Episode 314 – GM To Make Electric Motors, Ford Adds Shift, Mitsubishi To Double U.S. Sales

January 26th, 2010 at 11:15am

Runtime 6:27

General Motors will become the first automaker to design and manufacture electric motors. Ford announced it will add a shift at its plant in Chicago to build the new Explorer. Mitsubishi says it plans to double sales in the U.S. within the next three years. All that and more, plus John sits down with internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis to talk about the future of green energy in the United States.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. GM is really putting the “motor” in General Motors. Ford announces job openings in Chicago. And Mitsubishi plans to double its sales.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, January 26, 2010. I’m Murray Feldman from Fox 2 News here in Detroit, taking another turn in the anchor chair for John McElroy. Right now he’s covering the auto show in Washington DC. He’ll be webcasting LIVE from the event starting today at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. If you’ve got any last-minute questions you want him to ask, swing by the John’s Journal page of our website. We’ve got an entry form posted there where you can submit questions.

And with that, here’s today’s news.

Engineers and researchers are really putting the “motor” in General Motors. The company is expanding its electric vehicle development capabilities and will become the first automaker to design AND manufacture electric motors. By doing things in-house it aims to improve performance and reliability while reducing cost. The first GM-designed versions of the part are expected to debut in 2013 on the company’s next-generation, two-mode, rear-wheel-drive hybrids. The company is expected to invest nearly $250 million in its Baltimore transmission plant to build the motors.

In related electric news, GM announced that the Chevy Volt will launch in Washington DC along with Michigan and California. In a pilot program to gauge customer feedback, the company will deliver more than 100 cars to several power utilities around the U.S.

Ford announced it will add a shift at its plant in Chicago. According to the Detroit News, the company will add 1,200 jobs to build the new Explorer which is being moved to the plant from Kentucky. About half the positions will be filled by workers idled at other plants but the rest will be new hires. Ford will be allowed to hire in those new workers at a lower wage as part of its labor agreement with the union.

While in bankruptcy last year, GM and Chrysler forced thousands of dealers to close, and now a number of them look to challenge the decision. According to the Detroit News, a new law allows dealers to seek arbitration and more than 1,300 GM and Chrysler stores will do so. Dealers must convince arbitrators that the business can remain viable. The law calls for arbitrators to make a decision by late June.

Mitsubishi says it plans to double sales in the U.S. within the next three years (subscription required). According to Ward’s, the company would like to hit 100,000 units in the U.S. which it last achieved in 2007. Due to the economic slump and moving away from selling to fleets, Mitsubishi sold just 54,000 vehicles last year. The company plans to focus more on retail sales, boost advertising and rely on upcoming product to help regain sales.

Some things make you ask, “Why?” Like why would someone mount a camper on the back of a tricycle? It’s so small it can’t be useful. Even so, its creator nailed the details. Like something you’d find in the bed of a pickup, it’s made out of corrugated paneling, has a small access door, windows and even curtains. According to Autoblog, it’s a functioning camper, but surprisingly its main purpose is not outdoor recreation. Instead, it was built as a “functional sculptural piece.” That means its creator, Kevin Cyr, considers it to be a piece of art. We’re doubtful this three-wheeler will ever get parked in the Louvre, but it does make you smile.

Coming up next, John sits down with internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis to talk about the future of green energy in the United States. We’ll be back right after this.

Recently John interviewed Jason Calacanis, internet entrepreneur and co-founder of Weblogs, Inc., a network of popular sites including Autoblog and Engadget. He’s a BIG proponent of electric cars and is giving away a Tesla Model S to show his support for the cause. In the following clip, John and Jason chat about what the U.S. needs to do to kick its fossil fuel dependency.

The rest of this interview is available on the John’s Journal page of our website right now, so check it out.

Hey, one more thing. Don’t forget that McElroy and his crew are webcasting LIVE from the floor of the Washington DC Auto Show starting today at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. He’ll be interviewing an array of politicians, executives and industry trend setters. The show kicks off shortly, so if you haven’t already, head over to our website, AutolineDetroit.tv, and check it out. You don’t want to miss it!

