May 31st, 2011 at 12:13pm
Even though GM and Ford are recovering quickly in the American market they still want to close more assembly plants where they have slow-selling models. Mercedes is introducing another lust-worthy supercar, a drop-top version of its SLS AMG. Volkswagen announced it wants to completely take over MAN, the German commercial-vehicle maker. All that and more, plus John shares some of his thoughts on the 2011 Kia Optima SX.
This is Autoline Daily for May 31, 2011. And now, the news.
MORE PLANT CLOSINGS
Even though GM and Ford are recovering quickly in the American market, making billions in profits and hiring back thousands of workers, they still want to close more assembly plants where they have slow-selling models. Bloomberg reports GM wants to close its plants in Shreveport, Louisiana, where it makes the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon . . . and its plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, where it makes midsize trucks . . . as well as the Saturn plant in Tennessee, which is sitting empty. Ford wants to close a plant in Minnesota where it makes the Ranger as well as the Flat Rock plant in Michigan that makes the Mustang and a plant in Ohio that makes the Econoline vans. Presumably Ford would move the Mustang and Econoline to other plants. And it’s entirely likely GM will move some other production into the former Saturn plant. And you can be sure that the fact this information has come out now has to do with the UAW contract negotiations that will start this summer. Ford and GM done laid down some bargainin’ chips.
NISSAN MANAGEMENT CHANGES
Renault just made it official, naming Carlos Tavares COO. Tavares was born in Portugal, is a motorsports racing fanatic, and even races himself. It’s his hobby. He was also on the LEAF electric car team early in its development. He had been the head of Nissan in North and South America and now Colin Dodge will fill that position.
BATTERIES: TO SWAP OR NOT TO SWAP?
There’s a battle going on in China over the best way to keep electric vehicles charged. According to China Auto Web, one government-owned company along with several Chinese automakers say battery-swapping stations are the best way to go, just like the company Better Place is arguing. However, the China Automotive Technology and Research Center doubts the viability of battery-swapping stations and says focusing on fast-recharging facilities is the best way to keep EVs juiced. It points out that with battery-swapping stations they would need to produce three to five battery packs for every EV on the road. It also says that it would be difficult to run a centralized network in an orderly and efficient way.
2012 MERCEDES-BENZ SLS AMG ROADSTER (login required)
Mercedes is introducing another lust-worthy supercar, the SLS AMG. High performance is a given with this machine. It’s built around a light-weight aluminum structure and features a 563 horsepower V-8 engine paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. With a fabric top, gullwing doors are out of the question, so the roadster version makes do with front-hinged conventional units. The retractable roof is available in three colors – beige, black and red, and can be operated at speeds up to 31 miles an hour. Impressively, the drop-top’s curb weight is only 88 pounds more than the SLS coupe’s. Pricing for this AMG monster is still unknown, but I can guarantee it will be A LOT.
VW TARGETING MAN
The heavy-truck sector is seeing a lot of action these days as global sales soar. And now Volkswagen says it wants to completely take over MAN, the German commercial vehicle maker. VW currently has a 30 percent stake in MAN. VW plans to merge MAN with Scania and its other commercial-vehicle operations into one unit. However, VW is running into anti-trust issues from the German government.
A BAD DAY AT THE OFFICE
Well, this qualifies as a REALLY BAD day at the office. Autoblog found this little gem on YouTube. For one reason or another, this presumably Russian car-transporter ended up on its side; its precious cargo definitely worse for wear. Rescuers on the scene are working to right the stricken hauler, but comically things go from bad to, well, still bad as they flip it over. The truck bounces a little as they pull it back up and then it tips over again, landing 180 degrees on its opposite side! I hope they’ve got insurance!
It wasn’t all that long ago that Kias were something of a joke. Not anymore they’re not. Coming up next, my Instant Impression of the Kia Optiima.
2011 KIA OPTIMA SX
One of the most amazing turnaround stories in the automotive industry, from a product standpoint, has to do with Kia. Just a few years ago it was hard to take the brand seriously. But now the company is a real player as I found out in a recent test drive of the Optima.
So far this year, sales of the Optima are up a staggering 97 percent.
And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.