AD #1171 – GM Wants OZ Handout, Datsun Introduces GO, Honda’s Ridgeline Takes Time-Out

July 15th, 2013 at 11:42am

Runtime: 7:49

General Motors is playing hardball with the Australian government over Holden. After being revived by Nissan, the Datsun brand introduces the first car it will sell in emerging markets. Rumors have been swirling that Honda will drop the Ridgeline but, according to reports, it’s just being put on hold. All that and more, plus find out just how much Fiat’s 500L had to change for the NAFTA region.

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Welcome to Autoline Daily. We hope you had a great weekend, so let’s get started with a new work week by looking at the latest news.

General Motors is playing hardball with the Australian government over Holden. According to WardsAuto, GM wants an additional $244 million from the government to continue manufacturing in the country which is on top of over $250 million the government has already committed to the company. At the same time, the company is trying to cut wages in the country and there’s concern that if workers don’t accept the cuts, GM will stop producing Holden’s in the country.

Very interesting article on ChinaAutoWeb today. As we’ve reported before, China does not publish actual car sales. All it reports are deliveries of new cars from the factories to the dealerships. But there’s always discrepancies in those numbers, which is why every other country in the world reports retail sales, not just deliveries. ChinaAutoWeb says automakers can buy the sales numbers at exorbitant prices on the grey market. It says two Chinese agencies that deal with the auto industry would lose a monopoly on that information if it became public.

Last year Nissan announced it’s reviving the Datsun brand to sell in emerging markets. Earlier today the company introduced the first car it will sell. Called the GO, it’s a five-door, front-wheel drive hatchback, that’s powered by a 1.2 liter engine which is mated to a five-speed manual transmission. The styling was done in Japan but the rest of the development was done in India, to reflect that market’s taste in cars. The GO will be built in India and goes on sale in that country early next year with a price just under $6,700.

There have been rumors and reports for a while now that Honda would drop the Ridgeline from its lineup. During 2006, its first full year of sales, the truck hit its peak of just over 50,000 units, which dropped to just over 14,000 units last year. Now, according to WardsAuto, the automaker will stop production of the current-model Ridgeline in September next year and not roll out a new model until the second-quarter of 2016. The Ridgeline is built at the company’s Alabama plant alongside other Honda and Acura light trucks.

Last week we showed you a Corvette Power Wheels that was for your kids. This week, it’s a real-deal full-sized car that your kids will be begging you for. Toyota has teamed up with Nickelodeon to produce the first ever SpongeBob-inspired concept vehicle. It is a 2014 Highlander with a full-exterior SpongeBob wrap, the headrests are the faces of the most popular characters and the roof makes it appear as though you are under water, looking up from Bikini Bottom. The concept made its debut over the weekend at a Giants vs. Padres baseball game and will continue on a “Happy Driving!” promotional tour throughout the U.S.

A racing car piloted by Gran Prix champion Juan Manuel Fangio, the Mercedes W196R, just sold for a record $29.6 million at an auction at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Fangio was one of the greatest Gran Prix drivers in the history of motorsports. He did not win his first championship until he was 40 years old, a time when most Gran Prix drivers have long retired. And went on to win five more championships after that. Back when Fangio raced there were typically only 7 or 8 Grans Prix a year, compared to 19 races a year today. So he doesn’t have the most wins, but he has the highest winning percentage of any driver. He is also very special to me because the first interview I ever did in my career was with Fangio, then president of Mercedes Benz Argentina. I did the interview in his office in Spanish and it is still one of the highlights of my career.

Coming up next, a highlight of last week’s Autoline After Hours and a preview of the Autoline Automotive Fantasy Draft.

Art Anderson is the chief engineer of the Fiat 500L. Even though he was in charge of homologating it for the NAFTA region, you’d be surprised how many changes they had to make to the car.

(Clip from Autoline After Hours about changes to the Fiat 500L for the NAFTA region can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show.)

By the way you can watch that entire show on our website at right now. Also, after the show was over, we asked Art to draw the names for the order of tomorrow night’s Autoline Automotive Fantasy Draft. Amazingly, Art picked my name first, for my imaginary car company called Dymaxion Motors. Csaba Csere is next with Cheetah Motors, then comes Chris Paukert from Autoblog with Mitty Motors and Joe White from the Wall Street Journal with Rat Rod Global. The whole idea of course is for us to chose which automotive executives, dead or alive, we would want running our car companies. The fun starts at 7 pm eastern time tomorrow right here at

And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, please join us again tomorrow.

