In the annals of disappointments, Ford's Edsel holds a special place. The Edsel, once the name of the heir to the Ford Empire, eventually became the word for dud. The man who designed the Edsel, Roy Brown Jr., died last week at 96.
(Paul Eisenstein - The Detroit Bureau) General Motors and Ford Motor Co. have ended 2012 with all-time sales records in China — but the news is nowhere near as good for Japanese makers.
Stung by a dispute between China and Japan over a chain of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, Toyota, Nissan and Honda have all suffered a sharp decline in sales in what has become the world’s largest automotive market.
While General Motors has yet to release its final figures for 2012, the maker already passed its previous peak by the end of November, the 2.59 million vehicles it sold for all of 2011. GM has set a goal of boosting sales in China to 5 million by mid-decade.
[Related story: GM Sets Another New Sales Record in China – And it’s Not Alone.]
Ford, meanwhile, has confirmed its sales in China rose 21% last year, to 626,616, also an all-time high. The maker was a relative latecomer to the Chinese market but has been aggressively expanding both its product portfolio and production capacity over the last several years.
“Record 2012 sales highlight the positive response our customers have for our full portfolio of high-quality, safe, fuel-efficient and smart vehicles,” John Lawler, chairman and CEO of Ford Motor China, said in a statement. “Their enthusiasm for Ford cars validates our aggressive plan to introduce 15 new vehicles, double production capacity and double our China dealership network — all by 2015.”
Chrysler has also been pushing into record territory, though its volumes have been much smaller than its cross-town rivals. That’s ironic because Chrysler was the first Western maker to build vehicles in China, or more precisely through its Jeep subsidiary. But its original operation was assumed by former partner Mercedes-Benz following the break-up of the ill-fated DaimlerChrysler AG.
[Related story: Chinese Reportedly Eyeing Stake in Daimler AG]
Under new partner Fiat SpA, Chrysler is again making an aggressive push to expand in China.
Japanese makers were also slow to enter the Chinese market, in part to long-standing enmity between the two nations dating back to Japan’s brutal occupation of its neighbor during World War II. That simmering disdain came back to a boil when the Japanese government decided to buy what it calls the Senkoku Island chain last September.
That set off rioting in China, the bigger nation also laying claim to what it calls the Daioyu Islands. A number of Japanese-owned vehicles were destroyed and a Toyota dealership was even torched in what many observers believe were government-tolerated, if not sanctioned, riots.
Japanese industry executives had previously telegraphed the likelihood of declining sales in China which, they also cautioned, would hurt their earnings for the rest of the 2012 fiscal year – which closes on March 31, 2013.
Nissan took the biggest hit, sales declining 5.3% for calendar-year 2012, to 1.2 million vehicles. Nissan has been the most aggressive of the Japanese makers operating in China, among other things setting up the new Venucia brand with its partner there, Donfeng Motors.
Toyota suffered a 4.9% drop in volume last year, to 840,000. Honda’s China sales slipped 3.1%, to 599,000. Prior to the dispute over the Senkoku/Daioyu Islands, Toyota had expected to see a 10% jump in sales in China, reaching 1 million for the first time.
The market for Japanese products has begun to improve, Toyota China spokesman Niu Yu telling the Wall Street Journal, “Sales are getting better day by day, but it’s still hard to say when we can get back to the pre-protest level,” said.
But it’s unclear how quickly there will be a full recovery. Nissan, for example, suffered a 41% drop in demand in October, shortly after the dispute began, but sales were still off 24%, year-over-year, in December.
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The recovery has been very good to the U.S. auto industry.
General Motors said Tuesday its August sales were double the company's expectations and are up 10 percent over 2011 numbers. Ford reports its numbers were up 13 percent. And Chrysler had its best August in five years, posting gains of 14 percent.
These numbers come at a fortuitous time for President Obama, who is making the $85 billion bailout of the auto industry a key talking point of his re-election campaign. Speaking Monday at a United Auto Workers rally in Ohio, Obama told the crowd: "If we had turned our backs on you, if we had thrown in the towel like that, GM and Chrysler wouldn’t exist today."
Read more about auto sales at NPR.
It was, presumably, meant to be humorous -- a Chevy can survive anything, even the apocalypse. Or so the message of last night's Super Bowl ad for Chevy Silverados implied. As a driver passes destroyed highways, a burning Bob's Big Boy, and arrives at a plaza in front of what looks like three bombed-out banks, the soundtrack thrums "looks like we made it." Twinkees apparently also made it. Women did not, bad news for repopulation prospects.
