Sunday, September 20, 2009
American Axle & Manufacturing Inc. said Thursday it reached a new deal with its lenders and its largest customer, General Motors Co., that will allow the supplier to avert a bankruptcy filing.
The new deal ends months of negotiations between the Detroit-based supplier, its banks and GM after American Axle breached the terms of its loan when its debt and interest costs ran too high.
This passed me by at the time, but it's dated September 18th. A friend who lives in the effected area pointed it out to me.
The deal American Axle negotiated doesn't cut the company's debt. But it does give American Axle cash to maintain its operations through the industry's downturn, to a time when the company might be able to repay its loans.
I imagine this is good news for their suppliers and workers, but also might set a precedent (and perhaps a blueprint) for metal stampers to follow through these hard times.
Friday, September 04, 2009
Hook and loop fasteners have become commonplace features of both industry and households. However, they have one snag: they are too weak for many applications. Hook and loop fasteners made of spring steel have now been developed at the Institute of Metal Forming and Casting of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen. These fasteners are resistant to chemicals and can withstand a tensile load of up to 35 tonnes per square meter at temperatures as high as 800°C.
Spring Steel Velco, that's what we're talking about here.
Temperatures in excess of 800 °C and aggressive chemical solutions do not pose any problem for Metaklett, which also offers adhesive strength of up to 35 tonnes per square meter when tensile force is applied parallel to the fastener surface. When it is applied perpendicular to the fastener surface, Metaklett can still withstand a force of seven tonnes per square meter. Moreover, like a standard Velcro® fastener on a child’s shoe, it can be opened and closed again without the help of any tools.
You can read the original press release from TUM (Technical University of Munich) in English . A German language version is also available on that page. Use the language buttons in the upper right corner.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The US government will loan 5.9 billion dollars to Ford Motor Co. and 1.6 billion dollars to Japanese automaker Nissan to invest in improving the fuel economy of their US-built vehicles, officials said Tuesday.
The loans are the first awarded out of a 25-billion-dollar program to help automakers meet upcoming fuel efficiency standards, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said at a press conference.
"These loans will help the auto industry meet and even exceed the president's tough new fuel standards while creating jobs, reducing our dependency on foreign oil and ensuring America's competitiveness."
Another 465 million dollars will be loaned to electric sports car maker Telsa.
Additional loans will be awarded to "large and small automobile manufacturers and parts suppliers up and down the production chain" over the coming months, said Chu
Ford will use the 5.9 billion dollars retool plants in five states and boost the fuel efficiency of close to two million new vehicles annually.
Nissan will use the loans to modify its Tennessee plant to produce zero-emissions electric vehicles and the lithium-ion battery packs to power them.
As I mentioned above the quotes, there is an interesting tie-in for this blog. A lot of metal stamping dies, and the original production of them, have gone off-shore.
There are a determined bunch of people in Detroit (and no doubt in other places too, but I only know about the Detroit bunch) who want to play catchup and bring their toolmaking lead time and costs down, in line with off-shore toolers, in order to keep that work onshore. I've kept in loose touch with a few of them, belong to some of their groups on LinkedIn and other places, and in general applaud what they're doing. I did, however, question their belief that they could bring 50% of the diemaking that went offshore back. I don't think those dies are coming back unless and until they need to be retooled.
This may be the retooling opportunity they're looking for/need. Retooling for greater efficiency means making better use of steel components, smarter brackets with stiffening ribs instead of using thickness to get the strength needed, use of aluminum where possible, etc. These things mean new dies, and therefore, a chance to start over again on-continent.
So this may well be a very good thing.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
From Yahoo! Canada Finance
The Conference Board of Canada says auto parts makers will cut 37,000 jobs, or about one third of their workforce in Canada, as the North American industry undergoes massive restructuring.
The sector has been shedding jobs for years, but this year's losses are expected to top the total of the last four years combined.
Ontario will be hard hit by the job losses since the province has most of the parts companies.
Chrysler Group LLC will start cranking out vehicles at seven of its North American assembly plants on June 29, but some Canadian dealers say they will be unable to restock their dealerships with new vehicles because they can't get the financing they need.
Inventories have fallen to minimal levels [...but many ...] can't order new cars and trucks because they are still waiting for financing approval from GMAC LLC
This is another example of cascade failure I spoke about earlier. Seemingly unrelated things combine to topple systems that should continue to work. If it were easy to get credit another way, these dealerships would not be having a problem. They might pay a little more for credit from someone else, but at the moment, all other sources are choked off, and this one is slow.
