NADA Headlines - 05/08/2013 (Plain Text Version)
By David Ruggles
Maryann Keller hit my radar screen when she spoke at a National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention in 1987. The room was packed for her breakout session. People lined up in the hall to hear what the noted Wall Street analyst and auto industry consultant had to say. She is still at it today. She gave a remarkable address to an attentive audience at a recent J. D. Power/NADA event in New York City. At the conference, she speaks more optimistically about the conventional system of selling cars in the U.S. “Over four decades, I've heard many arguments made against the franchise dealer system.” They are claims “dealers never fail to disprove time and time again.”
A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down a National Labor Relations Board rule requiring most private sector employers to post a notice informing employees of their right to unionize. Ever since the labor board proposed the rule in December 2010, business groups have asserted that the move exceeded the board's authority and was an improper imposition on nearly six million employers, most of them small businesses. In its decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that the N.L.R.B.'s rule violated a federal law that bars the board from punishing an employer for expressing its views so long as those statements do not constitute threats of retaliation or force.
Editor's note: As a member of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), NADA joins in a victorious federal court decision throwing out the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) mandate that 6 million employers — including dealerships — post notices informing employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The CDW successfully argued that the NLRB lacked the statutory authority to require the poster. Other parties to the lawsuit included the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Bottom Line: dealerships do not need to display the poster. For a copy of the decision, click here. Questions on this matter may be directed to NADA Regulatory Affairs at 703.821.7040 or firstname.lastname@example.org. [return to top]
Vehicle Production Group closed its office, but owes $50 million to the Energy Department
A Michigan maker of vans for the disabled that received a $50-million Energy Department loan has quietly ceased operation and laid off its staff. Vehicle Production Group, or VPG, stopped operations after finances dipped below the minimum threshold required by the government as a condition of the loan, says its former CEO, John Walsh. Though about 100 staff were laid off and its offices shuttered, it has not filed for bankruptcy reorganization. VPG, of Allen Park, Mich., received its Energy Department loan under the same clean-energy programs under fire by House Republicans, especially the $527 million to troubled plug-in hybrid car maker Fisker Automotive and $535 million to solar startup Solyndra, which filed for bankruptcy reorganization. VPG was deemed eligible for the loan because some of its vans were expected to be fitted with engines fueled by clean compressed natural-gas.
Toyota's quarterly profit more than doubled to 313.9 billion yen ($3.2 billion) as cost cuts and better sales worked with a weakening yen to add momentum to the automaker's comeback. Toyota Motor Corp., which last year reclaimed the title of world's top-selling automaker, said Wednesday it expects the strong results to continue in its new business year that ends March 2014. It projected a 1.37 trillion yen ($13.8 billion) profit, up from 962 billion yen for the year ended March 2013. The annual earnings result was better than the average forecast of 912 billion yen ($9.2 billion) in a FactSet survey of analysts and also outdid the company's own forecast for 860 billion yen ($8.7 billion) profit. Toyota reported a 121 billion yen profit for the January-March quarter of the previous year.
The high-tech, superconnected car or the future is coming soon–but who will pay for it, and who will profit?
The Lexus SUV barreling down Silicon Valley's Highway 101 is much like any other, save the $65,000 laser sensor spinning on the roof like a nerdy propeller beanie. Capturing 1.3 million bits of data per second along with video feeds and radar pulses, the car's computers can “see” the vehicles around us and keep us clear of them. Which is a good thing. Because no one is driving. Google's famed self-driving car is surprisingly easy to get used to, especially as it instantly responds to a car drifting toward us while its human operator fumbles for his hat. But they are just a part of an automotive revolution that may be the most transformative since Henry Ford's assembly line. The “connected vehicle,” with vast amounts of data flowing in and out, promises endless new possibilities for safety, convenience, entertainment–and badly needed profit.
When 4-year-old Albert Ford was diagnosed in 1997 with Type 1 diabetes, his father, Edsel Ford II, went to officials of the family business and asked, “Hey, what are we doing on this?” He was pleased to hear that Ford, where Edsel was a board director of the company founded by his great-grandfather Henry, already had a relationship with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation dating back to hosting a 1983 JDRF fund-raiser walk in Dearborn. “That's great,” he said, “what can I do to help?” A year later, the employee-driven Ford Global Walk Team was formed, with Edsel Ford as its corporate chair. It has since raised more than $43 million for diabetes research, making Ford the JDRF's largest fund-raising partner worldwide.