Episode 42 – SAIC Wants Saturn, Bridge Loan Goes Nowhere, Traffic Fatalities Plummet

December 12th, 2008 at 12:06pm

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The Senate rejects a bailout bill due to lack of support from Senate Republicans. Chinese automaker SAIC is interested in buying Saturn from GM. Traffic fatalities drop almost 10% so far this year, to their lowest levels in nearly half a century. All that and more, plus a look at vehicle-to-vehicle communications technology from Nissan.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. The Senate rejects a bailout bill. SAIC could buy Saturn. And traffic fatalities drop to their lowest levels in nearly half a century.

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Friday, December 12, 2008. And now, the news.

As I’m sure you’ve heard already, the effort to provide a bridge loan to GM and Chrysler collapsed in the U.S. Senate last night. And it all came down to getting the UAW to cut its labor costs to match the transplants. As we reported here yesterday, there is a group of conservative Republican Senators who are trying to break the union’s back. They maneuvered the union into a corner to cut wages and benefits next year, but the UAW said, “No.” And it may end up getting blamed for the failure in the court of public opinion.

What’s next? WWJ is reporting that Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is starting an effort to convince President Bush to tap into the $700 billion TARP funds to provide GM and Chrysler with enough money to get them through the first quarter of next year.

More bad news for GM. It could lose up to 40% of its dealers if GMAC goes bankrupt. Bloomberg reports GMAC lacks the funding needed to become a bank and free up more money for dealer financing. If GMAC can’t become a bank, it can’t be eligible for the $700 billion in TARP funds, and that’s why they’re talking bankruptcy.

Gasgoo.com, the Chinese automotive website is reporting that one of China’s largest automakers will buy Saturn from GM. SAIC, or the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation wants to acquire Saturn.

The US Department of Transportation reports that traffic deaths in the United States dropped 10% through October compared to 2007. If the trend continues it could be the lowest level in the 42 years since NHTSA has kept track. Typically, traffic fatalities go down during recession because people aren’t driving as much. But this is a dramatic drop-off.

Coming up in our feature story we’ll look at vehicle-to-vehicle communications technology from Nissan.

Nissan is demonstrating four features to improve traffic safety by keeping the driver informed and making sure the vehicle is in control at all times.

The first is called Signal Violation Warning. It visually and audibly warns the driver if he or she doesn’t brake when approaching a red light. The system calculates when the vehicle will arrive at the intersection and issues a warning if an accident is imminent.

The second feature is Cross Traffic Notification. This warns a driver at an intersection of any unseen cross traffic. Warnings are generated based on information received from other vehicles and distance to the intersection.

The next feature works similarly to the Cross Traffic Notification except it warns the driver when in the left turn lane if there is any oncoming traffic.

And the last is called Cooperative Intelligent Cruise Control. This applies the brakes and brings the vehicle to a complete stop at a red light if the driver for whatever reason fails to do so.

These technologies were developed by Nissan with the U.S. Department of Transportation. The systems utilize short-range communication technology between roadside equipment, on-board equipment in the vehicles, and GPS technology.

Well, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Time for our trivia contest this week we’re giving away an exclusive Autoline Detroit t-shirt and baseball cap.

We asked, who made this concept car? I know it’s a tough one but this is the Alfa Romeo Castagna from 1914-but if you just said Alfa Romeo, that was good enough for us.

As always, my crack team has chosen the winner at random from our list of new subscribers. Pookie, the envelope please! And this week’s winner is . . . Glenn Crose of Marion, Iowa. Congratulations, Glenn!

Don’t forget today starts a new trivia contest. You’ll only find it in our email newsletter…. so sign up today for your chance to win!

OH-and just one more thing! We’re going to do a special LIVE webcast on Monday. I’ll be taking your questions about the bailout effort in Washington. That’s 1 PM Eastern, or 1800 Greenwich Mean Time for those of you who are watching out side of the United States. Monday, December 15 … check it out ya’ll!

