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 t…
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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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EIB Says No To Antonov. Suppliers Say No Scrooge McDuck Will Save Saab

Now that it has been first leaked then confirmed that the European Investment Bank EIB will not let Russian financier Vladimir Antonov get close to Saab, Antonov says he had known that all along.

Antonov’s spokesman Lars Carlstrom told Reuters that his boss “has known for a few weeks that the EIB would not let him invest in the iconic Swedish car firm,” Reuters reports. That revelation should come as another blow to Saab’s crumbling bastion of enthusiasm, Saabsunited, which had reported just yesterday that “Antonov is trying to save the situation.”

With the troops left dazed and demoralized, the generals practice the ancient art of finger pointing.

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Saab: Collections Comes Calling "In A Few Days," Can Antonov Save The Day?
Over the weekend we told you Saab-watchers to “expect a run on the bankruptcy court in the coming days and weeks,” and according to Bloomberg the…
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Saab Subsidiary Narrowly Avoids Bankruptcy As Suppliers Lose Faith
One of Saab’s suppliers, SwePart Verktyg AB, asked a Swedish court to declare a key Saab subsidiary, Saab Automobile Tools, bankrupt today reports Auto…
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Fisker: With An EV Transmission, All Things Are Possible
In my review of the VW Golf blue-e-motion on Tuesday, I noted that “the holy grail of EV development is a multi-speed transmission,” but that nob…
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  • ToolGuy My Author has a high level of self-absorption (nothing wrong with that, maybe).Corey you are a Lexus buyer. Told you already but you are pacing yourself (nothing wrong with that, maybe). Keep scratching off non-Lexi from your list and you'll be fine (maybe).Congrats on the new job/new industry.
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  • ToolGuy Cool.(ToolGuy supports technology advancement, as well as third-person references)
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