In a speech given to an Economic Club of Chicago luncheon held in conjunction with the Chicago Auto Show media preview, Ford Motor Company’s president for the Americas Joe Hinrichs criticized Japan and Toyota in particular for benefiting from currency manipulation. Hinrichs said Ford would “urge Congress to oppose a TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership currently being negotiated.] if it does not include strong currency disciplines.”
Bloomberg is reporting that Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp. and scion of its founding family said that a slowdown in emerging markets and uncertainty over demand in both China and the Japanese home market makes 2014 “unpredictable”.
Ford Motor Company assembly plant in Valencia, Venezuela.
Ford Motor Company announced last week that instead of making money in Latin America this year, it will likely lose $350 million in the region because the government of Venezuela devalued its currency, the bolivar, by 44%. Ford is currently holding more than $700 million in bolivars that it cannot exchange or repatriate. The Venezuelan government is trying to conserve its hard currency reserves and it will not give Ford dollars for bolivars. FoMoCo, which has built vehicles in Venezuela since 1962 and currently operates an assembly plant in Valencia, really doesn’t have any options other than to write down the loss. The car company can’t very well try to exchange currency on the black market. Other international companies, including Toyota, face similar situations with their operations in Venezuela. (Read More…)
“Nissan Motor Co.’s take-no-prisoners approach to gaining U.S. market share has the auto industry worried that a price war is brewing that will erode the profit progress made since the recession ravaged auto sales.”
According to the Detroit paper, Nissan’s recent price reductions are
“the first sign of a Japanese automaker taking advantage of the weakening yen that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pushed down to improve Japan’s economy. That currency’s 15 percent swoon versus the dollar since Oct. 31 gives Japanese automakers an extra $1,500 per car they can use to cut prices or offer additional features while keeping prices even.”
It’s only a sign if you are both blind and fact-resistant.
The national character of auto brands is a tricky thing. For decades, Volvo wore its Swedishness on its sleeve, emphasizing the values that made Ikea, Abba and Swedish porn so popular in the US… even when it was an outpost of the Ford empire. And then the unthinkable happened: Chinese up-and-comer Li Shufu bought the brand and rolled it into his Geely empire. In the world of national-character-branding, being bought by a Chinese firm is something like hiring Casey Anthony as a brand ambassador, or using a mascot called “Mr Melamine Milk” (another nightmare scenario can be found here). So, how does a brand like Volvo, that was built on Swedishness, get past the “China Factor”? By doubling down on Swedishness? How about by building cars in the US?
Bloomberg reports that Fiat is considering moving production of planned Alfa/Jeep-branded compact CUVs from its Italian Mirafiori plant to the US, as a rising Euro forces tough production choices. Production of some 280,000 units per year were planned to start at Mirafiori in late 2012, but Fiat may now build an as-yet unannounced subcompact there instead. According to Bloomberg’s reporting, Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio
Marchionne, while confirming his commitment to invest at the Turin facility, told Piedmont Region President Roberto Cota Aug. 29 that he may change the production plans for the plant.
“Fiat is evaluating which model it will build at Mirafiori,” Cota said after meeting the CEO.
Japanese automakers will move their production elsewhere if the yen keeps rising. This is what Toshiyuki Shiga, chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, told The Nikkei [sub] in a very blunt interview. Shiga, who is also the COO of Nissan, said that power shortfalls and the strong yen are the biggest impediment to Japan’s most important industry. (Read More…)