May 15th, 2009 at 12:19pm
GM is expected to announce that it’s cutting as many as 1,200 dealers today. We get to play with Ford’s new EcoBoost engine. GM and the UAW are near a deal to cut labor costs by more than a billion dollars. All that and more, plus a look at the 2010 Chevy Camaro RS.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Here are today’s top headlines. GM is expected to announce its dealer cuts. We get to play with Ford’s new EcoBoost engine. And GM may have reached a deal with the UAW.
Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.
This is Autoline Daily for Friday, May 15, 2009. I’m Mark Phelan, auto critic at the Detroit Free Press filling-in for John again. And now, the news.
Yesterday it was Chrysler and today it’s General Motors. In about 24 hours these two troubled automakers will have cut almost 2,000 dealerships, and in GM’s case, there’s still more to come. As many as 1,200 dealers are expecting news today that they’ll only have another year or so before they stop receiving vehicles. In fact, as far as General Motors goes, this is just the first wave of restructuring, since it’s planning to reduce its dealer body by 42 percent. And though it hasn’t done it with as much fanfare, we should also note that Ford also has been winnowing its own dealer body over the last few years, reducing the total number by 670 stores.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that GM and the UAW are near a deal to cut labor costs (subscription required) by more than a billion dollars a year as well as reducing its $20 billion pledge to the UAW VEBA. The plan, which could be finalized by next week, would still have to be voted on by the 60,000 GM UAW members.
EcoBoost is the cornerstone of Ford’s strategy to meet upcoming fuel economy and emissions regulations. Ford’s been trumpeting the technology for years, claiming it delivers the power we want and efficiency we need. Yesterday the company hosted a ride-and-drive event at its Romeo, Michigan Proving Grounds to give the media a chance to put EcoBoost to the test. So, does its new turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 live-up to the hype? In short, yes. We test-drove it in the Lincoln MKS sedan and the new MKT crossover. In both applications it was smooth and powerful, with a FLAT torque curve from idle to redline. It doesn’t matter where the tachometer needle is pointing, it just pulls and pulls. But the engine’s fuel economy was more surprising than its power and refinement. We’ll have more on Ford’s EcoBoost technology next week and a review of the MKT.
In other Ford engine news, Ward’s reports that the company will start production of a new diesel later this year (subscription required). Right now it’s unclear which engine it will be. The company has been developing two different diesels, a large 6.7-liter V8 codenamed “scorpion” and a smaller 4.4-liter unit.
In other engine news, Autoblog reports that Dodge is rumored to be developing a bigger, 6.4-liter Hemi. Based on the already huge 6.1-liter V8, the new engine would be offered in the Ram and probably deliver somewhere between 400 and 500 horsepower.
It looks like we may find out who will be taking Opel over soon. According to Ward’s, the German government wants proposals from leading bidders (subscription required) Fiat and Magna turned in next week. The government is also working on a plan to temporarily finance Opel if GM declares bankruptcy. But it looks likely that whoever ends up with the company will have to share it with Opel dealers. According to Reuters, Opel’s dealers are expected to vote today on taking a direct equity stake in the company. To help raise cash, the dealers would set aside 150 Euros for every car they sell for the next three years in a joint fund. The plan is expected to raise 500 million Euros.
And here’s a good reason not to drive around with an envelope full of cash. According to Autoblog, a man in Germany took an Audi A3 convertible out for a test drive with the top down. But he put an envelope filled with 23,000 Euros in cash he was going to use to buy the car on the back seat. And you can probably guess what happened next. Police had to close the road in both directions to help him recover the money, but he was able to recover about 20,000 Euros of it.
Coming up next, a look at the 2010 Chevy Camaro RS, we’ll be back right after this.
The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro is the first 21st Century American sport coupe, and it’s a world-beater.
I tested a V6-powered Camaro RS that can hold its own versus legendary coupes like the BMW 335i – but it costs thousands of dollars less, has more power and gets better fuel economy. For looks, value and fun, it smokes the competition.
It’s a marvelous car, and rolling proof that General Motors can build vehicles as good as any automaker in the world.
Unlike the throwback styling of the Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang, the Camaro’s looks are thoroughly modern, but it’s immediately recognizable as the descendant of Chevy’s 1960s pony car.
The engineering is cutting edge, from an independent suspension that hugs curves and absorbs bumps to the fast and precise six-speed automatic transmission and 304-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 in the Camaro RS I tested.
A 6.2-liter V8 that produces up to 425 horsepower is also available, but unless you’re into tire-shredding burnouts, the V6 packs all the punch you’ll need.
The V6 and V8 both come with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.
The interior features a handsome and legible instrument panel, but headroom, rear legroom and luggage space are limited. The materials all look fine, but it would have been nice if Chevrolet had spent a few cents more to replace some hard plastic trim with softer pieces.
Prices for the 2010 Camaro start just over $22,200. To read my full review of the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, pick up the Detroit Free Press or go to www.freep.com next Thursday.
The last thing on the agenda today is to announce the winner of this week’s trivia contest. We challenged you to tell us what Honda’s official name is. And the correct answer is … Honda Giken Kōgyō Kabushiki-gaisha
As always, we randomly selected today’s winner from the pool of correct responses. And this week’s winner is… Robert Grosse of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada. Congratulations Rob, you’ve just won a charming khaki-colored Honda hat.
Anyway, that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. I’m Mark Phelan, auto critic at the Detroit Free Press. Thanks for watching, John will be back next week.