Category: WAS

By on March 5, 2009

An 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. This column will be filed from Berlin until further notice – if & when time allows.

We are the German government, and we are here to help you, Opel: The German government is still waiting for Opel to hand in a solid business plan that could be the basis of financial assistance. What Opel has submitted so far has been found inadequate. Finance Minister Steinbrueck today put Opel on notice that without solid information there will be no money decision. Volker Kauder, head of the CDU faction said: “It looks like they need help to come up with a concept. We’ll help ’em.”

Saab? Volvo? Bu yao! Chinese automakers Dongfeng and Geely said that they have not held any talks over a possible bid for General Motors’ Saab brand, Gasgoo says. A Dongfeng spokesman as unaware of any interest by his company in bidding for the Saab brand. A senior Geely executive, when asked about his company’s possible acquisition of Saab or other brands, told reporters: “No, we did not. We’re not interested in Saab or the other brands out there.” Media reports have also said Geely was in preliminary talks with Ford Motor about the sale of the US automaker’s Volvo car unit. This was likewise denied by Geely. This comes on the heels of the Chinese government warning their automakers to buy overseas assets.
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By on March 4, 2009

An 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. This column will be filed from Berlin until further notice – if & when time allows.

Forster plays the—usual—jobs card: Opel will have to slim down its workforce, says GM Europe chief Carl-Peter Forster, “hopefully not more than 3,500 jobs.” That according to Automobilwoche [sub]. How many and where exactly is unclear—and will depend on how much money which government will fork over. Forster said in Geneva that Opel has surplus capacities of 30 percent.

Sumimasen, can you spare some billions? Japanese automakers are keeping up with the Joneses, or make that Tanakas: Japanese automakers are turning to government lending to secure operational funds, the Nikkei [sub] writes. Honda is considering borrowing from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, Toyota is negotiating a five-year loan of about 200 billion yen, also from JBIC. Mitsubishi Motors has applied for a low-interest loan from the Development Bank of Japan. Honda intends to seek tens of billions of yen in dollar-denominated loans from JBIC for its US financing arm, American Honda Finance Corp. The carmaker aims to build up more cash for auto loans and leases. Toyota Financial Services Corp. has also approached JBIC to procure funds for its US financing unit, Toyota Motor Credit Corp. Nissan is double dipping—at the very least. They applied for a roughly 50 billion yen loan with the DBJ as well as a low-interest loan from the US government. It is also considering tapping JBIC loans.
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By on March 3, 2009

An 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. This column will be filed from Berlin until further notice—if & when time allows.

Time is money: GM Europe is running out of both, Carl-Peter Forster said to today at the Geneva Autoshow, Automobilwoche [sub] reports. GM needs the requested €3.3B “as soon as possible” Forster said. He’s not counting on private investors: “Each discussion with a private investor takes months, half a year at least, and we don’t have that kind of time.” Foster also said that GM has “three plants too many” in Europe. German Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said today he will not be pressured into making a quick decision on granting state aid to General Motors’ Opel unit, Automotive News [sub] says. Germany is considering whether to support Opel after GM Europe unveiled a plan to spin off Opel and its UK sister brand Vauxhall to try to avert job cuts and plant closures.

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By on March 2, 2009

An 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. This column will be filed from Berlin until further noticeif & when time allows.

Japan down again: Japan’s domestic sales of new cars, trucks and buses fell 32.4 percent year-on-year in February, declining for the seventh straight month, the Nikkei [sub] writes. This is the sharpest fall since May 1974, when sales were hit by the first oil shock. Sales in February totaled 218,212 vehicles, down from 322,613 a year earlier, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said. The figures don’t include sales of mini-cars or mini-trucks. Toyota’s sales dropped 32 percent to 98,808 units, with sales of the Lexus luxury car plunging 63 percent. Nissan fell 35.2 percent to 40,694 units, while Honda sold 30,101 vehicles, 21.1 percent fewer than last year.

