August 15th, 2012 at 12:07pm
The CAW enters negotiations today and Ford says Canadian labor is the most expensive in the industry. Dr. Candace Wheeler, a technical fellow at General Motors, says ethanol has kept gas prices lower than they would be otherwise. Fisker just hired the recently-retired Tony Posawatz to be its new CEO. All that and more, plus You Said It!
Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily, where we bring you the most important facts to learning about what’s happening in the global automotive industry.
CANADIAN LABOR MOST EXPENSIVE
We all thought that the restructuring Detroit’s automakers went through in 2009 left them with some of the most competitive labor costs in the industry. But as Ford negotiates with the Canadian Auto Workers union, it provided Bloomberg with some of the labor costs it pays in different countries around the world. And it turns out that Canada’s auto workers are the highest paid in the world at $79 an hour. Next is the United States at $64 an hour. Germany is $48, Australia is $35. This includes all labor costs, including retiree benefits. So it’s not as if the workers see this kind of money in their weekly paychecks. Nonetheless, it’s amazing to see that US labor costs are higher than they are in Germany.
ETHANOL KEEPS GAS PRICES DOWN
Ethanol production in the United States is a political hot potato, but most motorists don’t know that it’s significantly holding down the price of gasoline. Dr. Candace Wheeler, the foremost bio-fuels expert at General Motors, tells Autoline Daily that if ethanol were eliminated from gasoline the price of gas would go up anywhere from 84 cents to $1.07 a gallon. She cites studies from Iowa and Louisiana State Universities. Ethanol comprises about 10% of a gallon of gas in the US, and a gallon of ethanol is significantly cheaper than a gallon of gas. By displacing 10% of gasoline, ethanol keeps gasoline supplies higher and that contributes to keeping the price down as well.
POSAWATZ TO FISKER
Fisker just hired the former head of GM’s global electric vehicle development, Tony Posawatz as its new CEO. He replaces Tom LaSorda, who will also step down as chairman but remain with the company as an advisor. You may remember that between leaving GM and joining Fisker, Posawatz was picked by Drew Winter, the CEO of New America Motors to join his company during last month’s Autoline After Hour’s Automotive Draft. Winter exclusively tells Autoline Daily that “New America Motors regrets the loss of Tony Posawatz to Fisker Automotive, but wishes him well. As we mentioned during the draft, NAM holds Posawatz in the highest regard and we did not expect him to stay retired very long. Unfortunately our imaginary pay package could not compete with a real one.” Click the link in today’s show notes to watch which executives my colleagues and I chose to lead our fictional car companies.
NHTSA was supposed to release the final CAFE targets today, but now it says it will miss its own deadline. The Detroit News reports that foreign automakers slammed the regulations as favoring GM, Ford and Chrysler. German automakers complained it favors trucks which are the bread and butter for GM, Ford and Chrysler. Japanese automakers were upset that there isn’t more flexibility in using car credits to meet truck standards.
CHEVY’S RESCUE SQUAD
As sure as the sun rising in the morning, classic cars will break down. That’s why Chevy is deploying its Rescue Squad Silverados at the Woodward Dream Cruise this year. The trucks will be cruising around with technicians from a couple of local Chevy dealers to assist cars of any brand suffering from dead batteries, flat tires and other small problems. Bravo Chevy, that’s a great way to attract people to the band.
Coming up next, it is time for You Said It!
Chuck Grenci saw our report that Frito-Lay is going to start using electric delivery trucks, and had a very interesting observation. “It might be almost as ‘green’ if Frito-Lay kept their delivery trucks diesel and burned their manufacturing cooking oil in their vehicles.” Chuck, that’s a great idea. Plus, they could use the smell of the exhaust as a marketing tool to make people want to eat more potato chips.
XA351GT saw our report that GM CEO Dan Akerson ripped into the company’s employees at a town hall meeting, and has this to say. “Nothing spurs on company loyalty more than a butt chewing for the boss. Good luck with that Dan. It never worked at my job. Could this be the reason of the recent exodus of top brass at the General?” I think there are a variety of reasons why we’ve seen a number of execs suddenly leave the company. But I’m sure the leadership style of the CEO has played a role in that.
Brett was not impressed with the high performance version of the Mini we showed you earlier this week. “John Cooper Works Mini GP, eh? I thought cocaine was God’s way of telling you, you had too much money…For the same amount of money you could buy a shifter kart for yourself and seven of your friends. Now *that* would be some fun!” What a terrific idea, Brett. Go fast and do it racing wheel to wheel with your best friends, I don’t think it would get any better than that.
Lex says, “I know that the Nissan NV200 will be the taxi for both New York (Yellow Version) and London (Black Version). Why doesn’t Nissan sell a passenger version of the NV200 to the general public?” Lex, I imagine that Nissan is worried that a passenger version of the NV200 would steal sales from the Quest minivan. However, sales of the Quest are going nowhere. So far this year sales are barely over 12,000 vans, so maybe the NV would do better, if you can get past the way it looks.
Stu says the new crash test from the IIHS is a real problem. “As an engineer for a Tier 1 underbody supplier, I can tell you that this new “narrow-offset” crash test is a very difficult test to pass. It’s certainly giving us headaches! The test hits just outside of the frame rails, which are what is designed to carry the crash loads. Like you said, John, it’s designed to rip the side of the car off, but I do see the reason behind it. It will be very interesting to see how the different OEMs handle this new crash mode.” Thanks for that insight Stu, very valuable. And we sure would like to hear from other engineers in the industry on the issues you’re facing as you develop new cars and trucks.
Earlier in the show we mentioned how Chevrolet will field repair trucks to help out any classic cars that break down at the Dream Cruise. Well, join us tomorrow night as we take Autoline After Hours to the center of the action at the Mopar display on Woodward Avenue. Even though the official Dream Cruise is on Saturday, it’s already gotten going. Join me and the Autoextremist Peter De Lorenzo, for the best car talk in the business.
And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll be back here tomorrow.