Local News

Kentucky Continues Auto Sector Business Growth

Kentucky officials expect to continue its partnership with Argonne National Laboratories when it opens facilities in Lexington later this year to develop rechargeable car battery technology.

“It fits in very well with where we understand where Toyota and Ford Motor want to move with future vehicles,” said Len Peters, secretary of the Energy and Environment Cabinet.

Last week, Gov. Steve Beshear, joined by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, visited the Detroit Auto Show and met with Ford executives. While Ford’s $1.2 billion investment at the Louisville Assembly Plant is being called one of the best economic development deals of 2011 by trade magazine Business Facilities, Kentucky has made further efforts to become a leader in the automotive industry with its decision to extend operations with U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratories.

Local News

Toyota Official Says Parts Shortage Hardly Noticeable at Georgetown Plant

It’s been more than a month since production increased at the Toyota plant in Georgetown, Kentucky after a weeks-long parts shortage.

The shortage was caused by the April earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which severed and disrupted supply chains. All of Toyota’s 13 North American plants saw production drop as a result.

“We were fortunate that we had localized so much of our production here in the United States over the last many years. In fact, when it comes to building the Camry, the domestic content of that vehicle is over 80%,” says factory spokesman Rick Hesterberg.

But production has not yet returned to pre-disaster levels. Hesterberg says that’s a symptom of lower demand rather than a lack of parts.

“If you came into our plant and toured our facility, you’d see a normal flow of operations,” he says. “Every plant goes through different phases and terms of volume levels and it’s all part of market demand.”

The plant was dark last week for routine maintenance not associated with the parts shortage.

Local News

Toyota Production to Increase Faster Than Expected

Toyota Motor Company officials say North American production will rise to 70 percent of normal in June as the company begins to recover from a parts shortage caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The company cut production to about 30 percent in May by idling factories for several days or reducing production hours. Toyota further warned dealers to expect shortages of some models for several months.

Company officials now say they can increase production faster than expected, as the recovery in Japan continues.

Toyota has 13 factories in North America, one of which is in Georgetown, Kentucky. No layoffs are planned during the production drop.

Additional information from the Associated Press

Local News

Toyota Likely to Temporarily Shut Down North American Plants

Due to a shortage of parts from Japan, the Toyota Motor Company will halt production at its North American factories.

Spokesperson Tania Saldana says the plants will remain open, but will not produce vehicles. Workers will not be laid off and may either show up for work and go through additional training or take vacation or unpaid time off. She says it hasn’t yet been decided how long the shutdowns will last or whether all of the automaker’s North American plants will stop producing vehicles.

Toyota employs about 25,000 workers at more than a dozen factories in North America, including facilities in Kentucky and Indiana.

About 15% of the parts used in those plants come from Japan.

Local News

French Manufacturer To Open Plant In Louisville

A French automotive interiors manufacturer will open a plant in Louisville next year.

Faurecia Interior Systems will produce components for upcoming vehicle models out of a plant near Middletown. The plant is currently occupied by Lear Corp. Lear makes seating for Ford, but will leave the plant when the Louisville Assembly Plant is retooled to produce smaller vehicles.

Faurecia was offered 11.5 million dollars in tax incentives to open the plant. It will reach full production in 2013 and is expected to create about 400 jobs.


State of the Re:Union: Motor City Rebound

Saturday, August 14, 2010 9pm

Producer: Al Letson, PRX/NPR
Listen Again

If you listen to the news, you’ve heard a lot about Detroit lately, none of it very good. This week, State of the Re:Union and host Al Letson travels to Detroit to move beyond the headlines and explore the Motor City.

Local News

Some Dealers Having Problems with Cash for Clunkers

The government’s Cash for Clunkers program, ends at 8 tonight.  Some local auto dealers say it’s definitely created a buzz — but they’re not quite ready to call it a success. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

Car dealers around the region say that the program has brought more customers to their showrooms and moved hundreds of cars off their lots. Louisville’s Sam Swope Auto Group reports it sold about 300 cars at its 15 auto outlets through the program.

Dan Bates is Sam Swope’s vice president and general manager. Still, he says problems have overshadowed the sales — particularly how one defines the word “sales.”

