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Taxpayer Owned GMAC Rebrands as Ally

The $100 billion GMAC auto finance operation moves on.

by on Jul.14, 2010

Your dollars are in his hands. If he cleans up the GMAC mess, taxpayers will be paid back.

Ally Financial Inc. (Ally) will rebrand its GMAC consumer and dealer-related auto finance operations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico and begin using the Ally name next month.

The latest move follows the transition of the GMAC corporate entity to Ally Financial during May 2010.

Both are attempts to leave behind GMAC’s tattered image and distance the company from the wildly unpopular taxpayer financed bailouts of last year.

The Ally brand will be used for auto financing activities in the three North American markets, including activities to support the following manufacturers: General Motors, Chrysler, Saab, Thor Industries and FIAT Mexico.

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Following the Money!

The U.S. Department of the Treasury last December provided an additional $3.8 billion in capital from taxpayers to GMAC to keep it solvent, in addition to almost $14 billion previously forwarded. (See Taxpayer Owned GMAC Reports Record Q4 Loss and U.S. Takes Controlling Interest of GMAC ) Results for the 2009 fourth quarter and full year were largely affected by losses related to GMAC’s reckless lending practices in its mortgage operations.

The Obama Administration has thus far been unable to implement any reforms whatsoever in financial regulation after the collapse of the Lehman brothers or AIG, among others, in the fall of 2008.

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Taxpayer Owned GMAC Reports Record Q4 Loss

The preferred lender to reorganized Chrysler Group and General Motors Company remains in intensive care. Outlook uncertain.

by on Feb.04, 2010

Your dollars are in his hands. If he cleans up the mess, taxpayers will be paid back.

GMAC reported this morning a record Quarter 4 loss of $3.9 billion from ongoing operations, compared with a profit of $7.5 billion a year earlier.

A net loss of $5.0 billion bought the total full-year net loss to $10.3 billion, compared to net income of $1.9 billion in 2008.

Results for the 2009 fourth quarter and full year were largely affected by losses related to GMAC’s reckless lending practices in its mortgage operations.

“Key steps during the year included: diversifying the profitable automotive finance business with the addition of Chrysler; launching the Ally Bank brand, which is a key part of our funding profile; strengthening our capital and liquidity positions; and implementing major restructuring actions to minimize risk related to the legacy mortgage business,” said GMAC Chief Executive Officer Michael A. Carpenter.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury last December provided an additional $3.8 billion in capital from taxpayers to GMAC to keep it solvent, in addition to almost $14 billion previously forwarded.

Treasury under its financial health check assessment, the so-called Supervisory Capital Assessment Program (SCAP), said that additional capital was needed for tottering GMAC, which was suffering from bad loans and collapsed residual values for leases of General Motors vehicles, as well as failed loans in the real estate markets.

As part of the additional funds, Treasury restructured its investment in GMAC “to protect taxpayers and put GMAC in a position to raise private capital and pay back taxpayers as soon as practicable.” As a result, U.S. taxpayers now own 56% of GMAC’s common equity, and $2.7 billion in 8% coupon trust preferred securities, and $11.4 billion in 9% coupon mandatory convertible preferred stock. Taxpayer ownership could increase to 70%, according to GMAC.

Taxpayers are clearly at risk here, given their already large 50% holding of General Motors Company, which lost $1.2 billion in its latest quarter.

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Follow Your Money!

The Obama Administration, facing unanimous Republican opposition, has thus far been unable to implement any reforms whatsoever in financial regulation 16 months after the collapse of the Lehman Brothers and AIG, among others, in the fall of 2008.   (more…)

CTS Says Toyota Responsible for Pedal Recall

Maker says it’s a mechanical, not electrical problem. Fix is already in production. Toyota knew of the problem "for a while."

by on Jan.28, 2010

The chairman of CTS, a global manufacturer of  recalled gas pedals by Toyota Motor Sales, told investors during an earnings conference call today that the problem was caused by environmental conditions that went beyond Toyota’s design specifications for the assemblies.

