The Truth About Cars » export The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:33:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » export Daimler-Nissan JV To Build Next-Gen CLA, Unnamed A-Class At Mexican Plant Tue, 24 Jun 2014 11:00:16 +0000 2014 Mercedes CLA

Aside from Infiniti sharing engines with Mercedes, the Daimler-Nissan joint venture will also lead to production of the next-gen CLA and an A-Class sedan at Nissan’s plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Automotive News Europe reports Daimler’s board will approve the decision within the next two weeks. Although the GLA crossover was supposed to go over to Mexico originally, insiders claim that the CLA and the unnamed A-Class will take its place.

Production is set to begin in time for exportation to the United States in 2017, with an Infiniti compact — built upon Mercedes’ FWD bones — to join the CLA and A-Class. Annual output is expected to be around 100,000 to 150,000 units.

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Volvo Will Export Chinese-Made Cars To America Wed, 18 Jun 2014 12:42:30 +0000 volvo-s60l-guangzhou-c

Honda may have been the first OEM to bring Chinese-made cars to North America, but their Made-In-China Fit never arrived in the United States. Now, it looks like Volvo will be the first brand to import Chinese-made cars to America.

Reuters is reporting that Volvo will import the S60L (for long wheelbase) sedan to the United States, with volumes of around 10,000 units per year. The S60L is identical to the S60, save for a 3.1 inch longer wheelbase, for enhanced rear seat comfort. Volvo did not confirm which models will actually come to the United States, but a Volvo spokesman confirmed to Reuters that exports from China are indeed planned for Volvo.

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Opel Will Build Buicks For North America Fri, 28 Mar 2014 13:38:55 +0000 450x299xOpel_Cascada_Innovation_2.0_BiTurbo_CDTI2-450x299.jpg.pagespeed.ic.PKOtAH6g90

Opel is announcing that they will build a Buick model for North America in the “second half of the decade”.

Automotive News reports that the announcement comes amid a $245 million euro investment for the Ruesselsheim, Germany plant that will start exporting to North America, and receive a new model. At the same time, Opel will stop plans to export to China, allowing the much stronger Buick brand to take the lead.

Neither the Opel Adam nor the Cascada are built at Ruesselsheim, which raises the question of what model Opel will build for Buick. Currently, the Insignia, aka our Buick Regal, is built at the site.

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BYD Coming to America in 2015 Tue, 07 Jan 2014 05:41:47 +0000 BYD Qin

Backed by Warren Buffet and his investment company Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.,Automotive News is reporting that Chinese automaker BYD plans to deliver four models to the United States in late 2015.

This move comes after BYD founder and chair Wang Chauanfu spent the past three years reorganizing his company, cutting the number of dealerships under the automaker’s banner while narrowing losses with their solar business with help from state incentives.

In turn, investors rewarded the changes with a 63 percent surge in the share price — currently holding around $5 USD — though nowhere near the peak of $11 BYD saw in October 2008; Berkshire Hathaway paid around $1 per share for 9.9 percent ownership of the company back in that year.

Though BYD has yet to bring over any of their cars to the U.S., they will begin manufacturing of their K9 electric bus in March at its factory in Lancaster, Calif.; a plan to sell the e6 electric hatchback by the end of 2010 was postponed.

Leading the charge will be the Qin (pronounced Chin) plug-in hybrid, which already arrived in local market showrooms last month. The $31,400 (before state subsidies) sedan books it from nil to 60 in under 6 seconds, and possesses a 43-mile range in electric-only travel.

That said, the Qin, along with its electric brethren, may be a better sell in Los Angeles than in Beijing, as high prices, safety concerns, and a lack of supporting infrastructure have held back China’s goal of 5 million alternative-energy vehicles by 2020.

However, the state government unveiled a new program last September which is supposed to alleviate the issue through heavy promotion of new-energy vehicles in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou using subsidies through 2015, which should help BYD in local adoption of their plug-in and EV offerings.

