Auto Notes - January 2019
Changes at GM. In late November, Detroit-based General Motors (GM) made a surprise announcement that it would layoff 15 percent of its salaried workforce, plus shut down five production and assembly plants in Maryland, Michigan, and Ohio. The plant closures are scheduled for after December 2019, but personnel layoffs will generally occur earlier.
GM said its actions are based on receding car sales and the restructuring will save the company $6 billion in cash. The company also said the changes will allow GM to focus resources on self-driving and electric vehicles, plus more efficient crossovers, SUVs, and trucks.
Low selling cars that will be discontinued (produced in Ohio and Michigan plants) are the Chevrolet Impala, Cruze, and Volt; the Cadillac CT6; and the Buick Lacrosse. Ford announced some time ago that it would cease production on the Focus (May 2018), Taurus (March 2019), and Fiesta (May 2019). The midsize Fusion remains for a while, eventually leaving only the Mustang and Focus Active (produced in China) cars for the North American markets.
When President Trump announced international tariffs last summer, GM (as well as Ford and FCA) trimmed profit forecasts and warned that there would be fallout within the industry as the tariffs were “undermining GM’s competitiveness against foreign auto producers by erecting broad brush trade barriers that increase our global costs.”
Though the U.S. and China declared a truce on auto tariffs on Dec. 2, it’s only for 90 days and not definitive about future tariffs on both new autos and auto-related parts.
Big show. The 2018 AutoMobilty and LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, Nov. 30 to Dec. 9, offered more than 60 global and North American vehicle debuts from dozens of automakers.
Some exciting introductions included the Rivian RS1 Electric SUV, 2020 Jeep Gladiator, Mercedes-Benz GT R Pro and GLE models, Mitsubishi e-Evolution Concept, Hyundai Le Fil Rouge concept, Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport, Kia DUB K900 concept, BYTON M-Byte and K-Byte models, and dozens more.
Sales update. While we won’t know year-end sales totals until Jan. 4, estimated 2018 U.S. sales remain at about 17 million light-duty units, close to 2017 total vehicles sold.
Overall, November 2018 sales were down slightly from 2017, the first time since 2009. There were mixed results from automakers: FCA up 17 percent (RAM trucks increased 44 percent over 2017, and Alfa Romeo was up 118.1 percent); Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Toyota, and VW Group were all down; GM was up just over 1 percent; Mazda posted a modest increase in sales; and Subaru had its 84th consecutive month of yearly month-over-month growth. Analysts said higher interest rates and higher vehicle prices kept consumers from car and truck purchases.
Many cars, especially sedans, continue to lose out to SUVs, vans, and trucks, hence the discontinuance of GM and Ford cars noted above.
In memoriam. Michael L. Cook, 85, died Nov. 26, at his home in Wayne, N.J. Born in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1933, he was well known across North America and beyond as “the ultimate British car guy.”
During his automotive career, Cook served in executive advertising and public relations positions for Rover, Land Rover, Austin, MG, Triumph, and Jaguar. He officially retired from Jaguar in 1991 as director of U.S. public relations, but he remained a weekly fixture (until his death) at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) North American headquarters in New Jersey managing the JLR historical archives department that he helped create in the 1980s.
After leaving Jaguar full time, Cook published three books about Jaguars and Triumphs, was the editor of Jaguar Journal until 2015, the editor of Vintage Triumph Register until his death, plus he was a monthly columnist for Hemmings Sport & Exotic Car magazine.
A one-time Triumph racer, during his career he oversaw all motorsports and public relations for Triumph and Jaguar, from SCCA to Trans-AM racing, plus he was the publicist for numerous Triumph and Jaguar racing teams.
“Mike Cook loved working with our company and British cars so much that he dedicated his entire career to it,” said Stuart Schorr, vice president of communications for JLR North America. “We are all honored to have worked with him.”