Episode 964 – August Sales Report, GM gets Cold Feet, Volkswagen’s MK VII Golf

September 5th, 2012 at 12:00pm

Runtime: 8:58

August sales are in and the results have taken many analysts by surprise. GM may be having second thoughts about its alliance with PSA. Volkswagen just unveiled its seventh-generation Golf in Berlin, Germany. All that and more, plus John dives into all the technical details of the new 2013 Honda Accord.

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Welcome to Autoline Daily. Boy is there a lot to cover today, so let’s get to it!

AUGUST SALES (subscription required)
August sales in the U.S. took most analysts by surprise. As good as they thought sales would be they came in even better. Total units came in at 1.28 million vehicles. That’s up more than 15 percent compared to a year ago. But here’s where the numbers get tricky. As measured on a daily-selling basis by Ward’s, sales were down 1 percent compared to the month before. But the SAAR came in at 14.46 million, the highest it’s been since cash for clunkers. And in a sign of how strongly the market is growing, automakers cut their incentives by 5 percent, although Honda increased incentives by more than 8 percent. And that really paid off for Honda, which enjoyed the highest year-over-year sales of any automaker. VW/Audi was next, followed by Toyota, Porsche and Subaru. If you look at individual brands, the hottest ones were Acura, up a jaw-dropping 66 percent, and Volkswagen, which shot up 56 percent mainly thanks to the Passat. The worst performers were Mitsubishi, which plunged by a scary 49 percent. Suzuki, Mazda, Hyundai and Nissan were the others who saw sales fall, or grow by the smallest amount. And a historical note here. While Saab’s sales have been dwindling for years, last month marked the first time in over half a century that not one Saab was sold in the American market. I think this is the end of the end. Sales comparisons to a year ago are skewed by the Japanese automakers and their production stoppages due to the earthquake. So if we look at a month-over-month comparison, the best performers are General Motors, Chrysler, Mazda, and Toyota, and Ford.

When GM announced an alliance with PSA, most analysts didn’t understand how it would help GM. And now it seems GM may be thinking the same thing. Reuters reports GM is backing away from plans to share its midsize car platforms with PSA. The deal was to have Opel, Peugeot and Citroen cars built at Opel’s plant in Ruesselsheim, Germany. However, the plan was vetoed by management at GM China and Buick because they’re worried the French models would directly compete with their own vehicles. The two companies are still finalizing the partnership but a GM spokesman indicated that the deal won’t include shared manufacturing and would focus instead on purchasing, logistics and product development.

Audi will manufacture vehicles in North America. It will build a new plant in Mexico next year to make the next-generation Q5 starting in 2016. That will boost Audi’s annual capacity by 150,000 units.

Volkswagen just unveiled its seventh-generation Golf in Berlin. The biggest news is probably the amount of fat VW cut from the car’s waistline. The new Golf is up to 220 pounds lighter than its predecessor, thanks to attention to detail and high-strength steel. Fuel efficiency is up to 23 percent, and that’s in spite of the car being longer, wider and more spacious inside. You can bet a variety of engines will be offered including a 1.4-liter TSI turbo with cylinder deactivation and of course a TDI clean diesel. More information will be available at the Paris Motor Show in the coming weeks. Pricing has not been announced. The car is expected to go on sale in North America by early 2014.

In other small-car news Ford redesigned the Fiesta. The blue-oval B-segment offering gets a brand-new front end that looks like it came right off the 2013 Fusion. I think it’s a HUGE improvement over today’s model. Other highlights include the company’s award-winning 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder engine for best-in-class efficiency and lots of technology. Details on the North American version of the 2013 Ford Fiesta will be announced at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

Speaking of details on new cars, today is the day the embargo lifts for technical details on the 2013 Honda Accord. That is coming up next.

Honda can’t wait to get the 2013, ninth-generation Accord into its showrooms. It’s 3.6 inches shorter overall, with a one-inch shorter wheelbase, and yet it has more than one cubic foot more of cargo room. Honda says it’s the quietest cabin it ever made, thanks to active noise control that uses a microphone in the headliner and pumps sound in via the speakers to cancel out harsher noises. And yes, it’s quiet, but not as quiet as other cars in its segment.

