Between The Lines: Them's The Brakes, Corvette ZR1

Though an objectively awesome car by any (non-environmental) metric (review forthcoming, I promise) some Corvette ZR1 owners are plagued with a strange brake vibration. Which, thanks to the Corvette Forum, is available for all and sundry to see. But let’s dig a little deeper: bearing in mind the customer involved is a personal friend, and his paraphrased comments are as follows.

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Saab Goes Into The Supplier Business
It’s been a tough 2010 for Saab, which is trying to survive on a $40k sedan, a bunch of holdover models and the promise of a Cadillac SRX clone (coming…
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Despite Profits, OEMs Still Squeezing Suppliers

One of the major losers in the recent “Carpocalypse” was the supplier sector, which lost hundreds of business to bankruptcy as OEMs clamped down on costs and the government refused to stop the bleeding with an effective bailout. Relationships have re-stabilized over recent months,as both the surviving suppliers and OEMs have swung back to the black, but profits aren’t enough to stop the oldest management profit-inflating move in the book: putting the screws on suppliers. Since the US market doesn’t appear on-track to regain its old 16m annual sales level, suppliers and OEMs can’t simply grow together.

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Trade War Watch 16: Hot Wheels Just Got Hotter

It’s been some time since since we had a “ Trade War Watch” on mounting trade tensions in the auto industry, and thank goodness for that. In this economic climate of cuts, currency swings and bankruptcies, what we need are things which will make the situation worse, right? In May I reported about how the EU put a 20.6 percent tariff on aluminium wheels from China. The EU did this in response to complaints from domestic manufacturers. Naturally, this left a sour taste in China’s mouth. Well, over 5 months later, you’d think that the EU would have calmed down and this nasty business would be swept under the carpet, right? Erm, not quite….

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Wild-Ass Rumor Of The Day: GM Outsourcing Development Of AMPed-Up Electric SUV
Just weeks ago, Amp Electric Vehicles CEO Steve Burns told the New York TimesG.M. doesn’t know if we are friend or foe… They’re trying to…
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Report: Auto Industry Still Carrying 3.5m Units Of Overcapacity

Edmund’ Bill Visnic takes on the latest Harbour report, which finds North American auto plants running at an average of 58 percent capacity (even Europe, the global whipping boy for intractable auto overcapacity operates at an average 81 percent). Despite the recent downsizings across North America, the Harbour Report still estimates that 3.5m units of annual overcapacity remains in the US and Canadian auto manufacturing footprint, equivalent to 14 unneeded assembly plants. A rise in sales levels to the previous 15-16m mark could help the situation according to the report, but increased plant flexibility will be the factor that automakers can actually control. Even so, if 15-16m annual units don’t come soon, North America could be looking at more plant closures and job losses.

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UAW Sells Out Members, Holds On To Black Lake Resort

Since taking office in June, UAW President Bob King has ramped up the rhetoric level at Solidarity Hall considerably, as he seeks to portray the union as a defender of the American middle class. But, as the old adage goes, actions speak louder than words… and King’s actions this week couldn’t paint a clearer picture of the UAW’s priorities.

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Fiat/Chrysler EV Program Loses Battery Supplier A123
Just weeks before Chrysler filed for bankruptcy last year, it announced a battery partnership with A123 Systems, which would have provided Lithium-ion batter…
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Last Chance For China To Buy Secrets For Cheap

For more than a year, I had been on my very own propaganda mission in China (and I’m still here in Beijing to tell it.) I had urged Chinese parts manufacturers to go overseas and to buy parts houses at firesale prices. By moving closer to the customer and up the value chain, by turning from contract manufacturer to marketer, the Chinese manufacturers could realize much higher profits. By turning from contract supplier to systems house, they would be about 5 years ahead of the technology curve: A systems house is tied into the development of a car. The Boschs, Magnas, Federal Moguls of this world harbor more secrets than a Tom Clancy novel. A year ago, I wrote in China’s Gasgoo: “While the idea of buying a foreign car brand for cheap is good, the practicable choices are limited. So it’s back to buying foreign parts companies. There will be many bankrupt foreign parts companies this year to choose from, all quite cheap, most with an established presence and manufacture in China.”