But given the fact that this isn't the first car ad to assure owners they can survive crumbling infrastructure, maybe its part of a darker message: the world may be falling apart (or blowing up), but you can protect yourself by buying the right car.
The other ad, for Audi, profiled here, exhorts users to buy an Audi, because "highway maintenance is underfunded, costing drivers $65 billion a year, and countless tires, which drivers never actually check, because they’re busy, checking email. This is why we engineered a car that makes 2,000 decisions every second."
By the way, it appears Ford is challenging the Chevy apocalypse ad's claim, Ad Age is reporting. "We don't agree with some of GM's claims in their ad, particularly around durability," Ford's Mark Levine told the publication.
Not sure how you verify that your car can survive an apocalypse.
Top stories on TN: a Chinatown bus company that ignored a shut down order in December now has a restraining order to prevent it from operating. A new Chevy Volt ad conveys the message 'it's morning in Hamtramck.' And a senator is introducing a bill that would require a new health study of x-ray body scanner machines used in airports.
...and improved his outlook, at least for the Senate bill. (Politico)
Question to Ron Paul in Thursday's Florida Republican presidential debate: Are you fit enough to be president? Answer: "I'm willing to challenge any of these gentlemen up here to a 25-mile bike ride any time of the day in the heat of Texas." (Video; YouTube)
New York State legislators are frustrated by the State DOT's lack of information on funding major infrastructure projects. (Poughkeepsie Journal)
...which worries some: just where is this $15 billion going to come from? (AP via Wall Street Journal)
Hoboken and Jersey City may collaborate on a bike share system. (Jersey Journal)
If the United States wants to continue to be the major player in the global economy, it needs an efficient, robust aviation system. (Marketplace)
Concerns over transportation continue to plague the London Olympics, which are just six months away. (Washington Post)
When it comes to buying cars, women do their homework -- and they generally get better deals than men. (NPR)
NY MTA head: subway stations need more entrances. (New York Daily News)
Ford Motor Co. reported $20.2 billion in net income for 2011 Friday — its best year since 199. (Detroit News)
What's so bad about a little public (sticker) shame -- especially if it helps deter illegal parking? (New York Times)
Alaska Airlines has ended its 30-year practice of giving passengers prayer cards with their meals. (USA Travel)
Top stories on TN:
What Cuomo's tax bill says about transit. (Link)
And: Cuomo says he'll include transit in his infrastructure fund. (Link)
Bloomberg is still optimistic that the governor will sign the taxi bill. (Link)
A federal audit says Los Angeles's transit agency failed to fully research its impacts on riders and communities, especially when eliminating bus lines, adding service or changing fares. (Los Angeles Times)
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing this week on California's high-speed rail project this week. (Link)
The pre-tax commuter benefit rewards drivers more than transit riders. (New York Times)
And: if Congress doesn't act before the end of the year, the benefit expires. (Washington Post)
New Jersey's Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program has become popular that it may be expanding to other types of communities -- diluting the original intent of the program. (NJ Spotlight)
Texting by drivers is up 50%, even as states pass laws against it. And what’s more, many drivers don’t think it’s dangerous when they do it — only when others do. (AP via Washington Post)
Ford kills a line of small pickup trucks, says demand is for full-size. (Marketplace)
The new Apple store at Grand Central Terminal is a good deal for New York's transit agency. (NY Daily News)
Deaths on Caltrain tracks are increasing--horrifying train engineers, who are the last people to see the victims alive. (Bay Citizen)
Top stories on TN:
FAA Chief Randy Babbitt is on a leave of absence after being arrested for drunk driving Saturday night. (Link)
The White House declined to call for Babbitt's resignation. (Link)
MIT developed an algorithm to predict which vehicles will run a red light. (Link)
Vermont’s success in swiftly repairing roads damaged by Hurricane Irene "is a story of bold action and high-tech innovation." (New York Times)
NYC DOT head Janette Sadik-Khan -- "the high priestess of people-friendly cities" -- went on Rock Center with Brian Williams to talk about street redesign. (NBC)
U.S. DOT head Ray LaHood will be on the hill today to testify about the nation's high-speed rail program. (The Hill)
