Greetings folks, and welcome to another installment of Manufacturing Monday. If you're looking for updates on the financial bailout, sorry today I'm focusing on manufacturing. Though I highly recommend the many other, if I may say, much more talented bloggers than I who also cover economics. Nope, today we're talking automobiles! So let "Crazy Venom" here show you what's on the lot!
Volt to charge up Flint's economic engine with it's own.
Chucking the sour economic trend that has befallen the great town of Flint, there's something new brewing in that beleaguered town. That, my friends, is a new factory from General Motors. Well, OK, the damn thing hasn't even been built yet, so I am jumping the gun here. But it always warms the cockles of my heart to hear when a new manufacturing operation sets up shop here.
The source of all this joy is GM's plan to build a new engine plant to cater to their upcoming electric car products. CNN is reporting that Rick Wagoner has slated the famed town to be one of the centers of it's four cylinder engines for the Volt and new subcompact car line, the Cruze. The plant will double GM's capacity to build these type of engines, which they claim will help extend the Volt's range.
Economically speaking, particularly regarding jobs, this would be counted as a scratch trade. The jobs created in the $370 million dollar plant will essentially offset the ones being lost in the recent closure of another nearby factory.
Although GM said the new plant won't create any new jobs, it will retain about 300 hourly positions, and workers said they are hopeful the new plant will create more employment in the industrial city about 50 miles northwest of Detroit.
"This also means that there's a future for our youth in this area," worker Jean Adams-Anderson said.
The state of Michigan on Tuesday approved $132.5 million in tax incentives for the automaker to spend $838 million on the new plant and to upgrade four other facilities, including the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant where the Volt will be built.
The Flint investment includes the 552,000-square-foot plant as well as machinery and other equipment. GM says it will invest another $21 million in tooling for its suppliers to support the new Flint factory.
- excerpt from "GM to build $370 million engine plant", CNN, 2008.
America's gonna love small cars, so says Ford
Well it seems that the gang at Ford Motors is switching gears (you could almost say literally!) on it's focus on autos. For years we've all been pointing out how the doofuses who ran the Big 3 had put too much attention to those bigger autos. One need only look to your nearest street to see an armada of Sports Utility Vehicles and Pickups on virtually every corner. Folks were wanting smaller more fuel efficient cars, but Ford, GM and whatever-they-are-calling-themselves-this-week instead went for the land-sharks.
Now, I'd love to say that after years of us nagging, that Ford finally saw the light. But I'm a cynical bastard at heart, and know damn well that it wasn't our demands but the price at the pump that did it. I know many folks who purchased an SUV back when gas was cheaper than a Happy Meal, they took those things everywhere, didn't matter what excuse to drive those things.
DETROIT - Ford Motor Co.'s plan to morph itself from a truck to a car company in North America is backed by market research showing that a new line of global small cars will be well received in the U.S. when they go on sale in 2010, company executives said.
But getting from now until then will take more cash incentives in a shrinking U.S. market with fearful consumers and tight credit, the automaker's top marketing executive told reporters Monday night.
Ford, trying to allay concerns about how it will be profitable as its primary market shuns high-dollar trucks and sport utility vehicles, put three top executives before reporters inside the factory just north of downtown Detroit that made the first Model T almost a century ago.
-excerpt from "Ford says US will welcome its small cars", Forbes, 2008.
My how things have changed, like the stock prices of the Big 3, many folks' SUVs have been sitting (and in many cases rusting) away the days. So now we get this article from Forbes Magazine, I guess to serve as Ford's mea culpa. Or actually should I say, chutzpah? Look, either way, I'm actually glad the Big F is moving towards smaller cars. Now if only we could get them to make more of 'em here AND more green!
The Japanese, not to mention the Europeans, have been kicking our asses in the small car front. From sedans to those really subcompact cars, the same folks I mentioned who purchased SUVs went out and got Priuses or VWs or Minis. Here is a chance, while I grant you the economic timing is shit, but here is a chance for domestic automakers to take back market share. GM, Ford, and Chrysler/Cerubus have an uphill battle. I know many more folks who are more comfortable buying a Camry or a Civic than they are a Chevy.
We've all heard that saying "American cars suck". I once had a friend who would only buy German or Japanese cars. He loved this one Honda so much, extolling the virtues of "Japanese autoworker craftsmanship." This was until someone pointed out that his car came from I think it was Ohio or Mississippi. I want to think that American cars, and by that I mean those designed by US car companies, have improved. American and Canadian autoworkers are the best in the world, and it pains me when I see a car plant close. Well Ford, I hope you're right, a lot is riding on this!
NY Times highlights hydrogen
Now before I start on this, I have to tell you I got this song stuck in my head. It isn't a real song, it's something my 6 year old cousin invented. She's the princess of ad-lib's and can turn anything into a song, or take the tune of an existing song and make up her own words I don't know how she does it, but she does. I was mentioning this article by the New York Times that highlighted hydrogen for fuel, when all of a sudden the little one gets up and starts singing "Hydrogen...Hydrogen, everybody loves Hydrogen!" with the tune from the old Spider Man them (damn her father and his love of old cartoons!"). She does this herky jerky dance like Eileen from Seinfeld too.
Well any ways, I'm getting off track here. My point is that you folks should take a look at this article. It points out the current chicken and egg situation going on with this alternative fuel. Indeed, one could point out that this is a dilemma facing various other fuels.
ON a strip of Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, a futuristic experiment posing as an ordinary fuel station may be bringing the world one step closer to the hydrogen age.
From the moment engineers started dreaming about hydrogen as an alternative to oil, they faced a nagging question: What should come first — the fuel-cell car or the hydrogen pump?
Carmakers have argued that without a network of hydrogen filling stations they couldn’t roll out fuel-cell vehicles from the research lab to the dealership. Energy companies, on the other hand, said that without large numbers of fuel-cell cars available at reasonable prices, they saw little point in building a costly new fueling infrastructure.
- excerpt from "Pumping Hydrogen", New York Times, 2008.
I'm often reminded of that catch phrase from that movie Field of Dreams, "if you build it, they will come." Often I've taken it as if you build the alt-fuel car, the demand will come. Hell, the demand's already here! Yet some how the refueling part of the equation goes off the cliff.
Perhaps like you, we have a bajillion different gas stations, by me it' Shell, BP and Citgo (the latter outnumbering the other two by 3-1). Now I don't own a car, but me and a pal were getting stuff done and since he helped me with something I paid for gas. This was a brand new Citgo station at the time, located on Caldwell near the similarly-named restaurant, with it's own carwash and Dunkin Donuts. So often when they just pop up you get the owner or franchisee still working there. So out of curiosity I asked him if the newer stations would have recharging stations for electric cars (we had just seen Who Killed the Electric Car.). In his heavy accented voice, the man said "if they come with the money to buy it, will supply whatever they want." Now to this day I was hoping he meant refueling stations and not something else like porn or nachos.
But you all see what I'm getting at. A while back, on Daily Kos and in the Economic Populist, I wrote about how there was a race involving hydrogen cars. They had managed to make it across the country, but at times had a desperate time looking for refueling stations.
Perhaps this has to do more with a push by the automakers than anyone else. The government could mandate something, but then the gas stations would be on the hook if they didn't sell the hydrogen. We already got enough business failures these days, I don't want to bail out Citgo.
Now if only I could get that song out of my head!