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Pontiacs Ensnared in Toyota’s 15th Recall of Year

Almost 200,000 of the NUMMI built Pontiac Vibes are affected.

by on Aug.27, 2010

Ah the joys of a joint-venture car. How long will owners have to wait for parts?

Toyota Motor Co. announced a safety recall Thursday for 1.13 million Toyota Corolla and Matrix models from the 2005-2008 model years. It was the beleaguered company’s 15th recall of the year. Also included in the recall, but not the release, are 199,163 Pontiac Vibe models from same model years because of a faulty powertrain control.

During the past year, Toyota consistently denied that there was a stalling problem with the vehicles, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened up a more detailed investigation into the problem last  week as consumer complaints continued to appear.

NHTSA, of course, is under heavy criticism for dismissing complaints about Toyota safety matters, and two former Toyota employees were working at the safety agency on Toyota matters while unintended acceleration and floor mat entrapment complaints were dismissed.

Compounding the problem is the fact that Toyota in the U.S. does not have the authority to recall vehicles, only the parent company in Japan can, as was revealed during harshly critical U.S. Congressional hearings on Toyota quality and safety matters.

Recalls and Analysis!

The 2-wheel-drive Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix are sister vehicles built between April 2004 and January 2008 at the former New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. joint venture in California between GM and Toyota. The vehicles were designed and engineered by Toyota.  Toyota closed the unionized plant in its largest U.S. market this past April in favor of moving production to a new non-union plant in Alabama, which will build the next generation 2012 Corolla – the world’s most popular nameplate since surpassing the previous tile holder, the Volkswagen Beetle.


Electric Motors: Moving from Under the Hood to Inside the Wheel

U.K. supplier says in-wheel motor is more efficient, reduces weight.

by on Aug.17, 2010

The Protean Ford F-150 concept uses electric motors inside the wheels to power the truck.

The power used to drive any vehicle eventually finds its way to the wheels, so maybe it makes sense to put the motors there.

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That’s the thinking of Protean Electric, a new company that has developed electric motors that are installed in a vehicle’s wheels.

The U.S. arm of United Kingdom-based company has developed a Ford F-150 that uses the technology. For the F-150, Protean removed the truck’s V-8 motor and installed bright green Protean Drive electric motors inside the wheels where the brakes normally reside.


VW Recalls Routan Minivans for Possible Fires

Vans are essentially the same as ones Chrysler recalled earlier.

by on Jun.11, 2010

VW had no choice but to follow Chrysler.

Volkswagen AG has notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it is recalling more than 15,000 of its 2009 model Routan minivans because of a possible wiring routing problem that could cause fires.

There are no reports of accidents or injuries from the safety defect.

However,  this is just the latest in a growing list of examples where an auto company hastens a recall, which is the direct result of the record $16.4 million fine that Toyota paid to NHTSA for its delays in recalling millions of vehicles with sticking accelerators. (more…)

Chrysler One Year Later

Marchionne outlines challenges in an internal e-mail.

by on Jun.11, 2010

Profits are still elusive.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne sent an e-mail today to surviving employees on the anniversary of its emerging from a “quick rinse” bankruptcy one year ago.

The company is still losing money and is struggling with an aging product line, poor quality and numerous recalls.

However, Marchionne takes a cautiously optimistic tone in a communication that would obviously find its way into the media.

Below is the memo:

Dear Colleagues,

Today marks the first day of our second year as a new company. Chrysler Group LLC in fact began operations on June 10, 2009, and when I met with you on that day, I expressed confidence that Chrysler would once again be a strong and competitive car maker.

It's Free!

Crisis can bring out the best in a company and its people. Rather than yield to pessimism, our organization has moved forward with a renewed sense of purpose to succeed. Through hard work and tough choices, we made significant progress during the past 365 days.

Among the highlights:


Milestones: First Porsche Overall Win at Le Mans

After 4,607.811 kilometers, Porsche took first 40 years ago.

by on Jun.11, 2010

The Zuffenhausen sports carmaker had been racing at the Sarthe circuit since 1951.

It was 40 years ago this weekend that Porsche claimed its first overall win at the world’s oldest endurance race, the 24 hours of Le Mans.

Hans Herrmann and Richard Atwood driving number 23 were first across the finish line in a 917 KH from Porsche Salzburg. Gerard Larrousse and Willy Kauhsen in the Martini Porsche 917 took second, trailed by Rudi Lins and Helmut Marko in a Porsche 908/02.

It was an impressive sweep for Porsche, which had been racing on the Sarthe street circuit since 1951, with numerous class wins because of Porsche’s lightweight and aerodynamic design, as well as reliability.

Porsche had come tantalizingly near to winning outright before. In 1969, in the closest Le Mans race ever, Herrmann and Larrousse in a Porsche 908 finished just 75 meters – about one second – behind the Ford GT 40 of Jacky Ickx.


