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Episode 220 – Sales Up But Not Good, New Hyundai Sonata, Dodge Dumps Sprinter

September 2nd, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 7:12

Cars sales were up in the American market, but they are still not good. Hyundai released two sketches of its next-generation 2010 Sonata. Dodge is going to dump the Sprinter van, which now will be sold under the Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner brands. All that and more, plus John answers viewer questions in the “You Said It!” segment.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Cars sales were up in the American market, but they still stink. A sneak peek at the next Hyundai Sonata. Dodge dumps the Sprinter van.

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, September 2, 2009. And now the news.

We’ve got the full data on August sales for the American market, and while they were better, this is still not what you would call good. According to Ward’s total sales hit 1.2 million units for the month (subscription required), for an annualized rate of 14-million vehicles. And while everyone seems happy, two years ago we would have called that a terrible number.

Amongst the full-line manufacturers, Honda/Acura were up 48 percent, Nissan/Infiniti were up 46 percent, GM up 30 percent, Toyota/Lexus/Scion up 28 percent, FoMoCo up 10 percent and Chrysler Co., which pretty much ran out of inventory, up only 4 percent. To get a good read on how Cash for Clunkers affected sales, it’s best to compare month over month, instead of year over year. In other words, let’s compare August sales to July. And by that measure total sales were up 26 percent, by far the biggest increase we’ve seen in years.

Sales incentives have also worked wonders in the Japanese and German markets. The Detroit Free Press reports sales in Japan were up 2.3 percent last month. And Germany says 2 million new vehicles were sold under its scrappage scheme.

Honda just released official photos of the Accord Crosstour, a weird-looking combination of hatchback and crossover built off the Accord. I hope the front three-quarter view looks better in person than the ungainly look it has in this photo, though the rear-quarter view isn’t too bad. Honda hopes to broaden the Accord line by introducing the Crosstour.

Dodge is going to dump the Sprinter van, so now it will be sold under the Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner brands. Mercedes created a new subsidiary called Daimler Vans USA to handle all Sprinters in North America. I think it’s a good bet that Chrysler could get a replacement from Fiat. The Iveco Daily, is very similar to the Sprinter, and Iveco is Fiat’s commercial vehicle division.

Hyundai released two sketches of its next-generation 2010 Sonata. The droopy beltline and coupe-like profile sure look like the trendsetting Mercedes-Benz CLS. Autoblog is running a couple photos of the car that were leaked. The pics show a grille that looks a lot like a VW Passat CC’s, and headlights that are very similar to the CLS. The new Sonata will launch in South Korea on September 10.

Kia will introduce a new sub-brand of eco-friendly cars called EcoDynamics (subscription required) at the Frankfurt Auto Show. According to Ward’s, the models will feature technologies like start/stop hybrid systems, a power-saving alternator-management system, and low-rolling resistance tires. In the future, Kia will add aerodynamic styling, alternative-fuel systems, and hybrid, electric and fuel cell-powered vehicles to the brand. Kia will show three EcoDynamics-badged vehicles at the show, the Forte LPI Hybrid, Cee’d Hybrid and Sorento Hybrid.

We just got a chance to drive the new convertible version of the Nissan 370Z. It’s shorter compared to the previous model and is also 150 pounds lighter, thanks to the use an aluminum hood, deck lid and doors. Mechanically, everything else is the same. Like the previous generation, the Z Roadster comes with a soft top, but the rear window was moved down. Nissan prefers the soft top because it reduces weight and also allows for more trunk space. Look for the 370Z Roadster in showrooms in the next few weeks with a starting price over $37,000.

Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!

And now it’s time for some of your feedback.

This is “You Said It!” Every day we get dozens of comments and questions from you, our viewers. “You Said It!” gives me a chance to respond.

dmax5678 saw our report on the Hyundai Equus and really noticed the hood ornament. It prompted him to say, “I respect Hyundai for going hard into the luxury market, but I think they have a lot of nerve putting that hood ornament on there. It doesn’t even resemble anything, and to me it makes it look like they’re trying waaaaaay too hard.”

