Episode 253 – Auto Industry Looking Up?, Fit Moving To U.S.?, Toyota Grows In Korea

October 20th, 2009 at 12:11pm

Runtime 6:12

Fiat, Daimler and Ford may announce third-quarter profits. Honda may start building its subcompact Fit in the U.S. Toyota announced it will expand its operations in South Korea. All that and more plus, a look at a fight brewing between Fiat and Chinese automaker, Great Wall Motor.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Things in the auto industry could be looking up. Honda may be moving production. And Toyota expands in South Korea.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, October 20, 2009. I’m Christie Schweinsberg from Ward’s Auto playing John McElroy today, who’s still out of town. Here’s the news.

Topping the news…from the “Light at the end of the Tunnel” department there’s this…

Fiat, Daimler and — brace yourself — Ford Motor Company may soon be blessing us with good news. We’ll start with Fiat’s holding company, where the Detroit Free Press reports that strong sales by Fiat’s three core car brands will propel the company to a third-quarter profit. While European car sales dropped more than 6.5 percent in the first nine months of the year, Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo increased Fiat’s overall market share in Europe by almost a full percentage point, leading to the potential profit posting.

Meanwhile, Fiat’s northern neighbor, Daimler AG, is reporting better than expected earnings. Bloomberg News tells us that, thanks to demand for Mercedes’ new E- Class, the company ended three consecutive quarters of losses. We’ll get confirmation of that next week when the company officially releases its third-quarter report.

And finally this surprising tidbit, sneaking out of Dearborn via New York. The Free Press again tells us that two JP Morgan auto analysts told investors yesterday that Ford could report a third-quarter profit next week. That analysis is based on a number of factors, including the fact that Ford gained at least one full point of American market share, even as it cut incentives on its products. So we’ll have to wait another week to see how accurate JP Morgan is, but if anyone sees the Glass House lobby filling up with blue and white balloons later this week, that may be an indication they’re on track.

No shock here, automakers are against California’s proposed “cool cars” legislation. According to the Detroit News, the Association of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade organization including many foreign carmakers, released a letter asking CARB to reconsider its plans. The proposed legislation would kick-in in 2014 and require vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less to block 45 percent of the sun’s energy from entering the interior. The number increases to 60 percent by 2016. Automakers are worried they’ll have to build cars specifically for the California market, which would raise costs.

Making money on small cars is not easy, especially now that the Yen has gone UP in value compared to the Dollar. It’s risen about 8 percent since August, which is cutting into Japanese automakers’ profitability. To fight back, Autoblog reports that Honda is almost certain to start building its subcompact Fit in the U.S. Currently about 80 percent of Hondas sold here are built here. So far this year the company’s sales are down 25 percent, but the Fit is only off by 12 percent, making this an important move.

Earlier this year, OnStar began offering a feature that will shut off a vehicle if it’s stolen. Over the weekend it nabbed its first suspect in California. According to the AP, after the victim’s Chevy Tahoe was carjacked, he called the police, who then got in contact with OnStar to locate the vehicle. And when police officers spotted the truck and went after the thief, he took off, but OnStar disabled the Tahoe a few blocks down the road and the police were able to make the arrest.

Coming up next, more news! We’ll take a look at a fight brewing between Fiat and Great Wall Motor, plus we’ll find out who’s adopting the Mitsubishi i-MiEV for police duty. All that and a lot more. We’ll be back right after this.

Toyota announced it will expand its operations in South Korea. According to the AP, the company will sell the Camry and Camry hybrid, the Prius, and RAV4 in the country. Toyota has been in South Korea since 2000 selling Lexus vehicles. It’s aiming for sales of 700 units a month.

Ward’s reports that Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV electric car is about to join police forces in the United Kingdom (subscription required). So far the vehicle has been on trial for almost a year. It has a 100-mile range and a top speed of 81 miles an hour. The car’s compact size and quiet operation make it ideal for urban policing. Production versions of this special “law enforcement” model are set to arrive in the UK next month and will be on roads in December. The West Midlands department is the first to receive the new electric vehicle.

