Episode 1063 – January Car Sales, Infiniti Grabs Red Bull by Horns, UAW in Politics

February 4th, 2013 at 11:46am

Runtime: 7:31

New U.S. car sales figures are out for the month of January, and they look very strong. Red Bull Racing inked a four-year deal with one carmaker to become the Vehicle Performance Partner of the team. At a labor conference in Washington D.C., UAW President Bob King and former Brazilian President Lula da Silva urged union members to get more active in politics. All that and more, plus host John McElroy gives his driving impressions of the 2014 Subaru Forester.

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Welcome to a new week of Autoline Daily. We’ve got the results from our latest poll, where we asked you to vote on the finalists that the automotive designers chose for the best production and concept cars at the Detroit auto show, but first let’s get to the news.

New car sales in the U.S. market came in very strong for January. Just over one million new vehicles were sold, up nearly 10 percent from a year ago. The seasonally adjusted rate suggests that sales for the year would come in at 15.2 million units, up from last year’s January SAAR of 13.9 million. The top selling automakers were Porsche, up more than 26 percent, followed by Toyota up nearly 22 percent. Jaguar Land Rover had a terrific month, but it was all thanks to Land Rover. Ford and Subaru rounded out the top five. The bottom five start with Mazda, which saw sales plummet almost 15 percent. Mitsubishi and Suzuki were down, no surprise there. However, it was a surprise to see Nissan drop 2 percent and BMW and Hyundai/Kia drop by almost that amount. Overall, the Detroit automakers picked up a point and a half of share, they now have 45.7 percent of the market. Asian automakers collective lost a point and the Europeans lost half a point. If the American market keeps growing like this everyone ought to have a good year.

Well it’s the time of the season where the Formula 1 teams show off their newest race cars. McLaren, Ferrari and Force India have all pulled the covers off their latest designs. But perhaps the most intriguing introduction comes from Red Bull Racing, which inked a four-year deal with carmaker Infiniti to become the Vehicle Performance Partner of the team. Infiniti believes that moving technical staff through the F1 environment will benefit those people, their own new-car development process and their technology. I love seeing car companies using motor racing to improve their capabilities.

At a labor conference in Washington D.C., UAW President Bob King and former Brazilian President Lula da Silva urged union members to get more active in politics. During the conference King points to Lula, a former auto worker, as an example of how far one can go. As for fighting for workers rights, President Lula says, “[it] is a job for the workers.”

On Friday, we gave you the list of finalists for the EyesOn Design Awards that are given at the Detroit auto show. The jury is made up of about 28 car designers from around the world who walk the show and vote on the best new production car and the best concept car. Their finalists for production car included the Audi RS7, BMW M6 Grand Coupe, Cadillac ELR, Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. And you voted for the Corvette. Interestingly, the designers chose the Cadillac ELR. The concept car finalists included the Ford Atlas pick-up, the Hyundai HCD-14, Lincoln MKC and Nissan Resonance. You chose the Hyundai HCD-14. The designers tied. They awarded the Ford Atlas and Nissan Resonance. Thanks to you who participated in the poll, we love getting your input.

Coming up next, I’ll give you my driving impressions of the newly redesigned Subaru Forester. Here’s a hint. I really like it.

(John McElroy’s full driving impressions of the 2014 Subaru Forester can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show.)

And a key reason it drives so well is that Subaru strengthened the body to where it’s now one-and-a-half times stiffer than the previous one, even though they chopped 24 pounds out of the body in white. Thanks to a significantly retuned suspension, this SUV is feels rock solid, and combined with a great seating position for the driver, you feel properly planted. That too makes a huge difference in how a vehicle drives.

The base 2.5-liter engine, mated to a CVT, feels a bit underpowered if you really need to floor it and get going. But the 2-liter turbo, with 80 more horsepower and 84 more foot-pounds of torque provides more than enough get up and go. In fact, now the turbo becomes its own trim line, not just an engine option. And Subaru says it did a much better job of integrating the turbo, instead of just bolting it on the engine. Also, notice how they got rid of the hood scoop, which cleans up the styling.

For truly hard core drivers, though I’m not sure why the hard core would buy a Forester, there are switches on the steering wheel of the turbo models that give you three different driving modes, each more aggressive. They call it SI-Drive for Subaru Intelligent Drive which provides quicker throttle response. It also sets the CVT to mimic a six or eight-speed automatic. Even though Subaru let us drive the Forester on a track, with nearly nine inches of ground clearance, this ain’t no track vehicle. Even so, I could really hustle it around the track.

