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Report: Detroit's Big 3 Erasing Productivity Gap
Highly Rated Auto Plants Set to Close
Senate Democrats May Pull Climate Bill
Ford Makes Capitol Hill Sales Pitch for New 2009 Flex, Lincoln MKS
Toyota Develops New Fuel Cell Hybrid
Opinion: At $4, Everybody Gets Rational
NADA Update
Shop the NADA Expo Floor - Online
Ballots for New NADA Director from Georgia due June 13
STAR Answers Dealers' Questions on Safeguarding Customer Information
Lenovo ThinkPad Notebooks Start at Just $459
Top Stories
Report: Detroit's Big 3 Erasing Productivity Gap

DETROIT -- Detroit automakers - and Chrysler in particular - nearly erased the North American productivity gap with their Asian rivals in 2007 thanks to worker buyouts, leaner plants and other improvements, but they still make less money per vehicle because of higher costs, according to the Harbour Report on manufacturing released Thursday. Toyota Motor Corp. and Chrysler LLC led the industry in productivity, with each averaging 30.37 hours to fully assemble a vehicle. That was a 7.7 percent improvement for Chrysler from 2006, but a 1.5 percent drop for Toyota. Toyota's inefficiencies were largely due to the rapid shift away from trucks and sport utilities as gas prices rose, according to Ron Harbour, a partner in the automotive consulting firm Oliver Wyman whose father began producing the annual Harbour Report in 1994. Honda Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Nissan Motor Co., Ford Motor Co. followed Toyota and Chrysler, with a productivity gap of no more than 3.5 hours, down from a gap of as much as eight hours five years ago. Hyundai Motor Co., whose Montgomery, Ala., plant was participating in the report for the first time, had the lowest productivity rate of 35.10 hours per vehicle.
Source: Associated Press

Highly Rated Auto Plants Set to Close

DETROIT — Some of the most productive automobile factories, as rated by an influential study released Thursday, are closing down or losing large numbers of jobs in the motor industry’s upheaval. Among the factories scheduled to close are a General Motors minivan plant in Doraville, Ga., and the Ford Motor Company’s midsize pickup truck plant in St. Paul, both of which ranked first in their segments in this year’s Harbour Report on automotive productivity. The top-rated full-size pickup plant, a Ford factory in Norfolk, Va., closed a year ago, showing that even the best-run plants are not immune to cuts. Two of the top three large S.U.V. plants are closing, as is the second-ranked midsize S.U.V. plant. The plant that ranked fourth over all, where Chrysler builds compact cars and crossovers in Belvidere, Ill., recently lost one of its three shifts. “We’ve always said that if we’re going to go, we’ll go out with our heads held high, building a good-quality pickup truck,” said Roger Terveen, president of the United Automobile Workers union’s Local 879, whose members make the Ford Ranger in St. Paul. The 2008 Harbour Report showed that all three Detroit automakers continued to close in on their more productive Japanese competitors, with Chrysler making the most progress. Both Toyota and Chrysler needed about 30 hours to build each vehicle, the fewest among major automakers.
Source: The New York Times (Registration required.)

Senate Democrats May Pull Climate Bill

Week's Debate Has Been Contentious
If this week's Senate debate on a proposed cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for climate legislation, things are not looking too good for opening night. The week has been marked by parliamentary maneuvers and bitter accusations over divergent estimates of the bill's future costs. On Wednesday, a group of GOP senators asked that the clerk of the Senate read the entire 491-page bill aloud, an extremely rare request. That took more than 10 hours. Although parliamentary maneuvers could still extend the debate into next week, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) faced the prospect of failure in a bid to end debate on amendments to the climate bill this morning. In that event, he was expected to seek withdrawal of the entire measure, to the relief of some Democrats from coal-producing or heavy industrial states. Some Democrats were worried yesterday that the GOP might try to block withdrawal of the legislation to prolong a debate that many Democrats think no longer works to their political benefit. Republicans have pounced on the high price of gasoline and have stressed that the climate legislation, by introducing a price on carbon dioxide emissions, would further raise the price of gas along with that of all other fossil fuels. Both Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), the presumptive presidential nominees, have endorsed the cap-and-trade approach, though McCain has consistently emphasized the need for more nuclear power plants. Neither senator returned to Washington for this week's debate and vote.
Source: The Washington Post

Ford Makes Capitol Hill Sales Pitch for New 2009 Flex, Lincoln MKS

WASHINGTON -- Ford Motor Co. brought two of its new vehicles to Capitol Hill [Thursday] for legislators and staff members to drive. The automaker was showing off its new 2009 Ford Flex and 2009 Lincoln MKS. The Flex is a new crossover that seats up to seven passengers. The MKS is a full-sized sedan. Both get up to 24 miles per gallon. Four members of Congress -- Reps. Candice Miller (R-Mich.); Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.); Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.); and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) -- sent a letter to colleagues this week urging them to take a spin in one of the new vehicles "made with pride by our American workers." Workers in Ohio build the engines for the new vehicles. The MKS is assembled in Chicago, while body and sheet metal parts are stamped in Buffalo for the Ford Flex. The Flex's transmission is made in Sterling Heights. Automakers have often visited the hill recently to show off new or prototype vehicles. Last month, Toyota Motor Co. was offering test drives for members of Congress and staff of a research model plug-in electric Toyota Prius that has a seven-mile electric range. Not to be outdone, General Motors Corp. will be on Capitol Hill next week showing off the concept Chevy Volt ...
Source: The Detroit News