California's high-speed rail program is starting to look iffy. (KALW)
Deepwater Horizon update: BP accused Halliburton of destroying evidence about possible problems with the cement slurry that went into drilling the oil well. (AP via NPR)
A California law going into effect next year puts a statewide cap on the amount of greenhouse gases coming out of smokestacks and tailpipes. (NPR)
NY's MTA is installing more cameras and driver partitions on hundreds of city buses. (New York Post)
England has tabled a decision on whether to begin work on HS2 -- the high-speed rail project running from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds -- until next year. (The Guardian)
Men over 45 are more likely to crash their cars on snowy, icy roads. “There may be a sense of invulnerability with four-wheel drive trucks leading the drivers to not slow down as much as they should," says a researcher who conducted the study. (Chicago Tribune via Inforum)
Sales of GM and Ford cars are on the rise in China. (Marketplace)
Top stories on TN:
Watch a video short about a desk toy who uses Google Street View to take a virtual road trip. (Link)
Houston's red light camera squabble has yet to be resolved. (Link)
Drag racers and drug smugglers drive Houston's car thefts. (Link)
More on paying for the Tappan Zee Bridge project: Governor Cuomo is looking for alternative financing (Bloomberg) -- but says talk of leveraging pension funds for infrastructure is "premature." (Poughkeepsie Journal)
Two California representatives want federal help with a struggling airport. (Los Angeles Times)
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey received a negative credit rating outlook. (The Record)
Florida's rejected high-speed rail funding is now California's gain. (Politico)
Ford and GM have a bitter rivalry that sometimes devolves into name calling. (Wall Street Journal)
If you see a NYPD officer rappelling down the Roosevelt Island Tram, don't be alarmed -- it's only an exercise. (NY1)
And: a map of every U.S. road accident victim between 2001 - 2009 (Guardian)
Top stories on TN:
Transit ridership is up in 2011. (Link)
FAA workers will get back pay for this summer's shutdown. (Link)
Car sales soared for GM and Chrysler...(Los Angeles Times)
...and Hyundai's benefiting from an ad campaign that plays into people's worries about the economy. (NPR)
AND sales of trucks and SUVs are up. (AP via Boston.com)
Meanwhile: Ford, UAW reach tentative agreement. (Detroit Free Press)
Some Chinese are questioning whether infrastructure growth is worth a tradeoff for safety. (Marketplace)
NY's MTA said it will increase service on the L train after one politician said it has not kept pace with the line’s “meteoric” increase in ridership. (DNA Info)
Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel held an 'aviation summit.' (Chicago Sun Times)
Chicago bicyclists can now be ticketed for biking while texting or talking on cell phones. (Chicago Sun Times)
Lobbyists for the Trans-Canada pipeline and staffers from the State Department appeared to have a cozy email relationship. (NY Times)
Top stories on TN:
A deputy DOT commissioner said no American manufacturers produce a type of rail used in streetcars and light rail -- and he wants that to change. (Link)
At some point, Rick Perry will be asked to defend his Trans-Texas Corridor infrastructure project. (Link)
Opponents of a bike lane in Brooklyn asked a judge for permission to appeal the rejection of their lawsuit. (Link)
Yesterday's subway collision in Shanghai has revived safety concerns about China's infrastructure boom. (Los Angeles Times)
The Brian Lehrer Show talks NYC subway station cell phone service this morning. (WNYC)
The government is delaying the release of new mileage and greenhouse gas emissions standards. (The Hill)
Ford denies that the White House pressured the automaker to pull an ad in which an actor, posing as a customer, tells a staged news conference that he would never buy a vehicle from a company that received a government bailout. (Detroit Free Press)
OnStar reverses gears, backs away from its earlier decision to track former customers. (Marketplace)
Transportation construction lobbyists are in favor of Obama's jobs bill. (Politico)
Contract negotiations between Chrysler and the United Auto Workers Union kicked off on Monday, as the industry fights to stay competitive with foreign automakers. Fellow "Big Three" companies General Motors and Ford will also begin negotiations with the UAW later this week. Will the parties involved be able to reconcile their demands and reach a suitable agreement before contracts expire in mid-September? Paul Eisenstein, publisher of The Detroit Bureau, has been following the negotiations.
