March 16th, 2012 at 12:00pm
Car sales in Europe have dropped for five straight months, and with every month the downturn is getting worse. The Range Rover Evoque is such a hit the company is hiring 1,000 new employees and moving to three shifts to keep up with demand. Volkswagen will build Porsches at its plant in Osnabrück, Germany to handle overflow from Porsche’s main factory in Zuffenhausen. All that and more, plus a look at a motorcycle that supplier Visteon developed for growing markets.
Hello, I’m John McElroy. Welcome to Autoline Daily for Friday, March 16. And now the news.
EUROPE’S SAGGING SALES
Well, maybe this really isn’t news, because I think we all know that car sales are plummeting in Europe. Ward’s reports they’ve now dropped for five straight months, and with every month the downturn is getting worse. Even in Germany, which has pretty much weathered the storm, sales are starting to soften. I keep saying that the European industry is going to have to go through a restructuring to bring capacity in line with demand. That’s going to be very painful to do, but until it’s done, the mass-market brands in Europe are going to lose a lot of money for a long time to come.
LAND ROVER BOOSTS PRODUCTION
But some European brands are doing just fine. The Range Rover Evoque is such a hit the company is hiring 1,000 new employees and moving to three shifts at its Halewood plant in England to keep up with demand. The Evoque was named North American Truck of the Year which helped increase awareness. But the Land Rover brand is doing well because production of the Freelander 2 will be increased as well.
PORSCHE SHIFTS PRODUCTION
Porsche is also going to get some major cost savings. In a move that may sound sacrilegious, Vee Dub will build Porsches at its plant in Osnabrück, Germany. According to WardsAuto, the facility will handle overflow production from Porsche’s main factory in Zuffenhausen. Finnish company Valmet Automotive used to build Boxsters, but Porsche phased that out last year.
BRAZIL, MEXICO REACH TRADE AGREEMENT
Now to Brazil, where the car market has been running strong for a number of years. Even though Brazil has a strong auto industry, imports are soaring. The country recently imposed import tariffs to slow down Chinese imports, but the problem isn’t just with China. Now Mexico has agreed to put a three-year cap on vehicle exports to Brazil. Last year Mexico exported 147,000 vehicles to Brazil which was double the year before. Brazil now has a $1.5 billion trade deficit with Mexico in the automotive sector.
BRIDGESTONE AIRLESS TIRE
A few days ago we showed you an airless tire from Goodyear that’s made up of hundreds of load-bearing springs and is intended for space exploration. But it’s not the only company working on a tire that doesn’t use air. Bridgestone recently introduced this airless concept. The spokes within the tire are made from reusable thermoplastic resin which, along with the rubber in the tread, is 100 percent recyclable. This concept offers a lot of possibilities. You would never need a spare and could incorporate some of the suspension into the tire itself.
NEXT-GEN JEEP LIBERTY ENGINE DETAILS
The Jeep Liberty is a total boat anchor. Sergio Marchionne even admitted it himself during a press conference at the Detroit Auto Show in January. At that same event he also commented on the next-generation version of the SUV. He said the new Liberty will REDEFINE its segment. Strong words, but, not surprisingly, he stopped short of giving away any meaningful details about it. Fast-forward a couple months and a new report hints at what may be going under the truck’s hood. It’s expected to be powered by Chrysler’s award-winning Pentastar V-6 engine and a ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic transmission. No real surprises here, except for the powerplant. The current Pentastar weighs-in at 3.6-liters, but the one going in the Liberty is rumored to displace just 3.2. This would be the first real variation of the engine. Smaller or not, the Pentastar will absolutely blow the Liberty’s existing 3.7-liter V-6 out of the water. It churns out a measly 210 horsepower, just as it has for more than a decade.
Coming up next, a look at a motorcycle that supplier Visteon developed for growing markets.
VISTEON GROWTH MARKET BIKE
Automakers are pouring money into emerging markets in order to boost profits. But a lot of people in those areas still rely on motorcycles to get around. That’s why Visteon and 3M developed what they call a Growth Market Bike to offer technology to customers at a low cost. We recently got a chance to look at the bike and find out what it’s all about.
Visteon says it has already showed the Growth Market Bike to motorcycle builders in India and the company says that all the technologies that were just highlighted are ready to use.
And that wraps up this week’s reports on the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, have a great weekend and we’ll be back right here on Monday.