Toyota Develops New Fuel Cell Hybrid

TOKYO -- Toyota has developed a new fuel cell hybrid, a green car powered by hydrogen and electricity, that can travel more than twice the distance of its predecessor model without filling up, the automaker said Friday. The improved model's maximum cruising range is 516 miles compared with 205 miles for Toyota's previous fuel cell model ... The FCHV-adv model, which received Japanese government approval Tuesday, will be available for leasing in Japan later this year, Toyota Motor Corp. spokeswoman Kayo Doi said. Pricing and other details weren't available, and overseas plans were still undecided, she said. Fuel cell vehicles produce no pollution by running on the power of the chemical reaction when hydrogen stored in a tank combines with oxygen in the air to produce water. The FCHV-adv from the world's second biggest automaker also comes with an electric motor and works as a hybrid by switching between that motor and the hydrogen-powered fuel cell. Toyota's Prius hybrid switches between an electric motor and a standard gasoline engine. Rival Honda Motor Co.'s revamped fuel cell vehicle for leasing in California is rolling off a Japanese factory floor later this month. For 2010, U.S. automaker General Motors Corp. is planning a Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric vehicle, while Tokyo-based Nissan Motor Co. is planning electric vehicles for the U.S. and Japan.
Source: Associated Press

Opinion: At $4, Everybody Gets Rational
By Charles Krauthammer

So now we know: The price point is $4. At $3 a gallon, Americans just grin and bear it, suck it up and, while complaining profusely, keep driving like crazy. At $4, it is a world transformed. Americans become rational creatures. Mass transit ridership is at a 50-year high. Driving is down 4 percent. (Any U.S. decline is something close to a miracle.) Hybrids and compacts are flying off the lots. SUV sales are in free fall. The wholesale flight from gas guzzlers is stunning in its swiftness, but utterly predictable. America's sudden change in car-buying habits makes suitable mockery of that absurd debate Congress put on last December on fuel efficiency standards. At stake was precisely what miles-per-gallon average would every car company's fleet have to meet by precisely what date. It was one out-of-a-hat number (35 mpg) compounded by another (by 2020). It involved, as always, dozens of regulations, loopholes and throws at a dartboard. And we already knew from past history what the fleet average number does. When oil is cheap and everybody wants a gas guzzler, fuel efficiency standards force manufacturers to make cars that nobody wants to buy. When gas prices go through the roof, this agent of inefficiency becomes an utter redundancy. At $4 a gallon, the fleet composition is changing spontaneously and overnight, not over the 13 years mandated by Congress. Unfortunately, instead of hiking the price ourselves by means of a gasoline tax that could be instantly refunded to the American people in the form of lower payroll taxes, we let the Saudis, Venezuelans, Russians and Iranians do the taxing for us -- and pocket the money that the tax would have recycled back to the American worker...
Source: The Washington Post

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NADA Update
Shop the NADA Expo Floor - Online

The 2008 NADA Convention & Expo is over, but the virtual exhibit floor is open 24/7 with our new online exhibit directory. Browse more than 700 exhibitors and search by company name or category of interest. Click here for direct access to the 2008 NADA Exhibit Directory.

Ballots for New NADA Director from Georgia due June 13

Ballots for nominating dealers to serve as the NADA director from Georgia have been mailed to members in that state. Nomination ballots must be returned postmarked by Friday, June 13. If two or more nominees receive at least 10 percent of the votes and agree to seek election, ballots will be mailed Friday, July 11 to be returned postmarked by Friday, August 1. The candidate elected will take office immediately to serve the remaining term which expires February 2010.

STAR Answers Dealers' Questions on Safeguarding Customer Information

 

Standards for Technology in Automotive Retail (STAR) has developed new guidelines to help dealers with Safeguarding Customer Information. Visit STAR's Dealer Infrastructure Guidelines (DIG) publication for more information. To learn what is recommended for Safeguarding Customer Information, click here.

Lenovo ThinkPad Notebooks Start at Just $459

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Visit www.nada.org/ProductsServices/Technology and click on "PC Purchase Program" (member log-in required), click www.lenovo.com/shop/deals/nada or call 800-426-7235, Option 1, Ext. 4838 to take advantage of these savings. Enter eCoupon USXDADSGRADS at checkout. Free ground shipping is available on all Web orders. This offer ends June 16, 2008. Visit the Web site often for special limited-time eCoupons.

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Quotable
 
"When oil is cheap and everybody wants a gas guzzler, fuel efficiency standards force manufacturers to make cars that nobody wants to buy. When gas prices go through the roof, this agent of inefficiency becomes an utter redundancy."

   
-- Charles Krauthammer, a weekly columnist for The Post, The Washington Post, June 6


"Under my plan ... I would create incentives for consumers to get older vehicles off the road and replace them with new, more fuel efficient cars and trucks. If we got just 10 percent of cars built before 1993 off the road, we could save two million barrels of imported oil per day and see a major reduction in emissions."

    -- Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican, serves on both the House Energy and Commerce and Intelligence Committees, The Washington Times, June 6


"It's almost like Rocky. They're in the fight of their lives, but at least they're going into this fight as fit, from a manufacturing standpoint, as they've ever been."   

    -- Ron Harbour, a partner in the automotive consulting firm Oliver Wyman, says the Detroit Three's ability to improve productivity in the midst of significant restructuring has been impressive and will help them as competition grows fiercer and consumers move to smaller, less profitable vehicles, Associated Press, June 6


"We can't have a 'truck plant' and a 'car plant' anymore. It needs to just be 'a plant,' and it's got to be flexible enough to build whatever the market needs."

    -- Ron Harbour, publisher of the Harbour Report which measures factory productivity, said the automakers need more adaptable plants, so they do not have to shut their most productive factories or spend millions of dollars retooling them to build different vehicles, The New York Times, June 6
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