Posts By: John Horner

By on November 6, 2009

Your seatbelt may be used as a flotation device

Media outlets around the globe are regurgitating Ford’s Press Release on its latest safety gizmo: Rear seat air bag seatbelts. Next year’s redesigned Explorer gets the optional new belts first with worldwide rollout expected someday. According to Ford, its all about the children: “The advanced restraint system is designed to help reduce head, neck and chest injuries for rear seat passengers, often children and older passengers who can be more vulnerable to such injuries.” However, don’t expect moms to flock back to Explorers thanks to the availability of yet another set of air bags. CarMax put out a release recently on their research into women’s car buying priorities. Safety features came in fifth place as mothers’ primary reasons to buy. Price, reliability, fuel economy and spaciousness all beat out safety as the mom’s hot button issues. It doesn’t look like yet more airbags is going to be the thing to get the Explorer back in the hunt.

By on September 1, 2009

The long Ford-Navistar diesel engine drama has played out its final days and the replacement engine is finally officially in existence. Given the troubles—contractual and otherwise—with the outgoing Navistar-sourced engine, Ford is quite eager for everyone to know the new 6.7-liter Power Stroke engine is “Ford-engineered, Ford-tested and Ford-manufactured”. Buried amongst the PR gems in the release is this nugget: “On turbocharger service, for example, the body/cab no longer has to be removed from the frame to access the turbo.” Wow, that means you have to remove the truck body to repair the turbocharger on the current engine. Ouch.

By on August 31, 2009
Ford has a gushing press release out on the US’ first month of Transit Connect sales; and a booming small business economic sector! You know things are a bit dicey when a survey saying “9 percent of small business owners plan to hire additional staff within the next three months” gets its own big bold bullet point. That nine percent planning to hire means that the other 91% plan to either hold pat or let employees go. Ouch, those are bad numbers.
By on August 28, 2009

The typically boosterish San Antonio Business Journal sees nothing but blue skies and green lights ahead as the decades long move of manufacturing jobs out of California and into Texas continues  with the announcement that the Tacoma is moving into the brand spanking new San Antonio factory. San Antonio has been busy not building very many Tundras, so locals there are thrilled at the prospect of feasting on NUMMI’s loss. “Year to date through July, Toyota says it sold 42,419 Tundras — down 52.6 percent from the same seven-month period in 2008. The news isn’t much better for the Tacoma, a smaller truck. During the first seven months of this year, Toyota sold 65,713 Tacomas. It sold 95,732 Tacomas during the same selling period in 2008.” Toyota will have to spend an estimated $100 million tooling up San Antonio to build Tacomas, but the combined volume of Tundras and Tacomas still will not fill the San Antonio factory unless something dramatic happens to increase Toyota’s truck sales.
By on July 7, 2009

Bloomberg reports on Toyota’s pickle vis-à-vis Fremont, California-based NUMMI. New GM is leaving its NUMMI ownership share in the hands of Old GM. Thus, Old GM and Toyota together own NUMMI in a 50/50 joint venture. Old GM will be selling off its moribund assets over a period of a year or more as the long slow process of liquidating the discards and paying creditors pennies on the dollar plays out. (Old GM is looking like an economic stimulus program for a small band of lawyers, accountants and realtors.)

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By on June 29, 2009

Ford is jumping on the recently-signed Car Allowance Rebate System (a.k.a. Cash for Clunkers) to lure customers into the showroom. Ford’s home page includes a highlighted link to the “Recycle Your Ride” program. A prospective Ford buyer can enter details about their current vehicle into a drop-down menu system and quickly see if it qualifies for scrappage. They can also discover which Ford models earn the $4500 or $3500 federal voucher against the crusher candidate. So far the Dodge, Chevrolet, Honda and Nissan websites have nothing. Toyota and Volkswagen both offer primitive informational pages, but nothing to match the sophistication of Ford’s effort. You would think the government-owned auto companies would be all over the government-run incentive program. But no. And get this: KBB’s man tells the New York Times that the consumers might be better off without the vouchers . . .

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By on June 16, 2009
This morning the AP has the news you already knew about, but a few more details have emerged. First up, the now obligatory government backing, this time in the form of a $600 million loan from the European Investment Bank, guaranteed of course by the Swedish government. That explains why minuscule Koenigsegg picked up Saab for free. It’s all about being Swedish. “With a full-time staff of 45, Koenigsegg makes around a dozen cars a year, customized for every buyer.” Wow, talk about a micro-niche. But fear not, Saab has an innovative strategy for competing going forward. More about that in a moment.
By on June 11, 2009

BusinessWeek has an interesting piece on Marchionne’s speed dating interview technique. “Chrysler executives say that Marchionne has taken what for them seemed an unorthodox approach to sorting out the talent pool he inherited. He did fast, 15- or 20-minute interviews with more than 100 executives, often asking what they thought of their superiors, what their strengths and weaknesses were, as well as what they thought of certain peers. ‘The questions were very blunt,’ said one staff executive. ‘It was a drill the likes of which I had never been through before.’” No signs of analysis paralysis here.
By on June 9, 2009

After a short, suspense filled couple of laps under the yellow, the US Supreme Court has dropped the green flag on the Chrysler-Fiat deal. The New York Times sums up the court’s view that “the Indiana funds ‘have not carried the burden’ of proving that the Supreme Court needed to intervene.”  Also, earlier today, the Chrysler dealer slaughter was also given the go ahead when Judge Gonzalez approved that aspect of the deal. So, that pretty much closes this chapter of the saga. The deal is going down as planned by Fiat and the US Treasury. Now the really hard part begins.

By on June 3, 2009

Although Judge Gonzalez has so far given Chrysler-Fiat just about everything it has asked for, approval of the dealer cull still isn’t a done deal. The AP reports that: “U.S. Judge Arthur Gonzalez will hear arguments Thursday on the Auburn Hills, Mich.-based automaker’s motion to eliminate the franchises. Chrysler executives are also expected to testify. The motion was expected to be heard Wednesday.” In parallel actions, the Senate is holding hearing today on the very same issue. Again from the AP : “Lawmakers contend the dealership closings will put thousands of people out of work and offer few savings to GM or Chrysler, which have received billions in federal aid as they attempt to restructure and return to profitability.”

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