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EU Trade Chief Warns Trump Administration to Back Off Tariff Threat

Malmstrom comes to D.C. with a list of tariff targets.

by Michael Strong on Nov.15, 2018

Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU's top trade official, warned that if the Trump administration implemented auto tariffs on the EU, the union would respond in kind.

If President Donald Trump makes good on a threat to impose a 25% tariff on cars and trucks imported into the United States from Europe, the European Union is prepared to implement a new policy of its own: an eye for an eye.

Cecilia Malmstrom, the top trade official for the European Union, met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to talk about trade issues. After the meeting, she warned the EU would implement tariffs of equal size and strength on U.S. goods if Trump made good on his threatened auto tariffs.

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“It would be a rebalancing list covering a lot of different sectors,” Malmstrom said. “That would be ready if we thought those measures would hit us. We hope not.”  (more…)

Automakers on Edge Over Possibility of New Tariffs

Commerce Dept. findings key to Trump administration's plans.

by Joseph Szczesny on Nov.14, 2018

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is leading the Section 232 investigation into whether or not imported automobiles and parts represent a threat to the United States.

While the U.S. midterm elections have passed, carmakers are waiting on a final decision from the Trump administration on the Section 232 investigation. Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 allows the White House to use national security grounds to impose tariffs on vehicles and auto parts imported into the U.S.

The industry’s lobbyists have said they were expecting the U.S. Department of Commerce, which is responsible for the investigation, to issue its ruling soon, perhaps this week well ahead of the February deadline fixed by the statute. The general assumption is the report will offer Trump a chance to impose new tariffs on autos and auto parts made in Europe and Asia.

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The 232 query has become a major issue for the Japanese government of Shinzo Abe, which has spent weeks trying to defuse the administration’s threat to impose tariffs that could have a major impact on the Japanese auto industry. (more…)

Former Auto Designer Elected to Michigan Senate

"Build that wall" chant by middle schoolers pushed her into politics.

by Joseph Szczesny on Nov.08, 2018

Former auto designer Mallory McMorrow is now Michigan state senator-elect Mallory McMorrow.

In a first, a car designer is going to the Michigan State Senate in Michigan come January.

“Everybody thinks I’m a lawyer,” said Mallory McMorrow, but her experience as an automotive designer proved useful in striking up conversation as she campaigned across her state Senate District that includes a large portion of suburban Oakland County, just north of Detroit, against a seemingly entrenched incumbent whose father had also served in Congress for 16 years.

Insight!

McMorrow studied industrial and car design at Notre Dame University, and in 2007 she won a design contest that led to a six-month internship while working on high profile projects such as a concept Mazda3. However, she admits, somewhat wistfully, her stint at Mazda was cut short by the Great Recession.   (more…)

Tesla Hit with Three Subpoenas by SEC

EV maker reveals new info in quarterly filing.

by Michael Strong on Nov.02, 2018

Tesla CEO Elon Musk's was subpoenaed by the SEC related to the plans to take Tesla private.

Just days after telling the world they had not been served with any subpoenas regarding its predictions or discussions about production of the Model 3, Tesla Inc. officials said they’ve been served with three of them.

That was Oct. 26, but in its quarterly filing with the SEC dated Nov. 2, things had changed.

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In the filing, the company said it was served with three subpoenas by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company notes that no government supervisory or law enforcement agencies have found them guilty of anything. (more…)

Honda Aligns With GM on Fuel Economy Rules

Japanese automaker pushes Trump administration to compromise.

by Joseph Szczesny on Nov.01, 2018

Honda is aligning with General Motors in calling for tougher, but unified fuel economy standards in the U.S.

Honda has joined General Motors on calling the EPA to abandon its proposed fuel-economy rollback and is asking federal officials to negotiate with states like California to offer a single, comprehensive update to federal fuel-economy standards.

“Despite continued development of exciting new automotive technologies, the long-term achievements of this industry will depend as much on policies as on powertrains,” Honda noted in its response to the Trump administration.

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“The regulatory framework and policy levers will define the landscape in which our industry operates and competes. Managing this transition thoughtfully is of paramount importance to industry and society alike,” Honda continued regarding the administration’s proposal to freeze the fuel economy standards at 2021 levels and end California’s ability to set its own rules on fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions. (more…)

Ford, Baidu Ink Autonomous Test Deal in China as Waymo Starts in California Despite Protests

Disparate reactions to autonomous vehicle testing.

by Michael Strong on Nov.01, 2018

Ford's Sherif Marakby and Baidu's Zhenyu Li shake hands, confirming the new autonomous testing deal between the two companies.