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42 Comments to “AD #1171 – GM Wants OZ Handout, Datsun Introduces GO, Honda’s Ridgeline Takes Time-Out”

  1. Chuck @ GM Says:

    I’ve gotta run so in anticipation of the comment, let me just ask that GM is responsible for municipalities making it the norm to negotiate a tax deal to get a plant or some other facility?

  2. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Honda’s ridgeline is undefined.It’s not really a truck (not a good one at any rate),it’s not fuel efficient,It’s not even a very good ute and the lousy sales bare that out.Honda needs to be definitive with the ridgeline.Make it a truck,better make it a good one then to compete.Same same if you want it as a ute,make it a good one then.No matter what though,make it more fuel efficient.

  3. GM Veteran Says:

    Why isn’t Peter D playing the All Star game? I would be very interested in his picks!

  4. Chuck @ GM Says:

    @2, I suppressed many an urge to write Bob Lutz when he was here and ask if we could steal our design back (Avalanche) and put it on the Colorado platform. Never did, and probably shouldn’t have as the sales of the Ridgeline declined to near nothing, but it always stuck in my craw.

  5. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ 4: There’s a world of difference between the Avalanche and the pos ridgeline.They only share some similar external design elements.

  6. HtG Says:

    Boy, looks like two bidders really wanted that Mercedes. Funny thing is, after a short while it’s going to get old. I’ve walked around a museum filled with iconic cars, and it’s fascinating and wonderful. Until it’s normal. Hopefully this Fangio car will be seen in a museum people actually visit.

    Fangio Driving Tip; ‘Nobody knows how to drive fast, it must be learned.’

  7. Bradley Says:

    Wow! GM still can’t grow up and run a company without Government help.

    As long as Governments keep negotiating with Terror!5+…I mean GM. GM is going to keep playing that card. Why actually manage a company to survive economic conditions when politicians are eager to lend a hand?

  8. HtG Says:

    7 zing!

    John, how’d you miss this only in New York story about the rabbi accosting other drivers, demanding they not drive so slow? Yes, bipolar: No not HtG but I did once flip someone off.

  9. ColoradoKid Says:

    Howdy from on high !!!

    GM ….. Ha ! Begging for alms again ….. from a country who’s plan by 2017 is to end ALL automotive production as it isn’t making the country or its peoples a solitary dime of profit …. GM being the parasite that it is … and has been since … oh …. about the last 40 years or so . Just ask the comptroller of any town GM has a plant in how much money is made vs handouts – tax credits etc GM takes in . Bupkiss is the correct answer btw .

    Why is it I’m betting GM is simply setting the Aussie government up for more of GM’s SNAFU Blame Shifting … when GM closes the Holden operations down once and for all ?


    Fangio Mercedes – I’m shocked in light of 1) Its provenance 2) its pedigree and 3) the fact that it is … and will be the ONLY one of its kind on offer for public sale .. ever

    … that it didn’t come closer to $50 million once all was said and done


    @ Bradley – #7 – Plus One …. with a bullet ( music business term ) Glad to see someone else is maintaining the GM Reality Check mantle during my prolonged absence


    HtG – Franz says howdy . Decision 2013 is …. he stays at least another year . Wanna guess what sits on one of the bookcases in my studio ? A genuine Fangio Mercedes dealership cloisonne ‘ A gift from an Argentine associate . Too bad I don’t dare put it on Franz ;-)

    Back to work …. will try to pop in again sometime …. but in the mean time ;

    Rock On – Drive On – Remain Calm – and Carry On …. despite it all

    And errrr …. keep up the good work Bradley !!!!

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Ridgeline may not be a “truck” in some people’s minds, but that is in the eye of the beholder. As far as Ridgeline, given it’s slow sales, it obviously has a limited appeal, but the two people I know who have them like them.

    Both use them mainly as passenger cars, as do most pickup drivers in America. Compared to regular 4 door pickups, the Ridgeline is more acoomodating for carrying 4 passengers. It rides better, handles better, and, according to a friend who thoroughly shopped the market, the back seat is more comfortable than most other pickups. Also, the trunk under the floor is useful.

