Yesterday, first media day at the Tokyo Motor Show, the press corps was chased from press conference to press conference in 15 minute intervals. Today, the Fourth Estate was looking forward to lazy strolls through the halls, snapping pictures of attractive ladies cars, when an urgent email, followed by urgent telephone calls disturbed the peace: Come to the Grand Pacific Le Daiba at 4pm, when Toyota and BMW will hold a joint press conference. The local gang knows: When these short notice calls come, drop everything and show up, it will be interesting.
Toyota AND BMW? Let’s go! (Read More…)
Suzuki has made good on its repeated threats to sue Volkswagen. The Japanese carmaker initiated arbitration procedures. This according to Reuters, The Nikkei [sub], and sundry other media that has been covering the domestic dispute between the couple. Suzuki originally had given Volkswagen some time to consider and was planning for a repurchase of the 19.9 percent Suzuki shares held by Volkswagen. After Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn denied the offer out of hand, and implicitly said that he was waiting for Osamu Suzuki to be replaced by younger blood, Suzuki said “mo takusan desu” (enough is enough) and filed papers with the International Chamber of Commerce International Court of Arbitration in London. Don’t expect a quick end of the drama. (Read More…)
The last attempt at saving Saab failed when GM said it would not supply or license technology to Saab if it were 100% owned by PangDa and Youngman, scuttling the Chinese firms’ bid for outright control of the company. Now the two firms have sent a revised proposal to The General in hopes that they can provide safeguards for intellectual property, allowing them to purchase Saab without losing the link to GM. After all, both the 9-3 and 9-5 rely on GM technology and parts, while the 9-4X is wholly supplied by GM. Rachel Pang of PangDa tells TTELA.se
We have not discussed any changes with regard to ownership structure. We are concentrated on the GM issue… It’s about more commercial terms. We want to meet them and have asked for a meeting. First we must give them time to review our proposal. We are waiting for GM’s response and then we will of course respect it.
Of course, our understanding is that “the GM issue” is the same as the ownership structure issue… and keep in mind, PangDa and Youngman are looking for a meeting, not an agreement from GM. Which means this could drag on a while… and wouldn’t you know it, it’s time for Saab to pay salaries again.
That interview with Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn is a treasure-trove of information. It also gives an insight into Volkswagen’s strategy with rambunctious Suzuki: It will be a Sitzkrieg. Volkswagen seems to be intent on waiting things out until Osamu Suzuki passes away.
Winterkorn will be at the Tokyo Motor Show. Someone with a perverse bent made Volkswagen (booths EP06 through EP10) close neighbors of Suzuki (EP12). Only Mitsubishi (EP11) keeps the brawling couple at distance. But Winterkorn doesn’t have Osamu Suzuki on his dance card:
“A meeting is not planned. Should we run into each other, then we can talk about everything. There is one exception: Our 19.9 percent share is not for sale.”
Asked how Winterkorn intends to settle the matter, he answers: (Read More…)
Attempts to ratchet-down the rhetoric in the Suzuki/Volkswagen row have failed. Suzuki launched a heavy missile in the direction of Wolfsburg. Suzuki will take the case to court, The Nikkei [sub] heard before a scheduled press conference in Tokyo. But fear not, Volkswagen gets a whole year to make up its mind. (Read More…)
With traditional compact pickups growing into the new “midsized” segment, Scion has long been tipped as a likely candidate to lead the US market back towards smaller, car-based pickup trucks. And, Scion’s VP Jack Hollis tells TTAC’s sister site Autoguide that such a vehicle, though not a certainty, could be possible.
Versus other vehicles, I can’t say it’s priority one. I’m very interested in it. A lot of prospective owners are interested in it and every meeting I have in Japan, I’m asking, what else can we do.
Hollis reveals that he has, in the past, pushed for an imported Daihatsu pickup for Scion’s US lineup, but that regulatory issues killed the business case. But now he’s suggesting that Scion and Daihatsu might jointly develop a small, fuel-efficient pickup… just as Subaru and Toyota/Scion developed the FT-86 together. If that happens, I’d expect something larger than Daihatsu’s typical kei-style trucks, for reasons hinted at in the video above. And to help you understand the legacy that a Daihatsu-Scion pickup might draw upon, here are a few random images of Daihatsu “trucks” (or possible inspirations) through the ages.
It’s becoming increasingly clear as time goes on that the Chrysler five year plan promulgated in November 2009 was merely a stopgap strategy aimed at stabilizing the then-recently-acquired firm while CEO Sergio Marchionne plotted a strategic course globally. Now, with news that Alfa is going to be re-launched with the US as its major focus (possibly replacing Dodge), we’re getting a better and better picture of where the Sergio Show is headed with his transatlantic alliance. In an interview with Automotive News Europe [sub], Marchionne gives the latest snapshot
In his vision, Alfa Romeo and Jeep both have the DNA and the rich history capable to make them the alliance’s two global brands. “We need to continue to globalize Jeep and Alfa, so the development of architectures and engines that are designed to support these two brands is crucial, and everything else becomes almost secondary,” he said.
