Once upon a time, GM’s North American operations spewed red ink across the firm’s balance sheet, with the whole mess kept afloat by relatively strong overseas operations. Now GM makes most of its money at home while its international divisions limp along. No, really: in its just-released Q1 financial report, GM reveals that some $1.7b of its $2.2b global EBIT came from its once-troubled home markets. What a difference a bailout makes!
With the government still waiting to see how much it will get out of its equity in General Motors, The General seems to be attracting more of the media commentary than Chrysler these days. And not without good reason: GM saw the greatest drop in market share last month of any Detroit automaker, its government-hyped Volt is flopping, Opel continues to be an open sore and it can’t help but flaunt its cluelessness about youth marketing. But interest in GM’s shortcomings seems to be driven by little more than election-year political implications, which Chrysler was able to avoid by borrowing cash and misleadingly claiming to have squared up with the American taxpayer. After all, Chrysler is facing just as many challenges as GM, if not more. And despite having formally closed the bailout chapter of its history, Chrysler’s performance still bears on the decision to rescue America’s weakest major automaker.
I always encourage my young and old colleagues to research TTAC the ancient way: By phone, not by email or Twitter. (Not to mention the common research method invented by Messrs. Cut & Paste.) You find the oddest things when calling around.
Today, while researching the alleged Volkswagen v.v. GM catfight, a source at GM handed me this cute little table of bestselling Chevrolets around the world. (Read More…)
Ever since the ill-fated Contour experiment, Ford has maintained a strict separation in its global midsized offerings: Fusion for the Americas and Mondeo for Europe (let’s ignore, for the moment, Australia’s Falcon as the doomed atavism it is). But under the global “One Ford” strategy, a fusion (ahem) of The Blue Oval’s midsized offerings was inevitable, and Ford has signaled for some time that the Fusion and Mondeo are on the verge of becoming one. And here, courtesy of the autoforum.cz, is the first leaked image of Ford’s unified, world-wide midsized contender: though the Fusion and Mondeo names will continue to be used in their respective markets, this car will carry both badges. But are we looking at a revolution in the oft-troubled “world car” game, or a repeat of the Contour’s compromises? Only time will tell…
Once upon a time, the Dodge brand was brimming with pride. In the mid-to-late 1990s, Dodge had it all: affordable compacts, big front-drive cruisers, the hottest trucks on the market, and of course, the Viper. And when the times were good, all of those part melded into one brash, exciting, quintessentially American brand. From Neons and Intrepids, from Rams to Vipers, Dodge could do it all, as long as “it all” included a healthy dash of in-your-face attitude. But over the years, as Dodge’s shining moment faded into memory, the brand has managed to become both less viscerally appealing and less well-rounded. And when Fiat’s leadership stripped Dodge of the Ram “brand,” shucked its designs of their truckish cues, and repositioned Dodge as a more “youthful” and “refined” sporting brand, it seemed as if Dodge as we knew it was dying. Since hearing of Fiat’s plans to bring Alfa stateside, and with Dodge appearing to have lost out in brand alignment product battles, we’ve been wondering for some time now if Dodge isn’t headed out to pasture. Now there’s even more evidence that Dodge is being hollowed out en route to replacement with Alfa, as Automotive News [sub] reports
Absent from the redesigned SRT Viper will be the name Dodge… Viper has been linked to Dodge since the Dodge Viper RT/10 concept debuted in 1989. The first Dodge Viper SRT-10 went on sale in 1992, and over the years 28,056 Vipers were produced, according to Chrysler.
Not any more. Essentially, SRT becomes a brand with its own vehicle, in this case the SRT Viper.
That’s right, Dodge won’t have a Viper or a Ram (or, more prosaically, an Avenger or Caravan). Some might argue that, absent these components, the Dodge name doesn’t mean much of anything anymore. Certainly it doesn’t seem that Dodge can have a particularly bright future without any links to its last moment of glory.
Lotus is one of those brands that every auto enthusiast loved to lionize, despite (or possibly because of) the fact that it hasn’t made a profit for its owner, Proton, in 15 years. But now things are changing. Lotus itself is in the midst of a makeover, seeking to transition from niche sports- and track-car company to a Ferrari and Porsche-rivaling aspirational brand. Meanwhile, back in Malaysia, its owner, Proton, is undergoing a few changes itself. Having been founded as a state-backed business, Proton may soon be privatized, reports Bloomberg. And as a result, Protons private investors could push for a quick divestment of the firm’s Lotus holdings. One such investor, Gan Eng Peng of HwangDBS Investment Management, tells Bloomberg
It will make sense for them to sell it. Proton and Lotus are not a good fit. They are in different market segments, both in terms of geography and product.
