Episode 233 – Magna to Cut Opel Jobs, Audi & Ford Grow In China, BMW Designs Bus Stop Benches

September 22nd, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 6:24

Now that Magna has bought part of Opel, it’s going to cut 10,500 jobs. Ford and Audi build more plants in China. BMW Design Works USA, designs bench seats for bus stops. All that and more, plus Tom Stephens, who is now in charge of all global product development at GM, talks about how we’re on the brink of getting cellulosic ethanol.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. It’s official, Opel will cut nearly 11,000 jobs. Ford and Audi build more plants in China. And BMW designs bench seats for bus stops.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, September 22, 2009. And now, the news.

Just as it’s been rumored all along, now that Magna has bought part of Opel, it’s going to cut 10,500 jobs, including 4,100 in Germany, the AFP reports. 2,500 jobs will be cut in Belgium, 2,000 in Spain, about 1,300 in the UK, and 430 in Poland. In all, about 25 percent of Opel’s hourly and salary employees will be let go. This is the first major downsizing in the European auto industry since the global recession began.

Telematics is a booming business in the auto industry. The Detroit Free Press reports that the Consumer Electronics Association says that telematics sales are expected to pass $9.3 billion this year. The CES says that the automobile is becoming “the fourth screen” in consumer electronics behind the TV, the computer, and the cell phone.

Yesterday we reported that Audi is on pace to hit its sales targets in China two years ahead of schedule. Today Ward’s reports that the company just cut the ribbon on a new plant in China (subscription required). The $146 million facility, part of a FAW-VW joint venture, will start building the A4 and the Q5 next year. And Ford will announce plans to build a third manufacturing plant in the country on Friday. According to Reuters, the company will operate the plant with its current Chinese partner, Chongqing Changan Automobile. The plant will have an annual capacity of at least 150,000 units, currently Ford builds nearly 450,000 vehicles in China.

Chrysler has found a way to save weight … and trees. The company is going digital – ditching paper owners’ manuals on all 2010 Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles. Instead of the typical book that weighs around four pounds, drivers will get a DVD and a 60 to 80 page guide that highlights commonly needed information. The move is expected to save around 930 tons of paper annually which works out to be about 20,000 trees. BMW made a similar move on its 7 Series by integrating the owner’s manual into iDrive. I’ll bet no one reads the digital version, either.

Ward’s reports that the researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture have developed a process for making bio-based additives for oil and grease (subscription required). They can be sourced from triglycerides found in natural oils like soybean, corn and canola. They’re fully compatible with both bio-based and conventional oils, plus they’re completely biodegradable. Laboratory tests show that the plant-based additives fight wear as well as or better than petroleum-based additives. No word yet when or if this will make it to market.

Coming up after the break: BMW is designing bench seats for bus stops. You heard me right. And Tom Stephens talks about how we’re on the brink of getting cellulosic ethanol.

BMW Design Works USA just released its latest design effort, and while it does involve transportation, it has nothing to do with cars. The latest BMW design actually involves furniture for public transportation stops. In other words, BMW is designing benches for bus stops. But it also includes bike racks, display signs and even garbage cans. Everything has a sleek, minimalist look to it, all with the idea of connecting people with public transportation, and, I suppose, of showing that a car company can help beautify the urban landscape.

Yesterday we hosted a live webcast with Tom Stephens, who is now in charge of all global product development for General Motors. I’m sure a lot of you saw that webcast, but I think one of the interesting things he talked about is how we’re on the verge of finally getting cellulosic ethanol.

You can watch the entire webcast with Tom Stephens right now at our website. Just check out the John’s Journal section at Autoline Daily.com.

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

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25 Comments to “Episode 233 – Magna to Cut Opel Jobs, Audi & Ford Grow In China, BMW Designs Bus Stop Benches”

  1. Richard S Says:

    Does Chrysler include a device for reading the DVD as standard equipment? What if I get stuck in Podunk Corners and have to find the fuse for the headlights? At least the Bimmer has a DVD drive.

  2. Tony Gray Says:

    Magna’s decision to cut is not surprising. In a totally free economy, companies would have aligned capacity with demand on their own. However, with the various governments involved and strong unions in many countries, their ability to do this was dramatically curtailed.