CTS Chairman Vinod Khilnani said that the company provides gas pedals for use by other makers that are “very different” pedal designs. The  electrical sensor in the pedal has nothing to do with the issue.

Condensation makes the Toyota pedal “harder to depress, slower to return to the idle position, and in rare situations, Toyota believes, it may get stuck in a partially depressed position,” said Khilnani.

He said the company has no knowledge of an accident or injury caused by its pedals.

Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc, a TMC subsidiary, announced last week  it would recall approximately 2.3 million vehicles to correct sticking accelerator pedals on eight Toyota Division models.

Three of the CTS’s plants are already making redesigned pedals,  and Khilnani added that CTS had been working with Toyota “for a while” on a revised pedal, which included testing by both companies.

“It has been agreed as the solution,” Khilnani said.   (more…)

U.S. Taxpayers Lend Nissan $1.4 Billion

D.O.E. supports production of Leaf EV and battery at Smyrna.

by on Jan.28, 2010

As many as 1,300 jobs will be created when the plants are operating at full capacity.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced today that the Department of Energy has closed a $1.4 billion loan agreement with Nissan North America, Inc.

The loan will be used to modify Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee manufacturing plant so it can produce the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle and the lithium-ion battery packs to power them.

The loan was issued as part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, a $25 billion program authorized by Congress under the Bush Administration as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

The program is designed to accelerate the development of vehicles and technologies that increase U.S. energy independence, create cleaner means of transportation and stimulate the American economy.

Capacity to build 150,000 Leaf EVs per year.

“Nissan applauds the Department of Energy’s support of the development of innovative, advanced vehicle technologies and the creation of clean energy jobs,” said Scott Becker, senior vice president, Administration and Finance, Nissan North America.

The loan will result in the creation of as many as 1,300 jobs when the plants are operating at full capacity.

Modification of the Smyrna manufacturing plant begins later this year, and includes a new battery plant and changes in the existing structure for electric-vehicle assembly.

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Wired!

When completely operational, the vehicle assembly plant will have the capacity to build 150,000 Nissan Leaf electric cars per year, and the new plant will have an annual capacity of 200,000 batteries.

How long it will take to reach those production numbers is a matter of considerable debate, as the EV market is uncertain.

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Indiana Toyota Supplier Denies Making Bad Pedals

CTS says it has no knowledge of accidents or injuries.

by on Jan.27, 2010

CTS Corporation (NYSE: CTS) said this afternoon that the pedals it supplied to Toyota met its design specifications. The company made at least some of the pedals involved in the recall.

“Based on information that Toyota has provided us, we are aware of fewer than a dozen instances where this condition has occurred, and in no instance did the accelerator actually become stuck in a partially depressed condition,” CTS said in a carefully worded statement.

The assertion comes as Toyota Motor Corporation considers expanding its pedal recall from the North America to other global markets.

Toyota’s credibility about its assertions of the causes of runaway or unintended acceleration accidents has been damaged by recent events. Although the company continually said that it was caused by a floor mat interference problem, at least one accident, involving multiple fatalities, has been reported where the floor mats were removed from the car and locked in the trunk when the deaths occurred.

The company announced yesterday that it would stop sales of about 60% of its vehicles (by volume) in North America while it searches for a root cause.

Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc, a TMC subsidiary, announced last week  it would recall approximately 2.3 million vehicles to correct sticking accelerator pedals on eight Toyota Division models.

This action is separate – thus far — from the on-going recall of approximately 4.2 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles to reduce the risk of “pedal entrapment” by incorrect or out of place accessory floor mats. Approximately 1.7 million Toyota Division vehicles are subject to both recall actions.   (more…)

Toyota Preparing to take Pedal Recall Global!

Troublesome pedal design is used throughout the world.

by on Jan.27, 2010

The Corolla has a worldwide problem?

Toyota Motor Corporation is in discussions with other governments or safety agencies about potential actions similar to the ones undertaken in the U.S. to correct defects in accelerator pedals, according to people close to the situation.