If you want more info on the pricing, fuel economy, interior layout and overall view, you can check out the other reports that we’ve already done on the new Forester. But overall I give it two thumbs up.

And that wraps up today’s report. Thanks for joining us and we’ll be right back here again tomorrow.

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68 Comments to “Episode 1063 – January Car Sales, Infiniti Grabs Red Bull by Horns, UAW in Politics”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    That 2.0 turbo engine should have been used in the BRZ/FRS twins, 50 extra HP and torque would have come in very handy.

  2. Chuck Grenci Says:

    So John, other than maybe the best Subaru ever made, how does it stack up to the competition (and what is its competition).

  3. Bob Petrach Says:

    I hope members listen to the call from Bob King. We could use more politically active union members like Tim Bos. And could use fewer of those like the recently reinstated Jefferson North assembly line workers who were filmed drinking and smoking pot during their breaks by Fox2 in September 2010. If Bob King were serious about improving conditions for workers, he would have have made sure those Jefferson North workers were gone for good rather than endangering all the other workers with their return.

  4. Admiral Ackbar Says:

    The “best Subaru ever”? Is it really better than the BRZ? Because that seems like a pretty high bar to beat. But maybe it is that good.

    I think we all need to chip in and buy a belt for John for his jeans!

    What news to you have John about the Chicago auto show. What about Geneva? Is anything out yet?

  5. john 878 Says:

    I read that GM did well in sales last month, but I don’t see any mentioning of it here. If so, why?

  6. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Maybe they are saving the turbo for the future, after initial sales of BRZ/FR-S drop off.

  7. pedro fernandez Says:

    I believe John has been smitten by the Forester, it is what Subaru is known for, AWD practical go anywhere transportation.

  8. Kit Gerhart Says:

    From a late post to yesterday’s comments:

    I went by the Cocoa, FL Ford dealer, and they have 5 Fusions. All are from Hermosillo. Four of them are SE trim level, and one is a hybrid.

    TB confirmed from a Flat Rock employee that Fusion production won’t start there until summer.

  9. Admiral Ackbar Says:

    Turbo BRZ sounds like fun. I wonder when they’ll build one?

  10. Mike Says:

    Hey John,

    What is your current take on passenger car diesels? I see that the WSJ says there will be a diesel Cruze, diesel Mazda and diesel Chrysler. Ford too? Will people see this as a lower cost option compared to a Hybrid? Will the diesels and the hybrids together put an end to the full electric idea?


  11. Chuck @ GM Says:

    @5 – Or all the big 3 for that matter.

  12. C-Tech Says:

    Wow, looking for John to say “ïts soooo fluffy” about the new Subie Forester.

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    #8 If at all…It costs a lot of money to move all the equipment from one plant to another, not to mention increased labor costs, so where is the benefit in the move? #9 there are already a few after-market turbos for the BRZ and FRS but they will void the warranty if installed, I guess most buyers will wait till the warranty expires to do so.

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I suspect the main purpose of building the Fusion at Flat Rock would be PR purposes.

    I think they plan to build them at both Hermosillo and Flat Rock, and sell the Flat Rock cars mainly in the U.S.

  15. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Diesels,as much and for as long as I wanted another,I’m full of doubts now.With all the pollution devices,dpf,def,etc their reliability has taken a massive downward turn.Look at any diesel forums and it’s scary now,and damned expensive once the warranty is off.

    AND….it seems the epa has gone after an after-market programmer/tuner outfit that sold performance tunes for the big 3.Even though they (the tuners) are clearly marked “for off road only” they were fined a half a mil in fines.

    The epa is also pissed that there are companies,and people doing (installing) the dpf/def delete pipes to SAVE their engines from hydro-locking due to blow back from all of the mandated plumbing etc.Helluva expensive mess.So,I would like to thank the govt yet again for screwing up our vehicles.

  16. T. Bejma Says:


    You got it Kit. My source confirmed production will be split between Flat Rock and Hermosillo.

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    Since the Flat Rock will be all-new, I would take mine from So of the border, just in case! Almost always, new products from a new plant can have issues.

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I wonder if that “tuner” is responsible for the Dodge diesel I saw last summer that was putting out huge clouds of black smoke, “just for fun,” from its dual vertical pipes sticking up from the front of the bed. If so, I’m with the EPA 1000% on this one.

    BTW, I observed this on a public road.

