Divorces can be messy and expensive (ask me how I know) and take longer than thought (ask Frau Schmitto-san how she knows). Or ask Ford and Mazda. When Ford’s love affair with Mazda unraveled because Ford needed the cash, there was the case of their Chinese three-way joint venture with Changan. Two years ago, a deal was struck. It supposedly received the all-important Chinese government approval. Supposedly. Today, the threesome still isn’t dissolved. But it won’t be much longer. Read More >
Even after its death, Saab is still good for some excitement. Today, the Wall Street Journal breathlessly reported that an “electric-vehicle consortium buys Saab assets.” When you click on the link in Google, you get your assets handed to you via a rude 404: Page not found. The same is happening with many sites that reported a sale of Saab’s assets to a company called National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), which is as Swedish as chopsticks.
What is behind those missing links? Who is the nice man who goes thumbs up next to China Communist Party Polit Bureau member Li Keqiang? And why has he allegedly just bought Saab? Read More >
Yesterday, we introduced you to a matte-black LFA and a baby-blue sticker that led us to the car’s owner. There was another sticker on that car. A round red one. If the global automotive industry should copy anything from Japan immediately and now, then it’s that round sticker.
Eons before social networks came upon us, the automotive industry became obsessed with maintaining customer relationships, creating traffic and maintaining customer loyalty in showrooms and service departments. Bazillions have been spent for that effort. Millions of them went into my pocket, which, years after leaving the lucrative business, still enables me to work for TTAC and not go hungry. The ingenious Japanese solved it all with that sticker. Read More >
Today, at 2:46 pm, Japan came to a stand-still, again. Trains and subways stopped. People did fold their hands, faced in the general direction of the northeastern coast of Tohoku, and said a silent prayer. Japan and the world marked the one year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that left whole towns razed, more than 19,000 people dead or missing, 344,000 people displaced, and a large area around the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi power plant off-limits for decades, if not permanently.
Writers often like to equate the power released by the quake to the nuclear bombs that had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Depending on who you read and believe, it was anywhere between 31,700 and 600 million Hiroshima bombs. Large parts of the coastal areas are dotted with huge, neatly stacked piles of rubble which nobody wants to take and nobody knows what to do with. The devastation was so big that it turned into an attraction on Google Earth. Considering the immense damage, it is amazing how quickly the country did rebound. On Friday, I visited what was presented to me as an emblem of the amazing turn-around, Toyota’s plant in Kanegasaki, Iwate Prefecture. Here, 1,700 employees are working overtime to build Toyota’s Aqua / Prius c, for which everybody is screaming. Read More >
For a long time, Japan’s automakers had pressured their government to enter free trade talks with Europe and the U.S. The Japanese government had dragged its heels, putting the interest of ageing farmers first. With a trade agreement, Japan would be a ripe market for American rice farmers and cattle breeders, and I would finally be able to enjoy a good steak in Japan without risking a heart attack. Caused by the price, not by the cholesterol.
After the Japanese car industry did flee the strong yen and the country, its government reluctantly entered negotiations. Not surprisingly, the American car industry is opposed. Read More >
I remember looking at the then brand new Ford Five Hundred and thinking to myself, “This would make one heck of a Volvo.”
Like the Volvos of yore this Ford offered a squarish conservative appearance. A high seating position which Volvo’s ‘safety oriented’ customers would have appreciated. Toss in a cavernous interior that had all the potential for a near-luxury family car, or even a wagon, and this car looked more ‘Volvo’ than ‘Ford’ to me with each passing day.
Something had to be done…
“When we started working on the FT-86 we had no idea where we would end up,” said Tetsuya Tada, whom I met last Sunday to talk about his work.
“Was it going to be a ridiculously expensive car? Or one anyone can buy? All we knew it was going to be a sports car. The rest was a blank sheet.”
The FT-86 that eventually took shape on this blank sheet will be in showrooms down the street from you, all over the world, next year.
The FT-86 ”may just be the car to herald Toyota’s ‘second renaissance,” if some enthusiast blogs are right.
At the very least, this car will change how we think and dream of a sports car: We won’t. This is not a dream car. For most of us, it will be an impulse buy.
Tetsuya Tada tells its story. Read More >
The chief reason for the recent decline of the fortunes of Japanese automakers was not, as posited by pop pundits, the recalls or the tsunami. It was something more insidious, something regularly overlooked by most outsiders and many insiders. It was a reduction in development spending – an eventually deadly bottom line therapy also popular by cash-starved American peers. Japanese automakers have realized the error of their ways and have returned to funding the finding of that insanely great next generation car. Read More >
Toyota’s Japan production (all vehicles and brands) slumped 46.5 percent in May to 156,379 units. Overseas production did not fare much better, falling 43.3 percent to 196,073 units. All in all, Toyota’s global production plummeted 44.7 percent in May to just 352,452 units. Could it be any worse? Yes, it can: Exports from Japan cratered 61.7 percent to 47,167 units. Read More >
“If you have no cars, you will lose market share,” said double-CEO Carlos Ghosn at last week’s annual results conference of Nissan. He said openly what other carmakers on the other side of the Pacific only dare to whisper into the ears of sympathetic reporters, or via analysts at banks and brokerages: The March 11 tsunami will cost Japanese makers big chunks of market share. The questions is: For how long? Read More >
When you have a problem, there usually is no shortage of well-meant advice. When it emerged that power shortage is the biggest problem of the quake- and tsunami-stricken Japanese auto industry, or the Japanese industry as whole, good advice came pouring in. It ranged from “why don’t they just park an aircraft carrier by the dock” to “what’s wrong with using generators?” What’s wrong with them? Read More >
Many friends asked us what they can do to help the people in Japan. After many emails and Skype calls with family and friends, here are Don’ts and Dos of helping. Read More >
„We should check our earthquake bag.“
That was one of the first things my wife said as we watched the news from Tokyo from a safe Beijing distance. Earthquakes are part of your life in Japan.
Next to our bed in Tokyo is a big black knapsack, filled with all kinds of survival gear: Water, space blanket, a small tarp, babywipes, two sets of MREs, a big knife, a radio, a flashlight. When the earth shakes, the idea is to grab the bag and to abandon the building as fast as you can. The evacuation path is mapped out and burned into our brain. Read More >
On Wednesday, March 9th, Toyota will announce its new long term strategy plan to the public. A core piece will be a push into emerging markets. TTAC has been following signs of this for a while. The signs range from a car, the Etios, designed exclusively for the emerging markets, to a factory up in the woods near Sendai, Japan, that looks very much like a prototype for Toyota’s latest export product: Low cost car factories.
The Nikkei [sub] agrees and says that “Toyota Motor Corp. is overhauling its strategy because it is now clear that emerging nations will replace industrialized ones as its most important markets.” Will replace? Wake up! Read More >
Today, I saw a new, and so far the finest specimen of Japan’s new export products: A car factory. Remember when the Nikkei wrote about a new Toyota factory in the Miyagi Prefecture with a U-shaped assembly line where the assembly time is cut down to a third? Not only did they get it wrong. They missed the best part of the story: Budget car factories, ready for export. Of course, that’s not how it was sold to the natives.
Ohira is a little village near Sendai. Sendai is a town two Shinkansen hours north of Tokyo. The area is famous for its beef tongue, not the hottest export item. Ohira was known for exactly nothing until Toyota decided in 2007 to relocate their factory from Sagamihara, in the outskirts of Tokyo, up into the woods of Ohira.
A year later, the whole region went into shock: Read More >