    I don’t want to get into a union/non-union discussion, but when a union entity is specifically targeted to a single industry, it has to have employment numbers remain high to keep union membership up. (I know, no kidding, Tony, what’s the point?)

    My point is that governments and unions with a true worker focus would set the conditions for those workers to be trained on skill sets for emerging industrial needs, rather than spend so much energy on trying to keep excess personnel around to produce excess capacity.

    If we had this much government and union interference in the late 1800s, we would still have the majority of folks working in agriculture and have a thriving buggy industry.

  3. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    I may be an old fart, but give me knobs,dials and buttons and leave the screens at home where they belong. DVD owners manual, oh wonderful. now let me take my eyes off the road so I can figure out how to use the trunk release, no wonder they keep putting more and more airbags in cars.

  4. Nick Stevens Says:

    if BMW wants to beautify the environment, as John McElroy said, it would do much better by designing beautiful cars for a change, which is what it is an expert on, and give it up with the silly bus benches that every idiot can design.

    Instead, BMW went thru 10 or so tragic years of “Bangled” designs that look much worse than their 90s predecessors.

  5. Tony Gray Says:

    Sorry to jump in again, but I agree with Nick. Hard to beat an old 635CSi in the looks department. The new 3′s aren’t bad, but the 5′s are still odd and the 6′s, while nice, had that awful chrome porn star mustache.

  6. Nick Stevens Says:

    I am the exact opposite of Pedro re screens. My previous cars had no computer displays, until 4 yrs ago when I got a luxury car at a bargain price with the initial NAvigation of (now 12 years). It has been proven invaluable to me!

    Once I was visiting friends in their new Home on New Years Eve, I gave my significant other maps from Mapquest, but she was utterly useless in using them to help me. It was foggy and rainy outside. I finally found the place, but when we returned, I got lost in that new neigborhood.

    NO PROBLEM that there was nobody outside at 2 AM to ask for directions!

    I just turned on my excellent navigation, typed in my own Home address, and let the efficient GPS Take me home, with NOT having to use one ounce of my brains! I have bewen thru the agony of lifw without GPS for mopre than 25 years, and I have NO desire to go back to these dark ages,

  7. Nick Stevens Says:


    I liked the 5 series 97-03, although they look small today, compared to their much larger successors. I also liked the 3 series coupe 99-05, it was and still is very elegant. I did not at all like the 7 (or the 6) after 2002, but the 95-01 and the 7 previous to that were fine. Even the first 7 ever, in 78 or so.

  8. Nick Stevens Says:

    ALso, I listened to the entire TOm Stephens interview, and I have to say that my almost namesake was utterly dissapointing.

    I think Jim S. succested that John invite TOm Stephens counterpart in TOyota or Honda or BMW and we will see the huge gap in competence…

  9. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Nick: correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t most new fancy phones have the GPS capability already? And they cost a lot less, I imagine. Also there’s Tom Tom and other similar gadgets which are more useful in case you don’t travel by car. My problems with these screens is that they distract drivers too much thus causing accidents.

  10. Wayne Says:

    Pedro, if you are going to be trying to open the trunk on a car while it is moving on the road, I have to question your driving ability!!

  11. Chuck Grenci Says:

    The DVD owners manual won’t be too bad (though the proof will be in the pudding) by the content that is included in the 60 to 80 page owners guide. But personally, I still like the idea of a hardcopy.

  12. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Pedro Fernandez Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Nick: correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t most new fancy phones have the GPS capability already? ”

    I would not know, but even if they do have, it would be far more dangerous to hold one of these little devils and try to read their tiny screens in the dark, rather than travel like a kING and have your 5-7″ lighted screen ON your dashboard, and effortlessly receive guidance (in English or Spanish only.. unfortunately I could not find any other options… it would be fun if it was in German…)

    I really hate cellphones, esp. at Airports when I am trying to read and concentrate while waiting for my stupid flight. My girfriend-significant other got me a card phone that has no fancy capabilities, not even photo ability, and is 100% free of somebody calls you (if you want to call, you buy time, but it’s expensive). I rarely if ever use it.

