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  • Bailout Watch 476: Canadian Government Fronts ChryCo CA$250 Million for Payroll

31st March 2009

Bailout Watch 476: Canadian Government Fronts ChryCo CA$250 Million for Payroll

Mega dittos from our neighbors to the north. The Globe and Mail reports that the Canadian government is also playing hard man re: GM and Chrysler’s call on federal bailout bucks. Yada, yada, yada, restructure, union concessions, new plans, bankruptcy. And then, this:

Chrysler was unable to meet its Canadian payroll today without a $250-million advance on a $1-billion bridge loan from Canadian taxpayers. To qualify for up to $4-billion in long-term aid, Chrysler has to conclude now-stalled negotiations with the CAW on a cost-savings contract and complete the Fiat deal.

To stave off an immediate crisis, the federal and Ontario governments offered the bridge loans—including up to $3-billion for GM—to allow them to continue operating while they work to satisfy U.S. and Canadian government demands.

The CA$250 million is an advance on the billion dollar bridge. And make not mistake about it: ChryCo is sucking on fumes.

The company, which employs 9,500 workers and has assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton, Ont., is teetering on the brink of failure.

“Very clearly, if the money had not been forwarded today, they would not have been able to meet payroll today or tomorrow,” Mr. Clement told a news conference.

The result would have been bankruptcy protection and, potentially, the liquidation of Chrysler’s assets in Canada.

Chrysler no doubt welcomes the contribution to their cash flow, but they won’t be glad to hear one of the strings attached to the next round of bailout bucks—should they ever get that far: they can’t use the money to pay their $500 million tax bill. That idea makes my head hurt. [Thanks to boosterseat for the link.]

Globe and Mail »


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31st March 2009

Fun with Lego?

Fun with Lego?

30th March 2009 18:51

With carmakers looking for ways to keep idled workers ticking over, if at all possible, I guess training is an area where levers are frantically being pulled to come up with courses and activities. It’s probably not all that easy to come up with enough stuff to fill the available hours.

A British tabloid newspaper has reported that Vauxhall workers at Ellesmere Port are playing with Lego as part of ‘team-building’ exercises. I can well imagine that cooperative strategies are indeed necessary to design and build a half-decent Lego fire engine. Beats sleeping rough overnight on Dartmoor. I just hope they don’t forget how to build cars.

You daft bricks

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31st March 2009

Dubai Ranked 16th Most Competitive

Via Gulf News

By Suzanne Fenton, Staff Reporter

Dubai: Senior officials have said Dubai must focus more on capital-intensive business practices rather than depend on foreign labour in order to become more competitive in global markets.

Dubai was ranked 16th out of 65 global economies in the National Competitiveness Report for 2009 – the first time the emirate has featured in the eight-year-old report.

The report is published annually by the Institute for Industrial Policy Studies at Seoul National University.

Hani Al Hamli, secretary-general of the Dubai Economic Council, said that in a changing world, countries were competing in various sectors to benefit from globalised markets.

“From there arises the role of the Dubai Competitiveness Council & that aims to enhance Dubai’s competitiveness in global markets through enhancing local economic growth.

“This is achieved through developing sophisticated clusters which will make valuable contributions towards economic growth that will ultimately lead to propensity,” Al Hamli said.

Dubai was ranked ahead of Germany, Japan, France and New Zealand.

“Dubai has so far achieved great success due to its strengths. Dubai now has to turn its eyes to solving its weaknesses. With this new strategic direction & Dubai can turn this crisis into an opportunity for another take-off,” said Hwy-Chang Moon, professor of the graduate school of international studies at Seoul University, when he presented the report.

The report said Dubai’s strengths lay in the context of business, related industries and domestic demand. Its weaknesses, according to the report, included its workforce.

Al Hamli added that any strategy to take Dubai forward had to emphasise less dependence on workers.

To be less dependent on foreign labour, Dubai needs to focus more on capital-intensive rather than labour-intensive methods.

“For example, the construction industry is very labour-intensive if you use many workers, but it can be a highly capital-intensive industry if you approach it differently,” said Dong-Sung Cho, professor at the college of business administration at Seoul University.

Regional standing: Exports lead the way

Dubai exports remain by far the most competitive within the GCC, with 46 industries in Dubai considered competitive at a regional level.