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    17, yeah, I would rather have a “southern” car too, at least for the first few months of Flat Rock’s building Fusions. The Hermosillo plant, and the Chrysler plant that built the PT Cruiser, and now builds the Fiat 500, seem to produce good build quality.

  20. C-Tech Says:

    Before discounting Flat Rock, they know how to build cars there, they have built a variety of cars out of that plant, and it is one of Ford’s most automated plants. Would not be surprised if that is where MKZ gets assembled eventually.

  21. pedro fernandez Says:

    Both Fusion and PT Cruiser have been 2 of the most reliable American models in recent years, my sister’s Journey, despite all the critical reviews has only had the brake issue and that appears to be solved, the rest of the car has been flawless, and it will soon be 3 yrs old, and it has been used a lot, mostly in city driving.

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    I think it is well known in the car industry that a long established plant building the same vehicle for many years has gotten rid of most of the bugs, the workers have become good at their tasks and the failure rate is a lot lower than a new model at a new plant with workers that have yet to master their duties, robots can mess up to, otherwise these US built VW would be flawless based on how automated their plants are.

  23. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Kit: My own son is guilty of doing that.He’s been a certified diesel tech for almost 20 years.As for if a tuner was used on the diesel pickup you observed,really depends on what year the engine is as to whether or not a tuner is needed.Engines with straight mechanical pumps are really easy to modify for BIG increases in power,no tuner needed.

    But this does bring up the flip side of the ‘mod’ coin,and is quite common.Do most people mod a diesel engine (and related systems) to gain power,or to gain mpg.

    The really easy way to tell is 1)if it belches black smoke and sounds obnoxious,it was modded for performance.
    2)if it sounds normal,doesn’t belch black smoke and IS NOT driven like it was stolen,it was modded for mpg.Let’s face it,the big 3 all offer powerful diesels but the newer they are,the worse mpg,AND reliability due to the mandated add on ‘clean diesel’ stuff.It eats engines.

  24. ColoradoKid Says:

    F1 2013 Snout Report ;

    Mercedes AMG W04 – The ‘ spoonbill solution ‘ ?

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    C-Tech, I agree that they know how to build cars at Flat Rock, but still, I’d rather not have the first Fusion off the line there, or any other plant.

    I tend not to buy a very early copy of any new car, though doing so is less of a problem than it once was. My 2010 Prius is the first model year of the third generation, but is a fairly late 2010.

  26. ColoradoKid Says:

    Subaru Forster ;

    Seems I may have to give Subie another go around before making ‘ Decision 2013 ‘

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I don’t know what model year it was, except that it was the 1994-2002? generation.

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Are you thinking of replacing your Benz, or your wife’s Vibe?

  29. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Kit: pre electronic pump,easy as hell to mod.Here’s something those young diesel fanbois don’t usually know.When you mod a diesel,your a full blown fool if you don’t add a pyrometer.That black smoke is unburned fuel.That really increases the temps in the turbo and they will cook and it don’t take long either.

  30. HtG Says:

    Now you’re talking, John. Hustling a car so you can tell us what happens when you derange it a bit gives us our fix.

  31. HtG Says:

    28 Janet Napolitano would favor the Subie, maybe?

    sorry, resistance was futile

  32. HtG Says:

    Since we’re talking Auto SHports today, here’s a story on Sauber’s new side pods. Hoo boy!


  33. cwolf Says:

    The fusion and the MKZ built in Hermosillo will be also be eventually made at Flat Rock. As we speak, loads of MKZ’s from Mexico are at Flat Rock to complete the added quality inspection specific to Lincoln. With this in mind, I believe the workers making the Fusion will be more that apt to put together a sound car. pedro, I have had zero problems with my Mexican Milan now over 170K miles and agree with your expressed caution, but remember,.. the last two Fusion recalls were from the Mexican plant! Have faith, my friend, in Flat Rock workers to match or better anything assembled south of the bourder.

  34. pedro fernandez Says:

    Traditionally, first year, early run cars were questionable, it makes perfect sense, no matter who or where it is built, even the FR-S BRZ have had issues that affected those early buyers. That fact has not changed, only now we also have to worry about suppliers trying to catch up with demand under staffed and under budget.

  35. cwolf Says:

    Crap!!! The Cuze diesel will require a urea canister needing a refill about every oil change.

  36. HtG Says:

    Did you notice, cwolf, that Mark Reuss mentioned the uniformity of diesel in the US also being a possible issue? Check the link in John’s story on the C. diesel from several days ago.

  37. pedro fernandez Says:

    Mercedes owners are willing to put up with that but Chevy owners….?? add to that the extra cost of diesel fuel and this may not be worth it.

