Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


All the muck that’s fit to rake

Big news is tossing the auto world like a dryer set on crazy. There will be no salad references here. Without further ado, here’s a good cross section of the action:

-Fiat CEO to take over Chrysler (and the world?) 

“Fiat Group CEO Sergio Marchionne will become the chief executive of Chrysler after the U.S. automaker emerges from bankruptcy, a Fiat spokesman confirmed Thursday. (1) 

Check source #1 below. That’s an AP story folks, not just Internet rumor. 

In case you haven’t been following the story, Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli announced he would step down after his company emerges from bankruptcy – a process that the Obama Administration believes could take only 30-60 days. That leaves the door wide open for Marchionne, but the new boss has his sights set higher than moving in on only one struggling automaker.

“Marchionne, meanwhile, also is in talks to take over General Motor's operations in Europe -- Germany's Opel, Britain's Vauxhall and Sweden's Saab, and Fiat confirmed that it is also interested in GM's Latin American operations.” (1)

If he can pull it off, Marchionne would be sitting atop the second largest automaker in the world and the largest in Europe. Of course, the critics are questioning whether or not this kind of thirst for power is a healthy one. 

"In a way all of this has come a little bit too fast," said Howard Wheeldon, a senior strategist at BGC Partners. " One would like to see two or three years of really strong results in Europe and in Italy for Fiat before they delve out this far and fast. I am extremely worried about this German thing and their wanting to become No. 2 in the world. It will end in tears." (1)

-2010 Camaro Unreasonably Popular 

In lighter news, Camaro enthusiasts will be happy to know that ravenous consumers have gone mad for the taste of the new 2010 Camaro.

"We can't build them fast enough," GM spokesman Chris Lee said Wednesday.

Of course, can’t isn’t a word GM includes in it’s vocabulary. Wait. 

To keep up with the apparent surge of muscle car demand, GM is keeping their assembly plant in Oshawa open for an added week of production through the week of June 29th. In addition, the Camaro factory will push out 2010s on Saturdays in June, July and August in an effort to satisfy the world’s addiction to horsepower. 

Actually, it should be noted that the 304hp 3.6-liter V6 available in the new 2010 is good for 29mpg on the highway. Not bad Chevy, now hurry up with that Volt. 

-Ford drops the green to “Go Green” 

Wondering what happened to Ford recently? Well apparently they’ve been scheming, scheming with a $550 million investment to transform their Michigan Assembly Plant into the birth place of fuel-efficient small cars. In particular, the next-generation Ford Focus and the new battery-electric Focus; Ford’s first all-electric passenger car set for release in 2011.

But it doesn’t stop there. The Michigan plant, which was once used to produce the ginormous Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator is one of three North America plants that Ford plans to restructure as part of their goal to introduce six small cars for the U.S. market by 2012. 

The new technologies in the plants themselves are reminiscent of other great manufacturing feats Ford accomplished nearly a century ago. Such as when they introduced the assembly line during the industrial revolution and helped streamline automobile production. 

And now they’re at it again! One of the main goodies used to increase production efficiency in Ford’s new plants is a “Flexible” body shop where at least 80 percent of the robotic equipment can be programmed to weld different types of vehicles. Along the same lines, the paint shop uses standardized equipment and final assembly will have a common-build sequence. It all adds up to “non-product specific” equipment that increases production and lowers costs. 

-GM and the University of Michigan – A match made in Detroit

Call it cheap labor, call it an investment akin to “children are our future.” Either way, General Motors and the University of Michigan are teaming to create the GM/U-M Institute of Automotive Research and Education. According to, 

“The Institute will be part of U of M's College of Engineering, and will be focused on, naturally, clean and efficient vehicle technologies.”

In particular, their work will center on the Advanced Battery Coalition for Drivetrains (ABCD) partnership, which will attempt to solve battery life and performance issues. Also on the docket are smart materials, engine systems and advanced vehicle manufacturing. 

Outside of Detroit, GM plans to form similar relationships with Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, China and with Politecnico in Torino, Italy. (4)




The latest news, reviews and commentary about cars, trucks, and more, automotive technology and car culture