Ford Motor Co. just inked a deal with Baidu Inc. to conduct two years of autonomous vehicle testing on the roads of China as Waymo is getting approval to engage in its own self-driving vehicle tests in California despite the protests of watchdog groups.

The Baidu-Ford L4 Autonomous Vehicle Test Project is set to begin by the end of this year, the automaker noted. The project will develop and test autonomous vehicles that are designed to meet the Level 4 (L4) driving automation standard as defined by SAE International.

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Level 4 vehicles are capable of operating autonomously within a specific geographic area and under certain weather conditions. Ford engineers have already started the process working at its Nanjing Research and Engineering Center, which was set up to convert the vehicles into Autonomous Vehicle Platforms in order to prepare them to be fit with Baidu’s Apollo Virtual Driver System.  (more…)

NHTSA Investigating Mercedes’ Recall Protocols

Agency accuses automaker of dragging heels on issuing recalls.

by Michael Strong on Oct.30, 2018

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is part of Daimler's recall of 1 million vehicles to resolve and airbag problem.

Mercedes-Benz USA is alleged to have dragged its heels on mailing recall notes to the owners of 1.4 million vehicles in the U.S.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it found after an extensive review the German automaker has been exceeding the time limits for mailing informational letters to owners about recalls for their automobiles.

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The safety agency also has questions about the company’s process for making recall decision, specifically the time it takes to make the call and inform the U.S. government. (more…)

FCA May Reassess Plan to Move Ram Pickup out of Mexico

Company may need to continue production South of the Border to meet strong demand.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Oct.29, 2018

Fiat Chrysler outsold rival Ford Motor Co. in September, led by strong sales of its Ram pickup truck.

While Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said Monday it is moving ahead with plans to shift production of its Ram pickup from Mexico to Michigan, a statement appeared to open up the opportunity that it will continue to build the newly redesigned truck at its Saltillo, Mexico plant.

Such a decision would be a critical one by new FCA CEO Michael Manley and likely reflect the fact that demand for the 2019 Ram truck is so strong the company’s current U.S. operations simply can’t keep up, resulting in potential customers having to shift to products like the Ford F-Series and the two newly redesigned trucks launched this year by General Motors.

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“Moving the Ram Heavy Duty to Warren from Mexico is our plan of record. Of course, we always assess latest market and economic conditions when making significant industrial moves,” FCA said in a statement on Monday. (more…)

With Saudi Crisis, Threat to Automakers Escalates

Middle East instability impacts U.S. economy.

by Joseph Szczesny on Oct.24, 2018

Joe Hinrichs, Ford president, said that the volatility of the Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia, impacts automakers.

Car makers from around the world will pause briefly during the next couple of weeks to unveil their financial statements for the July-September quarter, which, on balance, was relatively calm despite rising pressure on their margins from Chinese and American tariffs.

However, VW CEO Herbert Diess did warn the stress on manufacturers is growing steadily. German carmakers only have a 50% chance of surviving reforms required to shift production to electric cars and to tackle new geopolitical threats push some carmakers out of business, he said.

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Meanwhile, the pressure from tariffs is liable to get more intense in the future. The Trump administration is continuing to threaten tariff on auto exported from Japan. Meanwhile, the unsettling news cycle from the Middle East that began with the kidnapping and murder of Jamal Khashoggi continues to unfold with uncertain consequences. (more…)

Ford’s New Ad Campaign Shoots Straight Hyping Products, History

First commercials debut during college football this weekend.

by Michael Strong on Oct.19, 2018

Ford is kicking off a new ad campaign, Built Ford Proud, that features print ads as well as new commercials.

Ford Motor Co.’s recent advertising campaigns haven’t quite hit the mark in terms of creating a positive buzz, so it’s going back to the future with an update to an oldie but goodie.

The automaker used to brag that its trucks were “Built Ford Tough,” but now the entire line-up is “Built Ford Proud.”

The Last Word!

Unveiled at its dealer meeting in Las Vegas, Ford’s new mantra will begin appearing on television screens this weekend, primarily during college football games. Featuring actor Bryan Cranston, famous for “Malcom in the Middle” and “Breaking Bad,” the three ads basically center on Ford’s pride in its history, ingenuity and progress. (more…)