Episode 206 – Production Going Up, GM Sees No Opportunity in Japan, Equus Coming to U.S.

August 13th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 8:02

A number of automakers are boosting car production, hiring back workers, and adding overtime to the production schedule. General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson says he has no interest in the Japanese market. Hyundai is bringing its Equus sedan to the American market. All that and more, plus a look at the annual Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Automakers are starting to ramp-up production. GM’s CEO says he has no interest in the Japanese market. And a preview of the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, August 13, 2009. And now, the news.

Well, we’re not exactly signing “Happy Days Are Here Again” but we might be humming a few bars in the near future. A number of automakers are boosting car production, hiring back workers, and adding overtime to the production schedule. Ford, Chrysler and Toyota are cranking-up the assembly lines to provide dealers with more inventory. A lot of that has to do with the cash-for-clunkers program which left automakers with extremely low levels of inventory on compact cars.

A proposal to change the cash-for-clunkers program to allow customers to receive a voucher if a car isn’t on the dealer lot is being opposed by foreign automakers, specifically Toyota and Honda. According to the AP, they argue that it will cause confusion and add more complexity to the program. Of course, they have the inventory to take advantage of the Cash for Clunkers program, while GM and Chrysler, which shut down during bankruptcy, do not. Lawmakers pushing the proposal argue that the program has caused a scarcity of fuel-efficient vehicles and that low production levels has made it hard to replenish inventories.

While Japanese automakers have an intense interest in American public policy and the American car market, the American automakers could not care less about what’s happening in Japan. General Motors, for example, is growing and investing in most markets around the world. But here’s what GM’s CEO Fritz Henderson told me about Japan. Even though Japan is the largest automobile manufacturer in the world, it’s pretty much a closed market. Not one foreign automaker has an assembly plant in Japan and almost no foreign suppliers do.

General Motors will begin exporting vehicles made in China by its joint venture with SAIC and Wuling. And since it has no hope of selling in Japan, it’s going to South America, the Middle East and North Africa. Two mini commercial vehicles, the Wuling N200 and N300 will be badged as Chevys and be sold through GM’s distribution network. The first vehicles are being shipped out today.

Reuters reports that Volkswagen’s Chief Executive, Martin Winterkorn, is ALSO poised to become the new CEO of Porsche. He’s taking the reins from Wendelin Wiedeking, who was ousted from the position following an epic power struggle with Ferdinand Piech. VW is set to acquire a 49-percent stake in Porsche, which puts the two companies on the road to becoming integrated by the end of 2011.

It’s official, Hyundai is bringing its Equus sedan to the American market. The model is aimed squarely at established players in the luxury segment, like the BMW 7 Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The Equus is built on the same rear-wheel-drive platform as the Hyundai Genesis and will likely share the same engines. It should reach U.S. showrooms sometime next year.

Coming up next, a look at the annual Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise, we’ll be back right after this.

The Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise is the largest one-day automotive event in the world. Every summer on the third Saturday in August, thousands of classic cars and spectators descend on the famous piece of pavement running from Detroit to Pontiac, Michigan. The event draws cars from all over the world – some coming from places as far away as New Zealand and Japan. To celebrate the annual automotive gathering, we’ll be broadcasting right from Woodward. Tonight, Autoline After Hours is coming to you LIVE from Auto Zone Hobbies in Birmingham, Michigan.

A few years ago we produced a video on the Dream Cruise. If you’re not familiar with the event, here’s a little taste of what it’s all about.

If you’re into cars and you’ve never been to the Dream Cruise you really should check it out. And, if you want to watch the rest of this compelling video, swing over to the Autoline Store on our website and pick up a copy – or two – of the DVD for yourself. Again, “Cruisin’ Woodward” is available in our online store on our website.

I will not be here tomorrow, so, filling in for me and making his Autoline Daily debut is the irrepressible Jim Hall. And since I won’t be here, we’re pulling this week’s trivia contest ahead by a day. We challenged you to tell us the name of the old General Motors, the part of the business that contains all of the company’s bad assets. And the correct answer is . . . Motors Liquidation Company, Motors Liquidation Company. As far as names go, they don’t get much more descriptive than that. Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? And this week’s lucky winner is . . . Steve Lindsay of Sault Ste. Marie – The Soo – Ontario, Canada. Congratulations Steve, you’ve just won a Mazda Zoom-Zoom baseball hat.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

14 Comments to “Episode 206 – Production Going Up, GM Sees No Opportunity in Japan, Equus Coming to U.S.”

  1. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Memo to Fritz “230″: I don’t think the Japanese car buyers are interested in buying GM products either, so it works out great for everybody, and by the way, they start the clunker program with GM and Chrysler plants shut down and unable to put more vehicles in the market. Geniuses these people are,NOT.

  2. Tony Gray Says:

    I’m starting to get a bit peeved at the import manufacturers all around. I don’t want to sound like a basher, as my daily driver is a BMW, but Toyota and Honda complaining about how WE spend OUR treasury is crossing the line.

