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Episode 98 – GM, Chrysler Get New Contract, Honda Insight Pricing, Chinese Automakers Go Up-Scale

March 11th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 6:58

GM and Chrysler get new UAW contracts – but with major differences.  Honda announces pricing on the new Insight and gives Prius and Fusion a run for their money.  Chinese automaker announces that it’s forming a luxury marked by all-too-familiar copycat tactics. All that and more, plus we answer some of your voicemails in “You Said It!”

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. GM and Chrysler get new UAW contracts. Honda announces pricing of the Insight. And Chinese automaker Chery announces its forming a luxury brand.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, March 11, 2009. And now, the news.

Yesterday we reported that Ford got a new labor contract with the UAW. Now, GM and Chrysler have one too. But the Detroit Free Press reports that GM’s contract has major differences, notably no mandatory requirement for physical examinations of workers for job placements, and other changes that quote, “better fit the GM/UAW culture.” Ford’s contract was ratified by a nearly 60 percent majority. The GM and Chrysler contracts are expected to be ratified, too.

Yesterday we also reported that Visteon was rumored to be ready to file for Chapter 11. Thankfully, it didn’t happen. Instead, the company paid $16 million in interest on bonds and said it was going to continue to try and manage its way through the current crisis. Maybe they can hold on long enough to get some of that government money suppliers are asking for.

Honda announced the price of its new Insight hybrid in the American market, and just as everyone was expecting, it came in at just under twenty grand. $19,800 to be exact. That’s an amazing price, well under the Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion hybrids. But all the more amazing, because, being built in Japan, the yen is about 18 percent stronger against the dollar than it was a year ago, meaning Honda is probably pricing this hybrid at a loss. Of course that’s the base LX. But even the next model up, the EX, starts at $21,300, which is still the least expensive of any hybrid.

In China news, Geely is climbing out of the bargain-basement. Gasgoo.com reports that the company is pulling out of the sub-$6,000 segment and focusing on building the safest, most efficient and environmentally-friendly car that it can. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Gasgoo reports that Chery is launching a luxury division. The Riich brand will offer different six models and is set to hit the market on March 18th. That’s one week from today! Supposedly the cars will feature “high-end” designs with styling borrowed from Chryslers and Aston Martins. But that plagiarism isn’t the worst of it. The logo will closely resemble Bentley’s winged “B” except with an “R” instead.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Ford will receive financial aid from Romania. In total, the Eastern-European country is handing out $182 million through 2012 to help support the company’s plant that makes engines and the Transit Connect. I thought the Eastern European country was broke, but obviously it wants to save jobs.

Folks have been wishing for flying cars for the past hundred years. And even though today we’re no closer to realizing this fantasy, a Turkish designer has created a stunning vision of the future for Audi. Autoblog reports that design protégé Kazim Doku has created this, a wheel-less hover car. With its front-hinged canopy and LED lighting it looks like something right out of a sci-fi movie. Called the Shark, it recently won Audi’s most recent design contest. For taking top honors, Kazim got a 70 percent scholarship to the prestigious Domus Academy, but unfortunately he had to turn it down. He can’t afford the remaining 30 percent. If you’d like to help him, follow the link in today’s transcript for more information.

Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!

And now it’s time for some of your feedback.  This is “You Said It!” Every day we get dozens of comments and questions from you, our viewers. “You Said It!” gives me a chance to respond.

We have a couple of audio emails that came in, starting with Nathan Keely from Columbus, Ohio.
Nathan, no. Even if GM goes into Chapter 11 it will still stay in business. Chapter 11 is set up to try and save companies that have a strong foundation. Now, there still is a question as to whether people will buy cars from a company that is in Chapter 11 but my guess is that enough of them will.

This next audio email, which is something of an embarrassment to me, regarding one of our trivia questions, comes from John Berg in Oakland, California.
He’s right, people. GM did acquire Saab in 1989. John, thank you for the correction.

And speaking of our trivia contest. Don’t forget that all this week you can enter for your chance to win a DVD copy of our documentary, “A Car Is Born” which is all about the product development process. All you have to do is correctly answer the trivia question in this week’s newsletter.  I’ll be picking the winner Friday and I promise you I’ll be double-checking the answer!

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry.  Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

7 Comments to “Episode 98 – GM, Chrysler Get New Contract, Honda Insight Pricing, Chinese Automakers Go Up-Scale”

  1. Dan Clemons Says:

    Hi John:

    Do you know when the Honda Insight goes on sale? I read yesterday that it will go on sale March 24th. Also, do you know when the 2010 Toyota Prius will be in showrooms?

    I can’t wait to test drive both cars.

  2. Tony Gray Says:

    Good for that audio question…now I know I wasn’t crazy for saying 1989!

  3. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Chinese luxury cars? Tell me do they come with a mechanic in the trunk? That’s crazy, they haven’t proved their products are good enough to compete in the world market!

  4. Dan D Says:

    John,
    As I said in my original answer to the trivia question, GM announced it had a deal to buy 50% of Saab at the end of 1989, but the deal was not legally concluded until late winter/early spring in 1990. So take your pick on the date.

    Dan David
    (retired Saab executive)

  5. Larry Skellion Says:

    Hey John, Wow the way it’s looing you may have to pick up stakes and move to China or India to keep up with the “Major” automakers! Wouldn’t that be a sad day for America!

    Larry Skellion

  6. Manu B Says:

    I am wondering, isn’t the copyright infringement law supposed to prevent logos copycats and aren’t there any means for manufacturers to protect specific their design elements that give such a particular identity to their models?

  7. Julius Lambert Says:

    Next the Chinese will take a SLANT on the Chevy BOW TIE.You know it LEANS to start with.They will just LEAN it the opposite direction,and CLAIM it as their own.