size or shape. It’s with the gawdawful transmission and the terrible way it rides. Fix that, and there’s nothing wrong with the smart.

RAFI N. Says: The revival of Lincoln is all fine and dandy, but it would be great if Ford also changed back the names. I mean I consider myself to be a car fanatic, but I still can’t tell the difference between an MK-this or MK-that. I’d much rather be in a Lincoln Continental than in a Lincoln MK-something.

RAFI N, guess what? I can’t keep all those mumbo-jumbo letters mishmash straight in my head either.

Don MacConnel Says: It’s great to hear that Lincoln is on the move to get a truly distinctive vehicle. That might make ol’ holy water Dan Ackerson eat his words about what it would take to bring Lincoln into competition with Cadillac.

Don, I think Dan Akerson is going to learn that eating crow tastes pretty good if you put some jalpenos on it.

MJB wants to know: John, you sure that wasn’t Sigourney Weaver circa 1986, and not Nancy Gioia you had on Autoline Daily?

MJB, you can’t believe how many people have told me that Nancy Gioia looks like Sigourney Weaver!

EYE50MM says, I would Love to see a sitcom made up of all the Autoline Daily guest hosts. John would be the main character. Jim Hall the crazy uncle, Christie – John’s attractive daughter, and Peter De Lorenzo – THE EXTREMIST!

EYE50MM, I about fell off my chair laughing when I read your comment.

Don’t forget to join us tonight for Autoline After Hours with our guest Ed Welburn, who’s in charge of all design at General Motors. Peter De Lorenzo and I will be getting Ed to talk about the latest design trends in the industry, and where he’s taking design for all of GM’s brands. And don’t forget you too can put your questions to Mr. Welburn tonight on Autoline After Hours.

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

42 Comments to “Episode 700 – Wimpy Economy, Hapless Honda, Leadership at Lear”

  1. jim Says:

    EYE50MM, that’s a great idea. Remember the Seinfeld episode where Jerry takes his car into the shop and then can’t get rid of a strange odor? John could play Jerry, Peter the deranged mechanic, Hall could play George’s character, and Christie could play Elaine. If Vine was still around he could be Kramer. It would be hilarious!

  2. tj Martin Says:

    Todays Automotive News;

    I got nothing . Kind of a dull one for once . Oh but there is the newest controversy over Pagani NOT getting an Air Bag Exemption for its
    Huayra . even though every other small volume manufacture making more cars than Pagani ever will being granted the exemption with no questions asked .

    Which for the cynical amongst us does lead one to believe a certain element of Bias against Pagani by the US Government .

    Hmmn . Jealous or just not convinced the American Driver is capable of driving the Huayra ?

    Hmmn .

    Other than that . I got nuthin .

  3. tj Martin Says:


    Almost forgot this little gem ;


    We’d better all hope this little scheme/scam by the Dutch either falls on its face , or the US government never catches wind of it if it succeeds

    Because dollars to donuts , if the US does catch wind of this , we’ll all have these little boxes in each and every one of our cars .

    What’s next ? Taxing the Air we breath ? Water ?

  4. Sean Walsh Says:

    I noticed that they didn’t mention that Kettering used to be General Motors Institute! Does GM still take Co-Ops from Kettering?

  5. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I don’t and haven’t ever bought an Asian car, but of the various brands, Honda (for some reason was always my favorite; second place Mazda). Pity to see Honda lose their direction; they sure did make a driver’s car when they were at the top of their ‘game’.

    And in the grand picture, with so many cars so good (and close enough to each other in practical usage), if you want a Honda, or practically any car, get what you want (back to that style/design element that gets people into the showroom in the first place).

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    Just saw this chart at TTAC where it shows that the Cruze is beating the crap off every other brand in the segment. The new Elantra is actually doing worse than the last years model and both Corolla and Civic are losing sales to the Chevy, I just hope that for their sake, they don’t start having quality issues and recalls to mar their big comeback in this long suffering segment.

  7. tj Martin Says:

    Never Ending SAAB Story ;

    So much for no bad news today ;


    @ pedro -What is the link/page on TTAC for that chart you mention in # 6 ? Funny I’ve always had a soft spot for the Malibu and now the Cruze seems to be coming into its own .

    I am going to have to make it a point to head over to the local Honda dealer , drive a couple and see what the fuss is all about .

  8. Kit Gerhart Says:

    John, I agree with your answer to Dave about smart, except for one thing. The ride, while not good, is ok for such a tiny car. It’s the gawdawful transmission that killed any thoughts I had of buying one when they first arrived here. Fixing that alone would give smart a new lease on life. Use a manual, a CVT, even an ancient torque convrrter autobox. A certain group of people would buy the car, in spite of mediocre gas mileage for such a small car, if the transmission didn’t make it so unpleasant to drive.