    Half of the CARS money is going to support foreign automakers. I think that in itself is dubious. Then in the same report we are reminded of Japan’s continual aversion to open competition in their home market.

    They already got more than I would have given them…maybe it’s time they pipe down before this PR problem grows into a nightmare for them.

  3. Alex Kajdi Says:


    I can tell Fritz Henderson is not Diplomat!
    You would think that GM has parts suppliers headquatered in Japan who might be offended by is statement. What Fritz should have said is that his main concern and objective is strenghtening GM in North American by putting Americans back to work building the most reliable and technologically advanced vehicles on the planet. Please sing this updated jingle to Fritz and Bob Lutz the next time you see them: “See the WORLD Today in your Chevrolet”! Every time I hear thar name Chevrolet I can not stop thinking that those are cheap entry level vehicles, except for the Corvette.

  4. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Attn Toyota and Honda: Your greed is getting to the point of absurdity. It is American taxpayers money being used for the cars program, just be glad they didn’t put into law that it had to be an American car to qualify for the plan. So just shut up already!

  5. hermann the german Says:

    Awesome! Jim Hall on Daily. Any guesses how many words and ideas he’ll be able to cram into 5 minutes? I bet I can hold my breath longer than I can keep up.

  6. John V Says:

    Tony Gray,

    I agree. I am afraid this is a sign of how much “FOR SALE” our lawmakers appear to be.

    It seems we, as a nation, need a good fill of how bad things are before we catch on. Some politician could take this on and make a career with it if he or she has the fortitude for the pain in the beginning.

    The importers have been getting all kinds of help including the “German Provision” and general press attitude toward anything American. The Detroit Three deserve lots of criticism for some of their decisions, but they need better PR about large sedan fuel economy achieved in the late 80s and early 90s, better quality gains, etc.

    I am also afraid that our business models for taxation of corporations, investment, earnings reporting, research and development, and compensating executives make a future for mass manufacturing in the US by US companies less than hopeful. We need a US manufacturing plan or we need to accept the fact that mass production in the US by US-based companies will disappear.

  7. James Says:

    pedro Fernandez,

    If they limited Cash for Clunkers to “American Cars” only, then you would have the top American sedan Toyota Camry available, but unfortunately you would have to exclude the Ford Fusion from the program. I’m starting to think the Japanese car companies are more American than the “American” car companies. And that’s even before GM imports cars from China.

  8. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Good on Fritz (it’s a close market over there for crying out loud; the Japaneese manufacturers can say what they want but I certainly don’t have to agree). If you ask me, and I know a some of you wouldn’t, but I’d have liked to see, the Cash for Clunkers to be inclusive to American Manufacturers only.

    It seems the World wants the playing field to be fair only when they play in our ‘ballpark’.

  9. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I am so burned out on the US bending over backwards for the foreign auto makers.Turn about should be fair play,but sadly it isn’t.I also agree the cash for clunkers program should have been EXCLUSIVELY for american vehicles.By that I mean the money goes to the big 3 and stays in america.I don’t care about toyota,honda,mercedes et al.Put our people back to work,reestablish OUR manufactureing base.If the foregners don’t like it,take your woes back to where you came from.Or open up your markets to US vehicles on an equal footing.Rant over….

  10. Dave Says:

    US auto makers “ramping up production”??by the time those car it the dealers the cash for c4c program will be done and the US automakes will be in even worst shape next year when there is 1/2 the sales do to the c4c pulling the sales from next year forward…what a mess and US automakes found flat footed again

  11. pedro Fernandez Says:

    When the clunkers plan was being worked on, somebody suggested it should be for
    american makes, or at least for vehicles built here. Well that didn’t sit well with the foreign makes who immediately accused the U S of “protectionism” ( who are they to talk) and the pansies that run Washington immediately backed out and then said: “Oh, no, I’m sorry yes we’ll include any car as long as it gets certain MPG. I wonder then if the domestics would have re-started production?

  12. pedro Fernandez Says:

    ps. locally, dealers are almost out of Yaris and Fits thanks to the CARS program, how does that help the American auto industry? can someone smarter than me explain that.

  13. hermann the german Says:

    Pedro, congress can’t write legislation that harms foreign manufacturers without violating international trade rules. Also excluding cars costing over 40G excluded many imports.Remember, Honda and Toyota dealers are made up of americans, and Japanese cars get made here too.

  14. Oink Says:

    remember Fritz Henderson!

    GM failed in Japan too many times!
    so its not like what he said.
    simply GM cant afford to fail anymore, can they/

    GM tried to sell Saturns in Japan, they actually
    had Saturn dealerships, but almost no one bought them.no one wanted them.

    GM also tried to sell SAABs,caddy,
    rebadged Daewoo built Chevy……….
    i almost forgot about Opel.(had too many tech issues)

    NEVER won.

    Germans are doing well in Japan , though,so GM simply
    doesnt have good cars. DO YOU