Episode 284 – GM Expands In India, Suzuki’s Kizashi Challenge, Unique Traffic Light

December 4th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 5:42

GM and its Chinese partner SAIC will form a new joint venture in India. Suzuki is offering a special incentive if you test drive its new Kizashi sedan. A designer has come up with a unique stoplight with a built-in timer. All that and more, plus John gives us the latest news from the LA Auto Show.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. GM expands in India. Suzuki offers a unique incentive on its new Kizashi sedan. And a designer creates a unique traffic light.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Friday, December 4, 2009. I’m Rod Meloni Business Editor from WDIV-TV Local Four News in Detroit, filling in for John who’s still out in sunny Southern California covering the LA Auto Show. We’ll hear the latest from him in the second-half of the show, but first, here are today’s top stories.

As we’ve reported, GM and its Chinese partner SAIC will form a new joint venture in India, but now we know some more details. According to Bloomberg, GM will transfer a portion of its stake in the Chinese venture, to give majority control to SAIC. And the two will form an equal partnership in India to build and sell small cars and commercial vehicles. GM is agreeing to the deal in order to gain a foothold in India and to also get the cooperation of the Chinese government on other issues. The Indian alliance is expected to reach an annual production of 225,000 units by 2012.

GM and Chrysler are reconsidering plans to shut down some of their dealers. The two companies are trying to avoid government legislation that would force them to keep some open. Dealers will get the chance to state their case in binding arbitration hearings… but many feel it’s not enough and say GM and Chrysler need to be more transparent about what criteria they must meet in order to stay open. Earlier in the year, while in bankruptcy, GM and Chrysler announced they would close thousands of dealerships in order to restructure.

Yesterday we reported that Ford and Mazda are parting, and now it looks like GM and Suzuki may be following suit (subscription required). According to the Wall Street Journal, the Japanese automaker plans to sell its stake in the 50-50 joint venture the two companies have in Ontario, Canada to GM. The CAMI Automotive facility is where GM builds its popular Equinox and Terrain crossovers and the two have worked together there for more than 20 years. No word yet on when the sale will go through or how much it’s worth.

In other Suzuki news, the company must be really confident in its new midsize sedan, the Kizashi, because it’s offering a special incentive if you test drive one. Autoblog reports that that it’s putting its money where its mouth is with the “Kizashi Test Drive Challenge.” They’ll give you 100 bucks if you try the company’s new sedan AND THEN buy either a new Audi A4 or an Acura TSX. Talk about aiming high. The program runs through January 31, 2010, and there are a few other rules and stipulations. Check the link in today’s transcript for more information about this incentive.

Here’s an interesting concept for a traffic light. Autoblog reports that designer Damjan Stankovic has come up with a unique stoplight with a built-in timer. The red light has an outer ring around it that shows how long it has until it changes. This is handy if you’re rolling up to the light and it’s about to go green, you can just slow down instead of stopping completely. Also, if you’re stopped and you drive a car with a manual transmission you can put the car in gear so you’re ready to go as soon as it changes. It’d also be handy for drag racing … overall a pretty cool idea that’s kind of a no-brainer.

Coming up next, McElroy brings us MORE from the FLOOR of the LA Auto Show with another update. Anyway, I’m Rod Meloni, WDIV Channel 4 News, Detroit. Thanks for watching, I’ll see you next time.

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44 Comments to “Episode 284 – GM Expands In India, Suzuki’s Kizashi Challenge, Unique Traffic Light”

  1. Steve Says:

    Rod did a great job……have him back for fill-ins.

  2. Jim Sachetti Says:

    The Huyndai Tucson is BUTT-UGLY in front, its gaping mouth looks grotesque, they managed to make ut more embarassing than even the Mazda gaping stupid mouths!

    The Suzuki vs the Audi and the Acura? Give me a break! Why pick on cars twice as expensive and far more superior in performance and more luxurious than that Suzuki POS instead of comparing it with its real competition, the Accord and the Camry and even the jetta, Civic and corolla (given that the Suzuki’s size is in between the Accord and the Civic).