German Government Nixes Opel Funding

Without other sources of money, U.S. taxpayers will continue to underwrite German jobs. GM is in a difficult political position.

by on Jun.11, 2010

Bruederle said he was convinced that GM has "sufficient funds" to restructure.

The German central government has rejected Opel’s application for loan guarantees, in spite of the fact that €8.5 billion was given to other automakers last year in the European Union to help them get through tough economic times. Opel received nothing.

Opel is currently surviving the ongoing Great Recession and the subsequent collapse of  auto markets only because of the largesse of U.S. and Canadian taxpayers who bailed out parent General Motors. This puts GM in a difficult political position on both sides of the Atlantic ocean.  And the European market forecast is grim. Most think this year it will be in the 14 to 15 million unit range, down from 15.9 million in 2009.

In the latest development of the ongoing saga, Opel was caught in a squabble that has weakened the coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel. German Economic Minister Rainer Bruederle denied GM €1.1 billion (~$1.2 billion) in loan guarantees after six months of work by General Motors on an Opel restructuring that obtained plant closings and other concessions from labor unions. Opel estimates it needs €3.3 billion, but some estimates are higher, including one from the UK government at €3.7 billion. Others are higher still.

Astute Opinion!

Bruederle is a Free Democrat, the minority party in Merkel’s fragile government, which came about after voters – read taxpayers – turned out some of her ruling party’s among other members in the election last September in the midst of the Opel bailout negotiations. Merkel had supported a takeover by Magna, but the GM board rejected that last November, in an unexpected move that was an embarrassment to Germany’s ruling party. (See Strategic Risk for GM was too high to Sell Opel) (more…)

Chrysler Recalling 600,000 Minivans and Jeeps

Troubled maker cites potential brake failures, wiring fires.

by on Jun.07, 2010

The latest recalls are the result of design or assembly process defects.

Chrysler is recalling 600,000 of its Jeep Wrangler SUVs, and Dodge and Chrysler minivans to address potential safety problems involving brake and wiring defects.

The announcement is the latest setback for the struggling automaker, and comes just days after it issued a recall notice for 161,000 Dodge Caliber models to repair a potentially sticky accelerator pedal because of defective parts from CTS, the same supplier of recalled Toyota pedals. (See Chrysler Recalls Dodge Calibers for Sticky Pedals )

The latest defects are the result of improper engineering or assembly.

On model year 2008 and 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans manufactured from February 2007 through September 2009, some of the minivans may have been assembled with an improperly routed wire harness. The lower sliding-door hinge bracket can make contact and wear through the wire insulation. A short circuit in the latch is possible, which in turn could cause a fire. About 285,000 minivans with power sliding doors are affected. No accidents or injuries are reported.


Buick Regal to be Built, Eventually, in Canada

GM makes good on loans from Canadian governments.

by on Nov.25, 2009

Only four cylinder engines and the highest trim level to start.

Only four cylinder engines and the highest trim level to start for the German Regal.

North American production of the all-new 2011 Buick Regal will start at the Oshawa Car Assembly plant beginning in Ontario during the first quarter of 2011.

Until then, a rebadged and recalibrated version of the Opel Insignia will be imported from Rüsselsheim, Germany starting in the second quarter of 2010.

The status of all Opel plants is uncertain today. GM continues to seek financing from European governments and concessions from union members for its loss-making subsidiary after its surprise decision not to sell Opel to Magna earlier this month.

GM maintains that it will keep the German plants open after large cutbacks in the workforce. An Opel plant in Belgium appears to be slated for closing under the latest plan. Almost $5 billion is thought to be required to restructure Opel and GM is only prepared (or able?) to front about 15% of that.

A Buick version of the car is already in production in China since last December, but GM says it has no plans to import Regal from the far east.

That could change quickly if Opel collapses, of course. GM reported a $1.2 billion loss in its latest quarter, the first one since it emerged from bankruptcy this past July. It is unclear if GM can continue to carry Opel for very long without billions of dollars in government assistance. The  private credit markets are unlikely to advance the ailing company any money without the government loan guarantees GM has been seeking.

The Regal is a mid-size sport sedan based on the award-winning Opel Insignia – the 2009 European Car of the Year. Whether such attributes can return potential buyers to North American showrooms where Buick is struggling remains to be seen. Year-to-date, U.S. Buick sales are down 33% in a market that is off 24%.  It is ironic that the brand long associated with Flint, Michigan, is now stronger in China than its home country.

Global View!

Global View!

“The new Regal gives Buick a modern performance sedan and its production here in Oshawa is terrific news for our employees, the CAW, dealers and suppliers,” says Arturo Elias, president, General Motors of Canada.