December 23rd, 2010 at 12:08pm
The UAW is beating the war drums again; this time it’s going after foreign transplants in the U.S. Congress failed to pass legislation that would have overhauled auto-safety laws in the country. Mercedes-Benz has given us an early Christmas present by showing off its redesigned 2012 C-Class. All that and more, plus John shares his thoughts on driving Ford’s bodacious Focus RS500.
This is Autoline Daily for December 23, 2010. And now, the news.
UAW TARGETS TRANSPLANTS (subscription required)
The UAW is beating the war drums again, at least when it comes to organizing the foreign transplants in the United States. The Wall Street Journal reports that UAW will launch a full-blown organizing effort starting next month. The president of the union, Bob King, sent letters to the CEOs of foreign automakers with plants in the U.S. asking them to allow the union to organize without interference from the companies. But here’s my Autoline Insight. The UAW is going to have a difficult time organizing workers in right-to-work states. Even if the union is voted in, those workers don’t necessarily have to join the union. That’s what right-to-work means, you don’t have to join a union if you don’t want to. A lot of line workers will be reluctant to pay union dues, especially if they automatically get any benefits the union negotiates with the company.
MG RETURNS TO ENGLAND
At first blush it looks like all is right with the world. Soon, MGs will once again be sold in England. Only this time the MGs will be mostly made in China, and they’ll be sold in GM’s dealer network, the Telegraph reports. SAIC now owns the classic British sports car brand, and of course, SAIC has a major joint-venture deal with GM in China. The two companies have a memorandum of understanding and it looks like it could happen sometime in the next year.
AUTO-SAFETY BILL FAILS TO PASS
Yesterday Congress adjourned for the year and it did so without passing a bill that would have overhauled auto-safety laws in the country. According to the Detroit News, the legislation was created in the aftermath of Toyota’s massive recall earlier in the year. The bill would have required the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to upgrade safety standards, given the agency more power to recall vehicles and would have increased fines the government could hand out to automakers for violating any safety requirements. However, in the end, the bill didn’t get enough support to pass this year but one of the bill’s proponents, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, says he will push for the bill once the new Congress convenes. But with Republican gains in both chambers, getting the legislation passed will be more difficult.
BEIJING TRIES TO CURB TRAFFIC
Earlier this month we reported that the city of Beijing was looking at ways to curb car pollution by handing out fines for driving in certain sections of the city and adding more public transportation. Now Bloomberg reports that the city will restrict the amount of new licenses it will allow to 240,000 a year and will award them through a lottery system. But this could be a huge problem, last week alone there were 30,000 new-vehicle registrations in Beijing and the city has over 4.7 million vehicles on its roads. The city is ranked as having the world’s worst traffic.
ASTON MARTIN/DAIMLER TIE-UP?
Here’s a very interesting bit of news we dug up on Reuters. Via the Financial Times, the agency reports Aston martin is in talks with Daimler to DESIGN AND BUILD – yes, design and build – Maybachs. Apparently Aston would take engine technology from Daimler in exchange for constructing the six-figure luxury cars. If the two decide on a partnership, both companies could benefit from economies of scale, well . . . relative economies of scale since neither of them are going to pass Toyota on the sales chart. Aston Martin was not available to comment on the proposed deal, but a Daimler spokesman said the two companies are in talks. If this goes through, it would be ANOTHER tie-up for the German automaker. It’s already partnered with Nissan to supply engines to Infiniti, it signed a deal with BYD to build electric vehicles and Renault is a key partner in the development of its next-generation smart car.
2012 MERCEDES-BENZ C-CLASS REVEALED (login required)
Mercedes has given us an early Christmas present in the form of its redesigned C-Class. The 2012-edition of the brand’s best-selling model gets a design rework, including a new front end, modified headlamps and other very subtle tweaks. It also benefits from a slightly restyled interior that makes it look a little more like the E-Class and the availability of some new driver-assistance systems – things like Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Assist and Parktronic. These are all pretty minor changes, but the company spent a little more time getting greasy under the hood. The big news here is the availability of a four-cylinder engine in the U.S. The C-250 is powered by a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-banger delivering 201 horsepower, 229 pound-feet of torque and an estimated 24 miles per gallon combined – that’s about 9.8 L/100 km. Two V-6s are still available. Overall, fuel economy has improved by as much as 15 percent thanks to direct fuel-injection and a redesigned seven-speed automatic transmission. Look for the 2012 C-Class to formally debut at next month’s Detroit Auto Show. Expect to see it at your local Mercedes-Benz dealer next summer.
Coming up next, we’ll take the Ford Focus RS 500 for a spin. Back right after this.
FORD FOCUS RS500
Earlier this year I found myself in southern France, right along the Cote d’Azur, just outside Nice. That’s where Ford was holding the international media launch for the C-Max and Grand C-Max. Turns out that they also had a Ford Focus RS 500 at the event. It wasn’t part of the official media launch, but if you knew to ask, a few of us were allowed to take it out. Here’s my impression of it, out on the road.
At first, the RS doesn’t seem to be all that special. The exhaust note sounds kind of subdued. The acceleration seems good, but not great. But then you open it up, and wow! Now you know what they mean by Rallye Sport.
This car instantly gives you a high degree of confidence. The tires stick. The brakes stop. The seats keep you locked in place.
Though it doesn’t come across in the video, the exhaust note makes a great pop when you bang off a shift or drop off the gas. Just like a real rally car.
This car makes you want to go out and hunt down unsuspecting prey. And pity the fool who doesn’t know what a Focus RS is. They won’t know what hit them.
I really didn’t want to bring the car back to Ford. I wanted to just keep on going. I would love to spend more time with this car, and I can only hope that the Focus ST that Ford will bring to the ‘States is anywhere close to being like the RS
The 500 in Focus RS500 means they only made 500 of them. It has a turbocharged, 2.5-liter five-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 345 horsepower. It’s priced at £27,000, which at today’s exchange rate translates into $41,600. But even if you have the money, that doesn’t mean you can buy a new one. This car is completely sold out.
Don’t forget to join us tonight on Autoline After Hours. We’ll be handing out presents and lumps of coal for the best and the worst of automotive happenings for 2010. Join me, Peter De Lorenzo and David Welch from Bloomberg tonight starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on Autoline After Hours.
And a programming note here. Autoline will shut down for the holidays starting tomorrow. We’ll be off all of next week, but we’ll be back here on January 3rd with all the news and coverage you expect us to bring to you. So, have a great holiday season, a happy new year and we will see you in 2011.