Mississippi floodwaters are heading south to Louisiana -- home to more than 10% of the nation's oil refining capacity. (Marketplace)
NYC has extradited (from Kansas City and Miami) two former taxi drivers accused of intentionally overcharging passengers by illegally setting their meters to an out-of-town rate. (WNYC)
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution profiles Todd Long, the state’s powerful director of planning for transportation. AJC describes him as "an unelected bureaucrat (who) is the initial gatekeeper for the $8 billion referendum that many say will shape metro Atlanta’s future for decades to come."
NJ Transit unveils its first locomotive powered by an engine that can operate on both diesel and electric lines. (NJ Record)
Want to live near your office? Washington, D.C.'s Office of Planning is launching a pilot program to incentivize it. (Good)
Breaking: Ray LaHood doesn't know the meaning of the word 'hipster.' (The Atlantic )
Cruiser culture in Boise: "They have a blue house, they want a blue bike," says a bike shop owner. (Boise Weekly)
The NY Post says NYC's bike share program plan will "visit perpetual terror" on New Yorkers.
And bikers: is your morning commute less bumpy? One Brooklyn Bridge rider says it's smooth sailing.
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In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:
--get ready for dueling petro-bills in Congress (link)
--NYC to cyclists: don't be jerks (link)
--Chicago's mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel releases transpo report (link)
--Texas wins $15 million for high-speed rail study (link)
WNYC's Kathleen Horan is reporting the Taxi of Tomorrow will be Nissan -- and already there are calls for an investigation of a conflict of interest in the contract-letting. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and Assembly member Micah Kellner are calling for an investigation -- their letter to NYC Comptroller John Liu is after the jump. Karsan -- one of the losing entrants (the other was Ford) had promised, if selected, to build its taxis in Brooklyn. It had one of the most intriguing designs (moon roof, sleek lines), but city officials had expressed concerns about the Turkish company's ability to fulfill the contract.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is set to reveal the automaker that won the Taxi of Tomorrow design competition — and that will be responsible for creating a taxi model that will serve the city for the next decade as the 16 models currently in use are phased out.
Housing Prices Still Falling
News that housing prices in most large American cities fell for a seventh straight month has analysts worried about the effect on other sectors of the housing industry.
Ford had its most profitable quarter in 13 years. (Detroit Free Press)
AAA says the rise in gas prices has led to a rise in people running out of fuel on the roads. (KHOU)
The Crow Reservation in Montana has launched a transit program. (Billings Gazette)
George Michael song or vehicle name? Sweden is testing the "Arctic Whisper," which is "the world’s first fast-charging serial hybrid bus." (Autopia)
China's high-speed rail system is under scrutiny amid concerns that builders ignored safety in order to build ever-faster trains. (Washington Post)
NYC's Taxi and Limousine commission has approved a Mercedes for use as a yellow cab. (NY Daily News)
If you see a scary video, share a scary video: NY's MTA launched a Department of Homeland Security-funded ad campaign (video below).
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In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:
-- Illinois will now track "dooring" collisions. (Link)
-- Will transportation apps revolutionize transit? (Link)
-- The Taxi of Tomorrow might be built in Brooklyn. (Link)
One of the three automakers in the running to provide the city's yellow cabs for the next decade is vowing to build the cars in Brooklyn.
Amtrak and NJ Senators Lautenberg and Menendez are set to announce the next iteration of a planned trans-Hudson tunnel: The "Gateway" tunnel, which would largely follow the same footprint as ARC from Secaucus to New York City, but connect to new tracks in an expanded New York Penn Station instead of dead-ending deep under West 34th Street. (TN)
Traffic deaths are up slightly in NYC -- but the city’s traffic fatality rate remains among the lowest in the country, holding steady around a quarter of the national rate. (New York Times)
A NY Daily News editorial accused NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan of being too secretive about where her office plans to install future bike lanes. "Trying to pry information about bike lanes out of Sadik-Khan's shop is this city's version of phoning North Korea to ask about atomic weaponry."
More cheer for JSK: Potholes wreak havoc upon New York's roads. "Mother Nature has thrown everything at us this winter, and we're striking back,"says the NYC DOT commissioner. (NY Daily News)
South Africa's transport minister turned over ownership of Johannesburg's bus rapid transit company --which had been opposed by taxi drivers -- to taxi industry shareholders. (Times Live)
Disabled Washington area residents are facing significantly higher fares starting this month on MetroAccess. Officials say the price of travel on the para-transit service will nearly double. (WAMU)
Ford will boost vehicle production for US market while trimming Lincoln dealerships. (Wall Street Journal)
The Obama administration has decided to allow limited collective bargaining rights for transportation security officers. (Washington Post)
A Charleston (SC) paper comes out in support of a bike/pedestrian walkway over a bridge, says: "It is time to recognize that transportation should include driving, biking and walking."