Honda says it doesn’t care about having the best styling in its class, which is kind of a strange thing to say. Instead, it says it wants the best overall car as measured in different categories. In our view, there are no problems with the styling, but it’s so similar looking to the old model that the general public may not be aware that there’s a new Accord in the showroom.

There’s a new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that develops 185 horsepower and 181 pound feet of torque. It delivers a combined 30 miles per gallon. That’s with the six-speed manual. For the first time ever Honda is offering a CVT with the four. Then there’s the 3.5-liter that V-6 develops 278 horsepower and 252 foot-pounds, and a combined 25 MPG.

Later, sometime after launch, Honda will introduce a plug-in hybrid version. This will get intense scrutiny from other car companies because it’s a completely different type of hybrid that can run in pure EV mode for 10 to 15 miles, or can run in hybrid mode where it becomes a series hybrid just like the Chevy Volt, and can run in engine mode, where the engine is mechanically connected to the wheels yet still gets electric assist from one of two electric motors. Honda uses a small battery pack, but the car has a higher capacity charger, that will add 8 miles of range in 30 minutes of charging with a 240 volt charger. No fuel economy numbers are available yet.

Under the skin they dropped the double-wishbone suspension and went with McPherson struts instead. Honda says this reduces vibration and cuts weight by 15.2 kilograms. I’ll point out that it’s also a cheaper way to go.

By using high-strength and hot-stamped steel they cut the weight of the body by 26 kilograms. Interestingly, the front subframe is made of aluminum and is bonded to the steel with what they call the friction stir welding. We’re going to have to learn more about that.

A base Accord with a six-speed automatic starts at $22,480, while a fully loaded touring version comes in at $33,430. Honda says the coupe market is small and difficult, but they went ahead and did one anyway.

Those are some of the technical highlights. The embargo for driving impressions comes off next week and we’ll let you know what we think it’s like to drive one.

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

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41 Comments to “Episode 964 – August Sales Report, GM gets Cold Feet, Volkswagen’s MK VII Golf”

  1. Jon M Says:

    Good tech details on the ’13 Accord, John. Gee, where could the inspiration for the interior have come from? I suppose it is for the most part the look of the soon coming ’13 Crosstour’s interior also, even though Honda now distinguishes it from the Accord line-up. The inside of a CR-V isn’t a bad place to be, but spending a few more dollars on some of the plastics would help. I hope they did on the Accord!

  2. pedro fernandez Says:

    With this new Accord, Honda not only has jumped the shark, they exited the ocean. They no longer stand out, they just follow along the same path as all the others in the class

  3. Lex Says:

    When you look at the interior and exterior of the 2013 Accord it pales in comparison to others in that category like the new 2013 Nissan Altima.

  4. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It sounds like the Accord still has worst-in-class noise level, and that’s even a speaker and microphone. Does that speaker/microphone stuff really even work for the whole car? I’m curious. I’d think there would be “nodes” where the system doesn’t work very well

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    At least there will be an Accord coupe. That is rare in this class

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    #4 I don’t know why Honda seems to have problems making quiet cars, even their expensive Acuras have always been noisier than the competition, have they ever heard of Dynamat or some other similar materials? I remember riding a 2005 Accord and how noisy it was compared to cars in its class, even the crappy old Sonatas were a lot quieter. Resorting to tricky electronics is a sign of desperation to me.

  7. C-Tech Says:

    The continued strong sales, with few incentives, is a welcome surprise. I guess a little incentives goes a long way on an Acura as they have been promoting them non-stop here.

    The more news about GM-PSA, the more sense your plan for Opel makes.

    The Accord looks kinda plain on the outside so my guess is the marketing dept. is just beating you (and every other reporter) to the punch. Accords are such nice cars, as a tech, I’ve noticed the price of repair/replacement parts have gone up on every new generation of Hondas’

  8. Ed Says:

    I know no one likes to compare current Saar to what was going on in 2008, however itust be compared. At that rate we are still in the hole, also both Toyota and honda are using incentives, Toyota has many models with 0 % for 60 months or more, and Honda with 8k of incentive per vehicle, not the rosy pic you want, so go on and spin, spin, spin . . . Ed

  9. Brett Says:

    I’ve always wished for that active noise control system of which a prototype was demo’d on one of those cable “Beyond 2000″ shows a decade or two ago. It had a selector knob and you could make the inside of your humble econobox sound like you were in a Ferrari Enzo, Porsche Carrerra, LeMans Corvette, etc. The effect was uncanny.

