AD #1183 – First CNG 1/2 Ton Pickup, Audi Wins LTE Race, How Jaguar Priced the F-TYPE

July 31st, 2013 at 11:57am

Runtime: 9:25

One major automaker touts that it has the only CNG 1/2 ton pickup on the market today. Audi announces it’s the first automaker to bring in-car LTE into a vehicle. Autoline learns how Jaguar’s marketing team set out to make the price of the F-TYPE a unique advantage. All that and more, plus John McElroy shares his driving impressions of the new Infiniti Q50.

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily. I can’t wait to tell you about my driving experience in the new Infiniti Q50, the first production car with steer-by-wire, but first let’s get to the news.

Yesterday we got a chance to check out the only CNG ½ ton pickup available today, Ford’s F-150. As a matter of fact, the company has six different CNG prepped engines ready to be up-fitted into eight models. There are currently six Ford approved up-fitters and as long as they meet a prescribed process, the engine will remain under warranty. The CNG prepped engine for the F-150 has an additional cost of $315 and will run about $8- $10,000 for the fuel system from the up-fitter. And for large trucks with large tanks, customers can expect to pay somewhere around $16,000. Now that’s a lot of money but when you think of commercial truck fleets that drive lots of miles, the fact that CNG costs anywhere from $1- $2 a gallon-equivalent to gas and it emits 24 percent less green-house gases, it starts to make real sense. Ford is on track this year to make more than 15,000 CNG prepped engines, a 25 percent increase over last year. Ram also offers a CNG option on its 2500 series truck and I think we’re going to see others join the party. I also need to add that I’m aware of a company that is going to greatly expand the CNG infrastructure in the United States in a unique and novel way, but I’m not at liberty to divulge more details. All I can tell you is go look up a company called VNG.

Volkswagen is launching a new in-car system, similar to OnStar, called Car-Net. It’s available in select 2014 models of the Jetta, Passat, Tiguan, CC, Beetle, and Eos. Features include Automatic Crash Notification, Roadside Assistance, and Stolen Vehicle Assistance. Car-Net costs $200 for 1 year or $18 a month, plus there are 2 or 3 year deals.

Audi is the first automaker to bring in-car LTE or Long Term Evolution into a vehicle. It’s a new wireless communication standard that provides a mobile internet option in the A3 Sportback and will be available in all other Audi models by early November. Audi has yet to name which service provider it will use in the U.S.

Jaguar is on the rebound thanks to a revamped lineup that includes its XJ, XK and XF. And now, of course it’s added the F-TYPE. Interestingly, we just learned how the marketing team set out to make the price of the car a unique advantage.

(Interview for how the marketing team set the price of the F-TYPE can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show.)

After just one month on the market, Jaguar says the F-TYPE has helped drive overall sales up 20 percent.

Coming up next, I’ll give you my driving impressions of the new Infiniti Q50, the first production car to offer steer-by-wire.

Under the leadership of Johann DeNysshen, Infiniti is pouring on the coals to build itself into a serious player in the luxury segment. The brand is no longer treated as a marketing effort by Nissan, but is now a fully owned subsidiary, with headquarters in Hong Kong, its own design and engineering, even its own human resources department. The first new car to come out under this structure is the Q50 and I just got the chance to test drive it yesterday.

As you may know the Q50 is a rear-wheel drive 4-door sedan that starts at $37,600. Fully loaded, it easily tops $50,000. It replaces the G37 sedan. More on the name change in a minute, but first let’s get to some of my initial driving impressions.

The Q50 is available with a 3.7 liter V-6, or a 3.5 liter V-6 hybrid. Both are mated to a silky smooth 7-speed automatic. And how interesting that the hybrid does not use a CVT.

The Q50 is also the first car to offer an optional steer-by-wire, what Nissan calls direct adaptive steering. There truly is no mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the steering rack, it’s all handled electronically. This also allows the steering rack to be hard mounted to the structure of the car, which eliminates all the vibrations that normally run up the steering shaft. And because it’s adaptive, it eliminates most of the tugs and nibbles that you get through the steering wheel while driving over rough or undulating pavement.

