Episode 1022 – Honda Boosts U.S. Exports, New Ram Commercial Division, Diesel Sales Up

November 28th, 2012 at 12:05pm

Runtime: 8:05

In an effort to move production out of Japan, Honda wants to boost exports from the U.S. Ram Truck is launching a new commercial truck division called Ram Commercial. It will even offer a full-sized van based on the Fiat Ducato. Diesel powered cars are starting to catch on in the American market, up over 25 percent through October this year. All that and more, plus guest host Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics gives his thoughts on the state of electric vehicles.

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Thanks, Johnny. How’s the weather out there? Oh, did we lose him? Anyway, hello and welcome to another episode of Autoline Daily. It’s Wednesday, the 28th of November. And as John said, I’m Jim Hall from 2953 Analytics — only that evil brother of mine calls me “Jimmy.” Let’s get to the news, shall we?

In an effort to battle the strong value of the yen, Honda’s CEO says he wants to boost exports from the U.S. According to the Wall Street Journal, last year the company exported 55,000 vehicles from North America but Honda says they could raise that to 200,000 units, thanks to increased capacity at its plants and a new factory in Mexico. The move is part of a broader effort to move production out of Japan. Exports from its home country account for just 28 percent of Honda’s global sales.

Diesel powered cars are starting to catch on in the American market. According to a new study from the Diesel Technology Forum, clean diesel sales are up over 25 percent through October this year, to around 104,000 units. While it’s still a small fraction of the overall market, the Forum forecasts the number of diesels in the U.S. will nearly double in the next year and a half. And by the end of the decade diesel sales in North America are expected to reach over 900,000 units. We shall see.

Ram Truck is launching a new division called Ram Commercial. It will focus on the growing commercial truck market that has been dominated by Ford and GM. The new division will offer a full line of industrial strength vans and trucks that will have the Tradesman trim level available on all models. The lineup will consist of current vehicles like Ram 1500 Tradesman and Ram C/V Tradesman cargo van, but will also offer an all-new full-size van called Ram ProMaster Tradesman based on the Fiat Ducato. The van will be significantly redesigned with familiar Ram Truck styling cues, offering features and powertrains preferred by North American customers.

Ford introduced the Fiesta ST to the American market yesterday. The ST will have a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine that produces an estimated 197 horsepower and 214 foot-pounds of torque. Puting cars like the Mini Cooper S and Chevrolet Sonic RS in its crosshairs. It will also offer a precision sport-tuned suspension, an upgraded 4-wheel disc brake system, electric power-steering, and a six-speed manual transmission. The Fiesta ST will go on sale late next year.

Coming up next, my thoughts on electric vehicles.

Thanks to the California ZEV mandate and the EU CO2 requirements electric vehicles, pretty serious electric vehicles, are here. To be sure, the business case for most of these products is flimsier than a Laura Scudders potato chip and easier to see through than a piece of onion skin, but they’re here.

And, for this petrolhead, one of the biggest problems is that there isn’t single one of ‘em that is styled to reflect the radical change that powers it. The Coda is the best example of what looks to be a regular compact sedan, a twenty-year-old compact sedan, with a grille that looks too small. I know it’s what I refer to as an Expedient Electric, a regular IC production model repurposed for propulsion by zooming electron. And it’s not the only one.

Two of the better Expedient Electrics, the Ford Focus Electric and the Chevy Spark EV are differentiated from there longer-range petroleum-stoked variants by there grilles. Their Grilles! Why do these cars even have grilles? The thermal loads from electric drive are vastly lower than that of IC propulsion.

Nissan’s Leaf has a large flip-up charge port door where you’d expect a grille on any other 5-door C-Class hatchback. Now it’s a dedicated electric so that’s the kind of stuff you’d expect. But in spite of starting with a clean sheet, the Leaf is visually differentiated from other compact hatchbacks by weird details like its serpentine tail lamps snaking their way up the cars C-pillars and blue-tinted chrome. Other than a few details, nothing on the Leaf communicates what it is.

The same is true for Tesla’s impressive Model S. The award-winning car has a radical package that has been fully optimized for electric drive. There’s a large trunk under the hood, a cabin with room for five to be seated comfortably and a large flat-floor rear cargo area under a big hatch. Tesla even offers optional rear-facing child seats for the back not unlike Mom’s wood-paneled Country Cousin Ranch Master station wagon. But outside the Tesla is nothing more than an attractive, contemporary six-light four-door executive sedan. It even has a grille it doesn’t need.