    Now THAT is an option I would throw down for in a heartbeat! :)

  10. dcars Says:

    Toyota and Honda have the good problem that GM had about 25years ago… they are stuck with their success. They won’t deviate from year to year because they have a winning formula.

  11. pedro fernandez Says:

    CR just released an article with both the best cars of 2012 and the worst, low and behold 2 Toyotas made the worst list (IQ and Yaris) and the Versa as well, so much for their bias! Also there is a report that pickup trucks boosted US vehicle sales, yet we’re supposed to be getting 50 mpg’s in a dozen years, really?

  12. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Maybe people are getting their last fix of their pickup truck addiction before they are mostly gone, except for people who actually need them.

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    I don’t think so Kit, like fast food which is bad for you, some people will always be addicted to these even if gas hits the $5 mark, they’ll just do with less of other things.

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, that is probably true. I’m only wishing I didn’t have to share the road with so many huge vehicles driven by inattentive people, when I am in a MINI or Prius.

  15. pedro fernandez Says:

    I recall many years ago, a client telling me he had bought his irresponsible, careless 17 yr old son, the biggest SUV he could get cause he had totaled his first small car and he wanted him to be “secure” cause there would most likely be another accident, I wanted to tell this guy off so badly but my bosses would have not appreciated this!

  16. cwolf Says:

    I have no tiffs with honda products,but the front end of the hyb., shown, is butt ugly!

    I,too, find the SAAR rate very impressive, I can reasonably guess the Euro brands,excluding VW, are not a sizable contributor to the whole, but I wonder just how many of them remain in dealer showrooms?

    GM is going to have to “get off the fence” in determining its alliance with PSA,cuz time is money. But each time this topic is mentioned on ALD, I become more enamored with the front end and over-all looks of the Citroen.

  17. cwolf Says:

    pedro, after reading your #11,I have to give you partial credit for bringing light to CR’s worst list report and noting the Toyotas mensioned; However you attempt to disguise your distain for GM should not be taken as a reprieve. You and CR are still biased,but you’re still mi’amigo! Nice try though.

  18. pedro fernandez Says:

    cwolf, just so you know, I have owned 2 GM vehicles and my family also owned GM back in the 70′s and 80′s, 78 Malibu (great) 77 Bonneville (great) 78 Chevette (so-so) 76 Nova (good) 80 Skylark (sucked) 86 Deville (mediocre). See a pattern there?

  19. cwolf Says:

    #18 Yes!!!… I see a pattern of once owning GM products 25+ years ago and nothing of the present. As time passes, so must we move forward from the past. By the way,I may not be the cwolf as known by,but your guardian angel! Is this anyway to talk to your an angel? In the future you should be exxxxtremely nice to me or you might go to hell!!!

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    I am in hell already, married 33 yrs and driving a 14 yr old, 300k mile car!

  21. cwolf Says:

    So does this mean nothing has changed between us?; The least you could do is to be a little remorseful! I,too,have been married 33 years. My wife adds the courtship to make it an even 40! Our relationship has bettered like a fine wine over the years,but akin to your Corolla, she too hass 300k miles on her; all on the account of me!

  22. Roger T Says:

    So Honda doesn’t care if their cars are ugly? How many successful ugly cars can you think of???
    Saturn had good cars by many measures, and you know what? The Aztec was a darn good ugly car too! Honda should know better, particularly after the Crosstour fiasco.

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    Hey at this point I’ll take a Cruze, Sonic, Spark, Aveo (NOT) anything other than my rolling giant vibrating machine. I chose to rent a Cruze from Avis for my next b-day and avoided the Corollas at Budget, that should tell you that I’m coming around!

  24. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Speaking of GM products, I just went by the local Cadillac dealer to see if they had any ATS’s yet, and they had their first one. It was a very pricey “luxury colkection” with probably every option, including AWD. MSRP was about $47K. They asked if I wanted to drive it, and I assured them I was not inthe car market now, but I wouldn’t mind driving iThey were ok with that, so I went for about a 10 mile drive. It was quick, quiet, and the steering felt very quick and responsive. Of course, I had just gotten out of a Prius, so things are relative. The bad part, as with so many new cars, is that you need to read the owner’s manual to work the radio. Disappointingly, even the salesman didn’t know how to work it. He said he was new at the dealership, so he will hopefully learn such things.