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Iran’s Imported Chevrolet Camaros Raise Questions About GM’s Dealings With PSA And The Iranian Regime Thu, 07 Nov 2013 14:26:41 +0000 IRAN-_USA_obama-rouhani_CALL

An obscure story in the Azerbaijani press this past summer may be the tip of a much larger iceberg involving General Motors, PSA Peugeot Citroen and the Western World’s current bete noir: the Iranian regime currently embroiled at the heart of a controversial nuclear program, which is subject to economic sanctions by the United States government, including those that specifically target Iran’s automotive industry.

Citing reports from Iran’s Mehr news agency, an Azerbaijani news outlet reported that an unspecified number of brand new Chevrolet Camaro RS 2LT convertibles were imported by a division of Iranian conglomerate Iran Khodro. According to the report, the Camaros were sent from Miami to Paris, and then from Paris to Tehran via a Qatar Airways plane. The report also states that US Customs and Border Patrol documents list the final destination as the Aras Free Trade and Industrial Zone.

Iran Khodro, which manufactures automobiles in Iran, is among the Iranian industrial entities that has been hit hard by American sanctions against Iran, including those that specifically target its auto industry, which some parties allege is a “major procurement network that imports material and technologies used to build uranium centrifuges instead of cars.

Given the serious penalties for violating sanctions against Iran, it seems unthinkable at first glance that General Motors vehicles would be exported to Iran for sale without any consequences. GM even stipulated that PSA suspend doing business with Iran and IKCO as part of its alliance agreement with PSA, an agreement that seems to have stalled at this point. But a deeper dive into the matter reveals a much more complex picture, one that sheds more light on GM’s future positioning in emerging markets, its dealings with Iran itself, and what may be the true nature of its alliance with PSA.

The ties between PSA and IKCO have historically been very strong. Most of IKCO’s cars were Peugeot vehicles of varying ages, branded as Iran Khodro or Peugeot vehicles, and built in Iranian factories. In a market of 1.12 million units annually, IKCO had production capacity for a million units per year, with IKCO and PSA’s joint venture ruling the vast majority of those sales, while their factories ran very close to capacity in previous years. PSA alone accounted for roughly 458,000 units sold in Iran, while PSA rival Renault also had a strong interest in Iran, selling 100,000 units per year, until it withdrew from the country, citing fears of violating U.S sanctions as a reason for walking away from the Iranian market.

Now, various French news outlets, including Le Figaro, a respected daily newspaper, are accusing General Motors of intentionally gutting PSA’s ability to do business in Iran, while attempting to establish its own partnership with IKCO, as a means of securing a strong footing in the up and coming Iranian market, one that Boston Consulting Group estimates is good for 1.5 million units per year by 2020, making it one of the strongest of the “Beyond BRIC” countries.

Le Figario states that

Iranian automotive industry is particularly courted by General Motors . The giant came into contact with Iran Khodro, which worked until 2012 with Peugeot to produce 206 and 405 models that the French group has stopped delivering to Iran because of Western sanctions imposed on Tehran for its nuclear ambitions . “For at least six months as emissaries of General Motors go to Iran, they are no longer the simple identification of the market,” warns the industry, “but rather to the draft contract resumption of GM “, which was firmly established in the time of the Shah.

Le Figaro alleges that GM is not the only company to be looking to Iran if and when relations between America and Iran thaw amid a resolution over its nuclear crisis, but it does call out an ad campaign on behalf of GM undertaken by an Iranian law firm – other reports also point to a social media campaign designed to target Iranian consumers on behalf of GM. Other allegations leveled at GM include the use of emissaries on behalf of GM visiting Iran and IKCO as part of a broader push to undermine established French business interests in favor of American companies in preparation for the resumption of commercial dealings with Iran. One source cited by Le Figaro doesn’t think that this was a mere coincidence. The source claims that Executive Order 13645 is

“…a real cleansing of the Iranian car market as it prepares to make way for U.S. manufacturers before a political deal between Tehran and Washington.”

