An abrupt end to Saturn’s salvation
By Brendan Moore
In an announcement that has taken everyone by surprise, Penske Automotive Group has stated that it is ending its effort to buy Saturn, citing problems with lining up a supplier for future vehicles after its initial agreement with GM regarding vehicle purchases ends in 2011.
Penske said they had reached an initial agreement with a manufacturer, widely believed to be Renault and its affiliate Samsung Motors, to sell cars produced by them, but that agreement was subsequently not approved by the manufacturer’s board.
“Without that agreement,” Penske said in the statement, “the company has determined that the risks and uncertainties related to the availability of future products prohibit the company from moving forward with this transaction.”
The news was immediately followed by a statement from GM that they would shutter the Saturn brand.
“Today’s disappointing news comes at a time when we’d hoped for a successful launch of the Saturn brand into a new chapter,” G.M.’s president and CEO, Fritz Henderson, said in a statement. “We will be working closely with our dealers to ensure Saturn customers are cared for as we transition them to other G.M. dealers in the months ahead. I’d also like to thank every G.M. employee and Saturn retailer who worked so hard to try to make this new beginning happen for Saturn.”
Saturn has 350 dealers in the US, and approximately 13,000 jobs in parts, service and retail entities are dependent on Saturn’s existence.
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By Brendan Moore
After GM announced recently that it appears as if they will have over 50,000 orders for the new Volt electric vehicle (EV), Nissan has told reporters that they expect to have at least 20,000 orders in hand for the 2011 Leaf EV before it starts being sold at Nissan dealers in the United States next year.
Nissan says it will begin taking orders for the new Leaf in the spring of 2010, with delivery of the new Leaf hatchback expected to occur in fall 2010.
The reason is supply, supply, supply.
By Brendan Moore
If you’ve been shopping for a car lately, you may have noticed that deals and discounts are almost nowhere to be found.
The reason on the new-car side of the equation is that the manufacturers, particularly the domestic manufacturers, have finally been able to more or less match production to market demand.
What this means to the public from a practical perspective is that there are less cars on the blacktop from consumers to pick from, and far less incentives being offered on the cars available.
What this means to the auto manufacturers is that their profit on a per-unit basis is up, way up from previous levels. In the past, the constant state of manufacturing over-capacity meant that the manufacturers were always running some sort of fire sale to shed themselves of excess vehicles, and that meant a lot of incentives doled out to consumers.
By Chris Haak
About six months ago, I asked readers what the point of lifting a pickup truck was. Today, I decided to turn my attention to the opposite end of the spectrum, asking why someone would lower a truck. The guys who like their lifted trucks responded that they are able to go anywhere in their trucks, actually get respectable fuel economy, and love the way their trucks look. I still question the utility of a pickup bed that’s four or five feet off the ground, but anyone who chooses to do that to their truck is absolutely within their right to do so (but I’m still uncomfortable with the idea of a lifted truck’s bumpers being too high to be effective in a collision with a “regular” vehicle.)
So why would someone choose to lower their truck? Trucks are primarily built for work purposes, and lowering a truck’s suspension eliminates suspension travel. This, in turn, decreases ride comfort, cargo capacity, and (obviously) ground clearance. How embarrassing it must be for a truck owner to scrape the bottom of his truck on speed bumps and driveways that a stock Corvette can maneuver over fairly easily.
By J. Smith
For decades, a column shift served as the standard set-up for gear selection. Nary a car made between 1940 and 1980 had a floor shift, including the manual trannies. What with Modern Times, however, the column shift is missing in action.
The column shift is inherently unnatural, at least in a rear-drive vehicle. In early cars, body builders simply put a hole in the floor for the shifter because that happened to be the best location for transmission linkage. In most cases, it was also placed such that one’s hand, in repose, would effortlessly and naturally rest on the shift lever.
There were some exceptions, the most notable being the Model T. The Model T employed a planetary gear system operated via foot pedals. One pedal engaged reverse and another pedal served to put the car in first, second or neutral. The third pedal controlled the central brake—which worked on a band in the transmission—and the throttle was controlled by a lever on the steering wheel. Strange though this set up seems, it would have been the standard 90 years ago when the Model T accounted for over 50% of industry sales. By 1927 when the Model T ceased production, however, the floor-mounted shifter, attached to a three-speed-and-reverse tranny was the standard pretty much everywhere. By the end of the 1930s, however, column shifts began to dominate the US Market.
By Kevin Miller
Saab/Koenigsegg Deal in Financial Peril?
today that the deal for Koenigsegg is in danger of falling apart, if promised loans are not in place by Wednesday, September 30. According to Bard Eker, one of Koenigsegg’s owners, Koenigsegg may pull out of their deal to purchase the Saab unit from GM if the loan guarantees are not ready.
“If everything is not in place before Wednesday we are out. We give up,” Eker was quoted as saying by the Swedish business daily Dagens Industri. “The milestones that need to be achieved on Wednesday pertain to the EIB, the Swedish Debt Office and we at Koenigsegg Group moving at the same pace.”
Meanwhile in Koenigsegg Chief Executive and part-owner Christian von Koenigsegg also told Reuters that good progress was being made in talks to secure Swedish state guarantees for billions of crowns of loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Interestingly, a Koenigsegg spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the reports. The deal for Koenigsegg to purchase Saab from GM has had a timeline with an October 31 deadline, so the September 30 loan deadline mentioned by Eker is a bit of surprise.
By Chris Haak
Ford chose the Texas State Fair as the venue for the debut of its 2011 Super Duty trucks, as many manufacturers have also chosen to do over the past several years for new pickup launches. After all, Texas has a reputation as “truck country.” Furthermore, just when you thought the 2008-2010 Super Duty’s front end had a large grille, Ford decided to further enlarge it. The gigantic grille on the 2011 Super Duty could easily be called “Texas-sized.”
While the body shell of the new truck is more or less carried over from the truck that dates back to 1999, the front clip is new, the powertrains are – for the most part – new, and Ford has added several nice technologies to their premier workhorse pickups to make them more effective tools on the job site and in towing and off road situations.
Huge hurry-up drill probably in Chrysler’s future, says Fiat CEO Marchionne
By Brendan Moore
The future is looming larger at Chrysler, and it’s not looking so rosy in the near-term as the company is very short on new product. Since the lead times on new product are long concerning new vehicles, redesigns of current vehicles are the order of the day.
But even a redesign takes some time. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne wants some different-looking product by 2011, which will require tremendous focus and quite a few late nights between now and then. Considering we’re effectively at the end of 2009 now, that is a considerably accelerated timeline compared to the usual time allocated for a redesign.
Marchionne wants new sheet metal on the following models by 2011:
Chrysler Town & Country