AD #1198 – NAFTA Production Record, Nissan Titan Gets a Diesel, Plug-In Mercedes S-Class

August 21st, 2013 at 11:53am

Runtime: 8:56

As if to say that it has completely returned to normal, the NAFTA region set an all-time production record last month. The next-generation Nissan Titan pickup gets a diesel from Cummins. Mercedes-Benz will introduce a plug-in hybrid version of its S 500 sedan at the Frankfurt Motor Show. All that and more, plus we respond to some of your comments and questions in the latest edition of You Said It!

Visit our sponsors to thank them for their support of Autoline Daily: Bridgestone and Dow Automotive Systems

»Subscribe to Podcast | iTunes | Zune | RSS | Listen on Phone Stitcher | YouTube

Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily. Coming up later in the show we’ll get to your comments and questions, but now, the news!

As if to emphasize that it has completely returned to normal, the NAFTA region set an all-time production record last month, Ward’s reports. Automakers in the U.S., Mexico and Canada produced 1,029,745 light vehicles. What makes this number notable, besides being a record, is that there are now many fewer assembly plants and line workers, especially in the U.S. Automakers and suppliers achieved this record with lots of overtime, and as we warned in yesterday’s show, that can lead to a drop in quality.

Nissan’s next-generation Titan pickup will get a diesel from Cummins. Nissan says the 5.0L V8 turbo diesel will crank out more than 300 horsepower and 500 lb-ft. of torque. Cummins is also developing a version for Nissan’s commercial vehicles. When Chrysler decided to go with a Fiat diesel for the new Ram, that left the door open for Nissan to partner with Cummins. And remember that Fred Diaz, who was the head of the Ram brand, recently left to join Nissan and I’m willing to bet he pushed for this to happen.

Ford is using more sustainable materials in its vehicles. The plastic wire harnesses in the 2014 F-150 will be reinforced with rice hulls, which is a byproduct of rice grain. The company chose to use rice hulls because there is an overabundance of them and is just as durable as the material it is replacing. Ford says the rice hulls will likely be used in other areas of the truck and will migrate to other vehicles as well. Other sustainable materials Ford uses include recycled cotton and soy-based foam for seats in some of its vehicles.

So here’s the future of full-size luxury sedans that have to meet stringent fuel efficiency and CO2 standards. Mercedes-Benz will introduce a plug-in hybrid version of its S 500 sedan at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It is powered by a 80 kW electric motor and a turbocharged V6, will hit 60 miles-per-hour in 5.5 seconds and can even run in electric mode for 30 km or a little over 18 miles. It only generates 69 grams of CO2 per kilometer, well below the European target of 95 grams, and it consumes only 3 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers, which is over 78 miles per gallon, but that’s on the European test cycle, which is far easier than the U.S. test, so expect lower numbers when it’s sold in the American market. The S 500 plug-in will go on sale next year.

Meanwhile Volkswagen is introducing the new Golf R. It’s cranks out nearly 300 horsepower through its turbocharged gasoline engine, which is up 30 HP from the previous model while still being 18 percent more fuel efficient and with the manual transmission it sprints to 60 miles-per-hour in 5.1 seconds. That number drops to only 4.9 seconds with the DSG trans. It also gets a new suspension, exclusive 18-inch wheels and specially designed bumpers. The new Golf R hits the market later this year.

Well it’s still nearly impossible to stump you, our faithful viewers, when it comes to automotive knowledge. We showed you these images of this convertible sports car with sleek rounded body panels and a V8 engine and a few of you knew what it was… an Apollo 5000 GT. Apollo was a company that started in the early ‘60s because of one man’s desire to build an American answer to European GTs. The bodies were made in Italy then shipped to California, where the drivetrain was installed. Thank you again to everyone that participated and a special thanks to Fred Kermes for sending in the pictures.

Coming up next, we’re going to get into your comments and questions because it’s time for You Said It!

Mike has this to say about all the overtime in the American auto industry. “12 hours a day is just plain hard on the workers and the workers families. It leaves little time for much beyond eating and sleeping and going back to work again. There needs to be some humanity in these decisions.” Mike, I agree, though there are plenty of workers who sign up for as much overtime as they can get because they love those big paychecks.