India coming back to life: Most Indian auto makers led by market leader Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. reported a continued rise in monthly sales, driven mainly by discounts, says the Nikkei [sub]. Analysts said if the sales continue to rise beyond March it may indicate a recovery in Asia’s third-biggest automobile market. Maruti, a unit of Suzuki, sold 79,190 cars, up 24.1 percent from 63,822 a year earlier. Total car sales at the Indian unit of Hyundai Motor Co. in February rose to 38,254 units from 29,001 units a year earlier.
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By on February 27, 2009

An 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. Note: This week-end, BS will change his location to Berlin for a few weeks. WAS will be filed as time allows—or not, as RF fancies to say.

Daimler may buy Opel plant: Opel has contacted Daimler over plans to sell its Corsa-building Eisenach plant. The Financial Times Deutschland [via Reuters] bases its story on “government sources,” who also claim that Opel’s Astra and Zafira-producing Bochum plant is on the chopping block. Daimler management board member, Thomas Weber, said a takeover of Opel is not on the cards. “That also goes for Volvo or Saab,” Weber told Reuters. Meanwhile, Opel’s management is about to present their supervisory board with a restructuring plan. It’s expected to call for thousands of job cost and closure of one or more plants. Opel dealers have signaled a willingness to help secure their livelihoods by taking some form of equity stake in an independent company—an automaker without the excess workers and capacity, presumably.

And here comes the trade war: France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy wants the World Trade Organization to consider the legality of American aid to its domestic automakers. “We need to see if the U.S. aid is compatible with the WTO,” Sarkozy said in eastern France at a roundtable discussion on the car industry on Thursday, reported by  Automotive News [sub]. [NB: This is the same Nicolas Sarkozy who recently announced protectionist aid for French automakers and called for a coordinated European plan to help the E.U.'s car industry.]  EU competition authorities are scrutinizing car industry support from governments in France, Spain, Britain, Italy, Germany and Sweden. Separately, European Transport Commissioner, Antonio Tajani, said Europe’s lawmakers would consider appealing to the WTO if US aid made conditions unfair for European manufacturers.
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By on February 26, 2009

An 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 until further notice.

And finally, the Nano: Tata’s Nano, slated to be the world’s cheapest car at under $2,000, will finally go on sale in April after months of delay caused by problems at its main production plant, Reuters reports. Tata said it would formally launch the Nano on March 23, and buyers could start ordering the model by the second week of April. “We expect only limited quantities to be produced now—maybe about 3,000 a month—so the waiting period could be long,” said Surjit Arora, auto analyst at Prabhudas Lilladher. Tata Motors’ new Nano plant in Gujarat, in western India, is not expected to be ready until the year-end. The company has said it would make the first Nanos at one of its two existing plants in Pune, about 170 km north of Mumbai, and at Pantnagar in northern India.

Aftermath: Japan’s eight passenger car manufacturers curbed their domestic output by 40 percent compared with a year earlier to 560,471 units in January as they stepped up efforts to correct inventory levels amid a sharp downturn in global demand, the Nikkei [sub] sums up yesterday’s reports. Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi Motors, and Mazda had embarked on their biggest cutbacks since they began releasing production data. Daihatsu was the only one to keep its domestic output reductions in the single digits, at 2.7 percent. Production cutbacks overseas also gained momentum, with carmakers lowering output by 41 percent to 602,502 units. Honda curtailed US output 50.1 percent in January. Exports sank more than 50 percent.

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By on February 25, 2009

An 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 until further notice.

Paris backpedals after slap from Brussels: France struck a clause from its €6b bailout package. Recipients were prohibited from closing a plant in France and moving it elsewhere in Europe. Automobilwoche [sub] reports that the clause ran afoul of EU rules. Despite the cleaned-up clause, the French government claims there’s a “moral obligation” for the French to stay in France. Brussels will perform a thorough vetting of the French moral imperative.

