Monday, May 18, 2009

Auto Companies News Collage

It's about time to go back to the favorite topic, the auto industry. Things are moving fast, although I'm not sure which direction. So I've collected some headlines for you, so you can judge which way we're going.

Obama to tap consumers for emission, mpg standards (AP, via Yahoo News):

" President Barack Obama plans to propose the first-ever national emission limits for cars and trucks as well as average mileage requirements of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 — all costing consumers an extra $1,300 per vehicle.

"The auto industry will be required to ramp up production of more fuel efficient vehicles on a much tighter timeline than originally envisioned. It will be costly; the Transportation Department last year estimated that requiring the industry to meet 31.6 mpg by 2015 would cost nearly $47 billion."

And the auto industry, which includes soon-to-be-government-owned Chrysler and GM, are grateful:

"But industry officials — many of whom are running companies on emergency taxpayer dollars — said Obama's plan would help them because they would not face multiple emissions requirements and would have more certainty as they develop their vehicles for the next decade."

They don't care, because the government (taxpayers) will pay for it anyway.

I can't afford a new car anyway, so regulate away. But if they think this will produce an attractive fuel-efficient car, think again, because....

Honda Insight 1.3 IMA SE Hybrid Review (Times London) is horrendous:

"Much has been written about the Insight, Honda’s new low-priced hybrid. We’ve been told how much carbon dioxide it produces, how its dashboard encourages frugal driving by glowing green when you’re easy on the throttle and how it is the dawn of all things. The beginning of days. "

But as a car,

"It’s terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It’s the first car I’ve ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn’t have to drive it any more."

Oh boy.

"Hondas feel as though they have been screwed together by eye surgeons. This one, however, feels as if it’s been made from steel so thin, you could read through it."

"But what about the eco-cost of building the car in the first place?...I cannot see how making a car with two motors costs the same in terms of resources as making a car with one... The nickel for the battery has to come from somewhere. It has to be shipped to Japan, not on a sailing boat... And then the finished car has to be shipped, not by Thor Heyerdahl, to Britain, where it can be transported, not by wind, to the home of a man with a beard who thinks he’s doing the world a favour.

"Why doesn’t he just buy a Range Rover, which is made from local components, just down the road?"

His conclusion:
"...hybrid cars are designed solely to milk the guilt genes of the smug and the foolish."

Volkswagen Cancels Porsche Merger Talks for Indefinite Time (Bloomberg):

After causing the short squeeze of historical proportion, Volkswagen cancelled talks of merger with Porsche. A bone of contention seems to be Porsche's increasing indebtedness:

"Volkswagen Supervisory Board Chairman Ferdinand Piech said last week that Porsche must trim debt before it can complete a merger with Volkswagen. Volkswagen “won’t solve” Porsche’s net debt, which tripled in six months to 9 billion euros ($12.2 billion) as of Jan. 31, Piech said. Porsche owns about 51 percent of Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen. "

In the meantime, GM and Chrysler dealers are fighting back.

Local Car Dealer to Fight Back (one of 1100 GM dealers who got letters of termination)
Dealers could toss wrench in automakers’ plans: Thousands could lose franchises as bankruptcy court trumps state laws

Report: GM to import Chinese cars; trickle in 2011 will turn to flood in 2014

Uggghhh... Haven't we had more than enough Chinese stuff in the past decade or two? And I thought this auto bailout stuff is about saving jobs, or keeping jobs in the US. (At least it has been sold as such, and also cited as the reason why the senior bond holders of Chrysler and GM had to be squeezed.) The exact opposite is happening. I must be dreaming. If only I wake up....

...while Fiat is laughing all the way to the bank...

Fiat's New Prospects Dazzle Italy: Formerly Struggling Automaker Aims to Be World's Third-Largest

"Under a chief executive with no prior experience in the car business, Fiat has stabilized its finances and is pursuing an ambition that most Italians would have laughed at only a few months ago: to become the third-largest manufacturer of automobiles in the world, behind only Toyota and Volkswagen and ahead of a fading GM."


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