April 30th, 2012 at 11:50am
Global car sales hit a world record in March with nearly 8.25 million units sold. General Motors will start selling the Chevrolet Corvette in South Korea next month. And speaking of GM, reports out of Japan say the company will take a 10 percent stake in Isuzu, to jointly develop, produce and sell pickup trucks and commercial vehicles. All that and more, plus a look at the all-new Dodge Dart.
Thanks for joining us for the beginning of a new week of watching the car business. I’m John McElroy, this is Autoline Daily, and now the news.
RECORD CAR SALES IN MARCH
And when it comes to global car sales, the news is good. Ward’s reports that sales hit a world record in March with nearly 8.25 million units sold, a 5 percent gain compared to last year. That’s thanks to growth in China, Russia, India and North America.
CORVETTE HEADS TO KOREA
And there’s good news for car enthusiasts in South Korea as well. GM will start selling the Chevrolet Corvette there next month. But get this, the base model, with 430-horsepower, will be priced at 86.4 million won. That’s about $76,000, which is 50 percent more than it costs in the U.S.! Since the U.S. and Korea now have a free-trade pact that lowers tariffs, looks like Chevy is pricing the car for high margins. Even so, are the Detroit Three finally going to get serious about exporting from the U.S. to the rest of the world again? Remember, we just reported that Ford is designing the next-generation Mustang with overseas sales in mind.
R.I.P. DAN KNOTT
And then there’s sad news to report today. Dan Knott, the vice president of Purchasing of Chrysler succumbed to his fight against cancer. Dan was only 51 years old and was just hitting his stride as a senior executive. He was a true automotive enthusiast, having worked on the original Dodge Viper and as director of Street Racing Technology, SRT. He was also vice president of Engineering. He survived the debacles with Daimler and Cerberus and was primed to play a significant role in the company’s amazing comeback, and it’s sad to see the industry lose one of the good guys.
RACE TO REPLACE AKERSON
Last week GM CEO Dan Akerson said he wanted his replacement to come from within the company, which got us thinking, ok, who could it be? So, all this week I’ll be presenting you with the executives who I think might be in the running, and on Friday I’ll give you my analysis of who might get the top job. But you can’t tell the players without a scorecard, and first up on today’s scorecard is Tim Lee. He’s not as well known outside the company, but Tim Lee is a GM lifer who grew up on the manufacturing and labor relations side of the business. A native of Loraine, Ohio, he spent the much of his recent career overseas, including stints at Isuzu in Japan, at GM Europe in Zurich, Switzerland, and now in Shanghai, China where he is president of GM’s International Operations. He’s also the chairman of GM Korea and was just appointed to the supervisory board of Opel. In fact, he is in charge of almost all of GM’s operations except North and South America. All that international experience gives him the kind of resume that the board of directors at GM would love to see in choosing their next CEO. But it’s rare, very rare, to see manufacturing guys make it to the very top no matter how much other business experience they have. Even so, Tim Lee could prove to be the exception to the rule.
GM SEEKS ISUZU STAKE
Speaking of GM and Isuzu, reports out of Japan say GM will take a 10 percent stake in Isuzu, again, to jointly develop, produce and sell pickup trucks and commercial vehicles in Asia and Central and South America. Analysts speculate that if the deal goes through, Toyota could sell its stake in Isuzu since they would be competing with each other. But I find it very curious to see GM signing up partners again after it was forced to drop those relationships when it went through bankruptcy.
NO B-PILLAR ON B-MAX
The new Ford B-Max is kind of unique. It’s a subcompact MPV based on the company’s B-class platform. But what really makes it stand out are the doors, it’s rear sliding doors. Now I know what you’re saying, “John, that’s NOTHING new.” And you’re right, except for one thing. Engineers have managed to delete the B-pillar, which gives wide-open access to the rear seats. I’m amazed this thing meets crash standards, but high-strength and ultra-high-strength boron steel was the solution. 40 real-world side-impact crash tests verified all the computer simulations. According to Wardsauto.com, Ford will likely use this approach on other vehicles in its lineup. Say, maybe they could finally build a competitive minivan . . .
Coming up next, we finally get to report on the new Dodge Dart.
2013 DODGE DART
(The Dodge Dart overview is only available in the video version of today’s program.)
Yeah, we still haven’t driven all the powertrain permutations in the Dart, so we’ll have to reserve our final judgment until we do. But right now I’d rate the Dart as a better car than the Elantra, Civic and Corolla, but not quite as good as the Chevy Cruze or Ford Focus.
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But that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.