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The 'Dieselgate' bad news just won't quit (AutoComplete Episode, 9)Three more updates on "Dieselgate," plus some good news for minivan lovers, and the foundation of next-generation Subarus.
[MUSIC] Welcome to Road Show's Auto Complete. Your weekly rundown of all the best news that's happening in the automotive world. I'm Tim Stevens Editor and Chief of Road Show. Brian Cooley is my usual co-host but he's off on assignment this week. So we've recruited the great Emmy Hall to join us. Emmy how are you today? I'm great. Well actually I am great because you just said I was. So thank you very much for that introduction. I'm glad to be here for my first Auto Complete with you. It's gonna be great. So we got a lot of great news to go through, and I'm gonna stop saying the word great now and move on to something which isn't so great. It's becoming a bit of a running theme for us, Diesel Gate is still ongoing. A couple of different updates on Diesel Gate this week and let's start with basically, what is a unfortunate thing is that the deadline is coming up for the U.S. government to approve the fixes that Volkswagen has Has put forward. But ultimately we're being told that they may not actually be in place for much to come. March 24th is the deadline for the fix that Volkswagen has provided to be approved. And that has been pushed on to both the EPA and the California Air Resources Board. However, a Volkswagen representative said this week that we shouldn't expect to see the fix actually implemented in consumer's cars For many months to come. Emmy, I think people are getting a little bit frustrated about all the back and forth on this, and a lot of people are just looking for some answers. But it seems like there may be an even longer way to go. Yeah, definitely. I mean, I know that you can look in the comments of all the articles that we've posted about these, and people that actually own TVRs are so Upset that the value of their cars is continually getting lower and lower and lower and they have no option, there's no fix in sight. I know Volkswagen did have one fix in to the EPA and carb and it was It was a kind of smack down from them. So we'll see. I mean March 24th is coming up. There's no end in sight to this whole thing. Volkswagen is just having trouble after trouble after trouble. And now we see that Michael Horn, the CEO of Volkswagen USA has just left Left mutually, whatever that means. [LAUGH] He really did lead Volkswagen through the start of this scandal, and now he's been ousted. So we'll see who his successor is going to be. Yeah, it remains to be seen exactly what went down there. As we mentioned, Volkswagen did say this was a mutual parting, but ultimately did come apart in a very rapid sort of way, where we get a press release and suddenly he was gone Right. Those sorts of things tend to point to things being maybe a little bit less than mutual, or maybe a little one-sided anyway. But Michael Horn was definitely a strong advocate for the dealers here in the US. He was definitely trying to do everything he could to make the dealers comfortable, to make sure that they felt that they were gonna be supported by Volkswagen US through this entire term. Now he is, of course, the CEO of Volkswagen America, which means it's pretty unlikely that he had anything to do actually with Dieselgate itself. But, it's possible that Volkswagen isn't really happy with how Volkswagen America's been hailing this whole saga so far. But, again we're kind of speculating at this point it's hard to know. And you know, he was the one that came out the day after Diesel Gate was announced. The very next day they were doing a press event for the new, I think it was the Passat in New York. I mean literally the very next day. And that guy had to go on stage in front of all of these angry journalists and say, yo, we screwed up. So you have to give him props for that because that was probably not easy and very, very nerve-racking. Yeah it's placed him into a very, very unfortunate and very, very difficult situation. And again, he had all the duos loving him. In fact, there was a report on New York Times this morning that dealers are a little bit nervous now about what exactly is going to come, because again, he was the one who was saying we'll take care of the dealers, we'll make sure that you guys have incentives that you guys need to keep selling these cars to make sure we can keep things moving With somebody else coming in, well, at least the duo is a bit nervous. We also had a report this week that a car representative from California saying that maybe a full fix won't even be possible for these cars, basically stating that it would make more sense to simply have fines put into place for Volkswagen and go in other directions Rather than spending billions and billions of dollars