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The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
With high oil prices upon us once again, automakers are looking to new sources of materials when it comes to vehicle component manufacture.
In Ford‘s case, we’ve seen developments like soybeans used in seat covers, recycled denim jeans for sound deadening, even wheat straw for plastic bins and Kenaf (a tropical, cotton derived plant) used for interior door panels.
However, the Golf VII’s arrival is significant not only because it’s a huge seller (particularly in Europe) but because it also marks the first use of VW’s new MQB (Modularen Querbaukasten or Modular Transverse Matrix) vehicle architecture, which can be adapted for a huge range of different vehicles, from small sub compacts like the Polo, to large family sedans such as the Passat.
In addition, MQB was also conceived to be manufactured at different facilities world wide and even adapted for different brand vehicles within the VW group, such as Audi, Seat and Skoda. All of these different companies will utilize the same production equipment that can accommodate cars of not only different lengths and wheelbases but also tread as well. Up to 60 different models will appear on the MQB platform.
One of the prominent features offered by the MQB platform is the uniformly mounted engine in all cars built on the MQB. This will allow the Volkswagen group to have different cars rolling off of the same production line back to back.
The idea is that potentially, huge cost savings will be realized, as will higher volumes, particularly important since VW seems intent on pushing both General Motors and Toyota aside for the undisputed title of the world’s largest automaker.
Given the rapid rate of growth in China, luxury automakers are falling all over themselves in an effort to boost capacity to keep up with demand.
Audi, amongst the longest established of German luxury car makers in China (FAW was assembling versions of the original Aero Audi 100 model as far back as the 1980s), has said that it plans to build a new factory in Foshan, in Southern China. Said facility will reportedly have a capacity to produce between 150,000 and 200,000 units annually. Combined with production at the existing FAW-VW Changchun facility (which currently assembles the Q5, A4 and A6), that should help boost total Chinese Audi production to some 700,000 vehicles annually.
Audi’s Chief Executive, Rupert Stadler, in response to the announcement, stated, “we want to clearly expand our presence in China and further strengthen our strategic partnership” and the “[new] factory is a milestone in our long-term growth strategy in China.”
In what is perhaps an interesting turn of events, the United Auto Workers’ union organized one hour pickets in front of Hyundai dealerships in the US, from 12 noon to 1 pm Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, November 30th.
Ggiven the rhetoric from UAW President Bob King, who still says he plans to target the labor force of at least one overseas automaker this year, the pickets were surprisingly not targeted Hyundai’s US employees. Instead they were focusing on Korean workers.
In particular, the pickets aimed to shed light on the plight of one employee who was fired from a Hyundai subcontractor for reporting sexual harassment. The Korean Metal Workers union has been protesting against the dismissal and now, in a show of solidarity, has been joined by other unions around the world, including the UAW.
However, that said, the UAW is moving ahead with its own plans to implement more picket campaigns this year at dealerships belonging to automakers with non-union workforces, with regional representatives of the union being trained for the process. King hasn’t said which automaker and it’s dealerships will be targeted yet though, UAW vice-president Joe Ashton recently said “we’re very close to doing [that].”
UAW membership has been growing recently and was up by some 6 percent last year, to 376,612, no doubt spurred by economic uncertainty and a growing number of Americans struggling to make ends meet. Still, it’s a far cry from the Stagflation riddled late-1970s when the UAW boasted more than 1.5 million members.
[Source: Automotive News]
Having successfully worked with the United Auto Works union in developing a new contract in the US, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is now turing his attention north of the border, as the automaker gets ready to begin negotiations with UAW’s Canadian counterpart, the CAW.
During a recent speech at the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants in Toronto, Marchionne declared in reference to the current CAW situation, “you cannot have all things, you cannot have a strong currency, you cannot have an uncompetitive wage rate and then expect Chrysler or all the other carmakers in this country to keep on making cars in this country and be disadvantaged.”
Officially going on the record before negotiations actually begin has become a Marchionne hallmark, as he took a similar stance in the US and also in Italy with Fiat.
Both the UAW and CAW have repeatedly pushed for a two-tier wage system, something the Chrysler CEO is against, believing it results in entitlement over productivity. “If we’re all in the same boat, then if I’m doing well I will pay you much more than you would have got as a tier one,” he said. “But if we’re in the sewers, don’t expect your role preserved when everyone else is drowning.”