Upon closer examination, sale of the Camaros appears to be allowed under a loophole in Executive Order 13645 , which punishes any foreign entity that sells or supplies parts or services to Iran’s automotive industry (specifically its manufacturing sector) but does not prohibit supplying Iran with assembled vehicles.

During the initial stages of the tie-up, the alliance between GM and PSA was difficult to discern. Beyond vague platform sharing and purchasing agreements, there seemed to be few synergies that made such an alliance worthwhile. By the Iranian angle adds context to the entire affair.

By putting pressure on PSA to end its relationship with IKCO, GM gave America a way to keep the heat on Iran’s economy while also cutting off an artery for hard currency via reduced vehicle exports. At the same time, it was able to cripple an already ailing partner by cutting it off from one of its better export markets, and a growing one at that. Before the alliance had even been former, our own global sales reports showed that sanctions and other economic factors had been effective at gutting Iran’s automotive market, composed largely of locally built IKCO/PSA products. The departure of Renault was another positive development for GM, with the French auto maker walking away from 100,000 units annually. Altogether, the absence of the two French players leaves a 585,000 unit hole in Iran’s nearly 1 million strong auto market, one that GM is primed to capitalize on if and when things get less frosty and trade relations between the two countries open up .

Many observers feel that Iran’s Islamic regime is living on borrowed time, thanks to a relatively young population that is plugged into Western popular culture – these same people came very close to toppling the regime just a few years ago. And while regime change doesn’t seem to be in the cards anymore, then the very sanctions designed to bring the regime to its knees might at least foment some sort of normalization of relations in exchange for the forfeiture of Iran’s nuclear program, along with a new, more moderate ruler (though Iran’s unelected religious leaders still hold all the power). Such vast numbers of young people with rising economic prospects and families of their own on the horizon will be perfect consumers for a large number of automobiles in the future, and who better to serve them than General Motors?

The timing is likely to be fortuitous, as Iran’s auto market is expected to grow by another 500,000 units, to roughly 1.5 million units by the end of the decade. GM’s push won’t be centered around Camaros either. The General has a number of Chinese brands selling cheap, compact vehicles that can go head to head with Chinese brands like Great Wall that are already established in Iran. If GM really does make a big push into Iran, brands like Wuling and Baojun will be just as important as Chevrolet and Buick, and will likely be part of an attempt to capture a substantial amount of volume by utilizing multiple brands in GM’s portfolio to help capture various market segments from compact low-cost cars to flashier fare to the smaller commercial vehicles that brands like Wuling are known for.

Platform sharing, the oft reported cause of death of the GM-PSA alliance, may have been a red herring all along. GM could possibly have decided to abandon the alliance, or any pretense of it, after getting what they came for: in this case, an express pass to a promising emerging market that isn’t a BRIC country. But don’t count PSA out just yet. Recent talks with Chinese auto maker Dongfeng could allow it to get back in the game in Iran, free of any concerns about violating U.S. sanctions.

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The Beat Resurrected: Meet the Honda S660 Thu, 24 Oct 2013 12:00:41 +0000 Honda S660 01

Honda’s rear-driven products built for two tend to be motorcycles, scooters and ATVs for the most part, but every now and again the company will unveil a roadster whose name begins with an S, and ends with the number of cubic centimeters the engine provides.

Such a car is set to return soon to the showroom floor, and will make its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show in November: The Honda S660.

The word on the street is the S660 will be powered by a 660 cc turbocharged engine placed just behind the driver and passenger, with all of its 67 ponies going to the rear wheels. Unlike some of Honda’s current and future offerings that are or will be powered by a combination of internal combustion and electric motivation, the new roadster is strictly gasoline-only.

The featherweight roadster, has its roots in the company’s EV-STER electric-only concept from the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show with regard to styling, penned by designer Ryo Sugiura. That said, don’t try to tell him his roadster is the second coming of the late Soichiro Honda’s last gift to the world, the Beat:

Some people might think this will be the remodeled version of the Beat. But it is not. This is totally brand new.

