Episode 608 – Did Ghosn Hide Evidence?, Japan Disruptions Will Be Significant, MG Built by SAIC

March 28th, 2011 at 12:09pm

Reports coming out of France say that Carlos Ghosn may have withheld evidence from police involving Renault’s espionage case. IHS Automotive analyst Michael Robinet says the disruptions in the auto industry caused by the earthquake in Japan will be significant once parts shortages hit North America. The Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation is hard at work reviving the MG brand and yesterday it debuted the new MG3. All that and more, plus a look at Daimler’s new heavy-truck brand that was developed for the Indian market.


Runtime 8:14

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This is Autoline Daily for March 28, 2011. And now the news.

And some sad news at that. David E. Davis Jr., one of the best-known American automotive journalists, died yesterday in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After spending years as editor of Car and Driver magazine, he left there and started Automobile magazine, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary. Earlier in his career Davis was involved with Campbell Ewald, Chevrolet’s advertising agency. He is the best story teller I ever met in my life, had an encyclopedic knowledge of all things automotive and enjoyed life with a flair and joie de vivre that most people never get to know. He was one of the greats and will be missed.

This so-called Chinese espionage case over electric cars involving Renault may not be over. Now reports coming out of France say that Carlos Ghosn may have withheld evidence from police. It turns out Ghosn also believed that a senior executive from Nissan was involved, but he never told the police, and never asked them to investigate the Nissan executive. This could land Ghosn in a heap of trouble. It’s one thing to say you were duped in a fraud, it’s another thing to withhold evidence from the police.

Last week we reported that IHS Automotive predicted that global vehicle production could drop by as much as 30 percent this year.  Now analyst Michael Robinet at the company says the disruption is going to be significant once parts shortages hit North America. Honda announced that production will be disrupted at its North American plants in the beginning of April. Mazda is not taking orders of vehicles built in Japan at dealers in the U.S. And more automakers are telling customers they can’t sell vehicles with certain colors because some of the pigments are made in Japan.

Hey, how about that. Each of the last three news stories involved people in the news who have been my guests on Autoline After Hours or Autoline Detroit.

In a sign that China is gaining access to the technology it needs, Chinese automaker Dongfeng is in talks to purchase a 30 percent stake in German transmission supplier Getrag. According to Reuters, the stake is worth around $700 million. If the deal goes through it would be the first time a Chinese automaker has bought into the German auto industry.

Speaking of China, the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation is hard at work breathing life back into the beleaguered British brand, MG. China Auto Web reports the first serious effort at reviving the MG brand debuted yesterday as the MG3. The car was designed in the UK, but it’s built by SAIC. It targets other subcompact hatchbacks like the Toyota Yaris and the Volkswagen Polo. Available in four versions it’s priced to sell, starting at about 70,000 Yuan, roughly $11,000. It’s powered by either a 1.3-liter or a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine.

HYUNDAI WORKERS ON STRIKE IN KOREA (subscription required)
Maybe Hyundai’s labor union in Korea didn’t get the memo that parts shortages from Japan are crippling the auto industry. According to Ward’s, Hyundai’s plant in Ulsan, South Korea is at a standstill because of a labor strike. This is where the Elantra and Veloster small cars, among others, are built. The situation is complicated, but apparently the automaker’s union is not happy because management decided to move workers around at the complex. The spat has something to do with labor being allowed to approve personnel shifts before new vehicles go into production. So far some 125,000 orders for vehicles HAVE NOT been filled because of the kerfuffle.

Coming up next, India could be the next booming automotive market, which has Daimler very interested in the country’s truck business.

Daimler is launching a new heavy-truck brand. Called BharatBenz, it’s exclusive to India – in the near-term anyway. With these rigs the company is building on its previous experience and throwing in a little local know how to tailor them to the market.

You can probably figure out the Benz part of the name but if you’re stumped by the other half you’re not alone. Bharat actually means “India” in several local languages.

Staying true to its name, these rigs, which vary in size from six to 49 tons, will be developed in India, built in India and sold in India. But Daimler already has four other truck brands in its portfolio including Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner, Western Star and Mitsubishi Fuso. Why does it need another one?

There’s no doubt India’s growing. Passenger vehicles are selling in record numbers, but it’s also the second-biggest market in the world for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Daimler projects sales of these things will DOUBLE by 2020. Understandably, it wants a big ole’ slice of that market. Hence the new BharatBenz brand. Its vehicles are tailor-made to the needs of Indian buyers.

