Your Saturday Chryco Auto News UPDATE

1964 Studebaker outside of St. Louis North Plant on closing day
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(This was intended to be a full integration of Opel and PSA’s operations with some uneccessary nameplates and plants being cut.  Anything less than this will do more harm than good to both companies.  Akerson approached PSA with this plan and then changed his mind and left a mess for both companies with no real upside.  This is a repeat of the GM/PSA mess of the 1990’s.–Ed Meyer)

Overdrive

News and commentary on the auto industry and the vehicles they’re producing

GM-Peugeot alliance; just where is it going?

Opel Vauxhall's new Adam city car, (shown here) and the small Mokka SUV are crucial to GM Europe's turnaround plan

OpelVauxhallMokka
In early January, the Wall Street Journal headlined a story “GM, Peugeot Plan Deeper Car Alliance” and reported that the participants would broaden and deepen their attempt to solve chronic losses at Peugeot-Citroen and GM Europe. The story reiterated the earlier news that the original plan for cooperating over four platforms had been reduced to three, while a deal on making three-cylinder gasoline engines would go ahead. There was “potential” for more cooperation in Russia and South America, a new vehicle “might” be produced for Latin America, while small commercial vehicles “might” be on the cards one day. Not much actual broadening and deepening there, at least not yet.
In December, the two companies announced they had scaled back some cooperation plans. Deutsche Bank said then that meant the combination either had limited ambitions, or that the partners had differing visions of what could be achieved.
That news also seemed to finally shoot down more feverish rumors which emerged in October that GM, which has a seven per cent stake in Peugeot-Citroen, was thinking of merging its Opel-Vauxhall subsidiaries into the French company. The French newspaper La Tribune reported that GM would take a 30 per cent stake in a joint venture and inject up to $10 billion. At the time, this idea was ridiculed by those who said it made no sense to merge two companies which had already generated such horrendous losses. Opel-Vauxhall is expected to have lost more than $1.5 billion last year, to add to the $16 billion it has consumed over the last 12 years. Peugeot-Citroen was likely to have lost at least $1.9 billion in 2012.
GM and Peugeot-Citroen announced in December that they had dropped plans for a fourth joint large vehicle program, but were broadening plans to work on a new generation of three-cylinder gasoline engines.
Opel’s current large car is the Insignia, which sells in the U.S. as the Buick Regal. Peugeot’s larger sedan is the 508, and Citroen has the C5.
The joint vehicle programmes now include a compact SUV and Minivan, a small “multipurpose” vehicle, and a fuel efficient small car. A joint purchasing deal for Europe had been agreed, subject to anti-trust approval.
Deutsche Bank said the joint purchasing deal will not be global and will be limited to Europe. The bank said the proposed alliance looked less ambitious, or confused.
“Overall, this global strategic alliance looks very limited. And we wonder if each partner ever had the same vision on this alliance from day one,” the bank said in the report in December.
Not much has changed since then, has it?
Neil Winton

Neil Winton writes the European Perspective column for Autos Insider. He was Reuter’s Science and Technology Correspondent and European Auto Correspondent before setting up as a freelance columnist and web site publisher, writing about the European automotive industry and its products. Neil can be reached at neil.winton@btinternet.com.
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January 12, 2013 at 1:00 am

Dodge provides cars for new online game, TV series on Syfy called “Defiance.”

  • By Bryce G. Hoffman
  • The Detroit News
“Defiance,” the online game, debuts in early April, the TV series April 15.

“Defiance,” the online game, debuts in early April, the TV series April 15. (Syfy)
Dodge cars will star as post-apocalyptic police cars this spring in a new television series and online game that is designed to blur the boundary between the two mediums.
Called “Defiance,” this near-future science-fiction hybrid is set in what’s left of the United States following the “sudden and tumultuous” arrival of aliens on Earth.
The television show will center on the sheriff of the boomtown of Defiance, built on the ruins of St. Louis, who fights the good fight from the driver’s seat of a Dodge Charger modified by alien technology. At the same time, players in the online “Defiance” video game will drive a similarly modified Dodge Challenger as they navigate a related storyline.
“We wanted to be the first to do something entirely new,” said Mark Malmstead, media manager for Chrysler Group LLC’s Dodge brand. “We just loved the look and feel of this project, and it aligned perfectly with our demographic targets, who are young, predominantly male and educated. There’s a lot of car chases and gunfights in the program.”
“Defiance” is being developed by NBC Universal’s Syfy Network, which is reportedly investing $100 million in the project. Malmstead said Chrysler is getting input into both the massively multiuser online game, which goes live in early April, and the TV series, which debuts April 15.
“It’s a true transmedia experience. It’s neither a game based on a series or a series based on a game,” said Mark Stern, president of original content for Syfy. “They complement each other; they refer to each other. Some of the characters cross over and some of the storylines crossover.”
Stern told The Detroit News that he is enthusiastic about Chrysler’s participation, adding that its “sexy muscle cars” are a perfect fit for this brave new world. And while they look like something out of “Mad Max” by the time Hollywood gets done with them, he said the show and the game are more hopeful and aspirational than other end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it fare.
Which begs the question: Will Chrysler make a production version of the Charger equipped with armor and guns as a tie-in with the show and game?
“It’d be cool,” Malmstead said, “but not likely.”
(313) 222-2443
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January 12, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Start your engines: 50 vehicles set to debut at Detroit Auto Show

