April 19th, 2012 at 12:00pm
Formula One racing returns to Bahrain this weekend, but opponents of the regime that controls the country vow to wage three days of rage to coincide with the race. Ford is racing to catch up in China and just announced it will build another assembly plant in the country. Mercedes-Benz is expected to offer a diesel engine in North America by 2013. All that and more, plus Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn takes a peek at the company’s amazing collection of classic cars.
Welcome to Autoline Daily for April 19th. I’m John McElroy and here’s what’s happening out there.
RAGE AGAINST THE RACING MACHINE
Formula One racing returns to Bahrain this weekend, but opponents of the regime that controls the country vow to wage three days of rage to coincide with the race. Major banks have been firebombed and graffiti with the word “Avoid” as in “avoid the race,” was sprayed on one of the buildings. It’s all part of the Arab Spring that continues to roil the Middle East. And I’m sure some of us will be tuning into the race this weekend to see if anything happens besides the race itself.
FORD BREAKS GROUND IN CHINA
Ford is racing to catch up in China and just announced it will build another assembly plant there. It just squeaked that in before the Chinese government slammed the door shut on new plants by foreign automakers. The plant will be capable of building 250,000 vehicles a year, which will bring Ford’s total annual capacity in China to 1.2 million vehicles when it comes on stream in 2015. In fact, that will bring Ford’s global manufacturing capacity to 8 million vehicles, which would put it right up there with GM, VW and Toyota.
ITALIAN FLAIR, CHINESE QUALITY
Chinese automaker BAIC just hired Italian designer Leonardo Fioravanti as its chief of design. He started his career at Pininfarina and later worked at Fiat, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. He left his position as Chairman of the Italian Association of the Automotive Industry Car Coachbuilders to join BAIC. This is another sign of how Chinese automakers are getting serious about design.
CONCEPT STYLE COUPE
And here’s the benchmark they have to compete with. Mercedes-Benz will intro this gorgeous concept car, called the CSC, at the Beijing auto show. The name stands for “Concept Style Coupe,” and according to Autoblog, this four-door is sized to take on the Audi A3 and Volvo V40. Supposedly the production version could even end up in North America.
FOR HEAVEN’S SAIC!
Just before its bankruptcy General Motors sold one percent of its ownership in SAIC-GM to its Chinese partner. That dropped it to a 49 percent minority partner. GM always said it would get that 1 percent back, and now it has a convoluted arrangement that allows it to say it did get it back, sort of. Under the new deal, which still needs government approval, the alliance would be split into two parts, a sales side and an operations side. GM and SAIC would have 50-50 ownership on the operations side while SAIC would keep 51 percent control over sales. But it still sounds to me like GM is second banana in this arrangement.
OK, back to Mercedes-Benz for a moment. First up, Ward’s reports the German automaker will likely bring a four-cylinder diesel engine to the U.S. sometime in 2013. It already offers a gasoline four-banger in the C-Class, so an oil-burner is not too far of a stretch. You know, slowly but surely automakers are becoming more receptive to offering diesels in North America. It’s about time! If you build ‘em – diesel-powered cars – they – the American public – will buy ‘em!
NO REASONABLE OFFER REFUSED!
Have you heard about this one yet? Maybachs are such a sales disaster they’re now offering them with a $100,000 rebate. C’mon down, it’s a clearance sale! We can put you in one of these babies for only $272,000. You know, Daimler does a great job building Mercedes-Benzes and commercial trucks, but it can’t seem to figure out how to launch new brands. Whether it’s the cheap little smarts or the super expensive Maybachs, both have been a disaster.
Coming up next we’ll have Carlos Ghosn drive us down Memory Lane with some of Nissan’s historic cars.
Nissan just put out this video of Carlos Ghosn taking a tour of the company’s heritage center. We found this interesting enough to share with you.
(This feature is only available in the video version of today’s program.)
I hope Nissan does build its own museum. I think it’s smart for car companies to honor, remember and maintain their heritage.
Don’t forget to tune in tonight for Autoline After Hours. We’ll have Art Spinella from CNW Marketing who always has fascinating insight about cars and what’s going on in the car market. Join me and the Autoextremist himself, Peter DeLorenzo, for some of his High Octane Truth tonight starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
And that wraps up today’s news, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.