If a sales halt and plant shut downs occur in other regions, like the ones announced yesterday covering North America, it will make it harder for the world’s largest automaker to return to profitability.

It was not immediately clear if the modifications will affect only left-hand-drive models used in Europe, Africa and China, or include Asian right-hand-drive models.

Toyota has thus far not revealed the root cause of the problem, and previous assertions that acceleration issues was solely a floor mat issue in the U.S. have proved false.

There is a strong economic incentive at auto companies to try to limit the number of vehicles covered by a recall. In the Toyota pedal matter, expensive mechanical, computer and software fixes are required.

Either way, millions upon millions more cars, pickup trucks and SUVs  potentially will require repairs, with unknown effects on Toyota’s new vehicle sales, owner loyalty and reputation.

Toyota is predicting a sales increase to 8.27 million units globally for this calendar year, up 6% from, 7.81 million in 2009, which represented a 13% decline from 2008.

In North American, 2.3 million vehicles are — thus far — covered for sticking accelerator pedals in the latest recall that was announced on Monday by Toyota Motor Sales, a subsidiary of TMC. Included in the recall is the Corolla model, the best selling nameplate in the world.

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Stay Informed!

It is also not clear, if there is a sizable population of vehicles outside of North America with a separate or perhaps related problem with runaway acceleration. In North America, 4.2 million vehicles are impacted by a a previous floor mat recall.

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New Honda Solar Power Hydrogen Station Debuts

It's designed for an 8-hour, slow fill of a fuel cell electric vehicle.

by on Jan.27, 2010

The Honda FCX Clarity electric vehicle shown is "fast fill capable," with a range of 240 miles.

Honda began operation today of a new solar hydrogen station prototype at its Los Angeles Research and Development Center. It is a prototype of a home refueling “appliance” capable of an overnight refill of a fuel cell electric vehicle.

The latest iteration reduces the size of the system, while producing enough hydrogen (0.5 kg) during an 8-hour overnight fill for daily commuting of as much as 10,000 miles per year for a fuel cell electric vehicle.

The Honda FCX Clarity electric vehicle is “fast fill capable” and offers an EPA-estimated driving range of 240 miles. One problem, among many, with hydrogen as a fuel is that it needs to be compressed at very high pressures in order for a vehicle to carry enough to have a usable range. However, hydrogen offers the tantalizing promise of being an emissions free fuel for vehicles.

The previous solar hydrogen station system required both an electrolyzer and a separate compressor unit to create high-pressure hydrogen. The compressor was the largest and most expensive component and reduced system efficiency.

Honda says its engineers have now created a new high differential pressure electrolyzer that eliminates the compressor.

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Current!

This development also reduces the size of other key components to make the new station what Honda claims is the world’s most compact system, while improving system efficiency by more than 25% compared to the solar hydrogen station system it replaces.  (more…)

EnerDel Announces New Lithium-Ion Battery Plant

Company says it will be the first mass producer of advanced technology lithium batteries for automobiles in the U.S.

by on Jan.22, 2010

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (left) and Ener1 CEO Charles Gassenheimer holding an EnerDel lithium-ion battery.

Lithium-ion battery manufacturer EnerDel will invest $237 million in a new manufacturing plant near its Indianapolis area headquarters in order to meet anticipated demand for batteries used in automotive and other industrial applications.

The news follows a decision by EnerDel’s electric vehicle partner, Think, to establish a U.S. manufacturing facility in Indiana.

Backed by a mixture of private funds and public incentives, which are the current norm in the still moribund public lending markets despite multi-billion dollar taxpayer infusions of cash, the new facility will more than double EnerDel’s U.S. production capacity and create 1,400 new, non-union jobs.

Existing production capacity in what is still a prototype operation by automotive manufacturing standards, is 11,000 lithium-ion battery packs. However, demand is projected to soar during the next several years, if electric vehicles become as popular as environmentalists predict, and regulations and incentives increase the market.