“Sales as defined by customers driving home in vehicles, it’s been great,” he says. “Sales if it’s defined as us getting paid — that’s a different story.”

Bates says the primary problem has been submitting the paperwork for the program via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s web site. He says the site was down on Monday, and, so far, Sam Swope has received reimbursements for less than 10 percent of vehicles sold through the program. The government says it’s hiring more employees to process claims and assures car dealers they will be reimbursed.

Federal transportation officials are reporting dealers have turned in 625,000 vouchers to cover the rebates they offered customers for their old cars.

Bates says he’s found trying to work the logistics of the program very frustrating, including the way it has communicated with auto dealers, which, he says, has been primarily through press releases.

“Everything we’ve heard about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s effort to ramp up their ability to process transactions hasn’t really resulted in much of an increase in the efficiency of their systems,” he say. “We’re having difficult submitting transactions now, and that’s been par for the course throughout the program.”

He says the problems with the program aren’t jeopardizing Sam Swope’s operations.

“Are we going to continue to operate? Yes, absolutely,” he says. “But, let me tell you, there are a number of dealers out there that’ll wind up going out of business if something isn’t done for them.”

Local News

GM Dealer Says Banks, Not Big Three, To Blame For Slump

<!– /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:””; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} –> As General Motors emerges from bankruptcy, one dealer says no amount of restructuring will help sales return to previous levels.

Sales at Tony Brown Chevrolet in Brandenburg are down about 40 percent from last year. General Manager David Bradford puts most of the blame on the fact that banks and other lenders have stopped financing vehicle purchases for buyers with poor credit.

“There’s a sub-prime market in the car business that is a lot larger than the sub-prime market of the housing industry,” he says.

Bradford says he doesn’t think GM’s new vehicles and focus on service will drive sales up unless more potential buyers can finance cars. He says one positive effect of the company leaving bankruptcy is the re-opening of manufacturing plants. Right now, Bradford says he’s running out of cars as well as customers.

Local News

Local Auto Dealer Says Car Sellers Will Survive

A local General Motors and Chrysler dealer says he and his fellow car sellers will persevere, even those who are losing their franchises with the automakers.

This week GM and Chrysler told hundreds of dealerships that they can no longer be official franchisees. Among the Chrysler dealerships on the list was Coyle Dodge in New Albany.

Chris Coyle is general manager of Coyle Dodge as well as Coyle Chevrolet. He says he hasn’t heard from GM about his franchise, but he says losing the relationship with automakers does not mean an end to the dealership.

“I’ve got faith in a lot of these guys out here that at the end of the day they’ll re-emerge,” he says. “They may not re-emerge with a franchise but there is an auto industry outside of Chrysler and General Motors.”

Coyle says the recession could mean a $20 million drop in sales across both dealerships this year.That’s led to decreased ad buying and sponsorship for things like Little League teams.

“Instead of spending $55 to $60 thousand, $70 thousand a month in advertising we may spend $35 to $40 and really realize and do a better job of figuring out what works,” he says.

Coyle Chrysler was among the 800 dealerships to lose its franchise with the automaker this week. General Motors will be ending its relationship with 11 hundred dealerships.

Local News

Analyst Says Ford Is Poised For Success

As Chrysler enters bankruptcy and General Motors restructures with government funds, Ford remains viable. That’s according to longtime automotive writer Jerry Flint.

Flint says if it continues to avoid accepting federal bailout funds, Ford will appear to be a stronger company to consumers than Chrysler or GM.

“It’s one thing to spend $10 on $100 on a product from a bankrupt company like an airline ticket,” he says. “It’s another thing to spend $30 or $40 thousand on a product from a company that’s going down.”

Once the economy recovers, Flint says Ford will emerge as the strongest, and possibly only domestic automaker.   He says that doesn’t mean there won’t be some downsizing.

“We’re dealing with a 40% reduction in volume,” he says. “Don’t worry about a couple hundred people being laid off in Louisville. Hope that the plant keeps going and anyone has a job.”

The Louisville Assembly Plant may lay off up to 380 workers, but is expected to remain open and begin making a new model in 2011.

Flint says he has no direct ties to the auto industry, but his wife owns some Ford stock.