Opponents of congestion pricing in NYC are moving swiftly. "We'd like to prevent that proposal from seeing the day of light of day," said Queens Assemblyman David Weprin. (WNYC)
New York's MTA says the tunnel boring machine that has been making its way down Second Avenue is about to complete its first run.
Snakes on a train! Boston transit officials say a 3-foot-long boa constrictor that slithered away from its owner on a Red Line subway car a month ago has been found on an adjoining car. (Boston Globe) (And nope, there was NO WAY that headline could be avoided.)
And speaking of ARC: NJ's state Ethics Commission has dismissed allegations the state’s transportation commissioner might have violated ethics policies through his involvement with the ARC train tunnel to New York City. (The Star-Ledger)
Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: A new trans-Hudson tunnel will be announced today. Meanwhile, NYC has hired an engineering firm to study the feasibility of extending the #7 train to NJ. Opponents of the Prospect Park bike lane have lawyered up, while adjustments are in the works for the Columbus Avenue bike lane. And Metro North has slashed service on the New Haven line by 10%.
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Dozens of passengers spent the night huddled in subway cars after the snowstorm that blanketed the northeast stranded their train in Brooklyn's Coney Island station. But hey, that's better than the time when trains were stuck on the tracks for hours on end with no means of egress! (AP via Wall Street Journal)
Meanwhile, the MTA's web site was inaccessible to many Thursday morning as 500,000 users tried to log on at once to find out about storm-related mass transit disruptions but were unable to load the site. (WNYC)
A federal judge in St. Paul ruled Thursday that Central Corridor light-rail planners failed to analyze how construction of the 11-mile transit line would affect businesses in the corridor. (Minnesota Public Radio) Note: For more on Rondo, check out TN's documentary Back of the Bus: Mass Transit, Race and Inequality
The first electric Smart car has arrived in the U.S. (Wired/Autopia)
New York State Senator Malcolm Smith, a self-described "aggressive" supporter of high-speed rail, talks about Thursday's congressional hearing--and why he's so optimistic. "This was major. Think about it -- you have a chairman of a House committee, he's a Republican from Florida, who already has high-speed rail moving in his state, here, having his first hearing of the year, in New York City, to talk about how important high-speed rail is to the Northeast Corridor...it's a major happening for this initiative." Watch the video below, or go to Capital Tonight.
Toll-takers on the Golden Gate Bridge would be eliminated in September 2012 under a plan approved Thursday by the district's finance committee. (Marin Independent Journal)
Following six fatal bicycle/car collisions in six months, Tampa is deciding whether to adopt a Bicycle Safety Plan. (ABC News)
Tweets of the day, via WNYC's Azi Paybarah, who's listening in to Mayor Bloomberg's weekly radio show: "everyone was in favor of this" @mikebloomberg says of congestion pricing." and "Shelly [Silver]'s plan was to toll all the bridges" says @mikebloomberg of the Assembly Speaker."
Metro officially names a new director. (WAMU)
Ford says it earned $6.6 billion in 2010, its highest profit in more than a decade. (AP via NPR)
Top Transportation Nation stories that we're following: The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a hearing on high-speed rail in the Northeast yesterday; chair John Mica said 70% of all chronically delayed flights originate in New York's airspace. The takeaway: paring down short-hop flights in the Northeast will have a positive ripple effect nationally. Meanwhile, planners want NYC's airports to expand, saying that more capacity to handle more flights is desperately needed. Also: the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey explained why doing big things in America has become so difficult, and Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel released his transportation plan--which, as it turns out, is a transit plan.
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(Detroit -- Jerome Vaughn, WDET) Ford Motor Company says it is adding 7,000 jobs to its workforce by the end of 2012. Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields made the announcement during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday.
“This year alone, Ford is adding nearly four thousand jobs at our U.S. plants. And we plan to add another 750 salaried jobs.” Fields says the Dearborn automaker plans to add another 2,500 additional manufacturing jobs in the U.S. next year.