    Anyway, except for the controls, I really liked the car, and suspect that would be the case with a much cheaper “base” version.

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The car I drove had the 3.6 engine, and automatic. In the unlikely event I ever bought one as a fun, but “luxury” replacement for my MINI, it would probably be the 2.0 turbo/6 speed manual.

  26. Jon M Says:

    @ #15 pedro fernandez

    I’ve known a couple people who hold fast the misconception that big SUVs–or any large vehicle for that matter–are safer due to their sheer size. I debunk their ill-conceived notions by reminding them the best way to not get injured in accident is to avoid it. And the best way to avoid an accident is to either swerve around it or stop short of it. Which vehicles are the worst for either option? SUVs and other large vehicles.

  27. cwolf Says:

    #24,25 Just rub it in!!!!………..weep-weep.

  28. pedro fernandez Says:

    #24 25 most manufacturers and dealers are guilty of this, making you pay an gigantic premium to be the first on your block, but what this does is put off buyers who were waiting for a particular vehicle and instead may push them into a cheaper and similar vehicle.

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I don’t know if the dealer ordered the car that way, or if the first ones are just built that way. For $47K, I’d think even regular Cadillac buyers might look at something else. When I see $47K, I see both my Prius, and my MINI, and about $2000 left over.

  30. pedro fernandez Says:

    If it’s supposed to be a BMW 3 series competitor, you can get a 3 and a trip for that money, re the radio, imagine some old driver trying to work the radio while driving along, well it does have plenty or airbags, right?

  31. jmann Says:

    I found a nice selection of pics of the Mk VII Golf on the ‘net. Was underwhelmed. Also, strong emphasis on electronic glitz. Seems to me the Mk VI Rabbit we had here in the US was the high water mark. Mainly a drivers car. KISS. Fun.

  32. Philip Says:

    I thought people bought Audi’s because they were German engineered, and built with quality in Germany. ( And paid a hefty premium for it. )

    If the next Q5 will be assembled in Mexico, will people still want it?

  33. Philip Says:

    Speaking of Volkswagen, I know the Jetta Hybrid comes out later this year, but as much as I search I have been unable to find out if the Jetta Sportwagen will also be available as a hybrid. Anyone know the answer?

  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    3-series prices easily go that high, and above, and start out about 2-3K higher.

    I just went the the “build and price” section of the BMW USA site, and 3-series are even pricier than I realized. I started with the 328 sedan, the turbo 4, and checked boxes to make is similarly equipped to the ATS I drove. The BMW ended up at $49K, and it wasn’t AWD like the ATS. You really pay a lot extra for “premium” cars, especially if you get many of the available packages and options.

  35. pedro fernandez Says:

    #34 holy crap! jeez, what has happened to the price of cars, it’s incredible that sales are as high as they are with the economy and all!

  36. pedro fernandez Says:

    According to Carsdirect.com BMW 328 with turbo 4 RWD is $38k add another 2k for fees and taxes, that’s what a 5 series cost a few years ago.

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    While the middle class is disappearing, the rich are getting richer, and I guess they are buying cars.

  38. pedro fernandez Says:

    This is the same reason why the last time I got tires as I waited, a long line of folks came in looking for price on new tires and most left or bought used ones at 1/3 the cost of a new one. Now I even see well known tire shops with signs saying they sell used ones.

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Then you add a few “gadget” packages, leather, and sunroof, and it’s $49K. There were still a couple or three more boxes to check on the one I “built.” Get the 335 instead of the 328, and it can easily be well over 50K for a 3 series sedan. Then, there is the convertible.

  40. pedro fernandez Says:

    It’ no wonder used car sales are doing well, there are even youtube guys who show what’s available at dealer only auctions, lots of mistreated and unloved cars there, you’ve got to be real careful or you’ll end up with a humongous headache and a car payment to boot!

  41. HuskieHust Says:

    I am not as interested in the financial gain at this point as I am with developing a committment to clean energy. I know it would probably be cheaper to continue to pay traditional energy cost. But I believe we should do everything we can to change our dependence on fossil fuel. It would be worth it to me to know I am helping to build a local economy also. Manufacturing, sales and installation jobs which are needed badly at this time…. am I alone thinking like this?