The findings form part of a Revealed Comparative Advantage (RCA) index, the first in a series of research projects conducted by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI). Dubai has the regional advantage in 11 export sectors relative to other Arab nations. Globally, Dubai exports are competitive in five sectors, with semi-precious to precious stones and metals and imitation jewellery holding first place on the index.

The index also showed that Dubai exports had competitive advantages in 23 industries relative to the global norm. “The indices are useful for measuring how Dubai’s total exports by sector and industry stack up against local or regional competition, and for identifying specific countries in which Dubai’s exports are competitive,” said Hamad Bu Amin, director-general of DCCI, at the chamber’s Economic Seminar on Sunday.

The DCCI has also begun research on another potential index which would measure the competitiveness of Dubai exports relative to specific competitors for specific destinations by sector, industry and product over time, according to the Azzeddine Azam, professor of economics at the University of Nebraska and visiting professor at DCCI.

Complete Article

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31st March 2009

Datsun B210

When I think about the Datsun B210, I like to think that, sometime before its introduction in 1973, various Nissan engineers were sitting there, staring at an unwieldy wedge-shaped piece of clay, and said to themselves, “Y’know, we could do that … but we’re going to need to paint it avocado green, burnt orange, turquoise, or pale white. Oh, and put on honeycomb hubcaps. It’s the only way it’ll come together.” Then, they invited the marketing people out for drinks.

Unbeknownst to the marketing department, however, when the engineers were buying themselves drinks, they were just asking the bartender for glasses of water that only looked like sake. Once the marketing department was good and drunk, well, pictures were taken, and blackmail ws performed. The result was the fine piece of automotive history gracing our pages today, the Datsun B210. In an attempt to clear its inventory of this misbegotten son of drunken debauchery and engineering hubris, Nissan proceeded to grant it cut-rate pricing, with the seemingly vain and misguided hope that somebody somewhere might actually buy the danged thing.

Of course, as we all know, a funny thing happened on the way to production. I am, of course, referring to the 1973 Oil Crisis, which suddenly made previously irrelevant little cars like the B210 into sudden cult sensations. Since the oil crisis hit the exact same year Datsun introduced the B210, one could say that the outlook for this odd little car was surprisingly… Sunny. Yes, groan if you wish–in Japan, the Datsun B210 was sold as the Nissan Sunny.

In all seriousness, the B210 was the right car at the right time. Sold at about the same price, when adjusting for inflation, as the present-day Nissan Versa, and featuring a (laughably optimistic) EPA fuel rating of nearly 50 mpg, the B210 was the perfect car for those desperately seeking to escape their petrol-devouring automotive overlords. Consequently, sales were quite brisk.

This encouraged Nissan to perform what would eventually become a rather regular habit–only a year later, Nissan updated the engine range, ditching the A13 four-cylinder for various trims of Nissan’s A14 engine. Depending on which carburetor Nissan felt like throwing in, the A14 produced anywhere from 50 to 85 horsepower.

The idea of a Datsun B210 and its 2,000-pound curb weight mated to an 85-horsepower engine leaves me strangely excited. To put that power into perspective, that engine/weight combination gave the B210 a power-to-weight ratio of 1 horsepower per 23.5 pounds, which was only slightly worse than the power-to-weight ratio of a V-6 powered Mustang II (1:22.1). Like the Mustang II, the B210 was rear wheel drive, which undoubtedly made it an absolute blast to drive in inclement weather. But unlike the Mustang II, even the hottest 85-horsepower B210 could exceed 25 mpg on the highway. If you ask me, the B210 even looked better than the Mustang II.

Of course, Nissan wasn’t the only company releasing small cars into the American market during this pivotal time. Around this time, Honda released the Civic, a humble little hatchback that deserves a Car Lust of its own. Toyota brought the Corolla and the Starling, both of which helped establish Toyota’s well-deserved reputation for reliability. 

By 1978, the improved level of competition forced Nissan to retire the odd-looking little car. Unfortunately, instead of retiring the B210 and replacing it with a car that could compete on equal terms with the Civic and Corolla, Nissan simply replaced the outer shell with a more contemporary-looking one and called the new car a Datsun 210. Perhaps that’s why, decades later, Toyota is now the biggest automaker in the world while Nissan reached the brink of insolvency before partnering with Renault.

