Episode 849 – Strong Sales in March, Willie G. Davidson Retires, Kia Suspends Production

March 19th, 2012 at 12:00pm

Runtime: 9:01

Ward’s Auto is forecasting that new car sales in March will be the highest in five years. Willie G. Davidson, the senior vice president and chief styling officer at Harley-Davidson is set to retire. Kia is suspending production at its plant in the U.S. due to a fire that broke out at a factory operated by one of its suppliers. All that and more, plus a look at how Mazda came up with a strong but lightweight structure in the new CX-5.

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This is Autoline Daily for March 19, and there’s lots to report about on what’s going on in the automotive industry.

STRONG SALES CONTINUE IN U.S. (subscription required)
Looks like the strong showing in the American car market for the first two months of the year will keep on running strong. Some analysts wondered if that was just an aberration, but Ward’s is forecasting that new-car sales in March will be the highest in five years. It predicts automakers will sell 1.45 million light vehicles, for a SAAR rate of 14.8 million. That’s down a bit from last month’s 15.1 SAAR, but is 12.4 percent better than a year ago. Ward’s says higher gas prices are not hurting sales, yet may be pushing some consumers into more fuel efficient cars.

GM DEFENDS PEUGEOT DEAL (subscription required)
We’ve been saying that this GM deal with Peugeot doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. And we’re not the only ones saying it. In its defense, GM’s CEO Dan Akerson is claiming that this deal is actually a whole new way of looking at the business and will produce significant gains. Now, let me get this straight. Designing and manufacturing cars with Opel for the global market is a disaster, but designing and manufacturing cars with Peugeot for the global market will be brilliant. Did I get that right? So far, the only specifics we know are that GM and Peugeot will jointly start development of two new cars by the end of this year, including a super-mini car for South America.

America, the land of the free and the home of sprawling parking lots. It’s estimated there are some 800 million parking spaces in the United States – three non-residential spots for every car. That’s more than the total land mass of Puerto Rico! Keep this in mind the next time you’re looking for a place to park. Aside from aesthetic issues, these asphalt deserts also cause environmental issues. They absorb and radiate heat in the summertime and they cause drainage issues when it rains.

Willie G. Davidson, the senior vice president and chief styling officer at Harley-Davidson is set to retire. The 78-year-old grandson of company founder William A. Davidson will hang up his helmet on April 30. He’s been with the company for almost 50 years. Ray Drea will take over the styling department of Harley Davidson when Willie G. steps down.

DESIGN SHAKE-UPS (subscription required)
And man, are there a lot of changes going on in the design end of the industry right now. Get this: Bentley, BMW, Chery, Hyundai, Volvo and Volkswagen are all experiencing studio turnover as various designers get promoted or leave their companies.

Kia is suspending production at its plant in the U.S. due to a fire that broke out at a factory operated by one of its U.S.-based Korean suppliers. The company will shut down production today and tomorrow and will resume operations on Wednesday. The Kia plant, which has an annual production of 300,000 units, builds the Optima, Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe.

NFL superstar free-agent Peyton Manning is being wooed by a number of teams to join their franchise after he was let go from the Indianapolis Colts. So what does that have to do with the auto industry? In an effort to get the quarterback to join the Tennessee Titans, Nissan, whose North American headquarters are located in the Volunteer State, is offering to build Manning a Titan pickup truck. But in an effort to remain neutral and to keep the publicity stunt alive, Nissan will give him a truck regardless of which team he signs with.

Coming up next, a look at how Mazda came up with a strong but lightweight structure in the CX-5.

The Mazda CX-5 is a small SUV, but one that most enthusiasts will find a delight to drive, at least when they’re forced to drive small SUVs. One reason it is fun to drive is that the overall structure of the vehicle is so good. And here’s an overview of how they achieved that.

(Our overview of the Mazda CX-5 is only available in the video version of today’s program.)

That CX-5 could turn out to be a hit product for Mazda. They had planned on selling about 8,000 a month globally, but so far the sales rate is running at 20,000 a month.

