White House Wants Black Boxes in All Future Cars

First Up 12/10/12

December 10, 2012

White House Wants Black Boxes in All Future Cars
The White House has given its OK to a plan that would require all future cars and trucks be equipped with event data records – most commonly referred to as “black boxes.” The majority of vehicles produced today already have such devices onboard and they have aided in recent investigations into such safety issues as the so-called unintended acceleration scare at Toyota. But the use of the technology has also raised some concerns with privacy advocates. Congress failed to pass legislation that would have required the use of event data recorders, or EDRs, in 2010. That prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to consider its own mandate. A review was completed this week by the White House Office of Management and Budget and final regulations will likely follow early next year. The proposal was originally expected by late 2011 but the process was delayed without explanation. Nonetheless, NHTSA has listed the use of black boxes as a “priority,” a spokesperson insisting such devices are critical to “continued improvements in vehicle safety.” According to NBC News, automotive EDRs are already installed in nearly 92 percent of today’s vehicles. Click here to read more about NHTSA’s new black box mandate.

UAW Stunned by Michigan Right-to-Work Bills
According to Automotive News, UAW President Bob King got an early lump of coal in his Christmas stocking from Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder last week when Snyder agreed to support right-to-work legislation. The governor's about-face on the issue – he had earlier pledged to steer away from that fight – will damage the UAW inside and outside Michigan, said Dave Cole, chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. Under right-to-work legislation, employees cannot be required to join a union or pay union dues. Cole said UAW dues at the Detroit 3 are equivalent to two hours of wages per month, or about $600 per member per year. Twenty-three states, mostly in the South, have right-to-work laws. Cole said the UAW will lose credibility with auto workers it is trying to organize in the South. Moreover, many of the nearly 120,000 hourly auto workers nationally represented by the UAW live and work in Michigan, Cole said. He estimated that up to 40 percent of those Michigan auto workers may choose to leave the union or not join. Click here to read more about Michigan’s right-to-work legislation.

Marchionne Brings Rivalry with VW to U.S.
The Detroit News reports that Fiat SpA Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne, who was re-elected Friday to head Europe's main carmaking lobby group, is taking his rivalry with Volkswagen AG to their home region overseas. Marchionne, who also runs Michigan-based Chrysler Group LLC, is offering $1,000 rebates to current VW owners in the U.S., where VW is much smaller, if the customers to buy a Fiat or Chrysler vehicle. Marchionne has been in a war of words with VW over auto pricing in Europe, where VW commands 25 percent of the market, suggesting in July that the German automaker was creating a "bloodbath" in the region. Marchionne and VW CEO Martin Winterkorn faced off at an ACEA meeting at the Paris Motor Show on Sept. 28, a day after VW reiterated its call for the Italian to step down as the organization's head. The executives emerged from the session shaking hands, with Winterkorn saying that the "good friends" had "settled things" and Marchionne saying ACEA members decided to address overcapacity on their own. Marchionne Friday was chosen for a second one-year term as president of the 16-member European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, the Brussels-based organization said in a statement. Click here for more on a dispute between VW and Fiat.

Lexus' Key Potential Growth Market? U.S.
More than 20 years after its world debut as an almost exclusively American brand, Lexus has expanded into 86 countries. Lexus took the U.S. luxury market by storm, and the United States remains its largest market by far. So where is the biggest growth potential for Toyota's luxury brand? In raw volume terms, none of the above, Lexus global product marketing chief Mark Templin said in an interview with Automotive News. The biggest opportunity remains the United States. He said Lexus has regained its footing after the unintended acceleration and tsunami crises that last year cost the brand the U.S. luxury sales title it held for 11 straight years. "China will be enormous, and India and Brazil are growing like crazy," Templin said. "But they're not comparable to the U.S. types of numbers." Templin is Lexus' U.S. boss, but in March his duties were expanded to include the brand's product and marketing planning worldwide. Still, he has lost none of his U.S. focus. "We're back in the growth trajectory" in the United States, Templin said. "I am bullish about getting back to 16 million unit markets, and luxury is growing faster in that time frame." Read more of Templin’s interview with Automotive News here.

What That Dreaded 'Check Engine' Repair Will Cost You
The average car on the road today is almost 11 years old, and even though cars are built to last longer, all that wear and tear takes a toll. In fact, 80 percent of vehicles are in need of service or repairs right now, but if you’ve been ignoring that “check engine” light on your dash, you’re not alone. CarMD.com, which tracks repair trends on cars up to 10 years old, says more than 9 million U.S. drivers have ignored their car’s “check engine” light for three months or more. According to Forbes, CarMD looked at real-life repair data for one full calendar year on 2002-2012 vehicles and discovered that different brands tend to have a unique set of problems and common failures. For instance, a malfunctioning oxygen sensor accounted for about 28 percent of Mini repairs in 2012, while bad ignition control modules accounted for 26 percent of Saab repairs, according to CarMD. Subaru had a tendency to need a new catalytic converter (22 percent); and Scion was susceptible to loose or damaged gas caps (20 percent). Click here to see a slideshow. To read more in Forbes, click here.

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