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Breaking: Suzuki Buys Ford

By Chris Haak

In a move that surprised nearly every industry analyst, Japanese automaker Suzuki has entered into an tentative agreement to purchase Ford Motor Company’s worldwide operations.  Included in the deal are Ford’s US operations, Ford Europe, Ford Asia-Pacific, and Ford Latin America.  Suzuki has tendered an offer to purchase all 3.78 billion outstanding shares of Ford at a price of $14.91 per share.

If the transaction is approved by Ford’s shareholders, Suzuki would instantly transform from an also-ran in the US market to a top-tier player, holding similar dominance in the US market to what it enjoys in India with Maruti Suzuki.  Since Suzuki is not a full-line automaker in the US, the addition of the Ford vehicles will certainly bolster its lineup, particularly on the truck front.

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Porsche Reveals 2012 Porsche Panamera Turbo S

By: Carl Malek

With the New York Auto Show fast approaching, Porsche has decided to unveil the upcoming 2011 Porsche Panamera Turbo S.  The new car will assume the role as the top of the line Panamera model.

The engine for the new Turbo S is based on the familiar 4.8 liter twin turbocharged V8 which powers the Panamera Turbo. In Turbo S trim, the engine gets a 10 percent horsepower bump for a grand total of 550 angry horses, while torque goes up to 553 lb-ft over the 516 lb-ft found in the normal Turbo. For owners that want even more torque, the overboost function included with the Sport Chrono Package can temporarily increase the torque values even further to an absurd 590 lb ft, perfect for resetting a planets orbit or leaving lesser cars in the dust.

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UAW Ready to Trade Wages for Jobs?
Mar30

UAW Ready to Trade Wages for Jobs?

By Charles Krome

Some time later this year, the folks at GM’s Orion Assembly plant, located in Orion Township, Mich., will start putting together the all-new Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano. It will mark a significant change in the General’s usual strategy of building its small cars in other countries with reputations for low labor costs, but that’s because it marks a significant change in the UAW’s usual strategy, too. As some readers may already know, as part of its efforts to support GM’s recovery from bankruptcy, the union agreed to institute a two-tier wage scale at the plant. While veteran workers will continue to earn their usual salaries, newcomers will be hired in at pay rates some 40 percent lower.

And now the Detroit media are reporting that the UAW will consider extending the two-tier system to other GM plants, again in return for the promise of more jobs. It’s just the latest news about what this fall’s union negotiations with the Detroit Three will likely bring, but it’s also one of the few areas in which the UAW is expected to cut the OEMs some slack.

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Hyundai Dropping Job-Loss Protection Program

By Chris Haak

In January 2009, during the depths of the Great Recession (arguably the Great Depression of the auto industry), Hyundai’s then-marketing chief Joel Ewanick rolled out what the company called the Hyundai Assurance Program.  Under the program, buyers of new Hyundais who lost their jobs within a year of buying or leasing their new Hyundai could return the car to the dealer, no questions asked.  The program to help distressed buyers/lessors get out from under difficult situations.

The program is now ending this week.  Actually, on March 31.  Hyundai cited the improving economy as the reason to drop the program, and they’re right.  But I don’t think Hyundai really needs – or needed – the buyer-protection program to build its sales momentum over the past two years.

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Review: 2011 Toyota Avalon Limited
Mar28

Review: 2011 Toyota Avalon Limited

By Charles Krome

When fellow Savant Roger Boylan reviewed the 2011 Toyota Camry at the beginning of March, he kicked things off with a relatively controversial point: That Toyota’s midsize sedan suffered from a sort of reverse snobbism, with customers (and critics) automatically complaining about how bland and un-engaging it is based solely on the badge it wears. Well, not only do I think he’s spot on with his analysis, but I’m also going to extend it to what’s often considered the epitome of Toyota’s soulless creations, the 2011 Avalon—which I recently drove for a week courtesy of the fine folks at Toyota.

The Avalon is aimed at buyers who prefer what’s loosely termed “traditional American luxury.” That means vehicles that offer a relatively large footprint, strong straight-line acceleration, restrained styling and presence, and a boatload of comfort and convenience features. It’s a shrinking niche, but the number of potential cars that fit the bill is shrinking even faster, so volume does remain for the automakers that continue to reach out to these customers.

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