Russian bailout: Reuters reports that Russia’s car sales have slumped by one-third. In an effort to save its nascent car industry, Russia will subsidize car loans for consumers buying any one of 30 foreign and domestic models. The car-loan subsidies, worth $55.45m, will compensate banks for charging lower rates on car loans. “The decision to help seven foreign brands along with two Russian ones is a surprise coming from a government that introduced sweeping measures in January to protect local car makers from foreign competition,” says a shocked Reuters. The Ruskies have earmarked another $347m to buy up unsold parts and commercial vehicles from local producers such as AvtoVAZ, as well as Fiat, Isuzu, and SsangYong. [For a full list of parts and vehicles eligible for the two aid programs, click on www.minprom.gov.ru] Russia began a 30 percent import duty on second-hand cars on January 1 to prop up the struggling domestic car industry. The move stirred concerns about protectionism from Russia’s trading partners, and led to large-scale protests in major Russian cities that rely on the second-hand car industry.

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By on February 24, 2009

An 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 until further notice.

Chinese government orders consolidation: The Chinese government issued its plan to consolidate the auto sector. It includes decisions to merge the country’s major auto-making groups to from 14 to 10, and to subsidize rural buyers of new vehicles, China Securities Journal reports via Gasgoo. According to the plan, the current 14 Chinese carmakers, which together hold 90 percent market share, will be reduced to 10 or less through mergers. The government wants to see two or three big Chinese groups with annual production each exceeding 2 million vehicles, plus four or five groups making over 1 million vehicles.

Japan going down, down, down: Japan’s domestic auto sales may fall below 3 million vehicles this year, the Nikkei [sub] reports. Japan Automobile Dealers Association Chairman Yoichi Amano predicts Japanese sales could sink to the lowest level since 1971. “The projection made last year that sales would decline below 3 million vehicles some time between 2015 and 2020 might come true as early as this year,” Amano told a general meeting of association members, expressing concern that the economic downturn may further depress demand.

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By on February 23, 2009

An 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 until further notice.

Interest in Saab: Jan-Åke Jonsson, managing director of Saab Automobile AB, said other carmakers were among the investors that had shown interest in the unit, Reuters reports. The Swedish carmaker, granted protection from creditors last week, has said it must quickly restructure to deal with losses, seen at 3 billion Swedish crowns ($347 million) this year, and find new funding from either private or public sources in order to launch new and more competitive models. Germany’s Autohaus reports that Sweden’s government again denied any financial help to Saab.

Opel will hand in homework: GM Europe and Opel finally got their acts together: they will present their long-awaited business plan to the German government in the coming days, Reuters says. The German government distanced itself on Monday from any commitment to Opel’s future.

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By on February 20, 2009

An 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 until further notice.

Opel needs more money: Up until now, Opel had mentioned that they may need €1.8b in loan guarantees “just in case.” Now Manager Magazin reports that Opel will definitely need twice the amount. There are mounting indications that the German government will only part with the money if Opel is spun off and totally separate from GM. States where Opel has plants have indicated that they would take a stake. Also, there is pressure from Berlin that GM finally transfers the €1b which it owes Opel. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is still waiting for a viability concept promised, but not delivered, by Opel.
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By on February 19, 2009

An 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 until further notice.

Increasing indications that GM plans to cut Opel loose: North Rhine-Westphalia’s Premier, Jürgen Rüttgers, had a chin wag with GM’s CEO, Automobilwoche [sub] reports. Rick Wagoner told Rüttger there are no plans to close any German plants, including the one in Bochum, which is in Rüttger’s state. ”Currently.” News flash! Wagoner expressed his interest in spinning-off Opel. Rüttgers told Rick that GM would have to keep the German plants open to qualify for German government money. How the spin-off is going to work still is anybody’s guess.

Saab may go bankrupt this week: GM’s Saab will start insolvency procedures as early as this week, das Autohaus reports, citing Swedish news reports. Sweden’s Economy Minister has already said that this would be the proper way to go.