  3. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Suzuki probably thinks mentioning their car alongside the Audi and Acura will make people think it must really be a bargain at a similar price to Civic, Accord, et. al. I wish them luck.

    I think Suzuki should move down market with whatever they have that would be today’s version of the 3 cylinder, one liter Swift/Metro last sold in the 90′s. There would be a market for cars like that, at the right price.

  4. Victor West Says:

    The timer traffic light. 50 years ago, New Philadelphia, Ohio, had one just like that. It was a great drag race item. It is gone now. This is not a new idea.

  5. Jim Sachetti Says:

    Frankly, I think the best thing for both Suzuki and the other automakers that sell in the US is if Suzuki abandons the US market, packs and goes back to Japan. I was under the impression that they had already decided to do that. They can’t possible make one dime out of the US market with t heir very, very lame sales to date. If not for their partnership with GM, they would be dead long ago in the US market.

  6. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If Suzuki had a niche like small, cheap liter cars, they could survive here. They are not going to compete with Camry, Accord, etc. any time soon, and Audi and Acura, you’ve got to be kidding. The Suzuki does look better than recent Acuras, though.

  7. Jim Sachetti Says:

    I know of no Suzuki Niche Car. Subaru and Mini sure are niche cars, but no Suzuki is. And it is not the first time they tried with a midsize sedan that failed miserably. Remember the … “Verona”? Very few do. I doubt you ever saw one on the street.

    And you just can’t survive with a tiny volume so-called “niche” model if you also have a tiny PRICE. The Mini has a far higher price than same size Hondas or Toyotas, not to mention cheapo Hyundais and Kias!

    This is a business decision. Suzuki should have realized, after DECADES of poor sales and hemorraging $100s of millions in losses, that it has failed, admit it and do what so many others, thgankfully, did, leave the US market and make it a much healthier market for all the still numerous makers that are already here.

  8. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Suzuki doesn’t have any niche cars NOW, but they ONCE DID with the Swift/Geo Metro in 3 cylinder manual transmission guise. They got exceptionally good gas mileage, significantly better than the smallest 4 cylinder cars at the time, and they were cheap to buy. If Suzuki sold cars like that now, maybe they could sell them at their motorcycle dealers. It should be easier to make money selling a fairly small volume of cheap cars if you do it that way, rather than having their present car dealer network. Yeh, it would be a different approach from the norm, but it might work.

    I agree completely that Suzuki is wasting their time trying to compete in the mid-size sedan market. There is still a shortage of wagons and hatchbacks, though.

    It will be interesting to see how Mini does long term. The car is “premium” in that it s made by BMW and looks like a 13/10 scale model of the original mini. It is also fun to drive, but is not a good value, which I admit, even though I own a Mini.

  9. EAB Says:

    The best thing about the traffic light timer? A tree hugger like me can shut off the engine and then restart it when the light gets close to turning green. You would be amazed at how much $$$ one can save by doing this. THink of it as a “manually operated partial hybrid.”

  10. Tony Gray Says:

    EAB: Wouldn’t this cause significant wear on the car’s battery if it wasn’t designed for such operation? I’m thinking that a few stop and start cycles shouldn’t be a burden, but over time would this adversely impact the life of the battery and/or starter?

  11. Kit Gerhart Says:

    My concern about stopping the engine as a routine thing at stop lights would be starter life. Are there any people on this forum who know about the design life of starters on today’s cars?

  12. Nick Stevens Says:

    My old Accord coupe 5-speed, while not a hybrid, did develop starter problems, and before it got much worse and died, I replaced the starter motor, back a few years ago. (It was a 1990 model I donated to charity in May 08) it was around thanksgiving and for various reasons I did not go to the dealer but to some shop, and they did not replace it with a Honda part but some kind of clone, new or used I do not remember, but it cost about $250. The car had only 130k miles at the time, but I drove it around town with many, many more engine starts than its miles would imply. My current german V8 luxo-performance chariot is almost at 130k, and recently I am using it every day instead of keeping it for long trips when I also had the Accord..

