Episode 873 – Honda Appeals Small Claims Case, Mercedes’ Alphabet Soup, Alfa Trademarks 4C in U.S.

April 20th, 2012 at 12:00pm

Runtime: 9:22

Honda is going to appeal a small-claims case in California in which the company was hit with a settlement of less than $10,000. Mercedes-Benz is going to tweak the way it names its vehicles to make it less confusing . .  sort of. Alfa Romeo just trademarked the 4C name in the U.S. which is scheduled to go on sale by the end of 2013. All that and more, plus a preview of Autoline This Week about whether performance brands like Porsche and Lamborghini are making a mistake coming out with SUVs.

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Hallelujah, it’s Friday, April 20th! I’m John McElroy and here’s Autoline Daily.

Automakers around the world are scrambling to find other sources for a resin to make brake and fuel lines. And it looks like they’ve found a few. As we reported earlier this week, a fire at a supplier company in Germany threatened to slow global automotive production. But in the U.S., at least, DuPont and a company called Invista say they have some capacity they can devote to making the resin. But it’s unclear if that’s enough. In Japan, automakers are looking at using alternative resins. Analysts warn there is a looming shortage and we’ll probably know in a couple of weeks just how serious it is.

Honda is going to appeal that small-claims case in California in which the company was hit with a settlement of less than $10,000. Doesn’t sound like much for a $100 billion corporation, does it? Ah, but it’s the precedent that terrifies the company. Honda was sued by Heather Peters, the owner of a Honda Civic hybrid, who says it came nowhere near its promised 50 miles per gallon. She opted out of a class action lawsuit in which the plaintiffs would only get a couple of hundred bucks and a coupon to buy a new Honda if they won. But if all the plaintiffs did what Heather did, it could cost Honda nearly $2 billion. And that’s why the company is appealing that decision.

Mercedes-Benz is going to tweak the way it names its vehicles to make it less confusing . . . sort of. According to Automobile, Mercedes will still keep letter names but from now on G is for SUVs and crossovers, C is for coupes and convertibles, and SL is sport cars. But the upcoming four-door coupe based on the architecture from the A- and B-Classes will no longer be badged CLC. The second C refers to model range, so under the new scheme it will be the CLA. Boy, I sure am glad they simplified that! And if you’re still scratching your head, click the link in today’s show notes to try and make sense of it yourself.

The Beijing Auto Show kicks off next week and to get a head start on the festivities, Chery revealed an SUV concept called the TX. Supposedly this was designed in-house and if you ask me, it looks pretty good. The TX is powered by a turbocharged, direct-injection, gasoline engine that’s mated to a CVT.


Now for some exotic-car news from Italy. First up, Alfa Romeo. It just trademarked the 4C name in the U.S., where it hasn’t sold cars for nearly 20 years. Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the 4C will go on sale in the New World by the end of 2013, all part of his master plan to double annual sales to around 400,000 units by 2014.

Meanwhile, Ferrari has its eye on South Korea. The country’s economy is growing at a healthy clip and there are a lot of customers who aspire to own supercars. After that, it wants to get into Vietnam, where the number of high-net-worth people jumped 33 percent in 2010! Ferraris are also red hot in other Asian markets including Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

And while we’re on the subject of Italian cars, Lamborghini will finally debut its high-performance luxury crossover at next week’s Beijing Auto Show. The company hasn’t pre-released any official shots of the vehicle, but here’s a possible rendition of what looks like an SUV with the front end of an Aventador. They’re going to call it the Urus which probably sounds better in Italian than it does in English.

Speaking of performance brands like Lambo and Porsche coming out with SUVs, is it possible they’re making a horrible mistake? That is coming up next.

On Autoline This Week my guests are analysts John Murphy from Merrill Lynch and Joe Philippi from Autotrends Consulting, as well as Automobile and GQ columnist Jamie Kitman. One of the topics we cover is whether performance brands like Porsche and Lamborghini are making a mistake coming out with SUVs. Yes, they’ll make a lot of money right now, but could it hurt their brands in the long run?

You want watch that entire show right now on our website at Autoline.tv, and check your local television listings because Autoline This Week is now seen in over 40 markets across the United States as well as coast to coast in Canada.

It’s Friday and you know what that means: another RoundAbout is in the offing! Host Craig Cole has all the details.

Quick question — what has the powertrain of the future, car-to-car communication and the design of a Tupolev Tu-144? It’s the tractor trailer of the future and we’ll tell you about it tonight and some of the other unusual auto new bites of the week at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Our guests are Colin Bird from Cars.com and Christiaan Conover from WheelSpin.tv. You already know where to find RoundAbout and tons of other great automotive content: Autoline.tv.

And that wraps up another week’s worth of Autoline. Thanks for watching, we will be back here on Monday.

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

23 Comments to “Episode 873 – Honda Appeals Small Claims Case, Mercedes’ Alphabet Soup, Alfa Trademarks 4C in U.S.”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    Shortage of this one month, shortage of something else another month, yet we have hundreds of empty commercial spaces and thousands out of work and no talk about making it here, instead we have to outsource everything, it is mind boggling!

  2. HtG Says:

    did you notice the shifty eyes on that BofA ‘analyst’? Very shifty

    Hey, it’s cheap shot Friday, folks!!

  3. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Names……gotta love the names of cars from years ago.No alphabet soup.Elegant names like DeVille,Towncar,Impala SS,Torino,etc.Oh for the good old daze ;}>

  4. pedro fernandez Says:

    On yesterday’s show I thought I saw a caption the read: Italian flair, Chinese QUALITY??? I really have to get my eyes examined, I must be coming down with macular degeneration big time.

