March 18th, 2011 at 12:17pm
Ford held a ceremony at its Michigan Assembly Plant to kick-off production of the 2012 Focus but the big news is Ford will build the electric and hybrid versions of the C-MAX at the same plant. Nissan is monitoring all of its vehicles built in Japan for possible radioactive contamination due to the disaster in the country. JD Power released its annual Vehicle Dependability Study and for the first time ever Lincoln topped the list. All that and more, plus a look at Nissan’s new commercial vans.
This is Autoline Daily for Friday, March 18, 2011. And now, the news.
SCOTT BURGESS LEAVES THE DETROIT NEWS
In case you hadn’t heard, a story that’s all over the blogosphere and even made the New York Times, involves the former auto critic of the Detroit News, Scott Burgess. He heavily criticized the Chrysler 200 in an article in the newspaper, which prompted an advertiser, reportedly a car dealer, to complain to the paper. His editors then forced Scott Burgess to take out some of the more critical parts of the story which was still running in the online version of the paper. Scott was one of our guests on Autoline After Hours last night and here’s a little bit of what he had to say about this incident. It’s very rare to see a newspaper force an editor to soften up a story based on an advertiser’s complaint. That’s why this has blown up into such a big story. In fact, in the middle of Autoline After Hours last night we even had a camera crew from Fox News Detroit come into the studio to cover what was going on. You can watch that entire show by going to the John’s Journal section of our website and look for Autoline After Hours.
FORD CEREMONY AT MICHIGAN ASSEMBLY
Ford held a launch ceremony at its Michigan Assembly plant yesterday, kicking off production of the 2012 Focus. All kinds of big wigs were there, from Mark Fields, the company’s President of the Americas, to all kinds of politicians, including Rick Snyder, Michigan’s new governor. Ford used to build its biggest SUVs at the plant, like the Expedition and Navigator, but now it’s dedicated to the C-segment. Aside from the gasoline version of brand-new Focus, Michigan Assembly will also build the electric model PLUS the hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the C-MAX minivan. Ford claims it is the FIRST plant in the world capable of building gasoline-powered vehicles, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and full electrics all on the same assembly line.
UAW WON’T TARGET JAPANESE TRANSPLANTS
One of the people at the Ford event yesterday was Jimmy Settles, the UAW officer who heads up the union’s Ford department. He told the Detroit News that the union would not target any Japanese transplants to organize if the company was crippled by the earthquake in Japan. He said they wouldn’t want to take advantage of the situation. Well, that would leave the Korean and German transplants as the likeliest targets. And my gut feel tells me that Volkswagen’s new plant in Tennessee is the likeliest of them all. But I also find Jimmy Settle’s comment to be kind of weird for a union official. If you’re not going to unionize a company when it’s in trouble, doesn’t that imply that you know that unionizing it will hurt that company even more?
GM HALTS PRODUCTION (subscription required)
Now, time for an update on Japan. The ripple effect of the country’s manufacturing shutdown is being felt around the world. According to Ward’s, GM will halt production at its Shreveport, Louisiana plant starting next week due to – and this is no surprise – a parts shortage. The company builds its Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups at the facility.
NISSAN TESTS CARS FOR RADIOACTIVITY
In related news, the AFP reports Nissan is monitoring all of its vehicles built in Japan for possible radioactive contamination. It will continue the testing until it’s confident any potential radioactivity is gone. The article did not say if any of its vehicles tested positive for contamination or what it would do if they did.
GM MANAGEMENT CHANGES
Yesterday GM named Karl-Friedrich Stracke the CEO of Opel and Vauxhall. He replaces Nick Reilly who will remain the head of GM’s European operations and will be nominated to chair the Opel Supervisory board. Stracke has been with GM for 32 years and has led global engineering for the last year and a half. John Calabrese will take over Stracke’s position, he’s currently the executive director of Global Vehicle Engineering and has been with the company for 30 years. The Detroit News reports the company is also shuffling positions in product development. GM has made a number of management changes recently and now some analysts are becoming concerned that there’s too much change going on at GM.
JD POWER VEHICLE DEPENDABILITY STUDY
JD Power released its annual Vehicle Dependability Study which measures problems of three-year-old vehicles. Not surprisingly luxury makers dominate the top of the list but the brand that came out No. 1 overall is a bit of a shock. For the first time ever Lincoln took the top honors while Lexus came in at No. 2. Rounding out the top five are Jaguar, Porsche and Toyota. Unfortunately for Chrysler it dominated the bottom of the list. The brand came in at fifth from the bottom and is followed by Dodge, Land Rover, Jeep and MINI. Other interesting findings include the fact that the average annual improvement for the industry is slowing down because new electronic technology being added to vehicles has increased the rate of problems. Also, the study finds that there is still a gap between the imports and the domestic brands.
Coming up next we’ll look at how Nissan is getting into the commercial van segment.
2012 NISSAN NV
During research, Nissan found that commercial vehicle customers are the least satisfied of any segment. That’s why the company decided to do an all-new commercial vehicle for the American market to meet customers’ needs. And that started with interior workspace.
A Standard Roof model is also available. Other improvements include dedicated mounting points on the roof and in the cargo area so you don’t have to drill into the sheet metal in order to install equipment, an available center console, which can be removed and store items including a computer or files, the rear doors open extra wide, the front seats are easier to get in and out of, and there’s more foot and leg room.
Under the hood the NV comes with two choices, a 4.0-liter V-6 that cranks out over 260 horsepower and a 5.6-liter V-8 with 317 horsepower. Both are mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.
Other than breaking into a market that’s dominated by Ford and GM, Nissan’s biggest obstacle was making sure its dealers are prepared to sell and provide maintenance for the NV.
Nissan will also give customers the choice of adding personalized graphics to the exterior or storage equipment for the interior. Both options are free of charge.
The NV was designed and engineered in the U.S. And production is already under way at Nissan’s plant in Mississippi. The Standard Roof model with a V-6 starts just under $25,000 while the top-trim High Roof model with a V-8 begins at just over $32,000. Both prices DO NOT include destination.
Don’t forget to tune into the LIVE webcast of RoundAbout tonight at AutolineDetroit.tv. Every week RoundAbout takes an offbeat look at the automotive world.
This week’s guest is the one and only Jim Hall of 4791180.2 Analytics. You may recognize him as the “evilest host” of Autoline Daily. Tonight the RoundAbout crew debuts a new segment called Design Hall. The topic will be fender vents, and you’re going to learn more than you ever wanted to know. Catch them LIVE at 6:30 PM Eastern Time at AutolineDetroit.TV.
And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global auto industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you Monday.