Episode 855 – Mercedes-Benz Citan, A123 to Blame for Fisker Breakdown, First Look: Acura ILX

March 27th, 2012 at 12:00pm

Runtime: 8:27

Mercedes-Benz is teasing its latest light-commercial vehicle, the Citan which is the first LCV to emerge from the Mercedes-Nissan-Renault alliance. Battery supplier A123 Systems admitted that its battery caused that embarrassing breakdown of the Fisker Karma when Consumer Reports was testing it. An executive from Japanese auto supplier Denso will serve a year in prison for his involvement in a price-fixing scheme. All that and more, plus an overview of Acura’s all-new sedan, the ILX.

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

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

Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily for March 27th. I’m John McElroy, and here’s the news.

MERCEDES-BENZ CITAN (subscription required)
Mercedes-Benz is teasing its latest light-commercial vehicle, the Citan, which is a combination of the words “city” and “titan.” WardsAuto reports it’s the first light-commercial vehicle to emerge from the Mercedes-Nissan-Renault alliance. Thanks to higher production volumes from the partnership, Mercedes can price this van much more competitively than the discontinued Vaneo. I think this LCV looks good and that bodes very well for the next-generation smart. Remember, Renault is supplying the platform for the next smart, and if they can make it at least as nice looking as the Citan, the car might just have a chance . . . but we’ll see.

Ford’s redesigned Explorer offers buyers a choice of two different engines, a 3.5-liter V-6 as well as a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder. But it looks like Ford believes it has to bolt-on more horsepower because it is working on a performance version. Nothing is official yet, but the company’s EcoBoost V-6 and all-wheel drive could cross over to the Explorer. More details are expected to be announced tomorrow.

STEEL MAKERS SWITCH TO NATURAL GAS (subscription required)
Very interesting development in the steel industry in the United States. Natural gas prices have dropped so much, thanks to hydraulic fracturing techniques, that steel producers are switching from coal to gas. The Wall Street Journal reports that natural gas costs almost $16 per million BTUs in Korea and Japan, but only $2.27 in the U.S. That could help North American automakers get cheaper steel. But how long will the cheap prices last? Natural gas prices have fallen so much that some companies have stopped drilling for it until prices start coming back up again.

General Motors will start testing the Chevrolet Volt in China along with the China Automotive Technology and Research Center. Of course, the Volt is probably the most tested car in history, so why does GM need to even more testing in China? Ward’s reports that this test program will put the Volt in the hands of some of China’s top policy makers and opinion leaders, and I think that is a very telling clue. Right now the Volt does not qualify for China’s very lucrative consumer subsidies of $9,500 per electric car, as well as dropping a 9 percent sales tax. Unless GM convinces those top policy makers to change their minds, the American-made Volt doesn’t stand a chance in China.

Speaking of electric cars, yesterday battery supplier A123 Systems admitted that its battery caused that embarrassing breakdown of the Fisker Karma when Consumer Reports was testing it. A123 will replace the batteries and the company says five other EV companies could be affected by the defect. A123 blames a faulty calibration in one of its welding machines that caused a misalignment of a component in some cells which can lead to an electrical short.

Earlier this year Japanese auto supplier Yazaki was hit with a $470 million fine by the U.S. government over a bid-rigging scheme involving wire harnesses. Several other suppliers that were involved were also hit with smaller fines. Now the Detroit News reports that Denso executive, Norihiro Imai will serve a year in prison and pay a $20,000 fine for his involvement in the conspiracy. Denso has already agreed to pay a $78 million fine for its part in the scheme. The Justice Department began its investigation several years ago and says the price-fixing boosted the cost of vehicles but it won’t say by how much. The scheme started about a decade ago and has led to investigations in Japan and Europe as well.

(Our overview of the Acura ILX is only available in the video version of today’s program.)

Hey, do you live in the New York area? If so, you can attend a LIVE broadcast of Autoline After Hours next Thursday, April 5th from Katz’s famous delicatessen in Manhattan. I’ll be there along with Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, and you can find out all the details on our website. Just visit the Autoline After Hours section of Autoline.tv where you can RSVP and get directions to Katz’s Deli. Give us a shout so we can know how many people to expect.

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

46 Comments to “Episode 855 – Mercedes-Benz Citan, A123 to Blame for Fisker Breakdown, First Look: Acura ILX”

  1. tj Martin Says:

    DETROIT wants Automotive style Bailout

    ( jalopnik )

    Brilliant . First we bail out two of the Big Three that helped create the mess Detroit is in

    Now the city thats done everything imaginable on top of that to shoot itself in the foot wants a Federal Bailout as well .