  • By Karl Henkel
  • The Detroit News
A Tesla Model S makes its way through the construction on the floor of the North American International Auto Show. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
From a new-generation Corvette, to a Cirque du Soleil performance at the unveiling of an Infiniti sport sedan, to the return of high-end brands Jaguar and Land Rover, the 2013 North American International Auto Show is far removed from the scaled-down show of 2009, when Detroit’s Big Three were fighting to stay alive.
“We’ve got a 30,000-square-foot statement (with the new Cobo Center atrium) that’s big enough to say that we’re back,” said show Chairman Jim Seavitt, owner of Village Ford in Dearborn. “And we sold out everything on the floor and could have sold out a lot more.
“We’ve sold every inch of the show.”
The show opens Monday to automotive journalists and to the public Jan. 19.
The public show days likely will draw more than 750,000 visitors and infuse nearly $400 million into the local economy — about as much as Super Bowl XL, the 2005 Major League Baseball All-Star Game and last year’s Grand Prix combined.
There will be more than 50 vehicle unveilings, and this year many of the cars are more upscale. They include Lincoln Motor Co.’s MKC concept compact crossover, Cadillac’s plug-in hybrid ELR and the Lexus IS. Chrysler will roll out a refreshed Grand Cherokee, the top of its Jeep lineup.
General Motors Co., which sold more vehicles in the U.S. last year than any other automaker, will introduce the 2014 GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickups to the public. Chevrolet will debut five world cars, none of which will be sold in the U.S.
In addition to the Corvette, GM will reveal its luxury Cadillac ELR, which uses the Volt’s plug-in hybrid drivetrain.
The Cadillac exhibit will be separate from GM’s other brands, in a section of the show floor with other luxury carmakers — including neighboring Jaguar and Ferrari.
There are rumors that Ford Motor Co., which ranked second to GM in 2012 U.S. sales, will offer a sneak peek of its next-generation F-150 — the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. “There are going to be some surprises,” promised David Tillapaugh, Ford’s auto show manager.
Ford’s Lincoln brand will reveal its MKC crossover, based on the same platform as the Ford Escape.
Third-place Toyota will occupy 35,000 square feet, the largest exhibit it’s ever had in Detroit. The Japanese automaker will debut a sedan concept called the Furia, expected to find its way into the marketplace as the next-generation Corolla, the oldest model in the Toyota lineup.
And fourth-place seller Chrysler will unwrap the 2014 Jeep Cherokee. It also will show the new Jeep Compass and Patriot.
At a show where each manufacturer seeks to be memorable, Infiniti’s Cirque du Soleil performance won’t be the only dramatic flourish. Nissan’s display, for example, will have its own aroma: Asian fragrances will be pumped into the space. A 150-foot long, 45-foot-wide red halo will be suspended above Nissan’s area.
(313) 222-2504

North American International Auto Show

When: Press preview Monday-Tuesday
Industry preview: Wednesday-Thursday
Charity Preview: Jan. 18. Tickets $300, $290 of which is tax deductible. Call (888) 838-7500.
Public show: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Jan. 19-26; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 27. Early access for the disabled begins at 8 a.m. Tickets $12; $6 age 65 and older, ages 7-12. Call (248) 283-5173 or visit www.naias.com.
Parking: Joe Louis Arena, 900 W. Jefferson; Cobo Roof Deck, 625 W. Congress; Millennium Garage, 432 W. Congress
Show venue: Cobo Center

Saturday night

Gallery of luxury cars at MGM Grand

Sunday night

GM unveils new Corvette
Urban Wheel Awards
Latest developments, photo gallery, videos at detroitnews.com/autoshow

Show highlights

Anticipated reveals: 50-plus
World debuts: 40-plus
Top domestic debuts: Lincoln MKC, Cadillac ELR, GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Silverado, Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Expected journalists: 6,000
Last year’s attendance: 770,932
Cost to upgrade new atrium: $22.6 million
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January 12, 2013 at 1:00 am

Dignitaries coming to Detroit Auto Show to see cars, talk business with execs

  • By David Shepardson
  • Detroit News Washington Bureau
LaHood

LaHood )
Washington — The $85 billion auto bailout is in the rear-view mirror — more than 4 years old. Unlike past years, U.S. automakers aren’t seeking government loans to build advanced vehicles or for auto financing.
Nevertheless, a parade of U.S. and state officials will attend the North American International Auto Show, rubbing elbows with executives and ogling new cars.
Gone is the perceived fragile fate of the U.S. auto industry — with a gaggle of members of Congress from around the country flying in to pronounce the auto industry in good health.
“As far as Detroit is concerned, they want the Washington people to stay away,” said David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research, saying automakers want “separation from the government.”
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will kick off the show and hold a private meeting with major foreign and U.S. automakers.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Debbie Hersman, National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland and acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank will also tour the show Monday.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson was expected to cancel her trip, but other EPA officials are planning to attend.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder will tour the show at different times next week.
All will be trying to convince automakers why they should expand operations in their states.
The officials will meet with various automakers’ executives, including Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, new Ford Americas President Joe Hinrichs and General Motors North America chief Mark Reuss.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the new chairman of the Homeland Security Committee — and a longtime fan of the show — will attend.
(202) 662-8735
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January 12, 2013 at 1:00 am

Protest to aim at Nissan in Detroit

  • By Bryce G. Hoffman
  • The Detroit News
Glover
Glover )
Actor Danny Glover and community leaders from Mississippi are coming to Detroit on Monday to protest what they say is Nissan Motor Co.’s “unfair” treatment of its workers in the state.
The action is timed to coincide with the opening of press days at the Detroit auto show, and is part of a broader effort by the United Auto Workers to organize the Japanese automaker’s U.S. factories.
“With Nissan, you have to look beneath the shine. Nissan builds great vehicles, but the company should respect the rights and dignity of its Mississippi workforce,” the Rev. Isiac Jackson, president of the General Missionary Baptist State Convention of Mississippi, said in a statement released Friday.
Nissan spokesman David Reuter said the allegations were unfounded, adding that workers receive some of the highest wages in Mississippi.
“Nissan employees have voted overwhelmingly in the past to reject union representation, and just as with past efforts, the UAW’s current campaign in Canton, Miss., has received little interest among employees,” he said.
Nissan announced this week it is moving production of its Murano crossover to Mississippi from Japan.
UAW President Bob King in a statement Friday, “The UAW is glad to have a partner organization that is standing up for Nissan workers. …. Workers have had to endure months of meetings during work time where they only hear the employer’s anti-union views.”
Glover has been an activist since the ’60s, when he helped lead a student strike at San Francisco State University.
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Travel Michigan knew of Pure Michigan use in right-to-work ad

4:33 PM, January 11, 2013 |
The Pure Michigan campaign heralds the tranquility and splendor of the state's landscapes and lakes and the welcoming charm of its residents.

The Pure Michigan campaign heralds the tranquility and splendor of the state’s landscapes and lakes and the welcoming charm of its residents. / McCann Erickson Detroit
By Ellen Creager

Detroit Free Press Travel Writer

Tourism executives at Travel Michigan knew their bosses at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation were going to use the Pure Michigan tourism logo in a newspaper advertisement Tuesday touting the state’s new right-to-work law.

But there was nothing they could say or do.

“I knew they were working on some ads based on business climate, including right-to-work,” George Zimmermann, vice president of Travel Michigan, said today in a phone interview. Because the state had already appropriated the tourism logo for business marketing two years ago, he believed the use of the logo in the full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal was appropriate.

Was there any discussion about whether it was wise to use a pristine tourism brand on such a controversial issue?

