Less than a week before Nissan’s stockholder meeting on the 26th at the Pacifico in Yokohama, Carlos Ghosn’s inner circle in Paris and Yokohama finds itself chasing a warmed-over rumor. Today, Bloomberg writes that “Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn is considering stepping down before the company’s next mid-term business plan begins in about five years.” A source close to Ghosn calls it “absolute nonsense and a yawner.”
Again and again, executives at Japanese car companies warned of a “hollowing out” of the Japanese industry if the yen remains as overvalued as it is. The yen remains unimpressed. Now, the executives start hollowing. A day after rumors of a reduction of domestic capacity at Toyota had hit the wires, Nissan is said to trim domestic output capacity by 15 percent. It will happen as early as next month, The Nikkei [sub] says.
In August last year, then Volkswagen of America sales chief Mark Barnes was moved to a post as “Vice President of Customer Experience” to make room for GM veteran Frank Trivieri, who took Mark’s job. At the time, I recommended : “Get a new job, Mr. Barnes! When next year’s J.D. Power study comes out, your derriere will be on the line!”
Instead of a thank you for the well-meant career advice, I had an irate Dr. Carsten Krebs on the line, who identified himself as the Director of Corporate Communications at Volkswagen Group of America, Inc, before he tore into me. He demanded a takedown of the story, which was denied. Herr Dr. Krebs claimed that Barnes “loves his new job.” It turned out as huey.
Volvo has long been the “safe choice” in more ways than one. The brand’s reputation is steeped in safety, but for the past 30 years “luxury with a hint of performance” has been a secondary focus. Even still, arriving at the country club in a Volvo won’t bring out the green-eyed-monster. Your fellow socialites will just think you were being safe and practical. Volvo may be the Birkenstock of the automotive world, but that doesn’t prevent them from creating the occasional irrational vehicle. While Volvo isn’t ready commit to build the insane 508HP S60R, they will sell you the most powerful small crossover in America: the 2012 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD R-Design with Polestar. (If you don’t count the bat-s**t-crazy (in a good way) Nissan Juke R. Michael Karesh was able to wrangle an XC60 R-Design out of a local dealer for a quick take in December, but what’s the Polestar tweaked XC like to live with for a week? Click through the jump to find out.
This is the first installment of a three-part series on Hyundai’s three newest offerings, the Elantra Coupe, Elantra GT and Veloster Turbo.
As I casually sauntered over to the gunmetal Elantra GT, I my mind began to ponder Jack’s piece on the Lamborghini and the politics of masculinity, until a Hyundai PR rep stopped me in mid-daydream. “Oh, you guys are driving the Elantra Coupe this morning.”
Edmunds compiled a list of the ten best cars “for teen drivers.” Edmunds did not pick the cars according to driftability or their magnetic force on chicks. Edmunds used criteria that should be on the minds of the people who usually buy those cars: Parents. As a parent, says Edmunds, “you’ll need to consider three factors above all others: safety, reliability and true cost to own.”
Once Edmunds was done with the list, it looked like a fresh arrival of exchange students. Except for a lone Malibu, all cars have foreign nameplates.
When Renault had rolled out its Alpine A110-50 a few weeks ago, the logical conclusion was that this was not just to celebrate the 50th birthday of Alpine. Today, Renault COO Carlos Tavares tells Bloomberg that Renault is thinking about bringing back Alpine as a brand for sports cars, and to create another high-end brand for luxury models in a bid to become a true global carmaker.
Car companies the world over get in line to spend $185,000 (for starters) to register their brands as what is called a “Top Level Domain” or TLD. Instead of, say “Chevrolet.com,” in the future, you will be able to type only “Chevrolet” to get to the site. Google allows you to do the same right now, but also gives you a long list of other choices.
A hitherto unknown Chinese business man who leads a shadowy “consortium” buys the assets of Saab. The media eats it up. Dalong “Kai Johan” Jiang takes the microphone and says what everybody wants to hear: “Electric cars powered by green electricity is the future and electric cars will be built in Trollhättan.” Jiang says there is a huge market for these made-in-Trollhättan EVs, waiting in China.
Nobody dares to say that it does not make sense at all. We say it.