  13. Nick Stevens Says:

    I assume the new cars with start-stop have researched this problem and it will not result in premature wear, also these start-stops are far smoother and imperceptible than the start-stops we do manually in old cars.

  14. Nick Stevens Says:

    Re the Mini, it does have a value too, but you will never recognize it if you compare apples and oranges, ie the Mini vs the yaris or even the more sporty Fit. It is not in that segment.

    The mini promises excellent and very fun handling that any Aveo, small Hyundai or Kia, or Yaris sure does not offer, and even the Fit is not as good as the mini in driving pleasure.

    One should compare it, and this is no surprise, the Mini being a BMW division, to the smallest BMW 1 series, which is compact but much heavier than the Mini, but much less expensive. The two handle probably just as well and both provide a ton of driving fun, unmatched by any small Hyundai, Kia, Daewoo-Aveo Chevy, or even Yaris or Fit.

    given the above far more appropriate comparison, the Mini is excellent value. Esp. a used one.

  15. Nick Stevens Says:

    PS I really, really like the idea of the traffic timer, even if I will not shut off the engine of my old car, I certainly can use the info to drive more smoothly, accelerate or let the gas pedal go as appropriate, etc. Information is power!!!

  16. Lex Says:


    That Traffic Light could be a real money maker for some towns and cities, especially if you place intersection cameras which catch a vehicle(s) license plate when they are either dragging or staled out at the intersection. NYC has “Don’t Block the Box” traffic laws for it’s Manahattan intersections which can get you a heavy fine. No new real developments on the Chevy Volt? Has GM solved all the idle and operating speed issues it had concerning the ICE recharging unit?

  17. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    This stop/start BS will end up costing you more in the long run with replacing starter motors, both UPS and post office trucks have that problem, besides all these jacked-up drivers will have another weapon to jackrabbit off the line thus causing more accident with drivers that usually “take” the red at intersections. Suzuki: I know Audi and Acura and you sir, are no Audi or Acura.

  18. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    ps I’ve always read that it takes more gas to restart an engine as long as it’s less than a minute idling time.

  19. Alex Kovnat Says:

    >The two companies are trying to avoid
    >government legislation that would
    >force them to keep some open.

    As if it weren’t enough that automakers are being squeezed harder and harder between fuel economy and safety.

    As if automakers didn’t have enough to worry about, trying to eek out a profit in these hard times.

    Now in addition, the government also wants to squeeze GM and Chrysler on local employment issues by demanding that dealerships be kept open. Is there no limit to the egomania of all too many of our political leaders? Is there no limit to their appetite for power?

    Society as a whole (not just GM and Chrysler themselves), deserves better.

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Nick Stevens Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    “Re the Mini, it does have a value too, but you will never recognize it if you compare apples and oranges, ie the Mini vs the yaris or even the more sporty Fit. It is not in that segment.”

    I drove a new Fit before buying my used Mini, and while they are different, it is hard to say that the Mini is that much “better” than the Fit. The Mini has more precise handling and better steering feel, but the feel of the manual shifter is better on the Honda. The acceleration is about comparable between the Fit and non-boosted Mini. The Honda I drove had less road noise than my ’06 Mini, but I suspect that is mostly my half-worn tires.

    To be honest, I bought my Mini as much for the image and “cuteness” factor as the way it drives, though overall, the Mini is more fun to drive than a Fit. Still, the Fit drives very well, and if I needed a usable back seat, I wouldn’t have bought the Mini.

    The Yaris and Aveo aren’t even close to the Mini, or even the Fit, in “fun to drive.” They are clearly not as “good” as the Fit or the Mini.

  21. G.A.Branigan Says:

    A Nick Stevens:Your “german v-8 luxo-performance chariot”,bmw 7 series……right?