“I’m sure, yes,” he said. “I’m sure there was a lot of conversation about it. But in the end, once Pure Michigan was adopted as the MEDC’s marketing brand, then it is their brand.”

Until two years ago, the state used a different campaign for business marketing, “The Upper Hand,” while Pure Michigan was for only tourism.

“Then, when Mike Finney and his team came in to MEDC a couple years ago, they thought it didn’t make a lot of sense to have two agencies and two brands,” Zimmermann said. “Pure Michigan had been so successful (for tourism) that the decision was made to use it for both.”

Until now, that wasn’t a big issue. The tourism brand was enhanced by business marketing, not damaged.

Then came this week.

Now, some worried Michigan tourism industry folks have been calling Travel Michigan offices to ask why a tourism logo is being used for right-to-work advertisements.

“They weren’t aware of the brand use and business marketing,” he said, describing the calls as “nothing really very serious, frankly.”

How does Travel Michigan plan to protect the brand after this hoopla? It plans no changes.

The Pure Michigan brand is so strong and has so much public goodwill that it can survive controversy, even if it is used in more controversial business ads, Zimmermann predicted. “The thing about Pure Michigan is that we launched it 2006, and we are starting our seventh year. In that time the brand has built up a lot of respect and affection.”

Although “there is more emotion about this particular issue than other business marketing activity, this is the exception,” he said of right-to-work. The words “Pure Michigan” will continue to make people think of beautiful scenery, not nasty politics. He said that he believes “in the end, that is going to win out.”
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Pure Michigan slogan needs rescuing, and fast

8:00 AM, January 11, 2013 |
The Pure Michigan campaign began in 2005, extolling the tranquility and splendor of the state's landscapes and lakes and the welcoming charm of its residents.

The Pure Michigan campaign began in 2005, extolling the tranquility and splendor of the state’s landscapes and lakes and the welcoming charm of its residents. / McCann Erickson Detroit
By Ellen Creager

Detroit Free Press Travel Writer

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” – Warren Buffett

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, parent of Travel Michigan, swiped the pristine “Pure Michigan” tourism brand Tuesday for use in a clumsy full-page Wall Street Journal ad touting Michigan’s new right-to-work law.

Until now, the words “Pure Michigan” have been associated with beauty and pleasure.

Now they are associated with screaming and union-busting.

Ick. Who wants to vacation in that state?

That’s the reaction I’m worried about.

Travel Michigan officials must take the blame for not fighting tooth and nail to protect the slogan from the clutches of competing business interests at the MEDC. They must act quickly to protect it from further harm. They owe it to all the tourism businesses in this state who have hitched their fragile futures to the Pure Michigan vision.

A slogan so envied in tourism circles nationally that in 2009 it was named as one of the top 10 tourism slogans of all time (along with “Virginia is for Lovers” and others), Pure Michigan is not just a logo to slap on any old plodding news release or business pitch. It is responsible for bringing thousands of new tourists and millions of dollars to our state in the last five years. But the lyrical ad campaign also did something beyond money: It made Michiganders remember why they love this state.

It gave us hope in the dark times.

Remember the line, “Twenty-five thousand mornings, give or take, is all we humans get…Make sure some of them are Pure Michigan”? That’s not a sales pitch. That goes straight to the heart.

Sadly, Pure Michigan has been a victim of mission creep. A couple of years ago, MEDC started stealing Pure Michigan’s mojo, using its logos on its weaker business promotion materials.

Last year, Travel Michigan sold part of its soul by creating a garish partnership with Coca-Cola, which put Coke logos on Pure Michigan billboards across the state.

Now, if the MEDC persists in wrecking the brand, we may have to go back to the old state tourism slogan “Winter Wonderland.”

Or just adopt a new slogan: “Pure Michigan
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(All we ate was Wonder bread as it “Build’s strong bodies 12 ways!” [This refered to the 12 vitamines & minerals added to the refinded wheat bread]–Ed Meyer)

Hostess sells Wonder, other breads for $390M

10:48 PM, January 11, 2013 |
Hostess is expected to announce buyers for its famed dessert cakes in coming weeks.

Hostess is expected to announce buyers for its famed dessert cakes in coming weeks. / Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
By Candice Choi
NEW YORK — Hostess has found a new home for its most popular breads, including the iconic Wonder bread.

The bankrupt maker of Twinkies, Devil Dogs and other snack cakes said late Friday that it selected bids by rival bakery Flower Foods to buy six of its bread brands for $390 million. Flower Foods, based in Thomasville, Ga., is best known for Tastykakes but also makes breads including Nature’s Own and Cobblestone Mill.

Hostess is expected to announce buyers for its famed dessert cakes in coming weeks. The company has said a wide variety of parties have expressed interest in its brands, including national supermarket chains and the makers of brand name packaged foods.

Flower Foods was selected as the “stalking horse” bidder for the bread brands. That means higher competing bids can still be made and the final deal must be approved in bankruptcy court. The company made two separate bids for the Hostess breads; a $360 million bid for Wonder, Nature’s Pride, Butternut, Home Pride and Merita, along with 20 bakeries and 38 depots. Another $30 million bid was made for Beefsteak.

Taken together, Hostess said those breads generated just under $1 billion in sales last year, with Wonder bread accounting for about half of that. Flower Foods, which generates about $3 billion in annual sales, said it expects the deals to be accretive to its earning this year. The company plans to finance the deal through a mix of cash and debt.

Hostess Brands Inc., based in Irving, Texas, announced in November that it was shutting down its business and selling its breads and snack cakes.

The company’s demise came after years of management turmoil and turnover, with workers saying the company failed to invest its brands. Hostess filed for its second Chapter 11 bankruptcy in less than a decade this January, citing costs associated with its unionized workforce. It had about 18,500 employees when it announced that it was shutting down after it was unable to reach a deal on a new contract with striking workers.

Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn, who was hired last year to help orchestrate a turnaround, said in a statement that negotiations were continuing with parties for its snack cakes and remaining bread bands. The company has stressed in bankruptcy court that it would need to move quickly in the sales to capitalize on the outpouring of nostalgia prompted by its shuttering.
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General Motors to reveal closely guarded new Chevrolet Corvette on Sunday

9:48 PM, January 11, 2013 |
2014 Corvette Crossed Flag Logo. For the seventh-generation Corvette, the Crossed Flags design has a more angular and swept appearance --a proportion that echoes the new car and suggests speed. It is also a more detailed representation, showing greater depth, color and attention to detail. The 2014 Corvette will be revealed at the 2013 North American International AutoShow in Detroit in January. A gallery of the 'vettes since 1953.
2014 Corvette Crossed Flag Logo. For the seventh-generation Corvette, the Crossed Flags design has a more angular and swept appearance –a proportion that echoes the new car and suggests speed. It is also a more detailed representation, showing greater depth, color and attention to detail. The 2014 Corvette will be revealed at the 2013 North American International AutoShow in Detroit in January. A gallery of the ‘vettes since 1953.
By Nathan Bomey

Free Press business writer

General Motors will reveal the all-new Chevrolet Corvette in a special private event Sunday night in Detroit, on the eve of press previews at the North American International Auto Show.

