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Ford Tells UAW They Have 4000 More Workers Than It Needs
Sep11

Ford Tells UAW They Have 4000 More Workers Than It Needs

By Brendan Moore

09.11.2008

Ford has informed the UAW (United Auto Workers) union that due to crashing sales, and despite recent employee buyout efforts, Ford is 4000 workers over what they need in order to satisfy current demand, according to Reuters. The statement was made during confidential meetings between workers and Ford earlier this week, as disclosed by the Reuters source.

Ford has been on a push to eliminate hourly employees through buyouts the last 24 months, but the pace of departures has slowed considerably lately as the overall job market worsens in the U.S. and potential buyout candidates fear being unemployed for a long time if they accept a buyout from Ford.

Ford has lost a stunning amount of money in last two years and desperately needs to better match production capacity to sales, and part of that production capacity is the worker population required to make the vehicles. Ford lost another $8.7 billion USD last quarter.

High gasoline prices, the housing sector implosion, the slumping overall economy in the U.S. and tighter consumer credit have been killing sales of all the auto manufacturers, but Ford has been hit particularly hard. The timing couldn’t be worse as Ford is trying to tear the company apart and rebuild it in order to position itself to compete more effectively in the new automotive world order that higher gas prices and much tighter emissions controls promise. Somewhat ominously, it now looks as if the rest of world may also be entering a period of slowing economic growth, which could mean that Ford can no longer count on its international operations to continue to pick up the slack from the ailing North American market.

Ford has cut approximately 40,000 workers from its North American payroll since the end of 2005, which leaves it with around 60,000 workers currently. Ford is the second-largest auto manufacturer in North America behind GM.

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2009 Honda Fit Preview
Sep10

2009 Honda Fit Preview

By Brendan Moore

09.10.2008

A 2009 Honda Fit was made available to us at a press preview recently, and I have to say, I was impressed. We’ll write more when we get the 2009 Honda Fit for a week’s worth of driving, but in the interim, my initial thoughts about the car.

If you’re a regular reader of Techshake, you know we loved the 2008 Fit. The redesigned 2009 Fit seems to have all the positive attributes of the previous car some great new features in a more attractive wrapper.

The 2009 Honda Fit is better-looking, more powerful, slightly larger, and finally, better-equipped than its predecessor. Pure dumb luck on Honda’s part since development time for new models is in years, but it must be noted that the launch of the new Fit certainly comes at the right time for the American market – wonderful little cars that sip fuel are pretty popular these days.

How much larger is the new Fit?

Well, it doesn’t look larger at all, but the distance between the front and rear wheels is a bit over two inches longer which makes the car itself a little over four inches longer. Seats are bigger (the old ones were designed for Japanese people), there is more leg room in the back, and the cargo space is increased by almost 40%.

Speaking of cargo space, you of course have to fold the rear seat down to get all of it, and now the rear headrests retract right into the seatbacks, which is very cool, and very convenient. You don’t have to remove them, or tilt them, or do anything else to them except push them down. Here’s another ingenious space design trick: the rear seat on the driver side has a compartment built into the floor-facing side of the rear seat cushion that will hold the owner’s manual, just in case you wan the whole glovebox for easy-to-reach storage. Since most people rarely look at their owner’s manual after the first few months, this is a thoughtful feature gives you a little extra storage room up front.

The new Fit also drives better and has more safety equipment. As I mentioned above, we’ll give you more about the Fit when Honda sends us a car for a week’s worth of road-testing, but so far – it seems like a lot of car for the money and one that would be just the ticket for meeting the transportation and carrying needs of most households.

COPYRIGHT Techshake – All Rights Reserved

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Are Detroit Car Companies Blackmailing Washington?

By Brendan Moore

09.08.2008

There is an interesting editorial () by Paul Ingrassia in today’s Wall Street Journal regarding the $50 billion USD in loans that the Detroit automakers are currently lobbying Washington for; loans the automakers say they will use for the euphemistic “retooling” in order to produce smaller, more efficient cars.

