By on January 6, 2009

A short overview of what happened in other parts of the world while you were in bed. TTAC provides round-the-clock coverage of everything that has wheels. Or has its wheels coming off. WAS is being filed from Beijing.

Toyota Motor Corp halts production at Japanese plants: They’ll do that for 11 days in February and March, Reuters reports. A 37 percent slump in December sales in Toyota’s biggest market U.S.A. was its sharpest fall in more than a quarter of a century and worse than General Motors and Ford Motor.

Porsche owns more than half of VW: Porsche has raised its stake in Volkswagen to more than 50 percent, and as a result they may end up with a truck company they do not want, writes Reuters. A Porsche spokesman confirmed that the sports car maker still planned to increase its stake in VW to 75 percent at some point this year, given a favorable market environment. As a result of its stake hike on Monday, Porsche now has indirect control of Swedish truck maker Scania, in which Volkswagen holds about 69 percent of the voting rights. Porsche is required by Swedish law to make a mandatory takeover offer, but the German sports car maker said it had no strategic interest in Scania and was not interested in acquiring Scania shares. It said it was not bound by pre-acquisition prices and was only obliged to offer the minimum price prescribed by law.

Japan‘s sales down for the 5th year: Japan’s domestic auto sales fell last year to their lowest level since the mid-1970s, the Nikkei (sub) reports. According to data released by the Japan Automobile Dealers’ Association, sales of new cars, trucks and buses slid 6.5 percent to 3.212m vehicles last year, down from 3.434m in 2007. That marked the fifth straight year of declines, taking sales to their lowest level since 1974’s 3.133m, officials at the association said.

Suzuki shelves a bigger one: Suzuki puts plans for a larger car on ice, writes the Nikkei (sub.) Suzuki wanted to develop a car with engines up to 3.6 liters. The auto was to debut in 2010. With a recovery not expected for several years, the carmaker has decided to freeze plans for the new vehicle.

Japan’s sales likely down for the 6th year also: Domestic Japanese sales of new automobiles are projected to drop further in 2009, not only because of the sluggish economy but also because of a declining population and the improved reliability of Japanese cars, the Nikkei (sub) writes. The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association forecasts that 4.86m new autos will be sold this year, a further decline of 4.3 percent from the 2008 figure, the lowest on record. “Auto industry officials have started to express concerns that sales will be worse,” writes the Nikkei.

Japan getting charged on batteries: Now that joint ventures are being forged left and right to produce lithium-ion batteries for cars, Japan is coming up with more ideas to put them to good use. The ideas go from hybrid-electric trains to hybrid electric ships and office buildings that use cheaper energy at night to charge batteries for the day. The Nikkei (sub) writes that “Li-ion prices will come down sharply once widespread mass production begins, and that usage might thus spread to nearly every industrial sector.”

China‘s Chery reports the unthinkable: Down sales. Chery said its car sales fell to 356,000 units in 2008 from 381,000 a year earlier, down around 6.6 percent. And they don’t even have the export market to blame: Chery’s exports rose to 135,000 units last year from 119,800 cars in 2007, Gasgoo writes. Reason given? Low demand.

China likes Japan’s Camry the most: 146,872 Camry sedans made by GAC Toyota were registered 2008 in China. The domestically produced Camry tops the sedan registration rankings again after gaining the title in 2007, Gasgoo writes.

GM China up 6.1 percent: GM China’s vehicle sales rose 6.1 percent in 2008, down sharply from 18.5 percent growth the previous year, Reuters reports. GM and its joint ventures sold 1.09m vehicles in China.

China has room to grow: According to China’s Public Security ministry, China reached 41.7m private cars in 2008, Gasgoo reports. Using 1.3b as the current Chinese population figure (it’s likely higher,) that comes out to 32 cars per 1000 population, a far cry from 776 in the U.S.A. (a number that is likely to fall.)

