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Auto Makers Buoyed by Traverse City CAR Seminars

Cheer Suppliers, Big 3

Mac Gordon
Mac Gordon

TRAVERSE CITY, MI-Global and Detroit-based automakers and suppliers wrapped up the annual Traverse City CAR seminars August 8 on a high note, portending a new-model year that will see growth in new models and improved quality as universal themes.

The Center for Auto Research meetings gave automakers worldwide chances to climb aboard a litany of concepts and programs, sharing progressive ideas such as connectivity, sustainability and profitability.

Looking ahead for a news-filled 2014-model year, speakers and analysts at the Grand Traverse conferences were as enthused as usual by a better-than-expected wrap-up for 2013 and expectations for a sales spurt in 2014 as more all-new models emerge among domestic U.S. automakers and foreign producers as well.

A higher number of 2015 models-cars and trucks-are coming to market in 2014. Smaller automakers are holding their own-and then some-in the wake of the scars left by the “Depression” which hit the Detroit 3 auto makers in 2009/2010.

The “second triangle” on the U.S. market, the Japanese threesome of Honda, Toyota and Nissan, occupies a unassailable position in the 9-automaker lineup as its made-in-America sales escalate. Each of the “middle three” is a power on the market, and will assemble even more cars for domestic consumption in coming years.

The domestic-3, plus Toyota, will keep pace with fullsize trucks, which have restored global profits and will bring to the market an enlarged Toyota Tundra fullsize truck.

In other TC news breaks, Nissan said it was expanding job recruitment programs in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, along with Mazda, Mitsubishi and Subaru.

No principal executive from a domestic automaker gave a talk-not even Ford’s COO Mark Fields. Also absent, Hyundai/Kia chief John Krafcik.

The TC Seminars were launched by David Cole, son of the late GM President Ed Cole, 48 years ago, and remain a “must attend” for supplier executives.

No marketing or dealer relations executive were on the program this year, and there was no spot for a UAW officer.

A Ford speaker made a point of referring to cooperation with the union on the joint projects between auto labor and management, aside from joint training sessions.

More women engineers attended the Seminars this year, and a female president of the UAW could well be elected at the Union’s organizing convention in 2014.

The Seminars also for the first time provided a record number of new-model releases.

Volkswagen’s speakers confirmed that the state-of-the-art Passat assembly plant in Chattanooga, TN, would be adding an Audi SUV in the “near future” and took the liberty of parking a black 2014-model Passat next to an all-new Chevrolet Corvette at the entrance to the Seminars’ Grand Traverse Hotel.

Both welcome cars looked great. As this newsletter revealed, Chevrolet confirmed that it would also offer diesel-engine options on the 2014-model Cruze subcompact this fall, a U.S. subcompact first.

The Cruze is surging in U.S. sales and will be the first diesel application on any subcompact-a feat competitors came away from TC promising to replicate soon.

Rarely before, except in the “depression aftermath years of 2009-2012, had issues embracing quality and connectivity been so thoroughly aired as they were August 5-8.

Detroit-3 panelists, with a nod towards their UAW partners, agreed that new job training programs are giving their products quality lifts worldwide.

Dozens of supplier reps in Q&A panels applauded the “quality message” and agreed that new supplier “parks” at assembly plants in Brazil, southern U.S. and fast growing Mexico are raising employment totals without sacrificing quality in any of the BRIC markets.

Click here for some Q&A from from the seminars.