A rear-wheel-drive four-door hatchback with staggered wheels and a mere 2,579 pounds distributed 45/55. From the folks who gave us the Evo. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? But the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (conversationally referred to as either the “i” OR the “meev”) isn’t that sort of car. Its focus is just as narrow as the Evo’s but could hardly be more different: the cheapest, most energy-efficient electric car you can buy in the United States. How cheap? The i-MiEV’s low-20s price (after a $7,500 tax credit) isn’t much higher than that of a Toyota Prius c, the cheapest, most energy-efficient hybrid.
“This is my baby,” said Nissan’s Andy Palmer last year at the Tokyo Motor Show, and affectionately patted the head of Nissan’s new NV350 Caravan. “Let’s be honest. The competitor is the Hiace. This car beats Hiace in every single way you could imagine.” This morning in Yokohama, Andy’s baby did its first steps into the rough world of light commercial vehicles.
The European car market – if taken together, the world’s second largest behind China and before the U.S. – continues its slow drift to the bottom. Sales in May were down by 8.7 percent in the EU. This is the eighth month in a row that sales are in minus territory. Five months into the year, the market is down 7.7 percent.
Rattled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and reminded by smaller quakes that are a daily occurrence in Japan, every large Japanese automaker entered the smart home business. We have seen smart homes from Toyota and from Nissan. Today, we went all the way to Minamiyono in Saitama to visit the smart home from Honda.
Yesterday, I shared a Toyota Corona ad from the February 1969 issue of Playboy. I like the Corona for personal reasons, but if the Time Machine took me back to ’69 and I didn’t have a lot to spend (or even if I did have a lot to spend), the Datsun 510 would be one of my top choices. Wouldn’t you know, there’s an ad for the 510 in the very same issue!
Automobile magazine reports that BMW is backing away from its ambitious electrically powered i vehicle program. Uncertainty about continued government support, a crazy quilt of state and national policies around the globe, a lack of charging infrastructure and, perhaps most importantly, a continued lack of consumer acceptance are said to have contributed to BMW’s decision.
Chris Harris may have been wrong about Miatas, but his review of the Audi RS4, where he describes the various configurable driveline settings as “adjustment theatre”, brilliantly describes the overly-complex systems that are cropping up in today’s performance cars as they attempt to appeal to not just the lead-footed, but the well-heeled.
When over 60 dealers are looking at the same vehicle at the same time, your chances of a finding a good deal at an auction decline dramatically.
That 2009 Nissan Versa that you like? At least five large-scale buy-here pay-here dealers will be fighting for it along with two other wholesalers that have a warm relationship with a Nissan dealer.
The scuffed up low-end Impala with over 200k on it? A public auction on the south side of town will be all over that. As will many other used car dealers who finance older vehicles in the urban areas of Atlanta. Don’t even think about buying that car as a cash flipper these days; because financing is the new elixir of older, popular used cars.
But an 11 year old Buick? Midsized? Unpopular? Well cared for? That’s my niche!
Two years ago, we met the five-liter Mustang at Summit Point’s Shenandoah course and pronounced it to be an outstanding track car with perhaps too emphatic a nod of the head to the bare-bones aesthetic. This year, we have a 2013-model five-liter with the same performance equipment but another eight thousand dollars’ worth of options and product improvements. Is this loaded Mustang GT worth considering as a trackday toy, or should you go straight to the Boss 302?
Unlike Mexico, that other Latin American economic juggernaut, Brazil (sorry Argentina), has not really had a lot of success exporting cars to North America. Now, that is all about to change. Picture a Dodge cross and new back-lights and there you have it. Coming soon to a dealer near you. Yes, this Fiat will be outfitted as a Dodge and sold in all fine Chrysler-Dodge stores all over America and Canada.
We have a new winner in the MPGe brawl: Honda’s new all-electric 2013 Fit can go 118 miles on a gallon of imagined gas, measurement brought to you by your tax dollars and the EPA. Chevrolet meanwhile tweaked battery and electronics of its range-extended Volt for four miles more on the MPGe scale (95 to now 98, combined), and a slightly better electric range of 38 miles. The perception of customers remains conflicted. After all, they wanted to escape gas, and now they have to contend with simulated gallons. That’s just the beginning of the plug-in perplexity.