trying to fix all of these cars that are on the road right now that are not a compliant with today's regulations. So even if we do get a fix, it may not be a complete fix which is again a little bit impressing. Yeah. Everyone who would come to me, and said hey, I commute a lot. I really need a car that get's good MPGs, I'm gonna get a hybrid. What hybrid should I get? And I would say, no, no no. Get a TDI, get a TDI. They're so better, they're so much more fun. You've got all this torque, they're really great cars. And now I really feel like I'm eating my words, with that [UNKNOWN]. So for Jimmy Jack, I'm really sorry I recommended you for you to get a TDI. It's definitely a difficult game that we have because of course when people find out when we write about cars. The first thing they want to know is what car should we buy. And you don't really plan for these sorts of things. When you think about cars you think about miles per gallon, you think about reliability, you don't think that maybe there's been a vast internal conspiracy to undermine US emissions regulations. So that makes things a little bit tricky to say the least. [LAUGH] But anyway, again to anybody who was mislead by any automotive journalist, we apologize. We're definitely gonna keep continuing this story as closely as we can, because I know there are a lot of people concerned about everything from, of course, people concerned about resale value on their cars. There's also a lot of concern about whether or not these cars are even legal to continue driving in the US, because if you have a state with an emissions test as part of your inspections, maybe these aren't compliant, so that's a big question on the minds of a lot of people. And I guess we'll wait and see, what comes to pass but again it may be, we've got all these weeks until they've got to approve the proposed fix by Volkswagen. It could be months until we find out something formal so stay tuned for that. Alright in better news, we've got some fuel economy ratings for the Chrysler Pacifica which was one of the hottest cars of Detroit oddly enough and it is a mini-van and Debbie I don't know about you but I was actually pretty excited about the car at the time. It's good to get a little bit more information about it. Yeah. I never thought that I would be excited about a minivan, but this one is pretty fly, I gotta say. The Honda Odyssey has got the best fuel ratings of the minivan class, but this one is really, really close up there. It's 18 in the city, 28 on the highway and 22 combined. And that pretty much matches the Odyssey except for one mile per gallon in the city. So, it is just trumping on the hills of that Odyssey. Yes. Very close and this of course not the plug and hybrid version which is, but we're also pretty. Excited about to see in Detroit. That car will go 30 miles on a charge basically before you even switch it over to gas. So they are expecting 80 miles per gallon equivalent on that, but we haven't seen the EPA ratings on that just yet. So that'll be even better. But yeah, that's good news. It's definitely looking like it'll go head to head or toe to toe with the Odyssey You could line up other kids and they can all go toe-to-toe with the Odyssey. So it should be a good choice, again it's a pretty good-looking car. I think the launch event's happening in the not-too-distant future, so we should have some more impressions on that in the near future. But yeah, it's definitely a little bit interesting to see there's been Been a lot of back and forth discussion about the naming of the thing. And not continuing on with the Town & Country legacy, effectively. And whether or not people are willing to pay for a premium minivan. I think that some people will, but there's still a bit of a stigma about the whole minivan thing. What do you think, Emmy? Will people Pay extra for a high end minivan. Well, you are getting a lot of features with the Pacifica. You've got the vacuum cleaner cuz you know once the Odyssey put a vacuum cleaner in their car you have to have one now in every single minivan ever for all those Cheerios. But yeah, it's got a vacuum cleaner, it's got the stow and go seating, It's got a foot activated tailgate and the sliding doors. So yes, I think that it's got a lot of features that gives it a good value. What I really like about it is that fact that, like you said, you can go 30 miles on a single electric charge in the plug in hybrid version, and all I can picture is your kids in the back in there In their car seats, and you just put it all in electric version and just slam on the accelerator and just watch that instant torque take you off and your kids go, aah! it's the best day ever! Or you can drive very slowly and keep them asleep and maybe that will make for a nicer, quieter drive back from daycare, too. I mean, I guess. If that's how you want to run your