January 21st, 2010 at 12:00pm
GM starts restructuring its European operations by announcing plant closings and layoffs for some 8,500 Opel workers. Chinese automakers could really takeoff in Russia now that they’re building vehicles in the country. Kia is set to lose nearly $1 billion as workers strike at its three plants in South Korea. All that and more, plus a look at Audi’s spectacular reveal of its redesigned flagship, the 2011 A8.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Here are today’s top headlines. The restructuring of the European auto industry is about to begin. Chinese automakers have their sights set on Russia. And the Dodge Dakota could end up on the same platform as the Fiat Strada.
Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.
This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, January 21, 2010, and now, the news.
This could be the first step in the restructuring of the European auto industry. As expected, General Motors announced today that it will lay off 8,500 workers at Opel, including shutting its giant assembly plant in Antwerp, Belgium. All told, GM will reduce manufacturing capacity by 20 percent, and as Fiat’s CEO Sergio Marchionne has been warning, the rest of the European industry will have to do the same.
When Chinese cars started pouring into the Russian market two years ago, Vladimir Putin’s government slapped a $7,000 import tariff on them, almost doubling their price. But Gasgoo reports that Chinese automakers, led by Great Wall, are now starting to make cars in Russia. And one distributor predicts the Chinese could become the biggest foreign automakers in Russia in three years. However, it quotes another analyst as saying Russia will make sure it protects its domestic automakers.
Ward’s reports Kia could lose nearly $1 billion in cumulative revenue as workers strike at its three plants in South Korea. Workers are demanding the same settlement Kia’s sister company, Hyundai, gave its employees, which agreed to a no-strike deal and a one-year pay freeze in exchange for several thousand dollars in bonuses. A spokesman for the automaker says Kia has lost about 53,000 units of production since June.
It’s been rumored that the Dodge Dakota – or is it the Ram Dakota now? – will switch from its current body-on-frame architecture to a unitbody platform like the Honda Ridgeline. According to Ward’s, Ram division President and CEO, Fred Diaz, confirms that the Fiat Strada COULD underpin a next-gen Dakota. Right now the midsize truck is scheduled to be discontinued in twenty-eleven, but IF a successor is built, the Strada could be the one. But some inside Chrysler worry that its 107-inch wheelbase is too short for Dakota buyers, however, smaller dimensions could give the truck better separation from the full-size Ram.
The World Trade Organization says it will investigate U.S. tariffs on Chinese tires. According to Gasgoo.com, a panel will look to see if the tariff violates WTO policies. The U.S. placed a three-year tariff on tires imported from China, starting at 35 percent the first and down to 25 percent in the third. China claims the tariffs are unfair and are protectionist. A decision could take up to six months to make. Brazil has also slapped tariffs on Chinese tires. I wonder if the Chinese are asking the WTO to look into that, too.
Yesterday we reported that California may pull out of the deal for fuel standards if the government didn’t make changes to rules, but now it’s backing down from that threat. According to the Detroit Free Press, the California Air Resources Board says it’s fully committed to the rules. Even still, CARB isn’t backing down from its comments that credits for zero-emission vehicles should be reduced and that fuel standards for vehicles should not be eased in.
Coming up next, a look at the al- new Audi A8.
Audi’s new A8 is an impressive re-do of the brand’s flagship sedan. Recently we went to the unveil of the car, and here’s what we learned.
Audi is on a roll right now, and one of my guests for our live webcast at the Washington DC auto show will be Johan de Nysschen, the head of Audi of America. That’s next Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. And we welcome your questions as we also ask the politicos in DC their vision for the future of the auto industry. We’ll be posting the list of guests for that show in the John’s Journal section of our website later today. And by the way, if you live in the DC area, we have free tickets to the Washington DC Auto Show. Drop us a line and we’ll be happy to mail you some.
Don’t forget to tune in tonight for Autoline After Hours. Joining us live at 7 p.m. Eastern Time will be Jason Vines. That’s tonight at our website autolinedetroit.tv.
And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you next week.