Aussie autos down further in 2009: Australian sales of cars and trucks are expected to fall 13 percent this year, Bloomberg writes. Sales will drop to 880,000 vehicles from 1.01 million in 2008, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries said. Sales fell 3.6 percent in 2008 from the previous year.

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7 Comments on “While America Slept. Tuesday, January 6, 2009...”

  • avatar

    Does anyone else but me think that if we all use the cheaper electricity at night that our respective utility companies will catch on and raise the rates?

  • avatar

    Li-ion prices will come down sharply once widespread mass production begins, and that usage might thus spread to nearly every industrial sector.

    Really? I’ve got a US Geological Survey report on my desk openly wondering where all the Lithium is going to come from? Fully 70% of reserves are supposedly in Chile.

    Rare resources are getting rarer……

    An interesting primer for the problem.

    For example, 2006 estimates had ~360 years of platinum left (not necessarily economically recoverable) which is a lot. BUT, if the whole world population consumed platinum at just 50% of the US rate, there would be 42 years left.

    Things like methanol fuel cells are going to be extremely important rather than batteries. Fuel cells are closed systems and apart from the catalyst (which is not lost like in ICE exhausts) are based on simple compounds.

    It’s a complex topic, but the article itself is worth reading.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Japan’s domestic auto market is in permanent decline if for no other reason than that its population is both shrinking and aging. 2005 was the first year Japan officially lost population: If present trends continue, Japan is projected to loose half its population over the next seventy years:

    Older people buy fewer cars, and dead people buy none. Then there is the fact that the younger generation in developed nations sees cars more and more as a hassle and less and less as a pleasure. Japan’s auto companies must keep expanding overseas just to stay even.

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    I am extremely curious to see where Japan’s car market finds a level. And frankly, I think Japan is going to stand a lot of Jeremy Clarkson’s national/cultural vehicle attribute stuff on its head. Does it makes sense that a society that is out of love with cars could be the world standard at selling and building them? Why not. Americans love cars (even if they can’t afford them) but look at our industry. Not that globalization wasn’t making his nationality-based worldview obsolete anyway…

  • avatar

    dmk976 Does anyone else but me think that if we all use the cheaper electricity at night that our respective utility companies will catch on and raise the rates?

    Who pays less for “cheaper electricity” at night? Funny I keep hearing that claim about EVs as if varying rates are universal, but in fact the vast majority of people pay the same price per kilowatt-hour no matter what time they consume the electricity, just as I certainly do. Look at your meter.

    Ed N I am extremely curious to see where Japan’s car market finds a level

    Jack Horner makes a great point about demographics. As a long term trend, there is simply no reason to expect that car sales in Japan will ever again do anything other than fall, fall forever, until there is no more Japan.

  • avatar

    Fighting demographics is a losing proposition. If there are less and less people who may possibly buy your product, you are doomed to sell less product, whatever you do. It’s simple to understand, but very few people do. The same as in Japan is happening in Germany. Beginning in 1970, births halved. Germany’s population peak is now in the mid 40s. 40-60 happens to be the main new car buying age in Germany. That’s why Germany’s new car market had boomed and will be ok for a while. In 2020, it will totally collapse.

    If you look at the US at you will se a peak in the 40-49 year group, followed by a trough in the 25-39 age group. We are heading into a period of a lot of potential buyers missing. In 15-20 years, it will improve again. If someone has average ages of American new car buyers (reliable data, please,) the I can do a proper analysis.

    I did that 10 years ago for Europe, predicted a car boom, and I was right.

    Speaking of Japan, Japan’s population peak is around 60 years old.

  • avatar

    As far as the population of Japan goes, predictions that the last Japanese will simply die out are simply ridiculous.

    If the small number of young people gain opportunities because there are so few of them, people in Japan will have LOTS of babies.

    Seeing the neighbor’s 14 year old bringing in a living wage after school at the nursing home in addition to a large child subsidy ought to get their attention.

    If it doesn’t, a couple of hundred million Chinese or Indonesians will be glad to take over.

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