The S660 is one part of a potential three-pronged attack by Honda in the sports car segment. With it and the NSX forming the outer forks, the automaker plans to forge the center fork through the introduction a mid-engined Toyabaru hunter with a price point to match the GT86/BRZ/FRS when it makes its debut. In the meantime, the U.S. domestic market may not need to wait 25 years for the S660 to come over; Honda plans to sell the roadster in export markets with a 1000cc engine and minor changes with regards to safety regulations. S1000, anyone?

The S660 will make its production debut in Japan for the 2015 model year, in time for the automaker’s return to Formula One.


Honda S660 01 Honda S660 02 Honda S660 03 Honda S660 04 ]]> 64
Editorial: The Future Is Here At Nissan – Just Not In The Way You’re Expecting Wed, 28 Aug 2013 13:00:19 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

The big news this past week from Nissan: lots of old iron at Pebble Beach, concept car test drives for sympathetic journalists and a pledge to have autonomous cars ready (but not on sale) for 2020. More interesting than that is news of Nissan’s booming exports from America. Some say that this is the “new normal” – Japanese OEMs expanding their manufacturing base in America as they leave Japan en masse to both insulate themselves from a volatile yen, take advantage of America’s welcoming manufacturing climate and shed a reliance on Japan’s aging and declining population. And even more interesting than that is how it was presented.

The clip above, which is packaged like a broadcast news report, actually comes from Nissan’s internal communications team in Tokyo. Rather than just issuing a press release, Nissan is looking to have an even greater role in influencing the conversation (awful word I know, but it’s apt). They aren’t just disseminating information to journalists: they are cutting them out entirely. Whatever discussions we may have at TTAC over the efficacy of automotive media or the competency of its press corps, this is a significant development. I don’t think it’s inconceivable that one day, brands will have a stranglehold on the automotive discourse.

Press cars and press trip invites are one way that brands currently manage who has access to product and people, and these are used as both carrots and sticks. In a way, it’s hard to fault PR people for this practice. PR staff, by definition, are committed to disseminating their client’s story, even if it runs counter to the findings of a journalist. Not caring about these perks is one way to subvert the established order, as former EIC Ed Niedermeyer successfully did during his tenure. Even when doing so, it’s possible to get information from internal sources and third-party outlets. But Nissan appears to be going a step further.

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Only A Nutcase Would Import A Car To America. B.S. Wants To Change That, And He Needs Your Signature Wed, 20 Feb 2013 16:31:39 +0000

As a worldly American and car nut, on one of your world travels, there will be a time when you fall in love with a car in a foreign land. The crush on that thing will be so big that you will want to take the irresistible beauty home with you. Just ask Sajeev or Frau Murilee.

My advice: Resist that urge at all cost. Trust me, it is easier to import a new wife from Pago-Pago to America than to bring-in a lightly used Euro-spec Porsche from Zuffenhausen. There is one man who wants to change all that: A man with the initials B.S. petitioned the White House to liberalize the immigration rules for used cars. No, it’s not THAT BS.

Benjamin Sharabani of Venice, CA, wants the Obama administration to “lower non-federalized vehicle importation requirements with NHTSA & EPA to 10-years from the current 25-years.”

This is a worthy cause, because America is for all intents and purposes closed to cars that have not been “federalized” – in itself a time- and money consuming exercise, which only very large or very rich and determined importers can afford. Unless that car is more than 25 years old, a non-federalized car needs to stay out of the country – or else.

The Department of Homeland Security warns:

“The Federal agencies that regulate the importation of non U.S. version or nonconforming vehicles are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These agencies do not encourage the importation of non U.S. version or nonconforming vehicles for on-road use because converting a nonconforming vehicle is usually very expensive, and sometimes impossible or impractical. It is possible that a car will conform to one agency’s requirements but not another’s.”