That’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Again, I’m Murray Feldman, Fox 2 News Detroit, thanks for watching, we’ll see you next time!

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

40 Comments to “Episode 314 – GM To Make Electric Motors, Ford Adds Shift, Mitsubishi To Double U.S. Sales”

  1. Nick Stevens Says:

    “By doing things in-house it (GM) aims to improve performance and reliability while reducing cost.”

    So our local TV news person, Murray Feldman, parrots the above GM propaganda with not one word of doubt?

    Oh Really, Murray? Do you believe the above nonsense, that they will achieve all three of these goals simultaneously?

    How? Magic?

    For decades the Big 3 had supplier slaves sell them substandard parts at dirt-cheap prices to satisfy their beancounters, until the suppliers went broke, one by one.

    Now GM will reduce costs by building them themselves?

    Ridiculous.

  2. pedro fernandez Says:

    So Ford is going to build a lot of “new” Explorers, which will surely end up being clunkered in some upcoming C4C program a few years from now, the more things change the more they stay the same. And frankly I’m getting tired of all these journalists just going along with whatever the Detroit 2 1/2 feed them, without questioning anything they say. Maybe they should quit journalism and become pitchmen for the industry.

  3. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The creation of Delphi and Visteon were to GET RID of underperforming in-house parts suppliers.

  4. pedro fernandez Says:

    Mitsu wants to increase their sales by doing exactly what? I want to get an NFL cheerleader as a girlfriend and double my annual income too!

  5. Dave Says:

    GM will gauge the response of the Volt??? Here for you “smart” guys at GM…its kinda cool and would fit into most drivers live style, BUT NOT AT THAT CRAZY PRICE!!!!!!!!!!

    Give me a Civic, Toyota, Cruz, etc and 15 or 20 grand worth of gas!!!

  6. Drew Says:

    Why don’t Government Motors concentrate on producing quality gas powered vehicles instead of trying to expand and make electric motors??

  7. Terry Says:

    As one of those unfortunate employees working as a “supplier slave” to GM, I can agree with 2/3rds of Nick’s comment: “For decades the Big 3 had supplier slaves sell them substandard parts at dirt-cheap prices to satisfy their beancounters, until the suppliers went broke, one by one”. Yes we sold parts at dirt cheap prices and yes we went bankrupt – but the parts were anything but “substandard”. Given the legacy costs and the “beaten down” pricing compared to the actual value of the product, we couldn’t make ends meet.

    As for Kit’s comment that “The creation of Delphi and Visteon were to GET RID of underperforming in-house parts suppliers”, again I beg to differ. It was all about ditching the legacy costs that GM and Ford had created and propogated at those companies, and buying parts from much cheaper, and often offshore, companies. It had almost nothing to do with the quality at Delphi or Visteon, or the quality of the companies who replaced them. It was primarily about the bottom line.

  8. dcars Says:

    Whats the deal with Mitsu? The most noteworthy Mitsu dealer (in Buffalo, NY) doesn’t exits and I rarely see a recent Mitsubishi on our roads. Business wise I heard they were on shaky ground then the Automotive melt down occurred. I heard they were near dead in the US, now this? How are they still in business, government bailout?

  9. Nick Stevens Says:

    dcars,

    some time before the meltdown, Mitsu was already in deep trouble because of their generous sales policies, esp. the 0% loans etc, they lost a ton of $ and then they contracted, all before the big crisis.

  10. Nick Stevens Says:

    Dave: “Give me a Civic, Toyota, Cruz, etc and 15 or 20 grand worth of gas!!!”

    precisely. Even at $32.5k and $7.5K stolen out of our taxpaying pockets, the volt will make econ sense for very very few people. But I bet some will buy it as a novelty, or because they like the Tech, or whatever.

  11. Nick Stevens Says:

    Mitsu’s sales are dismal right now, even if it doubles them they probably wil lbe less than they were before it melted down a couple years ago.

    Lots of makers want to double their sales, the only place they can do that is in China. VW wanted to double its sales the other day, and given their large presence in China, they may be able to pull it off.

