August 26th, 2009 at 12:18pm
Chrysler is suing Daimler for refusing to supply certain parts. Two energy companies are interested in buying Ford’s Wixom plant to convert it to make energy storage systems. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety wants stricter crash standards. All that and more, plus John answers viewer questions in the “You Said It!” segment.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Here are today’s top headlines. Chrysler sues Daimler to make sure it gets components for cars. Ford’s empty Wixom plant may build windmills. The Insurance Institute continues its little safety charade.
Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.
This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, August 26, 2009. And now, the latest in the auto industry.
I am so jealous of my German colleagues, because the German auto industry definitely has the most drama and unexpected developments. More details on the saga surrounding Opel, and this story is changing by the hour. The Wall Street Journal carried a story this morning about how German politicians and labor leaders are demanding that GM make a decision to do a deal with Magna (subscription required). But only hours after that the AFP reported that, the German government will consider providing financial aid if GM sells Opel to investment firm RHJ. And a few hours after that, Fiat announced it might make another run at buying Opel. And of course yesterday we reported that GM is trying to figure out if it can avoid selling Opel altogether.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking at coming out with stricter crash standards. So is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Turns out too many cars are getting good ratings, so they want to raise the bar. But I’d point out that making standards tougher is just a charade that doesn’t address the root cause of most traffic fatalities. Take the Insurance Institute’s push for tougher roof crush standards. Every year about 10,000 people are killed in the United States in roll-over accidents where the roof crushes. But the vast majority of those people are killed when they are ejected from the vehicle because they are not wearing a seat belt. Making roofs stronger is projected to save about 70 lives a year. Getting them to wear seat belts would save most of them.
Toyota announced it will cut production in Japan in order to cut excess capacity. According to Reuters, the company could cut capacity this year by 700,000 units and that number may rise to 1 million by next year. The company is also considering halting production in Britain, and as we reported earlier, Toyota will pull out of its NUMMI joint venture with GM. Even so, Toyota still has excess capacity of 3 million vehicles, which is bigger than all of Chrysler’s production.
Two energy companies are interested in buying Ford’s Wixom, Michigan assembly plant which closed back in 2007. According to the AP, Xtreme Power and Clairvoyant Energy want to convert half of the plant to make energy storage systems for utilities, wind farms and rooftop solar-power stations. The other half would be leased to suppliers and other energy companies. The $725 million project could create up to 2,800 jobs within the next five years and potentially create 10,000 supplier-related jobs.
More drama between Daimler and Chrysler. The Detroit News reports that Chrysler is suing its former partner of equals for refusing to supply certain parts. Some of the critical components include steering columns, diesel engines and torque converters that go in the Dodge Challenger and Charger, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chrysler 300.
Tally-ho! MINI is celebrating its golden jubilee today. Exactly 50 years ago the original version of the car was publicly revealed. To celebrate the occasion, the company, or more accurately, BMW, released photos and video of a new concept, the MINI Coupe. Differentiating it from regular versions, it has only two seats and features what is described as “extreme lightweight technology.” The rear hatch also slopes down dramatically. You can see the MINI Coupe Concept in the flesh at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger has come up with a new way to help alleviate the state’s budget crisis – have a garage sale! Among other things, he’s selling-off old, state-owned vehicles on eBay and Craigslist to generate revenue, but with a twist – he’s autographing them. So far, one lucky person scored a 2001 Ford Focus wagon with Arnold’s John Hancock on the sun visor for just 16-hundred bucks. Arnold says he got the idea from Twitter. Don’t look for this stunt to save California, which is billions in debt, but it is a nice gesture.
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!” Everyday you guys send in all kinds of questions and comments, “You Said It!” gives me a chance to respond.
Jim Sachetti wrote in about yesterday’s news cast: “I was surprised John left out, in this very slow news day, a major piece of news about GM. It has decided to remove the “GM” logo from all its vehicles!”
Jim, the reason we did not cover that story in yesterday’s show is that we broke that story two weeks ago. In fact, we carried several lengthy sound bites from GM’s Bob Lutz explaining when and how they were going to drop the logos. In fact, there’s still more information in that show that we ran back on August 12 than was reported by the mainstream media yesterday. You can see the full interview at show number 205 on our website at AutolineDaily.com
Speaking of yesterday’s show, I had to explain how Jim Hall from 2953 Analytics came up with the answer for our trivia quiz about which was the longest running nameplate in the American market, the Corvette or the Suburban. Hermann the German wrote in to say, “This Jim Hall sounds like he knows just about everything. But if he really wants to impress, he will explain what the significance of the number 2953 is. OK, big boy, take your best shot!”
Well, Hermann, Jim Hall will not say what it stands for, he dodges the question completely and won’t even explain why. Others have pointed out that 2953 is the birthday of former GM CEO Rick Wagoner, February 9, 1953. Jim Hall says that’s merely a coincidence. But I say, what a coincidence!
And finally John posed this question for us: “Do you think the concept of GM competing against GM/Opel’s own technology and patents sold in the market from a cut throat manufacturer have finally sunk in?”
Oh yes, you bet it has. Look, GM doesn’t want to sell Opel. But it’s in desperate financial condition and doesn’t have the money to help Opel. However, the new GM board of directors are looking way down the road and don’t like what they see if Magna and Russian automaker GAZ get their hands on Opel’s technology. I believe they want a deal to be able to buy Opel back in the future, even though they deny that’s what they want.
Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours, live tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Eastern. We’ll be talking about the cash-for-clunkers program and how the government reports that Toyota was the big winner, selling more new cars than anyone else. But over at Edmunds.com they say that’s a bunch of BS, the government is counting it all wrong and Ford was the big winner. Tune in tomorrow night to get the full details and the inside info of how the government got it all 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.