Someone seems to listen, finally. But maybe a little late …

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Industry Opposes Mass "Right To Repair" Legislation Over Chinese Piracy Fears

Legislation aimed at improving the transparency of Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) has passed the Massachusetts state House of Representatives, and awaits approval by the Senate. If approved, Bill 2517 [full text in PDF format here] would require that

The manufacturer of a motor vehicle sold in the commonwealth shall make available for purchase to independent motor vehicle repair facilities and motor vehicle owners in a non­discriminatory basis and cost as compared to the terms and costs charged to an authorized dealer or authorized motor vehicle repair facility all diagnostic, service and repair information that the manufacturer makes available to its authorized dealers and authorized motor vehicle repair facilities in the same form and the same manner as it is made available to authorized dealers or an authorized motor vehicle repair facility of the motor vehicle.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is opposing the bill, according to the DetN, because it believes the bill is motivated by parts manufacturers who want access to parts in order to reverse engineer and sell them. Literally. And yes, it is China’s fault.

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GM Continues Sell-Out To China

In a deal to prop up their books, GM is selling more assets to the Chinese. GM sold its Nexteer Automotive steering-parts unit to China’s Pacific Century Motors, a company formed by China’s Tempo Group and the Beijing government’s investment arm E-Town.

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To Stay Competitive In The EV Transition, Suppliers Focus On Gas Engines

The simplification of the automobile that’s set to take place with the transition to electric drivetrains is a troubling trend for the industry. As Bertel Schmitt has already explored, switching to electric drive could see component counts cut by as much as 90 percent, meaning the suppliers who build most of the components in modern cars are staring down a steep drop in their business. As Automotive News [sub] reports, even electric motors, which were once thought of as a growth area for suppliers looking to get in on the EV shift, are being largely built by OEMs, freezing suppliers out of potential growth. Toyota, Nissan and GM supply their own electric motors, leaving suppliers like Remy International behind in the dust. So how can suppliers stay competitive as EVs become more popular? Counter-intuitively, the answer may be gas-powered range extenders.

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Hot Shots!: Inside GM's Heated Windshield Washer Fire Fiasco

It’s classic tale from the convoluted and mysterious world of the global supply chain. Crain’s Business [via Automotive News [sub]] explains how GM was forced to recall heated windshield washers not once, but twice. And we take a look at why GM took the extraordinary measure of blaming customers and GM technicians for “misdiagnosing” the problem, a strategy that makes for an interesting counterpoint to the recent Toyota recall hoopla. After all, like Toyota’s pedal problems, GM’s heated windshield washer woes are rooted in a complicated relationship with one of its suppliers… and one of its regulators.

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Ford And Taxpayers Giving Away 4,600 EV Home Chargers, Nissan Not So Much

Worried about the high MSRPs on most of the electric vehicles scheduled for launch over the next year? Don’t forget to include the cost of buying and installing a home charging station. Nissan reckons the charger for its Leaf will cost about $2,200, including a home electrical inspection [er, that’s a medical marijuana grow…] and installation. Oh, and it won’t be Nissan coming into your home: Aerovironment, a firm otherwise best known for its Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, has the contract to supply and install the Leaf’s charger. Coulomb Technologies supplies the home charger for Ford’s first EV, the Transit Connect EV, and according to Automotive News [sub], they’re partnering with Ford to give chargers away to the first 2,000 buyers of the electric-drive delivery van. But, as usual with good news in the EV sector, the charger giveaway is actually being funded by tax dollars…

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GM Wants Suppliers To Shoulder Half Of All Warranty Costs, Suppliers Say "No Thanks"

Automotive News [sub] reports that GM has made a bold new request of its suppliers: to assume responsibility for 50 percent of all warranty costs. The move comes as GM overhauls its post-bankruptcy supplier relations, which includes previously-announced measures to share cost-savings between GM and its suppliers. The obvious question when that plan was announced was: how do you stop suppliers from cutting all the quality out of GM components? The answer to which is apparently “by making suppliers share warranty costs.” But the solution is by no means a done deal…

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  • Dave Has to be Indy 500. Many more leaders and front passes than NASCAR, and Monaco is unwatchable with the inability to pass on that circuit.
  • Jeff How did the discussion get from an article about a 56 billion dollar pay package for Elon Musk to a proposal to charge a per mile tax on EVs in California or paying increase registration on vehicles to make up for lost gas tax revenue? I thought such a discussion would better fit Matt's Gas Wars series.
  • Master Baiter Both people who bought ID.4s will be interested in this post.
  • Urlik Not a single memorable thing happened in the big three races this weekend IMHO.
  • Ajla If Goodyear makes rain tires that allow NASCAR to race in damp conditions at longer ovals (other that at Daytona and Talladega) then I promise to purchase at least four new sets of Goodyear tires in my remaining life.