March 28th, 2011 at 12:09pm
Reports coming out of France say that Carlos Ghosn may have withheld evidence from police involving Renault’s espionage case. IHS Automotive analyst Michael Robinet says the disruptions in the auto industry caused by the earthquake in Japan will be significant once parts shortages hit North America. The Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation is hard at work reviving the MG brand and yesterday it debuted the new MG3. All that and more, plus a look at Daimler’s new heavy-truck brand that was developed for the Indian market.
This is Autoline Daily for March 28, 2011. And now the news.
R.I.P. DAVID E. DAVIS JR.
And some sad news at that. David E. Davis Jr., one of the best-known American automotive journalists, died yesterday in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After spending years as editor of Car and Driver magazine, he left there and started Automobile magazine, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary. Earlier in his career Davis was involved with Campbell Ewald, Chevrolet’s advertising agency. He is the best story teller I ever met in my life, had an encyclopedic knowledge of all things automotive and enjoyed life with a flair and joie de vivre that most people never get to know. He was one of the greats and will be missed.
GHOSN MAY HAVE WITHHELD EVIDENCE
This so-called Chinese espionage case over electric cars involving Renault may not be over. Now reports coming out of France say that Carlos Ghosn may have withheld evidence from police. It turns out Ghosn also believed that a senior executive from Nissan was involved, but he never told the police, and never asked them to investigate the Nissan executive. This could land Ghosn in a heap of trouble. It’s one thing to say you were duped in a fraud, it’s another thing to withhold evidence from the police.
JAPAN DISRUPTIONS WILL BE SIGNIFICANT
Last week we reported that IHS Automotive predicted that global vehicle production could drop by as much as 30 percent this year. Now analyst Michael Robinet at the company says the disruption is going to be significant once parts shortages hit North America. Honda announced that production will be disrupted at its North American plants in the beginning of April. Mazda is not taking orders of vehicles built in Japan at dealers in the U.S. And more automakers are telling customers they can’t sell vehicles with certain colors because some of the pigments are made in Japan.
Hey, how about that. Each of the last three news stories involved people in the news who have been my guests on Autoline After Hours or Autoline Detroit.
DONGFENG MAY ACQUIRE STAKE IN GETRAG
In a sign that China is gaining access to the technology it needs, Chinese automaker Dongfeng is in talks to purchase a 30 percent stake in German transmission supplier Getrag. According to Reuters, the stake is worth around $700 million. If the deal goes through it would be the first time a Chinese automaker has bought into the German auto industry.
MG BUILT BY SAIC
Speaking of China, the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation is hard at work breathing life back into the beleaguered British brand, MG. China Auto Web reports the first serious effort at reviving the MG brand debuted yesterday as the MG3. The car was designed in the UK, but it’s built by SAIC. It targets other subcompact hatchbacks like the Toyota Yaris and the Volkswagen Polo. Available in four versions it’s priced to sell, starting at about 70,000 Yuan, roughly $11,000. It’s powered by either a 1.3-liter or a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine.
HYUNDAI WORKERS ON STRIKE IN KOREA (subscription required)
Maybe Hyundai’s labor union in Korea didn’t get the memo that parts shortages from Japan are crippling the auto industry. According to Ward’s, Hyundai’s plant in Ulsan, South Korea is at a standstill because of a labor strike. This is where the Elantra and Veloster small cars, among others, are built. The situation is complicated, but apparently the automaker’s union is not happy because management decided to move workers around at the complex. The spat has something to do with labor being allowed to approve personnel shifts before new vehicles go into production. So far some 125,000 orders for vehicles HAVE NOT been filled because of the kerfuffle.
Coming up next, India could be the next booming automotive market, which has Daimler very interested in the country’s truck business.
Daimler is launching a new heavy-truck brand. Called BharatBenz, it’s exclusive to India – in the near-term anyway. With these rigs the company is building on its previous experience and throwing in a little local know how to tailor them to the market.
You can probably figure out the Benz part of the name but if you’re stumped by the other half you’re not alone. Bharat actually means “India” in several local languages.
Staying true to its name, these rigs, which vary in size from six to 49 tons, will be developed in India, built in India and sold in India. But Daimler already has four other truck brands in its portfolio including Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner, Western Star and Mitsubishi Fuso. Why does it need another one?
There’s no doubt India’s growing. Passenger vehicles are selling in record numbers, but it’s also the second-biggest market in the world for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Daimler projects sales of these things will DOUBLE by 2020. Understandably, it wants a big ole’ slice of that market. Hence the new BharatBenz brand. Its vehicles are tailor-made to the needs of Indian buyers.
Showing its commitment to India, Daimler is investing some 700 million Euros there and building a brand-new factory in Oragadam on the country’s south-eastern coast. The facility is spread across nearly 400 acres and includes a test track so the company can put these trucks through their paces. They’ve already clocked more than 1 million kilometers of testing, and so far Dr. Z seems to approve of their efforts.
The first BharatBenz trucks should hit the road sometime in 2012. If you live in India, keep your eyes peeled for Daimler’s latest heavy-duty offerings.
Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours this Thursday when our guest will be Joel Piaskowski, who used to be head of design at Hyundai Motors America, and who now runs all exterior design for Ford in North America.
And check out the latest episode of RoundAbout. This week features Autoblog’s Zach Bowman, Charles Krome from Autotropolis and Alex Villani of GM Inside News. You can download the podcast or catch the video on our YouTube channel.
And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global auto industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.