    Yeah, it has a short bed, but if that is all you need, that is all you need. The gas mileage is little, if any worse than the current Frontier and Tacoma, and at least somewhat better than 4wd F150 et. al., though it should be better. Ridgelines having full time AWD probably hurts mpg a little.

    I suppose that if Honda does a second generation Ridgeline, the first thing they need to do is make it look more “trucky.” That is what sells in America, regardless of your need.

  11. pedro fernandez Says:

    Re: the Fiat 500L guy, we have potholes, but in Europe they got old, beat up cobblestone streets that do a job on the suspension as well, I don’t get why I have to spend a small fortune to get “summer” tires for my car, I DO NOT need nor want all season ones and would like to switch over but the cost is prohibitive, it’s not like I’m gonna race or drift or nothing like that.

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    CR tested the Spark EV and they like it much better than the normal one, ditto for the Fiat 500 EV, now if they could just get the range a little higher, there may be a future for these tiny EV’s after all.

  13. HtG Says:

    10 I got run over by a RAM srt truck on the highway this weekend. Thing has a hood scoop!


  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    “Herman got run over by a Ram” video at 11.

  15. HtG Says:

    My next license may read, MRKUHH. That would be awesome, prolly taken. (reads as Mr. Cow in germlish)

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    From info I could, Toyota is the only company building cars in Australia, other than Holden and Ford. Toyota got some government money, but not as much as Holden is trying to get.

    Apparently Australia is not a cost-effective place for anyone to build cars, or there would be more transplants. Any major car building operation in Australian would need to export, given that the entire car market for the country is only a little over 1M/year.

  17. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Perhaps Honda put the “cart in front of the horse” in regards to the Ridgeline. Unlike Chevrolet that created the Avalanche as an adjunct to its pickup, the Ridgeline stood alone and just couldn’t ‘hack it’ all by its lonely. If Honda decides on a re-launch, maybe they need to introduce a small/mid sized pickup; (that segment still begs for a ‘new’ winner to conquest previous high sales it once commanded).

  18. HtG Says:


    OK, gotta go now

  19. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Kit: The ridgeline is front wheel drive,it automaticly goes into 4wd when needed,is powered by a v6 that has a combined mpg rating of 17.Gm and ford v8 pickups which are bigger and heavier get better mpg.The ridgeling is kinda like the ‘leatherman’ of vehicles in that it has a bunch of little things that some people seem to like,truck etc,and does nothing particularly well.With a tow rating of only 5k lbs,it doesn’t pull campers very well at all.It is however a reasonable choice for a ‘lifestyle’ type of vehicle if you don’t mind lousy mpg.

  20. HtG Says:

    Here you go, Kit, a NatGeo doc on Toyota’s factory in Australia. Is that Prime Minister Julia Gillard presiding? Why yes it is.

  21. Bradley Says:

    I will be honest the more the Fiat 500 is Americanized the less I like it. That is pretty much true for any car.

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Chevy V8 4WD and Ford turbo 3.5 get the same EPA mpg, and the Ford V8 gets one mpg worse than the Ridgeline, but yeah, the Ridgeline should do much better.

    If there is a second generation Riodgeline, I suspect it will do better. That would help its sales.

    The Ridgeline has a tow rating of only 5,000 pounds, but most pickups tow exactly zero pounds. Yeah, if you are going to tow a lot, something other than a Ridgeline would be better, regardless of the gas mileage.

    The Ridgeline is, and will always be a “niche” vehicle, if it survives to a second generation. With some changes, it could sell a lot better, but in addition to everything else, the Ridgeline costs too much, about $30K base.

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    20, Thank, HtG.

  24. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Kit:

    I didn’t bother looking up the f150 mpg (v8) as I care about fords ;}>

    The ridgeline to me is just a larger subaru brat.Another niche vehicle,or was actually.

  25. G.A.Branigan Says:

    That should have read,”as I DON’T care about fords”.

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Looks likr the new GM V8 pickups have good EPA numbers. It will be interesting to see what CR and others come up with when they drive them.

    I wonder if the 6 hasn’t been certified yet, or maybe it didn’t do so well.

