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Russian Auto Market Holds Too Much Promise to Ignore

by on Apr.17, 2014

The Datsun on-DO is the brand's first offering in Russia. It is a four-door, five-seat family sedan.

Despite the air of perpetual crisis that hangs over the country, Russia is too simply too large and too important a market for carmakers to ignore, experts said during a conference on “Understanding Russia’s Current and Future Automotive Industry” at the University of Michigan.

“The Russian market is going to be larger than Germany,” said John Branch, a professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business told a conference sponsored by U-M’s Transportation Research Institute this week.

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Automakers, particularly those with global ambitions, simply can’t afford to ignore the Russian market despite its volatile nature, added Branch, who noted the structure of the Russian auto industry is in flux as the demand for imports increases despite barriers imposed by the Russian government. (more…)

Critics Demand Barra Come Clean about Ignition Decisions

Open letter calls for full disclosure by GM’s CEO.

by on Apr.17, 2014

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Automotive Safety, penned a letter with Joan Claybrook, president emeritus of Public Citizen, demanding GM CEO Mary Barra be transparent about the decision-making process that produced the faulty ignition switches in its small cars.

General Motors executives knew much more about the design flaw in the ignition switch installed in its small cars during the past decade much earlier than GM has officially acknowledged, according to two long-standing critics of the auto industry’s efforts at automotive safety.

In an open letter to GM CEO Mary Barra, Joan Claybrook, president emeritus of Public Citizen, and Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said it was time GM came clean about how and when the decisions were made to use the cheaper ignition switch and to replace them half a decade later without changing the part number or notifying federal regulators, which could have triggered a recall by GM.

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GM had no immediate comment on the Claybrook-Ditlow letter. (more…)

GM Asks Courts to Limit Ignition Switch Fallout

Maker wants protection from pre-bankruptcy liabilities.

by on Apr.16, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra told a Senate subcommittee the company isn't sure if it will set up a fund for the victims of the company's faulty ignition switches.

General Motors is moving to limit its potential legal fallout created by faulty ignition switches that have been blamed for 13 deaths.

GM’s lawyers have asked federal judges in jurisdictions around the U.S. to shield the company from any legal claims for conduct that occurred before its 2009 bankruptcy. The ignition-switch problems germinated during the nine years before GM filed for bankruptcy in mid-2009 and GM has asked federal courts from California to Texas to block new lawsuits.

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As part of the strategy, GM said it also intends to file a motion in federal bankruptcy judge in New York, seeking a court order stopping plaintiffs from suing the company over the ignition switch recall, according to court documents. (more…)

Senate Investigates Delphi’s Role in Ignition Switch Recall

CEO Rodney O’Neal gets a list of questions to answer.

by on Apr.16, 2014

Delphi CEO Rodney O'Neal has been given a list of questions from four U.S. Senators asking about the supplier's role in producing the faulty ignition switches for GM.

Like it or not, General Motors’ bitter fight with its principal supplier, Delphi Corp., will be examined by a panel of U.S. Senators concerned about what role the supplier might have played in the faulty switches tied to a recall of more than 2.6 million GM vehicles and 13 deaths.

In a letter made public this week, four different senators have asked Delphi Chief Executive Rodney O’Neal on Tuesday a series of questions about the auto supplier’s production of ignition switches.

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The switches were made in a Delphi plant in Matamoros, Mexico, at a time when GM and Delphi were at loggerheads over the cost of components. GM spun off Delphi in 1999 and immediately demanded price downs from Delphi executives, who resented and resisted GM’s push for concessions. (more…)

Barra Defends GM’s Efforts to Fix Recalled Cars

CEO fires two top executives while pushing for change.

by on Apr.15, 2014

Embattled GM CEO Mary Barra defended the automaker's handling of the ignition switch recall in a speech today in New York.

General Motors’ Chief Executive Mary Barra today defended the automaker’s response in the wake of the recall of more than 2.6 million vehicles and her own handling of a safety-related problem that had festered inside GM for more than a decade.

Barra told a gathering an industry conference in New York City that GM has already taken several steps to replace ignition lock cylinders in the 2.6 million vehicles recalled to repair ignition switches. Parts are arriving at dealers, who have been enormously helpful in addressing the problem, she noted.