And that wraps up today’s report. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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

52 Comments to “Episode 849 – Strong Sales in March, Willie G. Davidson Retires, Kia Suspends Production”

  1. tj Martin Says:


    A different viewpoint ;



    GM Buying into Peugeot ; Oh yes Mr Akerson , thats an entirely ‘ different ‘ way of looking at it …….. no wait …. spinning it …. no no …. looking ……… Nope ! Spin !

    Shovels at the back door for those who need them ;-) Cause the manures been a flying out of GM hot and heavy for the last ten days and I doubt its gonna end anytime soon

    Planning on fertilizing the entire State of Michigan there Mr Akerson ?


    Willie G

    Love him . Hate him . Love or hate his products . He’s the last of his kind and will be sourly missed . Happy trails Willie and keep the shiny side up 8)



    Seriously ? So where are all those empty parking spaces pray tell ? I’ve not been in any major US city or town of late that I didn’t have to go once around the block or two just to find one vacant spot

    Who did those numbers ?



    Beauty ( McLaren ) vs The Beasts ( all the ugly snouted crocagator nosed cars )

    Beauty wins . Hands down . With McLaren announcing they had to hold the cars back for the last 1/3 of the race due to miscalculating their Fuel loads . Very Bad news for the ‘ beasts ‘ indeed !

    FYI ; Aussie Grid Girls – Best Grid Girls in decades . Oh those leather Hot Pants . Yikes !

    –Note to SPEED TV Focus on the cheesecake instead of the celebrities during the pre-show in future if you please .

    ( and me a married man … shame ! :( )

    Johnny Mac’s Sainthood ( green glow last week )

    Talked to his eminence : Cardinal Gearheaditis to find out what JM’s three miracles were to attain Sainthood ;

    #1 Surviving and Thriving intact in Detroit all these year despite the place crumbling around his ears

    #2 Still being able to keep a Smile :o on his face while discussing the Auto Industry of late

    #3 Managing to at least ‘ appear ‘ positive about the Industry despite the waves of manure they’ve been throwing out lately

    So congratulations there Johnny M . Or should I be saying St Johnny ? ;-)

  2. HtG Says:

    Until we put Angela Merkel, Nicholas Sarkozy, Mario Monti, Christine Lagarde, and Seamus into a sweat lodge, I won’t understand this Peugeot deal.

  3. HtG Says:

    F1. Let’s just wait and see what happens on the high speed turns at Sepang, Mr Martin.(BTW, the website TotalF1.com is a good aggregator of F1 stories)

  4. Will Says:

    I was passed by a CX5 on the highway this morning.

    The rear corner view prints very well and makes the vehicle seem substantial.

  5. pedro fernandez Says:

    The problem is not the amount of parking lots and spaces, but where they are located, while I’ve seen acres of empty spaces in some areas, in others, people have to fight and act like the big Kahuna just to get a spot. BTW looks like Mazda has got a hit with this CX 5, let’s ho[pe they don’t mess it up with shoddy reliability.

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    CR ran a preliminary report on the Karma and as you would expect, no likey too much, heavy, slow acceleration, tight inside and not up to luxo standards in the fit and finish, also a lot of them have been returned to dealer for battery replacement, wait till this starts to kill profits over there!

  7. HtG Says:

    Here’s a quote from WSJ’s Sharon Terlep on the GM/Peugeot deal;

    “GM and Peugeot aim to team up in several global markets rather than focus on Europe.

    The companies aren’t pursuing joint projects in China, where each company already has joint ventures with domestic auto makers, the people familiar with the matter said.”


  8. Dave Says:

    I liked the Mazda CX5 design tutorial and would like to see more like it in the future.

  9. Mark Says:

    John, what is it with your guys and the Mazda CX-5? This is the third glowing segment on the car. This latest segment was interesting, but I’m sure there’s a similar story in every car’s chassis.

    It looks like you are buying into the Mazda “Skyactive” hype that passes a basic engineering elsewhere.

  10. HtG Says:

    No explanation required


  11. pedro fernandez Says:

    Nissan can’t even give away their Titans, Manning decided instead for the Broncos and would rather get free Coors for life. Will Tebow move over to Miami? Local churches are getting all excited at the prospect.

