March 6th, 2013 at 12:00pm
The UAW is holding a press conference near the Geneva auto show today as part of its effort to ramp up its organizing effort at Nissan’s assembly plant in Mississippi. Fueled by higher gas prices, sales of hybrids, plug-ins and electrics enjoyed a strong February in the American market. For the second straight year Toyota President Akio Toyoda overhauled the top management positions at the company’s North American operations. All that and more, plus John McElroy gets to your questions and comments in this week’s edition of You Said It!
Welcome to the middle-of-the-work-week version of Autoline Daily. In the second part of the show we’ll get to your comments and questions, but first, the news.
UAW STEPS UP PRESSURE ON NISSAN
More news coming out of the Geneva Motor Show today but this has nothing to do with any kind of new product unveils. Instead, it’s about union organizing. The UAW is holding a press conference near the Geneva Auto Show today as part of its effort to ramp up its organizing effort at Nissan’s assembly plant in Mississippi. Nissan says it honors international agreements that allow employees to join unions, but the UAW claims Nissan’s American management is fighting any unionization efforts. The UAW also reached out to Japanese unions, so now it looks like the UAW is taking its protests globally to put more pressure on Nissan.
INDIA TO ASSEMBLE MORE HARLEYS
Harley-Davidson announced it will assemble three more of its motorcycle models in India. Heck, I never knew Harley made bikes in India! According to the Wall Street Journal, the company will also cut the price of the models by twenty five percent. Harley currently assembles half of the 12 models it sells in the country from kits shipped to India from the U.S. Harley made the decision days after India announced it will increase the import tax for motorcycles with engines larger than 800cc.
GREEN CAR SALES SOAR
Sales of hybrids, plug-ins and electrics enjoyed a strong February in the American market as car buyers reacted to higher gasoline prices and a bigger selection of these alternative models. Sales came to 43,500 units, up nearly 16 percent from the year before, and grew twice as fast as the overall market. If you just look at plug-ins and pure electrics, the growth was even faster. Sales were just over 4,000 cars, up 259 percent from a year ago. Even with this growth, however, these “green cars” only comprise 3.6 percent of total vehicle sales, meaning they’re still a small niche. And just because so many of you ask about the sales battle between the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan LEAF, the Volt outsold the LEAF by more than two to one.
TOYOTA OVERHAULS MANAGEMENT
For the second straight year Toyota President Akio Toyoda overhauled the top management positions at the company’s North American operations. The company says the new management structure is aimed at real competitiveness and sustainable growth, which is a bit a surprise coming from the worlds #1 automaker. For the first time Toyota will be adding outside board members, which includes former GM group Vice President Mark Hogan. Other notable changes are Jim Lentz will now run all of Toyota’s North American operations and affiliates. Steve St. Angelo will now run all of Toyota’s Latin America operations. And Mark Templin will run all of Lexus globally, the first non-Japanese to run a Toyota division.
HIT THE i-ROAD, JACK
In other Toyota news, the company showed off its personal mobility concept at the Geneva show yesterday. Called the i-Road, it’s a three-wheeler with motorcycle-like handling that is meant for the urban traveler that commutes short distances. The tandem two-seat i-Road is powered by a lithium ion battery, has a top speed of about 30 mph and a range of just over 30 miles if you stay around 20 mph. No word on any target price or if it will go into production, but it will compete against the Renault Twizy which sells for about $9,000.
Coming up, it’s time for You Said It!
Al Jones says, “I pass two dealerships on my way to work everyday. Both of these dealer lots are overflowing with new cars and one of them is still advertising sales on new 2012 models. So my question is – when the manufacturer publishes auto sales, is that vehicles sold to the dealer? Or when the dealer sells to an actual customer?” Great question Al. When a car rolls off the assembly line, an automaker counts it as sold, but only for financial accounting reasons. When automakers publish their monthly sales, the ones that we report about, it’s what the sales the dealers reported. But here’s where it get complicated. Automakers also report how many vehicles they built, and how many they delivered to dealers. So we have three numbers to looks at. Production, deliveries and sales. And you what? None of these numbers ever match up precisely. The same thing happens when we get the reports on the actual number of cars that get registered by customers. The numbers never match up with sales.
Tony Gray loved our report on the U.S. Post Office coming out with a limited edition of stamps honoring some of the greatest muscle cars of all time. “When I saw the 66 GTO stamp I smiled from ear to ear! As an owner of one the most popular of the muscle cars (66 GTO, mine is a Tri-Power Hardtop) I can now emblazon all my written correspondence with a lovely vision of my favorite American Super Car.”
ColoradoKid was not at all impressed with the modifications Visteon made to a Nissan LEAF, what they’re calling the e-Bee. He says, “The e-Bee’s a bit of a pipe dream as well as more than a bit silly IMHO. No real benefit. The thing being just a bunch of vaporware add ons with a shift in the interior here and there. Doesn’t Visteon have something more ‘productive‘ to do with its time and resources?” ColoradoKid, are you kidding? Did you see how much space they opened up on the instrument panel? Let me tell you, one of the greatest battles that takes place in every new car development program is what they call the battle over real estate, i.e., the battle over who gets what space in a car. And with the instrument panel, or IP, it involves everyone: the body engineers, the interior designers, the safety experts, the HVAC people, the sound system people, and, of course, manufacturing. So for Visteon to figure out how to open up so much IP real estate, wow, that’s a break through.
TangoR34 says, “Elon Musk claims that even if the power comes from coal it would still be 30% more efficient than ICE cars. I suppose he means it would still pollutes less. John, I wonder what you think on this.” You’re right Tango, electric cars are not pollution free, they merely pollute less. You can buy cars right now with PZEV emission levels that run on gasoline and have roughly the same emissions as EVs. But that does not include CO2 emissions. However, Ricardo did a fascinating study of an E-85 optimized turbo V-6 with the same well-to-wheels carbon footprint as an electric car. So EVs are not the only way to lower our carbon footprint. But, in the U.S., we’re quickly moving out of coal and on to natural gas, thanks to all the shale gas now available. That’s making our electrical generation far cleaner than it was just five years ago. In fact, thanks to the move to natural gas, the US is now reducing its carbon dioxide emissions far faster than any other country in the world. And the US’s total output of CO2 could drop below Europe’s this year or next.
Thanks for all your comments and letters, we sure like reading them all. Before we go, if you haven’t voted in this week’s Autoline Poll, we’d like to hear from you. We’re asking how many cylinders do you have in your household? That includes the number of cylinders in your car, or bike or lawnmower, weed wacker, snowblower or whatever you have in your household. Check out yesterday’s Autoline Daily for March 5th. At the bottom of the show notes you’ll find the poll. We’ll announce the results in tomorrows show.
And that wraps up today’s report. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.
Copy and Paste to send this poll to a friend: http://bit.ly/Y97uw8