This is another bottleneck on the road to a recovery for stampers.
Fiat [which now controls Chrysler] announced plans to resume production at its Brampton and Windsor plants and five other North American factories at the end of June.
In addition, parts stamping, engine and transmission factories that feed those plants also will restart June 29, Chrysler said in a statement.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
The impact of GM's Chapter 11 filing has already started rippling through the supply network. Several companies, including Lear Corp., Johnson Controls Inc., TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. and Magna International Inc., are among GM's largest creditors. Lear, which makes seats, is owed $45-million and Monday said it won't make a semi-annual interest payment of $38-million that was due June 1.
From further down in the article:
The parts industry has been reeling for months. Canadian parts suppliers have seen their production fall an average of 40 per cent in the past year or so and roughly 10,000 jobs have vanished.
Last week alone two major U.S. parts makers, Visteon Corp. and Metaldyne Corp., filed for bankruptcy protection, joining five others this year.
Yesterday I reproduced a list of suppliers owed money by GM. The conclusion is that these people will lose much, if not all, of that money. There are roughly $400 million (US) owed to parts suppliers. I thought that number was low, but today's Globe article claims that, in advance of the court proceedings, many parts suppliers were paid up until the end of April (very rare for automotive, it would be more usual to have 75 to 90 days outstanding).
So we are left to ponder cascade effects. Another quote from the article
JPMorgan Chase & Co. analyst Peter Acciavatti said in a recent note that based on debt-trading levels, Lear, American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc., Cooper-Standard Automotive Inc., and at least one other company “appear to be on the verge of bankruptcy.
Monday, June 01, 2009
From Yahoo Finance, originally from AP
General Motors Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday as part of the Obama administration's plan to shrink the automaker to a sustainable size and give a majority ownership stake to the U.S. government.
GM's bankruptcy filing is the fourth-largest in U.S. history and the largest for an industrial company. The company said it has US$172.81 billion in debt and $82.29 billion in assets.
They owed more than twice what their assets were. The big question now is, how much of that debt was tooling owed to metal stampers and other outsources? How many upstream businesses will fail now because of the defaults? How many jobs will be lost? Is there protection for the supplier chain as part of this deal? I know it was a slow, negotiated slide into bankruptcy, but was saving the supply chain a part of the negotiations? I've heard lip service paid to this idea in the press in the last month, but see nothing in todays headlines that is on point.
From the same article:
the automaker will permanently close nine more plants and idle three others
and the article contains unconfirmed speculation on where those dozen plants likely are.
The downsized GM's brands will be limited to Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick. Its Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer and Saab operations will be either sold or closed.
I never got the point of Hummer. Not as a car, not as a part of GM.
It's a shame about Pontiac. We had one when I was a kid. Everyone did.
Saturns are good cars. Everyone I know with one loves it. I don't understand why they'd sell it.
It's a shame what they did to Saab. It was a good brand. My boss in Germany had one 20 years ago, and it was a wonderful car. But it became the Commodore Amiga of the auto world. They bought it and had no idea what to do with it.
The Globe had an interesting list of who the creditors are (or should we already speak of them in the past tense?)
Name of GM creditor and amount of claim.
- Starcom Mediavest Group $121.54-million (U.S.). Not a parts supplier, as far as I can see.
- Delphi Corp. $110.88-million. parts supplier
- Robert Bosch $66.25-million. parts supplier
- Lear Corp. $44.81-million. parts supplier
- Renco Group $37.33-million. not sure
- Enterprise Rent A Car $33.10-million. not a parts supplier
- Johnson Controls Inc. $32.83-million. parts supplier
- Denso Corp. $29.23-million. I believe these are the rust proofers
- TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. $27.52-million. parts supplier
- Magna International Inc. $26.75-million. parts supplier
- American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. $26.74-million. parts supplier
- Maritz Inc. $25.65-million. ? there are several companies named Maritz
- Publicis Groupe SA $25.28-million. Advertiser, I think
- Hewlett Packard Co. $17.01-million. computer maker
- Interpublic Group of Cos Inc. $16-million. marketer
Monday, May 11, 2009
What if we added that not only were taxpayer funds being funneled to China, the very recipients of these taxpayer funds, (GM, Chrysler and hundred’s of Tier 1 parts manufacturers) gave the Chinese competitors to North American manufacturers a 5-9% cost advantage by paying these Chinese suppliers on far better terms than they would pay say a company in Grand rapids, Detroit or Windsor.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
From the Wall Street Journal:
Bill Ford, Jr., the Dearborn, Mich. auto maker's executive chairman, said that the precarious state of auto parts suppliers remains the company's greatest concern after Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
CNN's Political Ticker web site wrote, a few weeks back The public used to think that the automakers were too big to fail, but not any longer. In December, two-thirds say auto bankruptcies would create major problems or a crisis for the U.S. economy. Now most say that would only cause minor problems or no problems at all.