The automaker has been closely guarding details about the seven-generation version of the iconic sports car, but that will stop at 7 p.m.

Follow freep.com for live video and updates from the Russell Industrial Center on Clay Street, where the new C7 ‘Vette will be unveiled.

You can also follow Free Press GM reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.

“It will be one of the most beautiful cars ever made,” GM CEO Dan Akerson said. “That’s not a high-volume car for us, but it will be one that’s a statement about the company.”

Expect more auto news throughout the day Sunday, including industry projections and a Mercedes-Benz event in the evening.

All automakers will hold press conferences Monday and Tuesday. On Twitter, follow autos stories @FreepAutos, follow Ford reporter Alisa Priddle @AlisaPriddle and track Chrysler reporter Brent Snavely @BrentSnavely.
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Chrysler CEO delivers first 2013 SRT Viper at Detroit plant

9:03 AM, January 11, 2013 |
The 2013 SRT Viper, revealed at the New York International Auto Show in April, will begin reaching dealerships in December. Produced at Chryslers' Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit, the highly anticipated SRT Viper will start at $99,390 while a more refined SRT Viper GTS starts at $122,390.
The 2013 SRT Viper, revealed at the New York International Auto Show in April, will begin reaching dealerships in December. Produced at Chryslers’ Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit, the highly anticipated SRT Viper will start at $99,390 while a more refined SRT Viper GTS starts at $122,390.
By Brent Snavely

Free Press Business Writer

2013 SRT Viper / Chrysler
Chrysler delivered the first 2013 SRT Viper to a customer today at its Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit.

“Viper is Chrysler,” CEO Sergio Marchionnne said during a ceremony at the plant today in a video posted on Chrysler’s media site. “If there is a car that defines what we are as a carmaker out there to people who are into carmaking, this is the car.”

Marchionne, SRT Brand President and CEO Ralph Gilles and employees of the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant presented the first 2013 SRT Viper to Scott Thomas, 40, of Oklahoma City.

Thomas purchased a Stryker red Viper.

Introduced as the Dodge Viper in 1992, the high-performance sports car was sold through 2010 when the automaker’s financial crisis caused Chrysler to put the brakes on production.

The new Viper returns with an all-aluminum, 8.4-liter V10 engine that delivers 640 horsepower and 600 lb.-ft. of torque.

Production of Viper began Dec. 5, 2012, and shipments are expected to begin in February. The base price for the Viper is $99,390.

Contact Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512 or bsnavely@freepress.com
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Detroit auto show will have more room and more technology at Cobo Center

January 11, 2013 |
Nissan crew members assemble display components in preparation for the 2013 North American International Auto Show on Thursday.
Nissan crew members assemble display components in preparation for the 2013 North American International Auto Show on Thursday. / Jarrad Henderson/Detroit Free Press
By Brent Snavely

Detroit Free Press Business Writer

Ford global auto show operations manager David Tillapaugh walks through the display with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. "We continue to introduce new features, new technologies and we have plans for the future that are really exciting," Tillapaugh said.

Ford global auto show operations manager David Tillapaugh walks through the display with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. “We continue to introduce new features, new technologies and we have plans for the future that are really exciting,” Tillapaugh said. / Jarrad Henderson/Detroit Free Press
A 1948 Ford F-1 pickup is displayed in preparation for the Detroit auto show.

A 1948 Ford F-1 pickup is displayed in preparation for the Detroit auto show. / Jarrad Henderson/Detroit Free Press
More
In addition to several dozen never-before-seen cars, this year’s Detroit auto show will feature a new Nissan display with a 150-foot halo, the largest Toyota display ever and a new 30,000-square-foot atrium at Cobo Center.
For Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who toured Cobo on Thursday, the renovations at the convention center and the rebounding automotive industry were enough to make him long for his days as an automotive supplier.
“I’ll tell you what, I have mixed emotions,” said Bing, who owned a steel stamping company called Bing Steel before he became mayor. “There is a feeling in your gut that says, you know, I miss this.”
Bing was impressed with the atrium with a glass entrance overlooking the Detroit River that is part of a $279-million upgrade of Cobo Center.
The new riverside entrance was installed during the years-long renovations undertaken by the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority. The authority took over management of the center from the City of Detroit in 2009, after years of debate.
Bing said the authority, supported by the Detroit Auto Dealers Association’s commitment to continue to hold the auto show at Cobo Center, illustrates the potential of regional cooperation.
“I came into office in 2009, at a point when there were a lot of questions about whether or not the international auto show would remain at Cobo,” Bing said. “This is the beginning of something that needs to happen in southeast Michigan.”
Official news conferences for the 2013 North American International Auto Show begin Monday, and it opens to the public on Jan. 19. It is among the largest auto shows in the world.
On the show floor, automakers appear to be investing more money than they have in several years on stunning, bi-level displays with stadium seating for news conferences and the latest interactive technology.
On Thursday, hundreds of construction workers were still scurrying around the convention center, rushing to install the giant stages, displays and lights that will showcase the auto industry’s newest cars and trucks.
“Some of differences this year are: Toyota is in a different space this year, Cadillac is separated from General Motors, and Nissan has a brand new display,” said Bob Shuman, co-chairman of the show. “There are just new displays, new cars, and it just gets better every year.”
Nissan, borrowing a trick used by high-end luxury retailers and hotels, plans to pipe its own distinctive scent called the Vert Oriental into its display area.
A team of global executives reviewed several possible scents from several companies before deciding on the smell, said Erich Marx, director of social media and interactive marketing for Nissan North America.
Vert Oriental is a delicate aroma that captures the essence of a green tea scent during Chinese spring harvest, according to Nissan’s scent supplier.
“At Nissan, we feel like this is an opportunity to experiment,” Marx said. “Just like high-end retailers.”
Nissan also will debut a new stand with a 150-foot-long halo that appears to float over a stadium seating-style stage.
The new display, designed and constructed by George P. Johnson of Auburn Hills, will be featured at 10 other auto shows this year.
David Tillapaugh, Ford’s global auto show operations manager, said the Dearborn automaker is displaying an original 1948 F-1 pickup and will be emphasizing its F-Series pickups at the show.
“We continue to introduce new features, new technologies and we have plans for the future that are really exciting,” Tillapaugh said. “There are going to be some surprises at the show.”
A total of 68 vehicles will be showcased at Ford’s 60,000-square-foot exhibit this year.
Toyota and Lexus also are going big at this year’s auto show. The 35,000-square-foot exhibit eclipses all previous Toyota stands at NAIAS.
Toyota’s display will show the Tundra CrewMax, which helped transport the retired space shuttle Endeavour to its new home at the California Science Center last October.
Contact Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512 or bsnavely@freepress.com