  5. HtG Says:

    Well, it’s happened. We just got an offer* on the Versa from a local Nissan dealer. They wrote the number $10,428 for this ’08. List was around 15, and you knows I negotiates.

    *It seems to be an offer on a trade in.

  6. C-Tech Says:

    The Chery concept look good, like the Nissan Murano. Are you sure it isn’t a Murano?
    As far as luxury / sports car brands producing SUV’s, if they keep their focus on improving the core vehicles which made their reputations then they will be ok. Porsche has kept improving the 911 while producing the Panamera and the Cayenne. Frankly as young rich buyers grow out of sportscars and into family cars, it gives these brands a chance to retain some of these customers.

  7. Mark Quick Says:

    You can bet Uras it sounds better in Italian.

  8. Jon M. Says:

    @ #2 HTG

    I noticed the shifty eyes as well. And since its cheap shot Friday let me say this. At my last employer I worked with BofA as part of my role. As a result, I call them Bank of Aggravation, that’s all I need to say about them!

  9. Jon M. Says:

    Heather Peters is shyster lawyer looking to make quick buck on a frivolous claim. It’s sad and frustrating that the she won the first round. I hope Honda is successful in thwarting this baseless claim granted in the first stage by a politically correct court with not a shred of common sense. Go Honda!

  10. Jon M. Says:

    Oh to have the capital to start manufacturing resin for the auto industry! At time of high demand and short supply, I could have been a millionaire. I could have been a resin millionaire!

  11. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It seems that our legal system has gone mad. As if there aren’t enough caveats on the mpg ratings to point out that “your mileage may vary.” The disclaimers are certainly obvious if you look at the window stickers. They are less so in the TV ads. You have to read awfully fast, or “freeze” then on you TV to see them.

    Still, it’s crazy that what’s-her-name won that suit. All of the car companies need to help out Honda with legal expenses, if this goes any farther than it already has.

  12. HtG Says:

    Honda legal. Keep in mind that Honda was not able to represent itself with legal counsel in the Small Claims Court. On appeal, it will be different. The question is does this gal want to go into practice representing other owners against Honda; I recall reading that she had let her license laps prior to this case.

  13. Brett Says:

    Unless things are radically different in Florida Small Claims Court than in California, you are most certainly entitled to legal representation if you wish. How could a corporation defend itself in Small Claims Court if legal counsel was prohibited?

  14. shan Says:

    I think the SUV Porsche makes has tarnished the brand somewhat due to the fact it is not made by Porsche and used car lots are littered with Cayennes.

  15. Jonathan Says:

    Can’t wait for the upcoming alfa 4C!!! in fact…I can’t wait for all the alfa models to hit these shores..

    Brand recognition may be far off for many younger consumers but the way the words Alfa Romeo roll off the tongue…and what it conjures up allows for the true italian driving machine…to take on the germans in the BMW brand..

    After all Alfa was the ultimate driving machine way before BMW even dreamed of its now standard moniker…

    JMO and I’m sure it’ll be an up hill battle but one I’ll be routing for!

    Great to hear Colin Bird…chaw..chaw and Christian Connover from Roundeltable are on Roundabout this week..Always a wacky look at the automotive news of the week from roundabout!

    Everyday is autoline daily, every thursday night is autoline after hours…friday is roundabout and then the weekend show of autoline.tv!!!

    Thank you as we enthusiasts have never had it so good!


  16. HtG Says:

    12 Here’s a quote from the LA Times.

    “Even so, Peters’ win was “amazing” and could affect litigation strategy in California and other states that don’t allow lawyers to represent either side in Small Claims Court, said Donald Earl Childress III, who teaches civil procedure at Pepperdine University School of Law.”

    The link…http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/02/business/la-fi-autos-honda-lawsuit-20120202

  17. HtG Says:

    Bahrain. In the contract it says you must give Bernie and his travelling twats their moneys. That is all that matters for the F1 brand contrivance.

  18. DonC Says:

    Honda’s decision to appeal strikes me as crazy. A small claims case sets no precedent. But if they lose the appeal, and they might, then that’s an entirely different story.

    They would have been better advised to just let this one sit there and see what happens. Probably five other people would have followed suit. Big deal. At some point corporations are going to wake up to the fact that asking lawyers who stand to make a bundle handling an appeal whether appealing is a good idea is not the best of ideas.

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Not related to today’s show, but I received this from truedelta.com. (I have my Prius and MINI listed in their reliability data)

    –2012 Audi A6 and A7 — all new, yet only a single repair reported for 24 cars

    –2012 FIAT 500: also very reliable so far — who expected this?

    –2012 VW Passat: still worse than average, but improving

  20. cwolf Says:

    Kit,I was looking at a british site(whatcar.com) reliability ratings. Surprising,the Fiat brand was average and bettered MINI,BMW and even VW! My reason was to gain more insight on the Alfa Romeo;I think they have eye catching styling.My gosh!! Alfa is at the bottom of the reliability list and only Land Rover is worse. If you visit the site,don’t overlook the inset boxes for some interesting tid-bits.


  21. cwolf Says:

    This will help:

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Thanks, cwolf. That is interesting. Apparently Alfa is more different from Fiat than I realized, but not in a good way.

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Third place in the whatcar reliability survey was interesting, a 3 way tie for third between Lexus, and dead-men-walking in the U.S., Suzuki and Mitsubishi.