Chinese automaker Great Wall Motor is accusing Fiat of plagiarism. According to Gasgoo.com, Great Wall has filed a complaint in a Chinese court and supposedly provided evidence that Fiat illegally visited its research center and took pictures of its Peri model. Fiat denies the allegations. The funny thing is, back in 2007 Fiat sued Great Wall over the Peri saying it was a copy of its Panda model and an Italian court ruled in Fiat’s favor. Could this be payback?

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry, but before we go, here’s an important announcement about a special upcoming webcast.

Again, that’s Autoline After Hours on AutolineDetroit.tv or at my website WardsAuto.com where you can watch and chat along with the After Hours gang every week.

I’m Christie Schweinsberg from Ward’s Auto, thanks for watching. We’ll see you tomorrow!

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog, The Auto Channel, vLane, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950

21 Comments to “Episode 253 – Auto Industry Looking Up?, Fit Moving To U.S.?, Toyota Grows In Korea”

  1. Tony Gray Says:

    Man I really hope Dearborn posts the profit they are mentioning. That would once again prove that hard work, good product, sound management, fiscal responsibility and yes, a bit of luck, can result in success.

  2. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Nice job, Chrissie, you looked like you’ve done this before. If Fiat has to copy the Chinese, then they’re in trouble. Some of those Chinese cars look like they’re from the 70′s. I find it ironic that while foreign brands want to increase production here, some domestics want to move production away from here, hmm.

  3. paulstewart Says:

    So what was the final outcome in 2007 when the Italian Court ruled in Fiat’s favor ??? a financial fine $$$ or something else… What ?

  4. dcars Says:

    Great point, Pedro. We close plants and VW decides to open a plant, to sell cars in the US! Their cars are not reliable and don’t offer anything better than any body else.

  5. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Paul, I believe the courts ruled in Fiat’s favor and the Chinese responded by sending every Italian that owns a Fiat a fortune cookie that read: “Solly, but you’le shit out of ruck”

  6. G.A.Branigan Says:

    The chinese will continue to make CHEAP knockoff’s of everything they can make money on.They not only affect our market,but also infect the rest of the world with their mass produced junk.I for one go out of my way to NOT buy any of their products.If they want to compete,they must improve their quality,and learn how to design their own stuff.Damn rip-offs.

  7. Nick Says:

    Is anyone else a little freaked out by Peter in the daily segments ? I’m still not convinced thats not a robot.

  8. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    GA good to hear from you again!!!

  9. paulstewart Says:

    You so runny !!! Pedro.

  10. motorman Says:

    who needs ON STAR to stop the stolen car, a couple of .357 magnum shots thru the drivers window will do the same thing. i am tired of these car jackers being treated with kid gloves. i have a permit to carry and the first car jacker that tries me will never do it again. i believe in the saying, i would rather be tried by 12 than carried by 6

  11. pedro Fernandez Says:

    The Chinese are the outlaws of international business laws and regulations, they’ve violated copyright laws of every kind, so even if courts rule against them, they just snub their noses and threaten to boycott a particular country. Since we have come to rely on their products, they have us by the gonads

  12. Merv Peters Says:

    Great job Christie,come back and hang out anytime.

  13. Kit Gerhart Says:

    dcars Says:
    October 20th, 2009 at 1:31 pm
    “We close plants and VW decides to open a plant, to sell cars in the US! Their cars are not reliable and don’t offer anything better than any body else.”

    VW has a major offering that no one else has in the US, a clean diesel that competes well with similar size hybrids in fuel economy. Also, they have wagons and hatchbacks that are CARS, not trucks. As the market exists now, if I were replacing my Malibu Maxx today, it would probably be with a VW.

  14. Salvador G. Says:

    Thanks for the show Christie, please continue doing it.

    Now, OnStart (or something like it) should be really standard among all automakers in this country, it really works like 9-1-1 for cars and it would be better than each car maker having to constantly invent a new system or improve its current againts the competition.

    China, China, China… I would say something bad about them, but they pretty much own this country so… Great Job boss.

  15. Jim Sachetti Says:

    The Chinese are stuck with two trillion WORTHLESS US dollars, that they get in exchange of the obviously underpriced goods they sell to the sofar VERY LUCKY US consumer.