  12. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I would like to extend the same sentiment (as tj) on Willie G’s contributions and longevity with Harley Davidson. Good stuff/bad stuff, and always the character, his presence will be missed (though still be felt) I’m sure. Shiny side up/rubber side down; have a great retirement.

  13. C-Tech Says:

    Since Manning is going to the Bronco’s will Ford be willing to build him an SUV?

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    Nah, they’ll just give him OJ’s old white one, if it’s still around!

  15. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Maybe an ‘Escape’.

  16. pedro fernandez Says:

    Is this like an “escape” clause? If he can’t tolerate the high altitude?

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Is it in a musuem somewhere?

  18. pedro fernandez Says:

    Yeah, the museum of the disgraced!

  19. HtG Says:

    Which Bronco? OJ’s or AC’s?

    Inquiring minds

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    That’s one nameplate that Ford will never bring back, eh? Then OJ added insult to injury when he got himself a Navigator, white as well.

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    They renamed to Bronco as Navigator for the same reason Chevy renamed the Cavalier as Cobalt, and then Cruze. The earlier cars didn’t have such a good reputation. I don’t remember, though, if the Navigator name was already in use before the OJ incident.

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    No, Kit there were no Lincoln SUV’s when the Bronco was around, they replaced the Bronco with the Expedition aka Navigator for the Lincoln, this precedes OJ. Then they had the Bronco 2 which became Explorer Sport, a very dangerous top heavy SUV which caused a lot of headaches for Ford.

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I looked it up. The OJ “chase” was in June 1994, and the Expedition arrived the 1997 model year. Quite possibly, the OJ incident begat the name change.

  24. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I know a kid, now a young adult who experienced the top heaviness of a Bronco 2 first-hand when he rolled it. Luckily, he was not seriously hurt.

  25. tj Martin Says:

    @ HtG

    # 10

    Now THAT’s a freaking Abarth . Not that little snot nosed FIAT ( new) 500 thingy with a badge or two on its snout .

    As to McLaren and F1 ? Ehhhhh methinks they’ve got Red Bulls number this year along with Herr Vettel having a target square on his back . And anyway Sepang is just another Tilke snooze fest and barely the handling challenge all that were spanked by my boys from the UK would like you to believe . We’ll have to wait till the European rounds to really see who’s got what

    But … ya gotta admit ….. that McLaren is a damn sight better looking than any of the Crocagator noses out there .

    Wanna wager two or more teams switch back to the single plane nose before midseason ?

    FYI – F1zone.net and Autosport are my chosen sites for the latest . TotalF1 can is decent but I like the other two better . Especially Autosport when it comes to analysis . When Jalopnik does an in depth technical feature ( rare ) its the equal or better of what SPEED used to have on offer


    @ pedro

    #20 If they did they’d probably stick the moniker on some badge engineered pile dredged up from China or the likes , so be glad they aren’t ……… yet

  26. pedro fernandez Says:

    Actually precedes was the wrong word, the change as you point out came after OJ. Bronco was a good name for Ford, I doubt the OJ incident was enough to change it, it was more like they wanted all their SUV start with letter E up to Excursion which should have been called Excessive instead.

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Maybe I missed something. I’ll check some more.

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    They missed some possible good names, though, like Exploder and Extortion.

  29. tj Martin Says:

    FORD Extinction

    FORD Exhibitionist

  30. Phoenix Mark Says:

    I think the February SAAR and all consumer numbers from February are stealing from March and April. With all the good weather and lack of snow, the seasonal adjustments were overstated IMO.

  31. tj Martin Says:


    For all you ‘ Old Dogs’ like myself

    50 years as of today since Bob Dylan’s first album was released

    ” The Times they are a Changing ” …. indeed .

