August 25th, 2009 at 12:00pm
General Motors’ board shoots down management’s recommendation on Opel. Recyclers don’t want GM withdrawing from a program to recycle switches with mercury in them. Samoa is going to switch the side of the road it drives on. All that and more, plus we try to settle last week’s trivia question for once and for all. Which nameplate is older, the Corvette or Suburban?
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Here are today’s top headlines. GM’s board shoots down management’s recommendation on Opel. Recyclers don’t want GM dropping out of a program to recycle mercury switches. And Samoa debates which side of the road to drive on.
Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.
This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, August 25, 2009. And now, the latest in the auto industry.
This soap opera over what’s going on at Opel keeps getting more and more interesting. Now, General Motors says it may not sell Opel, and will try to raise $4 billion on its own to keep it (subscription required), by mortgaging its assets in China. This, of course, is going to further anger the German government and labor leaders, who, as we reported yesterday, are already angry over the delay. Even more interesting, the Wall Street Journal reports that GM’s CEO Fritz Henderson had recommended to the board that it take Magna’s offer to buy part of Opel, but the board, led by Texan Ed Whitacre, rejected its own CEO’s recommendation. To me, that, more than anything else, shows how much GM is changing. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the GM board reject a recommendation from management. And it sends a signal that this board is going to be far more active than past ones.
And speaking of GM, The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries sent a letter to President Obama asking him to stop GM from withdrawing from the program to recycle switches with mercury in them. Recyclers are paid $4 a switch to remove it from a car to have it properly processed. Automakers kick into a fund to pay that money. GM spends about $1 million a year on the program, but believes cars in junk yards are a problem for the old GM, what is now called Motors Liquidation.
Earlier this summer, Toyota announced it will not host next year’s Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix at its Fuji Speedway track. But now, according to Autoblog, Honda will host the race for the next three years at its Suzuka course. The ironic thing is, even though Honda will host the race, they pulled out of F1 earlier in the year.
Samoa, a small island in the Pacific Ocean, is going to switch to driving on the left side of the road. According to the Wall Street Journal, beginning in September, drivers in the country will be forced to switch from driving on the right side of the road to the left. Samoa’s Prime Minister argues that Samoans will have access to cheaper used cars from its neighbors in Australia and New Zealand who drive on the left side. There is opposition to the change from a newly created group called People Against Switching Sides, or PASS, which argues that it will just cause confusion and make driving more dangerous. The last time I remember a country switching was Sweden, which changed from driving on the left, to driving on the right, in 1967.
GM and Chrysler car dealers who lost their franchise have been jumping into the used-car market. But Autoblog reports that one store near St. Louis is trying something really different. Lynch Hummer of Chesterfield, Missouri, is “diversifying” its business by selling guns and ammunition! The owner says it’s a natural fit since the typical Hummer driver enjoys outdoor sports. Only in America could you buy an H3 and a Glock in the same store.
According to the website WorldCarFans.com, Audi is set to reveal a performance version of the A3 at next month’s Frankfurt Motor Show. Nothing is official yet, but rumors of an RS3 have been swirling. It seems likely that the high-power hatchback would use the same turbocharged inline-five as the TT RS. The 2.5-liter engine should produce around 340 horsepower, but 400 ponies certainly aren’t out of the question. You know, small cars are only going to get more popular, especially in the U.S., as gas prices start climbing. And high-performance pocket-rockets offer a ton of driving fun without sucking you dry at the gas pump.
Coming up next, we try to settle last week’s trivia question for once and for all. Which nameplate is older, the Corvette or Suburban? We’ll be back right after this.
Last week’s trivia quiz has generated a bit of controversy in our comment section. We asked Jim Hall from 2953 Analytics to come up with a good trivia question, and boy did he ever. His question is, “What is the longest running nameplate in the American auto industry?” And the answer is, the Chevrolet Corvette. But a number of viewers protested, saying the Chevrolet Suburban has been around a lot longer. It started in 1936 and has been in continuous production since then, making it 17 years older than the Corvette. So I called Jim Hall and asked for a clarification. His response: back in 1936 GM offered a body style on a truck that was called the Carryall Suburban. But it was a body style, not a nameplate. In fact, it was not until 1967 model year that the Suburban had a badge on it that said Suburban. So, the longest-running nameplate is the Corvette, and that’s the story we’re telling, until somebody can prove us wrong.
Across town and around the world, that’ll do it for today’s top auto news. As always, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.