Showing its commitment to India, Daimler is investing some 700 million Euros there and building a brand-new factory in Oragadam on the country’s south-eastern coast. The facility is spread across nearly 400 acres and includes a test track so the company can put these trucks through their paces. They’ve already clocked more than 1 million kilometers of testing, and so far Dr. Z seems to approve of their efforts.

The first BharatBenz trucks should hit the road sometime in 2012. If you live in India, keep your eyes peeled for Daimler’s latest heavy-duty offerings.

Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours this Thursday when our guest will be Joel Piaskowski, who used to be head of design at Hyundai Motors America, and who now runs all exterior design for Ford in North America.

And check out the latest episode of RoundAbout. This week features Autoblog’s Zach Bowman, Charles Krome from Autotropolis and Alex Villani of GM Inside News. You can download the podcast or catch the video on our YouTube channel.

And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global auto industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog and WardsAuto.com

30 Comments to “Episode 608 – Did Ghosn Hide Evidence?, Japan Disruptions Will Be Significant, MG Built by SAIC”

  1. Tony Gray Says:

    DED had me subscribe to C&D all those years ago. Boy, Paul Zazzarine and now DEDJR…we are losing good ones at an alarming rate.

  2. HtG Says:



    …the more you know…

  3. tj Martin Says:

    D.E.D Rest in peace .

  4. Dale Leonard,Lakewood,Oh. Says:

    It’s sad to hear of the passing of David E. Davis Jr. I have enjoyed his writing for years. He will be missed. Rest in Peace,Sir

  5. tj Martin Says:

    HtG ;

    Folks needed a definition for Kerfluffle ? We must be getting old !

    F1 Australia Review ;

    Well I broke down and DVR’d the race only and watched maybe 50 minutes of the competition .

    My opinion ;

    1) Far too many overly complicated rules and regulations

    2) Far too much overly complicated technology that doesn’t work worth a damn ( re: DRS & KERs )

    3) Far Far too little RACING which pardon me isn’t that supposed to be the point of the whole schtick ?

    SPEED’s pre race coverage was pathetic ( watched ten minutes and FF to the race )

    Conclusion ; The 2011 season is shaping up to be worse than I thought it would be .

    BORING !

    47 years of watching/following/going to F1 races ….. all for it to end up a Virtual Reality Computer Game with real people involved ( sort of ) Shades of Alice in Wonderland .

  6. tj Martin Says:

    Why am I getting the very distinct feeling , what with the supply lines from Japan being interrupted etc. that when I go in to make a deal on the FJ I’m after the dealers are all going to try and screw me blind , in spite of the ConsumerReports pricing sheet High Gas prices etc.

    I can just hear them now ;

    ” Oh Mr. Lesh ….. these cars are becoming in very short supply so we can’t possibly even consider a discount . In fact feel lucky we’re not charging you an Earthquake Surcharge ”

    Hmmn .

  7. Mike Says:

    As it happens, I own a few MG’s. For such a famous marque, the truth is that the Brits’ lost a ton of money buidling them through the years. The MGB was an Italian design fitted up with an obsolete suspension and drive train. Attempts to build similar cars (Mazda Miata, Honda, Pontiac etc) have not been successful for their makers either. MG represents what seems to be an atractive niche (2 seat sports car) but really it has proven not be profitable segment.

  8. Gary Taylor Says:

    tj Martin > It didn’t help when the crack commentators on Speed didn’t understand the rules. And by commentators, I mean Sam Posey. They seemed to make a lot of fuss about Kers and the rear wing, but it didn’t seem to come into play.

  9. dcars Says:

    The old MGs may not have been profitable but they were always pretty cool looking! Except for the latest addition. RIP David E. Davis I loved C&D too.

  10. HtG Says:

    Hey Mike, why pick on poor, unsuccessful Miata? Oh, it’s a chick car. That’s how it’s gonna be.

  11. tj Martin Says:

    @ Mike

    ” attempts to build similar cars ….. Miata …. not successful ”

    HUH ??????? WTF ? NOT SUCCESSFUL ????

    The Miata is the MOST successful , best built and best loved Roadster built in the last 50 years ! Both for Street / Racing /Show and hopping up ( never seen or driven a Ford V8 powered Miata I take it …. I have )

    The ONLY New car in the last 30 years that has garnered such a Cult Following , as well as across the board Admiration , and such a high profit level for their company .. is the new BMW MINI .

    Ahhhh …. but you’re probably one of those Brit Snobs broken down by the side of the road that Hates the new MINI as well .

