It’s time to talk about Volkswagen. You know Volkswagen: they make the Jetta, which is possibly today’s most adept compact sedan at churning out lifelong Toyota customers.
Cadillac may be gunning too hard for Germany’s domain of rear-drive sports sedans, but one area where The Standard of the World won’t be gunning for them is in the volume race. GM CFO Dan Ammann told Automotive News that unlike BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, “We’re not going to be in every single segment that they’re in”.
Ben Oliver’s essay in Automobile Magazine might be the best one I’ve read on Lotus and their existential predicament. While my own pieces are full of vitriol and cursing, Ben’s eloquent prose outlines the brand’s biggest problem; lacking the necessary volumes, they need to take advantage of economies of scale and high margins to survive as an auto maker. Sports cars that compete in the Porsche Cayman’s price range and performance envelope aren’t popular with buyers nor do they generate the volumes or profits necessary to keep an independent sports car maker afloat. The proposed option, a series of high-end sports cars built off a modular platform (similar to the Lotus-derived Aston Martin VH architecture) was met with little fanfare. The economic principles were sound, but the proposal alienated the faithful. Over to you, Best & Brightest.
With all the attention being paid to Volt sales, production and turn time in the wake of recent congressional criticism, I thought I’d update our recent chart of Volt sales versus production to see how GM’s wonder car is doing a month on. As you can see, there’s not much obvious change on the year-to-date chart, with both sales and production trending upwards. But if we zoom in on the most recent months, we can see something strange happening…
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.
Porsche and Volkswagen are the typical German couple: Not married, with children. Formally, the two want to say “Ja” once the pending lawsuits are taken care of. In the meantime, the couple cohabitates happily. CEO Matthias Müller is made from Audi-DNA. He is a confidant of Martin Winterkorn, who is Piech’s man. Müller runs Porsche like a full-fledged Volkswagen division, down to doing his share to fulfilling Winterkorn’s grand “Strategie 2018,” the plan for world domination by Volkswagen. Under Müller, Porsche doesn’t chase Nordschleife lap times. Porsche chases volume. (Read More…)
Nissan made quite a stir in EV-watcher circles by announcing that its UK-produced Leaf battery packs would cost under $400/kWh, but as we noted at the time, those numbers are being supported by various government incentives. Now, with a new government taking over number 10 Downing Street, Nissan’s UK Leaf production incentive might be on its way out. With the UK’s new Conservative-led government facing profound budget challenges (try a $240b deficit on for size), The Telegraph reports that a $30.5m grant approved by the outgoing government could fall victim to an overarching review of new expenditures by the incoming government. And that’s just the beginning…
Why should I want to be Toyota? They’re losing billions.
Today’s Quote Of The Day comes from the executive of a certain up-and-coming automaker with dreams of becoming a global player. Think you know who it is? Here’s a hint: it’s not Ed Whitacre.