  27. Brett Says:

    Favorite, most oblique personalized plate of all time: “GICU812″


  28. Chuck @ GM Says:

    @5 GA – I was speaking to the design, not the utility of it. Like someone said here today, it’s a niche vehicle, those who wanted one, have them. At the launch, the big news was the “trunk” sort of thing in the bed. Anyone know how that turned out?

  29. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I only know one friend of mine that bought a new ridgeline for towing his small camper.He towed it once then parked it.This was about 3 years ago and he was very upset with himself for not researching out the shortfalls of the ridgeline before buying it.I don’t know if he still has it.He never mentioned using the trunk.Overall he was very pissed at himself for buying it.

  30. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Kit: The 14 full size twins are so far doing very well BUT……..another thing GM dropped the ball on is the 4.3 V6 is now the base engine for all the 1/2 tons,including the 4×4′s,with the 5.3 V8 being an option.I could have sworn that I read somewhere that the base engine for the Z71′s would still be the 5.3.

    I’m waiting to see what and how the midsize twins are offered,and the prices when configured the way I would want one.having said that,as it stands right now the diesel ram 1500 is on the top of my list.Chevy keeps getting dumber and dumber with their trucks.

  31. Goatrope Says:

    The 500L looks like the love child of a Fiat 500 knocked up by a PT Cruiser.

  32. W L Simpson Says:

    Witnessed Fangio’s last performance at Sebring.
    His Maser was on rails, no deviation from one lap to the next.

  33. Kit Gerhart Says:

    In the not-too-distant past, the “old” 4.3 was standard on 4WD GM pickups, but they didn’t sell may that way. The new six will be more powerful, and would be adequate for light use, but not many people would want it. It will mainly be a price leader.

    A friend has a 2002 or so RWD Silverado with the 4.3, which is adequately fast, and works just fine for his use. He doesn’t tow, but sometimes carries motorcycles, including big ones, in the bed. On the highway at 75 mpg, it probably doesn’t get any better mpg than than the 5.3, and might get worse. The thing he doesn’t like about it is lack of cruise control on his “basic” truck.

  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I always liked the looks of the PT Cruiser and HHR, but the 500L, not so much. I’ve only seen it it pictures, though.

    However it looks, 500L strikes me as have a “MINI Countryman” problem. The car is big enough that it should have a bigger engine than a 1.4 liter, or 1.6 in the case of the Countryman.

  35. Kit Gerhart Says:

    28, 29
    My friends with Ridgelines like the “trunk.” and like the way it rides and drives, but they don’t tow.

    GA, how big and how heavy is the trailer that your friend’s Ridgeline won’t tow very well? My van, with a tow rating of zero tows a ~1200 pound popup decently.

  36. Rafi Says:

    Please tell us more about that interview with Fangio. Where could we read/see the interview?

    Also, for a future episode of the show, how about taking a look at the car customization market? I think that market has taken a huge hit as people have lost interest — or simply don’t have the funds — to customize their cars. Toyota’s Spongebob Highlander reminded me of how cool it used to be (or could be) to see more personalized, customized cars on the road.

  37. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Kit: I’ve had two 4.3′s,but they were in S-10′s and did very well.Both were 4×4′s too.My friends TT was maybe 18 or 20 ft.It wasn’t very big at all BUT…….we do live in the mountains and that does make a big difference.

  38. Kit Gerhart Says:

    An S10 with a 4.3 was kind of a hot rod. The pickup I had, a ’95 RWD S10 with a 5-speed manual laid rubber easily, at least in first gear.

  39. HtG Says:

    I’m going to have to restrain myself from asking for this license plate:


    I’ll tell the DMV that it was the name of a dear, dear cat, Mr. Kuhfy.

  40. T. Bejma Says:

    Sorry HtG, maybe my mind is still in vacation mode, but I am not getting the license plate reference (Usually have a hard time figuring out the hard ones anyway and say to myself “why would someone pay extra to get a plate that everyone does not understand” ;-) )

  41. HtG Says:

    TB, think “America! Yes!” but I guess if it’s a little obscure it could pass the DMV. Here’s a couple of plates I like; XDX on a Volvo-for Swedish, and HRH on a Merc convertible-for Her Royal Highness.

  42. Chuck @ GM Says:

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I wish the S10 or something like that size comes back.