    Gee … hows about we finish FIXING the damage Katrina did to New Orleans instead of flushing even more Tax Payers monies into the Lost Cause Express / did it to themselves sink hole .

    e.g. GM/Chrysler and now Detroit ;-)


    EU Unions

    Dateline ; Germany – Airport Traffic controllers etc are on a ‘ Warning ‘ strike , shutting/slowing down air travel across Germany

    Italy – Transportation drivers are on strike as well , all but shutting down FIAT

    I’m telling you GM and FIAT better watch their step in the EU/UK . Those Unions have been in place for centuries ( as Guilds initially ) are part and parcel of the EU Socialist fabric and they won’t go down without taking the ones who bring them there along for the ride .

    THAT is Guaranteed


    Fisker – That car was broken before it ever came off the assembly line . No excuses Herr Fisker . Crap is crap and you should of tested that pile of crap before you SOLD it to any unsuspecting customer . If Fisker will do this to CR who’s reviews can make or break their business : just imagine how Fisker will treat an individual customer

    Blame Shifting – The Zeitgeist of the 2010′s


    GM Incentives in China

    Just how many ‘ Incentives ‘ does GM think it’ll take to finally make the (re) VOLT(ing) a viable and sellable product ? I’m guessing enough to make the VOLT free of charge to any interested customer . Errrr ….. except that’d negate the ‘ Sales’ aspect ….. so ……never mind . It’s Dead Man Walking no matter how many Government $$$ Yuans Euros etc are thrown at it .

    Get a clue GM . Take your hits . Absorb the loses … and ..

    Dump the VOLT ;-)

  2. dcars Says:

    I saw another Volt on the road the other day. European unions are very strong.

  3. C-Tech Says:

    The Citan looks interesting on paper, and I hope it translates well. That would be great competition for the Transit Connect.

  4. C-Tech Says:

    If I were 25 again, a certified used Acura might be preffered over the ILX.

  5. pedro fernandez Says:

    “Oh, this Acura is a gussied-up Civic with a better interior and distractions galore, so you can get into an accident in a myriad of ways” Yeah. good luck there, pal.

  6. C-Tech Says:

    Looking at the price comparision for natural gas in the U.S. vs. Asia, perhaps Steel makers aren’t the only ones who should consider switching.

  7. C-Tech Says:

    John and esteemed staff, in what other vehicles are A123 batteries?

  8. Lex Says:

    @ #5 Pedro Fernandez

    I agree 100% with you! Acura has no real direction at the Top or in the Design Studio!
    They are going to offering the “New” ILX with a five speed automatic transmission. Give it a rest Acura and Honda. Both Organizations need an infusion of new powertrain technology, and exterior and interior styling.

    “Oh, this Acura is a gussied-up Civic with a better interior and distractions galore, so you can get into an accident in a myriad of ways” Yeah. good luck there, pal.

  9. T. Bejma Says:


    tj Martinj – Not seeing your article about Detroit City wanting the Auto style bailout on Jalopnik. Sure you got the right site? Can you send link. Even a extensive Google search doesn’t come up with much, just that same old news that I watch every night on the local stations…

  10. Lex Says:

    @ #4 C-Tech

    You know it! If I was 25 again I would be in a new or certified pre-owned BWM 3 or 5 Series or an Infinite G35 or G37 before handing over my cash for a “Civic Based” ILX. Even the name is lame. What does it stand for, “Insufficient Luxury”?

    “If I were 25 again, a certified used Acura might be preffered over the ILX.”

  11. tj Martin Says:

    F1 MOVIE News

    The new film coming from Ron Howard ” Rush ”


    Classic F1 cars . Six wheeler Tyrells . Hot pants and Grid Girls . Yeahhhhhhhh baby . It doesn’t get much better


    ( click thru the gallery ; There’s a UOP Shadow F1 car for our Shadow fan on site as well )

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    Actually it could be called Civic LX-I and sell for less money and it would do better. Oh wait BMW would sue, they own the I designation, how apple gets away with it it’s remarkable.

  13. tj Martin Says:


    Morning Shift on Jalopnik . Detroit Free Press as well .


    Sheesh :o

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    But the 70′s were “SEXY” from the open shirt Travolta look to the “natural look” to the disco dancing, come on, TJ did you forget already?