Dmax, remember, we drove a Korean-spec Equus, and I think you’ll find that in the Korean and Middle-Eastern markets where it’s already sold, the hood ornament is considered popular. I’ll bet that when the car comes to the American market it will not have a hood ornament. Even though it’s spring-loaded, those things are worse than the bulls in Pamplona when it comes to goring pedestrians.

Bill wrote in to ask, “If GM doesn’t sell Opel, can they continue to supply cars to Roger Penske (Saturn)?”

Bill, neither GM nor Opel are going to supply cars to Saturn after next year. That’s why the word in the industry is that Penske is going to get Samsung in Korea to build cars to be sold as Saturns. Remember, Samsung is owned now owned by Renault.

And Pedro Fernandez saw our report that GM is looking at building a $4,000 car for emerging markets, and had this to say, “GM has had a $4,000 car for a long time, it’s a four-year-old Cavalier or an Aveo.”

And that’s right, the challenge to coming out with el-cheapo new cars is that they’re competing against good used cars that in most cases come better equipped.

Across town and around the world, that’ll do it for today’s top auto news. As always, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

37 Comments to “Episode 220 – Sales Up But Not Good, New Hyundai Sonata, Dodge Dumps Sprinter”

  1. Tony Gray Says:

    I’d still like to see a comparison of the CFC in Europe vs ours. We know that about half of our tax money went to foreign nameplates. I’d like to know how that worked out in Germany. Somehow I think it turned out differently.

  2. Thor Says:

    John, you are quite right, David Davis “Jr” (must be over 80!) will sure be very interesting in Autoline After Hours.

    DDJr once wrote that everybody should have the chance of driving a V12 Engined car before they die. Maybe this should be my next. And there are plenty Used, bargain-priced BMW 7 and Mercedes S-class V12s out there! In fact, I” go to Cars.com right now and do a search, and see how much more (if anything) they sell than their V8 siblings.

    Hey Pedro, if you bet your hard earned $, bet it wisely or you’ll lose it! There is a far bigger chance I’ll get one of these when I grow older, than your Buick!! LOL.

  3. Thor Says:

    John, you are also quite correct that the Accord Crosstour is very ungainly up front. Its back is much better.

    Now don’t laugh, but the Crosstour is very similar to the ugly-ass BMW X6, even if it has less weight and HP, it has the same basic idea, a 5-door big hatch with a high seating position that seniors with back and joint problems and SUV drivers (as well as very short women!) love.

    I said before that both Honda and Toyota would greatly benefit by hiring an ITALIAN Design studio, the best one if possible, it will only cost cents per vehicle, but they can sell them for a much bigger profit if they look as good as Euro cars.

  4. AlfaElan Says:

    Maybe the Iveco unit won’t rust they way the Mercedes Sprinter did. The Sprinter seemed like a great vehicle when I first encountered it in 2001, but now every time I see one it has rust on the rear doors around the hinges. Then agian maybe Daimler will fix the problem now that it has the Mercedes badge and blame it on Chrysler even though it has always been built by Mercedes.

  5. Nick Stevens Says:

    ” Tony Gray Says:
    September 2nd, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    I’d still like to see a comparison of the CFC in Europe vs ours. We know that about half of our tax money went to foreign nameplates. I’d like to know how that worked out in Germany. Somehow I think it turned out differently.”

    Tony,

    the US program was the WORST of any in the whole world, and its results were a total FIASCO. But I could not believe John’s total spin on the sales data, he forgot to say the most important things, and he misled us by comparing Aug 09 with July 09 and not with Aug 08, as everybody else does.

    I am very dissapointed in John.

    If we got our collective heads out of the sand, we would admit that:

    The retards in Wash DC, esp. those in Congress, who cannot even run a post office,

    FIRST forced GM and Chrysler to go broke,

    THEN GM and Chr. stopped production and virtually had no inventories on Aug 1,

    And then these geniuses in Congress passed the Clunker bill,

    ANd of course the resaults were DISASTROUS!!!! Only Ford and the IMPORTS benefited, Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, Honda and TOyota above all!

  6. Max Christensen Says:

    Two things………

    #1 The new Honda crossover, from the angle in this photo, looks alot like a Chrysler Sebring from the windshield on back.

