Japan Three, Others Meet With President Over Supplier Aid Pledge

A number of U.S. and multinational corporations met with President Barack Obama Friday to shine a light upon their pledge to pay their suppliers within 15 days as part of an initiative to help small businesses expand and bring on more employees.

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Suppliers Biggest Beneficiaries Of Backup Camera Mandate

With the mandate that all vehicles post-2018 possess backup cameras set to begin its ramp up in 2016, suppliers will be the biggest beneficiaries of a growing safety market.

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Department of Energy Looking At Suppliers For Revamped Fuel-Efficiency Loan Program

Established in the waning days of the Bush Administration, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program lent a total of $8.3 billion (out of the budgeted $25 billion) to Nissan, Tesla, Ford and Fisker, yet has not been able to make new loans for a number of reasons since 2011.

That status, however, is about to change.

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New F-150 Prompts Aluminium Run By Competitors
Barclay's Report Confirms TTAC's Story About F-150 Aluminum Difficulties

Automotive News is reporting that assembly plants in Dearborn and Kansas city will be shut down for a total of 13 weeks as it retools to switch production to the all new F-150 pickup truck that has an aluminum body. The launch of the 2015 F-150 will be closely watched, as Ford and its competitors see how consumers accept the lighter, more expensive truck.

Meanwhile, an analyst report seems to confirm TTAC’s initial story that Ford was forced to delay production of the new truck by up to three months due to difficulties with the new aluminum body.

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Nine Japanese Companies, Two Execs to Plead Guilty in Ongoing Auto Parts Price-Fixing and Bid-Rigging Investigation

Source: United States Department of Justice

Nine Japanese auto suppliers and two executives have agreed to plead guilty and pay more than $740 million in fines for participating in a price fixing conspiracy, the U.S. Department of Justice said yesterday. The two executives, one an American citizen, the other Japanese, will have to serve prison terms. According to the DoJ, thirty different components were involved and they were sold to all three domestic automakers as well as the U.S. operations of Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Fuji Heavy Industries, which owns the Subaru brand. The automakers have cooperated with the investigation. More than 25 million vehicles sold in the U.S. were affected by the conspiracy, raising costs to automakers and consumers alike, U.S. Attorney General Eric holder told a press conference in Washington yesterday.

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Visteon Continues to Divest Interior Trim Operations, Focuses on Electronics and HVAC

Visteon, the large automotive supplier, continues to reshape itself from a vendor of interior trim to one that focuses on electronics. Visteon announced that it is selling its half of Yanfeng Visteon Automotive Trim Systems to it’s Chinese joint venture partner Huayu Automotive Systems, for ~$1.2 billion. At the same time, Visteon will be buying majority ownership of the JV’s electronics unit, Yanfeng Visteon Automotive Electronics Co., for $68 million.

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As Business Improves, Supplier Relations Sour

Carmaking is a cyclical business. In crisis times, it’s “we are all in this together.” When business improves, relations between automakers and their suppliers revert to the old arrogance, to hurry up, make more for less. It’s that time again.

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UAW Backs Off Transplant Organizing Goal, Attacks Hyundai

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?

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German Media Warns Of C02-Substitute "Killer Coolant"

Germany’s Autobild continues to bang the drum about HFO-1234yf, an air-conditioning coolant sold by US supplier Honeywell as an “environmentally-friendly” alternative to other refrigerants. Problem is, C02 seems to be not only more environmentally safe, but safer for humans (notably rescue workers) as well…

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NASA Opens Its Tech Hoard To The Car Industry

Crains Cleveland reports that NASA will be offering some 38 technologies developed for its space program to the auto industry at a trade show next week at the Glenn Research Center. With 100 OEMs and suppliers attending, the event will bring materials and technologies chosen for their usefulness in automotive applications to an industry that is anxious to develop solutions for upcoming fuel economy standards. And hopefully bring some licensing fees to an agency that is anxious to find private sources of income. In the words of NASA’s Paul Bartolotta

NASA is open for business. We’re opening our safe, so to speak

So, what’s on offer?