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The cover of the March 24 issue of “The Economist” has a cool picture of Cuba. There is a ’55 or ’56 Ford on a dirt road lined with forest, and a man leading an animal across the road in the background. The cover headline is “Cuba hurtles towards capitalism.” I haven’t read the article yet, but, Pedro, maybe you already know what’s up, if anything.

    The car has a large Cuban flag on the trunk lid. Does that mean the car is owned by a party member?

  16. Drew Says:

    tj, I know you are against wasting taxpayer dollars on bail-outs. But I don’t understand your reference to New Orleans. There is no sanity that would spend (waste) billions of dollars on property that is below sea level, near the Gulf, and frequently in harm’s way of huricanes. Let me repreat that… IT IS BELOW SEA LEVEL!!! History will repeat itself.

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    Nah, party members get the luxury of being able to purchase “new” 1990′s cars so they don’t need to drive the old American iron, the Castros are worried about losing power, and they want to be the only millionaires over there so anything they do towards Capitalism will be similar to what China has done,w/o the locals getting rich.BTW even if the embargo were lifted, most capitalists would be scared to invest capital there and then have it nationalized all over again like they did when they took over.

  18. Brett Says:

    Watching the piece on the ILX at the end where he’s talking with the hybrid sitting behind him. All I could think of is that the head stylist at Acura must’ve been been deeply affected by the animated movie “Cars”

    It looks like it’s about to say, “Hey, wow, man! It’s great to be here, you know??”

  19. 012345 Says:

    On the Acura ILX..

    Great! Text messaging, what an American driver always needed.

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    Wow, I could only text LOL by the time it got to 60!

  21. Jim Haines Says:

    Fisker should have found this problem in testing long before they sold these cars. I’m sure the big push to move any of those over priced, over hyped golf carts led to hurried final inspections. They wanted to ship anything they could to get more US tax payer funds. The Volt makes a lot of since to me in the electric world and they struggle to sell them but pure electrics just don’t add up in the real world.

  22. dcars Says:

    In regards to Fisker – like other car makers(Ford and Toyota) it’s always easier to blame a vendor instead of taking responsibility for the mistake.

  23. HtG Says:

    If Fisker’s batterygate were a ‘safety’ issue, then that’s a whole other kettle of wax.


  24. cwolf Says:

    The Euro unions may show strength by actively and collectively acting together but plant closures are a sure thing,after the contract expires,if they don’t compromise. Besides considering alternate operations,GM has already begun making inquiries to various suppliers if it was possible for them to increase their output by up to double within 2 years. I believe Bejma will agree that GM cannot and is unable to sustain European losses much longer in a global market. Me thinks GM is preparing to play hard ball!

  25. cwolf Says:

    The Ford Explorer has always been a good all around large SUV. They are very comfortable on long trips,but I think the oldeer onees were more so. But they are a tank in heft and mileage sucks. I find the new models quite handsome,yet the 4 cyl turbo won’t be enough and the larger 6 the same ol’gas hog. Such a shame! It was one of my wifes fav’s.

  26. tj Martin Says:


    Hot Pants baby ! Hot Pants ! All the rest was fluff and peacocks .

    Couldn’t take my eyes off the Grid Girls at this years Aussie F1 race cause of those ……….. leather …….. Hot Pants 8)

    Good thing the Mrs was asleep when I was watching ;-)


    @ cwolf – The point is those Unions will take it as far as needed ( 1000 years of tradition and experience including taking down a monarch or two along the was ) and certainly will not put up with any bullying tactics from Akerson and Co . They’d rather shut the entire system down than go down themselves .

    So if GM is planning to play Hard Ball , they’d better be ready to take one in the throat .

    I’ll bet GM/PSA/FIAT come out the losers big time unless they come to their senses …….. like yesterday

    Ask HtG . I’ll bet he has the same insight .

  27. cwolf Says:

    I’m not doubting you,but I am becoming more convinced that GM is ready to put on the gloves. I wonder if this will be on “Friday Night Fights” in the future.

  28. cwolf Says:

    Since natural gas is so inexpensive in the US and more businesses,like the steel industry,will be turning to natural gas,why does’nt the gas industry pass on the costs to them for reprocessing the liquid waste,instead of pumping this stuff back into wells and a states aquafers? I’m most certain no one wants our waters polluted,earth quaked and have to pay for the damages too!

  29. C-Tech Says:

    @ #11
    TJ I will have to peruse that gallery when I get home! The 6-wheel Elf-Tyrell is my one of my other favorites as a kid (i even have a Hot Wheels model at work). By the way, I buy Playboy for the articles.