Chuck Grenci wants to know, “With so many top executives moving around like ‘musical chairs’, are there any that stayed through all the ups and downs? I’d like to recognize those that hung in there when the going got rough.” Chuck, General Motors and Chrysler are chock full of people who stuck it out, even when their companies were going through bankruptcy. And that loyalty goes up and down the ranks, by the way, not just with the executives.

A bunch of you commented on that electronic clutch that Bosch is coming out with that will make it a breeze for anyone to be able to drive a manual transmission.

HtG wants to know, “Is that eClutch a traditional pressure plate or a gameboy pedal for your left foot?” HtG, the pedal feel is exactly like a traditional clutch. If no one told you it was an eClutch you wouldn’t know the difference, except that every shift would be perfect.

buzzerd asks, “When you decelerate is the vehicle slowing like a normal manual or does the vehicle go into a coast mode to save fuel as if it’s in neutral?” It coasts, as you point out, to save fuel.

Studebaker Ranch says, “What about compression braking? This system as shown wouldn’t allow that unless there was a disable feature installed.” Studebaker, if you want compression braking, all you have to do is downshift and back off the gas. Then the system knows you want compression braking.

cuddles6938 imagines a world of autonomous cars and he doesn’t like what he sees. “The day cars drive themselves is the day the thieves make them drive themselves to the chop shop. Just think, while you’re asleep your car starts up and drives itself away, wonderful world we will live in. Banks can just tell the car to ‘come home’ when you can’t afford to pay the payments.” Well, cuddles, I guess we’ll all just have to disconnect the battery cable every night so our car doesn’t go driving off on its own.

Josu wrote in about our recent Autoline Poll where we asked you if Subaru should remain a niche player or try to grow into a big car company. “I’m really split on the Subaru issue. On one hand their cars look totally mainstream. Here in Spain they are poorly perceived, and considered plain ugly, so on this premise and preserving its AWD, go mainstream. On the other hand I think that being small and ‘special’ gives Subaru the opportunity of going upmarket, and steadily get to premium territory.” I agree Josu that Subaru could improve its styling, and I believe it has a great opportunity to move more upscale.

Say be sure to tune in to Autoline After Hours tomorrow night. I’ll be out of town but Peter De lorenzo, the Autoextremist will have Bob Boniface on hand. Boniface ran GM’s advanced design studio when it did the Chevy Volt and he’s now he’s the exterior design director at Cadillac. If you’ve got any questions about the upcoming CTS, here’s your chance to put it to the man himself. That’s Autoline After Hours, Thursday night, starting at 6PM eastern time, right here at

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

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

32 Comments to “AD #1198 – NAFTA Production Record, Nissan Titan Gets a Diesel, Plug-In Mercedes S-Class”

  1. HtG Says:

    Come on now, John, wasn’t it you that predicted in the midst of the 2008-9 maelstrom that we’d be seeing record production in a few years?

    Stand up and wave to the crowd.

  2. Lex Says:

    Great Show John and Crew!!!

  3. drew Says:

    John, the barn find was a variation of the circa 1965 Apollo 5000 GT. Becuase of the existance of side market lights and the “V” badging, this barn find must be one of the late 1960s iterations built by Vanguard as a Vetta Ventura.

  4. Lex Says:

    I agree about the styling of current Subaru vehicles. They remind me of previous generations of the Honda Accord. However I had made mention previously that they need to revamp the Tribeca. I did not realize how much smaller the Tribeca is than my Honda Pilot until I park side by side. The new Forester is also too small for my taste. Maybe Subaru should do like Hyunda’s Santa Fe Sport and V6 Santa Fe. A Forester and a Forester XL. This would allow Subaru to up size the Tribeca to a Full Size SUV / Minivan vehicle.

  5. Lex Says:


    You will not need to disconnect the battery at night, just put in a hidden “Kill Switch” like in the old days to prevent your car from starting up and driving away.

  6. C-Tech Says:

    Overtime at U.S. plants – years ago I remeber an article in one of the Detroit papaers about a worker earning over $100,000 after taxes who volunteered for every overtime shift he could. He even drove a Chevy Van with a bed in the back so he could sleep between shifts rather than go home. The purpose of all of this was because he wanted to buy a house and a car with as much cash as he could when he got married in a year. He planeed to stop working the overtime after that. He did achieve his goal, bought the house, got married and paid for a car in cash, no debts.