Lithium ion batteries, though expensive, offer more  power and have a longer life than the nickel metal hydride batteries that are used in the third generation Toyota Prius, the most successful electrified vehicle in history. EnerDel produces the batteries from raw materials and equipment produced in Japan and Korea since there is no indigenous advanced battery industry in the U.S.

A large majority of the six-year-old  startup company’s central Indiana workforce is comprised of former employees of various General Motors companies, including Guide, Remy and Delco, storied producers of electronic components, which were severely damaged, downsized or closed as part of the Delphi and GM bankruptcies during the past several years.

Because of this long history, going all the way back to the invention of the electric starter by Charles Kettering for automobiles – an invention that thrust gasoline engines ahead and doomed an earlier generation of electric cars, Indiana seems ideally positioned to become an electric vehicle research and development center, as well as a manufacturing one. The current state rate of unemployment is 10%, about the national average, but some northern counties have much higher rates.

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New Full Size Pickup Trucks at GM Are a Go

UAW claims Silverado and Sierra models will be redone.

by on Jan.19, 2010

Many UAW jobs were lost when the pickup truck and full-size SUV market collapsed.

New confirmation has emerged indicating that General Motors expects to bring out a replacement for its current full-size pickup trucks in the 2012-2013 period.

It was the large investment in the current Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra models, along with the gas guzzling body-on-frame SUVs derived from them that, arguably, finally forced GM into insolvency in the fall of 2008 after gas prices soared and the economy collapsed because of the reckless, uncontrolled practices of Wall Street financiers.

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Trucks!

Sources inside the United Auto Workers union are telling TheDetroitBureau.com that GM has already begun laying the ground for awarding key contracts for components on the next generation pickup trucks.  (more…)

Sauerkraut! German Brands Lose to Japanese

Toyota overtakes BMW and Daimler in Europe during 2009.

by on Jan.19, 2010

Despite some troubles, guess who is still gaining ground in Europe?

BMW and Daimler dropped behind Toyota in European sales last year for the first time in history, as Toyota and its Lexus luxury brand moved ahead of them, according to the latest data from ACEA, the automakers’ trade group.

Overall, dealers delivered 14.5 million units in total, down 2% from the previous weak year in a market propped up by massive national government subsidies for junking old cars and/or buying new fuel-efficient ones.

Still, government subsidies didn’t slow the changing of the automotive guard on the continent as Asian makers — once again — picked up share at the expense of local ones.

Nissan, Hyundai and Kia all also gained ground, but their sales remain at roughly half the levels of Mercedes. However, if you combine Hyundai and Kia into the group they should be, their combined sales are now less than 100,000 units, and closing, behind number nine Daimler, whose sales dropped 13%

If you look at the box score that follows, clearly leading in first place is the profitable Volkswagen Group, with more than 20% of the market – about where General Motors is in its U.S. home market.

In Europe, General Motors  suffered from its well-publicized bankruptcy, problems at Saab and Opel/Vauxhall, as group sales for all brands dropped more than 9%. GM’s share settled at 9% for fifth place, with it losing almost 2 percentage points in share.

Number two in Europe remained the PSA Group, with 1.9 million vehicles registered.

Third was the Ford Group, although the pending sale of Volvo to Chinese Geely and the removal of more than 200,000 units from its tally will drop them to fourth or fifth next year if current sales trends hold.

In fourth was Renault and its Dacia subsidiary. Fifth, as stated, was GM.

Since massive  taxpayer handouts in Europe have now expired, the outlook is grim given the  moribund European economy. Automakers are predicting a decline in sales this year of as many as 2 million units a disaster there, but it would still put Europe millions of units ahead of the depressed U.S. market, which looks to be about 11 million units, according to current analyst predictions.

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Data!

Such dire predictions, widely touted during the press days at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last week are — of course — attempts to force yet more subsidies from governments, as well as to downplay investor expectations for the earnings performance – or likely the lack thereof – of publicly traded stock.

Chart by automaker follows.

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