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AutoLine: Episode 278 – Slow Sales Expected Next Year, Toyota To Cut In CA, Aid To Opel Questioned

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Car sales may not go up as much as initially thought in the American market next year. Toyota is considering moving a significant amount of employees out of California in order to cut costs. A German supplier executive says don’t give aid to Opel because it will hurt other European automakers. All that and more, plus a look at the all-new Suzuki Kizashi.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

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Here are today’s top headlines. Car sales may not go up as much as we thought in the American market next year. Toyota is going to move a significant number of employees out of high-cost California. And a German supplier executive says don’t give aid to Opel.

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, November 24, 2009. And now, the news.

Most automakers and analysts have been predicting that new car sales in the U.S. market will rise by 1 million units in 2010, to roughly 11.5 million units. But the Associated Press quotes an analyst from Fitch Ratings who says the increase will be smaller than that and only reach 11.1 million, due to high unemployment, lower housing values and a higher savings rate. However, some suppliers have told me they think European and Japanese automakers will transfer more production to the U.S. due to the weakness of the dollar.

Very interesting article in Bloomberg today about Manfred Wennemer, the former CEO of German supplier Continental AG and a member of a German trust that was overseeing Opel. He says governments propping up Opel will hurt other European automakers, because all of them have to close outdated plants. Wennemer says Europe needs to cut 25 percent of its automotive workforce to get capacity in line with demand, and it better do it before Asian automakers build more low-cost factories in eastern Europe. He says he saw the same thing happen in the United States, when Asian automakers built low-cost plants in the south and the domestic automakers couldn’t compete with them.

Kia just introduced the Cadenza, a new large sedan to replace the Amanti. The vehicle is lighter and shorter than the Amanti but has a longer wheelbase. It’s equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 which is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is 9.4 l/100km or 25 MPG. The Cadenza goes on sale worldwide next year except in North America and Europe.

Toyota is considering moving a “significant” amount of employees out of California in order to cut costs. According to Bloomberg, the company may move its product planning, accounting, travel and data services in LA to Kentucky or Michigan, closer to where its engineering and assembly plants are located. In addition the company may also encourage about 200 managers at the same facility, to retire early.

BMW just revealed its brand-new, sixth-generation 5 Series. For 2011 the Munich middleweight now shares a platform with the company’s 7 Series flagship. Besides giving it the longest wheelbase in its class, this also results in a body structure that’s 55 percent stiffer than its predecessor. It will be built alongside the 7 in BMW’s Dingolfing, Bavaria plant.

To keep weight down, aluminum is used extensively in the doors, hood, front fenders and suspension. BMW offers dizzying number of engine choices. The gasoline-powered options include one V-8 and three inline-sixes. If diesel gets your motor running, the company offers two straight sixes and a four cylinder. An eight-speed automatic transmission is available with all engines.

As expected in this price range, the new 5 Series offers just about every high-tech gadget and electronic doo-dad you can think of, from driver-adjustable suspension to night vision to rear-wheel steering.

Design-wise, the new 5 looks like it’s finally starting to break with BMW Bengal influence. Inside and out the 2011model borrows heavily from the 7 Series, which isn’t a bad thing.

Coming up next, a look at the all new Suzuki Kizashi. We’ll be back right after this.

Nearly every automaker in the American market has seen its sales slide. But Suzuki has been one of the hardest hit, through October sales are down a whopping 55 percent for the company in the U.S. That’s why the timing for the release of its new sedan, the Kizashi, couldn’t come at a better time.

Not only does Suzuki need it to be a sales success they’re hoping it will change people’s perception of the company. It’s the company’s first mid-size sedan and was completely designed and engineered by Suzuki as well.

While developing the vehicle, the company used the Alfa Romeo 159, Acura TSX, and the Volkswagen Passat as benchmarks. In addition the vehicle was tuned on European and American roads. The result is a well handling car that features a rigid chassis.

The Kizashi is equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that is equipped with a six-speed manual and a CVT is also offered. All-wheel-drive is an available feature and can be turned on and off by the driver. Fuel economy comes is in the low twenties in the city and up to the low thirties on the highway, depending on the configuration.

Suzuki is taking a similar approach like Hyundai/Kia in equipping the Kizashi with loads of standard equipment, like push-button start, steering wheel controls and sport seats in the front. Safety features like electronic stability control, eight airbags and ABS are all standard too.

Look for the Kizashi in showrooms next month with a starting price just under $20,000. And a fully-loaded Kizashi costs over $27,000.

Before we go we need to let you know there will not be an Autoline After Hours this Thursday night, since we’re all going to home eating Thanksgiving dinner. But we will be back next week, with Autoline After Hours coming to you live from the LA Auto show. In fact, we’ll be webcasting on Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pacific Time live from the floor of the show, so that you can get the absolute latest news, as it breaks.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog, The Auto Channel, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950



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