  7. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I bet the big Benz plug-in gets 100km/3l only for the first 100km, starting with a full charge, and is much thirstier after that. John, do you know how they run the Euro tests with plug-in cars?

  8. C-Tech Says:

    Great shows today and yesterday. I look forward to the next installment of Autoline Garage.

    Unless Nissan makes major improvements everywhere else in the Titan, the Cummins 5.0 V8 plant won’t have to worry about overtime.

    John, you assume your autonomous car will allow you to disconnect its battery. Never nickname your autonomous car “Hal”.

    Are an excess of rice hulls really a problem in the U.S. ? Given the fact that rodents already like chewing on the wiring, insulation, and padding in many cars already, why is Ford making them more tasty?

  9. C-Tech Says:

    @ #1 +1

  10. C-Tech Says:

    Somehow I cannot see those S-class owners plugging in their cars on a regular basis for recharing. This is a case for the drive-on charger being installed in the buyers garage or condo parking spot.

  11. Bradley Says:

    Anyone catch this Titan:

    Hollywood couldn’t have made a better video.

  12. Mike Says:

    Having worked for 10 years at one of the big three, I have heard more than my share of bizarre UAW stories. I think some of those odd/irrational behaviors are the outcome of 7 days 12 hours for years on end. The folks in many cases were just cranky from being beyond human endurance. Yes, they signed up for it, but it doesn’t mean it was good for them. Mike

  13. Victor West Says:

    Subaru going “upmarket” will kill the brand. All us ordinary fans will not be able to buy them. That is what Volvo did and look how their sales evaporated.

  14. Bradley Says:


    Ford diluted Volvo and then sales failed.

    I like the old “Funky” Subaru, their outter designs reflected Engineering Functional decisions. The XT, SVX, etc.

    I am ok with their current designs, but I gravitate to the cars that reflect earlier Subaru (ie the smaller ones CrossTrek, etc).

    In the 90s, I was installing custom stereos. Subaru was the best to work on, followed by all the Japanese brands. The Detroit brands were the worse.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, wasn’t the Tribeca their attempt to go “up market,” and the one Subaru model that has been a failure in the marketplace?

  16. HtG Says:

    Maybe Subaru can go up market like Nissan, Toyota and Honda by creating their own Pleiades brand.

    Probably some guy in China is already making luxury sedans with Pleiades badges. Oh well, they’ll think of something.

    (whoo, tough crowd)

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    Mazda had actually planned to go up market, good thing they did not, it would have failed just like it would not work for Subie w/o hurting their brand image forever. If they play it right they can take those previous SAAB and Volvo customers.

  18. pedro fernandez Says:

    I actually saw this Crosstrek up close a couple of days ago and it is a nice looking vehicle, different from the rest of the cookie cutter, CUV types that all look alike.

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Going up market didn’t go so well for SAAB either, at least long-term. They did OK for a while when they went from competing with the old Beetle, to the much more up market 99, but they had already been in trouble for years, when GM came into the picture. People just didn’t want to pay BMW/Benz prices for a front driver that was barely, if any better than ones costing much less.

  20. Mike Says:


    This is the same problem everyone has; When you are upmarket, you dream of having a high volume product that will let you get to the lower material costs that come with volume. When you are middle market you wish you had a Infiniti/Acura etc. type product to go along with a Hyundai/Kia/TaTa? lower end. Everybody wishes they were somewhere they aren’t. The grass is always greener somewhere else etc.

  21. Chuck Grenci Says:

    As you go up-market, the market all of a sudden starts shrinking; Lexus did okay to good, Infiniti marginally less so and Acura trailing the other two (then there’s the Koreans beginning to flood the market some more). Caution ahead; commitment to quality and continuing innovation required to play in this arena.

