January 31st, 2012 at 11:26am
Yazaki is hit with a massive fine for its bid-rigging scheme. Aussies are experiencing the lowest car prices in 36 years. And, just like a good pork roast, the economic recovery continues low and slow. All that and more, plus a look at Federal-Mogul’s innovative lighting solutions.
This is Autoline Daily for January 31st, the last day of the first month. And now, the news.
The US car market continues to recover and the recovery could go on for years. Edmunds says that 8 million people deferred buying a new car between 2008 and 2010, and that as unemployment drops while consumer confidence grows, more and more of those people are coming back into the market. We’ll soon see if they’re right. Tomorrow, automakers will release their sales numbers for January. Thanks to the strength in the market, Bloomberg reports that automakers are lowering their sales incentives, and that means they’ll be putting more profit in their pockets.
THE PRICE IS RIGHT (subscription required)
But if you’re looking for a good deal on a car, maybe you should head down under. According to WardsAuto, new car prices in Australia are at their lowest levels in 36 years, if you compare average weekly wages with the cost of a new car. The average Australian needs to work 30 weeks to pay for a Holden Commodore or a Ford Falcon while a decade ago it would have taken close to 40 weeks. So why are cars more affordable? Wages are going up, tariffs have been reduced on imported cars and free trade agreements with countries like Thailand means more imported cars are competing in the market.
I BROKE THE LAW, AND THE LAW WON
As if the tsunami wasn’t bad enough. Last week we reported that Yazaki got hit with a record fine from the Japanese government over a bid-rigging scheme involving wire harnesses. Now Uncle Sam is punishing the company. According to the Detroit News, Yazaki will pay a $470 million fine for its involvement in the scheme. Four executives will serve prison time in the U.S. ranging from 15 months to two years, while the chairman and CEO will return half of their pay for three months. Auto supplier Denso must pay a $78 million fine and its top executives agreed to return 10 to 30 percent of their pay for three months. Last year Furukawa was hit with a $200 million fine by the U.S. for its involvement, and three of its executives will also serve prison time in the U.S. Investigators say the scheme led to higher car prices but declined to say by how much.
HIT THE ROAD, JAC
Some Chinese automakers have been ripping off car designs for years. And while we thought the practice had run its course, well, I guess some of them just can’t help themselves. China Car Times reports that state-owned JAC, the Jianghuai Automobile Company, is going to build a pick-up truck that blatantly copies design cues of the Ford F-150. JAC calls it the 4R3 and will likely export it to South America and the Middle East. No word yet on what Ford has to say about the matter.
Hagerty Insurance, the company that specializes in insuring classic cars, is predicting which new cars made today will become future classics. There’s the predictable list of low-production, high-performance cars. But what interests us are the not-so-exotic cars that made the list, like the Buick Regal GS, the first Buick in ages that offers a manual transmission. The Fiat 500 Abarth also made the Top Ten, as did the Volkswagen Golf R. Hit the link in today’s show notes to see all the cars that made the list.
Coming up next, a look at interior lighting technology from Federal-Mogul, we’ll be back right after this.
More automakers are turning to lighting to enhance the interior of the vehicle. Studies show that consumers perceive vehicles with ambient lighting as safer and of higher quality. Recently Seamus McElroy visited Federal-Mogul’s Tech Center to look at some of the lighting technology the company is working on.
First up is Federal-Mogul’s ambient lighting technology. It can be packaged just about anywhere in the vehicle thanks to its innovative light pipe which is able to evenly distribute light over larger diameters with fewer light sources.
One if its more cool technologies is its LED metalized lighting. It conceals ambient lights in trim surfaces with a metallic looking finish. So during the day it looks like a piece of metal and at night it lights up. The company says any kind of metal looking finish is possible and it can even work with plastics too.
Another neat lighting technology is its LED touch-free overhead lamp. It uses a capacitive sensor to detect when a hand is near it and automatically turns on. It even works when wearing gloves. One of its advantages is, it’s more durable and reliable since there aren’t any mechanical switches.
And lastly the company showed us its Ultrathin overhead lamp. Its thin design allows for more headroom and it’s also more durable because it just snaps into place, no screws are needed. Federal-Mogul says this helps reduce the warranty too. It also features what the company calls its NovaLens technology. LED lights vary in intensity and create hot spots. NovaLens is specifically designed to eliminate these problems to provide consistent lighting in the vehicle.
Federal Mogul says OEMs are looking at technologies like these to help differentiate their vehicles from their competitors while giving the consumer the opportunity to customize their car.
Thanks for that report Seamus.
Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours this Thursday night when our guest will be Chris Preuss, the former head of OnStar and the previous vice president of public relations at General Motors. You can expect a pretty lively discussion, so join me and the Autoextremist Peter De Lorenzo for the best insider information in the industry.
And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.