  38. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Up until this year the ram diesel fans were happy because the Cummins didn’t need the def.Now they do.The more you dig into the new ‘clean diesels’ and the new problems they have,the more you shy away from it.

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If the Cruze diesel gets even better mpg than the VW TDI sold in the U.S., which seems likely based on the Euro ratings, it should have very low operating cost, even with the urea. The fuel economy ratings I mention are for manual transmissions, but I don’t know what transmission(s) will be offered with the Cruze diesel in the U.S.

  40. C-Tech Says:

    Hey Pedro have you taken that ATS test drive?

  41. Jim Haines Says:

    I drive alot of Subaru’s at work and when I drive them on a test loop i can’t figure out why anybody wants one. I was wondering what that really bad smell from DC was and I know exactly what it was after seeing Autoline Daily.

  42. Rope-Pusher Says:

    John, John, John – You are just going to have to learn to open up and tell us how you feel about a car when you really like it. Don’t be afraid to take a positive position, don’t hem and haw, don’t beat around the bush, just tell us how you really feel about the car. Nobody is going to make fun of you for being vocal about your favorites.

  43. kevin m Says:


  44. pedro fernandez Says:

    Not yet, man. There’s a video involved and Youtube and all that stuff, so I have to wait till I get the call to do so, we’re looking for a suitable place to really test out and we may do a back to back test with a 3 series to see how they compare, hardest thing is to find a place to test it out properly w/o getting a reckless driving ticket. #41 I guess a lot of folks in the snow belt don’t know how to pick cars either, because them Subies are very popular in the region.

  45. HtG Says:

    You gotta drive a Subie, Pedro. I really liked the Impreza I tested. Those jobbies handle and are very sure footed. They’re also a bit of a cult car(hence my snide joke earlier). That said, did you see the Autocar vid comparing a 4 wheel drive car against a front driver with snow tires? The 4wd only bested the other car in acceleration.

  46. pedro fernandez Says:

    CR just put out a video on how these new turbos don’t get the mileage or performance that their regular non-turbos achieve without the extra expense and complications of such technology, Kit and I have been saying that for a long time. Again no replacement for displacement and technology, turbos have always been the lazy way to get more power and mileage from a smaller engine.

  47. pedro fernandez Says:

    HtG have driven Subies in the past, had 2 buddies who owned them in Pa. before the SUV came along and took a lot of sales from them, solid, no- nonsense transportation that could take you through any kind of weather.

  48. HtG Says:

    I’d also rate the dealer experience highly. It was low pressure and respectful. After I chatted with the salesman he let me take a car out to test on my own. If it had been my choice to make, I’d have gotten the Impreza, despite the low miles and added complexity. They feel good.

  49. HtG Says:

    Here’s a morning read about traffic. WaPo reports that the DC area is number one, which I can confirm.


  50. T. Bejma Says:


    Just had a 2012 Cruze LTZ for a week. It had the 1.4L Turbo and at first the performance was very sub par but because it was a company car, I figured that the drivers before me had not been using premium (I know my blown Cobalt loves the stuff) so I added half a tank of 93 Octane and it really woke up! Performance was very good from a stop and on the highway. I noticed no Turbo Lag and at the end of the week, I was getting 28 mpg in mixed city/highway. Nice little car and very comfortable in LTZ trim.

  51. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It would seem that smaller engines with turbos and direct injection SHOULD get better mpg than naturally aspirated larger engines, but, in the case of the Fords, they don’t seem to. That is the case, both with the V6 in the pickups, and the 4′s in the cars. CR liked the way the V6 delivered power, but it only tied the 5.0 V8 in the trucks. The 4′s were so-so in both performance, and gas mileage. The smooth, powerful V6 Accord and Camry are both faster, and more fuel efficient than the 2.0 “ecoboost” in the Fusion. The V6 Chrysler 300 tied the Fusion 2.0, both in 0-60 times and mpg. Wow.

    An interesting power train that CR will probably never test, is the 1.6 turbo/6-speed manual. I’d think that one, driven properly, should get very good mileage, but maybe not as good as a 4 cylinder Accord.

  52. ColoradoKid Says:

    OPEL in deep ….. again !


    Tell me Thomas Neumann wasn’t hired as a hatchet man as well as scapegoat for GM : with GM’s ultimate intent …… as I predicted two years ago … to shut down OPEL while placing the blame on someone other than themselves ! First its plant closing time . Then Union busting attempts . Next GM’s PSA alliance …. and now make the dealers lives miserable . I’ll give OPEL ….. hmmn ….. 24 months …. max !