  9. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Re Smart; don’t forget the mediocre fuel mileage for such a ‘tot’ of a car.

  10. tj Martin Says:

    Whoa Whoa !

    More good news ! From FIAT !

    Now , not only will all FIAT 500 coupes be built in Mexico , but now the soon to be previewed FIAT 500 4dr will be built in ……. hold on to it …………. Serbia !

    Glad to see the US will be benefiting so much from the FIAT/Chrysler merger/takeover .

  11. pedro fernandez Says:

    TJ if you go to TTAC homepage just scroll down and you will see the chart that will prove again “It’s product, stupid”

  12. tj Martin Says:


    Drove one after I bought the MINI thinking I might of made a mistake .

    Took all of five mile to realize the mistake was taking the SMART on the highway as well as driving it at all .

    Lets face it . The MINI has more room . Drives 1000% better . Gets equal or better MPG . Is a heck of a lot more practical . Can drive quite competently on the Highway . As well as after all the mark ups etc not costing a whole lot more .

    Unfortunately as good a concept as the SMART was , it was ill conceived in the production process and was therefore not very SMART at all .

    Now that the Toyota/SCION iQ is heading here . there’ll be zero reason to even consider the SMART as the iQ is leagues ahead of the ( not so ) SMART in every respect .

  13. tj Martin Says:


    Found it ! Yeah Chebbie Cruze ! Beating the pants off everyone in its class .

    Now if GM could only get the rest of its product line up to snuff , maybe folks like me wouldn’t be buying foreign .

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    I don’t know if anyone still watches Motorweek, but I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no way they will put down ANY car they test, They’re all just wonderful in every way. Looks more like an ad venue for the industry than a reliable source for information.

  15. tj Martin Says:

    @ pedro

    #14 Amen and again I say AMEN ! Hard as I try I can’t stand watching MW anymore . Gave up last year in fact .

    Another old favorite biting the dust :(

  16. tj Martin Says:

    And now for some REALLY good news from those folks across the pond . Bentley ;


    Does brand identity mean absolutely nothing these days ?

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    Is nothing sacred anymore? what’s next a Rolls SUV? built off the X5 platform?

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    At the time I might have considered a smart, had it driven decently, it would have been almost strictly as an around-town runabout and, yeh, a conversation starter. I got the MINI as a fun, fuel-efficient “do everything” car when I don’t need a lot of room. Yes, the smart would not be a good road car like the MINI, no matter how well the transmission worked.

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    They’ll stretch the X5 a few inches for the Rolls version. The Rolls version of the MINI Countryman will arrive for the 2015 model year.

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit unless you NEVER leave the city, I don’t see how the smart makes any sense, the mini is a much better all around, all purpose choice.

  21. tj Martin Says:

    @ Kit

    # 19

    Please ….. say it aint so :(

    So what will they call that one ? The MaxiMINI CountySeat ?

  22. tj Martin Says:

    Ahhh but despair not ye lovers of all things small MINI’s

    Wait’ll you get a look see at what FIAT will be basing the 4dr 500 on !

    You think the Countryman is big ( for a MINI ) You aint seen BIG yet my friends .

  23. tj Martin Says:


    Good ! Keep it in California . Let all those Left Coast Loonies have their E/V’s and give the real stuff to the rest of us .

    Whilst choking down their bland granola and flavorless tofu they won’t notice their E/V’s aren’t working anyway .

  24. pedro fernandez Says:

    Which one TJ? I went to the web site and they gave no details, only that it would be a larger platform than the current one.

  25. dcars Says:

    Kinda funny isn’t it, the ride, engine and the transmission is terrible, but everything else is fine on the Smart, what’s left? The Smart and the Beetle have something in common, both made by German manufactures and both companies refuse to admit that these cars are complete failures.

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    @tj #21, I heard it will be CountryCloud.

  27. pedro fernandez Says:

    # 25 The seats? It may make a nice drive-in theater car, if there are any more drive-ins around.

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    @dcars #25, the interior is colorful and attractive in a way, rather than only grey or biege like most cars. The non-power steering felt kind of nice, in a much-improved ’65 VW sort of way.

    As everyone had said, smart is a crappy car that isn’t remotely as capable as a MINI, or a Fiat 500 for that matter. Still, it has a certain appeal due to “cuteness,” color in the interior, etc., or could have a certain appeal if the transmission didn’t make it so unpleasant to drive.

    As far as the engine, it’s neither good nor terrible. It’s just a basic little one liter 3 cylinder similar to those used in a number of small cars around the world.

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:

    pedro #27, I think is is still at least one drive in theater in Indiana.