Where is the modern EV that immediately communications how advanced it is?

Today at the Los Angeles auto show, BMW will pull the wraps off its upcoming i3 Megacity EV. When I first looked at the photos of the car, I thought “This is the one! It’ll communicate how advanced it is at a glance.” Then I saw the nose. There in front of Dr.-Ing. Reithofer, God and everybody are the much loved (and totally unnecessary) are the twin kidneys that comprise BMW frontal identity. I don’t get it.

But enough of my rant. The modern EV is here and is a fixture of the future. Design aside, the products have appeal beyond their function as tool of legislative compliance.

On the automakers part, what company wouldn’t want to be free of the burden of emissions and fuel economy engineering, testing, validation and certification. Across a global medium-to-large manufacturer the savings could get into ten figures. But this kind of freedom comes at a price. Piece cost. The technology to build vehicle that approaches the performance levels consumers have come to expect from today’s internal combustion vehicles is anything but cheap. Still, with volume comes a degree of economies of scale-based cost reduction. So in theory, the cost of advanced EV tech should be viewed as an investment where the payoff is reduced certification costs.

I just wish somebody would do an EV as Tomorrow’s Car rather hiding some significant technology under insignificant sheetmetal.

And just another reminder, today is the day Autoline is broadcasting LIVE from the floor of the LA Auto Show. John will be talking to top-level executives at the show like Tim Mahoney from Volkswagen, Tom Doll from Subaru, Anthony Foulk from Audi and many others. As usual, the crew will be going completely wireless to give you a first-hand walking tour of the show floor. So, make sure you tune in today at 4PM Eastern Time, 1PM Pacific for the live show. You’ll find everything, including a full guest list at Autoline.tv.

And that’s all for today’s show. Once again I’m Jim Hall from 2953 Analytics, thanks for watching and I‘ll be seeing you.

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

31 Comments to “Episode 1022 – Honda Boosts U.S. Exports, New Ram Commercial Division, Diesel Sales Up”

  1. Bradley Says:

    Product acceptance is why we don’t see radical 1950′s Future Electric cars. Furthermore, mass production of a new radical design would add cost, too what is already expensive. With that said, yes I wish EVs had a radical style.

  2. john 878 Says:

    EV have grills even though they hardly needs one, because EV’s are purposely made to look like a regular car. People hate changes and I see it all the time with EV’s on the web.
    Read the book name “Future Shock” by Alvin Tofler an you’ll better understand what’s going on with electric vehicles. I think John should read this book, also.

  3. Mike Says:

    I wonder if changes in the fuel supply (i.e. the fracking of Shale is supposedly leading to Oil self sufficiency within five years, and the massive availability of natural gas)is on the verge of making EV’s passe? Other than government mandates, why do we need electric powered vehicles?


  4. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Who is going to make all these diesel cars to double their numbers in the next year and a half? VW is almost the “only game in town” with diesel cars. They sell a handful of diesel E-Class, but didn’t BMW quit selling the diesel 3 in the U.S.?

  5. Bradley Says:

    #4 I hope Subaru brings their diesel to the States.

  6. C-Tech Says:

    To Jim’s rant, What is the problem with a car looking (and functioning) like a car? If you want to delete the grille, fine, however you lose the company identity as well. That is why BMW put their mark front and center (tastefully I thought). I agree with you on seeing design changes that take advantage of the electric system, similar to how air-cooled cars were designed.

  7. ColoradoKid Says:


    The reason E/V’s are not selling ( even when the sales are subsidized ) is They Do Not Work . Plain and Simple ;

    The E/V of today has the exact same problems that killed them off back in the early 1900′s . Namely ;

    1) Range
    2) Battery capacity
    3) Charging time and capability
    4) Complexity
    5) Inability to support other functions in the car without severely cutting back battery range
    6) Ability to maintain a reasonable speed without once again severely limiting range .
    7) Weight

    Same Problems – Different Day – with the additional problem now of all the electronic whizz bangs we all seem to think we need on our cars severely depleting the range of an E/V as well

    Diesel News ;

    Finally ! The US seems to be catching on . Now if only the infrastructure would catch up with the demand ( as well as the supply ) well …. we might just be on to something here . We’ll see how it goes but IMHO lets Rock On Baby and get this Diesel thing off the ground !

