August 28th, 2012 at 11:39am
Ford is taking its troubled luxury brand to China. Lincoln vehicles will be sold in this red-hot market starting in the second-half of 2014. Vehicle manufacturing in Mexico is expected to grow by 1 million units over the next three years. The Canadian Auto Workers Union and the Detroit Three are facing off in their latest round of contract negotiations. All that and more, plus a look at a new electric-motor technology.
Here we go again! Welcome to another episode of Autoline Daily. It’s Tuesday, August 28, 2012. I’m Craig Cole, thank you for joining us.
HONEST ABE HEADS EAST
HUGE news for Lincoln today. Ford is taking the troubled luxury brand to China. Initially they were going to wait until they properly resurrected it in the U.S. before going global, but the top brass must be really confident it how quickly the product lineup has progressed. As McElroy puts it “they lose by waiting, why not get in now?” The Chinese market is hotter than a blast furnace and the luxury-car market is projected to overtake that segment in the United States by 2020. Additional sales and global exposure for Lincoln CANNOT be a bad thing. Don’t look for any immediate changes, though. Lincolns will not go on sale in China until the second-half of 2014.
VOLT PRODUCTION OUT OF JUICE
Unofficially GM is halting production of the Chevy Volt . . . again! Bloomberg reports the company’s plant in Hamtramck, Michigan will close down for about four weeks in late September and early October. Sales of the extended-range electric vehicle have not met expectations. According to Ward’s the company has sold fewer than 11,000 of them through the end of July. It had targeted U.S. sales of 45,000 units annually. It’s likely production was halted in an attempt to match supply with demand but GM is also retooling the factory to build the brand-new Chevy Impala, which should arrive at dealers in the first half of 2013. That could be part of the reason for the stoppage.
MEXICAN MANUFACTURING BOOM
In related production news there’s a completely different story to tell in Mexico. According to Bloomberg output in the country is expected to increase by 1 million units over the next three years. That’s nearly a 40 percent jump! Foreign automakers are investing heavily in Mexico with plans to use it as an export base. Audi, Mazda and Nissan are all building new plants in the country.
CAW AND BIG THREE FACE OFF
Contract negotiations between the Canadian Auto Workers and Ford, GM, and Chrysler are starting to heat up. The union just voted to authorize strikes against the automakers if necessary during talks. The CAW says it should have a fairer share of profits. But the automakers say Canada has the highest labor costs in the world and is looking for further concessions. The last CAW strike was in 1996 against General Motors.
SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED
Mercedes-Benz announced it will start building SKD, or semi-knocked-down kits of its SUVs in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for final assembly in emerging markets. Later this year, SKD kits of the M-Class will be shipped to India, Thailand and Indonesia for final assembly and next year GL kits will be shipped to India and Indonesia. Mercedes says it expects SUVs will become more popular in these markets.
POLITICAL HOT POTATO
Yesterday we reported that GM and Chrysler won’t allow candidates to tour their assembly plants because they don’t want to be part of the political debate. And now the Detroit News reports GM will not provide cars for the Democratic and Republican conventions. The company has supplied vehicles to each party for the last 30 years and in 2008 it made 400 cars available to each convention. A spokeswoman says the company made the decision because GM is a “new company focused on designing and selling the world’s best cars.”
After the break an interesting type of electric motor could offer automakers all kinds of benefits. What am I talking about? Stick around for all the details . . .
A company called DTI, or Discovery Technology International has come up with a new kind of motor using piezo-electric technology. These motors don’t need copper coils or magnets so they’re much smaller than conventional electric motors. They’re also half the weight and use one-tenth the current. This means automakers could also use much lighter-gauge wiring with them for additional weight savings. They are also much quieter and don’t emit any EMI, electromagnetic interference.
These motors range in size anywhere from 10 millimeters to four inches in diameter, so they’re good for all kinds of vehicular applications, but not for propulsion, so they can’t be used to power a hybrid or EV. DTI makes these piezo-electric motors for the medical industry and so far have shown them to Ford and Chrysler, which have indicated an interest in them. And as you heard Mark Broderick say, they don’t use any rare earth metals because they’re made out of ceramics.
And with that we’re done with today’s show! Please join us again tomorrow, same time, same place. We’ll see you then!