Yet, the steering is not numb. An actuator behind the wheel provides good feedback to the driver while turning and cornering, and because it’s electronically controlled, you can select different settings to fit your preference in effort and response. You can change them on the fly, while you’re driving, not just in Park.

And yes, there is a steering shaft with a clutch that automatically gives you a mechanical connection in case of system failure.

As I said, the steer-by-wire system is an option. I found the standard mechanical steering to feel more direct and responsive. Yet, the electronic steering does eliminate vibrations and all those minor steering corrections that you almost unconsciously make while driving. I think on long trips is will prove less fatiguing.

Steer-by-wire is something that the automotive industry has been talking about for years. Congratulations to Infiniti for being the first automaker to bring it to market, and I have no doubt others will soon follow.

Oh yeah, about the name. As many of you already know, Infiniti will now designate all its cars with the letter Q, followed by a number that indicates where it fits in the line up. The lower the number, the lower the price, and vice versa. All of its crossovers and SUVs will carry the letters QX, followed by a number that indicates the same sort of progression. Starting next month, Infiniti will change all of its models to follow the new naming system. That will cause some confusion in the market, but as one executive told me, “We agonized over whether we should slowly phase it in, but decided we should just rip the bandaid off all at once, and get onto the new system.”

I’ve only just scratched the surface here. There are many other features and aspects of the Q50 that are well worth reporting. And we’ll be getting to them in future shows.

Hey don’t forget to join us tomorrow night for Autoline After Hours. Our guest is none other than Bob Lutz and we’re going to devote the entire show to him. So get your questions ready for one of the best executives to ever come through the automotive industry. Join me and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo for the best information in the business.

That wraps up today’s report. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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41 Comments to “AD #1183 – First CNG 1/2 Ton Pickup, Audi Wins LTE Race, How Jaguar Priced the F-TYPE”

  1. HtG Says:

    Die Eier schwitzen

    So, Audi is bringing LTE to their cars while Mercedes only has 3G(according to the latest Autoline). This should make for some interesting board room groveling.

  2. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Q50…yet another ‘driver disconnect’ and even more fun for hackers.

    Cost of cng mods…..diesel is cheaper,bio-diesel even more so.

  3. Philip Says:

    Steer by wire? No thanks. I’d never buy a vehicle with that system. One small computer glitch and you have no way to steer the car.

  4. Kit Gerhart Says:

    So Infiniti decided to join the other car companies in using totally meaningless car names, only more so. At least Mercedes and BMW still use C, S, 3, 5, etc. for the car lines, even though the numbers that used to indicate engine displacement no longer mean anything.

    As far as “steer by wire,” that, along with “brake be wire” are things I really, REALLY don’t want. Yeah, there is a backup steering shaft with a clutch, but does it have triple redundant control like the electronics in the “fly by wire” airplanes.

    The one “drive by wire” function I actually like, is throttle, because in most applications, it allows you to adjust the “gain.” I like slow throttle tip in, because it is good for driving smoothly. Eco mode in my Prius, and, to a lesser extent, but still to my liking, is standard mode in the MINI.

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    CNG should be good for local use trucks that don’t have to go to far, but the infrastructure for over-the-road CNG use is a long way off. Still, for local fleets in cities, it sounds good. You will lose a lot of pickup bed to fuel tanks, though, if you want much range.

  6. HtG Says:

    Am I off base in seeing two signals in the ‘steer-by-wire’ tech in the Q?

    1 some people really really don’t like to feel anything mechanical.

    2 this system is one element of eventual autonomous driving for Infiniti cars.

  7. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, it gives them one mechanical element of what will be needed for an autonomous car. That’s part of what makes it a little scary that they are going to use it so soon.

