Episode 537 – GM Dumps Aveo Name, New Magnesium-Working Technology, Rolls-Royce Expanding Ghost Line
December 9th, 2010 at 12:08pm
GM is dropping the Aveo name, instead calling its next-generation subcompact the Sonic instead. Researchers at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia have come up with a new way of joining magnesium to steel and aluminum. Rolls-Royce is expanding its Ghost lineup to include a long-wheelbase model as well as a coupe and a convertible. All that and more, plus the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo, sounds off on the UAW.
It’s hard to believe . . . Christmas is only 16 days away! But guess what? You’re getting a present early. It’s called Autoline Daily for December 9, 2010. Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist here bringing you the latest and greatest news from the global automotive industry, so let’s get to it.
GM TO DUMP AVEO NAME
The Chevy Aveo is getting a new name. According to GM Inside News, the subcompact will be called the Sonic. The company wants to change the name because of the car’s poor image, and because people couldn’t figure out to pronounce it. GM hasn’t officially announced the switch, but sources say it’s been approved and the company filed for a trademark of the name “Chevrolet Sonic” in October, according to U.S. patent and trademark records. Also, the Detroit Free Press reports the car will be built in Michigan at the company’s Orion Township plant instead of in South Korea where the current version is built. And, good news for enthusiasts, there will be a performance version of the new Sonic, too.
GM PUSHING HYDROGEN IN HAWAII
In other GM news, the company is investing $2 billion in order to develop a hydrogen infrastructure in Hawaii. The plan is called the Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative or H2I for short. In addition to GM, it involves 10 companies, agencies and universities. The goal is to see 20 to 25 hydrogen stations built on the island of Oahu by 2015 in order to reduce the state’s 90-percent dependence on imported oil. The significant part of this deal is that the group is working on ways to distribute hydrogen through natural-gas pipelines. The Gas Company in Hawaii already produces enough hydrogen to power 10,000 fuel-cell vehicles and has the capacity to make a lot more.
TATA’S NANO A SALES FAILURE
The Tata Nano is the world’s cheapest car, but it hasn’t had much success. Earlier in the year we showed you images of one that spontaneously burst into flames. Unfortunately for Tata, the sales picture isn’t much better. According to Bloomberg, only 500 were sold last month, a drop of a staggering 85 percent! Perhaps to ease consumers’ concerns over the vehicle, the company has more than doubled the length of the warranty and is now offering a maintenance option. The new warranty is four years or 60,000 kilometers, that’s just over 37,000 miles and covers new Nanos as well as ones already sold.
NEW MAGNESIUM-WORKING TECHNOLOGY (subscription required)
Magnesium holds great promise for the auto industry, but it’s very challenging to work with. Australian researchers have come up with a way of joining the super-lightweight metal to steel and aluminum. According to Ward’s, a team at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne have come up with a two-step process to do it. It involves using a laser to rapidly spot-heat the magnesium, which makes it more ductile, allowing a self-piercing rivet to be inserted. An adhesive is then added between the two metals, strengthening the joint and acting as a corrosion barrier. The article doesn’t say what kind of adhesive they’re using, but I’d suggest they try Betamate, a product of our good friends a Dow Automotive. We thank them for their support.
Most people seem to think of the car business as dirty and out dated. But oh contraire mon fraire, it’s one of the most advanced, high-tech industries on the planet. And Porsche is a shining example of this fact. According to Bloomberg, the German sports-car builder is the most profitable automaker in the world, something other companies have taken notice of. Surprisingly, Porsche does a lot of corporate consulting, employing some 220 people in this part of its business. So far it’s worked with Lufthansa and new corporate parent Volkswagen – among other companies – on making their processes more efficient. The German airline turned to them to help streamline the maintenance of their Airbus A340 aircraft. How’s that for a rust-belt industry?
ROLLS-ROYCE EXPANDING GHOST LINE
If you’re in the market for a top shelf luxury car and just can’t swing the monthly payment for a Phantom, Roll-Royce would be happy to sell you a Ghost. It’s a more “affordable” Roller. But what if you find the sedan body style blasé? What’s a millionaire to do?!?! Well ask, and ye shall receive. According to Edmunds Insideline, the company is working on three new versions of the car: a stretch model with a five- or six-inch-longer wheelbase, a drophead coupe and a regular coupe. Not much else is known about when these cars will come out or how much they’ll cost . . . other than A LOT . . . so don’t hold your breath if you’re dying to park a convertible Ghost in your garage.
What is the UAW up to now? Find out right after this.
UAW WANTS SOLIDARITY FOR ALL WORKERS
Well, here we go again.
Just when I thought UAW Chief Bob King got all-enlightened about the global reality of the auto business after his participation in a State-of-Michigan trade mission this past summer, he and an estimated 150 UAW officials and workers staged a protest this week outside the Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center in Superior Township, Michigan. King’s beef? He’s insisting that Hyundai officials should respond to the demands of striking temporary subcontract workers in South Korea who have held a sit-in strike since Nov. 15, demanding to be made permanent employees. King told the Detroit Free Press that the union’s support for the temporary Korean workers kicked off the emphasis on global justice he had promised since his election this summer.
Really, Bob? Global justice? For what and for whom?
No, what this was really about is King’s dream to unionize all of the workers at import factories here in the U.S. – the vast majority of which want nothing to do with the UAW, by the way – and he decided that he needed a photo-op just to remind everyone he’s still around. Just think about this for a minute. It’s almost 2011 and we’re still having to deal with this kind of stuff from the UAW? Ridiculous.
I feel a train wreck coming, one that will unfold in a scenario something like this: The three domestic automakers, chastened by the Great Recession and the near-death experiences brought on by bankruptcy return to profitability and claw out a somewhat-stable – albeit tenuous – future for themselves using lessons learned to run their business with a focused consistency on the product and a new-found religion as to how not to do it.
And then in steps King and his posse demanding to “get theirs” when the next contract comes up for renewal – while staging massive strikes for emphasis – proceeding to run the whole damn thing into the ground all over again.
I’ve seen this movie before folks, and it never ends well.
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for Thursday, December 9th, 2010.
And that’s a wrap for today’s show. Again, I’m the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo. Thanks for watching, but make sure you tune in tonight for Autoline After Hours, the most candid discussion about anything and everything automotive. The show kicks off at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time on our website, AutolineDetroit.tv. Big John McElroy will still be out of town, so I’m saddling up to host, partner. Trust me; you don’t want to miss it. And with that, we’re done here.