June 3rd, 2011 at 11:45am
The U.S. government sold its remaining Chrysler stock to Fiat and President Obama is going to a Jeep plant in Ohio today to celebrate. GM’s President of North America, Mark Reuss, wants to test the company’s futuristic autonomous electric-vehicle, the EN-V, in Detroit. Mazda is in talks with Ford about selling its stake in their shared assembly plant in Flat Rock, Michigan where the Mazda6 and the Mustang are built. All that and more, plus a look at some fascinating stories that came out of last month’s new-car sales in the U.S.
This is Autoline Daily for Friday, the third of June, 2011. Here’s what’s happening in the automotive world. And after the break, make sure you stick around, because we’re announcing the FIRST winner of our Bob Lutz book giveaway. And now, the news.
U.S. SELLS CHRYSLER STOCK TO FIAT
President Obama is going to the Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio today to celebrate the fact that Fiat is buying up the last of the stock the U.S. government holds in Chrysler. In fact, Fiat will now own 52 percent of Chrysler, with the rest pretty much held by the UAW’s trust fund for employee health care. Now Fiat has to negotiate what it’s going to pay the union for that stock. My estimate is that it will come in somewhere around $4 billion. In a related note, the Detroit News reports that the government will lose $14 billion on the auto industry bailouts, but that’s a lot better than the $48 billion it originally expected to lose. Ron Bloom, the auto czar, is quoted as saying we record what we lost, we also have to record what we saved.
REUSS PROPOSES EN-V NETWORK IN DETROIT
Last year General Motors showed a futuristic autonomous electric-vehicle at the Shanghai World Expo called the EN-V. It’s a two-seat concept designed to help reduce congestion in China’s megacities. But GM’s President of North America, Mark Reuss ,wants to see these autonomous vehicles being tested in Detroit. Reuss is proposing using the vehicles as a way to connect the city of Detroit, since geographically, it’s spread out and there are plenty of open spaces. Reuss believes this is something Detroit needs to do in order to innovate and rebuild.
CAR SALES DROP IN CHINA
As we’ve been reporting throughout the year, car sales in China are slowing down and last month they took a big hit. According to Gasgoo, passenger car sales totaled just 850,000 units, an 11 percent decline from April and 1 percent drop compared to last year. One analyst believes the drop in sales is due to the Chinese government phasing out incentives for new cars and cities like Beijing and Shanghai restricting sales of new cars. He also blames the weakening economy and the industry for developing too quickly.
FORD & MAZDA END PARTNERSHIP
Mazda and Ford are canceling their joint venture. The two automakers have been working together for more than three decades, but their long-lived partnership is expected to come to an end in 2013. Mazda is in talks with Ford about selling its stake in their shared assembly plant in Flat Rock, Michigan. This is where its slow-selling Mazda6 sedan as well as the Mustang are assembled. Reuters reports Mazda will import cars to the U.S. from Japan and Mexico starting in 2013. But Mazda officially denies that it will make cars in Mexico (.pdf, login required).
AMPHIBIOUS ICE CREAM TRUCK
Here’s a world’s first! Autoblog reports the crafty candy confectioners at Cadbury have commissioned an amphibious ice cream truck! Amazing, I know! Called the HMS Flake 99, this floating freezer was built to celebrate National Ice Cream Week in the UK. With wide-open windows and trademark jingle-chimes it’s ready to feed boaters’ sweet teeth as they cruise up and down the Thames River. I wonder how well she fared during sea trials?
Coming up next, there are some fascinating stories that came out of last month’s new-car sales in the American market. In fact, one of them is going to shock you.
SURPRISING SALES STORIES (subscription required)
I’ve been going through last month’s sales numbers, as reported by our friends at Ward’s, and I found some really interesting stories in those figures. Get this. Last month even though gasoline hit four bucks a gallon, the Camaro, Mustang and Challenger outsold all the hybrids in the market put together. Remember, there are now 30 different hybrids offered by 14 different brands. There are compact hybrids, midsize hybrids and full size ones. There are pickup hybrids, crossovers and SUVs. There are cheap ones and luxury ones. So three muscle cars outsold 30 hybrids. Part of the reason is that sales of the Toyota Prius fell nearly in half because of production disruptions in Japan. But even so, three against 30? Who would’ve expected that?
And while sales did slow down last month, the numbers suggest it had nothing to do with rising gasoline prices, or the continuing housing crisis, or a drop in consumer confidence, or concerns about the economy. No, it all had to do with the Japanese automakers. All of them except Mitsubishi and Suzuki saw their sales go down. Every other car maker saw its sales go up. In fact, if the Japanese had merely sold the same number of cars they did a year ago, in a much weaker market, May sales would have matched April. And that means the SAAR would have stayed right at 13 million units. That means that as the Japanese get their production back on line, car sales will probably pop right back to where they were. And that means the slow down in May was probably just a blip on the road to recovery.
Don’t forget to check out the LIVE broadcast of RoundAbout, tonight at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time on our website, AutolineDetroit.tv.
OK, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. We’re giving away four copies of Bob Lutz’s new book “Car Guys vs Bean Counters.” To enter the contest you have to send an email to your local public television station asking them to carry Autoline Detroit. If they already carry it, we ask you to thank them for carrying it and send us a copy of the email.
And the winner is . . . Joey Crampton who wrote into Prairie Public Broadcasting in North Dakota to suggest they carry Autoline Detroit. Don’t forget, we’ve got three more books to give away, so get all the details at bit.ly/AutolineContest.
And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global automotive industry, thanks for watching, we’ll see you Monday.