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Episode 285 – GM Management Changes, Another Toyota Recall?, Mercedes Predicts Strong Sales

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More management changes at General Motors. NHTSA is investigating complaints of stalling engines on the 2006 Toyota Corolla and Matrix. Mercedes expects fourth-quarter sales to grow “significantly.” All that and more, plus a look at a BMW’s new “college.”

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .


Here are today’s top headlines. More management changes at General Motors. Another possible recall for Toyota. And Mercedes says good times are just around the corner.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Monday, December 7, 2009, a date which will live in infamy. And now, the news.

More changes going on at General Motors. With Nick Reilly leaving his post in China to go run Opel, GM has appointed Tim Lee in charge of its International Operations. Mr. Lee had been vice president of GM’s manufacturing and labor relations. Now Diana Tremblay is appointed to that position. And reporting to her is Denise Johnson, who will be in charge of North American labor relations. Most interestingly, prior to this, Ms. Johnson was a vehicle-line director and chief engineer for Global Small Cars. So we really are starting to see changes at GM!

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that GM has retained the head hunting firm of Spencer Stuart to find a new CEO (subscription required), one who has extensive global, manufacturing and turn-around experience. It says GM could also go outside the industry to find a replacement, but Bloomberg speculates that perhaps GM could turn to Nick Reilly. He’ll have to prove he can turn Opel around, which won’t be easy. Last week 10,000 people in Germany came out to protest against GM keeping Opel.

Reuters reports that BAIC has obtained a 20-billion Yuan line of credit – that’s nearly $3 billion – from the Bank of China. The Beijing-based automaker would like to get Saab from General Motors after negotiations with Koenigsegg fell apart last week. For now, BAIC has declined to comment on the situation, but that sure is a big war chest to go out and buy whatever you want.

Toyota just can’t seem to escape bad news lately. According to Reuters, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating complaints of stalling engines on the 2006 Corolla and Matrix. Some of the cases allege that the engine would stall at intersections and others while driving. And there were also complaints that the engine wouldn’t restart afterward. The investigation covers nearly 400,000 vehicles equipped with IZZ-FE engines.

Ford plans to issue up to $1 billion in new stock. According to the Detroit News, the company filed documents with the SEC to issue the new shares and that it would be used for “general corporate purposes.” In the past Ford has issued new stock to try and reduce its debt.

Could this be another indicator that we’re clawing our way out of the worldwide economic recession? Global, year-over-year sales of Mercedes-Benz cars rose 16 percent last month to nearly 100,000 units. The gain was helped largely by the redesigned E-Class and S-Class models, which were up double digits. Like the rest of the industry, Mercedes’ sales in China were up sharply, too. Sales were up 81 percent in Brazil and 19 percent in the U.S. Overall, the company expects fourth-quarter sales to grow “significantly” following its biggest monthly gain in deliveries this year.

Coming up next, a look at a BMW’s new “college,” we’ll be back right after this.

Auto makers use all kinds of avenues to get the word out on their products. From a simple press release to an elaborate event, I’d thought I’d seen everything until BMW recently created its own college.

Located on the “ivy-free” campus of its North American headquarters outside New York City, BMW held what it called a DAY ONE UNIVERSITY to bring reporters and analysts the latest news “classroom style” on industry issues and product updates. One of the main sessions dealt with reducing emissions. Not just the facts and figures surrounding it, but also the problems in communicating such a complex issue.

That’s John DeCicco, an expert in the field of carbon emissions. He led the discussion based on his 2007 study that focused on the “carbon burden” automakers face, and spotlighting who has done what. BMW and MINI, it turns out, were a couple of his industry bright spots. And though no one in particular has a silver bullet, he does see potential solutions on today’s carbon landscape.

We’ve put a link in today’s transcript if you’d like a closer look at John DeCicco’s original study, from his days at the Environmental Defense Fund, called “Automakers’ Corporate Carbon Burdens.” Tomorrow, also from this same BMW event, we’ll take you to a workshop on the MINI E program.

Ok, since I wasn’t here Friday, we’re going to announce the winner of last week’s trivia quiz. We asked you to name the make and model of this car. And the correct answer is it’s a 1947 prototype of the Saab Type 92. As always we randomly selected this week’s winner from the pool of correct responses. And the winner is, Dan David of Chester, Connecticut. Congratulations Dan, you’ve just won this collector’s-edition Autoline Detroit coffee mug.

Don’t forget to join us this Thursday for Autoline After Hours when our guest will be Brent Dewar from General Motors, the head of Chevrolet worldwide.

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, and WWJ Newsradio 950

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