The electric leaderboard now looks like this:
History repeats itself. I repeat, History repeats…well, you see my point. Which was probably one of the reasons why my creations in Car Design College were universally panned as being “too retro”, among other things. It was a similar fate given to Lenny Kravitz, except he was very talented in his form of artistic expression. And while you can’t “sell” most design studios on the power of history, I present to you the latest Nash/AMC Rambler.
I mean Nissan Leaf. You’ll have to forgive me for seeing the similarity between the two, in spirit, historical context and on the Vellum.
Hybrids and minivehicles continue to top Japan’s list of best-selling cars in May. With 20,789 units sold, Toyota’s Prius is leading the list now for the 12th month in a row. Hot on its heels is Toyota’s Aqua, better known in the U.S. as Prius C. Only supply constraints at Toyota can keep the compact and affordable hybrid from taking the top spot.
According to Automotive News [sub] and other media reports, the UAW is trying again to unionize Nissan’s Canton, Miss,, plant. A rally was held over the weekend. It is hard to believe that the UAW is serious, given the fact that it had tried two times, and failed two times.
This is the companion piece to yesterday’s pilot episode of our new video series. Did you watch it yet? If you didn’t, why not? Don’t you know that my son needs to eat? Have you no heart? Have you no sense of decency Sir, at long last? — JB
Context, to distort the phrase, is a hell of a drug. Anyone trying to make a purchase decision on this fully-loaded, $33,875 (in the United States), high-power, impractical, fully-loaded, sporting coupe will need to put their face down against a mirror and snort context with both nostrils open. In this brief review, we will first go cold-turkey, evaluating the Genesis Coupe’s on-track performance without referring to the competition. When that’s done, we will take a white-hot hit of context and try to determine if the pug-nosed Hyundai is worth buying.
Dongfeng-Nissan President Kimiyasu Nakamura watches Yao Bin, Huang Kai Fong, and Ye Lei
Yesterday, Nissan’s affable China president Kimiyasu Nakamura brought a Chinese delegation home to Yokohama, to explain to a largely skeptical Japanese press why Nissan had started a new brand in China with joint venture partner Dongfeng. The brand goes by the name of Venucia. Nissan is not the only one doing that. Nearly every foreign joint venture partner in China either has established a Chinese brand in China, or is intensively thinking about it.
Up until last month. the German car market was oblivious to the European carnage that had started in Mediterranean countries. and then slowly crawled north. In May. the car consumption disease arrived inside of Germany’s borders.
Managers of premium auto brands keep asking themselves (and sometime me): “What is the secret of Audi’s success?” 30 years ago, Audi had an image worse than Opel. Last April, Audi outsold Bavarian rival BMW for the first time on a global basis. These days, any large automaker that has a luxury division seeks to emulate Audi’s success. Now, Nissan’s Infiniti could be one step closer to getting its hands in Audi’s elusive secret sauce. They hired one of Audi’s key men.
Sourcing Canadian-market Fits from China instead of Japan is about one thing and one thing only: the globalization of the automotive business. Look, we’ve got Camaros made in Ontario, Nissans from Tennessee and Fiats—yes, Fiats—made in Mexico, so a Fit from China shouldn’t be a surprise. In this case, if globalization allows Honda Canada to be more profitable and employ more Canadians, then it’s all upside, isn’t it?
So says my occasional competitor and racing partner Brian Makse in his recent review of a Chinese-built Fit. Brian notes that Fits sold south of the Windsor strip clubs continue to be sourced from Japan. If Honda knows what’s good for them, they will keep it that way.
The Mercedes-Benz R107/C107 is one of those cars that tends to be valued according to a binary system: a near-perfect example sells for a healthy five-figure sum, while one that’s even slightly beat is worth about as much as an ’86 Nissan Sentra with an alarming rod knock and a glovebox full of used syringes. That means that examples of Mercedes-Benz’s SL-Class machine of the 1970s and 1980s are not at all uncommon in self-service wrecking yards.