    #2 Thor – Pedro asked you yesterday to lighten up. He was just joking around about saying you’d end up in a Buick.

    #3 Pedro – Why do you keep asking Thor questions? You just keep feeding his already enormous ego! Remember, he’s the one who is so much better than the rest of us that he couldn’t even issue a small and simple apology for his arrogance a couple weeks ago.

  7. Michael J. Brown Says:

    Sorry John, but I gotta dissagree with your take on the new Honda Crosstour’s aesthetics. You mention that the front quarter appears “ungainly” while the rear quarter “isn’t too bad”.

    I’m thinking the exact opposite. The front looks just fine to me, while that rear is an ungainly cross between a Chrysler Crossfire (rear glass bend underneath the spoiler) and a Mercedes C series (tail lenses).

  8. Nick Stevens Says:

    I agree with John and Thor re the Crosstour, and 100% disagree with Michael Brown.

    The front of it is simply God-Awful, if you ask me. John hit it right on the head with his “unwieldy” (Sp) or “Ungainly”.

    In stark contrast, the rear (did John show it? maybe in the video) is fluid, elegant, and excellent! Pininfarina would not have designed it better.

  9. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Hey guys, this is the same government that wants to run our health system. I’m afraid I’ll go in for an appendectomy and end up with a tubal ligation. I think Hyundai went too far with that Sonata, do they think they can take on Mercedes?

  10. Nick Stevens Says:

    But I do not expect the Crosstour to be significant sales-wise, Honda will probably not make any $ off it. Accord sells 40,000 copies a month, of which a tiny portion is the old Accord Coupe (maybe 10-15% of sales). This one will not do much better, and it will cannibalize the coupe in doing so.

  11. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Hey guys, this is the same government that wants to run our health system. I’m afraid I’ll go in for an appendectomy and end up with a tubal ligation.”

    Exactly…And stay tuned for more nonsense from its “Auto Czar”.. I bet they will pick our pockets again soon and re-do the clunker program, once they allow the Detroit 3 (esp. GM and Chrysler) to re-build their inventories so they are ready…

  12. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Hey guys,re. the Crosstour: remember one man’s fugly car is another’s piece of art, except the Aztek of course>

  13. Nick Stevens Says:

    In fact both the Aztek, the Crosstour, and the BMW X6 have similar designs.. not thst the Aztec is not the ugliest, but the other two compete quite well.. LOL

    A friend’s wife, she’s a senior Ford Engineer that used to drive an 80s Honda Prelude, once told me that Honda has not produced a good looking design since the early 90s. And with very few exceptions, I agree.

    They really would benefit from hiring th ebest designers in the World (the Italians). Hyundai and Kia and others have already done so, and they are doing really well.

  14. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Oh, Nick you can bet the next clunker program is already on some senator’s jelly brain. They’ll just crank up the dollar printing machine to work overtime and this time they’ll figure out a way to help the Det. 3 more.

  15. martin Says:

    Sorry Nick,

    I agree that CARS was probably somewhat illconceived, but given our current economic state, I think everyone, not just government is making “knee jerk’ reactions to things. Good or bad, these efforts are all part of the effort to get us back on the road to recovery. And im sorry, but the government didnt “Force GM and Chrysler to go broke” Maybe you hadn’t been watching the news, but they were well on their way there before the govenment EVER got involved.

    John, interesting story about Sprinter, but not completely surprising. I imagine that Chrysler won’t want to be without a full size van for long, so im sure we’ll see a rebadged FIAT Ducato, or, as you said IVECO Daily, sitting on the NAIAS floor this coming January. I wonder if they will do a CKD operation in one of Chryslers underutilized plants. It will be interesting to see.

    For years I have wondered why the Detroit three havent taken more advantage of their eurpoean product families. Sprinter proved that there was a logical alternative to the domestic full size van.

    Sales numbers for the Ford Connect, based on the “micro-commercial” sized vehicles that have long been popular in Europe is proving its worth here. I have no reason to believe a Dodge badged FIAT or IVECO product wont do equally well to Sprinter. You have to think that Ford will be taking a long hard look to see if the Transit isnt a logical replacement to the E Series….