  30. pedro fernandez Says:

    There’s one in Ft Lauderdale also but with the hot, humid weather plus the mosquitos,they have to pay me to go.

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I found a site listing drive-in theatres, and there are a lot more than I realized. There are 7 in Florida, none of them in my Space Coast area. There are about 20 scattered around Indiana.

  32. tj Martin Says:

    The SMART

    Ahhh but stuff a GSXR1000 engine into one and this is what you’ll get ;


    More fun than a barrel of monkeys and able to kick the poop out of cars three times its size .

    I wonder if anyone will do the same with the iQ ?

    Hayabusa powered SCION iQ anyone ?

    Now thats a CITY CAR in my book .

    As Stroker McGurk so aptly said many a time ;

    ” Too much power is never enough ”

    ZZZzzzzzooooooom !

  33. RonE Says:

    Re: #27 & 29. There is the Holiday Drive-in Theater at the Junction of Ind. 66 and Ind. 161, Reo, Ind. It has five screens. The drive-in was featured on the HGTV show “Unusual Homes” because the care taker lived in the bottom of one of the screens. REO is an acronym for Rockport, IN, Evansville, IN and Owensboro, KY.

  34. pedro fernandez Says:

    I find the more appealing drive-ins in the smaller, quiet communities than near the big cities, anyway like many other Americana, this seems to be thinning out all over. Land is too expensive and folks prefer the comfort of a/c and better sound and picture quality.

  35. tj Martin Says:

    It seems almost every drive in I’ve known is now a Flea Market , New Housing development , Office Park or just plain abandoned and left to rot .

    Boy . Memories of being in the back seat of the Old Mans 57 Chevy BelAir coupe , watching the kids special in the beginning and then curling up with my pillow while the parents watches the Feature event

    Later in HS sitting on the hood of either my 442 ( 65 ) or my best buds Dodge Super Bee from just outside and on the hill above the Drive In where we watched the movies for free and could still hear the soundtrack that made its way up the hill on a cool summers eve .

    Yup . Todays kids are missing out on a whole lot of simple , basic and sometimes ( if you were crafty enough ) free pleasure

    Tell me sticking your nose in a computer screen , listening to your MP3 or texting till dawn even comes close .

  36. pedro fernandez Says:

    But Tj that is all they seem to do, every time I see one of these kids their noses are glued to the stupid phones, no social skills, talk like ghetto bums, no manners, our future sure looks bleak

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Does anyone know what has happened with Honda? They have never been the greatest in regard to road noise, but now, they have lost it in chassis dynamics, and they are losing ground in power train. Have key technical people left? Has there been some management chaos that might be involved in their completely losing it, whether with mainstream products, or new products like the substandard Insight and CRZ hybrids?

  38. dcars Says:

    #37 your dead on Kit. It really makes you wonder what happened at Honda. They’re also pretty darn ugly.

  39. tj Martin Says:

    Kit & dcars

    I’m pretty clueless , and in fact a bit shocked as well as in a state of minor disbelief about Honda . Back in the day when I had my 88 Civic as a winter driver and the wife had her 92 Corollla my Civic was ( as good as the Corollla was ) the far superior car .

    The wife’s Corolla looking/feeling like what it was , which would be an inexpensive yet quality Budget Toyota . Whereas my 88 Civic struck you as more a scaled down Accord , not looking ” Budget ” in the least , and driving like a quality small sedan . Even a bit sporty with the right wheels and tires .

    So I’m left dumbfounded , IF these reports are in fact accurate , and not just another attempt on the part of CR to down play the Japanese and give a push to the American and Korean iron they seem to be biased towards of late .

    Gotta go give a new Civic a test drive . You done so yet Kit ?

  40. tj Martin Says:

    Hmmn .

    As to #’s 37,38

    Being ever the Cynic , could Honda’s recent descent have anything to do with taking their crack engineers out of the High Tech and very demanding ( no matter what you think of the racing itself ) F1 competition ( abandoning the series ) and having them become bored to tears in what has become the most banal ( 2nd to NASCAR ) auto racing series from a technological standpoint ? I’m speaking of IndyCar of course ?

    Just thinking aloud here .

    ( sheesh and talk about a run on sentence . shame on me ! )

  41. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I haven’t driven a new Civic, but I plan to do so. I’m curious.

  42. Russel Says:

    “Hapless Honda?” I bet the folks at Honda are just trembling in their boots. As did Apple when CR didn’t recommend the iphone. It sure hurt that company. I’ll put my 2012 Civic up against any comparable vehicle for fit and finish. But I will give up the fact that it is 9 seconds slower to 100 k than say a Ford Focus. Nine seconds wow.