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AutoLine: Episode 282 – Henderson Shown The Door, November Car Sales, Audi A8 Unveiled

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Yesterday CEO Fritz Henderson resigned from General Motors. November sales for the U.S. are in and even though sales are down from October there are some encouraging signs. Audi debuted its brand-new A8 in Miami. All that and more, plus John fills you in on the latest from the LA Auto Show.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

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Here are today’s top headlines. There’s a big management change at GM. November car sales are in. And Audi debuts its brand-new A8 in Miami.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, December 2, 2009. I’m Murray Feldman Fox 2 News, Detroit, behind the wheel again for John who is taking a break from the cold Michigan weather. That’s right; he’s out in sunny Southern California at the LA Auto Show, and we’ll hear from him a little later in the show. Anyway, here’s what’s happening.

Now you see him, now you don’t, the man who led General Motors into and out of bankruptcy has been shown the door. Yesterday Fritz Henderson resigned as CEO of the organization, a position he’s held since March when Rick Wagoner was ousted by the Obama Administration. No word yet on how long it will take to find a permanent replacement, but Ed Whitacre, Chairman of the Board of Directors, has taken over the position until a new CEO can be hired. According to the Detroit Free Press, GM’s board was skeptical that Henderson, a company veteran with 25 years’ experience could bring about the change it needed.

Look… there is nothing that can bring a company down more than speculation that the CEO does not have the blessings of his board and chairman.

So, you have to hand it to the board. They decided for whatever their reasons that the CEO Fritz Henderson had to go. As their board meeting ended in Detroit they quickly called a news conference, made the announcement, and in less than an hour cut off any damaging speculation before it could leak out of the board room. A great PR move here in Detroit.

But wait a minute, this is the day Henderson was to keynote the LA Auto Show press preview. With hoards of reporters getting their first glimpse of the new, out-of-bankruptcy General Motors.

This was to be GM’s coming out party, the time to show that they’re starting to roll down the track to profitability. Instead they are showing a company that is stuck on the track with leadership up in the air. There will be questions now about who will get the job—how the GM culture will change—and how their business plan may be altered.

All of that may be today’s headline from the LA Auto Show, instead of the headline GM needs to get out. That’s it’s back in the car business and showing off promising new models. GM had a golden opportunity to steal the spotlight in LA until the night before the show was to open to the press… when the company pulled their CEO off the podium and announced we don’t have a plan ‘B’. We’re working on it.

November sales for the U.S. are in and even though sales are down from October there are some encouraging signs. According to the AP, sales were down 11 percent but the seasonal adjusted annual rate was 10.9 million units higher than expected and higher than October’s rate. Hyundai saw sales rise 6.2 percent, Toyota was up 2.6 percent and Ford was up a modest 0.1 percent. Seeing sales slide were Honda, down 2.9 percent, GM down 1.8 percent and Chrysler saw sales slide even further, down 25 percent.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing stricter side air bag standards. According to the Detroit News, the agency wants longer and stronger side air bags in order to prevent passengers from being thrown out of vehicles during rollovers. The safety agency says this will save over 400 lives at a cost of $54 per vehicle or $920 million dollars a year. The requirement would apply to vehicles that weigh 10,000 pounds or less and automakers would have until model year 2017 to fully comply.

Daimler announced it will move some production of the Mercedes C-Class from Germany to Alabama. According to Bloomberg, the company is looking to cut costs and rely less on producing vehicles in Germany. Daimler says the move will save the company 2,000 euros or $3,000 per vehicle.

For cars, weight is the enemy of performance. To win this automotive battle of the bulge, Ward’s reports that Porsche is switching to lithium-ion batteries on three of its models (subscription required). No, it’s not going the hybrid route; the new li-ion packs will replace heavy lead-acid batteries and save around 22 pounds in the process. Saving weight is great, but it’s not cheap. The batteries cost nearly $3,000!

Monday night Audi unveiled its redesigned A8 sedan at a SPECTACULAR event in Miami, Florida. The company invited a huge number of people from all over the world to see the reveal. It also constructed an entire building on Miami Beach to premiere the new flagship sedan. Actress Lucy Liu was even on hand to emcee the event. The car offers a host of new features and a familiar but distinctive design. We’ll have more on the new Audi A8 in the coming days.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. I’m Murray Feldman, Fox 2 News Detroit. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you next time, but coming up after the break, John fills us in on the latest from the LA Auto Show. He’ll be back right after this.

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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