You asked for some emails, so here’s one from me. It may not be Piston Slap worthy, but it’s got me confused. Here’s my problem:
I have a 1998 Nissan Frontier. 150k miles, 2.4l four banger. It threw a Service Engine light on me the other day. The code is a P0301, i.e. cylinder #1 misfire. Figuring it was a spark plug issue, and since I was about due for a tune up anyway, I replace the plugs, wires, distributor cap and rotor. I cleared the code with my scanner, and….it came right back. I did a little creeping on the Nissan forums, and the consensus seems to be that this results from clogged EGR passages. So this past weekend I decided to clean them. I was lead to believe that this would be a cake walk. All that was required was to remove the set screws between the intake runners, spray some carb cleaner in there and scrub them out. Easier said than done. Removing the screws was not too bad, but putting them back in after cleaning was nigh impossible. 5 hours and sawed off 8mm Allen wrench later, I had the plugs back in. My truck ran great! For 20 minutes. Then the code came back. Now I’m pretty much flummoxed. The way I see it, my options are:
1. Remove the air cleaner assembly and manifold screws again and try cleaning them more thoroughly with a pipe brush and more carb cleaner
2. Try something like Seafoam through a vacuum hose. I am reluctant to do this as I’m not 100% sure which hose to use and opinions on Seafoam are mixed
3. Take my vehicle to a mechanic for a more professional diagnosis. I do have access to a reputable independent mechanic who specializes in Nissans and Toyotas
So, what do the B&B think? Anyone else had this problem with a Nissan KA24DE 4 cylinder?
Thanks for your help.
GM up 11 percent. Ford up 13 percent. Chrysler up 30 percent. Nissan up 21 percent. Volkswagen up 28 percent. Toyota up a whopping 87 percent. A few months ago, these numbers would have set champagne corks and fireworks flying. Today, these numbers were greeted by a communal meh and by stocks of automakers going south.
While on the Infiniti JX launch event, I met a gentleman who now works with Nissan. He had a number of interesting stories about his tenure at GM, and what it was like to work on the EV1 program, as well as the technology that he swears was the forerunner to the Chevrolet Volt.
Did we tell you a month ago to sell your used car now if you want to get the most mullah out of your clunker? We (or rather NADA) called the peak correctly. Used car prices are heading south.
In the days and weeks after March 11 2011, when a giant fist wiped out large swaths of Japan’s northeastern coast, and sent the power grid into a near-coma from which the Japanese patient has yet to recover, electric and hybrid vehicles were pressed into a new mission as emergency power supplies. People in the stricken areas used the batteries of their Toyota Estima hybrid minivan, or the much bigger battery of the Nissan Leaf, as a power source for cell phones and laptops when the regular power was out. Ever since, Japanese became infatuated with the idea of rigging a car to a house – to power the house, if needed. One year later, houses are ready to take charge from a car.
Most dangerous: Dodge Ram 1500
By now, you probably have heard (enough) of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) top safety picks. The IIHS provides an Academy Award worthy number of different categories, which assure that anybody can be a winner. But what are America’s most unsafe cars? This remained a secret until 24/7 Wall Street started digging.
Derek’s capsule review of the 2012 Hyundai Azera gave the car a resounding “meh”. My own impressions weren’t going to be quite so positive, but then something happened: I test drove the Buick LaCrosse and refreshed 2013 Ford Taurus. Suddenly a $37,000 Super Sonata didn’t seem such a bad way to go.
(N.B. Photos of the Lacrosse and Taurus are in the gallery below)
4 Months 20124 Months 2011BMW ActiveE879–Smart electric drive279Chevrolet Volt5,3771,703Mitsubishi i215–Nissan Leaf2,1031,025Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid2,552–Total plug-in11,1282,807EV share0.2%0.1%Table courtesy Automotive News
“A disconnect is emerging between the White House and the auto industry over the short-term future of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids,” says Automotive News [sub]. The White House wants to go forward. The auto industry is backpedaling.
Pictures of a burning BYD e6 sent the already beaten down BYD stock on a nose-dive yesterday. The e6 is one of the rare BYD electric cars, used in a taxi test in the Chinese city of Shenzhen. A Nissan GT-R had crashed into two taxis, one a conventional Santana, the other an electric e6. The e6 immediately did burst into flames. Two female passengers and the driver were killed.
A week after Nissan’s Infiniti finally, officially moved into its new digs in Hong Kong’s Citibank Tower, the company finally, officially confirmed that Infiniti cars will be produced in China starting in 2014. If you think you heard that before, you did. Nissan’s worst kept secret had kept the Chinese rumor mill in motion for more than a year.