  13. Nick Stevens Says:

    Digital everything is so much more convenient, I could take my entire professional library with me when I travel, but I would first need to hire somebody full time for years to digitize and scan all the documents and books I have from the pre-modern age…

    But for everything I have done in the last 10 years, I try to avoid killing trees and making hard copies whenever I can, and I can say that it is a far more efficient filing system to have 2-3 backups of all your files digitally, and it is extremely easy to find any paper or article or other file any time you want it, in 1% of the time it would take me to find it by going thru paper files.

  14. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Sure, Wayne,that’s the best way to dispose of a body w/o getting all messy. Just pop open the trunk and go over a big bump, problem solved. As far as GPS, you could always pull over and look at your screen, right? I still think Tom Tom is the way to go!

  15. Nick Stevens Says:

    ” My problems with these screens is that they distract drivers too much thus causing accidents.”

    The screen in the cellphone will eb 1,000 times more distracting, (plus having to use one hand to hold the damned thing!) than the much bigger, brighter screen on your dash. It is worth the extra $,

    You can also buy an aftermarket dash nav system (not a cellphone) for about 1/3 of what they charge new from the automaker, and it works ok as well.

  16. Nick Stevens Says:

    Then you can’t beat an old Caddy with its three-corpse trunk, Mafia’s choice. Euro luxury sedans, even the top of the line, do not have large trunks any more, they barely hold 4 sets of golf clubs. Having a full size spare also eats into trunk space..

  17. Salvador G. Says:

    JohnMc, I thought we were over Magna already jeez! Anywho…

    There’s an Idea, Why not -car companies provide a version of their car manual to be downloaded directly to cellphones and such???

    BMW designing bus stop benches.
    \OK Germans are just weird- there I said it.

    I’m glad Ford its opening a plant in China for 150,000 workers… With all the jobs lost here, I’m just glad someone its getting them.

  18. Andy S Says:

    Why put the owner’s manual on DVD?!?!? Many of the newer computers (partiucularly the small travel laptops) no longer have DVD drives. USB ports/thumb drives and/or SD Cards are the media of today and the near future.

  19. Mike B Says:

    GM and ethanol bad idea. Selling at $1.50 per gallon? And it burns faster than gas giving bad mileage numbers. Supply and demand is all I can say. The rates will be as high or higher than gas and allot of engines do not support E85. I cannot use it in the 2010 Fusion. So lay off the alternate fuels and go EV. It is the only way to truly get away from oil.

  20. Jonathan Says:

    Come on guys, how many of us have owned cars and never opened the owners manual? My 2000 Cavalier that I bought new, have only looked at the owners manual once, but info I needed was there and had to buy a service manual. My wifes 2007 focus I have yet to open the manual. All fluid reqiurements are the respective filler caps, I have been able figure out every thing else out.

  21. Jonathan Says:

    Oops “but info I needed was there” I meant to say “but info I needed was not there”

  22. Jonathan Says:

    OK, I take that back, I have used the owners manuals to set the clock. Seems like the car companies like to make something so simple, so difficult to set.

  23. Nick Stevens Says:

    Even on such simple cars as the GM J-cars (cavalier and its clones, I once had a pontiac version) and the Civic hatch, I read the manuals well. I may not remember everything, but I sure read them. And my latest car, you really need to read the manual, it is very complicated, tons of different systems, but even on a simple system sich as the locks, there are pages and pages on what to do if this or that happens. And I found it quite helpful at times.

  24. John V Says:

    I still don’t get the timing for getting cellulosic ethanol. “Putting the pilot plants in place” or being “on the verge” is not enough information about the planned rollout of cellulosic ethanol. What is the month and year? Is it a secret?

  25. Alex Kovnat Says:

    If the technical problem of breaking down cellulose into simple sugar (glucose) for fermentation into ethanol has finally been worked out, this is great news.

    Drive down any parkway, i.e. Northwestern Highway when you get off the I-696/Lodge Freeway “Mixing Bowl” and you’ll see plenty of trees. Every tree is a potential biofuels factory, whenever you trim the branches.

    Alas, the problem is (aside from finding the capital to build the processing plants) getting the biomass (trimmed tree branches, other cellulose-containing biomass) to the processing plants.