August 10th, 2012 at 12:03pm
GM CEO Dan Akerson is taking GM employees down a peg. The former naval officer criticized employees for leaks to the media, and the company’s products for not being competitive. Auto workers in South Korea are striking for higher pay and an end to night shifts which the workers say are dangerous. Frito-Lay, the snack foods division of PepsiCo, is increasing it’s fleet of EV delivery trucks. The fleet is now the nation’s largest. All that and more, plus we pump up some tires.
Welcome to Autoline Daily for Friday, the 10th of August. I’m John McElroy and here are some of the latest developments just coming in.
DAN AKERSON AND GM CULTURE
More trouble at General Motors as the CEO, Dan Akerson, castigates company employees at a meeting and conference call. He especially decried leaks to the media, which he called treason, criticized GM’s products as not being competitive, and called for changes in the company culture. He will now force employees to sign a document that addresses those leaks, though GM points out it has always had an ethics policy that employees must sign. Here’s my Autoline Insight. Corporate culture is almost always a reflection of top management’s leadership. And only top management can change that. Ford used to complain about the exact same issues, but under Alan Mulally’s leadership the corporate culture change at Ford is remarkable to behold. The same goes for the changes at Chrysler under Sergio Marchionne. Mr. Akerson’s complaints to his employees reminds me of President Jimmy Carter telling the country that it was suffering from a malaise. That is not the kind of leadership that is going to get GM employees to rally to the cause.
KOREAN AUTO WORKERS STRIKE
Hyundai workers in South Korea are on strike again. According to the AP, 45,000 workers went on a two-hour strike Wednesday because they want better wages and the end of night shifts, which they say are a health hazard. Workers will also stop building cars for several hours a day between now and August 17th and also refuse to work overtime. Kia workers also plan to join the strike to seek better wages. And GM workers in South Korea went on strike earlier in the week for exactly the same reasons.
FRITO-LAY’S EV FLEET
Snack-food company Frito-Lay is increasing its fleet of electric trucks in California. By the end of the year, the company says it will have 105 all-electric delivery vehicles in the Golden State and overall it will have 275 EV trucks across the U.S., the largest commercial fleet of EV delivery trucks in the country. Frito-Lay says its fleet will cuts its fuel consumption by 500,000 gallons annually. And overall the company is looking to cut its fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions 50% by the end of the decade. Frito-Lay is owned by PepsiCo.
TOYOTA BEARISH ON EV SALES
But in the retail passenger car market, sales of electrics are coming no where near what was expected of them. At the Management Briefing Seminars, the conference that I was reporting from this week, Jim Lentz, the CEO of Toyota in the US, said he’s worried that Toyota will not be able to meet California’s zero emission vehicle mandate. Toyota is just coming out with an electric version of the RAV-4 crossover. But it costs $50,000. Toyota believes it can only sell about 800 of them a year in California, and that’s not enough. It’s a chicken and the egg situation. They can’t sell enough because it costs too much, and it costs too much because they can’t sell enough. And if Toyota can’t sell enough EV’s in California, who can?
BEGINNING OF END FOR MIRRORS?
It may seem like Audi is trying to reinvent the wheel by replacing the rear view mirror in the R8 e-Tron with a video screen, but there is a reason behind it. The R8 e-Tron has no room for a back window! Instead, a small camera is mounted in a housing on the back of the car where. While the simulated rear view screen provides a view where one was not possible before, Audi says it also does a better job than a standard mirror ever could. The company says this system provides a larger field of vision and is more effective at reducing headlight glare than a standard mirror. Automotive designers would love to get rid of rear view mirrors because they clutter up designs. Aerodynamicists would love to get rid of them because they add drag. And engineers would love to get rid of them to eliminate the wind noise they create.
HONK FOR TIRE PRESSURES
Speaking of new electronic technology improving cars, we’ll show you how that system on the new Nissan Altima works that makes it a breeze to check the air in your tires.
One of the fastest ways to boost the fuel economy in a car is to make sure the tires are at the proper pressure, and now Nissan has come up with a super clever way to make that about as easy as it gets.
We actually saw this technology a couple of years ago at a demonstration from the supplier company Continental. The Nissans system uses Conti’s sensors, but Nissan says it developed the software that controls it itself.
And that wraps up today’s show, have a great weekend, and please join us again on Monday to keep track of the latest developments in the global automotive industry.