And Americans don't see any effect on their own lives if the automakers fail: 55 percent say they would face no problems at all if the auto companies went bankrupt. Only 37 percent say they would buy a car from a bankrupt company. But that number rises to 57 percent if the federal government stands behind the warranty on those cars.
It's all very well for the average american to "think" there will be only minor problems. But what does the average american know about the automotive industry and its related subindustries?
Here are some numbers. The big 3 directly employ 240,000 people. The supplier network for the big 3 employs another 975,000 people, for a total of 1.2 million. There's an estimated 1.7 million additional jobs created by those 1.2 million workers, for a total of 3 million jobs.
People assume that, if one of the Detroit 3 went out of business, about 80,000 (1/3 of the direct jobs) would be lost. But that's not how bankruptcy works.
When a company declares bankruptcy, if a judge grants the bankruptcy, the company is relieved (at least temporarily) from paying its suppliers. Since automotive have long been the poorest payers of any manufacturing customers, most automotive Tier 1 suppliers are owed huge amounts of money by the Detroit 3. Not paying those debts, even if only temporarily during a restructuring, could force many Tier 1 suppliers into bankruptcy. That, in turn, would force Tier 2 suppliers into bankruptcy. What you then have is the beginnings of a cascade failure of significant parts of the automotive supply structure.
But wait! It gets worse. Once you get down below assembly, to the level where actual manufacturing is done, where tools and dies are hefted, when the receiver steps in, he isn't letting go of the tools and dies so easily. You have red tape to go through to get the dies out of the shop in receivership, and into a shop that also has the equipment to run the die.
Once you've got the dies out of the bankrupt shop and into a shop that's still alive and gasping, does the new shop have the expertise to run the job? Eventually, yes, they're all smart people. But even smart people need time to work out the kinks in a new job they've never seen before. And if 50 new dies landed on your doorstep one day, no matter how diligent and how smart, it would still take a week or so per die to get it set up, run, PPAPed and submitted to the PPAP inspection process. That's 50 weeks. Holding up an entire supply chain. Replicated over and over again all through the industry. It will be total meyhem.
And it will create a second cascade failure, running backwards up the supply chain this time, as entire car lines are shut down for the lack of a particular valve stem that can't be made, a particular plating process where the local processor has been closed down and all the parts have to go to the overloaded facility in Kalamazoo, and so on.
I think this has the potential to be very, very disruptive.
Monday, April 27, 2009
In 1955, Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel drove a Pontiac Star Chief convertible cross-country to California in a series of episodes on television's I Love Lucy.
Sad news today, Pontiac being discontinued.
The first family car I drove was a Pontiac. It was a white station wagon, long enough that you could sleep in the back if you folded down the back seats. I did sometimes on long trips, caught a few winks on the side of the road. I even bought, built and painted a model of it in my early teens. It had a truck clutch and no power steering. It was a bitch to park when I proudly drove it to York University to my first summer job, still in high school. Somewhere in a family album somewhere, we still have a picture of the 4 of us, posing in front of that Pontiac. I'm sure I don't have the plastic model any more.
The Globe is asking for your memories of the brand here.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Dave Bing, CEO of Detroit-based Bing Group, said Lapeer's problems illustrate the bind facing many minority automotive suppliers as steel prices escalate and customer volumes decline.
Most minority suppliers are small to mid-size companies with weak balance sheets that find it difficult to fund expansions without additional financing, Bing said. But the banking industry is reluctant to invest in the troubled automotive industry.
'Gerry and I have been friendly competitors for the last 30 years,' Bing said. 'I'm sorry to see what he is going through, but it is not different than what all of us are going through.'
