A study commissioned by Canada’s federal government suggests that Canada could be in a position to benefit from strong auto sales from the Big Three OEMs, and a lack of capacity could lead to more manufacturing jobs for Canada, including the revival of mothballed factories.
Another day, another disappointment for American fans of the Indian automaker Mahindra’s rugged, diesel-powered trucks. Earlier rumors that Mahindra might build its trucks with Navistar in Alabama turn out to be false, as a press release published at MahindraPlanet notes
MUMBAI, India, December 17, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — “There have been reports in certain quarters of media and online space stating that Navistar USA will produce Mahindra’s T20 and T40 pick ups in Alabama, USA in 2012, which are completely baseless & incorrect. If & when there are any material developments, Mahindra & Mahindra Limited will communicate them directly and transparently.”
If you haven’t given up on the Mahindra dream, now might be a good time to consider it…
Ever since Steve Girsky an his “merry band of hatchet men” touched down in Rüsselsheim, Bertel has been warning that GM’s European division was about to embark on a serious cutting binge. But our worst fears, namely that Opel could go away entirely, have yet to be realized. Instead it seems that self-destructive mutilation will be attempted first, in order to stem the gushing red ink at Opel where at least €1b in losses are expected next year. Automotive News Europe [sub] reports that the first round of cuts will hit Opel’s Internationalen Technischen Entwicklungszentrum (ITEZ, “International Technical Development Center), as an IG Metall union document foresees some 1,420 product development position cuts (from a staff of some 6,000).
Ever since emerging from bankruptcy, the Chevrolet Cruze has been something of a symbol of GM’s rebound. Widely hailed by the automotive media as General Motors’ strongest effort to date in a compact segment that has become increasingly important in recent years, the Cruze seemed to show that the “new” GM was capable of selling smaller cars on their merits, rather than as afterthoughts to more profitable truck, SUV and large car offerings. And indeed, through the first half of this year, it seemed that the Cruze was something of a roaring success, regularly outselling its segment competitors. But then, in June, when production shifted from 2011 models to 2012 models, something changed: sales started to slow, and inventories started to rise. As Cruzes began piling up on dealer lots, GM trimmed production moderately, but still, inventories began to grow out of control. Clearly something was going wrong.
UPDATED: “Big Six” compact sedan monthly sales graph (Jan-Nov, 2011) added to gallery after the jump.
As the world struggles to come to grips with economic uncertainty, Bertel has been reporting that Japanese automakers are abandoning their homeland for lower-cost production centers overseas. Now, with economic turmoil shifting to Europe, it seems that Fiat could possibly be preparing for a pullback from Italy. Two basic factors are driving Fiat towards reconsidering its global manufacturing footprint: first, its struggles in the European market where margins are slim and dropping, second, its battles with Italian unions. Though Marchionne’s latest comments are ambiguous at best, some see these factors pushing the Italian automaker away from the market that gave it birth.
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With a tough negotiating session with its traditional employers now complete, the United Auto Workers are turning their focus back to the year’s primary goal: organizing the transplant factories. 2011 was supposed to be the year in which the UAW took down “at least one” foreign-owned auto plant, with the union’s boss even going as far as to say
If we don’t organize the transnationals, I don’t think there is a long-term future for the UAW
But as we found, the UAW is not welcome in the South, where most of the transplant factories are found. And with Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and VW all rejecting the UAW’s advances in some form or another, the union’s options are fairly limited. So instead of taking on the factories directly, the UAW is bringing back a questionable tactic from the days when it was misleadingly bashing Toyota for “abandoning” the NUMMI factory: they are taking the fight to dealerships.
It’s no secret that Ferrari has been wrestling with the inevitable conflict between its bellowing V12s and European emission regulations, but that’s not the only challenge facing the Prancing Horse’s powertrain division. Sure, there’s the increasingly-tenuous link between the Scuderia’s Formula One technology and its road cars [sub], but in the short term that actually helps the emissions issue by creating a pretext for bringing KERS to the road (where it otherwise has little role). In fact, the real issue for Ferrari’s powertrain team is not even a “Ferrari issue” at all, but a Maserati issue.
GM has made much of the fact that its Chevrolet Cruze compact has enjoyed strong sales this year, but volume alone isn’t enough to make it in today’s car industry. The key to profitability is keeping production in line with sales, so that plants don’t overproduce, in turn forcing profit-sapping incentives to move the metal. And, as these charts show, GM has been having success selling the Cruze, but not to the extent that it needs to keep production at its current levels. The graph above shows monthly production and sales levels for this year, and it shows that GM has already tried to adjust production once to keep it in line with slower-than-expected sales. But that wasn’t enough. With sales volume dropping the last four months in a row, and inventory jumping from 33 days to 43 days in the month of October alone, the UAW is reporting that the Lordstown plant where Cruze is built will be idled for the entire week of November 28. According to the announcement
The down week is necessary to align production with current market demand. The scheduling modification is attributed to traditional seasonal buying behavior coupled with competitors’ recovering inventories previously impacted by the March earthquake in Japan.
Like a lot of recent Detroit products, the Cruze has received a lot of positive press due to its giant improvement in quality and sales compared to its predecessor. But with demand softening, and GM’s brass fretting over profitability margins as the market shifts to smaller cars, it’s clear that the Cruze’s ultimate success has yet to be proven.
