May 16th, 2012 at 12:00pm
Nissan is going to run its North American assembly plants on three shifts to give the Altima the capacity to become the best selling car in the U.S. Porsche revealed the prototype version of its 918 Spyder. Kia may be considering bringing a diesel to the U.S. market. All that and more, plus John answers your questions and comments in “You Said It!”
Welcome to Autoline Daily for May 16th, I’m John McElroy and here’s the news.
NISSAN AIMS TO PASS CAMRY
Nissan has the Toyota Camry in its crosshairs. It’s going to run its North American assembly plants on three shifts, and that will give the Nissan Altima the capacity to become the best-selling car in the U.S. market. Camry sales have plummeted 30 percent over the last four years, starting well before Toyota ran into problems from last year’s earthquake. Four years ago the Camry had a sales lead of 167,000 units over the Altima. So far this year that lead has shrunk to under 30,000 units. Nissan will probably not pull it off this year, since it’s undergoing a model change for the new Altima, and the three-shift operations are not yet in place. But until Toyota figures out how to solve the Camry’s sales slump, it’s just making Nissan’s job all the easier.
FORMER FORD CEO PASSES AWAY
Red Poling, former chairman and CEO of the Ford Motor Company has passed away at age 86. He was one of those rare finance guys who knew how to slash cost, but with a scalpel, not a hatchet. In 1987 he delivered a pre-tax profit for the company that I believe is still a record today on an inflation-adjusted basis. When he retired in 1993 Ford had five of the top-10 best-selling vehicles in the American market, including the best selling car and truck. Today it has three of the top ten.
PORSCHE 918 SPYDER PROTOTYPE
Yesterday we reported Ferrari is throwing its hat in the hybrid ring with a 12-cylinder supercar. Today, Porsche’s making news, revealing the prototype version of its 918 Spyder. The car is all dolled up with a retro-themed black-and-white livery. This plug-in hybrid is powered by a 500-horsepower 4.0-liter V-8 and two, yes TWO electric motors. Zero to 60 miles an hour should take a scant 3.1 seconds. Top speed should be 199 miles an hour. Fuel economy is alleged to be in the neighborhood of 78 miles per gallon on the EU test cycle. Naturally, all this speed and technology ain’t cheap. Porsche’s asking price is $845,000 a piece – comparable to Ferrari’s hybrid monster.
KIA CONSIDERS DIESEL FOR U.S.
Who wants more diesel-powered cars in the U.S.? Can I see a show of hands? Oh, ALL OF YOU! Well now Autoblog reports that Kia may be the next company to offer an oil burner in the U.S. Apparently some PR reps were asking fans on Facebook if they’d consider driving a diesel. Naturally, the answer was “YES!!!!” Now, here’s the part of the story where I let you down gently. Nothing is official. Yet. But it’s important to note that Kia already sells diesel Optimas in other markets.
FORD’S IDENTITY CRISIS
Ford is taking a unique approach with its advertising. The automaker just launched a series of ads that feature the new Escape, Fusion, as wells as the Fiesta and Focus, that don’t reveal the identity of the automaker until the end of the commercial. In fact, we found some online ads that don’t identify Ford at all. It’s an effort to grab the attention of car buyers who tune out an ad as soon as they realize it’s about Ford.
JAGUAR’S SALES SLUMP
So far this year Jaguar sales are up 17 percent in the American market, but worldwide, it’s a different story. The British brand’s sales fell over 30 percent in April compared to March, its worst performance in nine months. And as a result, Tata’s stock is getting pounded.
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
YOU SAID IT!
And now it’s time for some of your feedback.
A number of you commented on the data crash recorders, those black boxes the U.S. government is going to require on all new cars by 2015. Todd T. says. “Remember all those lovely folks that claimed their cars accelerated like possessed demons, even though they were stepping on the brake pedal? They did this to avoid responsibility for an accident, THEY caused.”
Todd’s right. That’s exactly why a number of automakers have had those black boxes in their cars for well over a decade. It was to protect them from lawsuits.
Chuck wonders if this regulation means that “Someone will have to retrofit one into their 1965 Mustang?”
Nope, Chuck, it only applies to new cars. You need cars with anti-lock brakes, electronic throttle control and a computer be able to use those black boxes.
We got a lot of comments on the new Nissan Altima, too. Lex wants to know, “Why does the new Altima look so good and rich while the Versa look so crappy and cheap?”
Lex, I would say that’s because the Altima costs twice as much as a Versa. A base Altima is over $21,000 while a base Versa is under $11,000.
Earl worries about the transmission in the Altima. “I hope the Altima doesn’t have a CVT. I haven’t heard a positive comment yet about those CVT’s that a lot of people refer to as rubber band transmissions.” And Tango R34 agrees. “I will NOT get a car with a CVT. It’s the most horrific transmission that may sound great on paper but hopeless in the real world.”
For the most part I agree with you guys, but in cars with larger displacement engines and good torque CVTs work a lot better. Plus, Nissan has made giant strides in improving the CVT, along with its supplier partner JATCO. Besides, the Altima, like a number of cars with CVTs, has a Sport position on the gear shift lever that makes the CVT behave like a seven-speed step transmission, so you can sort of have the best of both worlds.
Speaking of transmissions, Kit Gerhart saw our report on Porsche coming out with a 7-speed manual and wonders, “Is there really any need for that 7-speed manual? 6 seems like plenty, but I guess I thought the same about 3, and then 4, and then 5.”
Mack heard me report on the Job One ceremony for the original Chrysler minivan in 1983 when top executives in the company couldn’t get out of the minivan that rolled up on stage for the ceremonies. He wonders, “As for inability to get out of the back of the minivan, was it not because of the child safety lock on the door and not a quality issue?”
Mack, this is a great story. After that humiliation Chrysler’s public relations called everyone in the media who attended that ceremony to tell them that it was a child lock issue. Since I was at the event I got a call, too, and I had to remind the poor PR guy who called me that those vans did not have child locks when they launched. And that violated one of the cardinal rules in PR. You can spin it all you want, but you should never lie.
Don’t forget to join us for Autoline After Hour Thursday night when our guest will be Ralph Gilles the head of design for the Chrysler group and the CEO of the SRT group. Ralph is one of the true gear heads in this business, so join me and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo, for the best insider discussion on the hottest cars in the business.
And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.