December 12, 2012

Michigan Governor Signs 'Right-to-Work' Bills
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, without ceremony, signed two so-called right-to-work measures that ban mandatory union dues in Michigan workplaces, making the state and union bastion the 24th state to enact such legislation, and the second this year after Indiana. According to Automotive News, the law is a practical and symbolic rout in a stronghold of organized labor in the United States, and opponents said it presaged political warfare. "This is a major day in Michigan's history," Snyder said at a briefing after signing the bills. "I don't view this as anti-union at all. I view this as an opportunity to stand up for Michigan's workers, to be pro-worker." The laws will take effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session, which means they will probably come into force sometime in April. Existing union contracts will not be changed until they expire, according to a provision of the laws. The dues issue came to a head after unions spent $23 million in an unsuccessful campaign to enshrine collective-bargaining rights in the state constitution with a ballot measure in November. Click here for coverage of Michigan’s new right-to-work law.

Honda Recalls 870,000 Vehicles for Rollaway Problem
According to The Detroit News, Honda Motor Co. said Wednesday it is recalling 870,000 SUVs because they could roll away after being shifted into park. The Japanese automaker said it is recalling 807,000 vehicles in the United States and about 63,000 in 28 other countries. The recall in the U.S. includes 318,000 2003-2004 Honda Odyssey and 259,000 Honda Pilot vehicles and about 230,000 2003-2006 Acura MDX vehicles. This is the latest major recall by Honda to deal with the issue of faulty ignition interlocks. Since 2003, Honda has recalled more than 2.2 million vehicles over the issue. In October, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it was opening a preliminary investigation into the 2003-04 Honda Pilot and Odyssey models with automatic transmissions after the agency received 42 complaints alleging mechanical failures allowed 26 vehicles to roll away after the key was removed. NHTSA said complainants said that the ignition interlock failure resulted in rollaways, including 16 alleging that the vehicles stopped only when they struck an object. The ignition cylinder park-shift interlock is supposed to prevent the key from being removed until the transmission is shifted to park. For further coverage of Honda’s ignition recall, click here.

‘Panoramic’ Sunroof is No Longer Just for Luxury Cars
The sunroof is rising again, and this time the views are bigger than ever, reports The Wall Street Journal. Nearly 33 percent of new vehicles sold or made available in the market last year featured a sunroof – a fourfold jump since 1990, according to analyst firm WardsAuto. And a recent poll by Harris Interactive found that 40 percent of new-car buyers said their next vehicle purchase would likely include a panoramic sunroof. With Americans now holding on to their vehicles, on average, for nearly six years, buyers are loading up even economy-class cars with luxury-type options, automotive analysts say. Sunroofs, once available mostly on high-end cars, now come on vehicles across the price spectrum: The subcompact Chevy Sonic (starting price: $14,185) features a 15.25-inch by 32-inch sunroof, while the Jaguar XJ, priced more than five times higher, has one measuring 50 inches by 45 inches. “Now you can get them in almost everything,” says Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. That includes most vehicles in the budget-minded Kia brand, for example, and muscle cars such as the Ford Mustang (complete with SPF 50-equivalent tinting). Some even come as standard equipment. Read more about the growing popularity of the sunroof here.

Compact Crossover Vehicles the Hot New Trend
Honda plans to unveil the Urban SUV Concept at next month’s Detroit Auto Show, a crossover that will be based on the Japanese maker’s subcompact Fit model. Click here for a picture. According to NBCNews.com, the North American International Auto Show, as it’s formally known, will be awash with downsized crossover-utility vehicles. Small cars, in general, are rapidly gaining ground as fuel prices nudge ever upward. Manufacturers are rapidly adding ever-smaller crossovers such as the BMW X1, both in mainstream and upscale market segments. Honda describes the Urban SUV as “a global concept model combining a sporty and dynamic SUV profile with a spacious, functional interior.” The Urban SUV is expected to be a thinly disguised take on a production model to follow. It will likely come to market soon after Honda opens its new plant in Mexico, a facility that will supply North America and other markets with the more conventional Fit subcompact. Lincoln has some ambitious goals in mind, as well, for what is expected to be called the new MKC. Expect to see a number of other small crossovers reach market in the coming months. Click here to read more about them.

Agency Under Scrutiny for Oversight of Highway Money
The New York Times reports that the Department of Transportation’s inspector general is investigating whether the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been checking on whether $601 million it gave to states for highway safety has been properly used. The money was given to the states during the 2011 fiscal year for “a wide range of safety programs aimed at reducing fatalities, injuries and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes,” according to the inspector general’s announcement Monday. It said the inspector general wants to know whether NHTSA “provides sufficient guidance and monitoring” of how the money is spent. Previously, the inspector general has not had good luck with similar investigations because of what it considered poor record keeping. In 2010 – after about two years of work – investigators gave up trying to figure out whether $900 million NHTSA distributed for research projects was well used. In an e-mail, an NHTSA spokeswoman, Karen Aldana, wrote that the safety agency would “provide any support or assistance that is needed” for the audit. Click here for more on potential problems with NHTSA’s oversight of highway funds.

Join Dealers in Orlando for AIADA’s 43rd Annual Meeting and Luncheon
Each year, AIADA’s dealers gather to consider where the international nameplate auto industry stands and prepare for what the future holds. Join fellow dealers and industry insiders in Orlando, Florida on February 11, 2013 for its 43rd Annual Meeting and Luncheon. This year, we’ll discuss how the economy is Driven by the international nameplate auto industry and what dealers can do to maintain their edge. Featuring keynote remarks by Mercedes-Benz USA President and CEO Steve Cannon, the presentation of the David F. Mungenast, Sr. Lifetime Achievement Award, and the passing of the gavel from 2012 Chairman Ray Mungenast of Missouri to 2013 Chairwoman Jenell Ross of Ohio, the 43rd Annual Meeting and Luncheon is a can't-miss event for international nameplate dealers, as well as their employees. Register today by clicking here or by calling 1-800-GO-AIADA.

Around the Web  
2014 Lexus IS Sedan U.S. Spec Prototype First Drive [MotorTrend]
Syrian Rebels Show Off Their Inner A-Team with Homemade Tank [Autoblog]
40 Years of Playing with Electricity at BMW [Jalopnik]
Porsche Breaks Its Own Sales Record [Detroit Free Press]

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