Episode 46 – GM & Chrysler Merger?, China Taps Detroit Talent, Honda Axes NSX

December 18th, 2008 at 12:00pm

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GM and Chrysler are talking about merging again in a move to slash costs and eliminate overlap. China wants to hire American engineers and executives to make up for its talent gap. Honda’s going to axe the Acura NSX due to the poor economy. All that and more, plus a look at new active safety features from Nissan.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. GM and Chrysler are talking about merging again. China wants to hire American engineers and executives. And Honda’s going to axe the Acura NSX.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, December 18, 2008. And now, the news.

Well the plot thickens in this bailout story. The Wall Street Journal reports that GM and Chrysler are talking about merging again (subscription required). Their idea is to slash costs by joining both companies together and eliminating all kinds of overlap. A move like this would decimate Chrysler, essentially gutting its engineering and administrative operations. I’m still curious over why GM is ready to get rid of Hummer, Saturn, and Saab, only to add Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep. By the way, reports out of India say that Mahindra is very interested in buying Jeep.

Meanwhile, Chrysler is closing down for a month (subscription required)….it’s going cold turkey when it comes to making vehicles. I see three reasons. With the collapse in the car market, Chrysler has plenty of inventory, according to Ward’s it has an average of 117 days of inventory, which is nearly twice as much as it needs. Secondly, as we reported yesterday, Chrysler Financial is making it harder for Chrysler dealers to get wholesale financing, meaning they’re going to have a hard time buying cars from the factory. And third, if you’ve got to save cash by stopping spending, there’s no faster way to do it than just shut the company down.

While this country might not appreciate the talent that there is in Detroit it sure looks like the Chinese are interested. According to a report from GasGoo, Chinese automakers are looking to hire not only engineers, but also management executives from the Big Three. They want to hire from them because they have more experience than the Chinese professionals.

In other China news, GM just opened its second plant in the country. It is one of three global facilities that will initially produce the Chevrolet Cruze. And the plant will have an annual production capacity of 150,000 units.

First Honda pulls out of Formula 1 and now this. In a report from WardsAuto.com, the Acura NSX supercar is officially dead (subscription required). Honda CEO Takeo Fukui made the announcement yesterday. He blamed it on the economy. At the same time Honda is keeping the Element as it is until at least 2010 (subscription required) without any re-freshening. That will make it the oldest Honda out there. The Element first came out in 2002.

Direct fuel injection is quickly becoming pretty common across more and more engine lines. GM is updating its 2.4-liter Ecotec four cylinder and a new 3.0-liter V6 with direct injection. The four kicks out an estimated 180 horsepower and is expected to return 30 miles per gallon. The V6 is based off GM’s 3.6-liter “high feature” engine family and should produce 255 horsepower. Look for both engines to debut in the redesigned 2010 Chevy Equinox.

Coming up next, a look at new active safety features from Nissan. We’ll be back right after this.

Active safety systems help to prevent accidents by alerting a driver to a possible danger, or the vehicle itself will make a correction if the driver is unable to do so. Nissan already offers active safety features on Infiniti models and recently demonstrated a prototype that features two new accident avoidance technologies.

The first feature is called Side Collision Prevention and is activated when another vehicle is detected by side-mounted sensors as the driver begins to change lanes. A yaw mechanism is then activated to move the vehicle toward the center of the original lane of travel.

The next feature called Back-up Collision Prevention is activated when sensors detect a person or vehicle in the path of a vehicle backing up. An alarm sounds and the brakes are engaged to help avoid a collision.

These technologies are part of Nissan’s “Safety Shield” concept: it’s an approach to safety issues based on the idea that advanced technology in vehicles helps to prevent accidents.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. But don’t forget, we’re running another trivia contest this week, and it’s only available to our e-mail subscribers. If you want a chance to win these cool wine stoppers from Mercedes-Benz that look like shift knobs, all you have to do sign up for our free newsletter. I’ll pick the winner and announce their name on tomorrow’s Autoline Daily, so sign up now.

Anyway that’s it for today’s show. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

4 Comments to “Episode 46 – GM & Chrysler Merger?, China Taps Detroit Talent, Honda Axes NSX”

  1. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Every day we seem to get nothing but bad news for the big 3. Now the Chinese want to hire away American talent from Detroit, and of course as they ask these folks to take a big pay cut here, a suburban home outside of Shanghai, with a bigger salary, low or no taxes and Mc donalds and Walmart nearby, it may be to tempting for some of these younger managers and engineers to move there

  2. jeff mohr Says:

    Still think it will all come down to pensions or the elimination of them in the present form.

  3. Peter Pryce Says:

    If president Bush is still looking for a “Car Czar”, I would like to nominate John McElroy! It is obvious from watching Autoline Detroit and Autoline TV that John “gets it”. John would be a desperately needed ally to help the Big 3 get back on their feet.

  4. YMMV Says:

    Nissan is the quiet achiever. Their latest technology thoughts (lane departure, linking back-up sensors to brakes) make a lot more sense to me than a parallel parking robot mode that only works under ideal conditions (eg. Toyota’s Lexus offering.)

    I remember the FX arriving about the same time as the Cayenne and while I’m nothing short of devoted to Porsche, I am appalled to see a Porsche with expensive “options” that come standard on a car at literally 25% of the price of the Cayenne! Something’s not making sense at Porsche and I think this economic global winter will challenge Porsche to shed it’s dinosaur product management and marketing departments.

    Even now, years later, Porsche doesn’t have an automatic cruise control (and companies like Mercedes charge thousands for it) while it comes as one of many features on the Nissan for relatively affordable dollars.

    I guess I’m just raising the same of “where’s the beef?” question when I see that Porsche f’rinstance is going to direct injection and that would have been interesting about 10 years ago, but today it’s just an emissions stop-gap and, as an enthusiast driver, it’s great to have the throttle response, but it’s bitter sweet to have waited the turn of the century for Porsche to bother improving a engine that was inadequate in 1999.

    Well, congratulations to the Nissan people for again building cars with excellent technology, quality and reliability, it’s just a shame the body design and cabin trim let them down. And where’s Nissan competing with Toyota on fuel efficiency?! You just can’t please all the people all the time! : )