life, that's fine. And there's also rear seat GPS for your kids, too, which is a pretty neat feature, so [INAUDIBLE] Where your kids can see how far away they are from Grandma's house without having to ask you every 30 seconds and do their best Bart Simpson impression. Yeah it's always good to introduce kids to geography and maps. And touch screens too as early as possible. So again Pacifica 18 city, 28 highway 22 combined making it one of the most fuel efficient minivans on the market. And again it's only gonna get better with a plug-in hybrid, which we're gonna have to wait and see how that shakes out. More news on the fuel economy side of things, let's look at the average fuel economy across the industry for February. This was put together by the University of Michigan's Transportation Resource Institute, easy for me to say. February's average MPG across the country was 25.2 miles per gallon. Which is the same as it was in January. Actually, it was pretty flat over 2015. In fact, it's an improvement over the end of 2015. But overall, we're actually down a little bit. Over the past few years, we've seen significant updates or increases, I should say, since 2010, we're up about four or five miles per gallon. But things have been pretty flat and that pretty much goes directly in line with prices. Do you think that with gas prices holding and many places going cheaper? Are we gonna see miles per gallon going down in the teens again as they were not too long ago? Yeah, it's tough to say. I personally always know, you always know that gas prices are gonna go up. You know it in your mind, but sometimes it's hard to know that in your heart when the 707 horsepower Challenger Hellcat is screaming your name, right but you know I saw gas in Texas when I was there for a drive at $1.45 a gallon and I saw it on the East coast for $1.75 and it's really, you want to believe, right? I must believe, I want to believe that these prices are gonna stay. And consumers I think have a positive outlook on this. So we might see those numbers go [SOUND] down just a little bit. Yeah, and it remains to be seen exactly what that's gonna mean for companies like Tesla who of course built the business around the idea of getting away from fuel. And of course there are so many advantages beyond just fuel economy and cost when it comes to buying an EV. Talk about saving the environment, lack of maintenance, and all sorts of other good things. But certainly when people are pricing a hybrid or an AV they're looking at how much gas costs, and how much it's going to save them, and if gas keeps on getting cheaper, it's making that equation a little bit harder to balance. For sure. But ultimately we'll keep an eye on that as well. I'm definitely curious about, if we do hit the bottom, we've got to hit the bottom at some point here right? It can't just keep going down. We've gotta hit [INAUDIBLE] at some point. But maybe this is another conspiracy maybe they're just trying to kill off [UNKNOWN] all together. [LAUGH] [INAUDIBLE] seen the show how many conspiracy theories can we point. You know in 20 years some documentary film maker is going to come back to this podcast and say Tim Stevens called it. [LAUGH] [LAUGH] Google it off the whole thing. If indeed they can find it maybe it will be deleted. Like some other conspiracy. All right, we're going to take a break. But when we come back, we're going to be talking about some really cool cars we've seen this week. Including a very interesting concept car I saw in Germany with flexible fenders. Stay tuned for that. [MUSIC] Our first drive in a brand new Mercedes-Benz E-Class. This is their high tech mid level sedan. But they've got a lot of technology, automated functionality. You can change lanes with your hands on the steering wheel. All sorts of good stuff. Our first drive of that car. We've also got our first take of the Bentley Bentayga. A great video from Carfection. This is of course Bentely's big SUV. With some pretty decent off-road credibility. A beautiful video from Carfection, as always. [UNKNOWN] Can I get your thoughts a little bit. While we're here, actually, do you know anything about a luxury off-roader, being a bit of an off-roader yourself? It's such an interesting concept to off road in luxury, right? Because most of the time you're either freezing or you're sweating. [LAUGH] And your seatbelt is chafing you. Uh-huh. And you're not listening to music. And the seats are uncomfortable. I mean there's so much about off roading that's all about kind of bringing the nature and the outside into your car. Mm-hm. And with this Bentley I just don't see that happening. I feel like it would be so strange to be in that, and then to be going through the mud or going up a dune. And I would be so petrified of hurting the car. But having said that, I have seen some reports that say that it's very, very