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Saab "Close" To $157m Bridge Loan, Situation "Dire"

Bloomberg [via the Financial Post] reports that “one of the five biggest European banks” is “close” to loaning Saab $157m so that it may pay workers and suppliers, in order to move towards restarting production. According to DI.se, the deal is predicated on Saab securitizing the loan with shares of Saab Great Britain or other “alternative assets.” But apparently whatever the banks ask for, Saab will try to give, as Theodoor Gilissen Bankiers analyst Tom Muller explains

They need the money immediately. I hope they solve it this week, otherwise I think it’s over for Saab. It’s a very dire situation.

He’s not kidding…

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Saab Unions: Bankruptcy Two Weeks Away If Pay Is Delayed (And It Will Be)

Saab has already warned its workers that paychecks due tomorrow could be delayed until “committed” funds from investors arrive, but Bloomberg reports that the warning may not be enough. According to the report

Any delay in the August payments will prompt the unions immediately to start a process aimed at ensuring state coverage of wages in the event of the carmaker’s failure, officials from the IF Metall and Unionen labor groups said. The unions, after gaining employees’ backing, would first file payment requests with Saab. If salaries remain unpaid in seven days, the unions may then ask a district court to declare Saab bankrupt.

That could put Saab into bankruptcy in as little as two weeks. Saab’s long nightmare seems to be drawing to a close.

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Three Suppliers Request Saab Bankruptcy, August 16 Is Judgement Day

Just three weeks after Saab narrowly avoided being pushed into bankruptcy by supplier SwePart, SvD.se reports that three other suppliers have now initiated the bankruptcy process by requesting that Sweden’s national debt bailiffs pursue their debts. One Spanish supplier is reported to be foreclosing on €2m ($2.8m in debt), while two of the rebelling German firms are said to be owed at least €5m each. And though Saab says it is meeting with the Spanish firm to try to hammer out a deal, SvD reports that four of the 14 outstanding claims against Saab have run out of time. Lars Holmqvist, head of the European Association of Automotive Suppliers argues that, by paying some suppliers and not others, Saab is de facto bankrupt, and that a trustee should be brought in to pay suppliers in order of priority, rather than order of Saab’s necessity. Meanwhile, Saab CEO Victor Muller has been in Brazil and the US, trying to bring new investors on board, as its Chinese funding won’t be approved for two-to-three months, if ever. Meanwhile, “taxes and fees” must be paid by Friday, August salaries are due in just two weeks, and Muller cut his latest money-raising trip short to reassure workers back in Trolhättan. But according to thelocal.se, even the most optimistic of union leaders hope Saab will have a new CEO soon. Do I hear the fat lady warming up her vocal cords?

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"Brave New World": AlixPartners Predicts Auto Market Headwinds, "Competitive Convergence," And Other Challenges

AlixPartners, the consulting firm that led GM’s reorganization efforts, has put the perennial optimism of auto industry analysts on notice, introducing its 2011 Automotive Outlook by arguing

The AlixPartners 2011 Automotive Outlook finds that while automakers and suppliers have seen profits bounce back handsomely – North American original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) posted $12.5 billion in 2010 profit on a net margin of 4.6% and North American suppliers reaped $8.2 billion on a net margin of 4.3% – no one should be tempted into thinking that things are now back to “normal,” or at least the normal defined by the consumer-incentive-induced sales levels of the past. In sync with its past annual auto studies, AlixPartners continues to predict that U.S. auto sales will climb slower, and to a lower peak, than many others are predicting. Specifically, the firm estimates U.S. auto sales will reach just 12.7 million units this year and only 13.6 million in 2012.

This is a tough moment for us: on the one hand, pessimistic economic forecasts don’t make anybody happy… on the other hand, the AlixPartner outlook is a significant validation of TTAC’s longtime bearishness. So rather than either moping or self-congratulating, let’s just take a look at why AlixPartners is so gloomy about the near-term outlook.

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  • Add Lightness As a kid, it was Germany, then Japan, then Korea, now China. Italy was and still is, the maker of needy mistresses.
  • Add Lightness So now new Mach-E buyers have the choice whether they want to save $8,000 or become indentured the finance companies, possibly for life.Buy what you can afford, even if that means buying tools and learning new life skills.
  • Dale I like it. Not sure when we will be in the market for a 2nd EV, but this looks like a nice hatchback.
  • FreedMike Cute car. If it's priced right it could be a winner.
  • Theflyersfan By the end of the summer, it will be buy one, get one free with a free charger at home install.