Here's what we have our eye on today:
- In last night's State of the Union address, President Barack Obama touted bailouts for the auto industry, citing GM's return to No. 1 — with 9.03 million global sales in 2011 — and Chrysler’s U.S. sales increases.
- True to CEO Carlos Ghosn's comments at this month's Detroit auto show, Nissan announced plans to build subcompact cars at a new $2 billion manufacturing complex in Mexico. The automaker currently builds the Versa, Sentra and a handful of international nameplates at two existing Mexico plants.
- In congressional hearings over fires that followed several crash tests on the Chevrolet Volt, GM CEO Dan Akerson said the plug-in hybrid is "a political punching bag," the Detroit News reports. GOP lawmakers hammered the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for waiting until Bloomberg News reported the fires on Nov. 11; NHTSA says it was still sorting through information and would have disclosed the incidents "fairly soon." Following fixes by GM to the battery pack, the agency closed its Volt investigation last Friday.
- In efforts to meet federal fuel economy standards, many carmakers are ditching spare tires — their weight, including related tools, can exceed 40 pounds — for run-flat options or tire sealant kits, AAA says. Tire sealant becomes less effective with age; AAA recommends replacing it every five years.
- The National Automobile Dealers Association remains opposed to stiffer 2025 federal fuel economy standards supported by 13 automakers, the Obama administration, auto unions and the state of California. Seeking market-based solutions to higher fuel economy, NADA says an estimated $3,200-per-car increase in vehicle prices over 2010 levels would price 7 million U.S. consumers out of the new-car market in 2025.