More Details: 2013 North American International Auto Show

Where: Cobo Center
Saturday – The Gallery at MGM Grand Detroit is an exclusive VIP night with high-end vehicles.
Sunday – Invitation-only pre-show events begin for the media and special guests.
Monday-Tuesday – Media days with about 55 vehicle launches.
Wednesday-Thursday – Industry days for suppliers and dealers.
Jan. 18 – Charity Preview. Tickets are $300 and can be purchased online at charitypreview.com or by calling 888-838-7500.
Jan. 19-27 – Public days. 9 a.m.-10 p.m. except for 9 a.m.-7 p.m. on Jan. 27. Cost is $12 for adults.
Follow our coverage
ONLINE: www.freep.com
FACEBOOK: Follow us at Facebook.com/detroitfreepress and Facebook.com/freepautos for the latest auto show photos and videos.
TWITTER: Follow @freep and @freepautos with hashtag #naias. For live coverage, follow our Twitter list: http://twitter.com/freepautos/detroit-auto-show.
LIVE BLOG: Follow the action at Cobo on Freep.com with our live blog.
INSTAGRAM: We’ll be Instagram-blogging on Freep.com; also follow @detroitfreepress with hashtag #naias for more.
ON YOUR PHONE: Download the Detroit Free Press app on your iPad, iPhone or Android phone and tap on “Auto Show” for complete coverage.
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Honda announces plans to cut 800 jobs

7:59 AM, January 11, 2013 |
Associated Press
Japanese automaker Honda says it will cut about one in four jobs at its United Kingdom factory as it struggles with low demand in Europe.

Honda Motor Europe says poor sales across Europe due to the region’s economic crisis are behind the loss of 800 positions among its 3,500 member workforce in Swindon. The plant makes the Civic, Jazz and CR-V models.

Honda has been making cars in Britain since 1992. About 165,000 cars were built in Swindon last year — though it has the capacity to build 250,000.

The decision comes despite some bright spots in the industry. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reported this week that new car sales in the United Kingdom topped 2 million last year, the best since 2008.
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China auto sales accelerate in December

8:03 AM, January 11, 2013 |
n this file photo taken Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, Models pose with a Great Wall Haval at the company's booth at the Guangzhou 2012 Auto Show in China's southern city of Guangzhou.

n this file photo taken Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, Models pose with a Great Wall Haval at the company’s booth at the Guangzhou 2012 Auto Show in China’s southern city of Guangzhou. / Vincent Yu/Associated Press
By Joe McDonald

Associated Press

BEIJING — China’s auto sales rose 7.1% in 2012 after growth accelerated in December as an economic recovery began to gain traction, an industry group reported today.

Sales in the world’s biggest market by number of vehicles sold totaled 15.5 million units, the China Association of Auto Manufacturers said. December sales rose 6.9% to 1.46 million vehicles.

Global automakers are looking to China to drive revenues amid weakness elsewhere. But last year’s growth was hampered by an economic slump and ownership restrictions imposed by some cities to curb traffic and smog.

Full-year growth was healthy even though it came in below the CAAM’s earlier forecast of 8%, said Zhang Xin, an industry analyst for Guotai Jun’an Securities in Beijing.

“The purchasing power of Chinese auto customers is pretty good,” said Zhang. “Growth in 2013 could be even better, even without any stimulus. And the new government also is advocating expanding domestic demand.”

The communist government is promoting auto manufacturing and ownership but has tried to fine-tune policies to encourage sales of smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. General Motors Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz have launched lower-priced Chinese brands for the vast but poor rural market.

Sales that racked up monthly double digit increases in the first half of the year decelerated as China’s economic growth slowed to a three-year low of 7.4 percent in the three months ended in September. Sales growth declined steadily from June’s 15.8% to 11% in July before bottoming out at 3.7% in August.

As for China’s new but ambitious domestic automakers, sales rose 6.1% to 6.5 million vehicles, meaning they lost market share to global rivals, the association said. Their share of the passenger car market declined 0.4 percentage point from 2011 to 41.9%.

“They are hurt more by foreign brands than by local or the newly created local ones,” said Zhang. “Competition in the future will be stronger and stronger, for sure.”

Total vehicle sales including trucks and buses rose 7.1% in December to 1.8 million vehicles, according to the CAAM. For the year, sales rose 4.3% to 19.3 million vehicles.

Also Friday, the Chinese government released a forecast that total vehicle sales should rise to 20.8 million this year.

Among global automakers, Ford Motor Co. said earlier sales of Ford brand vehicles in China rose 21% in 2012 to 626,616 vehicles. It said December sales rose 43 percent from a year earlier to 70,510.

Sales of Japanese brands were hurt by tensions between Beijing and Tokyo over disputed islands in the East China Sea, which kept buyers away from the showrooms of Japanese autos.

Nissan said its 2012 sales fell 5.3 percent to 1.18 million vehicles but beat its forecast of 1.175 million. It said December sales of 90,400 vehicles showed a “continuing recovery trend” over November but gave no details.

Daimler said Chinese sales of its Mercedes-Benz, Smart, AMG and Maybach brands rose 4% over 2011 to 206,150 vehicles.

Fu Ting in Shanghai contributed.
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Oil near $94 as China inflation picks up

7:51 AM, January 11, 2013 |
A woman with a child stands near vegetable stalls in Beijing Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.

A woman with a child stands near vegetable stalls in Beijing Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. / Ng Han Guan/Associated Press
By Pamela Sampson

Associated Press

BANGKOK — Oil prices edged down today following a rise in China’s inflation that if sustained could limit measures to support growth.