  8. ColoradoKid Says:

    Jaguar ‘ F ‘ type ( insinuation intentional )

    Well the amount of models available may be on the rebound … but the sad fact is their sales are still in the gutter


    G.A. …. errr ….. Yup ! Not to mention higher demand on cng for cars will only serve to increase cng to heat the ol’ homestead … a fact everyone thats a fan of the stuff tends to ignore ….. and err …. +1 x 10,000 on the techno weenie comment


    HtG – 1 – Seriously mien freund …. Mercedes has something in their back pocket techno weenie wise that VW -Audi can only dream about … Just you wait and see . Not that I’ll be having it in my Benz mind you … but just you wait ;-)


    Infiniti’s ( cough … sputter … hack ) Q designations ;

    I don’t know about anyone else but all this switching every Infiniti over to the Q designation is doing for me is confusing the living ____ out of me every time I see one of their new commercials ….. Q ? Which Q ? That Q ? Oh no … not that Q … this Q …. That Q ? No no .. this Q ; e.g. SNL’s ” What the ____ is that ? ” routine revisited for automotive marketing . Funny as all get out in a comedy routine . More than annoying when it comes to car model designations

  9. G.A.Branigan Says:

    OEM’s use to advertise the ‘driving experience’automotive pundits use to test/compare/evaluate and report on the driving experience.Tomorrow it will be overstuffed recliners with a widescreen and they’ll talk about the RIDING experience.Where have all the drivers gone…..

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    What is wrong with steering by steering column? did anyone really have a problem with this tried and true system that has been used for eternity? I am really not liking where the auto industry and technology are going with all these electronic crap!

  11. HtG Says:

    7 I assume Daimler is working on leading edge connectivity. But let’s see who gets to market first.

    here’s a link to a us govt chart for world gas prices. Ours is cheap because of the oceans and our lack of LNG infrastructure. If we develop the ability to export expect price rises and more money entering the US from abroad.

  12. Roger T Says:

    News for next year – Infinity recalls drive by wire for the car turning the wrong way! Better yet “unintender steering” Sorry, but no thanks to this one.

  13. HtG Says:

    10 cont’d

    Even if Audi can get LTE on the street, you need LTE service from the carriers at your xyz. LTE isn’t available everywhere, so your A3 will default to 3G if needed.

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    The Q the M the G the JX the QX the blah the doo doo can we stick to names?

  15. Bradley Says:


    Steer-By-Wire saves weight and allows for better integration of safety features like lane-assist.

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    What do you need 4g for in a car, or even 3g? Is to make the web surfing experience better while driving? You don’t even need data connectivity for the basic function of factory nav systems; the maps are in the system, not accessed “real time” like phone navigation functions.

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    My RC car had steering by radio transmitter, I did not like it one bit either.

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    How does it save weight, when it has the backup mechanical system? Just asking.

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, no feedback at all.

  20. HtG Says:

    15 yes. Audi will offer a wifi hotspot for anyone in the car. When I look at people driving I see more passengers never even looking up because they’re online via their phones. With a hotspot the kids can bring a cheapo tablet and be ‘engaged,’ if you will. I’m not pleased, but cars are becoming a part of the net.(not that it matters if I’m pleased)

  21. Bradley Says:


    Good point, I have never heard of the backup before this episode. In general, “by-wire” anything saves weight, but maybe in this case the lawyers have added the weight back.

    I wonder if the clutch for the steering engages if you turn the engine off while coasting in neutral. Or does it stay steer-by-wire as long as the battery/alternator are working?

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    It seems to me that car makers have hired a bunch of electrical engineers who have nothing to do, so they come up with these idiotic ideas to be able to use their talents and earn their keep.

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’d think the steer by wire would stay engaged, as long as you have battery, etc., but I’m not sure. I suspect any engagement of the backup would cause severe “pucker factor,” as you lose power operation, and the backup system would be designed as a last resort, and not much beyond that.

  24. Phoenix Mark Says:

    Dive by wire, mechanical back-up is a US government requirement. Just like the low, high beam lighting requirement, that prevents adaptive high beam lights, used in Europe, coming here.

