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Fiat Chrysler's London offices will be small, with financial focus

Tue, 20 May 2014 17:45:00 EST

Fiat Chrysler's decision to locate its new corporate headquarters in jolly old London won't herald a sprawling relocation effort. Instead, it's very likely that the FCA outfit will be a small one, primarily focused on finance.
The report comes from Automotive News Europe, which claims FCA's London office will employ about 50 people with backgrounds in finance. CEO Sergio Marchionne and Fiat Group Chairman John Elkann will both have offices at the corporate headquarters, as well.
ANE cites an anonymous source that claims the people employed at the London office will focus primarily on treasury operations. It's unlikely that FCA will take on any additional employees specifically for its UK offices. That said, FCA isn't likely to downsize either its Turin or Auburn Hills offices once London comes online.

Long winter means most automakers won't curb summer shutdown

Sun, 18 May 2014 14:04:00 EST

A lot more happened during this latest brutal winter than days of snow and Netflix binges. Automotive sales took a battering. After all, going out car shopping when it's eleventy-billion degrees below zero isn't a good time.
Because of this Old Man Winter-induced sales slump, inventories are abnormally high as we head into the summer car buying season. That's led some analysts to predict that automakers will be more inclined to idle factories this summer, in a bid to trim some of the built-up inventory. Traditionally, American manufacturers offer up a two-week break in the middle of summer, although the burgeoning sales of the past few years have seen this practice become less popular.
"We're likely not going to see an acceleration this year," Jeff Schuster, a senior vice president at LMC Automotive, told The Detroit News. "We'll see production increases in 'pockets' but I don't know if it will be as widespread as in recent years."

2015 Chrysler 200 nets 10,000 orders in first day

Thu, 15 May 2014 13:59:00 EST

Chrysler is having a "crazy impressive" launch for its 2015 200, claims company spokesperson Rick Deneau. Within the first two days of opening the order books, the Pentastar took over 17,000 requests for its swoopy new family sedan - 10,000 of them in the first day. The company says that's enough to keep its Sterling Heights, MI, factory running at full capacity through mid-July.
Deneau tells Autoblog that the last time he saw such an immediate popularity for a model was when Ram launched its 1500 EcoDiesel pickup. That truck sold out of its initial order allocation in just three days earlier this year. As you'd expect, "most of these are dealer orders," Deneau admits. In other words, they're not necessarily coming at the behest of individual customer, but that's standard operating procedure as dealers look to fill up their showrooms.
For the moment, it's too early to know which trim or engine will prove most popular in the new 200. At present, most of the ordered models are highly optioned. That's normal for a new vehicle launch, as early adopters tend to want all the bells and whistles and dealers want to show off their new stock by putting their best foot forward.

Former Treasury boss unaware auto task force fired GM's Wagoner

Wed, 14 May 2014 17:45:00 EST

We dig a good political tell-all every once in a while (how else will we get our political fix while waiting for House of Cards' third season?). Today, we get just that from former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's new book, "Stress Test," which details, among other parts of the 2009 financial catastrophe, the structured bankruptcy that allowed Chrysler and General Motors to emerge as competitive players in the auto industry.
In the book, which is nicely recapped by The Detroit News, Geithner discusses the firing of GM CEO Rick Wagoner while explaining how much trust he had in the auto industry task force that executed the move without his knowledge.
Auto Czar Steve Rattner "didn't even consult me before he fired General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner; if anything, that move increased my confidence in Team Auto," Geithner wrote.

Detroit automakers mulling helping DIA avoid bankruptcy looting

Tue, 13 May 2014 18:01:00 EST

It's not really a secret that the city of Detroit is in lots and lots of trouble. Even with an emergency manager working to guide it through bankruptcy, a number of the city's institutions remain in very serious danger. One of the most notable is the Detroit Institute of Arts, a 658,000-square-foot behemoth of art that counts works from Van Gogh, Picasso, Gauguin and Rembrandt (not to mention a version of Rodin's iconic "The Thinker," shown above) as part of its permanent collection.
Throughout the bankruptcy, the DIA has been under threat, with art enthusiasts, historians and fans of the museum concerned that its expansive collection - valued between $454 and $867 million by Christie's - could be sold by the city to help square its $18.5-billion debt.
Now, though, Detroit's hometown automakers could be set to step up and help save the renowned museum. According to a report from The Detroit News, the charitable arms of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler could be set to donate $25 million as part of a DIA-initiated campaign, called the "grand bargain." As part of the deal, the DIA would seek $100 million in corporate donations as part of a larger attempt at putting together an $816-million package that would be paid to city pension funds over 20 years. Such a move would protect the city's art collection from being sold off.