    #4 Audi is increasing its diesel presence along with BMW and Mercedes ( much in the works from Benz in the very near future ) Believe me if we start buying them Benz , BMW etc will be more than glad to import/build them en mass . Now if the Americans and Japanese could catch up . Well …. perhaps there is a diesel future in the cards for us ( US )

  8. Kit Gerhart Says:

    BMW is dropping the one and only diesel car they had in the U.S., the 335d. How are they increasing their diesel presence?

  9. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I find that it is rumored that BMW will sell 4 cylinder diesels in the U.S., maybe even in the 3 series wagon. That should be a great car. Probably 2014 model year.

  10. HtG Says:

    vanity license plate sighting of note du jour

    On a new Accord, in white, with blacked out windows…

    we read…


    As Peter D. says, ‘REALLY?’

  11. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Everyone here knows my feelings about diesels,lol.All the talk so far is about cars.I have always believed that we need,(now more then ever)diesel compact pickup trucks for the tradesman,along with small delivery vehicles etc.A 1/2 ton pickup could also greatly benefit from a small (under 3.0L) 4 cyl diesel that could easily produce over 300 ft.lbs.of torque to handle the bigger towing jobs etc.Jmho….

  12. ColoradoKid Says:

    This … is truly sad and disheartening to see ;


    One has to wonder . Does Lincoln have a future or is Ford just milking its remains for all it worth till they kill off the brand ?

    Diesels revisited – Ask and ye shall receive . Mazda just announced at the LA show they’re bringing over the Mazda 6 Diesel . Thats one ( Japanese automaker ) Next ?

    #10 My favorite vanity plate sighting ?

    KSMYS . I’ll let you guess what car that was on ( no its not mine ) A Hint ? Very expensive !

  13. M360 Says:

    Jim Hall, are you sure that wasn’t your evil twin brother giving today’s newcast? You seemed a little too upset. Of course BMWs are going to have a kidney-shape in the middle of their electric’s grille, it’s part of their brand identity. They need to tell you “This is a BMW”. It’s part of the Marketing 101 course you missed in school, I guess.

  14. HtG Says:

    13 Indeed, I saw a 3series this morning with the plate, MYBMUU. She hears you M360

    And this plate over the weekend, NOMRW8NG. Grey C6

  15. Bradley Says:

    #12 I am ok with that lineup from Lincoln. As too much newer than 1961 and signs of what made Lincoln loose stance starts to show. If Lincoln took any of those cars, put modern safety on it and any type of power train. It would sell. Espcecially, if it wasn’t a V8.

  16. gmveteran Says:

    In all the talk of diesels, you have all forgotten that Chevy will launch a diesel engine in the Cruze in 2013. That will help with sales volume. Also, they will be launching an all new Colorado/Canyon and there is a rumor of a small diesel option. Ford has been evaluating diesel for some of their small cars, like Focus. Chrysler will have diesel power in the Grand Cherokee again soon, and perhaps in some other models. Interestingly, it appears diesel is finally on an upswing in the States at about the same time its popularity will start to wane in Europe. The added expense of meeting the coming European emission standards will make diesel too expensive for small and midsize cars on the Continent.

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    In 5 yrs from now, used cars buyers will avoid EV’s and turbos like they avoided GM’s 359 Diesel and Caddy’s 4/6/8 engines back when.

  18. HtG Says:

    snark alert

    Does the L in 500L stand for lento?


  19. ColoradoKid Says:

    # 17

    +1 ;-)

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    Congrats to Toyota, finally they will not have any vehicle with a 4 speed auto, the last one to have it, the Rav 4 will now come with a 5 speed. Let’s not forget that they were also the last one to offer a 3 speed as recently as 2002.

  21. cwolf Says:

    EV’s do not work as a “DO All” vehicle any more than a contractor can substitute a sedan for a P/U. Electrics can be a perfect alternative for many who do not stray far from home or have a second set of wheels.