Benchmark oil for February delivery was down 3 cents to $93.79 per barrel at late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract rose 72 cents to finish at $93.82 a barrel in New York on Thursday, a gain that traders attributed to a rebound in China’s trade growth, which suggests a possible recovery in global demand.

Data released Thursday showed China’s export growth in December more than quadrupled from the previous month’s level to 14 percent. Imports rose 6 percent, after failing to grow at all in November, in a sign of increasing domestic demand.

It was tempered, however, by data Friday that showed China’s inflation spiked to a six-month high in December. Consumer prices rose 2.5% over a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said, driven by a 14.8% jump in vegetable prices after a severe winter hurt harvests.

Higher inflation could hamper Beijing’s ability to support China’s recovery.

“Although this shows greater demand in China, it also stokes inflationary fears, which might lead to some form of tightening,” said Stan Shamu of IG Markets in Melbourne.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 31 cents to $110.80 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

• Wholesale gasoline fell 1 cent to $2.784 a gallon.

• Heating oil was down 0.3 cent to $3.051 a gallon.

• Natural gas rose 2.6 cents to $3.219 per 1,000 cubic feet.
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Streaming Video

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All-new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette launch

Introduction of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette at 7 p.m. ET, Jan. 13

 

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Jeep 2014 unveilings

Live debut of new and refreshed 2014 Jeeps, 8 am ET, Jan. 14.

 

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The Lincoln MKC compact crossover concept

Lincoln unveils MKC concept at 9:10 am ET, Jan. 14.

 

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Audi world premieres 

Audi presents 2 world premieres, including the SQ5 crossover, at 12:05 pm ET Jan. 14.

 

http://bit.ly/XqkMWQ

 

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/#ixzz2HnroDHMd

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(NCAA collge football may evolve into as few a 4 SUPER CONFERENCES that offer full-cost-of-tuition scholarships.–Ed Meyer)

Big Bang Theories: The Countdown To Super-Conferences (Part 4)

