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Automotive News – August 12, 2011

Chrysler to expand Toledo, Ohio, plant operations. GM to reduce its development platforms to trim costs. 1960s-era “pope-mobile” parade car going up for auction. These another industry stories of interest in this week’s Automotive News.

Chrysler to Add 1,100 Jobs to Toledo Plant

Chrysler Toledo Assembly PlantSome good news from Chrysler Group LLC, which will reportedly add a second shift and more than 1,100 jobs to its Toledo, Ohio, plant where it builds the Jeep Liberty and Dodge Nitro SUVs. The $365 million investment is the first in what could be several expansions in the Toledo area, where it also makes the Jeep Wrangler. Chrysler expects the new hiring to be completed by 2013.

GM to Halve Its Automotive Platforms

General Motors Assembly PlantGeneral Motors (GM) has announced plans to cut the number of vehicle platforms it uses by more than half by 2018. The move is intended to help standardize its operations in the global market and reduce development costs by an estimated $1 billion annually. GM currently uses 30 basic car and truck platforms in its development operations. It hopes to reduce this to 14 before the decade’s end.

1960s-Era Pope-Mobile Up for Auction

1964 Lincoln/Thunderbird hybrid limousineA super-sized 1964 Lincoln Continental/Thunderbird hybrid custom-built for a visit by Pope Paul VI to New York City in 1965 is scheduled to be auctioned by Bonhams in Pebble Beach, Calif., August 18-19. This 21-foot-long parade car was built by Lehmann-Peterson coachbuilders of Chicago and features exterior step plates and handrails for ride-along security, a raised showcase seat in back, and a removable roof section, clear canopy and rooftop windscreen. In addition to ferrying the Pope during visits to New York City in 1965 and Bogotá, Columbia, in 1968, it was also used by NASA for tickertape parades to honor the astronauts of Apollo missions 8, 11, 13 and 15. This super-limo is expected to fetch from $250,000 to $350,000.

Audi to Unveil Electric Concept Car

Audi City CarAudi is expected to unveil its new all-electric Urban Concept at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September. The 1+1 seat vehicle is intended to represent a mini-car that could be driven in congested urban spaces, according to the German auto manufacturer. The concept features the distinctive Audi grille and freestanding 21-inch wheels. The concept vehicle is driven by two electric motors powered by a single lithium-ion battery.

GM Pod Car Could Arrive Within a Decade

GM Pod CarGoing one step further than Audi, GM has in development a single-seat autonomous “Pod Car” it says could be on the market within 10 to 15 years and sell for as little as $10,000. Designed for short trips in urban areas, the electric-powered vehicle has no steering wheel; the “driver” merely punches in a destination and the vehicle drives itself via GPS. GM says commercialization of the pod car will have to wait until GPS systems become more precise; currently, most systems are only accurate within three meters, which is far too hazardous for urban transportation.

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