capable off road. Which is surprising, so I would love to try it out in [UNKNOWN] See what happens. Yeah, I think we can all get behind the idea of luxury SUVs. Bentley already makes big cars to begin with, so to raise it up a couple of inches, it's not the end of the world. And a lot of people want an SUV to go along with their sedan or their coupe, so Bentley saw a need in the market and they filled it, and that's great. But for them to also Let me focus on this Off-Road Capability it's a little bit interesting for sure. Like you mentioned going through the mud in an off-roader is not a fun boat. If you get stuck n the mud you had to get out in your $300 Italian leather loafers might be a little in theory. [LAUGH] That could be a problem, of course how many Bentley Bentayga owners will actually take their cars proper off roading. I guess that remains to be seen. But anyway, it's good to know that the car can do it, that you're maybe getting a little bit more of your money's worth. But definitely check out that Carfection video. It is, as always with Carfection, a beautiful thing. Another beautiful thing this week is the BMW Vision Next 100. This is BMW's centennial year. They turned 100-years-old on March 7th, and so I was actually in Munich this week checking out their new concept car called the Vision Next 100. This is the car that's gonna point us forward to the next 100 years in motoring. No, this is not what BMW thinks that cars will be like in 100 years. They're thinking more around the 2030, 2040 timeframe. It's a pretty interesting concept. It's got a lot of nods toward an autonomous future, an interior that reconfigures itself based on one of two driving modes. The first mode's called Boost, where you're actually driving the car, and you've got a steering wheel, and everything is pretty predictable, and pretty normal. If you go into Ease mode, the steering wheel actually folds up into the dashboard, a little bit like the Volvo concept we saw in LA last year. The whole interior reconfigures a little bit and the lighting also changes so the whole car kind of changes color. Could not only show you which mode you're in but show everyone around you which mode you're in. You can then kind of sit back in the seats, you can relax a little bit, You can talk with your companions within the car, and discuss what features too. They really wanted to push the envelope with fuel economy. And so rather than having cutouts for the wheels and the fenders, they actually made the fenders flexible so as you turn the wheel The fenders move and flex with the care which actually worked on the concept. I got to see it up close and it was kind of mind blowing to be honest with you. But one of the first thoughts in my mind was what do you do when you're driving and the snow on the fenders pack up? That might be bit of a problem. Yeah, I read your article and I saw a lot of the videos that came out of this and It was very disconcerting, when you see that fender move and it just looks like a snake that's kind of, that's moving through the desert and especially with that triangle motif that they have there. On the Along the body of the BMW concept. It's very, very disconcerting, but it's kinda cool. That was a really good car. It's very cool. It's oddly organic to see it, and yeah, the first time I saw it up close it definitely took me aback, but they've got some other neat things. The dashboard, for example, there are these little triangles that kind of pop up on the dashboard to give you some warning, so if someone, for example, steps out in front of you, or if the computer thinks someone's going to step out in front of you, They'll flash these little triangles up on the dashboard in 3D to give you something to look at to kind of bring your eye to that driver or the bicyclist or whatever else is about to step in front of you. To bring your attention to them so you can then stop the car or of course, the car will stop itself if you don't do it quickly enough. The full windshield is a projection based heads up display. With gesture control. So it will give you, if you're on easy mode for example and the car is driving itself, it will highlight any sort of local attractions, as restaurants that kind of thing. And it can just kinda point to the thing that you want, it will give you reviews and the car can then take you right to it. So it's an interesting evolution of the gesture control we're seeing in a seven series Again, looking about 23 years down the road, I think it sounds kind of nice actually to be able to have your cake and eat it too. Yeah, you know, as I was driving into today San Francisco traffic is terrible. And all I could think was, man if I could put this car in autonomous mode right now I could get so much work done instead of just sitting here for an hour and a half. And it's great that BMW recognizes that there