Listen to “AD #3150 – Mercedes S-Class Impressions; Brand Loyalty Hits 6-Year Low; Dacia Sandero #1 in Europe” on Spreaker.
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0:08 Brand Loyalty Hits 6-Year Low
0:41 Toyota Halts e-Palette Fleet at Paralympic Games
1:20 Another Tesla Autopilot Accident
1:51 Vinfast Closes Australian Operations
3:39 VW ID.3 Debuts in China
4:35 Porsche Expands in Asia
5:10 Dacia Sandero #1 in Europe
5:46 Ford Expands Camper Van Lineup in Europe
7:24 S-Class Is Engineering Marvel but Very Complicated
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
BRAND LOYALTY HITS 6-YEAR LOW
Uh-oh, here’s another problem that the chip shortage is causing. Brand loyalty is going out the window. In the U.S., it fell to a six-year low according to IHS Markit. That’s because inventory is so tight. People who used to swear by a brand are now taking whatever car they can get because car dealers don’t have what they want. The overall brand loyalty rate of 51% is down from 54% last year and the lowest it’s been since August 2015.
TOYOTA HALTS E-PALETTE FLEET AT PARALYMPIC GAMES
Toyota stopped using its e-Palette autonomous vehicles at the Paralympic games in Tokyo, because one of them hit one of the Paralympic athletes. The vehicle was operating in the Olympic Village when it struck a visually impaired athlete. But it was going less than 2 kilometers an hour, or just over 1 mile an hour. But it wasn’t the AV’s fault. A human driver on board took control to make a turn and that’s when it struck the athlete, who was injured. Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda apologized for the accident and said the company is cooperating with authorities in their investigation.
ANOTHER TESLA AUTOPILOT ACCIDENT
There’s been another Tesla Autopilot accident. Over the weekend in Florida, a Tesla allegedly operating on Autopilot hit a parked police car with its emergency flashers on, after the officer stopped to assist a broken-down vehicle. It happened at 5 in the morning on an interstate near Orlando. Luckily there were only minor injuries. Earlier this month, NHTSA opened an investigation into the Autopilot system over a number of similar crashes.
VINFAST CLOSES AUSTRALIAN OPERATIONS
Vinfast is the Vietnamese startup that plans to grow rapidly, but it could be running into growing pains. It already announced it will sell two electric cars in the U.S. market starting next March, and then will begin sales in Europe. One of those EVs, a crossover called the VFe35 features a 300-kilowatt motor, which is over 400 horsepower. It will have a 106-kilowatt-hour battery that will deliver 400 kilometers of range, which is nearly 250 miles. To us that doesn’t seem like much range for such a large battery, but let us know what you think. And now comes word that Vinfast is closing down its operations in Australia after 12 months of operating there. The company is reportedly cutting back on its engineering staff and is outsourcing much of its engineering work going forward. And we want to thank Autoline viewer Warwick Dundas in Australia for bringing this story to our attention.
VW ID.3 DEBUTS IN CHINA
Volkswagen is expanding its EV lineup in China. It already offers the ID.4 and ID.6 and in October it will start selling the ID.3 as well. The EV will also be built in the country alongside those other two models. So far sales of VW’s ID vehicles in China have been fairly underwhelming, with 5,800 reaching customer hands in July. That is more than three times what it sold in May and it expects to sell anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 ID vehicles by the end of the year. But it does say that’s subject to the supply of semiconductor chips. As you may have noticed, VW’s rollout of its ID vehicles in China is different from its two other biggest regions for sales; the U.S. and Europe. There the ID.3 was launched first, followed by the ID.4 and neither has seen the ID.6 yet.
PORSCHE EXPANDS IN ASIA
Speaking of the VW Group in China, Porsche is going to open a new R&D center in the country next year. China has been Porsche’s biggest sales market for the last six years running, so it makes sense to put more focus on the region. But that’s not the only market in the area it’s expanding in. Porsche will also set up a small-scale production site in Malaysia. It’s not making vehicles from scratch, but it will be responsible for final assembly of specific models, which will only be sold in Malaysia. Production starts next year.
DACIA SANDERO #1 IN EUROPE
The Volkswagen Golf is usually the best-selling car in Europe but in July it was dethroned by an unlikely competitor. The Dacia Sandero was number one last month with more than 20,000 units sold. It’s the first time the model has topped the sales charts since its introduction in 2008. Like the Hongguang MINI EV, price plays a factor. The Sandero sells for under 9,000 euros. For those of you who don’t know, Dacia is a Romanian brand that’s part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.
FORD EXPANDS CAMPER VAN LINEUP IN EUROPE
Ford is expanding its range of camper vans in Europe. The new Transit Custom Nugget Active and Trail models are meant for customers that want their camper to stand out a little bit more. The Active has a bit more of a sporty appearance with black cladding around the bottom of the van and exclusive 17-inch wheels. But it also features a side awning and full kitchen area on the inside with wood flooring. The Trail is supposed to look more off-road ready by stealing the look of the Raptor’s grille and adding even more black cladding. The interior of the Trail comes with swiveling front seats, a rear bench seat and dining table. Both models are available in standard and long wheelbase versions and orders from the dealer will open before the end of the year.
S-CLASS IS ENGINEERING MARVEL BUT VERY COMPLICATED
Modern cars are a marvel of engineering and technology. They offer impressive levels of quality, efficiency and safety. But man are they getting complicated as we found out while test driving the new Mercedes S-Class, specifically the S580 4Matic. The car is impeccably turned out. The craftsmanship and materials are amongst the best you can find. Its 4-liter V8 with nearly 500 horsepower and over 500 pound feet of torque moves this massive sedan with amazing ease. The air suspension is a marvel that provides a supple ride for cruising comfort, yet instantly stiffens if you want to hustle it through sharp corners or sweeping curves. The cabin is plush, whisper quiet and roomy. Driving this car makes you feel like you’ve arrived.
But before you can enjoy any of that you better take a couple of days to study the owner’s manual. For reasons we never understood, a curious message would pop up on the instrument cluster every time we started driving. Here’s what it said: “Change the steering wheel/seat position until 6 dots are visible on the upper edge of the screen.” What the heck is that supposed to mean? It took a while to figure out how to get rid of that message, which involved pushing one of the many buttons on the steering wheel to cancel it. But it popped back up every time we got in the car. On another occasion, we must have accidentally brushed some other button because the radio display disappeared and was replaced by the image of a computer keyboard. The only way we figured out how to get rid of that and get back to the radio was to turn the engine off and back on again. Another annoying design detail is that the four ventilation vents on the top of the instrument panel are reflected in the windshield in many driving conditions. It’s surprising to see that in a flagship car that cost $143,000 because there is design software that can catch that in simulation. Here’s our bottom line: The S-Class is a marvel of engineering, but it’s a complicated car that can confuse and distract drivers until they can figure out what all those buttons mean and learn how to navigate all the different menus.
Nissan did a terrific job of redesigning the Frontier pickup truck. And we’re going to take a deep dive into how they developed it on Autoline After Hours this Thursday. Melaina Vasko is a senior manager at Nissan’s U.S. Tech Center where the vehicle was developed. If you’ve got questions about the Frontier you’d like us to ask Melaina, tweet it to us or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Then join John and Gary on Thursday for some of the best insights into what’s going on in the automotive industry.
And that’s it for today, thanks for watching.
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Seamus and Sean McElroy cover the latest news in the automotive industry for Autoline Daily.