Honda's Revolutionary Assembly Line Makeover Takes Workers on a Ride

Henry Ford’s way of building cars was so 20th Century, so Honda tried something new.

Workers at the automaker’s new Thailand plant now stay in motion all day, moving with the vehicle as it travels down the assembly line, Automotive News reports.

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France Begins Process of Wooing Elon Musk

Tesla founder Elon Musk wants to build a new European factory to satisfy growing demand on the continent, and France knows just the place he should do it.

French Energy Minister Segolene Royal reportedly pitched the idea of using the site of a soon-to-be-mothballed reactor to Musk, according to Reuters (via Automotive News Europe).

“He didn’t say no,” said Royal, who plans to follow-up the pitch by meeting with Tesla management.

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BREAKING: FCA Sterling Heights Shift Cut Will See 1,420 Laid Off Indefinitely

The Sterling Heights, Michigan facility that manufactures the Chrysler 200 will have its output halved this summer, with about 1,420 workers laid off indefinitely as a result, reports the Detroit News.

Both production lines of the midsize sedan were idled for nine weeks earlier this year to compensate for an inventory glut and low demand. Now, only one line will stay open, employing about 1,900 workers.

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More Ford Production Heads South of the Border, Down Mexico Way

In an announcement that’s been anticipated for months, Ford Motor Company said today it will build a small car plant in Mexico’s San Luis Potosi state.

Ford will spend $1.6 billion on the facility, which starts construction this summer and will employ 2,800 workers by 2020.

The automaker isn’t saying what vehicles it will produce at the plant, but it’s widely expected that the Focus will move to Mexico after production stops at its Wayne, Michigan facility in 2018. Offshoots of the platform, including a rumored hybrid, could also be produced.

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Plant Shutdown Extended as Chrysler 200 Continues to Be Unpopular

The midsize sedan that can’t catch a break is continuing to darken a plant where workers can’t catch a shift.

The Sterling Heights, Michigan assembly plant that produces the Chrysler 200 will remain closed for another three weeks, Automotive News reports, extending the temporary closure to a total of nine weeks.

Slow sales and a steep inventory glut are to blame for the shutdown, which was needed for supply and demand to regain equilibrium.

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TTAC News Round-up: America Slams the Brakes on Efficiency, Bonuses at Volkswagen, and Google Hires a Dream Team

Gasoline is gloriously cheap and the automotive industry is taking a break from the tiresome “more mpg” game.

That, Christmas comes early for Volkswagen employees, Carlos Ghosn has a plan to save big bucks, Google is luring more humans and Bentley can’t build enough SUVs for the “you call this caviar?!” crowd … after the break!

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Could Jim Morrison Make a Smaller Ram Happen?

Is there a chance that a leadership change at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported by Automotive News could lead to an often-speculated new pickup truck?

Jeep’s longtime director Jim Morrison is leaving that post to head the Ram pickup and commercial vehicle division, replacing Bob Hegbloom, who is leaving for the global shores of Ram International.

Ram and Jeep are by far FCA’s biggest moneymakers these days, and under Morrison’s watch the Jeep brand took on new prominence by expanding its range of models, even if it meant adopting architecture sourced from (sacrilege!) Fiat.

The news of Morrison’s switch to Ram raises the question, “Is this the person who will take the Ram brand in a smaller direction?”

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When It Comes To Chinese Buicks, I'm Not Ready To "Deal With It"

Long-time TTAC readers may be familiar with my old friend Rodney, the Billy Dee Williams lookalike with whom I sold cars, raced bicycles, rode motorcycles, and generally raised some sort of mild hell from 1995 until the present day. (If you’re not, here’s a field guide to his eccentric accomplishments.)

Over the course of the past week, Rodney’s had two life-changing things happen. The first was that he got his driver’s license back from the rural Ohio court which has held it hostage against a fairly large sum of fines and penalties since 2010. The story of how he lost his license involves everything from a Nissan Stanza jumping train tracks at 60 mph to the “black bull and white cuck” scene, and it’s a story I’ll tell once all the statutes of limitations expire.

The second is that Rodney’s mother, who is in her late sixties, was just conned into leasing a Buick Encore.

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Lexus Rebuffs China Production Due To Quality Concerns (Bonus: "F— This Graph" Edition)

Lexus won’t be building cars in China anytime soon due the automaker’s concerns regarding production quality, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

“There’s too much quality risk in China to produce there,” said Takashi Yamamoto, executive vice president of Lexus International.

Did you hear that mic drop? Hello? Anyone there?

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Automakers Desperate To Attract Younger Generation of Workers

Automotive News reported Saturday that several automakers are struggling to attract younger workers as young adults seem more disinterested with pursuing careers in manufacturing.

Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia Senior Vice President Randy Jackson said it’s important for the auto industry to soften the blow of reality when adulthood sets in:

“So many kids want to grow up and play in the NFL,” he says. “And college is a great thing, and it’s good to have a dream job out there. But if we can reach young people before they spend four years in college pursuing something that isn’t realistic, we might be able to open their eyes to something they will find very rewarding.”

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Equinox Gives Oshawa Consolidated Line Extended Life

GM Canada announced Wednesday it will make a small investment in Oshawa Assembly’s Consolidated Line thanks to increased demand of the Chevrolet Equinox.

“It’s a modest investment in terms of its size, but it increases the volume of stamping we do at CAMI to increase the run. (The increased stamping) will then boost Equinox production in Oshawa,” GM Canada’s VP of Corporate and Environmental Affairs David Paterson said in an interview with TTAC.

More body panels are stamped at CAMI than that plant’s assembly line can use, which required GM to utilize its “shuttle program” to transport excess Equinox bodies to Oshawa’s Consolidated Line for final assembly, according to GM.

The majority of the $12 million CAD investment will go to CAMI, though the detailed amount was not disclosed. Additional labor will not be needed to produce the additional Equinoxes.

While the success of an 11-year-old model (the Equinox went into its second generation as an enhanced refresh) is newsworthy, there is a larger issue at play.

“That investment has the effect of extending further the Consolidated Line until at least 2017,” said Paterson.

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Reuters: Subaru Success Fueled By Marginalized Foreign Workers

Reuters Investigates has a scathing report on foreign workers in Japan at some of Subaru’s most important suppliers. According to the news agency, due to the combination of a booming “Abenomics”, Japan’s 2010 asylum seeker program, and manufacturers looking for cheap sources of expendable labor, foreigners are taken advantage of and treated as second- and third-class workers. Another program meant to help Chinese citizens learn manufacturing skills in Japan is also implicated in helping Subaru take advantage of marginalized immigrant workers.

Subaru isn’t the only automotive manufacturer named as the same suppliers also feed parts to Honda and Toyota.

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Car Building in Ontario Could Die, and They Probably Can't Save It

Ontario’s debt is swelling and as home to eight manufacturing plants — the largest complex in North America — automakers may have a tough time keeping plants open in Canada’s most-populous province.

According to a story by the Financial Post, Ontario is moving forward with an ambitious plan to revamp roads and mass transit systems despite its debt being downgraded by Standard & Poor’s bond index. The broad public spending plan also extends to other sectors, despite high unemployment numbers and slumping manufacturing jobs.

Automakers such as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have called on the provincial government to cut back on public programs and reduce costs on utilities in an effort to keep car building in the province profitable. This year, Chevrolet will shift production of its Camaro to Michigan. On the whole, Oshawa GM production has a dark cloud lingering overhead until the company decides what to do with the facility in 2016.

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Marchionne Undecided on Toledo Wrangler Plant's Future

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ top executive says he’s still not sure if Jeep’s Toledo plant will build the next-generation Wrangler, The Detroit Bureau is reporting.

In a move that may or may not be union-negotiations related, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said he expects to make a decision on where to build the new Wrangler by the end of the summer — or about the time negotiations wrap up.

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Honda Making English Its Official Language by 2020

In its 104-page annual sustainability report, Honda announced it would make English its official language by 2020, requiring all interregional communication be conducted in English. Similarly, English-language proficiency would be a requirement for promotion to management. The new mandate appears on Page 70 of the report.

Despite burying the lede, it’s a seismic change for the Japanese company. According to Automotive News, five years ago then-boss Takanobu Ito said — possibly in Japanese — that making English the official language of Honda was “stupid.” Five years from now, presumably all of Honda’s workforce, which includes more than 200,000 people — nearly three-quarters of it outside of North America — will be speaking the language.

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  • Jwee You can avoid American cities, and both you and the Americans would be happier.
  • Bryan I used Costco a while back, and didn't care for it - you still wind up going to the dealership.The last time I bought a new car I used an actual car broker and I'll use one again the next time. Whatever they charged me was the best money I spent that year.
  • SCE to AUX Just add a split rear window, and the hybrid sins will be forgiven.
  • SCE to AUX Just add a split rear window, and the hybrid sins will be forgiven.
  • SCE to AUX Maybe those union dues will help soften the landing. Employment there used to be 4000 people, and the plant has been at risk for 15 years. Stellantis did recently say that it would be trimming dead wood so it could rebuild the company. The Cherokee is finished, but I bet the plant reopens with a smaller workforce once Stellantis figures out what to do with it.