  25. cozy crv Says:

    John, just drove home from lunch and along the way I saw my first Tesla S on the road! quite striking from the 3/4 rear veiw. I like those chrome flush mount door handles. nice touch. the front end is a little, well I’ll reserve my judgement on that for a better view someday. but that 3/4 rear view is dead on great. cozy crv

  26. buzzerd Says:

    Drive by wire, love it. For those that don’t like it make sure you use your old man voice and stomp your cane on the floor while you’re complaining and being dragged into the 21st century.

  27. ColoradoKid Says:

    #10 revisited ;

    Well mein herr …. hate to tell the boffins ( or should that be buffoons ) over VW-Audi way but errr …. Mercedes already has it up and running and market ready … for whenever they chose to drop their little bombshell


    As to all this and that by wire stuff …. sure it has its uses … and to a certain point and on some aspects of a cars function has its advantages ( like Kit said .. drive by wire accelerators are a good thing in more ways than one …. especially the instant adaptable system the Benz has )

    But when it comes to thing like steering …. well … in light of the possibilities should the power shut down or worse … system crashes …. methinks I’d prefer that be good ol ‘ dependable … even if the engine falls out the back end it’ll still work mechanical

    As to the backup systems Phoenix Mark mentioned ….. Backup Systems = higher cost = more complexity to repair = more things to go wrong = …. well …And really … think about it …. Then consider that despite the multitude of backup systems required on airplanes jets etc … they still manage to fail … on a fairly regular basis I might add ( just cause they don’t crash or you don’t hear about it doesn’t mean they don’t fail )


    HtG – BWTM – CNG … noticed of late all the CNG facilities that are closing down .. because the Glory Holes are turning into White Rabbits ? Not to mention cost vs profit issues ? Add in a healthy new demand ( cars & trucks ) and watch your winter heating costs ( and cooking for those of us w/gas ranges ) soar into the stratosphere .

    And lest ye thinketh that it’d take more than that to shoot cng prices to the moon ? Consider for a moment how little motivation it takes for the petrol companies to boost prices at a moments notice … e.g. .. Oh … its July … boost the prices … Whoops … Holiday weekend … boost the prices … Hey lookee that another Middle East despot on the ropes … boost the prices … Oh baby there’s a 10% chance of a Hurricane in the Gulf …. boost the prices … get the picture ? Cause given the opportunity those CNG providers will do exactly the same . Greed of course being the only motivation that counts ;-)

  28. ColoradoKid Says:

    Video Wednesday

    If you’ve the slightest interest in Porsche history at all and haven’t already been watching this series … do so immediately . Four parts so far and every one a winner ;

    Heads Up HtG !. This is one heck of a series … and its going on every other day till October


    #25 – Seriously ??? I’ve seen three different ones to date … both up close … on the road and from the drivers seat and I gotta tell you … CHEAP is the first adjective that comes to mind . Both in the Henrik Fisker left over reject design ( which it is btw ) the hideous ( for the price ) paint job , the cheap and overly gadgetry’d interior as well as the cars general behavior on the road . As to the paint … the solid colors are almost acceptable ( except for the plethora of orange peel … especially in black ) but the metal flake colors are beyond tacky and abysmal . Sixties cheaply done over sized metal flake dreck by an amateur sums it up nicely

    Oh … but wait … I’ve seen one now …. four times . Three of them on the back of a tow company’s trailer … cause they work so good as well

  29. john897 Says:

    “Ford is the first to offer CNG. Yesterday we got a chance to check out the only CNG ½ ton pickup (Ford) available today”,

    It looks to me Chevy beat Ford to it. I can not understand how a a web site who’s expertize are vehicles, can get their facts so inaccurate or am I reading something wrong?

  30. ColoradoKid Says:

    Buzzerd – #26

    In light of your comment …. a little ‘ Wisdom ‘ you would be wise to absorb lest you find yourself ( if you aren’t already ) mired and entrenched into this present ages ” Technological Bluff ” [ every age has one btw ] ….