    Don’t it feel so good now being a ‘ Classic ‘ Oh well . Better than a ‘ Relic ‘ I guess

    To keep it somewhat relevant , here’s s list of ‘ Car ‘ songs recommended by Bob on his Sirius XM station ( which I do not miss one bit than you …. the service .. not Bob’s station )


    And remember ; ” Old Guys Rule ” and ” Old Age , Guile and Wisdom beat out Youth and Enthusiasm … every time ”

    I’m ” Blowin in the Wind ” till Tuesday ( could go on like this for pages ) So slap on the RayBans and hit the road …. or … well ….. what ever’s handy .. 8)

  32. tj Martin Says:


    Ahhhhhhhh you had to go and do it . Hit smack dab on my pet peeve of late . The numbers and who’s manipulating them

    Here’s my assessment ;

    The Democrats Unions and AutoMakers are manipulating/adjusting the numbers to make Obama look better than he has been

    The Republicans are manipulating gas prices ( as they control a majority stake in the Oil Companies ) to make Obama look even worse than logic would tell you he is

    And who you might ask is the Monkey Stuck smack dab in the Middle and getting screwed from both sides ?

    You and I and the entire American public . Just my opinion mind you . But a rather informed one I might add

  33. HtG Says:

    25. I think that very Abarth 205 was at the Lime Rock Park Concourse last year. There was also a Miura. It’s close.
    F1. Next year the noses will change, because it’s too much trouble to move the suspension pickup points, and then there’s all the internal duct work in the noses.

    Tillke. Did you hear what Kimi Raikkonen said about Abu Dhabi? ‘Two turns are good, and the rest is sh*t.’

    But it does seem Button’s smooth style will be an advantage in preserving the Pirellis.

  34. W L Simpson Says:

    Takes a lot of brews to hold a Harley to the road.

  35. Alex Kovnat Says:

    > Willie G. Davidson, the senior
    > vice president and chief styling
    > officer at Harley-Davidson is
    > set to retire.

    Whether any one or more of us rides motorcycles or not, we can appreciate how Willie G. and a group of investors bought H-D back from AMF, which was running Harley into the ground.

    It would be nice though if H-D could do as good a job as the Japanese motorcycle OEM’s, or BMW, or the revitalized Triumph motorcycle organization in England.

  36. Jim Thykeson Says:

    The ‘hot fuel’ in Europe is clean-diesel. Puegot is a major player in that technology. GM is caught in the middle; big-oil on one side, technology on the other. They know that VW, and the Germans are capturing this emerging market, the ‘Frenchman’ seems to be a likely partner in this dance.

  37. tj Martin Says:

    Todays Financial ‘ Fun ‘ Factoid

    Did you realize that with $100 billion in the Bank , at this point in time Apple could buy all three of the ( not so ) Big Three with change to spare

    Total worth of Big Three $95.92 Billion

    Total worth of Apple …..$100 Billion

    Change left over ……………$4.08 billion

    Nahhhhhh. I think I’d rather we ( Apple shareholders ) bought Greece .

    ( caveat ; Apple has decided to pay out dividends and initiate some buy back of their stock . )

  38. cwolf Says:

    The CX-5 seems to be a SUV worth waiting for,but here are my concerns:
    * The higher rpm’s of the Skyactiv engine may also inherit unwanted interior noise.
    * The equalized compression characteristics designed to absorb impacts from a collision may complicate repairs and become more costly. For example: If hit on the left side,the doors on the left may become out of alignment. If the impact is shared,maybe all doors could become scewed. And if the roof rails also need repair, how are panels separated if they are bonded together?
    * Mazda’s are a foreign brand,so parts are considerably more expensive…so it is best not to get in an accident! In the last 6 months,my son’s Mazda3 was damaged by deer twice. The total cost is only a couple grand short of what I paid for the car under the Ford discount plan when new!

  39. tj Martin Says:


    It would . But they won’t . But Willie G still deserves our kudos anyway .

  40. tj Martin Says:


    ” The total cost is only a couple grand short of what I paid for the car under the Ford discount plan when new! ”

    Eeesh ! Really ? I’d of thought the insurance would of totaled it at that price . Jeeze thats nuts . And I thought Benz collision repairs were pricey

    But …… WTH with Mazda ? Toyotas Hondas etc are ‘ foreign as well and they’re not so excessive . At least Toyota isn’t .

    Eeeesh .

  41. tj Martin Says:

    Automotive Axiom for the Day

    The more complicated they make them

    The more that will break

    The more it’ll cost to repair them

    And the sooner you’ll have to replace them

    Which ….. in my skeptical little mind ….. I think ….. is the whole point .