The familiar wail of a police siren cuts through the chilly early winter morning air rudely snapping me out of a cold-induced slumber. Our minibus slows to a crawl as our minder winds down the window to wave his papers at a bunch of stern-faced traffic policemen.
The officer that checked the papers gave the 17 university students on the bus a once-over before waving to his partner to turn off the siren. It seems that a Toyota Coaster minibus filled with students is a rare sight in this part of the world.
Then I caught sight of a little round badge bearing the smiling face of the “Eternal President” Kim Il-Sung on the officer’s coat.
“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” the voice in my head whispered.
One question that Bertel and I find ourselves returning to again and again in our regular conversations is “what will be the first Chinese-made car sold in North America?” We’ve agreed for some time that the groundbreaking first Chinese-made import would come from an established non-Chinese brand, rather than one of the many newer Chinese brands, but our usual suspects typically ranged from GM to Volvo (EV maker Coda builds what are essentially “knock down” Chinese made-cars, but technically they qualify as US assembled, as does Wheego). I don’t think the name “Honda” ever came up in these discussions, but sure enough, the NY Times reports
the Japanese automaker Honda is crossing the threshold by importing subcompact cars into Canada from one of its plants in China. This month, Honda Canada began receiving its smallest model, the Fit, from China instead of Japan, as part of a strategy to produce more vehicles outside its home country.
The decision allows Honda to eke out higher profit in a segment of the auto market where margins are extremely thin, especially since the high value of the yen cuts into all Japanese automakers’ overseas operations.
“The yen has been getting stronger and stronger,” Jerry Chenkin, executive vice president of Honda Canada, said on Tuesday.
Of course, Honda has yet to bring a Chinese-made Fit to the US, where antipathy towards Chinese products is greater and automotive diversity is lesser than in the Great White North. Also, the importation of Chinese Fits is seen as a temporary response to the high Yen, while Honda builds a new plant in Mexico for Fit production, scheduled to open in 2014. Still, this is a significant development, presaging the inevitable importation to the US of Chinese-built vehicles.
When we last checked in on the low-level trade war between China and the US, which was sparked by President Obama’s 35% tariff on Chinese tires, the Chinese government had ruled that American large cars and SUVs were being “dumped” on the Chinese market, but wasn’t doing anything about it. Now, Reuters reports that China is doing something about it, namely saying that it plans to impose tariffs of up to 22% on imports of American-built large cars and SUVs. And the “up to” is key: GM and Chrysler are being hit hardest (unsurprisingly), while American-made BMW, Mercedes and Acuras are receiving considerably lower tariffs.
Still, China only imports $1.1b worth of vehicles in this category, whereas the US imported some $1.8b worth of Chinese tires prior to the Obama tariffs. Like most of the news around Chinese-American relations, this is more saber-rattling than substance. But with economic conditions still shaky in the US, and a Presidential election getting into full swing, small spats can escalate into larger confrontations. And with China surpassing the US as the largest market for cars in the world, it’s probably no coincidence that this simmering conflict largely involves cars and car-related products.
At the beginning of this year, the United Auto Workers pledged that it would launch a campaign to organize the foreign-owned, non-union “transplant” factories in the US, threatening to tar uncooperative automakers as “human right abusers.” The campaign initially lost steam, but the UAW stuck to its pledge, re-iterating on several occasions that it would organize “at least one” transplant factory by the end of 2011. With one month left to accomplish that goal and no signs of progress in sight, the UAW has officially called off that goal. In fact, the UAW now hopes to simply pick an automaker to target by the end of 2011. Spokeswoman Michelle Martin tells Bloomberg
At this point, our hope is to make a decision about who we’re going to target by the end of the year. But obviously, we won’t have the organizing campaign completed by the end of the year.
This is not too surprising, considering the UAW announced last week that it would be focusing on dealership pickets initially rather than factory organizing. And sure enough, the first dealership picket has begun, targeting Hyundai dealerships. And yet, says Martin
This has nothing to do with the domestic organizing campaign. Hyundai is not the target.
Huh? If the UAW is not committing to organizing Hyundai’s assembly workers, why picket Hyundai dealerships?
