It's official, folks: After initial reports last week indicated that Mercedes-Benz was preparing to begin assembly at the Nissan plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico, the two parent companies have announced just that. Only instead of using the existing Nissan plant at the site (in operation since 1992), Daimler and the Renault-Nissan Alliance have announced a joint venture to build a new one alongside it.
Tesla Motors is, as always, thinking big. The company already has a factory in California with a lot of empty space. But with Model S deliveries happening in Europe and a right-hand drive version just launched in the UK, CEO Elon Musk is already talking about building EVs in Europe. We did some math and let's just say we think any such facility is likely a long way off.
Mitsuru Kawai is overseeing a return to the old ways at Toyota factories throughout Japan. Having spent 50 years at the Japanese automaker, Kawai remembers when manual skills were prized at the company and "experienced masters used to be called gods, and they could make anything." Company CEO Akio Toyoda personally chose Kawai to develop programs to teach workers metalcraft such as how to forge a crankshaft from scratch, and 100 workstations that formerly housed machines have been set aside for
Nissan has already boosted its green credentials in the US by moving production of the all-electric Leaf to Smyrna, TN. The Japanese automaker is now taking that effort one step further with a new vehicle-painting facility next door. Nissan just opened a 250,000-square-foot painting facility that replaces a 30-year-old paint factory and will make vehicle painting faster and much more energy efficient.
Automotive News reports Audi may make a decision on where the automaker plans to build a North American facility as soon as Wednesday of this week. The Volkswagen supervisory board is already scheduled to meet on April 18, and an unnamed source claims the new plant is on the agenda for discussion. Earlier reports indicated the manufacturer plans to build a new plant in Mexico, though Audi has been quick to denounce the notion, saying the board had yet to make a decision one way or the other. Pub
Sales of the RAV4 are down five percent so far in 2012, but that won't stop Toyota from increasing North American production. Automotive News reports that Toyota will spend $80 million to retool its Woodstock, Ontario plant to increase production from 150,000 crossovers per year to 200,000. The increased production will also lead to the hiring of an additional 400 workers at the plant.
Volkswagen AG announced this week that it will spend more than $55 billion over the next four years reducing carbon emissions from both its vehicles and factories, as the German automaker looks to increase sales by boosting its credibility as an environmentally friendly vehicle maker. You can see the beginnings of this plan in the company's Chattanooga plant, which we visited late last year.
The United Autoworkers Union is struggling – and it is the first to admit it. With its membership dwindling after three decades of workforce cuts by Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, the union has pinned its future on organizing one of the transplants. Efforts to convince workers at Japanese-owned plants, like the Nissan factory in Smyrna, Tennessee, have fallen on deaf ears in the past, but there's now hope that the UAW might succeed at one of the newer German-owned plants.
The Detroit Free Press reports that, of the 267 automotive plants that have closed in the U.S. since 1979, 128 have reopened with a new purpose. Astonishingly enough, 40 percent of those reopened sites were purchased between 2008 and 2010 as General Motors and Chrysler underwent restructuring, thanks in part to lower land prices and a larger volume of available properties.
Honda has experienced a very challenging 2011. The devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the flooding in Thailand have conspired to badly damage Honda's ability to build vehicles here in North America. That should change soon, though, as Automotive News reports that North American Honda plants will be running at full steam by the beginning of December.
Back in 1999, Porsche settled on the location for a new factory in Leipzig, Germany. It opened its doors in 2002 with production of the Cayenne, and further expanded in 2009 to gear up for the Panamera. As of November, 2011, the assembly plant has built some 420,000 vehicles, but that's just the start as Porsche further expands the facility to make way for the new Cajun.
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