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On The Surface


Tuesday
Jun242008

On The Surface #451

June 25, 2008 

arrowup.gifBarack Obama. Speaking in Las Vegas, the Illinois senator blasts John McCain's latest $300 million proposal for advanced battery development by saying, "When John F. Kennedy decided that we were going to put a man on the moon, he didn't put a bounty out for some rocket scientist to win - he put the full resources of the United States government behind the project and called on the ingenuity and innovation of the American people. That's the kind of effort we need to achieve energy independence in this country, and nothing less will do." No, the UjianNasional didn't pen his remarks, but that's our AE Quote of the Week.

arrowdown.gifarrowdown.gifarrowdown.gifDetroit. Can you say freefall? Sales are in absolute disarray. The bottom is falling out of the resale market for trucks and SUVs. The cash positions of all three automakers can only be termed as being precarious, at best. And everything that can possibly go wrong, it seems, isn't just going wrong, it's spinning wildly out of control. And the scary part is no one is really sure when things will even level off, let alone get better. Hope is all we have these days in this town, and even that is in short supply, because we know that ultimately it doesn't count for much.

arrowdown.gifarrowdown.gifarrowdown.gifGM. The Worst of Times has befallen this once-proud icon of American manufacturing muscle. The company is burning through cash at a prodigious rate (around $1 billion a month). Its share price has dropped to the lowest point in three decades. Its truck and SUV sales have nearly stopped, and it is shutting down plants accordingly. And it has contracted Citibank to help it shop its Hummer division around the world (Citibank?). This company is at the ugliest point in its once-proud history. How bad is it? Toyota's profits in North America last year were more than the total market value of GM. Not Good. This week GM announced a $1,000 average price hike for 2009 (the first of many price increases coming from all auto manufacturers in the coming months), and it's also offering 72-month free financing on all of its trucks and a variety of its cars. The bright spot? The vehicles excluded from the sale are the Chevrolet Cobalt and Malibu, the Buick Enclave and the GMC Acadia.

arrowup.gifSUV fans. Then again, if you're an SUV fan, now is the time to jump on a phenomenal deal on a GM SUV. GM's new round of six-year financing means that many lease payments will be coming in around the $200 range, less than half of what they used to be a few months ago.

arrowdown.gifToyota. The downturn in the auto business is even hitting Toyota. Toyota will be unable to hit its target of selling more vehicles in the United States this year than it did in 2007. Not Good, even for The Juggernaut.

arrowup.gifJohn Bergstrom. One of the most prominent dealers in the midwest and one of GM's staunchest supporters, Bergstrom is is converting his Hummer showroom in Milwaukee, WI, to a GM Certified Used Vehicle store, according to Automotive News. John is one of the smartest and most successful auto dealers in the U.S., and if he's bailing on Hummer, it's all over but the hand-wringing for the brand. "The market is changing, and we're changing with it," Bergstrom told AN. And that's our AE Quote of the Week, Part II.

arrowup.gifPaul Bretl, Chris Cheek. The 2008 graduates (and aspiring auto technicians) of Grafton High School, from Grafton, Wis., drove their fully repaired 2008 Ford Focus to victory in 73 minutes and 40 seconds in the 59th annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills national finals. Logging hundreds of hours in preparation with their instructor, Carl Hader, the pair prevailed over their tech-savvy peers from schools in the 49 other states. The contest gives the "best of the best" an opportunity to showcase their knowledge and capabilities by resolving the same types of automotive challenges they would encounter in the real world. As an incentive to students to pursue automotive careers, Ford and AAA awarded $7 million in scholarships at this year's state and national competitions - a $1 million increase over 2007. In addition to thousands of dollars in scholarships, the winning duo earned the unique opportunity to "job shadow" the Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion team for a week at their race shop in Concord, N.C., and serve as honorary members of the pit crew at the July 12 Sprint Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway. Well done, guys.
 

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