  16. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Hopefully Fiat will bring in their Iveco diesel van and kick MB’s ass.

  17. Alex Kajdi Says:

    McElroy,

    Why is Honda wasting time and money on the Accord Crosstour! They have a great wagon which they build in the Asian Market called the “Odyssey”. The Asian “Odyssey” does not have siding doors and it small than the American version. It seems to me that Honda has other vehicles in the UK/European & Asian Markets that could compete quite well in the North American. My picks are the FR-V and Accord Tourer which are both offered in the UK. Honda styling for the UK version of the Civic is much more sportier than the American version.

  18. Nick Stevens Says:

    martin Says: “I agree that CARS was probably somewhat illconceived,”

    You would not know about it if you listen to John and his daily spin! I was especially dissapointed at how he presented the Aug sales, which were an unmitigated disaster for both GM and Chrysaler, the very two companies the program was supposed to help. I cannot count the so many ways in which this program was awful, but in addition, in Wash DC, the left hand has no clue what the right hand is doping, ans this is exactly how these retards voted the program, WHEN at the same time GM and Chrysler had little or no inventory to take advantage of it!!!!

    ” but given our current economic state, I think everyone, not just government is making “knee jerk’ reactions to things.”

    Of course they do in DC. I do not knwo who the others are.

    ” Good or bad, these efforts are all part of the effort to get us back on the road to recovery. ”

    REally? such idiotic schemes will help the recovery? Stealing my hard-earned tax dommars to make TOYOTA and HONDA and esp. Hyundai, Subaru and Kia rich? I can’t believe you see it this way! AND the bad news will follow soon enough, when in September the sales will be deader than Generalissimo Francisco Franco!

    “And im sorry, but the government didnt “Force GM and Chrysler to go broke” Maybe you hadn’t been watching the news, but they were well on their way there before the govenment EVER got involved. ”

    OH “YES THEY DID!” and if you want the exact truth, they delayed the bankruptcies, which should happen in Fall 08, as you correctly imply, only to help their Campaign Donors, the UAW and its corrupt leadership, which is singlenahdedly almost responsible for th demise of the Detroit 3 with their ridiculous agreements with management!!! Not long ago, an illiterate UAW worker was being paid more than a Brilliant Genius MIT-PhD MAth Professor in nearby UM, who also had wasted 10 years of his life without pay in college ans grad school.

    No wonder 50% of our scientists and engineers come from China or India!

  19. Thor Says:

    “Alex Kajdi Says:
    September 2nd, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    McElroy,

    Why is Honda wasting time and money on the Accord Crosstour! ”

    I believe they are trying to catch the older buyers that want a high sitting position and the increased cargo capacity of the hatchback but do not want a wasteful SUV or Crossover.

    But I agree with Nick Stevens that they will not sell many of them at first, and will make little if any $ on them.

    Honda is really a three major model company now, in August it sold 43,000 Civics, 39,000 accord and 30,000 CR-vs, all other hondas and acuras, even the Odyssey, sold less than 1/3 of each of the above (less than 10,000 units).

    Honda’s ‘cash cows” are the above big 3.

  20. Jim Sachetti Says:

    I cut and paste a telling comment from Automotive News:

    ” WindDown1 wrote:

    3 BILLION US TAX DOLLARS to get American car owners to purchase Foreign cars.

    Thank You!

    Sincerely,

    Japan,Inc; Korea, Inc.

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I don’t yet know the dimensions of the CrossTour, but if they kept its height the same as an Accord and resisted the usual temptation to make a “crossover” out of it, I’ll be checking it out, even though it’s ugly. It would be a nice car with a 4-cylinder/manual trans power train, ugly or not, if it drives the same and gets the gas mileage of an Accord sedan or coupe.

  22. Tom Martin Says:

    I also believe that CARS was ill conceived, but I also believe that it was better than having nothing especially from an enviromental perspective.

    That said, I wish John would have spoken in more detail to the effect of CARS on August car sales. With something like .7 million clunkers turned in, having total sales of a little over 1 million seems to be mighty poor number. I bet September sales will see huge declines.