    Every time the dollar falls even one lousy cent vs the Euro, you can calculate how much they lose. And it is WE that got them by the gonads, not they! See what happens if they try to spend even a fraction of these two trillion (less than $2,000 for every chinese citizen) to develop their infrastructure etc! The world marklets will FLOOD with $ and their $ savings will plummet even more!

    The US dollar in 2009 can buy THREE CENTS worth of stuff back less than 100 years ago, in 1915, according to official govt stats.

    every time the US Administrations say they are suppoorting a “strong dollar” policy and it turns out they keep LYING LIKE DOGS.

  16. Jim Sachetti Says:

    The young woman was a serious improvement over the WSJ chick as far as her looks. I can’t believe I am saying this, but it matters a lot, and that is why female (and even male) news anchors have to really look good.

    However, it sounded like her heart was not in it, she would read the news with a rather low level of energy, a bit matter-of-factly. Not that there is anything wrong with that. And maybe it was a slow news day.

    BTW, how many more GM types are we going to have in AAH? It seems we never get anybody from their competitors.

  17. Jim Sachetti Says:

    Nobody noticed how much this Mitsu Cop car looks like the “Smart”? (aka “The Dumb”?) It does, because it is almost identical to the “Smart for four”, a 4 door 4 seater developed by Smart and Mitsu, which bombed really bad in Europe. Now they are converting the leftovers into police cars. pathetic.

    ANd at first sight I thought it was a Prius, the no-brainer choice for city fleets and esp. for Police cars idling all day long, meter maid cars etc.

  18. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Attn. all AAH watchers, better get your shovel ready tomorrow, a roll of Bounty extra strenght towels just won’t work with these GM execs spewing the same manure every time they appear there.

  19. dcars Says:

    Hi Kit,
    My fist VW was a Scricco and I loved it. I also owned a Passat and it had an expensive engine failure. The brakes were also very expensive to replace. My brother in law had a similar experience with a Passat. If you do buy VW in the future, I hope you have better luck than I did.

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    VW’s quality seems to be improving, but it has a long way to go to catch up with Toyota or Honda. I had a Jetta TDI wagon which I liked, and which was reliable while I had it. The reason I sold it is that I had to take it to a dealer, even for routine maintenance like oil changes. If they sell enough of the new, 2 liter TDI’s, maybe that will change, and you’ll be able buy oil and filters for them at K-Mart, or get the oil changed at all the usual places.

  21. Nick Stevens Says:

    I was on travel the last day and a half, I had to fly to Wash DC (I usually prefer to drive, but no time) on business. At the Airport, there was a “GM Store” that had a silver Buick Lacrosse (I believe).

    It looked spectacular, out of this world, and still had the buick traits and characteristics on the outside. I looked inside, it looked very good, but I could not make out if the dash was in stitched leather like in top luxury cars and in some Lacross ads in mags.

    I hope, for Buiuck’s sake, the driving excperience is vastly different from old Buick land barges. because even aging baby boomers have moved away from domestic luxury and near-luxury cars in droves. And for younger buyers, forget it!

    I don’t know how much they ask for the lacrosse they had on display, it obviously was a high-end model, and it did not look as spectacular from every angle, when I returned from the trip and saw it again, it did not knock me out as much as when I saw it first.

    In DC I had to take three cabs, the one from the airport to the hotel was an aging police Ford v8, the back seat had very little leg room for my 6 1″ frame (and legs longer than the height proportionate length). And it squeaked and rattled, pitiful ride and handling.

    Tue morning I took a taxi to the meeting from the hotel, it was a brand new Prius but first I mistakenly thought it was a 2nd gen and sat in front, because the back had very little head room. But the new one has raised the roof and can sit tall grown ups in the back.

    The last cab back to the airport was a camry with leather (I believe), the 1997-? model. FOr such an old car, it was quite good. The leg room in back was almost the same as in the big ford. But the speedo and the gauges were lexus-quality, clear and big and handsome, and so was the leather everywhere (or was it a high-grade plastic?)