Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Detroit Extinction Watch: NAIAS '08 Edition

by Tom Bozzo

In the spirit of almost keeping up with my New Year's resolutions, here are some almost timely observations from the Detroit auto show.

Two things I'd mostly expected, especially given the 35 MPG CAFE law, came to pass:
  1. Honda announced that its new, U.S.-emissions-legal, 2.2-liter diesel four would debut in a 2009 Acura, or perhaps in an Acura in 2009 (depending on how you parse the announcement). The car is likely to be the Acura TSX, since that car is sold as the Honda Accord in Europe and midsized "saloons" over there are sold without diesels at the manufacturer's peril. The current Euro Accord diesel gets around 40 MPG, and the predecessor engine also gets around 35 MPG in the aerodynamically challenged CR-V. I predict that the price premium for the Honda diesel will be substantially less than the $6,000 that Whinin' Bill Lutz of GM has been claiming.
  2. (Kim take note!) Toyota announced the please-don't-call-it-a-Camry wagon, a/k/a Venza, for sale in the fall. Call this a CAFE 35 transition crossover. Compared to the Camry, it picks up about 3 inches in ride height and five or six in overall height, which puts it at nearly the length and height of a Subaru Outback, and around 6 inches lower than the SUV-styled Highlander. I'd guess the Venza (V6) will pick up 2-3 highway MPG over the Highlander, depending on its mass, or about half the aerodynamic penalty the SUV has over a similarly-sized car. I predict other "crossovers" will gradually lose height as it becomes increasingly costly to maintain the fashion of sticking an upturned middle finger into the wind.

Meanwhile, proving that I'm not the only one without timely news, the Sunday NYT ran a lengthy article asking the burning question, Will Nardelli be Chrysler's Mr. Fix-It? I've at least hinted at my answer before, but the Chrysler appearance at NAIAS offers some additional hints. They have:
The more interesting question, perhaps, is how much Cerberus money it takes to keep Jim Press from missing his Old Firm


Jim Press is going to be missing his old firm's sales, revenues, profits, market acumen, and quality control for the rest of his career there.

But the money is good; does this count as redistributing downward, from the top 0.01% to the top 0.05%?
I hope that Honda brings back the Accord station wagon and offers it with the diesel. I get ~45mpg with my Jetta TDI wagon but there is really nothing comparable to it on the market now.

Rob H
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