  23. Chuck Genrich Says:

    Once again someone is questioning where Roger Penske is going to get his Saturns. I don’t know the answer to that question but I believe that Danny Sullivan had it exactly correct when he said, “When the music stops, Roger always has a chair”. I wouldn’t worry about where they are coming from, I just know that there is a plan. RP always has a plan.

  24. Salvador G. Says:

    JohnMcElroy, Do you think, Honda’s Crosstour is in responde to Toyota’s Venza?? It seems to me that a lot of what Honda’s does will always be in response to Toyota, its the same with their Prius and Insight.

    2. For most people that don’t know, in Europe; some countries spend around 10 Billion dollars for the Cash for Clunkers and probably so did the Japanesea and they probably will spend more. Those bastards with Universal Healthcarea and faster improving economy, they don’t care about their evil communist goverment controlling their lives.

    3. Hyundai its really taking design features from european cars and mixing them up, its that even legal; I mean screw design… this is cheaper and faster, take a Merc. and VW with some crappy hood ornament (not RollsRoyce) and lets call it the Sonata.

    -

  25. martin Says:

    Nick,

    You and I CAN agree on one thing for sure…

    “the UAW and its corrupt leadership, which is singlenahdedly almost responsible for th demise of the Detroit 3 with their ridiculous agreements with management!!! Not long ago, an illiterate UAW worker was being paid more than a Brilliant Genius MIT-PhD MAth Professor in nearby UM, who also had wasted 10 years of his life without pay in college ans grad school.”

    Im trying to remember, I think the last thing I read said that before cuts, line workers at the D-3 had a “loaded” wage of around $90/hr. Im sorry but that’s ludicrous.

    But if you watch TV, especially during the hearings in DC, Gettelfinger was only too happy to stand up and say “This wasnt our fault!” Its amazing how short some union leader’s memories are.

  26. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I think John’s month to month comparison is valid. My reasoning, is that after the ‘crash’, the auto monthly count was basically reset, and any comparisons to last years numbers don’t tell us much. A ‘month by month’ shows recovery (or lack there of) and tells a better story. IMO And, I think, the plot will definitely thicken (next month) after CARS has expired and its effect has expired.

  27. Jim Sachetti Says:

    Kit Gerhart: I don’t yet know the dimensions of the CrossTour, but if they kept its height the same as an Accord and resisted the usual temptation to make a “crossover” out of it, I’ll be checking it out, even though it’s ugly.

    Since they said it will have a higher seating position than the regular accord, I bet it will be a couple inches taller as well. The Accord is not short to begin with , at 58 or so inches, and I expect the Xtour to be about 60 in tall. Quite tall, but shorter than the 62-65 ” crossovers and the 68-72 ” SUVs.

    ” It would be a nice car with a 4-cylinder/manual trans power train, ugly or not, if it drives the same and gets the gas mileage of an Accord sedan or coupe.”

    I would expect it to definitely have worse mileage, being taller and probably heavier than the regular Accord.

  28. Jim Sachetti Says:

    ” Chuck Grenci Says:
    September 2nd, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    I think John’s month to month comparison is valid.”

    He is the only one in the industry using it. All other sources use year to year. Month to month is very misleading because of the strong seasonality of the auto sales, October, with the new models offered, is very different than September or August, when you do clearance and discounting of old models, etc.

    But the most unacceptable thing is, using the month to month just NOW, and not even emphasize that Aug 09 is bloated due to the cash-for-clunkers progrem, and then go back to what everybody else is doing, year-to-year, when it serves your interests.

    ” IMO And, I think, the plot will definitely thicken (next month) after CARS has expired and its effect has expired.”

    You and I sure agree here, though.

  29. dave Says:

    I love the swoopy roof line look of the Benz, VW CC and now the Hyundai, but Hyundai may have taken the rest of the car a bit too far

  30. Thor Says:

    Pedro,

    You wrote this on yesterday’s show, I reply here:

    “# pedro Fernandez Says:
    September 2nd, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Thor: so how do you explain Buick doing well in China?”