Honda has shown off its CR-V in “concept” form already, so today’s leak of the first production-spec images from Japan ahead of the reveal in Los Angeles isn’t a huge revelation. On the other hand, it does come at a bad time, as the leak comes just as Automotive News [sub] reports that flooding in Thailand means
Honda will cut its North American output by 50 percent, starting Wednesday. All six North American plants will be affected through Nov. 10… Production likely will be affected for at least “the next several weeks,” Honda said. More cuts could be announced later. In addition, the December on-sale date of the redesigned 2012 Honda CR-V may be delayed by several weeks. (emphasis added)
So, if you’re jonesing for your fix of frumpy new CUV hotness, you’re just going to have to be patient. Speaking of which, while we patiently wait for October sales, Honda is telling Bloomberg that its sales went up in the last month, its first such gain since April. But between the ongoing problems in Thailand, a 50% production cut in North America, and the awkward looks of this CR-V, it looks like Honda had better enjoy this moment of good news while it can.
As I noted earlier this week, GM’s decision to bring a pure-electric version of the Chevy Spark to the US opens up an interesting challenge to its “range anxiety”-centric marketing approach. But WardsAuto reports that there’s another challenging question coming out of the decision: where will the baby EV be built? And as I’ve found, GM’s reticence on the topic of the Spark EV program only deepens the mystery for Wards, which writes
Some media are reporting the EV will come from South Korea, where gasoline- and diesel-powered Sparks currently are produced. If so, that’s news to the folks at GM Korea.
Light-weight materials such as carbon-fiber, aluminum and magnesium are widely touted as key components of the drive towards greater fuel economy. Which explains why the automotive steel supplier industry is suddenly calling for an end to tailpipe emissions testing and a switch to the more holistic life cycle analysis testing. According to a press release from WorldAutoSteel, an industry group, the production of steel alternatives can create up to 20 times the carbon emissions of steel.
The Chevrolet Volt may be beating cars like the Jaguar XF and the Lincoln MKT in the sales race, but GM won’t come close to building 120,000 of the plug-ins next year as the Department of Energy was expecting. Today GM confirmed to Automotive News [sub] that it will make 60,000 Volts next year… and it will do so while remaining on a single shift. GM had previously planned to add a second shift at the Det-Ham plant late this fall, but is putting that off until midway through next year, when production of the ’13 Malibu begins there. Until then, The General is adding 300 workers to the 10-hour, four-days-per-week single shift, a move the company says
will significantly reduce costs, and has no impact on the plant’s ability to make 60,000 Volts and Amperas (the European version of the Volt) in 2012.
Think 60,000 units is still more Volt than America will buy? Well, you’re right so far, but 15,000 of those will be exported to Europe, so GM only has to sell 45,000 US-market Volts next year. Although considering the Volt won’t crack 10,000 units this year, that’s still some strong projected growth. And as usual, the union local President sums up the situation with more candor than any executive would:
The sooner the better, but I guess demand will dictate when that happens. Hopefully we’ll get a third shift someday, too.
Considering the United Auto Workers’ VEBA fund is still Chrysler’s second-largest shareholder, CEO Sergio Marchionne is taking an amazingly hard line with the union. With a GM deal long done, and Ford’s deal moving towards approval, Chrysler is the last automaker on the UAW’s to-do list… and Marchionne tells Bloomberg he’s up for a fight if necessary, saying
I sincerely hope that we don’t have to get to arbitration. But if necessary, Chrysler will go there. We and GM are completely different
Marchionne is reportedly pushing the UAW for a number of tough concessions, including a mere $3,500 signing bonus (compared to $5k at GM and a reported $6k at Ford), and the elimination of a planned 2015 cap on entry-level “Tier Two” workers (at 25%). And though both of these are tough asks, he’s using UAW boss Bob King’s concept of union internationalism as a cudgel against the UAW, playing Italian unions off their American counterparts. And as a result, he could earn Chrysler a favored place among America’s unionized autoworkers.
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On September 14, a Dodge Viper did the fabled Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7:12.13, beating the Lexus LFA which had done the ring in 7:14:64 just a few weeks before. That was a very respectable time and makes the Viper the fastest “true production car” around the Ring. (Somehow, a Gumpert Apollo and a Radical SR8 doesn’t sound like something that is produced in halfway serious numbers.)
The only thing that left something to be desired was the way the record was announced: It flew around in tweets and forum posts, but no official announcement was forthcoming. Finally, Chrysler issued an official press release, confirming that veteran GT driver Dominik Farnbacher piloted a “street-legal, 600-horsepower 2010 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR (American Club Racer) to new record lap at the world’s most demanding road course – the famed 12.9-mile Nürburgring Nordschleife (north course)” in the aforementioned 7:12.13 . However, on what tires? Read More >
The prospect of a Chinese auto industry growing at insane speed thanks to a booming market and resiliently low wages has long kept auto industry execs up at night, most notably inspiring Sergio Marchionne’s acquisition of Chrysler. But basic economic principles dictate that you can have a high rate of growth or low wages… but not both. Growth inevitably drives inflation, which drives up wages, which in turn slows growth. And according to a report in the Wall Street Journal [sub], that dynamic is already taking hold.
Jae-Man Noh, head of Hyundai’s joint-venture operations in China, said average manufacturing-worker wages in China—about 27,000 yuan ($4,200) a year per worker in 2009—are likely to double by 2015 from current levels.
Auto makers are expected to be affected as much as other industries by the trend, if not more, Mr. Noh said, adding that wage costs for many foreign auto manufacturers already have doubled in less than a decade. He said that a rival foreign auto maker that Hyundai has researched has seen worker wages in China rise to 49,000 yuan a year per worker in 2010, up from 24,500 yuan a year in 2003.
“We need to let go of our perception that the Chinese market is a low-cost production base,” Mr. Noh told a group of reporters at Hyundai’s office in Beijing. He didn’t offer specifics on Hyundai’s wage costs in China.