    Sure,diesel sales will increase as more makers make them more available,but once the average “Joe” realizes the true benifits to them,I predict a drop in sales. The initial added cost and the extra to maintain them wipes out any gains to be had. Be assured fuel prices can only increase with demand. The only advantage of a diesel is for traveling buisiness men who own their car or in trucks and maybe vans. As for diesel Audi snobs: For the ones not leased, the servic departments across America will be more than happy to have a long term sap to rape!

  22. HtG Says:

    tell us what you really think, cwolf :)

  23. RonE Says:

    @12, KSMYS: Aston Martin.

  24. HtG Says:


    Assuming we’re in Colorado, either Denver(Tattered Cover!) or Boulder($$$), I’ll say Range Rover or Porsche

  25. XA351GT Says:

    Jim, I have to say you and I disagree on the EV styling. I can’t stand the styling on some of these “hey look at me E/Vs” Wild styling is basicly a stunt that gets attention in the short term and then becomes out of fashion extremely fast. It’s not just E/V s I have a problem with when styled like this. The Aztec , Juke ,Cube, Scion XB ,Spark all styled like a kid was loose in the design studio. I don’t think many people want to drive what looks like a clown car.

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Agreed, on both counts. As far as diesels, I had one, an ’02 Jetta wagon. It got good mpg, but a Prius gets better, a lot better in stop and go, and on cheaper fuel. At steady speedon the interstate, the Jetta and my current Prius get about the same, 44 mpg. I liked the way the Jetta drove, even though it was slower than a Prius, but the expensive fuel, fuel filter, and oil changes hurt, as far as operating cost. The new diesels also have urea injection, another expense and inconvenience.

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    In spite of the downside, though, I like small diesels. They just “feel good,” at least with a manual transmission.

  28. ColoradoKid Says:


    And the prize goes to ….

    Yup . A Porsche Panamera Turbo with full on body – performance and suspension kit from a certain German ‘ tuner ‘ !

    Drove it like he was serious about his vanity plates statement as well I might add .

    #21 Preach it brother . Though I’m glad on one hand diesels are coming ( perhaps and hopefully putting a lid on the Hybrid/EV thing ) but I most certainly would not own one . For me along with the price of fuel/maintenance and cost of entry .. the noise is an overwhelming issue .. even in the most luxurious of diesel offerings .. IMO

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Diesels won’t put a lid on hybrids, because hybrids work bettet for people who drive in traffic, as well as on the highway. Diesels are great on the highway, though, as long as the fuel stays within 10% or so of the price of regular.

  30. andrewdhall Says:

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    Byron Marshall added 106 yards rushing and two touchdowns and while Oregon’s streak of scoring at least 55 points ended at five games, the Ducks passed their first test of the season.
    De’Anthony Thomas suited up for the Ducks but it was just decoration. Sidelined with a sprained ankle the past two games, Thomas went through pregame warm-ups but never left the Oregon sideline. Turns out they didn’t need him.
    Bishop Sankey ran for 167 yards and touchdowns of 60 and 25 yards for Washington, Custom Arizona Cardinals NFL Jerseys but the Huskies (4-2, 1-2) defense that stood stout against Stanford last week was exposed by Mariota and the Ducks. The Huskies gave up 633 total yards. Washington was third in the country giving up just 3.9 yards per offensive play, but the Ducks averaged 7.9 per touch.
    Sankey was responsible for a major first-half swing that left the Huskies unsuccessfully playing from cheap nfl jerseys behind. Tied at 7-7 and driving, Sankey fumbled for the first time this season Custom New York Giants Jerseys Wholesale on a third-down run at the Oregon 31. The fumble was forced by cornerback Troy Hill and recovered by Torrondney Prevot. Mariota went to work immediately, hitting Addison for 38 yards and seven plays later the two connected again on a 4-yard TD and a 14-7 lead.
    Washington went three-and-out on its next series holding possession for barely one minute. Oregon followed with a seven-play drive, with three plays of 15 yards or more. Marshall capped the drive with a 15-yard sprint untouched and a 21-7 Ducks lead.
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    Washington quarterback Keith Price was battered for the second straight week. His gutty effort last Saturday in a 31-28 loss at No. 5 Stanford gave belief that this would be the Huskies best chance to stop their losing streak to the Ducks. But Price’s receivers struggled to get separation and he was sacked four times and ran 11 others. Price finished 19 of 32 for 182
    Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  31. shanemckinney Says:


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