Episode 899 – Trouble in Lotus Land, Yuan for Jalopies, Nissan Rushin’ to Grab Market Share

May 29th, 2012 at 11:47am

Runtime: 7:16

Dany Bahar, the CEO of Lotus, has been suspended from the company because of an unspecified complaint over his conduct.  To try to boost sales, China will revive a cash-for-clunkers program.  Nissan is looking for serious growth in Russia.  It wants to nearly double its market share in the country by 2016!  All that and more, plus a look at the design of the all-new Dodge Dart.

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I’m Craig Cole and welcome to another episode of Autoline Daily. It’s Tuesday, the 29th of May, 2012. I hope you all had a great Memorial Day weekend. A break from the old routine is always refreshing. Anyway, here’s the latest news from the automotive beat.

Dany Bahar, the CEO of Lotus, was suspended by the company. According to Bloomberg, the sports-car maker’s parent company DRB-Hicom filed an unspecified complaint over his conduct that led to the suspension. The move could be performance related. Lotus is in the middle of a restructuring plan to try and turn a profit for the first time in 15 years.

Car sales in China are slowing down from their torrid pace just a few years ago. And to try to boost sales, Bloomberg reports that the country will revive a cash-for-clunkers program. Consumers will receive incentives to trade in their old cars for new ones. Car sales are down 1.3 percent in the first four months of the year in China.

GLOBAL VEHICLE SALES STRONG (subscription required)
But the slowdown in China hasn’t hurt overall global car sales. According to WardsAuto, worldwide sales in April hit 6.6 million units, an increase of 3.4 percent compared to 2011. Asian countries recovering from natural disasters that occurred last year helped fuel the growth. Europe and South America were the only regions to see sales fall.


Iran’s nuclear program is a prickly issue. The Islamic Republic claims its atom-splitting efforts are for peaceful purposes only. But that’s more than a little hard to believe coming from a country that wants to obliterate one of its neighbors. The international community is stepping up efforts to put more economic sanctions on Iran. An oil embargo is slated to kick in starting July 1. Automakers have been under pressure to stop doing business with the Persian Gulf nation. Fiat and its subsidiaries are pulling out of the country. They’re immediately halting all sales in Iran, which they claim are “totally immaterial.” IVECO-branded trucks and buses make up the majority of Fiat vehicles sold there.

Toyota’s popular Prius has hit an important milestone. Bloomberg reports the hybrid has become the third-best selling car line in the world for the first quarter of the year. It’s trailing the Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus. Prius-branded cars – and remember, there are four in the “family” – have been buoyed by strong demand in the U.S. and Japan. Part of the reason for the resurgence in Toyota’s home market is that there’s a 100,000-yen incentive – about 13-hundred dollars – AND buyers can cash in on an additional 100,000-yen tax rebate.

Nissan is looking to grow in Russia. Today its market share in the country stands at about 5.9 percent. It’s looking to hit an even 10 percent by 2016. To do that it will have to triple sales to nearly half-a-million units annually. Last year it sold about 161,000 vehicles in Russia. To boost volume the company has upgraded its facility in St. Petersburg. The plant will be able to assemble five different models at the same time including the Qashqai, Teana, X-Trail and Murano. The newly revived Datsun brand is part of Nissan’s growth strategy in Russia as well.

Coming up next, a look at the exterior styling cues of the new Dodge Dart, we’ll be back right after this.

(This feature is only available in the video version of today’s program)

It’s been a long time since Chrysler’s had a competitive small car. Front to back, top to bottom, inside and out, the Dart looks like it’s going to give the segment leaders a run for their money.

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Once again I’m Craig Cole, thanks for watching, I’ll see you next time.

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26 Comments to “Episode 899 – Trouble in Lotus Land, Yuan for Jalopies, Nissan Rushin’ to Grab Market Share”

  1. Ron Paris Says:

    Uhh, it’s “nucLEar” Craig; not “nucULar”.

  2. shan Says:

    Dodge Dart looks promising, mainly because it has nothing to do with a American engineered platform. Let’s see if it can stay out of used car lots and the fleet market.

  3. Earl Long Says:

    That new Dart has no Horizon,Neon or Caliber DNA in it and that’s a plus. Now we’ll get to see what affect that Fiat D A is all about. Needless to say the Fiat reputation is not good in N/ America. I’m opened minded and look forward to see what this new Dart does. When I go on holidays this fall I’m going to rent one for 10 days to get to know it. Then we’ll see.

  4. dcars Says:

    The last good small car Chrysler made was the Neon and their lots of them still on the road. The Caliber was designed in Europe and was a total flop. I’ll hope for the best for the new Dart.

  5. Chuck Grenci Says:

    The Dart is in a tough segment, and though it is able, I’m thinking buyers that like its design will be swayed; personally not my favorite. I don’t see a bad car in this segment; it will be interesting how the numbers are shared (or if there ends up with a ‘king of the hill’).

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    Fiat-based, that makes me feel so much better!

