July 21st, 2011 at 12:00pm
We all know the UAW is targeting transplant automakers in the U.S., but Autoline Daily has learned its strategy includes going after suppliers as well. In a good sign for the entire NAFTA region, sales and production in Mexico posted big gains last month. Toyota and Tesla just signed a three-year, $100 million deal for batteries and electric motors. All that and more, plus a look at some advanced new automotive technologies on the not-so-distant horizon.
This is Autoline Daily for July 21, 2011. Here’s the latest news in the global auto industry.
UAW TARGETING SUPPLIERS
While the media have focused on the UAW’s plan to try and organize one of the foreign transplants operating in the United States, Autoline Daily has leaned the union’s strategy includes going after automotive suppliers. Specifically, the union is going to target suppliers who already have UAW representation in some of their plants, but now it wants to get all of their plants organized. In an upcoming episode of Autoline, Cindy Estrada, the UAW vice president in charge of suppliers says the union is still formulating its strategy, but it is soon going to announce a national campaign targeting key suppliers. The union has partial representation at companies like JCI, Lear, Magna and Metaldyne. Estrada says workers at supplier companies are increasingly interested in the union.
The union has launched a couple of campaigns over the last decade to organize suppliers, with limited results. But Estrada is the first UAW vice president with organizing experience to sit on the union’s executive board. And now the union is devoting more money and resources to organizing.
MEXICO BOOMING (subscription required)
In a good sign for the entire NAFTA region, sales and production in Mexico posted big gains last month. According to Ward’s, production was up nearly 15 percent to just over 245,000 units. Passenger-car sales jumped over 21 percent while light-duty truck sales saw just a 3 percent gain. The Detroit Three automakers all posted sales gains, however Asian automakers, with the exception of Nissan, struggled. Honda and Toyota both saw sales and production declines. It’s also interesting to note that Alfa Romeo entered the Mexican market for the first time last month, with three models. Sure looks like Alfa is sticking its toes in the Mexican market before moving north into the U.S.
OPEL’S ALL-NEW DOBLO COMBO VAN
Now to Europe. Opel just introduced an all-new version of its compact van, the Combo. It’s offered as a passenger or as a panel van. The panel version comes in two wheelbases and two different roof heights. Under the hood, the Combo comes with a choice of six engines. Four diesel, one gas and a natural-gas version. Five- and six-speed manual transmissions are available along with start/stop technology. If any of this sounds familiar, it should. The Opel Combo is a redesigned version of Fiat’s Doblo.
PLUG-IN PRIUS SALES FORECAST
Now for some Toyota news. Bloomberg reports the Japanese giant estimates it will sell at least 16,000 plug-in Priuses . . . sorry, Prii in the U.S. next year. The car launches in early 2012 and features a lithium-ion battery that should deliver an electric-only range of 13 miles. Once that power is depleted, it functions just like a regular Prius.
TOYOTA TEAMS WITH TESLA
The big T is also wooing Tesla. It just gave the California-based EV maker $100 million as part of a three-year powertrain deal. Tesla will provide Toyota with lithium-ion batteries and electric motors for use in the all-new RAV4 EV, which goes into production next year. You know, Tesla may yet prove me wrong. A couple years ago I thought Tesla would be joining Studebaker and Oldsmobile in the automotive graveyard. But the company might just have a future, especially if it can convince more big OEMs it’s a one-stop shop for advanced batteries and electric motors.
MOTORCYCLE SPEED RECORD
Two wheels or four, few things are as satisfying as winding out a really powerful vehicle. Fast is fun, but it can also be terrifying, especially if you’re breaking a land-speed record. Autoblog reports a guy named Bill Warner hit nearly 312 miles an hour on a motorcycle! That’s nuts! Making the feat all the more amazing, his modified Suzuki Hayabusa has an open cockpit! No aerodynamic bubble canopy protected him from the roaring wind. According to Warner, the most challenging part of this record-breaking run was not the speed but the stopping. He had to really fight the machine to bring it to a halt before the runway ended. He said the bike was jumping all over the place! Now that’s scary.
Would you believe that the speakers for your audio system in your next car could be paper thin? I didn’t believe it, until I heard it. That is coming up next.
CRANK IT UP TO 11!
In Taiwan, the Industrial Technology Research Institute is working on all kinds of really cool technology. Recently I was invited to visit ITRI’s laboratories and here are three new technologies I saw there that are directly related to the auto industry.
By the way, the newest models from Luxgen, a Taiwanese start-up car company are going to incorporate the paper speakers. So this technology is already migrating out of the laboratory.
I’ve got to tell you, I am really looking forward to tonight’s Autoline After Hours. We’ll have Tom Crumm, author of “What Is Good For General Motors?” in to talk about his ideas of doing away with the moving assembly line. He proposes a new way of making cars and I think he’s really on to something. Learn all about it tonight, so join me and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo for the best insider discussion in the industry.
And that’s today’s report. Thank you for your attention, and please join us again tomorrow.