On the Shoulders of SUVs

[Full Disclosure: I have been working in the auto industry for 8 years now, and I intend to continue working in it. I am not employed by a major auto manufactuere; I am not UAW. I am not involved in vehicle design. I assist in equipment installation and set-up for manufacturing. Once the vehicle is launched, I move on to the next launch.]

Toyota announced last week that it will begin producing the Prius hybrid in Blue Springs, MS, by 2010. It is fortunate that Toyota was already building a plant there, as announced last year.

As the articles show, Toyota was building a plant to produce over 100,000 Highlander SUVs per year, starting just one year ago. That they are reacting instead of ceasing construction is a good thing for the auto industry here in the states.

Last month, GM hinted at future production of a 45 mpg car in Lordstown, OH, where they currently build the Cobalt.

The new car, a Chevrolet as yet unnamed, will be powered by a 1.4-liter engine (or about 85 cubic inches, for purposes of comparison to the 454 Impala muscle car of 1966). But that’s OK. People don’t talk much these days about how fast a car gets from zero to 60 mph; they’re more inclined to talk about miles per gallon. And the new car is likely to get 45 mpg.

This is scheduled to go into production by 2010, in addition to the well-publicized Chevy Volt.

GM is scheduled to add a third shift at Lordstown (Cobalt)and Orion Township (G6) early this fall.These actions were made possible by the sales of SUVs in years past. Toyota was fortunate that they were building a plant for Highlander production; they now have a shell of a plant with infrastructure in place to change the plant to Prius production without having to tear out old equipment. GM was able to keep Lordstown and Orion open because of the amount of cash that SUV production was generating (note: this is my opinion, no quotes from GM people to verify this).

The auto companies do not need a bailout; they certainly do not need any bureaucratic guidance on business decisions. In the world of automobile manufacturing, these are rapid changes, and no amount of government intervention is going to accelerate the process.

An 85% increase in the price of gasoline in 18 months is impossible to respond to. The troubles in the housing mortgage world are having an impact on auto sales – as equity disappears and lines of credit become more difficult to get, there is less financing available to purchase vehicles.

But the auto industry will adapt just fine.

It is my hope with this blog entry and future entries to highlight some successes of the beleaguered auto industry. It is also my hope to provide some insight into the massive operation that it takes to launch a new vehicle, without going into secrests or anything like that. I also hope to expose some of the irrationality in UAW’s support of the democrats in further detail; although I am not UAW, I work side-by-side with UAW skilled trades and hope to shed some insight into why they think the way they think.

This October I will be moving on to the aforementioned “unnamed” Chevy vehicle that is to be produced in Lordstown. Next spring, I will be moving on to the Volt and sticking with that until launch and production.

Thank You.