Chrysler clearly won’t be a global brand, as its products are rebadged as Lancias in Italy. Fiat will offer full lineups in Europe and South America, but only the Fiat 500 will be a truly global brand, in a role Marchionne compares to BMW’s MINI. Dodge doesn’t even rate a mention in this interview, which can only be interpreted as more evidence that it will be lucky to survive at all.
Divorce is a complicated matter. Sometimes, it takes a while for all involved that it’s over. Apparently, they are in that phase. If the German magazine Wirtschaftswoche is correctly informed, then VW CEO Martin Winterkorn wants to bring the matter to a conclusion until the end of this year – one way or the other. Says Wirtschaftswoche: (Read More…)
The admonitions by Lower Saxony’s premier to wash dirty laundry in the privacy of your office appear to bear fruit – at least for the time being. Volkswagen has agreed to a cease-fire in the war of words with Suzuki. (Read More…)
If the war of words and press releases between Suzuki and Volkswagen escalates into a legal duel, then the showdown will not happen in a court of law. Germany’s Handelsblatt learned that the “secret cooperation agreement between Volkswagen and Suzuki specifies arbitration in case of differences.”
Commonly, arbitration is binding in these cases. It may not even come to that. David McAllister, Premier of Volkswagen’s home state Lower Saxony, which holds 20 percent of Volkswagen, intervened over the weekend. (Read More…)
Divorces usually get messy when there is money involved. The Suzuki vs. Volkswagen case is no exception. There are irreconcilable differences. Suzuki wants out, Volkswagen would like to swallow Suzuki whole. The rest are accusations and counter-accusations that are as interesting as divorce papers. In the last days, the Kabuki dace went into a new phase as both sides ratchet up their rhetoric. (Read More…)
Hyundai and Kia are technically separate companies, with Hyundai owning less than 50% of its junior partner. But as the two major divisions of the Hyundai-Kia Motor Group, the two firms share resources and align their strategies through carefully-maintained relationships in the classic Korean chaebol (conglomerate) fashion. Hyundai has long been the senior partner in the relationship, getting the newest technologies and the most expensive new cars. But in both Korea and abroad, Kia is beginning to catch up with its big brother, raising questions about the future shape of its delicate relationship. Together, Hyundai and Kia enjoy a dominant position in Korea, earning 45.2% and 33.2% of the overall Korean market in 2010 (including commercial vehicles). But if you just look at sedans and SUVs, the Korea Herald reports that their 2010 market share numbers are much closer: 39.6% and 35/7% respectively, and converging
Hyundai Motor Group is focusing on the possibility that Kia will catch up with Hyundai within one year in terms of monthly market share ― for sales of sedans and sport utility vehicles ― domestically for the first time…
The gap for sales of sedans and SUVs have continued to narrow ― 22.9 percentage points in 2007, 17 percentage points in 2008, 15.4 percentage points in 2009 and 3.9 percentage points in 2010.
And this fresh-brewed sibling rivalry isn’t just about Korea: around the world, Kia is catching up. And this shifting relationship is shaking things up at the highest levels of the group’s leadership.
Spyker, the high-end sportscar firm formerly run by Saab “savior” Victor Muller, has been sold to North Street Capital, a US-based private equity firm, reports the FT [sub]. According to the FT,
North Street said in a draft announcement seen by the Financial Times and due to be released later on Wednesday that “the transaction is expected to strengthen [Spyker] in its efforts for new product development and stronger positioning in its factory auto racing team”. No changes in Spyker’s operations are planned. Terms were not disclosed.
Muller had planned to sell Spyker to Vladimir Antonov, Saab’s erstwhile knight in shining (or not) armor but Antonov ran while he could, and now plans to build a modern interpretation of the Jensen Interceptor. Under the proposed sale to Antonov, Spyker was worth “€15m plus an “earn-out” worth up to €17m to be paid over six years,” but because the firm hasn’t produced a single car since 2009, it’s probably been sold for considerably less than that. The firm sold 36 units in 2009, and has never been profitable, losing about $300m last year (while trying to swallow Saab), and about $30m in 2009. In a 2009 interview with TTAC, Muller had targeted “2010 or 2011″ as his goal for turning a profit with Spyker, but thanks to the distractions surrounding the Saab “rescue,” it seems safe to assume that goal is nowhere in sight. Which is probably why the FT reports that
A person familiar with the North Street deal said that Swedish Automobile’s talks with CPP had collapsed.
Anyway, best of luck to North Street. Meanwhile, if the financial nightmare part of this story doesn’t particularly interest you, you can always check out Jack Baruth’s review of the $270k Spyker C8 Aileron here.
Suzuki today sent a letter to Volkswagen, demanding a retraction of the allegation that Suzuki breached its contract with Volkswagen. Reuters calls the letter an escalation of “a war of words as it tries to break off equity ties with its estranged partner.” And the tone of the letter definitely sounds belligerent: (Read More…)