March 12th, 2010 at 12:00pm
One of these runaway Toyota Prius incidents is starting to sound mighty suspicious. Toyota says in the wake of its recent recalls it will move more design, engineering and manufacturing to the American market. Traffic fatalities in the U.S. fall to their lowest level ever. All that and more, plus John talks to Don Esmond, the Senior Vice President of Toyota Motor Sales USA, about how they plan to get people back in the showrooms and buying Toyotas again.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Here are today’s top headlines. One of these runaway Toyota Prius incidents is starting to sound mighty suspicious. Toyota says it will move more design, engineering and manufacturing to the American market. Traffic fatalities in the U.S. fall to their lowest level ever.
Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.
This is Autoline Daily for Friday, March 12, 2010. And now, the news.
One of the interesting fallouts of Toyota’s quality and safety problems is that it’s going to move more design, engineering and manufacturing to the American market. Don Esmond, the senior vice president of Toyota Motor Sales USA told Autoline yesterday the company is doing this to get its decision making closer to the customer. Toyota is also establishing a clearer chain-of-command in its executive ranks to speed up the flow of information and decision making between its North American operations and its headquarters in Japan. It is also going to appoint a safety guru for North America who will oversee all recalls. We’ll have more of Don Esmond later in the show.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that traffic fatalities in the United States fell to their lowest level last year. There were 33,963 people killed in motor-vehicle accidents last year, down from over 37,000 the year before. That translates into 1.1 fatalities per 100 million miles driven, the lowest ever. I would point out that while NHTSA and other safety advocates want to take the credit for the big drop, the credit goes to the recession. During a recession, people lose their jobs and don’t drive as much so the fatality rate goes down. You watch, in a couple of years when the economy is humming again, traffic fatalities will go up, and we’ll hear an indignant chorus calling for more safety regulations. It happens every time.
A California man who claims his Prius sped out of control and wasn’t able to stop without help from a police officer, says he won’t sue Toyota. According to the AP, Jim Sikes says he doesn’t plan to sue, but that statement was issued by a law firm he hired. So if he’s not suing why did he hire legal representation? But the story gets even more interesting. Jalopnik reports that Mr. Sikes filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and owes over $700,000, including a lot of payments on his Prius, although Sikes denied being behind on payments. Even so, his story is starting to sound very suspicious.
The son of Hyundai chairman Chung Mong-Koo, was appointed to the automaker’s board. According to the AFP, his son, Chung Eui-Sun, 39, was the director of Kia and most recently Vice Chairman of Hyundai. His appointment fuels speculation that he is being groomed to succeed his father.
Lately, a lot of stuff has been going on in the world of automotive design. Last week GM sent Cadillac General Manager, Bryan Nesbitt, back to the studio after running the brand for only seven months. Now, Ward’s reports that Joel Piaskowski has left his position as head of Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design North America (subscription required). He joined the organization just 14 months ago. Before that he was the chief designer at Hyundai North America. No reason is given for his departure. Also, effective on April 1, Bruce Campbell, a 30-year veteran at Nissan Design America is retiring from the company. He’ll be replaced by Alfonso Albaisa, the current VP of Nissan Design Europe.
Hey, who needs spy photographers? Lately it seems all you have to do to dredge-up the latest automotive news is go to the patent office. Autoblog is running these two stories. Alleged photos of a Porsche Panamera convertible have been outed by the German patent office. If these shots are correct, the big surprise here is that this drop-top has four doors. The plans for Chevy’s next-generation Malibu are also out. What should be the 2012 model can be seen in these line drawings. It looks fairly similar to today’s car but a bit more sculpted and aggressive. In particular, its backend has received a lot of attention which brings to mind the Camaro. The new Malibu will ride on GM’s Epsilon II platform like the Buick LaCrosse and Regal.
Coming up next, Don Esmond, the Senior Vice President of Toyota Motor Sales USA talks about how they plan to get people back in the showrooms and buying Toyotas again.
Yesterday I sat down with Don Edmond, the Senior Vice President of Toyota Motor Sales USA for a wide-ranging interview on all the problems that Toyota is facing right now. In the following clip he talks about how Toyota plans to gear up its sales effort to get customers back in the showroom.
You can watch that entire interview later today at our website, www.autolinedetroit.tv
Ok, it’s Friday and you know what that means. It’s time to answer this week’s trivia question. We asked you to identify this car. And the correct answer is it’s a Crosley Hotshot. And the winner is Larry Gruenwald from Pahrump, Nevada. Congratulations Larry, you’ve just won a Autoline Detroit coffee mug.
And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you next week.