are driving pleasure to driven company right? So, they're going to make sure that any autonomous cars that they have is also gonna be able to be driven by the human being. Because driving is also fun. Yes, sometimes it's a chore but it's also fun. And it also means freedom and independence and. Most people I think, don't want that taken away from them. So I think it's great that, with this concept, they are definitely saying, look you can have the car drive itself, you can drive it when it's fun, and when it's easy, and then it makes your life easier all the way around. And it was also a bit of a surprise to me that they even had a [INAUDIBLE] on this thing at all, thinking about 20, 30 years down the road. You can envision that being a time when maybe cars are just driving themselves altogether. But yeah, I'm definitely going to be seeing BMW sticking with the idea that this the ultimate driving machine. You can still have fun with the thing and ultimately have it take you to work or home or wherever else you want to go. But Mercedes Benz wanted to get in on the action, too. BMW, again, celebrating their centennial this year, 100 years in operation. Mercedes Benz, as part of that celebration, tried to **** in on it. So basically, BMW factor workers or any other employees of BMW, can come to Mercedes Benz museum and get free admission. They said that you can get the complete history of the automobile, and Mercedes Benz of course pulling to the idea that they are older than BMW. They've been around for about 130 years now. A little bit cheeky of Mercedes Benz, and not really that Common a thing for German auto manufacturers, who are usually so straight laced, to be kind of poking fun at each other like that. Well, if you remember back to the Super Bowl in 2013, I think, when the Mercedes Benz Superdome lights went out, do you remember that? I do. And Audi immediately put up a tweet that said that they were sending LEDs to Mercedes Benz. So I mean, I love it. I think it's great to see car companies having a little bit of fun with each other. One other thing that Mercedes Benz that they would do is that they would give priority parking to any BMWs, so that they would have a bunch of BMWs lined up out in front [LAUGH] of the Mercedes Benz museum. [LAUGH] I think it's awesome. I love it. I love it. I love it. Well if you work for BMW and you find yourself in Stuttgart this week, definitely make sure you get by and get yourself free admission to the museum. Which is quite nice. I've actually now been to both BMW's museum and Mercedes' museum. And I won't say which is my favorite, but they're both quite nice. Although I will say I will say, BMW's new team has a lot of beautiful motorcycles in it, which Mercedes Benz's does not have. Subaru this week showed off a new what they're calling their global platform for 2017. I'm a Subaru owner myself, so I can say this confidently, usually not really a cutting edge company when it comes to technology. [INAUDIBLE] This is the new platform which most of their cars will be built going forward. And for the first time it is fully compatible with electric systems, hybrid systems, and gasoline systems. So Subaru now has a really solid base to build upon going forward. They can actually start to build some EVs and Subaru really hasn't gone there, they've really barely dipped their toe in the hybrid side of things as well. So that's good news. It'll be a little bit lower, let's see, lower center of gravity, greater rigidity. Ultimately should be a good foundation for a new generation of Subarus. Yeah, when I first read this, and I read about the fact that it was gonna be a much more rigid, and lower center of gravity platform, the first thing I thought was, okay what is this gonna do to the WRX and the SDI? Yeah. How is this going to improve those driving dynamics? Of these sedans that are already really, really fun to drive. I'm kind of excited for the next generation of WRX, now. I am, too. We should get a pretty good preview of that here in the New York Auto Show, which is coming up in just a couple of weeks. That's traditionally been where Subaru unveils and praise the new WRX The new SCI and so forth. And indeed they gave us a teaser image this week of the new Impreza, which is going to be unveiled there in New York, just a couple of weeks. Now that, of course, probably won't be a WRX version, we may have to wait a year for that. And then we'll probably have to wait another year for the SCI version, which is typically how they do these sorts of things. But ultimately it is good to see that there is a new generation Impreza. I don't know. Do you want to take bets Emmy? Do you think they're going to have a wagon version or are they going to stick us with just the sedan? Man I hope they give us a wagon. Wagons are just so much more cool. They give you so much more utility. But you know Just knowing that they cut out the sti wagon, I'm probably just going to get the sedan. Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised, too. As I said, I'm a big Subaru fan. I have an sti wagon myself and I'm very glad that I got one because was the last year that they made the thing. And then they went to sedan only and I would have been very sad. If I couldn't have gotten that. So Subaru, give us more wagons, we want them. But definitely I'll be there, usually in the basement in Kobo, but I'll be there at Subaru to see the new Impreza. I've got high hopes, so don't let me down. We've seen the concepts and praises. I think that's Tokyo Motor Show they showed that on first, and it looks pretty good, so. Fingers crossed. All right, our final bit of news this week. Good news for you Mustang owners, particularly if you spent the extra bucks and gave yourself a GT 350 or the pricier GT 350R, you can now get yourself a free day of training at the, let's see it is now called the Utah Motor Sports Campus, it was formerly known as Motor Sports Park, one of the best motor sports facilities in the US. In Tooele, Utah. So if you are anywhere near the midwest or the western midwest. Is that western midwest? Did you say western midwest? [LAUGH] I'm not sure exactly what you call Utah, honestly. Utah's the west. The mountain states. Yes. Utah's the west. It's in the Rockies, it's the west. If you're willing to go to Utah, and you have GT 350 or a 350 R, you get a full day of training Teach you how to drive the thing. Yeah. Which is great. I think more companies should do this with their cars. I do too. The GT 350 that's a lot of horsepower going through the rear wheels and it's a great idea. Yeah and you know you don't even need to drive your own car to the track. You can fly in, grab your hotel room and they give you a loaner. But yeah, when you get into a new car like that that has so much horsepower, the last thing that you want to do is wreck it while you're driving out of the dealership, right? Even lower horsepower cars, like the Fiat [UNKNOWN], you can get in a track date with that as well once you buy that car. And I think it's something that That me, as a driver, if I got a GT-R or if I got a 350, the first thing I would do was call an instructor and be like, hey man, we gotta get this thing around the track in the best way and I've gotta figure out how to handle all this horsepower because it can be very, very dangerous if you're in the wrong hands. And you're only gonna enjoy your car more If you know how to really, really drive it. Right, you will be amazed at the limits of cars like that and you ultimately really can't even come close to appreciating them on the street alone. So absolutely if you've bought this car, get yourself out to Utah, to Tooele, Utah. That's T-O-O-E-L-E by the way, it's a little bit hard to spell. But, get yourself out there and take advantage of that free day. It's again one of the best motor sports facilities in the US. And I'm glad to see it's fully operational again because it was a little bit of a doubt about the future of that place so it's good to see. Alright I do want to ask you before we go Emmy can you give us a little bit of a run down on what you've got coming up in a couple of weeks with the Gazelle Rally. Yes, so I'm off to Morocco for the Gazelle Rally which is a nine day all female off road rally. Through the Sahara with no GPS, so everything is done with a compass and a map. And points are rewarded for shortest distance between check points not fastest time. So its all about driving an as straight line as possible. And there could be anything in your way. There could be dunes or a river of a cliff And you have to decide am I going to try to drive through that or am I going to try to navigate around it, and once I navigate around it, how am I going to get back on my heading to find these checkpoints. Probably if it's a cliff, better to go around I assume. It depends on your vehicle. Right? I'm driving a 2007 N7 Defender 110, so I'm not really afraid of any cliffs, depending on how high they are. A small cliff I can go down. But yea, so Roadshow will be covering that so we'll get some great video off of it. You can follow the rally on gazellerally.com. I am team 1 7 8 and there are nine American teams this year. And we're very, very confident that we're gonna have some teams in the top five. And I'm gonna be one of them. That's awesome. Well, you definitely have best of luck from me and I hope you have a great time, and hope you have great success, and hope you don't go driving off any unexpected cliffs that are bigger than you can handle. That's it for the week of news here at Roadshow Auto Complete. Again check us out at roadshow.com if you haven't all ready. We'll be back next week for another rundown Road Show Auto Complete. Thanks for tuning in everybody.