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“Our actions in recent weeks show we at GM are committed to living our values. I am committed to seeing it through,” Barra said. “All of us understand what is at stake here.” (more…)

Value of Deal with Man United Getting Early Test

$559 million tie-up got marketing chief fired.

by on Apr.15, 2014

Manchester United's Phil Townsend (left) and Chevrolet U.S. Marketing Vice President Paul Edwards announce Chevrolet's sponsorship of Manchester United's match vs. Real Madrid at the University of Michigan on Aug. 2.

One of General Motors’ most controversial marketing endeavors will be on full display as the Manchester United Football Club will barnstorm in the U.S. this summer, wearing their new jerseys, featuring the Chevrolet brand logo in distinctive colors.

With 60% of Chevrolet’s sales outside the United States, the maker is looking to make an impact in markets around the world. The $559 million, seven-year deal with Manchester United, which sidelined the career of at least one senior GM executive, also offers Chevrolet an opportunity to change the conversation around the brand away from the ignition-switch recall controversy, which has swamped the company in recent weeks.

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Manchester United, which is considered by some to be the best, if not the best-known, soccer club in the world, will play the L.A. Galaxy of Major League Soccer in the Chevrolet FC Cup, July 23, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. (more…)

VW, Ford Enjoy Strong March Sales in China

Automakers post double-digit jumps last month.

by on Apr.14, 2014

The Ford Mondeo is a strong seller in China. Ford's March sales were up 28%.

Volkswagen AG and Ford Motor Co. continued to post strong sales in China for March and the first quarter of 2014.

Ford China heads into the Beijing Auto Show with record monthly sales of 103,815 vehicles, a 28% increase over March 2013. It was the first time Ford China sales topped the 100,000 monthly sales mark for the first time. Excellent March performance brought first quarter sales up by 45%, compared to the same period last year, according to Ford.

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“We’re pleased that China’s car buyers continue to choose Ford,” said John Lawler, chairman and CEO of Ford China. “Our strong sales momentum demonstrates the success of our accelerated China growth plan and puts Ford in a great position as we get ready to showcase our full product lineup at the Beijing Auto Show.” (more…)

Motorists Worry About Security of Connected Vehicles

Study shows consumers fret about hackers accessing personal data.

by on Apr.11, 2014

Consumers may demand connected vehicle tech -- like this Buick IntelliLink system - but it also worries them.

A new survey from the University of Michigan indicates that Americans by and large are nervous about whether new technology being used in more and more vehicles could be hacked and the data stolen.

The study follows revelations of how hackers stole millions of credit card numbers in a breach at Target – but was completed before word of the so-called Heartbleed security breech that has led to worries about even broader losses of data online.

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A majority of Americans, Australians and Britons believe that so-called “connected-vehicle” technology will make driving safer, but most are also concerned about security and privacy, according to the Michigan survey.

(more…)

Daimler Betting Big on Hydrogen Fuel Cells

China could be critical electric vehicle market, says CEO Zetsche.

by on Apr.10, 2014

The Mercedes-Benz F-Cell hydrogen car.

Daimler AG’s top executives believe hydrogen fuel cells hold the key to developing a broader range of electric vehicles in the future.

Dieter Zetsche, Daimler AG’s top executive and head of the Mercedes-Benz Car Group, told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in Berlin the German automaker is committed to electric vehicle technology.  China, the world’s single largest car market, now has plans for putting millions of EVs on the road by the end of the decade.

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“With our Chinese partner BYD, we have developed an electric vehicle in China for China,” he said. The Denza, which was developed with BYD, will debut at the Beijing Auto Show later this month, he added.  “China plans to have five million electric vehicles on the road by 2020 and we’re ready to help,” Zetsche added.

(more…)

Daimler Recruits Pischetsrieder for Board

Former competitor joins company after time at BMW, VW.

by on Apr.09, 2014

Bernd Pischetsrieder, a former VW and BMW executive, has joined Daimler AG's board.

Daimler AG has recruited a former executive from rival BMW and Volkswagen, Bernd Pischetsrieder to serve on its board of supervisors, which is responsible for the oversight of the company’s top management.

Under questioning from Daimler shareholders, Manfred Bischoff, chairman of the board of supervisors, explained that the German automaker was looking to increase the automotive expertise on the company’s supervisory board.

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The 66-year-old Pischetsrieder has been a top executive at both BMW, Volkswagen AG and Scania until his retirement in 2007. Pischetsrieder does not have a consulting contract with either BMW or VW, Bischhoff added. (more…)