  22. C-tech Says:

    Leave it alone G.A., leave it alone! :)

  23. C-tech Says:

    @Alex Kovnat: Now in addition, the government also wants to squeeze GM and Chrysler on local employment issues by demanding that dealerships be kept open. Is there no limit to the egomania of all too many of our political leaders? Is there no limit to their appetite for power?

    In a representative DEMOCRACY the people who own and run the dealerships also have a right to ask their elected officials to look at business decisions which affect their livelihoods(read MONEY) as much as anyone else. Personally, I think dealers have had too much influence with local and national politics for too long (think about why you can’t buy a car directly from a manufacturer in this country, but I can buy a computer or airplane directly).

  24. Tom Says:

    Maybe Suzuki should leave the north american market.Fiat is coming with there small cars

  25. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ C-Tech: Okay ;}>

  26. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Yeah, ok Tom you mean FIAT, the auto maker whos getting its clocks cleaned by Hyundai’s small more reliabile cars in Europe. The Same FIAT small cas that will seal the last nails in CRIATS coffin. The same small cars that are on the Bottom of almost every European quality Indicator for small cars. When Americans find out how Shitty these little Italan POS’s are, Chrysler is done. From the same company that has a guy in charge that said his cars woould be good as Toyotas, but his cars not only still have inferior quality to Toyota, much less companies like Hyundai which has better quality than Toyota.

    What is you guy’s problem with Hyundai? These guys have proven that not only they are as good as the Japanese but they have exceeded the Japanese on pretty much every measure that matters to a car buying choice for most people.

    By the way read the reviews on the Accent, and not some optinionated non-journalistic, non- factual, The Truth (Lies) About Cars BS. You’ll find the Accent is heads above any small GM/Daewoo product, and in most measures its a better value to a Yaris.

    Hummmm, maybe that’s why it has outsold the Yaris for the year and a half?

    In that Segment:
    1. Aveo
    2. Fit
    3. Accent

    That absolutely stunning looking Tuscon puts the Mercury Mariner to shame, some of you know it, but I bet you wont admit it.

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:


    I drove a new Accent and Fit before buying my used Mini, and both the new Fit and 3 year old Mini drive better than the new Accent. The shift quality and quietness of the Fit are best, and the handling and steering feel of the Mini are best. The Accent was at the bottom on all accounts. That said, I will not be at all surprised if the next generation Accent catches up with the Fit. Hyundai/Kia have made amazingly quick progress at being genuinely competitive in the markets where they participate.

  28. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    The current Accent is meant to be a tuner car, not a car you can take off the dealer and it be the ultimate driving experience.

    A Good solid Basic car that is ready for a tuner’s canvas. The way the Civic used to be before they sold out to pussified suburban baby boomers.

    Accent is a car for the young and the old. For the old people think its fine the way it is. For young people they at least put a short ram intake on the thing at the minimum to make the driving experience somewhat more exciting.

    The next Gen model will be the MINI, but much bigger (Crossman/Clubman sized), more fuel efficient, more powerful, and more reliable. The Sedan will be a baby Sonata clone.

    I dislike the way you guys hate on Suzuki too. To go from 30th to 9th place in a matter of 5 years time in reliability is astonishing. I think they have the right product, and I think they have something going here.

  29. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Kit the plan is to go after the MINI (Clubman Crossman series), not the Fit. We want to be competitive on the premium interior/ sport side with MINI and exceeding the Fit in every way.

    There’s a perfectly good reason why the Accent is going to be given more power than a MINI. Hyundai wants that to be the undisputed leader in small cars.

    Ultimate Fuel Economy
    Ultimate power
    MINI Interior sharpness
    MINI handling
    Fit Shifting
    Ultimate versatility.

    In 14 months the question will be. What’s a Fiesta? Hyundai is very pissed off behind closed doors about critical comments made towards the Accent and Azera, and anger historically is the best motivatior for this company.

    Maybe thats why the Azera will come out with a 4.0 liter and a 32 MPG variant?