Tier 1 suppliers call GM the worst OEM to work with

Mon, 12 May 2014 16:29:00 EST

Among automakers with a big US presence, General Motors is the worst to work for, according to a new survey from Tier 1 automotive suppliers, conducted by Planning Perspectives, Inc.
The Detroit-based manufacturer, which has been under fire following the ignition switch recall and its accompanying scandal, finished behind six other automakers with big US manufacturing operations. Suppliers had issues with trust and communications, as well as intellectual property protection. GM was also the least likely to allow suppliers to raise their prices in the face of unexpected increases in material cost, all of which contributed to 55 percent of suppliers saying their relationship with GM was "poor to very poor."
GM's cross-town competitors didn't fare much better. Chrysler finished in fifth place, ahead of GM and behind Dearborn-based Ford, which was passed for third place this year by Nissan. Toyota took the top marks, while Honda captured second place.

Fiat Chrysler posts $690M Q1 loss

Mon, 12 May 2014 14:30:00 EST

If there is one thing that should be remembered when looking at quarterly and annual earnings, it's that the headline numbers rarely tell the whole story when it comes to an automaker's health. Chrysler's first-quarter earnings are just such an example.
Yes, the Auburn Hills-based manufacturer lost $690 million, which is quite a large sum of money. The reasons for the loss, according to Chrysler, were "Unfavorable infrequent items," which includes a $504 million payment to rid itself of the debts it took on for prepaying the UAW's VEBA healthcare trust. Chrysler was also hit with a $672 million charge to the UAW, which was part of a deal that allowed Fiat to purchase the remaining shares of Chrysler owned by the VEBA.
Ignoring those one-time deals, the first quarter was quite a successful one for Chrysler. It would have made $486 million if you erased the merger costs, which would have been a year-over-year increase of $320 million. Even more promising is the fact that Chrysler snagged the largest increase in market share of any automaker during Q1 at 1.1 percent, bringing its overall share to 12.7 percent of the US market. Chrysler saw a 30-percent improvement in sales of trucks and SUVs, along with an 11-percent increase in year-over-year sales and a 23-percent increase in revenue, to $19 billion.

Fiat Chrysler target 850k sales in China by 2018

Sun, 11 May 2014 12:15:00 EST

Behind the vanguard of numerous Jeep models, two Chryslers, a smattering of Fiats and Alfa Romeos and local production through a joint venture with Guangzhou Automotive Group (GAG), Fiat Chrysler wants to increase sales in China more than six-fold by 2018. The group sold 130,000 cars in China in 2013, the aim for 2018 being 850,000 cars.
Ultimately it's expected that the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Cherokee, Wrangler, Renegade, the coming Grand Wagoneer and a sub-Renegade-sized crossover will either be built in or exported to the People's Republic. The Chrysler Town & Country and 300 will join the export list in 2016 and 2018 respectively, according to a report in Automotive News.
With a number of those vehicles not in production or perhaps even envisaged yet, and others not due on the local market until 2018, it will be interesting to see how Fiat Chrysler plans to achieve the target in the specified timeframe. The joint venture with GAG builds two products now, the Dodge Dart-based Fiat Viaggio launched two years ago - supposedly designed just for China - and the just-launched Fiat Ottimo, a hatchback version of the Viaggio. Fiat projected 300,000 Viagio sales in its first two years, that number has been adjusted downward to 94,000 and there doesn't appear to be an analyst alive that sees a good future for Fiat in China's overrun mainstream market. Still, last year's 130,000 group sales in China is a huge jump from 2012 sales of 66,000 units, but less than half the 300,000 units it projected.

Chrysler recalling 780k minivans over fire risk

Fri, 09 May 2014 15:45:00 EST

Chrysler is recalling 780,000 of its Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans from the 2010 to 2014 model years due to the possibility of circuits overheating, which can lead to a fire. Of the 780,000 total vans being recalled, Chrysler estimates that 644,850 are in the US, 106,980 are in Canada, 8,009 are in Mexico, and 20,638 are in other markets. All of the affected vehicles were built between August 25, 2010 and October 31, 2013.
Chrysler's engineers discovered that beverage spills or exposure to moisture (from rain, snow, car washes, and the like) were linked to circuits shorting in the window switch assembly. Short circuits can overheat, and thus, cause a fire.
Chrysler will contact owners and let them know when they may schedule service, at which point, the window switches will be replaced. In the interim, the automaker says that owners may visit their dealers after May 14 to have the switches disconnected.

Merged Fiat-Chrysler HQ will be in London

Fri, 09 May 2014 11:28:00 EST

You won't be seeing Sergio Marchionne in his famous sweaters running day-to-day operations of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles from Michigan. Although, he won't be doing it from Italy, either. The FCA CEO recently announced that the company's corporate headquarters would be located in London.
"Headquarters will be in London. It's clear that group executive functions, the board, my office, some of my functions, need to operate out of London, but that doesn't mean that I'm giving up my operational responsibilities of the US," said Marchionne to Automotive News at a press conference.
When the creation of FCA was announced, the company said its tax domicile would be in the United Kingdom. But it gave no specific location at that time. The business is still keeping most of the details under wraps.