January 11th, 2013 09:00 AM║ Posted By: John Pennington

Schools: 
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BIG BANG THEORIES MRSEC BEST
Since the Big Ten uncorked the bottle holding the conference realignment genie back in November, rumors of more massive changes to come have been spreading across the country. Fans enjoy the “fantasy league” nature of the discussion. People in industries connected to college sports (television, athletic equipment suppliers, agencies holding media rights) simply accept that their world is in for more change. While several of the folks we’ve spoken to in various SEC athletic departments seem to dread the next round of shuffling.
Count us among those who’d like to see the biggest conferences pause, reflect, and observe how the last batch of changes turn out… before changing things once more. Unfortunately it looks as though further changes are unavoidable.
Schools want to make more money and conference swaps can help them do that. Conferences want to either stabilize themselves, guarantee themselves more money, or both. And television networks want more and more content — that means games — with which to fill their program schedules. Add it all up and it certainly appears that the era of the super-conferences is almost here.
Last month, we began a series of breakdowns on realignment and expansion. In Part One we looked at which schools might be looking to switch conferences in order to bolster their bank accounts. In Part Two we examined those 25 “up for grabs” schools to see which ones would probably be on power conferences’ wish lists. In Part Three we looked at the five remaining power conferences and their various options moving forward.
In this, the final part of our series, we try to tie everything together for you. It’s not been easy because many different people are saying many different things these days. That’s the nature of these things, of course. Everyone from an old buddy who works for a major television network to a contact/source who works inside an SEC athletic department wants us to believe he’s got his finger on the pulse of this stuff. We’ve tried to cut through the clutter and deliver what we believe to be some pretty accurate recon of the shifting conference landscape, but it’s far from definitive. This a chess game amongst world class players with billions of dollars at stake. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that sources — especially those at schools — might be willing to float misinformation to cause panic elsewhere.
So what you’re about to see should be taken as our view on this early-January day of where the conferences might move in the coming days, weeks, months and years. It should not be taken as gospel. With the television dollars, threats of litigation, and pure politics involved in these realignment decisions, what’s true at breakfast could be false by dinner.
All that said, we’ve been doing this site for five years. We’ve been seen or heard in just about every state in the union thanks to television and radio outlets turning to us for SEC news and opinion. We’re not interested in throwing all that away just for the sake of a day’s worth of pageviews. If that were our modus operandi, we’d have just tossed out every new rumor we’ve heard when we heard it. We’d get pageviews alright, but we wouldn’t be accurate. And we’d rather be accurate.
Go back through our archives and you’ll find that long before Texas A&M started angling toward the SEC, we made the clear statement that the Aggies would be as good a pull for the league as Texas. On the day A&M announced it would stay in the Big XII back in 2010, we wrote that the Aggies and the SEC were still destined to partner with one another. We were also the first site to mention Missouri as a possible SEC expansion partner way back in 2010 (and we took a lot of guff for throwing out such a “nonsensical” idea, too).
We try to maintain a healthy amount of skepticism when we speak to sources about expansion and realignment. That’s worked out well for us so far. We’ll see if it does this time around.
ACC
Why the league would expand: To protect itself from outside raids and guarantee itself a position in the new super-division we see on the horizon. (For those who haven’t been keeping up, we believe it’s only a matter of time before 65-80 FBS schools form a new division within the NCAA football world that plays by its own rules and hands out full-cost-of-tuition scholarships. The schools in the super-division would also make a heckuva lot more money off of television and playoff rights.)
Strongest chatter at the moment: Most sources we’ve spoken to believe the ACC’s days are numbered. The Big Ten, Big XII and SEC are all reportedly lusting after different schools in John Swofford’s league. One founding member (Maryland) left in November. The league’s television dollars aren’t on par with the remaining power conferences. So if the league doesn’t want to go the way of the Big East, ACC presidents had better do one of two things… maybe both.
Who makes sense and why: The ACC needs to land Notre Dame as a full football member. The Irish don’t want to surrender their football independence and they would have other options (Big Ten or Big XII most likely), but if their eyes are on southern recruits and a growing southern population then the ACC would make the most sense. Also, one television executive told us Swofford should try to force a grant of rights agreement on his schools. But the universities hold the ultimate power and there appears to be no interest in signing such a binding pact.
What the ACC should do: The ACC is fighting for its existence. Maryland’s departure was a warning sign. With that in mind, Swofford has to find some way to convince Notre Dame to climb aboard his listing ship. Even it meant allowing Notre Dame to keep their own football deal in place with NBC. Would the current ACC schools be okay with ending the league’s share-and-share-alike revenue distribution policy? For a school like Florida State or Clemson that is rumored to have some interest in the Big XII, would it be more palatable to stay in the ACC and play little brother to Notre Dame… or move to the Big XII and play little brother to Texas? If Notre Dame can’t be had, then a grant of rights agreement becomes much more important. Different lawyers have different views on how ironclad those types of accords really are, but most believe they are at least strong early on when there are more years — and more money — on the table. Such a deal could at least by the ACC more time to save itself. But again, there seems to be no push toward a grant of rights deal.
What we believe will happen: When you see a to-do list as lengthy as the ACC’s it’s cause for concern. Swofford is having to solve a multi-million dollar Rubik’s Cube. If he gets this turn right, it could undo a previous twist he’s already made. For that reason — and because so many of our sources believe Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia and Virginia Tech have other options — we believe the ACC will wind up as slightly nicer version of the new Big East. If it earns a spot in the new super-division it will do so by a whisker and an eyelash.
Big Ten
Why the league would expand: Television money and a shrinking Midwest population. In recent years Jim Delany has grabbed a mega-brand in Nebraska as well as two schools that provide access to gobs of cable households in Rutgers and Maryland. If the Big Ten could push farther into the South, nab more cable households, and needle the SEC, well, we believe it would… and it will.
Strongest chatter at the moment: As we’ve written since last month, there’s a strong belief that Georgia Tech and Virginia are just waiting to see what Maryland has to pay as an exit fee before they follow the Terps northward. People in the business of media rights deals believe Virginia and Tech are going to move. Sources tell us some ACC coaches are worried those two will leave. And two people we’ve spoken to inside SEC athletic departments have told us they’ve heard and believe those rumors as well. But there’s also a feeling among some that Virginia and North Carolina are the real targets… or that Delany might grab UVA, Tech, UNC and Duke on his way to 18.
Who makes sense and why: Pittsburgh would make perfect sense if the Big Ten believed it needed another metro area for TV purposes (Penn State might not have the juice to block such a move these days). But Delany himself noted in 2010 that population shifts are a part of his league’s thinking. That suggests Virginia, North Carolina, Duke and Georgia Tech are realistic targets for future Big Ten growth. All are AAU institutions, which is so important to that league’s presidents. Finally, while anything’s possible, we’re not buying the chatter that Florida State is on the Big Ten’s wish list. Not one of our sources has suggested that and FSU doesn’t seem to have the academic clout Delany’s league typically desires. That’s doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but you could color us shocked if it did.
What the Big Ten should do: Take a deep breath and wait. As we stated above, the Big Ten is in a position of power. That’s not going to change. Even if the Big XII or the SEC raided the ACC (the SEC would never make the first strike), there would still be some fine southeastern schools left for Delany to grab. The Big Ten should hit the pause button and see how its new roster plays before making further additions.
What we believe will happen: The soon-to-be 14-school Big Ten will eventually become the first super-conference to move past the mythical 16-school barrier. Delany understands the television game as well as anyone and he’ll realize that the bigger his league’s footprint and the more content he has for his Big Ten Network and his other television partners the better. The next move might simply be for two schools, but eventually, we’re guessing the Big Ten jumps beyond 16.
Big XII
Why the league would expand: Necessity. Bob Bowlsby’s league is going to be making some major bank in the coming years from twin deals with FOX and ESPN. Even better for the schools in the Big XII is the fact that there will only be 10 schools sharing all that loot. But if other leagues start expanding, the Big XII schools might be forced into action. Being a 10-team league in the current universe is fine. Being a 10-team league surrounded by 14-, 16-, or 18-team leagues is not.