  30. C-Tech Says:

    Detroit is not ready for a “bailout”. I don’t think the people are ready for an appointed receiver (read CZAR) telling them what stays and goes after electing the “Hip-Hop” mayor. Some serious tough love is in order, no need to tie the courts up in every decision the receiver makes. Let the Mayor and city council earn their money.

  31. C-Tech Says:

    If memory serves me, didn’t Honda use the moniker ILX on a Civic before?

  32. cwolf Says:

    The evening news reported another major oil disaster off Scotland.The platform is owned by French producer “Total.” Stated this spill will take 6 months to fix. This brings two thoughts to mind; This makes me worry about those in the US with a drill/drill/drill attitude without regulations.Second are oil company remarks they are prepared for any disaster after the last one in the Gulf. Either these folks have their head up there ash ot they are willing to continue to lie out their teeth,polute and kill all wildlife around the globe just for a buck!

  33. HtG Says:

    Has anyone checked the Acura configurator for the TSX? I see that whether one is buying the bottom or top model, there is an optional leather steering wheel which lists at 533 dollars. Yes, I checked twice. This must mean the dealers have a sense of the absurd. How is this rational pricing?
    Euro unions. It’s the sympathy strikes coordinated with other unions that are the Persuader.
    Hot Pants in F1. Usually tj, I edit my posts with the assumption that significant others also can read my little outbursts.

  34. pedro fernandez Says:

    Ctech I believe you refer to Accord LX-i if I’m not mistaken.

  35. pedro fernandez Says:

    Yup, I just did a quick Google search and the Accord LX i, stick and I guess it must have been the performance model of the bunch. 95 hp, imagine that for an Accord and people complain if a subcompact has 100 hp nowadays.

  36. HtG Says:

    I’ve just received an ad from Chevy saying Volts can be leased for 349 a month for 36 months, with 2500 due at signing. So who gets the rebate, the leasing company? And the payments come out to 15K over the life of the lease not including taxes, which means GM is assuming a residual of 25K on the 40K car. (they allow 36K miles with 20cents/mile.

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Regarding the Acura steering wheel, it seems that “premium” brands can get away with charging a lot of money for things that may be standard, or cheap on “lesser” brands. I was kind of surprised to find that “keyless go” is a $650 option on a $41K Mercedes C350, while it was standard on my $24K Prius.

  38. motorman Says:

    Why does not the govt put the Volt $7500 rebate on say the Cruze and make that car cheap enough that people who need to worry about the the cost of gasoline can afford a new car that does get 35/40 MPG?? This would be better as far as cutting back on imported oil than letting them continuing to drive 15 year old gas guzzler.

  39. Jon M., Says:

    No doubt the Acura ILX is based on the Honda Civic, and its dressed up better than the Canadian market CSX was. But is it that the “younger buyers” don’t concern themselves with 2 door vehicles that Acura is trying to woo them with a sedan? After all, the folks at Acura certainly realize the even the Civic (not to mention the Accord) is offered sans two rear doors…and a better looking design.

  40. KEVIN Says:

    love that katz ‘s deli John glad you guys are tapping ahh there . wish i could come but i’ m working that day have a sandwich on me .

  41. tj Martin Says:

    MORNING EYE CANDY ( cars )

    THIS … gentlemen …… is an Alfa Romeo !


    No matter what Stronzetto Marchinonne tries to tell you

    Che Bella machina 8)

  42. T. Bejma Says:

    Nice car tj Martinj, but this is what I would rather drive…


  43. HtG Says:

    Basta! you ragazzi, you. Serious Alfa issues over here.

  44. pedro fernandez Says:

    Re 41 and 42 If they could only build them to be reliable and last a few years, they’d make a killing with their styling alone, but and a big but………………….

  45. Sean Walsh Says:

    Hey John,
    Why didn’t you let us in DC have an event with you when you were here? Do we need to have Congress pass a law or NHTSA issue a regulation? Or we could just sue (Q: Why does DC have more lawyers per capita than New Jersey has toxic waste dumps? A: New Jersey had first pick).
    Seriously, please give us the same opportunity next year.

  46. Jonathan Swingle Says:

    Hey John, I’m very late to the comments, as I was cleaning up some older mail and found this episode….I again want to compliment Andrew Justus on a superb job. Well spoken, well delivered, a perfect on air reporter; make sure that young man gets some genuine network news time in his future, he is massively gifted and the best field reporter you have!