    Mr Bejma – Do you really think for a moment that any of us are foolish and/or naive enough to take your reviews of any GM product seriously when in fact you work for the company ?

    Seriously T . Get a grip . You’ve got an agenda . Its obvious what it is ( promoting GM ) And at least for myself ….. I aint buyin it .

    And speaking of GM products .. funny thing . Finally saw my first ATS on the street and without dealer plates yesterday in traffic .

    My impression when the ATS is in traffic ? The design at best is bland and innocuous … blends into the scenery…. and until you see that pretentious Cadillac badge on its snout ….. you’d swear it was just another Chevy coming towards you . I’m seriously beginning to wonder if its not more than just the platform thats been Badge Engineered into the ATS …..

    $45k for that thing ! Ha ! Not even if you gave me the $45k to spend on one ;-)

  53. ColoradoKid Says:

    ATS cont.

    Methinks GM would of been a lot wiser to have made the ATS a Chevy … decontenting it a tad to bring the price down to Camry level . Cause as a luxury car for luxury prices ….. the ATS as a Cadillac aint doin it .

  54. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, I got by in the “snow belt” during 40+ years of driving, first with rear wheel drive cars and, since 1979, with front wheel drive cars, mostly without snow tires.

    I wonder if Subaru drivers have a high incidence of rear ending other vehicles on ice and snow, like drivers of SUV’s and 4WD pickups, some of whom don’t realize that just because their vehicles go better on the slick stuff, they don’t stop better.

  55. HtG Says:

    A link to Autocar’s compare on 4wd or snows


  56. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The 3-series isn’t really a “luxury car for luxury prices” either. It’s just a sporty. smallish sedan, for luxury prices, kind of like the ATS.

    I guess there are real advantages to using only one “brand,” as with BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Then you don’t have discussions about “ATS should have been a Chevy,” or “ES should have been a Toyota,” etc. It looks like maybe Mercedes needs a “Chevy” brand, though, for that upcoming FWD sedan. Car marketing is complicated.

  57. Kit Gerhart Says:

    55, thanks for the link

  58. Kit Gerhart Says:

    55, I’m surprised how much difference the snows made in cornering. The other results were as I would have expected.

  59. T. Bejma Says:


    Several people have already commented on here that they appreciate my objective views of vehicles, so yes, I do believe that people take them seriously.

    Of course I want to promote my employer, but I do that by correcting misinformation, giving honest and open opinions, not airing my vendetta’s against any certain company and maintaining my dignity by not resorting to arrogance and insults. Unlike HyundaiSmoke, everybody here knows where I am coming from.

  60. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Kit: My first subie was a 1979 gl wagon,front drive/4 speed manual.This is when I lived in the northeast winter country.I put a set of snow tires on the front and called it good all year long.I would take it out to several swamps where I loved to go bass fishing,and never got stuck.In the winter,just point and drive.By 1974 there wasn’t much left to drive due to rust,but I really loved that little car.

  61. G.A.Branigan Says:

    typo,”by 1984″ it should read.Sure wish we could edit our posts when we screw up.Xin loi…

  62. pedro fernandez Says:

    #55 yeah, but how about putting winter (snow) tires on all 4 wheels in the 4WD vehicle, it should do much better, I also got by with FWD and snow tires with chains which I kept in the trunk and got me out of trouble a couple of times, if I’d only had more ground clearance on my FWD Buick!

  63. HtG Says:

    remember studded snow tires, Pedro? Good times

  64. C-Tech Says:

    In the big Chicago snowstorms in the past, the real troopers were the Checker Cabs with snow tires. Those things never quit, and seemed to never get stuck.

  65. pedro fernandez Says:

    They were illegal where I lived, chains worked better, just a pain to install and you freeze your hiney in the process! I used snow tires in the front for traction, but it was recommended to use on all 4 corners.

  66. Artie A Ahedo Jr Says:


  67. gmveteran Says:


    If you get a constant stream of cars to drive and evaluate, as you have stated in the past, why have we now seen three episodes on the Forester but nothing on any other vehicle for quite some time now?

    GM Vet

  68. gmveteran Says:

    C’mon CK! The ATS is bland and innocuous and blends into the scenery? If the Art & Science styling blends into the scenery, I would love to know what type of car you think stands out in a crowd. Or could it be that no matter what the issue, you just can’t bring yourself to give GM even one iota of credit on any topic?