  22. ColoradoKid Says:

    Heeee’s back ! :-)

    NAFTA Production Record

    When it come to the economy … production … housing etc these days : Welcome to Potemkin Village my friends ;

    Here’s a couple of reasons why ;

    1) 90% of all newly issued home loans are either Government A) Financed B) Subsidized …. or C) Guaranteed …. cause errr … the Banks Know better

    2) 65% of all Collage students are on government loans ( doesn’t exactly bode well for the present or the future as the debt level amongst the young increases )

    3) As was revealed this week ( WSJ ) India’s so called growth … along with Brazils economy has been being subsidized by ….. you guessed it Rocky …. Us ! ( US Tax Payers ) with China on the wane and Russia having been a Potemkin Village from the day Putin initially stepped into office

    And a reminder for all those cheerleaders of these action on the part of our government . The Boom / Recovery of the 50′s was not a result of the WPA etc actions . They only served to keep us above water …. along with instilling a severe sense of well needed discipline ( which we lack in every way shape and form ) that had us ready when WWII rolled around

    But it was the War that created the Boom . So ……

    Potemkin Village …


    Subaru going Up Market . A reminder ….. they been there ( SVX and the Tribeca … as well as the F6 powered Outbacks ) … it failed miserably …… so lets nix the idea once and for all .

    Subaru …. needs to Remain …. Subaru … with subtle evolution rather than any major movement


    So … HtG …. etc …. anyone curious ? ( the prodigal son thing )

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Here is a TTAC take on Subaru’s attempt at going up-market. It is not very flattering:

  24. HtG Says:

    22 Of course. I figure a certain music festival. But aren’t you curious about Berlin, as well?

    What’s really interesting though is which way goeth The Iceman. (assuming he’s sober enough to legally sign a document)

  25. ColoradoKid Says:

    HtG – More business meetings and bike races than festival mien freund . Fact is we never went to a single Festival event . To say the least though I walked away both surprised as well as humbled . All that had created the ills of the past went out of their way to make amends .. apologies etc … an instrument maker ( not based in Aspen but who’s new owners were there ) who’d broken an old contract under previous ownership now wants to make up for the past … and even several shop keepers still around since my exit making it clear I was missed . Suffice it to say we’ve cancelled our previous September plans and are going back in 2 1/2 weeks to continue the discussions .

    A promise to all . If any of this turns out to amount to anything real and viable …. all will be revealed here …. including …………. ;-)

    But HtG ? Vas ist das mit der Berlin ? I had no idea so fill me in

    Oh …. BWTM …. and car related to boot . The dates we chose in September also coincide with a car event …. who’s featured maker made some overtures during the trip as to repairing some past ills as well …. hmmmmmn ….

  26. ColoradoKid Says:

    F1 – My best guess is Kimi’s staying put . Alonso’d be a fool to leave Ferrari ( hint hint #25 ) Aint no way Vettel’s leaving Red Bull … pairing Kimi with either Alonso or Vettel would be like trying to stuff the Hindenburg and the Goodyear Blimp in a hanger barely big enough for the Met Life airship …. so …. I’m guessing status quo … with only Massa in question

  27. HtG Says:

    notgonnahappen, CK. what’s public info is not all.

  28. HtG Says:

    one consideration for RedBull is their marketing interest. They are the extreme excitement brand, and Kimi and Seb would be like having a pair of ferrets tied into your trousers. I’d watch that :)

  29. ColoradoKid Says:

    #27 Huh ?

    #28 – Yeah … but putting Vettel with Kimi would make the pairing of Senna and Prost look like two loving brothers in full support of one another

    Can you imagine the first time Kimi and Seb come to blows ( which you know’ll happen ) Seb’s ego not allowing him to back down and Kimi’s bite which is ten times worse than his bark letting loose ? Eeeeesh … a blood bath to be certain …

    But …. dumber things have happened in F1 .. so … we’l see

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Alonso and Vettel together would be fun to see too, but not likely to happen.

  31. ColoradoKid Says:

    …… and Alonso and Kimi’d be a street brawl from day one … with Kimi coming out on top with that one ( Alonso’s not much of a brawler… more whiner than anything )

  32. Steve Says:

    NAFTA is at an all time high. Could you explain this number a little more? I see in the 8/22/2013 edition of IBD they say the following:

    “Vehicle sales: Car and light
    truck sales are predicted to hit
    15.6 million this year, much better
    than the recession low of 10.4
    million in 2009 but nowhere
    near the 17 million early in the
    2000s, notes Susan Sterne of
    Economic Analysis Associates.”