  12. Kit Gerhart Says:

    VW is one of few companies that might be able to double sales in the US, but only because they have been so non-serious about the US market for so many years.

  13. Nick Stevens Says:

    WV sales in the US is a very small fraction of WV global sales. If VW wants to double its global sales, the only way for it to do it is with China.

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I completely agree that China is where you significantly increase global sales. As big as VW already is, I think they are dreaming regarding doubling sales globaly, though, no matter how well they do in China. If they did that, Toyota would be a very distant number 2. I guess we’ll see.

  15. Nick Stevens Says:

    2009 was the first year that the Japanese made more cars in China than they made in their US transplants (of which just the Honda and Toyota plants make more than a million cars a year), so they are not asleep in China either. And the long-term hostility of the Chinese at TOyota and JApan in general (due to WW II atrocities of the Japanese in China) seems to have receded significantly.

  16. pedro fernandez Says:

    So the Explorer will be just in name, since it’s going to be built on the Taurus/Flex/Volvo platform, I just hope people stop calling it a “truck”

  17. dcars Says:

    This will make you sick Pedro, our Saturn Vue, Chevy Blazer and Nissan Rouge were all registered as a Chevy Suburban! in New York State.
    On a different note -
    Maybe the Germans can reopen their Pennsylvania Rabbit plant….. and achieve total US market dominance with a diesel powered car in every US garage.

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    pedro fernandez Says:
    January 26th, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    “So the Explorer will be just in name, since it’s going to be built on the Taurus/Flex/Volvo platform, I just hope people stop calling it a “truck””

    If the new Explorer is going to be on the Taurus/Flex platform, maybe it’s time to change the name to something else, like when they changed it from Bronco II to Explorer.

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The VW Westmoreland PA plant started building Sony TV’s after VW pulled out. I just read that Sony will close the plant soon, ended US production of TV’s after about 20 years. I guess VW might be able to re-acquire the plant, but they have already made plans for an assembly plant in Tennessee.

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit: I heard John’s interview with Mullaly and he mentioned about the Explorer, but Ford won’t change the name, it’s gotta keep the “E” theme throughout the line up, even though the Excursion is gone, they still got the other 3. I think it’s only a matter of time before the Expedition will go bye, bye.

  21. pedro fernandez Says:

    The witch hunt against Toyota continues, now they’re stopping production here in order to fix the non-existent throttle problem, I wonder if anyone is going to change their mind about buying a Toyota based on this.

  22. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Pedro its not a witch hunt its fact. If they were Hyundai problems Id admit to it and possibly have a plausible explanation for it.

    Pedro, please consider a KIA when that Corolla finally drops. Id say you have 2-3 more years left, and by then that Toyota quality could end up being really bad.

    KIA is completing the final step to make it to #1 full line manufacturer quality, even beating Hyundai. 18-36 months KIA will be the quality leader, watch!!

  23. dcars Says:

    I was being sarcastic about the VW plant in Pennsylvania. I owned a Passat and I haven’t liked them since. I know people (mostly women!) that own them and they’ve had good luck.

  24. dcars Says:

    Here’s an interesting article from the NY Times
    when VW closed their Westmoreland Plant in PA.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1987/11/21/business/volkswagen-to-shut-us-plant.html?pagewanted=1

    Sound familar?

  25. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Tennessee wages have caught up with PA, and in many cases PA is the low cost location now. VW is just scared of the unions up North.

    Southern Corporatist Plantation Onwers never, ever will respect the rights of the worker. However, Militant unions like UAW, AFL-CIO, AFSCME took things a little too far.

  26. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Hey, well at least Hyundai/KIA along with pretty much everybody else is taking advantage of it.

    Its helping to further develop an Economically Depressed and Backwards area of the country that’s 35 years behind socially and culturally, and about 60 years behind in terms of economic development.

  27. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Shame on Toyota for holding up Mississippi Prius Plant.

    Those people needed those jobs, and I think God is paying Toyota back. Ironic that all of these Toyota Recalls and Quality concerns started right after they held up on that plan in that small town.

