August 26th, 2011 at 11:30am
Volvo is repositioning itself as a brand designed around you. Mercedes offers a peek at the new B-Class ahead of its Frankfurt debut. Honda is the only other automaker in North America to have a wind tunnel, but it decides to keep mum. All that and more, plus a look at Autoline This Week with Cindy Estrada from the UAW.
This is Autoline Daily for August 26, 2011. And here’s the latest news coming in from all around the global automotive industry.
☺VOLVO LOVES YOU☺
At a press conference in Beijing, Volvo announced a new brand strategy that it will take worldwide. Called “Designed Around You” it’s supposed to cement Volvo’s brand image as the most human-centric car company in the industry. Volvo says it will be showing its new brand direction at the Frankfurt auto show in three weeks, presumably with a concept car. Volvo says the “Designed Around You” campaign is a key element in its global revitalization strategy.
MERCEDES GOES TO THE HEAD OF THE B-CLASS
Speaking of the Frankfurt show, Mercedes revealed its new B-Class ahead of its official debut at that show. The little hatchback has a new turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine with direct injection and a new four-cylinder diesel. And you can get either one with a new seven-speed dual clutch transmission or a new six-speed manual. It’s the first compact to feature a radar based collision warning system as standard equipment. And it also comes with Mercedes’ PRE-SAFE system which helps protect passengers in a crash by tightening seat belts, closing windows, and adjusting the seat position of front passengers. The B-Class goes on sale in Europe in November.
HONDA’S SECRET WIND TUNNEL
With very little fanfare, Honda has built a wind tunnel at its R&D facility in Marysville, Ohio. Bloomberg just broke the story because Honda never divulged that it had completed the wind tunnel last year. Honda does most of the design and engineering for its truck products like the Ridgeline and MDX at this facility, rather than in Japan. And having an on-site wind tunnel is a critical tool in new product development. General Motors is the only other automaker in North America to have its own wind tunnel, but GM’s is a full-scale tunnel, while Honda is using a scale-model tunnel, which is obviously smaller and cheaper to operate. With fuel economy standards about to tighten up dramatically, aerodynamics are going to play a greater role in car design.
In a unique arrangement between an automaker and supplier, General Motors and the LG Group announced they will jointly design and engineer electric vehicles. LG already supplies GM batteries for the Chevy Volt and Opel Ampera. The two are teaming up to help cut costs and time in developing EVs. LG will be responsible for nearly half the cost of creating electric and hybrid vehicles and will then supply GM with anything they create. And LG will be allowed to sell technologies created with GM to other companies. You know? This is one of the first signs I’ve seen that we’re really seeing changes at how General Motors does business.
HYUNDAI BUYS LABOR PEACE … FOR NOW (subscription required)
Hyundai just dodged a bullet. The automaker has a troubled history of labor problems. But Ward’s reports it just signed a new labor pact with its union, after a 17-hour bargaining session that ended just hours before the union was going to go out on strike. Workers get a modest pay increase of $86 a month, but they also get a performance bonus equal to three months pay, plus a special bonus of $6,700 and they get 35 shares of company stock for signing the contract without going on strike.
Speaking of labor issues, the UAW is hopping mad about executive compensation, especially at supplier companies. That is coming up next.
You’ve all heard UAW president Bob King complaining bitterly about Alan Mulally’s compensation package. King has called it outrageous and morally wrong. But the union is not just picking on Mr. Mulally. My guest on Autoline This Week is Cindy Estrada, the vice president of the UAW who handles relations with suppliers, and she is just as upset about the compensation some supplier executives are taking home.
You can catch that entire interview with Cindy Estrada on our website right now, or check you local public television listings because Autoline is carried in 30 markets across the US and all across Canada.
A programming note here, there will not be a broadcast of RoundAbout tonight; the crew is on hiatus. But you can check out past episodes, and all kinds of additional content like vehicle reviews, editorials and our other shows at Autoline.tv.
And that wraps up this show, thanks for watching, have a great weekend and we’ll see you on Monday.