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I don’t know who you are, Hyundia/Smoke, but it seems that you are a part owner of Hyundai.

    In any case, I am very open minded in my car purchasing decisions. I have a Chevy, a BMW Mini, a Chrysler, and a VW. If Hyundai/Kia has what appears to be the best product in the market I’m shopping when I buy my next car, I’ll give it full consideration.

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    One more thing, Hyundia/Smoke.

    Every “upstart” car company like Hyundai has some hurdles to deal with to compete with established products. Regarding Mini, you have the British heritage of the original Mini, and the fact that BMW builds the “new Mini.” Even if Hyundai builds a car which is faster, handles better, shifts better, and gets better gas mileage than the BMW Mini, it will take a while before they take a lot of business from Mini. Also, can Hyundai get by with making a “retro mini,” apperance-wise as BMW did after buying the Rover group? I don’t think so.

  32. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Ok Kit, you got a point. The MINI has the heritage thing going, but I think Hyundai with the right product can create another nice heritage over the long run.

    By the way, all Hyundai onwers are part onwers of the company. We invest in this company, help it grow, and help it make better product.

    I started real early in the brand about 10 years ago with an Accent. It was a tough little car. Absolutely a riot in the snow. The Engine and the tranny were sold, though Hyundais in that era had electrical problems. I traded her in at 230,000 for the 07. The Interor I have to admit was piss poor quality in that 98 Accent. Then again everything in 98 pretty much had a horrible interior. Black and Beige plastics, Chinese quality upholstery, Hard brick Plastics, Waffle Ball quality soft touch points: GM, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota, Ford all had that. Toyday’s Accent though Spartan certain trims can be, is like Jetson Tech compared to that old 95-00 Variant.

    The Car industry has come a long way in that time, but GM, Ford, Hyundai, Mazda, Subaru, and Suxuki have even come a longer way, and most of their interiors exceed the industry standard now.

    Volvo/SAABs interiors today are very similar to their 10 year old product. Humm…. maybe that’s why they are about to close? Toyota has been running Similar Interiors since 2002. Honda’s interiors have gotten futuristic, but the quality has gotten really cheap in some cars, and more and more in all of of its cars.

    Im just worried that Suzuki, like Saturn waited too long to do something about changing that image.

  33. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Pedro Fernandez Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    ps I’ve always read that it takes more gas to restart an engine as long as it’s less than a minute idling time”

    I thought so myself until I heard or read somewhere (forget where, but it was a serious outfit) that one should shut down the engine atfer 20 sec. I have no intention of doing that, not with a car with almost 130,000 miles, despite the fact it is a fuel hog. Even one minute, I’d probably keep it running.

    BUT if you buy a NEW car with a start-stop system, I would NOT expect as much wear on the starter motor, it is far different than doing it on an old car NOT designed for this kind of thing..

  34. Nick Stevens Says:

    Kit: I agree with all you wrote about the Mini. Exterior styling and image are also extremely important, people do not want to drive ugly cars. The Fit is a close second. I know Honda manual transmissions are very smooth. I expected Minis to be similar because BMW manuals are also excellent.

    I also miswrote that the mini is more expensive than the 1 series, I never believed that, but the complex syntax in my sentence, which I did not edit, may give that impression.

  35. Nick Stevens Says:

    “# G.A.Branigan Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    A Nick Stevens:Your “german v-8 luxo-performance chariot”,bmw 7 series……right?”

    Did “performance” give it away that it is not an S class? And why couldn’t it be an Audi A8 variant? Especially the S8?

    OF course, if it is a 7 series, I must be THor, since he also claims to have one, right?

    As if there is only one BMW seven series new or used in the Entire USA…

  36. Nick Stevens Says:

    back to the Mini, no automaker (except perhaps some copycat in China) bothered to offer a directly competing model to the mini. The Fit is the closest, until the Fiat 500 comes here, but the 500 is smaller and has inferior handling and performance to the Mini, and must be priced at a much lower level here to have any serious sales.