    Strange definition of success you got there @ Mike

  12. tj Martin Says:

    @ Gary Taylor

    Especially with the DRS ( movable wing ) if you watched when the wing was deployed and the overall effect it had when it was ( ZERO) you know what a worthless piece of complicated and expensive POS that whole pretentious joke is .

    KER’s seemed ( according to the graphs if we can believe what’s being shown ) seemed to be even less effective .

    Tons of money and time … all invested into technologies that sound so wonderful to the untrained Ear .. but in truth come up crappers .

  13. merv Says:

    R.I.P. DED Jr, you touched a lot of car lovers lives,for all those years. A great loss,best wishes to his family.

  14. HtG Says:

    Here’s an AP piece on the earthquake’s effect on the car industry. Warning, it’s long by internet standards.


  15. tj Martin Says:

    Corporate Taxes in the US ;

    I know the likes of Pedro ( where are you anyway ? ) and myself have been railing against the Corporate heads of the Auto manufactures fro sending so many jobs to Mexico et al .

    But last night I watched the 60 Minutes report on US Corporate Taxes .

    Did most of you know ( I didn’t ) the the US has THE HIGHEST Corporate Taxes of ANY developed Country . The HIGHEST !

    No wonder everyone including GE GM FORD etc. along with thew Hi Techs , Pharm’s etc. are running off to Mexico Switzerland ( yes really ) etc.

    For all you Conservatives , don’t go blaming Obama . These excessive taxes have been in place since His Royal Highness Reagan .

    For all you Liberals , don’t go blaming the Conservatives because Obama , Clinton et al have been fighting lowering these taxes as much as the Conservatives .

    So WTF is wrong with our Government ???

    They’d rather make 35% ( current rate ) of nothing , than 15-20% of the estimated 10 Trillion Dollars being lost to Over Seas countries … not to mention the tens of thousands of Jobs we’re losing ???

    IDIOTS . Every danged last one of them . Self Absorbed IDIOTS

  16. XA351GT Says:

    In regards to F1,there is such a simple solution. Get rid of the carbon brakes. It would cut costs by a ton,it would also give drivers the ability to out brake each other.Say what you want about the IRL ,but they can pass every now again without making the cars do 5 pit stops to go 150-200 miles for new tires.Go back to the early to mid 70s. There was a lot of passing in F1. Those cars had no ground effects ,no turbos, manual transmissions,no electronic garbage to get in the way of driving the damn car. They should go back to this standard and keep the current safety measures and they’d have a great series.

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    TJ I’m still reading, no longer writing (episode 601 entries 29 and 33)

  18. HtG Says:

    X, while there are arguments for the march of speed and safety technology, I will never understand how they spend millions of dollars to eke out a .1sec lower lap time. Erff! How many aerodynamicists does it take to bend the rule book? Answer; one, if his name is Adrian Newey.

    Don’t get me started on ABS and traction control in racing.

  19. HtG Says:

    If car production is stalled it’s not hard to imagine what will happen to the suppliers whose parts are not needed. Stopping an assembly line is going to whack every single supplier, even if they’re in Ohio. Let’s hope they have understanding bankers.

  20. tj Martin Says:

    @pedro fernandez ;

    Don’t let that FrankCanada idiot prevent you from being the valuable part of this Forum you are !

    If that Idiot Frank wants to go toe to toe with me ( a former 3 X Ferrari owner ) about Ferrari’s crap Quality ( oh please Frank Bring it on ! The stories I can tell you about your favorite Italian POS. Like the FACT that its built by a bunch of Italian Communists that HATE the fact that YOU can afford to buy one ) let him have at it .

    As far as any racist comments the slime might make …. well White trash ignorance does show its ugly face when a moron comes onto any Forum .

    No one else here ( well maybe except for Bob ) gives you any grief , so let the rest of us ( Come On Guys and Stand behind one of your own ) have at him as well as yourself .

    Forums are inundated by the likes of FrankCanada .

    Don’t let them keep you from participating .

  21. tj Martin Says:

    pedro ;

    FYI I’d take one of those Cuban rebuilt 56 Chevy’s over a Brand New Ferrari any day !

    The Chevy will get me to and from where ever I’m going whereas the Ferrari if I’m lucky might get me there , with no promises of getting me back .

    There’s a reason why the average new Ferrari has less than 3000 miles on the OD and is Sold on average after less than 18 months ownership .

  22. tj Martin Says:

    Oh FrankCanada ;

    Hmmn . You don’t seem to be around today .

    Maybe you’ll give me the pleasure of your ( urp ) company on Tuesdays page .