After admiring the Broughamism of today’s Junkyard Find, and still awed by the Broughamic zenith represented by the ’72 Mercury Marquis Brougham Junkyard Find, I can’t help but think that the automotive industry needs to bring back the Brougham! Only thing is, it’s tough to decide which 2012 American-market car or truck would benefit most from Broughamization.
Japanese carmakers published worldwide sales and production numbers for April and the first four months of the year today. As expected, they look pretty wild, with triple digit percentage gains. Hidden in the numbers: Toyota stands good chances to regain the title World’s Largest Carmaker, which it lost last year.
A (hecho en Mexico) Cadillac SRX costs between $67,700 and $91,000 once it’s sold in China. It doubles its price compared to the U.S. because of a monster tariff in China. Soon, there will be a more affordable version. A much, much, much more affordable version. Except that it won’t be from GM.
As promised last week and as per your requests, it is now time for our new monthly appointment: the World Round-up!
After giving you the Top 100 best-selling models worldwide over the First Quarter of 2012 last week, we can now have a first look at what models made the headlines around the world last month.
Not interested? That’s fine! There are 163 additional countries and territories for you to visit in my blog, so click to check out your next holiday destination so at least you will know what cars you’ll be meeting there.
Now, our world round-up.
“Could I get hold of a Sprinter?” Alex was putting together a review series on cargo vans, but wasn’t able to get one from Mercedes. Perhaps I could? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t have a clue about how to evaluate such a beast. Then Alex posted his series, and commenters lamented the absence of the Sprinter. So here you go, my best shot, courtesy of the good folks at Mercedes-Benz of Novi…
Manufacturers rarely realize where their best opportunities lie.
Case in point, Think about the overload of SUV’s that were offered in North America by 2005. Everyone had one. Even sports car companies were getting in on the act.
Likewise, the $50,000 mid-level convertible market now has more manufacturers competing in it than the minivan market. Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Infiniti, Nissan, Porsche and Volvo all have at least one player in this market segment.
Do all these competitors translate into strong sales and profits for all? As we say in the redneck locales of Georgia, “Hell No!”. All of these models generate about 50,000 units a year altogether, and that total is spread between 12 models. Most of them are cookie cut from a more mainstream model.
Overall, sales translate into a bit less than two months worth of Chrysler minivan sales in the USA & Canada. Mid-level convertibles have never been a big market over the last 30 years and to be frank, if half these competitors ceased to exist, few would miss them.
With that said, should the Volvo C70 become one of the dodo’s?
As evidenced in Matt Gasnier’s most excellent series, the Renault/Dacia/Logan/Sandero/Duster/Lodgy is making waves throughout the world. In a way, the multiple personality car is even present in North America, albeit under a Japanese kimono. Unbeknownst to most up there, when they buy a Nissan Versa, what they are getting is some solid Franco-Romanian engineering with some Japanese know-how thrown in for good measure.
But what is a Logan? And why is it so important?
Emerging market-san: Toyota's Yukitoshi Funo
If you are the executive of a car company, then you better be with both feet in the emerging markets, or seek other employment. Markets in the U.S., Europe and Japan are saturated and off their peaks. At the same time, people in the world’s most populous countries are trading in their mopeds for cars, and this is where you want to be. Sadly, Detroit appears to be underrepresented in these markets.
Although Michael briefly touched on this in his review of the 2013 Altima, the 2002 Altima was a watershed vehicle in our market, albeit one that doesn’t get enough credit. Without it, there would never be a Toyota Camry with a sub 6-second 0-60 time.
Eleven years ago, Nissan’s Altima became a major player in the midsize sedan segment on the basis of three things: bold styling, a roomy rear seat, and a stonkin’ 3.5-liter V6 engine good for 240 horsepower (the competition used 3.0L V6s that topped out at 200 horses). The 2007 model year redesign tamed the exterior, compacted the interior, and replaced the conventional automatic with a CVT. Nissan shifted even more of them. With the redesigned 2013 Altima, Nissan will be happy if potential buyers learn only one thing about the car, its EPA rating of 38 MPG highway. No one else’s midsize sedan comes close without burning oil or discharging batteries. But you don’t want me to stop here, do you?