Strongest chatter at the moment: The Big XII’s geographic placement is both a positive and a negative. It’s a positive because Bowlsby and crew can grab teams from the North, East, South or West. It’s a negative because no major conference to date has been able to thrive and survive as a continental conference. That said, there’s talk that Brigham Young might be a fit to the West (the Cougars have their own network a la Texas). Florida State and Clemson have been discussed for a long while with several FSU boosters and even trustees saying publicly that they’d be interested in hearing what Bowlsby’s league has to offer. “Florida State and Clemson to the Big XII” gets almost as much talk among people in the college sports industry as “Virginia and Georgia Tech to the Big Ten.” That’s saying something. A source inside an SEC athletic department told us not to rule out Miami as a possibility if the Big XII decides it really wants to open up the state of Florida for recruiting. Other possibilities are out there as well. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have been mentioned as potential Big XII targets. Memphis would kill for a bid. Boise State, too. Louisville battled West Virginia for a bid last year and the big-budgeted Cardinals might be back in play should the ACC collapse. And don’t forget that Texas AD DeLoss Dodds would still like to add Notre Dame in some form or fashion, even as a part-timer.
Who makes sense and why: This is a very tough question for three reasons. First, the Big XII doesn’t have to move unless other leagues move first. (Or unless league leaders believe the Big XII’s lack of a conference title game will hurt it in new college football playoff.) Second, Bowlsby’s league won’t be grabbing schools for the purpose of driving up numbers for a conference-owned television network. To make more cash, the Big XII will need to add brand names that will cause ESPN and FOX to re-work their existing deals with the league. Third, no one but Bowlsby and the network execs know what the cut-off line is regarding return on investment. The Big XII could simply go to 12 teams, add a conference title game and stand pat. Or the conference could go to 14. Or 15 (if Notre Dame joined in all sports but football). Or 16 (though we don’t see how a league without its own network could make enough money back to cover the addition of six new schools).
What the Big XII should do: Add two full-time members with major name recognition and try like hell to swipe Notre Dame from the ACC. Eventually, some other conference is going to move and that will force the Big XII into action. If Bowlsby could destabilize the Atlantic Coast Conference by striking first and grabbing a pair of name programs — like Florida State and Clemson — that might be enough to start a full ACC collapse which might put the Irish in play for a part-time membership. If Bowlsby could pull that off the Big 12 would be a 12-school league in football and a 13-school league in all other sports.
What we believe will happen: At some point the Big XII will grow to at least 12 schools. And if other leagues start collecting schools like trading cards, Bowlsby will have to keep up (even though he won’t see the same financial benefit of those other leagues without his own network). If/when the Big Bang comes, here’s guessing the Big XII becomes a 14-school league and then holds (15 if Notre Dame jumps). One other caveat to throw into Big XII’s expansion plans — most of the people we’ve spoken to believe the conference’s grant of rights agreement will indeed prevent schools like Texas or Oklahoma from leaving anytime soon. But would the league tear up the current deal and cut a new one when the new schools joined? Or would those new schools just be rolled into the current agreement? Ask 10 attorneys and you’ll get 10 different answers.
Pac-12
Why the league would expand: To keep up with the Joneses. If other leagues move, the Pac-12 will have to do likewise.
Strongest chatter at the moment: None at the moment. There’s very little gossip out there regarding the Pac-12. We’ve reported already what we’ve heard from a source in the athletic equipment business (think of reps from Nike, Easton, or Under Armour rather than Joe from Foot Locker) — one Pac-12 AD has already met with all of his coaches and told them that the day of the super-conferences is at hand. So don’t expect a commissioner like Larry Scott to be caught napping. If Pac-12 ADs are saying the shift is on, they’ve gotten that word from Scott.
Who makes sense and why: The Pac-12 is trapped in a region that lacks high-profile football powers and high-profile football powers are what drive television contracts. Boise State would provide good football, but little else in terms of “wow” factor. BYU has a solid brand but the school’s television network wouldn’t seem to jive with the Pac-12′s own TV networks. UNLV doesn’t have the academic clout Pac-12 presidents would want, but Arizona State and Washington State aren’t exactly Harvard or Yale, either. Again, the conference’s geographic limitations might force the league to make choices other conferences wouldn’t.
What the Pac-12 should do: Land-locked to the West and rarely on the minds of east o’ the Mississippi media types, Scott will have to roll the dice on some up-and-coming programs. Where better to roll the dice than in Las Vegas? UNLV — as we’ve shown in previous parts of this series — brought in big dollars in athletic revenue in 2011-12. Forget the mobster stereotypes, Vegas is a good-size television market with real potential in athletics. Next, Scott should run back to Texas. He couldn’t snag Texas, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M three years ago, but SMU and Houston would ditch the dying Big East in a nanosecond. Those programs have the capacity for growth, they would stretch the league much farther east, they would open up the Dallas and Houston television markets, and they would allow Pac-12 schools to recruit the Lone Star State. Sexy names? Well, no. But one source inside an SEC athletic department made it clear to us that Houston is a school that’s seen as having big, big potential. Boise State would provide another football name but there’s a risk that the Broncos will take a step back when facing better competition (as Utah has done since joining the Pac-12 two years ago). BYU is likely not a fit due to its TV network and San Diego State probably wouldn’t offer much to a conference that’s already home to four California schools. If we were Scott, Boise State would get a long look for the final spot along with… Hawaii. Yep, a school we didn’t even list among the 25 schools conferences would consider. That’s because travel is a pain, especially for non-revenue sports. But Scott has already targeted Asian markets with the Pac-12 brand and moving closer toward those markets might up the league’s visibility. Hawaii is also a flagship state university. Again, we’d lean toward Boise State, but Scott’s such an outside-the-box thinker that he might spot value in Hawaii. Heck, if not for a 3,500-seat stadium, we wouldn’t be shocked to learn that Scott’s been scouting the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
What we believe will happen: We suspect the Pac-12 will eventually go to 16. Scott tried it once before because he thought he could get incredible value with brands like Oklahoma, Texas and A&M. Now he’ll probably have to make the leap to 16 just to keep his league on somewhat of a level playing field with the power conferences to his east.
SEC
Why the league would expand: Television money. The SEC is the biggest brand in college football today and being the biggest brand in college football means — in this day and age — that you’re also the biggest brand in all of college sports. Mike Slive wouldn’t want to ruin that with risky moves. He can be patient. He can be finicky. And he can let the game come to him. As usual.
Strongest chatter at the moment: Talk to people around the SEC and you’ll hear that Slive would love to snag either North Carolina and Duke or North Carolina and Virginia. One move would bring two massive sports brands into the SEC and improve the league’s basketball reputation immediately. The other move would allow the SEC to put down markers in two more states. Virginia Tech always gets a mention when SEC expansion is kicked around and we’ve had multiple people tell us that they believe the Hokies will one day land in the Southeastern Conference.
Who makes sense and why: We’ve already named them. North Carolina and Duke are major names and the SEC already has one private school in Vanderbilt, so adding Duke would not be a problem. That pair of schools would allow the SEC to claim every cable household in the state. Virginia and Virginia Tech would do the same in their state, plus they’d push the league into the major media market of Washington, DC. Tech’s culture would be a perfect fit for the Southeastern Conference. NC State is often mentioned by fans as a potential partner, but the Wolfpack — according to a media rights expert — can’t bring to the table what the Tar Heels and Blue Devils do. Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Clemson make sense in terms of proximity. FSU is also a top-natch brand (despite what Florida fans will tell you). But none of those four schools add television value for the in-development SEC Network. If the league gets defensive about other leagues trying to put down roots in the South then, sure, those schools might get a look. But when was the last time Slive made a defensive move?
What the SEC should do: Absolutely nothing. The league is well-positioned. Slive should smoke a cigar and sip his Blanton’s bourbon until another move becomes necessary. In a perfect world, everyone would tap the brakes on this expansion-mania and see how 2013, 2014, and 2015 play out before rushing into any more major decisions. Sadly, we don’t believe the relative peace we’ve enjoyed since November — hey, a whole month! — will last. Not one person we’ve spoken to in any sports-related field believes this respite is anything other than the quiet before the storm.
What we believe will happen: Whatever the Big Ten does, the SEC will likely also do. If that means going past 16 schools in order to provide as much television content as possible, we bet Slive would do it. Now, we’ve been told since A&M and Missouri joined the league that conference leaders aren’t eager to rush another round of expansion. But Slive always has a plan. And an ACC source told Matt Hayes of The Sporting News that the SEC has been wooing UNC and Duke for “the last three years.” If locked into a duel with the Big Ten for UNC and Duke, would the SEC be willing to take NC State to make the move more appealing to Duke and UNC? Yes, we believe so. The SEC would own the state of North Carolina and it would grab two national brands in the process. According to a network executive, if a Virginia school could be hooked as well, the overall revenue boom might make up for the seemingly wasted addition of a third Carolina school. But we believe this much to be true — if the Big Ten stands pat, the SEC will likely stand pat, too. If the Big Ten moves to 16 schools, the SEC will likely follow. If the Big Ten balloons to 18, well, then we’re not so sure. It’s hard to picture Slive allowing Delany’s league to make more cash than the SEC, but just as the Big Ten has an AAU requirement, the SEC has a bit of cultural requirement. With the exception of Vanderbilt, most SEC schools are large, public universities located in rural settings or small cities where the schools’ athletics rule the local scene. Finding four such schools that also provide television value might not be easy.
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