    I don’t know what patents protect the Mini styling and other features, but so far it is a unique design.

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    back to the Mini…
    While the Mini is almost universally considered a “premium” small car in America, the interior is almost completely covered with those dreaded hard materials. There is “natural finish” hard plastic for the top part of the door panels, and a lot of painted hard material. I like it just fine, but it’s not what would generally be considered “premium.”

    The interior is rather high-styled in a cartoonish sort of way. It is mostly functional, but the main speedometer is a “mother-in-law” unit in the center of the dash. Fortunately, there is a digital speedometer readout in the tach housing in front of the driver, so the location of the analog speedo is not a problem.

    What I write here is about my ’06 Mini which is the last model year of the first generation BMW Mini. The second generation car which started with the ’07 model year may (or may not) have more soft-touch material than my ’06.

  38. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    The more and more I think about it, I think Marchionne is going to pull out of this deal. 3 months from now or 3 years from now, youll see.

    They are just using Chrysler as an easy way to get the US market to have easier access to Alfas, Lancias, and FIATS

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Nick Stevens wrote:

    ” I know Honda manual transmissions are very smooth. I expected Minis to be similar because BMW manuals are also excellent.”

    The Mini’s transmission is good, but not as slick as recent Hondas. I guess that’s not too surprising. Honda has been making almost nothing but transverse engine, front drive cars for most of its car making existence, while, unless I’m forgetting something, the Mini is BMW’s first foray in that drive train configuration. I suspect the rear drive BMW’s shift better than any front drive cars. At least the 3-Series cars I have driven shifted very well.

  40. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Kit, I think its ok for the MINI to have hard materials here and there. A base model is in the upper $17s.

    As you should notice with a closer more in-depth inspection, most hard materials in small cars today arent so hard. Compare hard plastics from 10 years ago, to the more malleable plastics we have today.

    Eventually, I think plastics in small cars are going to be sprayed with rubber. Just a light coating would be fine. I want a premium small car, but like the thrifty Hyundai owner Iam I dont want to pay a premium price to get one.

    I want to and I dont mind incurring extra costs to get better equippment, but I dont want to pay anything more than $20-21K for a car the size of a shoe either.

  41. Nick Stevens Says:

    Even Top Gear Honors the new Prius!

    “Jeremy Clarkson seems to hate anything that “greens up” or in any other way adds an “eco” label to his cars – and some environmentalists don’t exactly appreciate the television host either – so it’s with some amusement that we learn that the Top Gear team has named the Toyota Prius the “City Car of the Year.” Turns out, the Prius really can appeal to almost everyone.

    Clarkson was not specifically quoted in the Prius praise piece – remember, this is the guy who called Honda’s Insight “Biblically terrible” and pretended to run out of energy in a Tesla Roadster – but his mates said the 2010 Prius gets “awesome numbers” of 60 mpg (U.S. gallons, as measured on the UK scale) and emits just 89 grams of C02 per km. And all this from “a proper family five-door hatch.” BBC Top Gear Editor Conor McNicholas even called the third-gen model “something quite ground-breaking.” “

  42. Nick Stevens Says:

    If I had to buy a new car right now, the Prius would be very high on my list, even tho I do not drive a whole lot of miles every year.

  43. Jim Sachetti Says:

    Further proof that not only millions of very expensive cars are sold in China every yea,r but also that some of them, the quintessential luxury cars, are growing by leaps and bounds:

    “Mercedes reports triple-digit sales gain in China
    Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz unit in November sold 224 percent more cars in China compared with the same month last year, a senior executive said on Monday.”

  44. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Nick Stevens Says:
    December 7th, 2009 at 9:31 am

    “If I had to buy a new car right now, the Prius would be very high on my list, even tho I do not drive a whole lot of miles every year.”

    The Prius appeals to almost everyone. A friend of mine has a Prius as a daily driver, and two Ferarris for fun.