The Datsuns pictured above are courtesy of cjacobs53 and brianthompsondesign.  

– David Colborne

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31st March 2009

Button and Brawn GP Dominate at Australian Grand Prix

Button and Brawn GP Dominate at Australian Grand Prix

Date posted: 2009-03-30 16:16:00.0


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MELBOURNE, Australia — Formula 1′s newest entry — Brawn GP, formerly the works Honda team — scored a 1-2 sweep, with Jenson Button leading the way, in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The team did not officially exist until March 6, when Ross Brawn — the British racing engineer who teamed with Michael Schumacher in all seven of Schumacher’s championship seasons — closed the deal to acquire the assets of the team from Honda.

Button, who suffered through an absolutely dismal season last year even though Brawn had come on board as team principal, won the pole and led from start to finish. Teammate Rubens Barrichello was 2nd.

Of course, Brawn GP did not start from scratch on March 6. The Brackley, Northamptonshire, England-based outfit had been continuing to operate after Honda announced its withdrawal of the team in December. There were cutbacks and personnel layoffs — and complete uncertainty about the future of the team.

But Brawn, proven to be one of the most capable leaders in the sport, had assembled a strong team before he officially became the owner of it. Engines were to be supplied by Mercedes, partner with the reigning champion McLaren-Mercedes team, and Button and Barrichello were retained as drivers.

And at Melbourne, the team dominated not just the race, but the entire season-kickoff weekend — practice, qualifying, a lights-to-checkered-flag commanding victory and maximum points for the team car.

The race ended under a yellow flag after Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica took each other out while battling for 2nd place. That lifted Barrichello to 2nd place. Jarno Trulli finished in 3rd place, but was penalized for overtaking under the caution flag and was dropped to 12th place in the final rundown.

Post-race developments included not only the penalty against Trulli and disciplinary action against Vettel after his crash with Kubica, but also the pall of a protest of the winning team. Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault appealed a steward’s decision to allow the Brawn, Toyota and Williams cars to compete despite questions about the rigidity of their rear diffusers.

Inside Line says: One of the most intriguing and wide-open F1 seasons in memory is off to a gangbusters start, on and off the track. A ruling on the protest is scheduled to be made after Round 2 in Malaysia next week. — David Green, Correspondent

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31st March 2009

2013 Tesla Model S

The Tesla Motors Model S 4-door sedan has long been in the likely rumor category, but that all changed this week with a surprise official Tesla Model S introduction. Tesla has made big news with its Roadster model, which with over 250 deliveries has been the first real sport standalone electric car model to see mass production.

If the spec sheet put out in an official Tesla press release was from any other car company, it would be unlikely to be taken seriously. Tesla makes some bold claims for the Model S, which has an early estimate on-road date of mid-2011.

The Roadster has done well on the open market for a pure start-up car company, but at $100,000 and with less utility than a Mazda Miata, its hip factor and novelty value have been big selling points. At double the size and half the price, with a more-powerful engine and battery technology that benefits from the many roadbumps in the Roadster program, the Model S will compete well in the emerging electric vehicle segment if it can stay true to early form.

Certain Tesla Model S show car details, like the rather ridiculous 20-inch wheels, probably will not make it onto a car that is supposed to be all about efficiency. Still, the Model S electric sedan has all the goods where it counts, and new technologies may allow the first affordable all-electric family sedan to see the light of day to be a big hit for fledgling Tesla Motors.


Model S is here!

Official Tesla Motors Press Release

Just moments ago, we took the wraps off the Model S, an all electric family sedan that carries  seven people and travels 300 miles per charge. We also launched a web site and began taking orders for this historic vehicle, which will likely be world’s first mass-produced, highway-capable EV.

The Model S, which carries its charger onboard, can be recharged from any 120V, 240V or 480V outlet, with the latter taking only 45 minutes. By recharging their car while they stop for a meal, drivers can go from LA to New York in approximately the same time as a gasoline car.  Moreover, the floor-mounted battery pack is designed to be changed out in less time than it takes to fill a gas tank, allowing for the possibility of battery-pack swap stations.