The reference to blackmailing concerns that fact, as we noted last week, that its an election year, and a great many jobs in swing states like Michigan and Ohio are at stake. This may make the loans irresistible to politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Mr. Ingrassia is an accomplished writer and an astute observer of the auto industry and therefore the piece is chock-a-block with good observations about why the American taxpayer shouldn’t stand for this federal bailout.

It’s not that I disagree with a lot of what Mr. Igrassia wrote:

“The Detroit Three got into their current quandary by making decades of bad decisions, with some help from the United Auto Workers union. Yet despite the current crisis, General Motors is still paying dividends to shareholders, the car companies are paying bonuses to executives, and the private-equity billionaires at Cerberus who bought Chrysler are trying to reap enormous rewards from their risky investment. Meanwhile the UAW’s Jobs Bank — which pays laid-off workers for doing nothing — remains in place.

Of course, we can all hope that shareholders do well, that executives reap handsome rewards for work well done, that the Cerberus billionaires make more billions on Chrysler, and that workers get paid on whatever terms the car companies agree. But we taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize any of this.

The only reason we should bail out any private company is the risk that its demise would wreak havoc on the entire economy. Bear Stearns conceivably passed the test; its collapse could have threatened the U.S. financial system, and the government didn’t make the mistake of bailing out shareholders or management.

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Check Your Mirrors
Sep05

Check Your Mirrors

Odds and ends about cars and car business

By Brendan Moore

09.05.2008

DAIMLER and RWE (Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk AG, until 1990), a German utility company, have revealed plans to offer charging stations for electric vehicles in Germany by the end of 2009. RWE is quick to point out that this development is only a market test, and will only be offered in Berlin initially. “This is a pilot market and more will follow. Then we will see how this does in practice,” RWE CEO Juergen Grossmann told reporters. The reason Daimler was involved is because the company intends to produce a limited run of lithium-ion battery powered Smart minicars in 2009. There will be other production EVs or PHEVs for sale in Germany by 2010, though, most notably the Honda Insight, the Toyota Prius, the Bollore-Pininfarina EV and Nissan’s as-yet-unnamed EV.

GM plans to show a production version of the Volt this month (speaking of electric vehicles). Speculation was rampant that GM would debut the production version of the Volt at the Paris Auto Show, but GM says the first showing will be at an internal GM event for employees at which some media will be present. September 16 is the 100-year anniversary of General Motors and the Volt is expected to be shown at that event. Bob Lutz, Vice-Chairman of GM worldwide, told reporters at Automotive News Europe that pre-production models of the Volt will be built next year and 2010 ahead of the final production version in 2010. A European version will follow in 2011. “Everything is looking good,” Lutz said. “We have quite a few running around now in old Chevy Malibu bodies, so we can modify the engine and battery configuration.” It’s not an overstatement that the Volt EV is highly anticipated by the public, industry analysts, and GM itself. Lutz himself has referred to the Volt as GM’s most important model launch in the history of the company, and he views the Volt as one of the crowning achievements of his career.

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Have Auto Sales Bottomed Out?
Sep04

Have Auto Sales Bottomed Out?

By Brendan Moore

09.04.2008

It has been a truly awful year for the auto industry as a whole, what with the price of gasoline spiking, CAFE pressures, a nationwide recession, the prices of raw materials going up, the housing collapse and the consumer and corporate credit crunch.

In July, auto sales year-to-date trended at 12.55 million units, a staggering drop from a normal year. However, in August, that annualized selling rate went up to 13.7 million units as August was a better month than July. Just for comparison’s sake, the annualized selling rate from was 16.3 million units. It’s still a massive drop looked at from an annual basis, but on a consecutive-month basis, August results looks pretty good. Year-to-date, sales are at 9.8 million units sold.

This has some industry sales analysts saying that the sales slide may have reached the bottom. In particular, GM executives seem fairly upbeat, saying they believe the worst may be behind them. GM’s August sales were 20% lower than last year’s August sales, but August was a big improvement over the previous 60 days, that is, June and July results.

“We are encouraged by what we saw,” said Mark LaNeve, head of U.S. sales and marketing for GM. “At some point the market bottoms out. I’d like to think it was in June and July.”

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