If you go to the EPA for guidance, you will hear:

“EPA strongly recommends that prospective importers buy only U.S. version (labeled) vehicles, because of the expense and potential difficulties involved with importing a non-U.S. version vehicle. EPA strongly recommends that current owners of non-U.S. version vehicles sell or otherwise dispose of those vehicles overseas rather than ship and import them into the U.S., because of the expense and potential difficulties involved with importing a non-U.S. version vehicle.”

The NHTSA is a bit more circumspect:

Since the cost of modifying a nonconforming vehicle, or the time required to bring it into conformance, may affect the decision to purchase a vehicle abroad, we strongly recommend discussing these matters with a Registered Importer before buying and shipping a vehicle to the U.S.”

Basically, the NHTSA leaves it to the Registered Importer to tell you: “Are you nuts?”

They will explain to you that you must post a bond of three times the value of the car to U.S. customs, and then again a bond of one and a half times the value of the car to the DOT, before the Registered Importer even can start trying to bring the car in compliance “with all applicable DOT Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).” If you have not declared bankruptcy at this point, and/or committed yourself to an asylum, you will have to deal with the EPA.

Trust me: It will be easier to get green cards for a whole harem than to import a foreign car that was built after 1988.

Forget about bypassing these regulations. Even if you stick the car in a container and pile bales of Marijuana on it to throw the Feds off scent, Homeland Security will tell you: “You will need the CBP Form 7501 to register the vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicle. CBP will not give you this form without approval from the EPA and DOT.”

There is a “List of nonconforming motor vehicles that are eligible for importation.” Importation not by mere mortals, mind you, it must be done through a Registered Importer. Don’t get your hopes up. Most of the cars on that list are there because they are “substantially similar to a U.S.-certified vehicle”. As in Jeep or Chevy. Even if that’s the case, extensive paperwork is required.

Now what about truly foreign cars? According to the list, less than 50 cars have sufficiently established “that the vehicle has safety features that comply with, or are capable of being altered to comply with, all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards.” Oddly, 14 of them are G-Wagens built between 1997 and 2006.

Ben’s car, The 1997 911 C4S, left. Ben vowed to “one day I will destroy” his friend and his Viper, right. Friend’s tag obscured, Ben’s tag in the buff to show the authorities that he is real

In other civilized parts of the world, such as Europe and in allegedly closed Japan, legalizing a non-approved car is as easy as checking that it has lights and brakes. You have it inspected, you sign a few forms, and you are good to go. If you want to import on a somewhat grander scale, no problem: Both the EU and Japan have special dispensations for low volume imports that are let into the country with a minimum of fuss. This, by the way, is how most of the U.S. makers import their cars to Japan and Europe. Only to bitch that the regulations are too onerous.

Even China is more lenient than the U.S.: Officially, the importation of used cars is bu hao, or verboten, as we say in America. But if you know someone – mei wen ti – no problem.

In America, they have you by the gonads if you bring in a foreign car. Say you paid all the bond money, but somehow you failed to bring the car in compliance. Trust me, the system is built to make you fail. Then, all that is left to you is to junk the car and kiss your bond money good-bye, you think? No, you can’t even do that. Says your friendly DHS: “It is also illegal to dispose of the vehicles in a junkyard. Non-compliant vehicles must be exported, destroyed, or brought into compliance.”

Catch 22, meet Kafka. Kafka, meet Catch 22.

But then, this might all change if Benjamin Sharabani’s petition is heard, right? Wrong again.

Benjamin needs 100,000 signatures by March 21, 2013. Yes, that’s a moth from now. He has 19 signatures now. Only 99,983 to go. Oh, and your 100,000 friends need to give their names and email addresses to the government. The Internet-savvy White House will even keep the petition from being searchable via Google if it has less than 150 signatures. But once 100,000 sign, it will get action, right? You can’t be wronger. Says the White House:

“If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.”

Gee, thanks!