Monday, July 21, 2008
Suddenly, it's important to the US elections to think about jobs and the auto sector. Of course, many smaller stampers make parts directly and indirectly for the auto industry.
Sen. John McCain on Friday told auto workers to have faith that alternative technology vehicles will re-energize their sagging industry and help reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil.
'I believe that this new technology - it's more than an automobile - will create hundreds and thousands of jobs,' the Republicans' presumptive presidential nominee said at a town-hall meeting with about 500 General Motors Corp. employees. 'This breakthrough has every chance of success.'
Mr. McCain toured a facility where the struggling automaker is designing a new battery-powered hybrid vehicle, and spoke to employees while flanked by several models of GM's emerging fuel-efficient cars and trucks.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Yet another challenge has emerged for the automotive industry: Rapidly rising steel prices.
The price of hot rolled steel has increased from just over $500 a ton in November to $1,080 per ton Thursday.
Prices are soaring because of increasing global demand, a lack of increase in the supply of raw materials used to make the metal, as well as increased energy and transportation costs.
John Hoffecker, managing director of AlixPartners LLC, said Thursday that the cost of steel is rippling through the automotive industry and will likely result in higher vehicle prices because the expense is too large for the industry to absorb by cutting costs and using different materials.
"It's going to hit suppliers, it is going to hit manufacturers, and my view now is it is going to start hitting consumers," Hoffecker said.
At the same time, Ford has now said they will not return to profitability, due in part to steel price increases.
Ford Motor Co. abandoned a target of returning to profit next year because of rising costs for steel and gasoline, a month after Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally said the second-largest U.S. automaker expected to meet its goal.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Several General Motors Corp. plants are set to ramp up production this week after key supplier American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. and the United Auto Workers reached a tentative agreement ending an 11-week strike.
The strike had all but crippled GM's ability to produce large pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles, which generate hefty margins for the auto maker, and slammed its North American profit in the first quarter
It's also good news for parts suppliers going into those pickup trucks.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Well, is it true?
The federal government is providing $1 billion in tax relief for Canada's ailing manufacturing and processing sector by extending the accelerated capital cost allowance (CCA) for businesses.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Tuesday that the government will allow businesses to use the accelerated CCA, on a declining basis, until the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year.
The CCA is a non-refundable tax deduction that reduces taxes owed by permitting the cost of business-related assets to be deducted from income over a prescribed number of years.
On occasion, a CCA rate is "accelerated" to increase the incentive for investing in an asset by permitting it to depreciate more quickly.
The accelerated CCA plan introduced in the 2007 Budget allowed manufacturing businesses to fully write off investments in machinery and equipment within two years.
This says that, if you have the money to invest in new machinery, you can pay it off sooner, that is, write it down sooner, lowering your tax bill. Hopefully, you'll take some of the tax refund and use it to actually pay it down faster at the bank, thereby also reducing borrowing costs, another expense.
But let's think about this a bit. Many Canadian manufacturers are already on the ropes, hanging on by their fingernails. Are investments in new machinery uppermost in their minds? Are new machines even in the picture? I don't think so. They're doing everything they can to keep from laying off more people, to hang on to loyal employees.
While I applaud government efforts to reward newer, higher-productivity machinery, that shouldn't be the whole picture. How about a reduction on Workers Comp premiums for companies with good safety records? How about cost sharing on CPP for a year or two? These are costs every manufacturer, even those on the ropes, has, and so every manufacturer will benefit from them.
So what do other people thing?
Manufacturers say budget comes up short Reuters Canada says:
Canada's budget offered some financial help for the country's struggling manufacturing sector on Tuesday, but industry groups said it would not be enough to offset the impact of a strong domestic currency, a slumping U.S. economy and low-cost global competition.
Industry groups, however, said the one-year extension of the 50 percent rate would not give capital-intensive industries the time and funds needed to plan and execute the big investments they need to compete internationally.
"It's really a grab bag of goodies, some loose pocket change being thrown to the manufacturers," Jayson Meyers, president of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told Reuters.
Jim Stanford, an economist at the Canadian Auto Workers union, said the auto fund would not help workers who are losing their jobs as the industry cuts back.
"We would have preferred to see Mr Flaherty take a billion dollars out of that whopping 2007 surplus and create a real auto investment fund to match Ontario's billion-dollar fund," Stanford said.
The Toronto Star called it a show about nothing
Saturday, December 22, 2007
General Motors (GM) said Tuesday it is raising prices on its 2008 model year vehicles an average of 1.5% to help cover increasing steel and commodity costs.