    I just LOVE tearing an internet clueless bully a new one !

  23. G.A.Branigan Says:

    With reference to the “parts shortage”,I now see that most if not all the eggs are in one basket so to say.Didn’t anyone at all foresee any type of incident that could shut down auto production on a world wide scale?It doesn’t seem that the highly paid auto execs ever anticipated anything like this happening?Maybe they all need a raise.

    @ Pedro: Hey bro,I’m not on here as much as I used to be.having said that,don’t let anybody bully you off of here.You’ve been here from the beginning just as I have.You stay here man,ignore the buttholios.

  24. pedro fernandez Says:

    thanks TJ for your kind words, I have seldom experienced racism is this great country, for the most part I have always felt accepted every where I’ve gone, so it is kind of shocking when someone assumes that because of my ethnicity, I should be picking tomatoes instead of participating in this fine forum with folks who have a passion for all things automotive. You also put down Italian cars for their poor reliability and I don’t recall this racist putting you down for your opinions

  25. Robert Morrison Says:

    I was very sad to hear the passing of David E Davis Jr.. I had the honor of meeting him during the induction of person of the year at the annual Automotive Hall of Fame when I was a student at Northwood University. I got to meet him and he listened and treated me with respect.
    He was the MC that night and Henry Ford II had just passed away so he had a big job that night. I was the head of an Auto show specialty car section of the Northwood show and had a car I thought he would like to do an article on for his Automobile magazine. I asked him if he would be interested in coming up to see it.
    A day later John Phillips who at the time was a writer for his magazine called me and set a time to meet with him over the weekend.
    By the way the car was called the Owosso Pulse Autocycle and they did a article on it.
    I will never forget how nice he was to me.

  26. pedro fernandez Says:

    BTW, TJ you might remember a few yrs ago a group of boat people reached these shores using a 50′s Chevy truck that they had converted into a makeshift boat, they keep it here at a local dealer as a monument to those who have perished trying to come to this great country. GA thanks for your words but this is not the first time this guy ridicules my ethnicity. tj: about Bob (wasn’t that a movie starring Bill Murray) he picks on everyone equally so I feel like a regular gringo when he tells me I’m wrong.

  27. tj Martin Says:

    pedro ;

    The likes of FrankCanada seem to find their way into Unmoderated Forums such as this . Guess they need somewhere to vent their stupidity . What else can I say about him ? Some here can be pretentious asses . Some like H/S are just a pain in the ass . And then there’s the True asses like FC .

    FYI I might also remind FrankCanada that my wife drove and LOVED her 1992 Corollla for 15 trouble free years and only gave it up when shipping it cost more than the car was worth ( and we then gave it to a friends daughter who still drives it daily ) and bought a Corolla Matrix in spite of being able to pay CASH for a new SLK etc. if she wanted one .

    So Pedro as I’ve told you before Three Cheers to you for being smart enough to buy a good car and keep it .

    Unlike myself who is still kicking myself in the tail for selling my 98 4Runner .

    Stick around pedro .

  28. cwolf Says:

    NPR reported another electronic related recall; VW recalling 70,000 Jetta’s because the car stalls when the horn is honked. That would “Honk” me off,too!
    I’m glad I held onto my “69″MGC roadster. Cool look’en car with the 16″spoke wheels and bubble on the bonnet. Winds up as slow as a watch,due to the SU’s, but I know from my experiences it will do more than 140mph. When chrome bumpers were replaced with rubber covers,all the charm faded. The Auston-Healey was another car I admire and regret selling.
    Was’nt that long ago when it was thought that too many suppiers were a burden to the industry,but now there is not enough. Guess some rethinking is in order.
    @tjMartin: I also heard US corporate taxes were the highest,but viewed a financial report stating the many “loop-holes” evened the board for the most part,-unless your GE.
    @John Mc: I am enlighten by word word choice,kerfluffle,describing the Korean union rift,but select a differt tone towards US unions. My guess is that you cannot see beyond all the typical sabre rattling. In the end,I predict all will be well for both parties. Then perhaps you will find the word”kerfluffle” appropriate for both instances as long as you forgo the influences of DeLorenzo.I value your morals and thoughts,but being un-biased is not your forte.

  29. Wayne Says:

    Hey tj;
    I think maybe frankcanada learned from the best on how to be a pretentious ass. Looked in a mirror lately??!!

  30. Jesse W. Henry Says:

    Sad to hear about David E. Davis Jr. I always enjoyed reading his stories in Automobile.