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By on February 18, 2009


An 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 until further notice.

GM/Opel ready to deal: As some kind of bankruptcy for GM becomes more likely by the minute, The General has signaled its readiness to consider some kind of a third party engagement in Opel. “If it makes sense and helps to make GM Europe and Opel successful, then the management is ready to entertain partnerships with or equity engagement of third parties,” GM Europe President, Carl-Peter Forster; Opel CEO, Hans Demant; and the Chairman of Opel’s Worker Council, Klaus Franz, said in a joint announcement, Automobilwoche [sub] reports. They did not elaborate whether this means an engagement by other manufacturers or an engagement by Germany’s state and central governments. In the meantime, Chancellor Angela Merkel is still waiting for Opel and GM to do their homework and hand in a viability plan: “Right now, the government cannot act because we don’t have the necessary concepts from Opel,” Frau Merkel said.

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By on February 17, 2009

An 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 until further notice.

Hell, no, let us go: On Monday, GM’s European labor leaders called for GM to jettison their Opel/Vauxhall brand. According to Reuters, the unions would prefer an independent Opel/Vauxhall, rather than face what they called “potentially fatal cost-cutting.” A statement on the labor force’s website left no doubt that the long knives were out. “The spin-off of Opel/Vauxhall . . . and the spin-off of (Swedish brand) Saab is the only reasonable and feasible option for General Motors which would not destroy the European operations and its European assets and could avoid lawsuits.” German state and central governments appear to be supportive of the plan.

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By on February 16, 2009

An 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 until further notice.

German governments taking over Opel? The German states of Hesse and Thuringia are mulling plans for an engagement in an Opel company that has been separated from GM, Automobilwoche [sub] reports. The states are sites of major Opel factories. Both states would neither confirm nor deny the reports. “All we are saying is that we are engaged in a good discussion with the Berlin government and the other states that have Opel factories,” the speaker of the Hesse government said, somewhat sybillinicly.

Daimler and BMW to cooperate—whether they want to or not: The boards of both Daimler and BMW have issued clear directives to their rebellious troops to cooperate in alle areas which are invisible to the customers and which don’t touch the brand, Das Autohaus says. Until now, attempts to do same had been torpedoed by feuding engineers. Now “everything short of a merger or cross holdings is thinkable,” Autohaus says. Thinkable, yes. But will the piston heads in Stuttgart and Munich bury the hatchet?

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By on February 14, 2009

An 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 until further notice.

Sweden to GM: “Take a hike”: GM is asking Sweden to guarantee $600 million in European Investment Bank loans to keep the Saab Automobile unit operating until it can be restructured. All they got from Sweden was a firm nej, inte alls. (Forgetaboutit.) Sweden’s Premier, Fredrik Reinfeldt, said that “GM has to bear the responsibility,” Automobilwoche [sub] reports. Some insiders see the mounting unwillingness of foreign governments to help US automakers as a backlash against the “buy American” campaign. Non-,conspiracy-bound observers point out that the Swedish government is hoping that both GM and Ford will be successful in unloading their respective Swedish brands. Sweden wants to add extra incentive to move fast by removing any additional life support.

Chery / Volvo still in play: Usually, on the second day after a dalliance between a Chinese manufacturer and a Detroit brand is floated, a denial follows like clockwork. Instead, Chery-owned Gasgoo today runs a new story reiterating a possible bid by China’s Chery for Volvo, a brand which Ford is desperately seeking to unload. The story itself provides no new insight, but the added traffic is relevant from a SIGINT perspective.

It’s a crimson-red bloodbath: More than 460, or nearly 30 percent of publicly traded Japanese companies, are expected to report group net losses in the year ending March 31, the Nikkei [sub] reports. The bloodletting is especially severe in the automobile sector, where profits through the third quarter have been wiped out by bigger and bigger losses in the last quarter of fiscal 2008.
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