Auto Makers Buoyed by TC Seminars Cheer Suppliers, Big 3


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from Mac Gordon
08-08-2013

TRAVERSE CITY, MI-Global and Detroit-based automakers and suppliers wrapped up the annual Traverse City CAR Seminars August 8 on a high note, portending a new model year that will see growth in new models and improved quality as universal themes.

The Center for Auto Research meetings gave automakers worldwide chances to climb aboard a litany of concepts and programs, sharing progressive news such as connectivity, sustainability and profitability.

Rarely before, except in the Depression aftermath years 2009-2012, had issues embracing quality and connectivity been so thoroughly aired as they were August 5-8.

Detroit-3 panelists, with a nod towards their UAW partners, agreed that new job training programs were giving their products quality lifts worldwide.

Dozens of supplier reps in Q & A panels applauded the “quality message” and agreed that new supplier “parks” at assembly plants in Brazil, southern U.S. and fast growing Mexico are raising quality levels and increasing employment totals without sacrificing quality.

The seminars also for the first time provided a record number of new-model releases.

Volkswagen's speakers confirmed that the state-of-the-art Passat assembly plant in Chattanooga, TN, would be adding an Audi SUV in the “near future” and took the liberty of parking a black 2014-model Passat next to an all-new Chevrolet Corvette at the entrance to the Seminars' Grand Traverse Hotel.

As the newsletter revealed, Chevrolet confirmed that it would offer diesel-engine options on the 2014-model Cruze subcompact. The Cruze is surging in U.S. sales and will be the first diesel application on any subcompact-a feat competitors came away from TC promising to replicate soon.

Questions and Answers at TC Seminars

Q. What is the future of the Jeep Grand Cherokee?
A. It will be replaced next spring by an all-new model as Chrysler introduces a nine- speed transmission and phases out the Liberty.

Q. How is Fiat responding to its global ties to Chrysler?
A. It is pursuing “best value” goals at plants in Detroit, Kokomo, Toluca, and Belvidere. This is a five-year program.

Q. How is Ford reacting to its former issues with its suppliers?
A. “At a supplier conference we just held in Dearborn, one hundred of our suppliers shared their ideas on the best methods for sustaining top quality off the assembly lines.

Q. What is Nissan doing in the U.S. to enhance its global status?
A. Nissans' senior engineer, Roy Goudy, said “Nissan is pursuing supplier parks at its assembly plants, driver assistance programs, and progress in the area of vehicle connectivity.

Q. What were the vehicle sales forecasts among seminar speakers?
A. Dr. Sean McAlinden opened the seminars with a prediction of 15.3 million to 15.4 million units in the U.S. this year, striking a downbeat note. Other speakers raised their sights to 15.9 million-a long down cycle from the end of 2009's great recession scars.

Q. How are your relations with the UAW?
A. “We are solid with the UAW at plants in Kokomo, Dundee, Toluca, Windsor and Belvidere.

Q. What is the contribution to the industry of Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant?
A. It has 2600 employees building Passat cars and setting a tone for future auto assembly plants worldwide.

The global auto industry is on solid ground as it profits from the end of the recession as it pursues product quality throughout the world. That the younger generation is disinterested in cars is unsustainable over the long-term.

The CAR audiences had more women than ever before and more women panelists and speakers than ever before. The next UAW president could well be a woman and the number of women engineers is rising rapidly.

Best wishes for a successful model year, Mac.

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