Automotive News - October 13, 2008 - Bellyband
6 • OCTOBER 13, 2008 GM gets tough with minority suppliers Andersson: 10 underperformers cut in past year Robert Sherefkin firstname.lastname@example.org DETROIT — General Motors purchasing chief Bo Andersson is taking a hard line, even with minority suppliers, and is eliminating poor performers. He said he cut 10 in the past year. “I don’t think it will stop there,” said Andersson, GM group vice president for purchasing and supply chain. “The unfortunate thing is that we can only support competitive suppliers,” he told Automotive News on the sidelines of an annual meeting for minority suppliers and automakers hosted by Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/ PUSH Coalition. The automotive downturn has been hard on minority suppliers, including two of the largest. Lapeer Metal Stamping Cos., owned by CEO Gerald Diez, is closing three Michigan stamping plants, after closing one last year. Earlier this year, Plastech Engineered Products Inc. failed. Andersson did not identify the 10 GM’s Bo Andersson: “The unfortunate thing is that we can only support competitive suppliers.” suppliers he dropped. A GM spokeswoman said only that they were unable to meet one or more targets for quality, price, technology and delivery. Last year, GM extended rescue packages of price increases or added business to eight minority suppliers that were in trouble. They qualified for the assistance because they were part of GM’s mentoring program. This year, Andersson said, he is focusing on that mentoring program rather than any new minority supplier initiative. The program covers 33 companies out of GM’s 273 minority suppliers. The 33 are among GM’s top performers. Each is assigned a GM purchasing executive who acts as a mentor, developing better business plans and expanding opportunities with GM. c Klegon: Chrysler product exec Lauckner: Broad GM experience GM, Chrysler execs to speak at congress product forum Frank Klegon, executive vice president of product development at Chrysler LLC, and Jon Lauckner, vice president of General Motors global program management, will speak at a forum exploring global product development for North America. The forum will be Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 21, at the 33rd Automotive News World Congress in Detroit. Lauckner, 51, was appointed to his current position in May 2005. He began his career in 1979 as a salaried employee in training at Buick and held various engineering positions until 1988, when he transferred to GM’s marketing and product planning staff in Detroit. Since 1990 he has held management positions in South America and Europe, including global vehicle line executive for the Epsilon architecture while based in Ruesselsheim, Germany. Since September 2005, Klegon, 56, has led all product development teams, product development strategies and advance vehicle engineering at Chrysler. Klegon began his engineering career with Chrysler Corp. in 1985 as an electrical engineer. In 1999 he was appointed vice president in charge of truck platform engineering. He now is responsible for all areas of product development, including testing, validation and quality. c Bush team tests higher ethanol blends Harry Stoffer email@example.com WASHINGTON — There may be an easier way to expand use of renewable fuels than installing costly E85 tanks and pumps at filling stations across the country, the Bush administration says. The Department of Energy reported last week that a small test fleet of vehicles ran adequately on gasoline blends of as much as 20 percent ethanol. “The data is encouraging,” said Energy Secretary Sam Bodman. Automakers aren’t so sure. Nearly all vehicles on the road today can run on blends that have as much as 10 percent ethanol. Some vehicles, called flex-fuel, are engineered to run on gasoline or blends with as much as 85 percent ethanol, or E85. But only about 1 percent of the nation’s filling stations have E85 pumps. That’s why some policymakers favor wide use of so-called midlevel or intermediate blends, with 15 to 20 percent ethanol. But automakers worry that with long-term use, blends above E10 could damage fuel systems and catalytic converters that weren’t designed for that much ethanol, said Charles Territo, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. The alliance represents the Detroit 3, Toyota and seven other automakers. The Bush administration wants to put the country on a path to meet a congressional mandate of using 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022 — five times today’s level. Bodman called for more study of midlevel blends. Said Territo: “We are all looking to learn more.” c Vehicles from Mitsubishi’s Illinois plant are passed over in favor of more fuel-efficient offerings, says President Osamu Masuko. The plant makes, clockwise from top left, the Endeavor, Eclipse Spyder, Galant sedan and Eclipse coupe. Mitsubishi reviews models at Ill. plant after UAW deal Hans Greimel firstname.lastname@example.org TOKYO — Mitsubishi Motors Corp. may overhaul the models made at its only U.S. assembly plant, President Osamu Masuko said. The Mitsubishi chief also said here last week that it is too late for the Japanese carmaker to join the hybridvehicle race. Instead, the company will use its electric-car program as a springboard into plug-in hybrids. Masuko spoke after Mitsubishi reached a deal Oct. 4 with the UAW that extended the factory’s operations for four years. “We are seriously re-evaluating our U.S. operations as to what kind of automobiles we should manufacture there,” he said. Mitsubishi President Osamu Masuko: “Seriously re-evaluating” vehicles to build in Normal, Ill. The Normal, Ill., plant makes the Galant sedan, Eclipse coupe and Spyder and Endeavor crossover. Masuko did not say what models might be a better fit. The Normal factory, with an annual capacity of 240,000 vehicles, can operate profitably if it produces 100,000 units a year, but it has failed to do so, Masuko said. Part of the problem, he said, is that the factory’s vehicles have fallen out of favor as customers rush to more fuel-efficient offerings. “It is very difficult to sell the kinds of cars we are producing in this factory,” he said. Masuko also said he is focusing Mitsubishi’s limited r&d budget on pioneering electric vehicles and using that know-how to develop plugin hybrids for longer-range driving. “For us to enter the hybrid field would probably not be a wise decision. We are a little too late coming into the market,” Masuko said. The company’s i MiEV electric car will be sold in Japan next summer. Said Masuko: “We are focusing our efforts on developing plug-in hybrids.” c Key facts When: Jan. 19-22 Where: Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center Cost: $1,495 early registration fee by Dec. 1 (save $200); daily fee $850 Information: 313-446-0485 or autonews.com/worldcongress Exclusive lead sponsors: PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM F droop Ford’s F-series pickup is on course to fall below 500,000 sales for the first time since 1992. 2008: 490,000* 2007: 690,589 2006: 796,039 2005: 901,463 2004: 939,463 *Automotive News forecast Source: Company, Automotive News Data Center F-series sales: Steep descent to below 500,000? How the mighty F has fallen. Though still America’s top-selling vehicle, Ford’s F-series pickup is tracking at below 500,000 sales for the full year. It even could finish at less than half its 2004 peak of 939,463. True, a redesigned F-150 arrives this fall, and big pickups could benefit from declining fuel prices. But given the credit crunch and waning consumer confidence, there’s no guarantee of a fourth-quarter surge. Running the numbers “You tell me what’s going to happen in the next three months,” said Ford sales analyst George Pipas. Through September, F-series sales Ford moved the 2009 F-150 launch to November from December. were down 26.9 percent from the same period in 2007, to 392,698 units. Last month Ford sold 32,727 units. At September’s rate of sales, the F series will finish 2008 at about 490,000. Ford’s big truck last finished below 500,000 in 1992. Ford has advanced the launch of the 2009 F-150 to November from December. But Pipas said, “Moving up the marketing launch is not going to pump up sales at all because you can only sell what’s on the ground.” — Jamie LaReau
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