October 19th, 2011 at 11:52am
Hourly workers at Ford in the U.S. ratified a new labor contract but now the attention will turn to the voting on the Chrysler contract. The price of steel could fall by nearly $300 a ton compared to its peak in April. Several lawsuits have been filed against suppliers, accusing them of an international price fixing scam involving wire harnesses. All that and more, plus a walk around of the new Fisker Surf with company CEO, Henrik Fisker.
This is Autoline Daily for October 19, 2011, and here are the latest developments in the global automotive industry.
FORD WORKERS RATIFY CONTRACT
Well, it’s official. Hourly workers at Ford in the U.S. ratified a new labor contract. Though early returns showed that it was in trouble, as more and more UAW locals voted, more of them were in favor of it. Now, the attention will swing to the voting on the Chrysler contract, which is not as lucrative as the ones at Ford or GM.
PRICE OF STEEL TUMBLES
The price of steel is falling, but so is production of the material. Buyers say that by the end of the year prices could fall by nearly $300 a ton compared to their peak in April. There’s good news and bad news in this for automakers. The good news is that the price of their most important raw material is dropping fast. The bad news is that this is an indication of a slowing global economy, and that could ultimately hurt car sales.
RARE-EARTH PRICES MANIPULATED (subscription required)
Speaking of raw materials, the prices of some rare-earth metals have also been falling from their peaks this summer. And that is prompting the largest producer in the world to cut back on production. The Chinese company “Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare-Earth Group,” which accounts for half of global production, is using its dominance to force prices up. Rare earth metals are a crucial raw material for making electric cars and hybrids. Many automakers and suppliers are trying to come up with ways to avoid using rare earths, precisely because China is manipulating the market.
BEIJING WAIVES PLATE RESTRICTION FOR EVs
And to help boost sales of EVs, Beijing will not force buyers of electrics to use a lottery system to get a license plate, which can cost up to $5,000 for a set of plates. However, city officials say the offer will only be available for a limited time, and they’re also considering tax credits of up to $18,000 for EVs to try and spur sales, because in China, like elsewhere in the world, hybrids and electrics just don’t sell in big numbers.
OPEL ASTRA GTC (subscription required)
Production of the new Opel Astra GTC three-door hatchback has begun in Poland. The car wasn’t supposed to be out until January, but customer interest prompted the company to pull the schedule ahead by three months. The plan is to build about 17,000 cars this year. Full-year production should hit somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 units. I’ve got to tell you, I really like the way this car looks.
GLOBAL SUPPLIER SCANDAL
Several lawsuits have been filed against suppliers, accusing them of an international price-fixing scam involving wire harnesses. According to the Detroit News, the companies involved are Delphi, Lear, Furukawa, Leoni, Sumitomo Electric, S-Y Systems and Yazaki. Three car owners filed the suits on behalf of millions, claiming the scam resulted in higher prices for cars and they want the companies to return the money. The U.S., the European Union and Japan have been investigating the claims since at least February 2010. The conspiracy started as early as January 2000. The FBI raided offices in Michigan last year as did law enforcement in Europe. In Japan, three Furukawa executives have already pleaded guilty and have agreed to serve prison time in the U.S. The company will also pay a $200 million fine. This is a story that we’ll have to keep an eye on because it’s only getting going.
The Fisker Karma is starting to show up on the streets, or at least some streets. And the company is already looking at expanding its model range and we’ll show you more of what that’s about, right after this.
The big news at Fisker these days is that they’re coming out with a new model. Actually, it’s a modified version of the Fisker Karma and I recently got Henrik Fisker to give us a walkaround and tell us what it’s all about.
Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours tomorrow night. Our guest will be Jack Hollis, the head of the Scion brand, and we’ll especially be talking about their latest model, the dinky little iQ. Join me and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo, for some of the best discussion going on about cars that you can find.
And that wraps up today’s show. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.