March 21st, 2011 at 12:02pm
As supplies of vehicles dwindle due to the earthquake in Japan, dealers are expected to end all discounts and sales incentives. GM, Ford and Chrysler want to give workers bonuses based on quality and profits, rather than just give them pay raises. France’s Industry Minister, says he does not want to “destabilize Renault any further” when asked if Carlos Ghosn should step down as CEO. All that and more, plus a look at the new Audi A6 which has been extensively updated for 2012.
This is Autoline Daily for what is traditionally the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere for 2011. And now, the news.
EARTHQUAKE STILL CAUSING DISRUPTIONS
The earthquake in Japan is still having reverberations on the global auto industry. Last week we reported that General Motors stopped production at a truck plant in Louisiana and now the company is halting production elsewhere in the world. Opel will stop production at two plants in Spain and Germany because of a shortage of electronic components. GM is also cutting overtime at two plants for a week in Korea. Nissan is also considering shipping engines built in Tennessee to Japan. Honda says it has enough supplies of cars and parts in the U.S. to last until mid-April.
DEALERS END DISCOUNTS
And this disruption is definitely going to have an impact on car prices. According to The Detroit News, some of the most fuel efficient Japanese imports, like the Toyota Prius and Lexus HS250h, are in short supply. And as supplies dwindle dealers are expected to end all discounts and sales incentives.
BIG 3 PREFER BONUSES OVER PAY RAISES
The UAW meets later this week to set its contract strategy with GM, Ford and Chrysler. The automakers want to give workers bonuses, maybe as much as $10,000 a year based on quality and profits, rather than just give them pay raises. 10 grand is twice as much as Ford paid its UAW workers for last year. But back in the 1990s Chrysler paid bonuses of $8,000 in good years. Detroit’s automakers don’t want to lock in higher labor costs because they still are at a disadvantage to the transplants. Big Three labor is between $56 and $58 an hour with benefits, compared to $56 at Toyota, $50 at Honda and $45 at Hyundai, Kia and Nissan. Bonuses give automakers more flexibility because they can be cut back when the industry goes into a downturn.
GHOSN’S JOB SAFE
While the UAW fights for jobs and job security, looks like Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn gets to keep his. France’s Industry Minister, Eric Besson, says he does not want to “destabilize Renault any further” when asked if Carlos Ghosn should step down as CEO. He said Ghosn plays a key role in Renault’s alliance with Nissan and that the company faces a big challenge as it begins to launch electric vehicles.
THE DETROIT NEWS APOLOGIZES TO BURGESS
Speaking of keeping your job, The Detroit News apologized to readers and its former car critic, Scott Burgess, for removing parts of his criticism of the Chrysler 200 after an advertiser complained. Jonathan Wolman, the paper’s editor and publisher, said “While our intent was to improve the piece by making these passages less grating, our decision to make these changes after fielding an advertiser’s complaint was a humbling mistake.” The Detroit News is offering Scott his job back (subscription required) and all I’ve got to say is, Scottie, GO BACK! They apologized, now get back there and keep writing those great reviews.
REUSS ON AUTOLINE
Cadillac made an impressive turn-around over the last decade, but will GM keep spending the kind of money it takes to keep Cadillac as the “New Standard Of The World?” We put that question to Mark Reuss, the president of GM North America.
Mark Reuss will be my guest on Autoline Detroit this coming weekend.
To know this industry you’ve got to know the product. Coming up next, a quick look at the brand-new Audi A6.
2012 AUDI A6
Audi’s product cadence is rolling right along. The A8 just got overhauled for 2011. Before that it was the A4, and now, after half-a-dozen years on the market, it’s the A6’s turn to go under the knife. Audi’s midrange sedan has been extensively updated for 2012.
The company stuck with its minimalist design theme that’s worked so well over the years. The new A6 isn’t radically different from today’s car, but it’s more aggressive and sophisticated. There’s a lot of complexity in those body surfaces, which is part of the reason it won an EyesOn design award for “Best Production Vehicle” at the Detroit Auto Show back in January.
Inside, it’s easy to see why Audi is benchmarked for its interiors. Everything here is tastefully done. Interestingly, the available wood trim is a special laminated veneer. It’s made up of alternating strips of either ash or oak, and walnut. The look is classic yet contemporary at the same time.
The interior is also home to the company’s latest iteration of MMI, its all-in-one control system. Just like on the flagship A8 it’s available with a special touch pad that allows users to draw letters and numbers with their fingers to input them into the system. Very clever.
Another important thing the A6 borrowed from its big brother is lightweight construction. More than 20 percent of its body components are aluminum, and that’s a trend we are going to see a lot more of in the future.
Under the hood this 2012 model is available with a dizzying array of engines. The base powerplant is a 2.0-liter TDI with 177 horsepower. From there buyers can step up to a wide variety of other options. For now, the top offering is a supercharged, 3.0-liter V-6 cranking out 300 horsepower, but don’t get all excited if you’re part of our U.S. audience. We’re only getting a couple of these engines. It’ll launch with the blown six as its sole powerplant. A diesel will be available later in the year but no word yet which one. It hasn’t even been decided if we’re getting the hybrid or not, which has an estimated fuel consumption of just 6.2 L/100 km. That works out to almost 38 miles per gallon!
Along with the engines there’s quite a selection of transmissions, too, including a six-speed manual, a “Multitronic” CVT or an s tronic dual-clutch automatic.
There’s a lot more to this car than we have time for now, but look for a full report later in the year once we get some time in the driver’s seat.
Audi tells us the new A6 is expected to arrive in the U.S. this fall, BUT it could show up in time for summer. No pricing for our version has been announced yet but it starts at 39,000 Euros in Germany, about $52,000.
And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global auto industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.