Marchionne has floated the idea of possible incentives or profit sharing, yet he’s also firm on his stance that Canadian production costs for Chrysler vehicles need to be brought in line with those of the US. At present, Canada produces some of the most profitable vehicles in the company portfolio, namely the full-size, rear-drive LX cars in Brampton, Ontario and the Chrysler minivans in Windsor, however for the company to continue investing in Canada, he’s adamant that concessions need to be made.
However, some, including the president of Local 444 in Windsor, Rick Laporte, see Marchionne’s remarks as a threat and are unhappy at his very public commentary on the subject. I’m a little pissed off,” Laporte told the Windsor Star. “I’m just surprised that he goes to the press and says those kinds of things. I can go out and say a lot of nasty things too, but I choose not to because I prefer to be professional and have those kinds of conversations one-on-one with him.”
[Source: Left Lane News]
According to a statement issued by Toyota, North American production is expected to reach full capacity by September.
At present, since the first week of June, eight of Toyota’s 12 North American plants are now running at 100 percent capacity and the progress so far means that it’s likely full production will resume quicker than originally thought.
Reflecting the somewhat buoyant mood at Toyota, Steve St. Angelo, executive vice president of Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing North America, said “our team members and suppliers here and in Japan have worked tirelessly to get us back to 100 percent, overcoming many challenges. The effort in Japan has been incredible, especially in the midst of such tragedy and devastation.”
He also stated that ” after September we will focus on making up lost production as much as possible.”
His sentiments were echoed by Bob Carter, group vice president and division general manger, Toyota Motor Sales USA.
“Thanks to the efforts [of our manufacturing team members], our dealers have a healthy supply of cars and trucks available to sell, with more arriving every day, along with competitive lease and APR programs for our customers.”
Seems like, after months of taking it on the chin amid recalls, quality issues, falling market share and production issues, Toyota; finally has something to celebrate.
Still struggling in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which severely disrupted production, Toyota Motor Co has said that it expects it’s full-year profit for 2011 to fall some 31 percent short of original projections.
Net income is expected to decline to some 280 billion yen ($3.5 billion) for the 12 month period ending in March, versus income of some 480 billion yen ($6 billion) for the same period a year earlier. Global vehicle sales are predicted to shrink to some 7.24 million units, versus 7.31 million last year. A strengthening yen is also eating into the company’s revenue.
Nevertheless, Toyota is trying to be optimistic about the future. In Tokyo today, the company’s Chief Financial Officer, Satoshi Ozawa, said “Toyota will do it’s best to recover from the delays in delivery.”
However, there still remain some significant obstacles on the way to recovery. The high value of the yen, almost reaching post World War II levels, is making Japanese industry less competitive against South Korean and European rivals; not helping matters is the fact that Toyota boasts a greater ratio of vehicle manufacturing in Japan than it’s main competitors such as Honda and Nissan.
[Source: Automotive News]
In what’s being billed as an industry first in the United Kingdom, Toyota‘s manufacturing plant in Derbyshire, England, where it builds European market Avensis models as well as the Auris and Auris hybrid, is having a large scale solar panel array installed, in an effort to generate energy while reducing the plant’s carbon footprint.
The solar array consists of some 17,000 individual panels on an area of land within the plant perimeter that covers some 90,000 square meters (roughly 968,752 square feet or the size of almost four and half soccer fields). The project will cost some £10 million (approximately $16.5 million) and will be installed and paid for by UK utility British Gas.
It is believed that once operational, the solar panel array will save up to 2000 metric tonnes of Co2 emissions and 4,600,000 kilowatts of energy on a yearly basis, while at the same time generating enough to cover the production of 7,000 cars per year.
The project has already been started and it’s expected that the array will begin supplying power to the plant sometime next month.
It’s rare to hear about a recruitment drive these days, but Volvo Car Corporation is in the process of hiring up to 1200 new people over the next 12 months.
Most of the new hiring will be in the company’s Research & Development arm, as Volvo pushes forward with advanced powertrain technology in an effort to save fuel consumption on its upcoming vehicles, such as plug-in Hybrids . Other hires will be in areas such as IT; marketing and purchasing, with a few in manufacturing.
Volvo has seen its sales grow in recent months; up by some 11.6 percent versus 2009; spurring increased vehicle production at its manufacturing plants in Ghent; Belgium and Torslanda; Sweden.
“We need to expand our operations to enable development of the highly competitive and fuel efficient products and technologies which are part of our growth plan”, declared Volvo’s President and CEO Stefan Jacoby in reference to the recruitment drive.
[Source: Volvo Car Corporation]