Mitsubishi didn’t exactly light the world on fire when it released its Global Small concept (left) at this year’s Geneva Auto Show… but now that concept has become reality (right), it’s even more clear that Mitsu’s mojo has been lost in the unglamorous world of basic transportation for emerging markets. It’s not clear if the Thai-built Colt/Mirage will make it to the brand’s US lineup, but if it does i certainly won’t help turn around Mitsubishi’s dowdy image here. The only way to make this car any more mundane would be to debadge it completely. Slightly less prosaic but still quite underwhelming: the Grand Cherokee-meets-Range Rover Evoque update to the Outlander, shown in the plug-in hybrid concept PX-MIEV II. Though none of Mitsu’s new designs are actively offensive, their dullness speaks to some serious creative malaise… especially in contrast to the vibrantly creative Japanese designs that are headed to the Tokyo Auto Show. Perhaps we’ve solved the mystery of Mitsubishi’s disappearing US sales staff?
Based on Chevy’s new Global Colorado, this Trailblazer is an old-school, body-on-frame, SUV… which won’t be sold in this, the erstwhile capital of body-on-frame SUVs. Even though the Colorado will be produced in the US, which would make the Trailblazer an easy addition to the US lineup, Chevy seems determined to keep it out of the US. Because, as GM’s midsized truck VLE (vehicle line engineer) Brad Merkel puts it
The growing markets of the world want flexibility. That means power and capability combined with comfort and efficiency. TrailBlazer does it all. You can tow anything, go anywhere, comfortably seat seven people, and do so with the fuel efficiency associated with a smaller, less capable vehicle. It’s the complete package
But Americans don’t want any of that. Americans want a nice, car-based Equinox or Traverse. And that’s just what they’ll continue to get…
The last time we posted a photo of the forthcoming Genesis Coupe facelift, we soon found that Hyundai Motor America staff were quietly informing other blogs that it was a photoshopped fake. I inserted a warning into the post, cursed myself for having been had, and moved on. So, how do I know these pictures are real? Probably because they come from the URL blog.hyundai.com (the leaked (non-press) shots are from Gencoupe.com, and don’t look as though they could possibly be faked). It turns out that Hyundai is showing off the new coupe to either drift fans or ice skating aficionados (Google Translate is hilariously unhelpful with Korean) this Saturday at something called the Chonnam National Yeongam F1 Speed Festival. Hyundai will “officially” show the car to the American market a week later at the LA Auto Show… at the earliest. More likely, Hyundai will continue to pretend that this car doesn’t exist until January, at the Detroit show. And they’d have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling internets!
[H/T: Our man in Korea, Walter Foreman]
It’s becoming increasingly clear as time goes on that the Chrysler five year plan promulgated in November 2009 was merely a stopgap strategy aimed at stabilizing the then-recently-acquired firm while CEO Sergio Marchionne plotted a strategic course globally. Now, with news that Alfa is going to be re-launched with the US as its major focus (possibly replacing Dodge), we’re getting a better and better picture of where the Sergio Show is headed with his transatlantic alliance. In an interview with Automotive News Europe [sub], Marchionne gives the latest snapshot
In his vision, Alfa Romeo and Jeep both have the DNA and the rich history capable to make them the alliance’s two global brands. “We need to continue to globalize Jeep and Alfa, so the development of architectures and engines that are designed to support these two brands is crucial, and everything else becomes almost secondary,” he said.
Chrysler clearly won’t be a global brand, as its products are rebadged as Lancias in Italy. Fiat will offer full lineups in Europe and South America, but only the Fiat 500 will be a truly global brand, in a role Marchionne compares to BMW’s MINI. Dodge doesn’t even rate a mention in this interview, which can only be interpreted as more evidence that it will be lucky to survive at all.
In an era of increasingly-globalized automobiles, the “market-to-market adjustments” which modify a global vehicle to “local tastes” are becoming an interesting source of insight into a company’s perspective. And Chevrolet Europe boss Wayne Brannon revealed one of the more significant adjustments in recent memory (because nobody reads the press releases), when he told Automotive News [sub]‘s Dave Guilford
I just switch it into extended range mode, and I drive on fuel until I get there. When I drive in the little villages and towns, I drive in electric mode.
The reason it was important here is we have cities — like London — where you don’t have to pay a congestion charge if you’re running purely on battery. You save the battery for when you need it.
Gosh, that’s an interesting idea. It would certainly help clear up some of the confusion in the marketplace about why the Chevy Volt is the way it is. Imagine the tagline: “Gas or electric? You decide.” So, how about it, GM? Will that feature come to the US?