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Episode 287 – VW Buys Suzuki Stake, Ford to Move Hybrids to MI, Mercedes SPLITVIEW Screen

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Volkswagen purchased close to 20 percent of Suzuki. Ford is seeking aid from the state of Michigan to help it research and produce lithium-ion batteries in the state. Mercedes comes out with new technology to split the screen on navigation systems. All that and more, plus John answers your questions in the “You Said It!” segment.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

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Here are today’s top headlines. Volkswagen buys part of Suzuki. Ford may move most of its hybrid production to Michigan. And Mercedes comes out with new technology to split the screen on navigation systems.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, December 9, 2009. And now, the news.

Volkswagen says it plans to overtake Toyota and become the number-one automaker in the world in the next decade, and as we reported weeks ago that it might, now it did buy part of Suzuki. According to Bloomberg, VW purchased close to 20 percent of Suzuki for $2.5 billion. Suzuki will also purchase a small share of VW. The acquisition gives VW access to one of the best manufacturers of small cars. And it helps VW gain a foothold in India where Suzuki has an alliance with Maruti which builds half the cars sold there.

The Obama Administration’s automotive task force forced GM and Chrysler to get rid of thousands of dealerships to help turn those companies around. But now, Congress is forcing the automakers into binding arbitration with dealers who want to challenge their franchise cancellations. According to Reuters, some dealers believe political or other factors played a role in their termination, not just business reasons. An independent arbitrator will hear both sides’ arguments and then make a binding decision as to whether a dealer should be reinstated or not.

Boy, just when you think it’s safe to go in the water. In yesterday’s newscast, I lauded GM CFO Ray Young for surviving all the slings and arrows thrown at him, and then, only two hours later, GM CEO Ed Whitacre announced they will replace Young as CFO. No word on whether or not he’ll be reassigned.

And in somewhat-related news, Roger Penske announced that Jill Ladjziak, who formerly ran Saturn, will now be head of sales and marketing for smart USA. Penske interacted a lot with Ladjziak when he was putting the deal together to try and buy Saturn, and obviously was impressed enough to hire her. I also find it telling that Roger made the announcement, and not Dave Schembri, the president of smart USA.

Ward’s reports that Ford is seeking $85 million in advanced-technology development credits (subscription required) from the state of Michigan to help it research and produce lithium-ion batteries in the state. The move could potentially create 1,000 new jobs. Right now, battery packs for Ford’s hybrid sedans – the Fusion and Milan – are assembled by Delphi in Hermosillo, Mexico, where the cars are built. If Michigan grants these funds, the company could invest anywhere from $300 million to $500 million in the state to manufacture more HEVs. According to Bloomberg, Ford wants to move battery and hybrid production from Mexico to Michigan. Does this mean the Fusion, Milan and MKZ triplets are moving to Michigan? We’ll have to wait and see.

According to Autoblog, photos and specifications of Honda’s CR-Z hybrid have leaked on the internet. Enthusiast website Temple of VTEC scored a brochure with all the details. The car should be powered by a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with 112 horsepower. A 14-horse electric motor gives a little extra kick. Drivers can choose between a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT. Zero to 100 km/h should take about 9.7 seconds.

Last week at the LA Auto Show, Mercedes displayed the new S-Class equipped with new technology called SPLITVIEW which allows the driver and passenger to view different content on the display screen simultaneously. For example the driver can use the navigation system while the passenger views a movie on DVD. But neither can see what the other is looking at.

Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!

And now it’s time for some of your feedback.

Viewers and listeners like you give us all kinds of feedback, from direct e-mails to comments posted on our website – and let me say, we appreciate all of your responses.

Recently I received a letter from a group of high-school automotive students in Beloit, Wisconsin, asking for more coverage of automotive training programs. They’re part of an organization called the AYES, which is short for Automotive Youth Education Systems. It’s designed to get young people interested in automotive service, and prepare them for careers in the industry. The whole thing is sponsored by OEMs like Chrysler, Subaru and Rolls-Royce, as well as a wide array of dealers and dealership groups. We’ve decided to devote this week’s entire installment of You Said It! to them.

They wrote in to say: “We would like you to do a show on automotive youth … We feel that we are an important part in this industry’s future. We are learning about the latest technology as well as learning good foundation skills. “

Thanks for the suggestion. We’ll make a point of seeking out stories in this area for us to cover. And you’re right, you are a critically important part of the industry’s future. And on a personal note, one of my brothers and one of my sons are ASE-certified mechanics. The letter goes on to say: “Our instructor requires us to watch Autoline Daily each and every day as kind of an industry current events, because he believes that we need to know what’s happening in our industry.”

That’s great to hear – both that you’re keeping up on the latest news and that you’re getting it from Autoline Daily! We have a link where viewers can read the full letter.

Thank you guys for watching!

Tune in tomorrow night for Autoline After Hours when our guest will be Sandy Munro, one of the best design engineers I’ve ever met in this industry, who has a lot to say about how this industry can get back on its feet. 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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