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GM Reports First Quarterly Profit Since 2007

By Chris Haak

General Motors Company has released its first quarter 2010 earnings report, and the news is actually pretty good for a change.  Helped by massive restructuring, shuttered brands, lower incentive spending, and a generally-improved global auto market, GM reported net income of $865 million and an operating profit of $1.2 billion.  The company lost $5.98 billion in the first quarter of 2009 as it stumbled into bankruptcy.

Global revenue spiked from old GM’s first quarter 2009, from $22.43 billion to $31.48 billion, a 40 percent increase, in spite of having four fewer brands in the US.  The company’s operating income was offset by $203 million in stock dividends that the company had to pay to its owners – primarily meaning the US and Canadian governments and the union’s VEBA trust fund.

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Honda Delays Next-Generation Civic

By Chris Haak

Many auto-industry watchers have been wondering the fate of several new models that never made public auto-show debuts in production form (or in some cases, in any form), in spite of being due for a refresh, either based on their standard life cycles or on previous announcements.  One of those mysteries , when Chrysler finally officially reveals its 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which has already begun production.

Another is the fate of the next-generation Honda Civic.  Honda’s cars typically have five-year life cycles, and the current Civic was launched for the 2006 model year, so should be all-new for the 2011 model year (meaning it’s due in fall 2010 according to the pattern).  John Mendel, Honda of America’s executive vice president, told in an interview the reason why we haven’t heard anything until now:  the next Civic – the car’s ninth generation – has been delayed until sometime in 2011.  Mendel cited changing market conditions and tougher fuel economy and emissions regulations as the reason for the delay.

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Report Says China May Force Auto Industry Consolidation

By Chris Haak

In the early days of the US auto industry, a century ago, in this country.  Over time, those small players – the likes of Studebaker, Packard, Nash, Hudson, AMC, and others – folded outright or merged into what eventually came to be known as the Big Three.  Of course, we’re referring to GM, Ford, and Chrysler as the “Big Three.”  According to the linked Wikipedia article, there were over 1,800 automakers or brands that were sold in the US at one point or other and are no longer available here.

China’s auto industry got off to a far later start than did the US domestic industry, but it’s growing incredibly quickly.  And there are many parallels in the Chinese industry’s development to the US industry’s history.  Among these is the fact that China has 130 automakers.  Over the past several years, there have been a handful of mergers and consolidations among China’s many automakers, but the central government is not satisfied with the pace of that consolidation.

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Hyundai Denies Intention of Launching Full-Size Pickups

By Chris Haak

There were numerous stories circulating earlier this week that Hyundai was considering an entry into the high-volume US full-size pickup market.  Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Hyundai apparently slapped a Hyundai grille onto a current Dodge Ram and displayed that rebadged truck to a number of potential consumers in clinics to gauge their reaction to the vehicle.  Although the fact that the vehicle shown in the clinics was a Ram, that may not necessarily mean that Hyundai had been planning on a Ram rebadge.  However, we’ve seen several reports indicating that, in fact, Hyundai and Chrysler Group were negotiating a manufacturing agreement to do just that.  Apparently, though the carmakers couldn’t agree on production volumes to better-utilize Chrysler’s underutilized plants.

Now, perhaps feeling a bit tentative based on the lack of success that Nissan has enjoyed with its Titan full-size pickup (not to mention Toyota’s Tundra pickup not meeting its aggressive sales projections), Hyundai today poured cold water on the concept.  It’s interesting to note that in this situation, Hyundai has very nearly followed Nissan’s path to the tee, albeit without actually reaching a production agreement with Chrysler.

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Google and GM to Partner for SYNC Competitor?

By Kevin Gordon

Yesterday, rumors started flying around the Internet that GM was partnering with a  major technology player to advance its info-tainment services. Today multiple services/sites are reporting that Google is the mystery partner, and they will be pairing their Android operating system with the existing GM in-car OnStar system. This functionality should first appear in the futuristic Volt and then eventually filter down through the rest of GM’s product line.

The combination of OnStar and Android should allow a multitude of capabilities both in car and remotely through a mobile app based capacity. To start, we can only hope that this would improve on GM’s in car mobile phone/music player abilities. I do not think that there will be much argument to the statement that GM lags behind leaders in the industry in their navigation, entertainment, and information interface. I’m sure that in the initial demonstrations, it will stream Volt battery charge information to mobile handsets.

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