Automotive Roundup: General Motors, Nissan-Renault and Audi

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GM General Motors

In this roundup, GM’s CEO makes (partial) amends, the Carlos Ghosn saga continues with a twist, and Audi finds itself looking for a better 2019.

Taking the Edge Off

After some nasty comments by President Trump over her decision to lay off as many as 15,000 white- and blue-collar American workers with General Motors’ plan to close five North American plants and discontinue production of a half-dozen sedans, GM CEO Mary Barra on Friday took the edge off the action by offering transfers to 2,800 hourly workers at the four US plants that will end production next year.

GM said it already has 2,700 current open positions at seven plants in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas, and normal attrition will open even more jobs.

It’s not exactly the best news at Christmas for workers at the doomed plants, but it’s better than the lump-of-coal pink slip they thought they might be getting. And it’ll make that Christmas card to Barra a little easier for the Trump family to send.

Standing by Their Man

Carlos Ghosn, chairman of Nissan, may be sitting in a Tokyo jail hoping he can get out on bail by Christmas. And if he can, expect the other company he helps lead, Renault, to welcome him home to France for the Yuletide.

Japanese authorities have charged the head of the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance with vastly understating his compensation for several years and playing fast and loose with the company till for personal expenses. Top Nissan executives have described him as too powerful for his and the company’s own good.

But in France, where Ghosn is something of an industrial folk hero, Renault said this week that Ghosn will remain chairman and CEO of the company after Renault found he’d done nothing wrong in France.

And as far as what Ghosn is charged by Nissan with doing? “We believe we need to wait on what Charlos Ghosn has to say about this one-sided investigation,” a person familiar with Renault’s action told the Wall Street Journal.

Audi Seeks New Year Turnaround

After an annus horribilis in 2018, Audi’s new CEO is hoping to resurge in 2019 behind a polishing of the brand’s image, an internal culture change and its continued expansion in China.

New CEO Bram Schot told Audi workers in Germany that “we must change things together—now,” according to Automotive News“We need all of you to exploit our potential and make sure the transformation works out.”

Audi suffered a 17-month slump in deliveries worldwide last month as the brand lost further ground in its global competition with Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Even in the United States, where Audi had posted month-to-month sales increases for a tremendous string of about seven years, the brand finally fell to a negative comparison recently.

Not only has the Volkswagen-owned luxury brand been battered financially by the costs of fines and other penalties from the diesel emissions scandal of the last few years, but its then-CEO, Rupert Staler, was arrested in the scandal before being released on bail in the fall.

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