  7. C-Tech Says:

    Dodge Dart: Body – check, Interior – check, NVH – ?, Performance – ?, Reliability – ? It will need more checks.
    I heard the British Gov. turned down Lotus’ request for tax breaks and other help. Perhaps he is not a good salesman. Would you buy a car from Dany (any relation to Joy) Bahar?
    Good for Prius, they have earned their position. It may not be my style, but Toyota did their homework. Other makes should take note.

  8. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’d be a little concerned about reliability of the Dart, but hey, so far, the reliability of the 500 seems to be ok. We shall see how the Dart does. I like that the Dart has some interesting power train choices. I don’t like its being sold only as a sedan. That Alfa 5-door hatch it’s based on would have been much better, at least to me.

  9. dcars Says:

    After they let British Leyland die I doubt that they would help Lotus. Lotus’s engineering section is top notch someone will buy that part of them, if they get into real trouble.

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It looks like Chrysler is reversing an earlier, ill-conceived “brand management” decision to drop the Dodge Caravan name, and call all of their minivans Town and Country. See:


    It now looks like they will keep the Grand Caravan name, which they should, IMHO. Caravan/Grand Caravan have been the top selling versions of the vans since they hit the market in 1984 model year, and Caravan is the name people think of in regard to Chrysler minivans. Town and Country is better known as the name used for those late 40′s and early 50′s “woody” convertibles that you occasionally see at collector car shows.

  11. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Here is what’s left of British Leyland, after Ford, BMW, Tata, etc. got ahold of most of it:


  12. cwolf Says:

    I’m anxious to see just how competitive Ford wants to be with the C-max. The Prius’s “timex” watch reputation is going to demand more than just hype.

    I think the Dart will be a swell car for Chry. I kinda like the look of the Alfa grill and wish they would have incorporated the Dodge cross into that.

  13. cwolf Says:

    Kit, I bet one main reason for keeping the Caravan is due to the fact it is a top seller in Canada. I,too, think it was the better choice.

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    #10 Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb to terminate a vehicle that has done and continues to do well for the company is crazy business. There are tons of Dodge and Chrysler minivans all over So Fl both for rental fleets and privately owned as well. Remember the Chrysler semi mini van sold a few years back, no one bought the stupid thing I think it was called the Aspen?

  15. cwolf Says:

    Hey,you Floridians! How’d you fair the storm down there?

  16. pedro fernandez Says:

    I’m too far So for the storm but we’ll get our fair share in time I am sure, we’ve been very lucky for too many years, we’re gonna get hit eventually.

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    That Aspen was a Chrysler-badged version of Dodge Durango. An earlier Aspen was a Dodge version of Plymouth Volare.

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I don’t know how bad the storm was in my area; I’m now in Indiana. I don’t think was too bad, though, except lots of rain.

  19. cwolf Says:

    Was just a bit concerned cuz I’d hate if’n sumpt’in happined to one of ya fellers!

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    cwolf you’re a good man!

  21. C-Tech Says:

    @ #20
    Thanks for your concern. We got lots of much needed rain in Orlando, we have had some forest fires that caused accidents and shut down I-95 for hours, not to mention the sinkholes. The tourists are not happy about the rain today.

  22. Brett Says:

    We got a bit over 3″ of rain in Daytona and it was a bit blustry. They shut down the Florida Folk Festival early in White Springs, Fl, but we didn’t plan to stay until Monday anyway.

    We really needed the rain. That barely cut into half the deficit for the year.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how the new Dart does. I see a fair number of new 300s and 200s around, but they could be rentals as this is a tourist area.

    Thanks for the concern about Beryl. After surviving Andrew down in S. Florida years back, I’m not too daunted by tropical storm warnings. :)

  23. aliisdad Says:

    #11.. It breaks my heart to see what happened to MG, but maybe the Chinese company will eventually design a new model true sports car like the “F” was…If the quality is good, and there are enough dealers, it might be a hit…One problem is that they would have to establish new dealers in the US, and very few young people even know what an MG was/is…Today, there are still qutie a few very active British/MG clubs and car shows around for this beloved marque, so I think they might have a chance with some real sports cars…Who knows maybe fifty years from now there will be British-Chinese car shows during the summers?!?!?
    There also was originally talk of building MG cars in the US, but it was changed by SAIC…And, when I went to the website you gave, I thought it was interesting that they called their sedan the “Magnette” after the old MG sedans of the 50′s and 60′s…
    Thanks for sharing the website link…

  24. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If they someday have something to sell in the U.S., probably some of the existing Jaguar/Land Rover dealers might want to sell MG.

  25. MJB Says:

    Why does the head of Dodge design (when over-viewing the Dart styling) state that the flying butress at the rear window pillar is something that they ‘own’ and something that ‘only we can do’?

    Clearly I have seen this design language on other automobiles. And clearly it has been executed more effectively on other cars than it has been on this iteration of the Dart.

  26. Dan Clemons Says:

    Nice job Craig!! Enjoyed your report.