The increases are effective with vehicles invoiced to dealers starting Wednesday and will not affect vehicles already in dealer inventory, the automaker said.
The price of most cars and trucks will increase by $100 to $500, but the prices of certain vehicles in more competitive segments will not increase at all, said Mark LaNeve, GM North America vice president for vehicle sales, service and marketing.
GM's U.S. sales dropped 11% in November from one year earlier, hurt by falling demand for trucks as well as cuts in sales to low-profit rental car fleets. GM's sales were down 6% for the first 11 months of the year.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Reuters via Yahoo! Canada Finance
DETROIT (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers union on Wednesday agreed a contract with General Motors Corp ending a national strike by 73,000 workers, with a deal that includes a groundbreaking health-care trust fund. Union President Ron Gettelfinger, speaking at a news conference at the union's Detroit headquarters and surrounded by cheering UAW officials, said production at GM facilities would resume on Wednesday and ratification of the agreement by GM workers would begin this week. 'We feel very confident it will be ratified,' Gettelfinger said of the tentative four-year agreement.
GM said the national agreement "paves the way for GM to significantly improve its manufacturing competitiveness" and maintain a strong production presence in the United States.
A GM spokeswoman said the automaker would not provide details of the agreement until it was presented to UAW workers for ratification.
Gettelfinger said he would not disclose details of the agreement at this time. But he did say it includes a landmark health-care deal, under which responsibility for retiree health care would shift to a new UAW-aligned trust fund known as a voluntary employee beneficiary association, or VEBA.
Wall Street analysts have said establishing a VEBA could cut GM's annual costs by $3 billion in exchange for a one-off payment expected to top $30 billion.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
New York Times
The United Automobile Workers union wielded its most potent weapon against General Motors yesterday, sending 73,000 workers to picket lines in its first national strike at G.M. since 1970.
But what does it mean for metal stampers? If you supply GM, various industry officials say that 2 supplier jobs for every GM worker job are also in danger. That's almost 150,000 jobs in parts manufacturing.
Beyond that, if the strike goes on for any length of time, the GM steel consumption will be taken out of the steel marketplace. There's a chance that steel lead times will drop, and perhaps also steel prices.
I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Toronto - General Motors of Canada Ltd. has confirmed it will cut 1,200 jobs at the company's truck plant in Oshawa, Ont. by next January. The decision, which GM blamed on high inventory, will cut about 1,200 jobs at the plant. Slumping pick-up truck sales caused, in part, by a slide in the U.S. housing market, may also be to blame.
Union officials estimated the ripple effect of GM's cuts could affect up to 8,000 jobs in the auto parts sector.
That, of course, includes many jobs in the stamping industry.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
"There are several factors that go into making a fast car and having a powerful engine is just one piece of the puzzle. Mercedes will reportedly tackle another piece -- curb weight -- on their upcoming SLC supercar by building the model out of aluminum. "
Monday, May 14, 2007
Magna fails to buy Chrysler
Well, so much to say.
I was really hoping that Magna would succeed. For several reasons.
I hear Frank Stronach is a good guy, who doesn't hesitate to get out on the factory floor when it's needed.
I think it would be nice if one of the three Detroit car companies was run, or at least a controlling share went to, someone who knows something about metal stamping.
And Magna's a Canadian company, so there was some hope that some stamping jobs would stay in Canada.
Now, if possible, an investment company that knows, if anything, even less about metal stamping than Chrysler itself did, is going to be at the helm. It's hard to see how this could be good for metal stampers supplying the industry.
And Cerberus. What a choice! The symbolism is stunning. In Greek mythology, Cerberus is the three headed hound with a snake for a tail that guards the gates of Hades. He ensured that only the spirits of the dead could enter but none could leave.
Friday, May 11, 2007
The next all-new Range Rover is coming in 2012, and reportedly it will benefit from an aluminum body shell to cut as much as 40 percent of its weight.
The U.K. publication Autocar reports that the weight savings from the change to aluminum could save 660-880 pounds from the curb weight of the big luxury SUV.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Nippon Steel Corp. and Arcelor Mittal have forged an agreement to expand their U.S. automotive sheet steel capacity in a deal that could see up to 30 billion yen ($252 million) invested in new plants and equipment, the influential Nikkei daily reported Monday.