    “Everything old may not be Good … but everything new isn’t necessarily Better either ”

    In other words ; Each and every technology … new or old as well as depending on its specific application must be judged on an Individual basis .. and not by any broad based , over generalized zeitgeist that may currently be overwhelming/blinding any sense of genuine discernment or common sense

  31. Chuck Grenci Says:

    John admits that the ‘steer by linkage’ was more direct; that in itself should be enough to dissuade me. And add, that if the steer by wire “goes missing” it may already put you in a predicament that the backup system won’t be able to overcome/correct (in time). I know my comments are hypothetical and conjecture on my part but the gains don’t outweigh the potential problems even if remote. The reason for fly by wire (in airplanes) is because of the distances hydraulics or cables would have to travel to provide linear movement; not so much in a steering system. An answer to a question nobody asked IMO.

  32. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If steer-by-wire is done with triple or quadruple redundant systems, like fly-by-wire in airplanes, then, like airplanes, you could have multiple faults without crashes. Still, I don’t see much point in steer-by-wire, unless it would be cheaper and lighter than mechanical steering, while being as reliable as a mechanical connection.

    I guess we will see how quickly it arrives in low end cars, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

  33. pedro fernandez Says:

    This reminds me of the joystick propulsion/steering control Mercedes was experimenting with a couple of years ago, made no sense and apparently it did not pan out and was abandoned as well as it should have been. Even the I-Drive system now has redundant buttons to bypass the overly complicated mouse-like controller it came with originally.

  34. HtG Says:

    An interview from Ininiti about the steering. Looks like there’s layers of redundancy, as you’d expect.

    I’m reminded about how Porsche’s electric steering system synthesizes road feel absented by the electric motor. Funny how some reviewers have praised the steering feel. (used my old man voice just now, Buzzerd)

    ps John, in today’s copy you omitted Johann deNysschen’s ‘C’ from his surname. Better start preparing a gift basket. ;)

  35. Charles Domanski Says:

    I can’t believe how the automakers are going to be ripping off to the enth degree people who want a CNG powered truck. Back in 2005 I traveled to Belgium to visit a friend of mine. He had a 2001 Dodge Ram 1500 4X4 with every option you could think of. The thing I was very interested in was the fact that he had a system installed in this truck with the 5.9 automatic that let it run on regular gasoline or turn a switch and it would run on CNG. I rode around with him for eight days, and the truck ran perfectly gasoline or CNG. The whole switch over to run on either fuel cost him a little less then $1,500.00 American. Don’t remember what it was going by the Euro. But, if it cost him so little, where do the American companies get off charging an enormous amount of money for something I know does not cost any where near as much as they are charging. What a stinking rip-off. I remember when disc brakes first became popular, all the places that wanted to be the ones to fix your worn out disc brakes wanted an arm and a leg. That is until people found out it was so much easier working on disc brakes then the old drum brakes. Then the price came WAY down.
    Same deal with changing over to CNG????? I’ll bet on it.

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It sounds like your Belgian friend got quite a bargain on his conversion. The conversion is not cheap, not the least because of the need for tanks capable of safely storing gas as 3000-4000 PSI pressure.

  37. Dcars Says:

    I’ve attended many CNG vehicle shows……. The cost of the fuel is about $1.30/equal gal. With a 200 year supply of natural gas it’s coming soon to a gas station near you. Another interesting fact – GM was testing there engines with NG.

  38. C-Tech Says:

    Don’t be fooled (fueled ?) by cheap CNG conversions. You do need the special tanks or you could become a rolling bomb (Blue Rhino anyone?).

    Electric-assist power steering has had its share of glitches in production (ask Chevy Cobalt owners) Good luck Nissan with steer by wire, and Q owners, you go first!

  39. HtG Says:

    So when does 6 o’clock roll around?

  40. Chuck Grenci Says:

    When Bob says he’s ready to begin the show.

  41. Mike Says:

    CNG is not a good option. This fuel still keeps you tied to the fuel pump a corporate oil companies.