Episode 52 – Have We Hit Bottom?, Nissan Definitely Out of NAIAS, Fiat Loses Copy-Cat Suit

January 6th, 2009 at 12:00pm

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December car sales were abysmal but have we hit bottom in the car market? Nissan definitely drops out of the Detroit Auto Show. Fiat loses a copy-cat lawsuit in China to Great Wall Motor. All that and more, plus a look at virtual tools Ford uses to design its vehicles.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Have we hit bottom in the car market? Nissan definitely drops out of the Detroit auto show. And Fiat loses a copy-cat lawsuit in China.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, January 6, 2009. And now, the news.

Well, we knew they were going to bad and they were. Sales of new cars in the American market fell over 35 percent last month. The hardest hit automakers were Land Rover, Chrysler and Hyundai. The ones who suffered the least were Subaru, Audi and Volkswagen. According to Ward’s the annualized sales rate was only 10.2 million units (subscription required). But I see a silver lining in this. A month ago the sales rate was 10.1 million. And from November to December sales rose by nearly 148,000 units, a 20 percent increase. Does that mean the market hit bottom in November and is now inching up? Too early to tell, but I’m looking for any bit of good news I can find.

Those abysmal sales are probably what led Hyundai to start a new offer where customers can walk away from a car even 12 months after it was financed or leased through participating Hyundai dealers. The idea is to get people to buy new Hyundai’s even if they’re afraid of losing their job.

And sales are bad everywhere. The Detroit News reports that Toyota is suspending vehicle production at all 12 of its plants in Japan. The shutdown is expected to last for nearly two weeks in February and March. The last time Toyota had to do this was way back in 1993, but that shutdown lasted only one day.

First they were in, then they were out, and then they were in again, but now it’s official – Nissan is not participating in the North American International Auto Show this year. Last November the company scrapped its plans to attend the event, but a group of Detroit-area dealers stepped-up to provide vehicles and staff for the display. But the Detroit Free Press reports that Nissan requested that the dealers respect its decision not to participate. No reason was given why.

A Chinese court dismissed a claim by Fiat of patent infringement by the Chinese car maker Great Wall Motor. According to Gasgoo.com, Fiat claims Great Wall’s GWPeri compact car too closely resembles its Panda vehicle. The ruling is final and can no longer be appealed. Last summer, an Italian court banned Great Wall from selling its GWPeri compact car in the European Union due to the dispute.

A restaurant located in the suburbs of Detroit is trying to help out the Big Three in its own unique way. During the month of January, diners who own vehicles made by Ford, GM or Chrysler will receive 50 percent discounts off their food bills.

Coming up next, a look at virtual tools Ford uses to design its vehicles. We’ll be back right after this.

Virtual design tools are helping Ford cost-effectively shave months off the product development process, while improving the quality, comfort and appeal of its vehicles.

Designers and engineers evaluate early vehicle designs in a virtual world and literally experience a vehicle from someone else’s vantage point before it is built. Here you see a Ford engineer wearing a 3D headset inside a mock-up of the 2009 Flex as colleagues evaluate the driver’s visibility.

Not only can the virtual tools be used for design, they can be applied to safety features as well. Here you see engineers researching driver preferences and reactions to active safety features.

These virtual tools help create vehicles that provide the “perfect fit” for almost all customers. Such design considerations are important because in many countries the population is not only getting older but larger as well.

Thanks to these virtual tools, Ford’s product development is anywhere from eight to 14 months faster than it was in 2004.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. But you can take the show anywhere with you in the form or podcasts and transcripts that you can get at our website, AutolineDaily.com. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

4 Comments to “Episode 52 – Have We Hit Bottom?, Nissan Definitely Out of NAIAS, Fiat Loses Copy-Cat Suit”

  1. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Once again John,thanx for the info.I don’t understand why Nissan won’t be at the show,but I’m sure it will be their loss not ours.Once again Ford is lightyears ahead of the other two with their virtual design technology,kudos.I am now waiting too see what Ford will bring out in the near future that will replace the very outdated Ranger.

  2. William R. Walling Says:

    John,
    “Seems media is looking for ANY bright spot in this GLOBAL transportation industry malaise.”
    Simply, your not alone!
    Regarding the improved December sales, annual ‘gift’ giving with unsustainable (long term) vendor incentives.
    Apologies, more ‘pot holes’ ahead on this road!

  3. Tom Martin Says:

    The new 370Z would have been worth showing. It compares well against a Mustang GT.

    But there’s not much else to display. The Maxima is old news. Sure hope the dealers weren’t planning on displaying the $9,999 Versa.

  4. Brandon Says:

    I wonder if Nissan will show up for the Chi-town show.

    It seems like Ford has some nice products out lately and some cool stuff down the pipe. I’m guessing the Kuga that’s in Europe will base the next Escape. Nice work with the virtual reality software, Ford. I just wish they would’ve thrown a telescoping wheel on the Flex.