  42. cwolf Says:

    @ tj
    Ah heck,why not give a little bit back to the employees in China who are subjected to caustic chemicals on a daily basis,work pretty much in slave conditions and are forced to work more hours without pay or risk loosing the job. And let us not forget that Apple oversees these operations when the stage is prepared for their visit,other wise Apple is more than happy to ignor the real truth of what is happening. I sure am glad Apple and you are happy with profits under these conditions without feeling a slight morsel of guilt! Gee… let’s buy something else foreign!!!!

  43. cwolf Says:

    The cost of the Mazda repairs were 2 seperate occurances. A complete door,front fender,light bezel,side park light,and paint was over $2400! Front bumper covers and grill parts needed for these second deer damage alone equaled this amount,yet the passenger door and fender was also needed.

  44. HtG Says:

    Apple buys Disney/ESPN means Cupertino owns television. Shame about the anti-trust. You gonna get a Morgan with that divie, tj?

  45. Jon M. Says:

    Is Mazda feeding a lot of info to the media, including Autoline Daily, about the new CX-5 in hopes of making it a sales sensation, or is there some benefit to the press for airing so much info about the new vehicle? I doubt it, but it doesn’t much matter to me; I’d just like to see more technically detailed info about the engineering behind other cars. It’s interesting stuff regardless. Personally, I’ll be adding to the SAAR by 2 in April or May. But Mazda shouldn’t get their hopes up, none of their vehicles are on my shopping list–not that there’s anything wrong with them.

  46. cwolf Says:

    I reviewed the comments for the Mar.19 TTAC article,”Diesels Beginning To Spread” and wonder if one is right for me. The problems and costs that I never would have thought of from owning a diesel has given me second thoughts. Most of you know my work commute is 160-170 mi./day. I have an itch for the ATS,just for something different and a treat,but I like the Prius 50mpg avg,but can’t overlook the new Fusion for its good looks. And with the hybred 40+mpg can be had and can travel on elect. up tp 62 mph. Any thoughts to help me make the best choice? Used is not my cup of tea at this time.

  47. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If you want good fuel economy with a diesel, the VW TDI’s are the only thing available in the U.S. They get very good mpg, and I like them, but I’d be reluctant to recommend them, given their spotty reliability.

    If you just want mpg, Prius is the car to beat, even on the highway. CR got 55 mpg at a steady 65 mph, better than any other car they have tested. They got 49 with a manual transmission Golf TDI, on more expensive fuel. They got 40 and 43 respectively for the current Fusion hybrid and the new Camry hybrid. Of regular ICE cars, they got 39 mpg highway for Focus and Elantra.

    To me, the bottom line is this. If you don’t mind the way a Prius drives and looks, it’s the best thing out there for cost of operation. If you want something a little different, a Golf TDI gets great fuel economy, and if you are lucky, it won’t break. The Camry or Fusion hybrids are a good compromise. They get very good fuel economy, look like a “normal” car, and should be pretty reliable. If you want simple and basic, at least by today’s standards, check out Focus and Elantra, and maybe Cruze.

  48. HtG Says:

    Formula 1 may go public, according to Bloomberg.


  49. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Another thing about the VW TDI that one needs to consider, is that they have a timing belt. The recommended interval for changing it is now 130K miles, and you don’t want to let it break.

  50. HtG Says:

    Hi cwolf: If it’s me, I’d consider smiles per mile. Last weekend I was driving my Miata around with the top down, and noticed that I had a smile on the whole time. You’ll be spending lots of time in your car, so….
    Maybe you go cheap with a Sonic or Cruze, and drive the life out of it. Or just save your money and exhaust the total service life out of your current car, Pedro style.

  51. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Sounds like good advice.

    The more I know, the less I would be inclined to recommend a VW diesel to someone who is just trying to save money. I really like the way they drive, and I like the real-world fuel economy they get, but as a car to drive 300K miles, I think there would be too many maintenance issues.

  52. Brett Says:

    I hope Mazda can sell the heck out of that new CUV before Ford rolls out that new Focus-based Escape. I think that one is going to suck up a lot of the oxygen when it hits the showrooms.