Anyway, that’s it for today’s show. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you next week.

7 Comments to “Episode 42 – SAIC Wants Saturn, Bridge Loan Goes Nowhere, Traffic Fatalities Plummet”

  1. steve salis Says:

    The back of the UAW must be broken. I’ve studied international competitiveness for 20 years. The UAW has done more to harm the US competitiveness than any other entity.

    Unfairly high wages are only part of the problem. Inflexible work rules did not allow the biggish three to embrace best in class manufacturing methods.

    The UAW needs to understand that a union needs to help a company be competitive and encourage efficiencies and innovation. This is what Toyota and Honda’s unions do in Japan. They don’t fight to make the company less competitive as the UAW does.

    For decades the Japanese model has been successful and even emulated in emerging markets. At the same time the UAW model has utterly failed while its membership continues to live well while making far more than is fair.

    John can you think of even one thing that the UAW has done over the last 20 years to make the biggish 3 as innovative, flexible or competitive as Honda or Toyota?

    I didn’t think so. That’s why it should go away.

  2. Mitch Packer Says:

    John, were you a Soupy Sales fan- I keep seeing names from the show- fess up!

  3. bill kohn Says:

    Dear John:
    My wife and I returned from Germany and its nearby countries after a motorcycle and automobile tour of the Alps and Southern Germany. When I read the comments about what Nissan is doing for safety, I couldn’t help remarking to myself that the tail is wagging the dog. Although this is a gross generalization, after one month of European traveling, only once did I see a European not pay attention to what they were doing-a Mercedes driver talking on the cell phone. All the other times I was astounded to see drivers who paid attention to driving, followed the rules of the road, showed courtey almost universally, deferred to bicyclists and motorcyclists, and gave me the sense that they were driving first and formost. Except for the one driver upon which I commented, I saw no car phones, texting, makeup, newspaper or book reading or other activities that distracted the drivers. When on the Autobahn, I realized that the Germans were not off base when the querried the US about the need for cupholders, for one has little or no time on the Autobahn to reach for their Starbucks or Big Gulp and pay attention to the speed differential of traffic and its commensurate risks. We should spend far more time and money on teaching people how to drive, and hold them personally responsible if they take inordinate risk. Thanks for letting me vent. I am a new subscriber, but you have me for life. Bill Kohn

  4. Muhammad Rafi Says:

    I wonder if Saturn will continue to attract buyers once its owned by the Chinese. I understand that a brands quality and value are more important to consumers than the owner of the brand. But recently we all have witnessed a number of attacks (against foreign automakers) by domestic auto dealers accusing them of being responsible for the crash of the domestic car market. I also wonder if GM will continue to share/sell its technology with a SAIC owned Saturn to make a profit.

    As for as the new safety features introduced by Nissan; I’d have to say that I wish, if possible, that those features could be turned off. I still enjoy driving my car and being in control. But if someone isn’t feeling well or isn’t being a safe driver, then those features could detect that and turn back on. This will keep everyone else safe and it will give those enthusiasts the option of turning the feature off (kind of like turning traction control, etc off for more involved/fun driving).

  5. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I have been against the big bank/aig bailouts,and I am for sure against bailing out our once proud(perhaps too proud)auto industry,and I am totally against the uaw.They (uaw) are not the sole reason for the financial problems of the big three,but their hands are not clean on this either.For too many years we the american buying public have been forced to settle for third or forth best if we wanted to “buy american”.The prices are right in there with imports but not the quality,and the american dealer networks are terrible.Flush them all and start with a clean sheet of paper.Then perhaps we will have something world class for a change.

  6. motorman Says:

    The UAW members work for the union not the company and that is the difference between them and other unions

  7. George Says:

    In order for The Big Three to succeed they must rid themselves of their cancer, the unions. Giving them access to loans/money now is only postponing their ultimate death.