    This scenario is highly unlikely, but its surely coincidental.

  28. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    I hope the Southern Plants get unions, because $15 an hour is not a good wage anywhere anymore even in: Montgomery Alabama, West Point GA, Smryna Tennessee, Campbelltown Kentucky, etc…

  29. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Id rather pay the extra $5K for the Sonata than to see a Single mother try to raise 4 kids on $30K a year.

  30. Nick Stevens Says:

    Originally, I thought the Toyota acceleration thins was some kind of nonsense like in the Audi case, but it seems it is much bigger than that. Toyota took a long time to come to this painful decision, stopping sales etc, but it did the right thing. Compare with Ford in the 70s and the Pinto, their beancounters did the math and decided to go with the lawsuits instead of fixing the $50 problem ($50 of the time, or $250 now).

    At least Toyota would never do that.

    How it will impact sales? Very negatively, since Toyota itself is forbidding sales of almost ten popular models, for whom there are also popular alternatives by other makers, in some cases more popular (CRV vs RAV4)

  31. Nick Stevens Says:

    “dcars Says:
    January 26th, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    I was being sarcastic about the VW plant in Pennsylvania. I owned a Passat and I haven’t liked them since.”

    That Passat must have been made in Germany, tho. When I was in grad school, I made the mistake of buying a 4-yr old, 65k mile Passat Wagon, and it cost $2000 to buy (vs $600 of an old Pontiac Lemans I could have bought instead), and another $2000 to fix over 3 yrs and less than 15,000 miles. They made the parts last for not longer than 60k, and that experience made me avoid any german cars for at least two decades. UNless if you count my Opel Ascona clone Pontiac 2000 econobox (great MPG tho!) as a “german” car..I had the 1.8 brazil engine and 5-speed (a poor transmission)

  32. Nick Stevens Says:

    Still, the Passat drove absolutely great, as most VWs usually do.

  33. dcars Says:

    Hi Nick, I had the same experiences. I also had a Passat Wagon that was a nice handling car, but very expensive to fix.

  34. Nick Stevens Says:

    Who will grab the lost Toyota sales? Honda, (CRV mainly), Hyundai, VW

    * 2009-2010 RAV4—CRV, Equinox, other?

    * 2009-2010 Corolla—CIVIC, other?

    * 2009-2010 Matrix–Pontiac vibe??? (any left? and why didn’t they have problems?)

    * 2005-2010 Avalon—Buicks, Lexus 350?

    * Certain 2007-2010 Camry models—Accords, Altimas, Sonatas

    * 2010 Highlander—Pilot, others

    * 2007-2010 Tundra–F150, Silverado, Ram, Ridgeline?

    * 2008-2010 Sequoia—Pilot, Armada, Enclave-Traverse etc?

    I am sure I missed a lot.

  35. Nick Stevens Says:

    dcars: these cars in the 70s were tiny compared to today’s passat, much lighter with much smaller engines. Our computer goy has a 2001 Passat wagon with 105k miles and claims the only problem he has was something with the rear differential. He claims it is good because it is made in Germany and not in Mexico or wherever.

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I had a 2000 Passat wagon which drove well and was reliable, but I only had it about 70K miles. It had the 1.8 turbo/manual power train. The surprising negative of the car, considering the generally very good fit and finish, is that there were a number of rattles in the cabin.

  37. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Federal regulators said today that Toyota Motor Corp. was legally required to stop selling the eight models it recalled last week. Toyota took the extraordinary step of halting the sale of the vehicles late Tuesday over issues of “sticky acceleration pedals” because it hasn’t yet found a fix.”–today’s Detroit news Auto section.

    This sounds different than what I assumed above, that Toyota did the right thing voluntarily!

  38. Nick Stevens Says:

    PS our computer person had the v6 PASSAT 01. He has wife and three young kids, so he needed the wagon and perhaps also the extra power.

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Does anyone know if these Toyotas are drive-by-wire, conventional throttle linkage, or some of each?

  40. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Never mind. I did some searching, and it looks like all Toyotas have used throttle-by-wire since about 2006.