    I worked in China (Shanghai) for over a month in 06 and saw quite a few Buicks there.

    The ones that are similar to US buicks are black limos with chauffeurs that carry high-ranking commies around, they look great, their exterior design is better than the US buick equivalents of a few years ago, even than those of today.

    Their interiors are far more luxurious than US buicks. Labor is cheap over there, they are made in Shanghai.

    There seems to be a tradition in China for Buicks.

    There are even more “Buicks” there in China that are NOT real Buicks. Because the name there sells, GM takes every daewoo that it calls a “Chevy” everywhere else (like the Chevy Aveo) and calls it the “Buick” something in China.

    ” Is it a lack of choice over there or maybe Buick doesn’t have the geriatric stigma that it has here.”

    There is no lack of choice, they have plenty of other, real cars, millions of VWS and many BMWs recently.

    It does not have much of the geriatric stigma, and also they are better, more upscale than US buicks.

  31. ron leax Says:

    Thanks John !!!!

  32. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Ok, Thor, So now GM should keep the Buick name there, and leave Pontiac here and make it a performance division. But there are still boneheads running the company and they cannot make sound decisions.

  33. Thor Says:

    “But there are still boneheads running the company and they cannot make sound decisions.”

    Yes, both the ones in Detroit (henderson is as bad as Wagoner, only more willing to do what the “Czars” in DC tell him) and of course the Auto illiterate “Overlords” from DC that forced GM to shot down Pontiac…

  34. Nick Stevens Says:

    Everybody, (not just “some”) Hates the Crosstour:

    (From Autoblog.com)

    What do you think of the Honda Crosstour’s aesthetics?
    Good looking. 182 (3.0%)
    Kill it with fire! 5002 (81.9%)
    Meh, it’s not that bad. 922 (15.1%)

    “Ruh roh. Looks like Honda’s “friends” aren’t so happy about the upcoming Crosstour. And rather than us tell you why that might be, we’ll let the people speak for themselves. And we’ll let Honda’s marketing types speak back to the people. Here’s the first three comments on the page, warts and all:

    Was really hoping this car was going to look like the JDM or the Tourer…but we got neither. Very dissapointed!!! — Ciamaris R.

    The bad move here was teasing a wagon and delivering this Aztec/Venza, why? They don’t appeal to the same people (wagons appeal to existing Honda, Subaru & VW owners and CUV’s to people who buy cars solely for their street presence (it… helps if they aren’t ugly btw)). Through inept PR you’ve set yourselves up for an instant backlash that is going to dominate the press narrative for this car’s launch…and you deserve it. Were you trying to keep a lid on the new Venza competitor? To what purpose? Did you really think that Toyota didn’t know this was coming down the pipe? You’ve dissapointed and angered existing, money in hand customers by raising their expectations and then showing them a product you must know they would consider a betrayal of your brand heritage. If you had announced the CUV aspect of this ahead of time all those buyers would have tuned out this release and just kept on waiting for the wagon, faith in brand intact… — Ted G.

    Excellent another hideous car from Honda. This should be a real sales leader in the Early 40′s Soccer Mom demographic. How about a legitimate replacement for the S2000 or NSX instead more garbage like this? — Andrew C.”

  35. Kit Gerhart Says:

    What Honda needs to sell in America is a WAGON, or maybe two of them. Accord and Civic wagons already exist, and are being sold in the rest of the world. Why not here? I guess Honda and Toyota are doing VW and Subaru a favor, by leaving the wagon market to what are still kind of “niche” car companies in America.

  36. Derrick G Says:

    @Salvador G.

    Everyone takes design elements these days. Those CLS headlights? Compare them to the previous (EF) Sonata. They’re very similar. Of course, the EF Sonata’s are vaguely similar to some M-B’s of the time. So Hyundai’s copying headlights from a M-B that copied headlights from a Hyundai that were probably at least inspired by a M-B. What’s the legal case there?

  37. Nathan Says:

    I can’t wait to see the next lot of Fiat-Chrysler concoctions. I can’t imagine how Chrysler are going to manage ‘Americanising’ models like the Fiat Ducato Passenger – do you think they’ll attempt it?