The floor-mounted powertrain also results in unparalleled cargo room and versatility, as the volume under the front hood becomes a second trunk. Combining that with a four-bar linkage hatchback rear trunk and flat folding rear seats, the Model S can accommodate a 50-inch television, mountain bike *and* surfboard simultaneously.  This packaging efficiency gives the Model S more trunk space than any other sedan on the market and more than most SUVs.

“Model S doesn’t compromise on performance, efficiency or utility — it’s truly the only car you need,” said Tesla CEO, Chairman and Product Architect Elon Musk. “Tesla is relentlessly driving down the cost of electric vehicle technology, and this is just the first of many mainstream cars we’re developing.”

Tesla expects to start Model S production in late 2011. The company believes it is close to receiving $350 million in federal loans to build the Model S assembly plant in California from the Dept of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program.

Building on Proven Technology

Tesla is the only production automaker already selling highway-capable EVs in North America or Europe. With 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds, the Roadster outperforms almost all sports cars in its class yet is six times as energy efficient as gas guzzlers and delivers 244 miles per charge. Tesla has delivered nearly 300 Roadsters, and nearly 1,000 more customers are on the waitlist.

Teslas do not require routine oil changes, and they have far fewer moving (and breakable) parts than internal combustion engine vehicles. They qualify for federal and state tax credits, rebates, sales tax exemptions, free parking, commuter-lane passes and other perks. Model S costs roughly $5 to drive 230 miles – a bargain even if gasoline were $1 per gallon.


The anticipated base price of the Model S is $49,900 after a federal tax credit of $7,500. The company has not released options pricing. Three battery pack choices will offer a range of 160, 230 or 300 miles per charge.

But the anticipated sticker price doesn’t tell the full story. Model S costs half as much as a Roadster, and it’s a better value than much cheaper cars. The ownership cost of Model S, if you were to lease and then account for the much lower cost of electricity vs. gasoline at a likely future cost of $4 per gallon, is similar to a gasoline car with a sticker price of about $35,000. That’s why we’re positive this car will be the preferred choice of savvy consumers.

The standard Model S does 0-60 mph in under six seconds and will have an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph, with sport versions expected to achieve 0-60 mph acceleration well below five seconds. A single-speed gearbox delivers effortless acceleration and responsive handling. A 17-inch touchscreen with in-car 3G connectivity allows passengers to listen to Pandora Radio or consult Google Maps, or check their state of charge remotely from their iPhone or laptop.

Tesla is taking reservations online and at showrooms in California. Tesla will open a store in Chicago this spring and plans to open stores in London, New York, Miami, Seattle, Washington DC and Munich later this year.

With a 300-mile range and 45-minute QuickCharge, the $49,900 Model S can carry five adults and two children in quiet comfort – and you can charge it from any outlet, without ever stopping for gas. World’s first mass-produced electric vehicle offers performance, efficiency and unrivaled utility with twice the energy-efficiency of hybrids, making Model S the only car you’ll ever need.

Convenience and utility bullet points:

• Up to 300-mile range

• 45-minute QuickCharge

• 5-minute battery swap

• Charges from 110V, 220V or 440V

• Seating for 5 adults + 2 child seats

• Unique hatch for oversized items

• 60/40 flat-folding rear seat

• 2nd trunk under hood

• EPA Roominess Index 121.6

• More room than station wagons

• 17-inch infotainment touchscreen

• 3G wireless connectivity

Model S powertrain includes a liquid-cooled 9-inch motor, floor-mounted battery pack and a single-speed gearbox, delivering effortless acceleration, responsive handling and quiet simplicity — no fancy clutchwork or gear-shifting required. Model S costs as little as $4 to fully charge – a bargain even if gasoline dropped to $1 per gallon. You can have affordable fun while being socially responsible.

Technical specs:

• 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds

• ¼ mile in 14 seconds

• 120 mph top speed

• Braking 60-0 mph 135 feet

• 42 kWh battery storage system standard

• 70 kWh and greater battery storage systems optional

• 9- inch liquid cooled electric motor

• Single-speed transaxle gearbox

• Curb Weight 3825 lbs

• Overall Length 196″

• Wheelbase 116.5″

• All-wheel-drive available (option available in future production models)

• Right hand drive available

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