The petition system, by the way, is a Chinese import. There, it has been around for centuries. Except that when you go to Beijing and petition, you might get roughed up in a dark alley when you go home.

Maybe that’s what those email addresses are for.

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Rebuild, Part Out, Export, or Race Out: 2002 Toyota Camry Sun, 21 Oct 2012 18:34:36 +0000

Every once in a very blue moon, I’ll go to a mini-warehouse auction.

The realities of this low-down clearance process is completely unlike the miracles and glories that come with episodes of Storage Wars.  You want junky third world quality furniture? Or memoirs of the 1980′s and 1990′s left behind by your neighbors from their very last estate sale before they finally moved to a condominium? The local storage auctions are the place to go. 80% to 90% pure junk.

This is where I recently found this wrecked 2002 Toyota Solara SE with 140k miles. For $375, it was all mine.

Should I…

Rebuild: The rebuilding business is a huge enterprise in this country. Thousands of vehicles in this country are purchased with the sole goal of rebuilding the body and putting it back on the road.

This particular Solara has three very strong pluses going for it:

1) The engine and transmission are still in good shape.

2) The title was not changed to salvage or rebuilt since the owner only had liability insurance at the time of the accident. Instead of reporting it to the insurance company, she simply had it towed to a storage facility. Probably right after she got cited for having a junk car on her driveway.

3) Toyotas are pretty much the gold standard of automobiles in most of the developing world. If you take our used car market for Toyotas in the United States, which already carry a strong premium and multiply it by anywhere between 2 to 3, that’s the price of a high-content used Toyota overseas.

This route is a non-starter for me since I don’t own a body shop.

However if you have friends or family members that wreck a late model vehicle and have inadequate insurance, they may likely get more money from a body man than they will from a junkyard. A nearby one offered me $1500 instead of the $1000 from the low-ball subsisting salvage yard.

But there is a better avenue…

Part Out: In order to do this right you need three things.

1) Space

2) Patience

3) Time to post online

A surprising number of vehicles can be picked to a vulture like level of skeletal remains thanks to a long list of factors. The popularity of the model in the used car market. Uniqueness of body parts. The price dealers/manufacturers charge for the same part. Interchangeability. The wear out factor of certain used parts. Not to mention the demand from those who export.

I would expect this vehicle to provide a return somewhere in the $3500 range if I had it picked clean. But that would take a few years.

Is it worth the wait?

Export: Forget about going to the guys down the street who have a used tire store and a treasure trove of old junkers behind their building. If you want to get the best immediate return for your vehicle, take it to a salvage auction.

The competition is fierce. In-state buyers compete with out-of-state buyers, who compete with buyers from outside the United States. Mexico, Central America, Bolivia, Colombia, the UAE, Nigeria, Ghana, Malaysia… the help centers for the two largest salvage auctions offer over a dozen languages for conversation and even go so far as to advertise their services on local radio stations, online publications, and wherever else they can get an audience.

I happen to have one nearby that offers a special low rate for towing and selling a wreck. I have to wait for a court order title. But once that goes through, I can bring it there and have a feeding frenzy of bidding from all the folks mentioned above.

One thing you do have to be careful of is making sure that the vehicle is listed accurately online. Make sure the buyers know that the vehicle runs and that the requisite six to ten pictures actually belong to your vehicle. I have pulled and relisted vehicles due to these errors.

The return for the 2002 Solara would likely be right around the low $2000 range. A clean title and a powertrain that runs fine will certainly help build a wider audience for this model than usual. But the fact that I’m selling as a dealer instead of an insurance company will hurt it a bit. Since dealers wind up getting numbers at the waning moments of the auction and the competition is sometimes not as strong.

If worse comes to worse, I can always say no to the final bid price.

So what should I do?

Find someone to rebuild the vehicle? Part it out and become ever more familiar with Solaras? Bring it it to a salvage auction and watch it begin a new life outside our borders? Or maybe use it for the 24 hours of LeMons?  Who knows? Maybe I can call it Eiji’s Ennui?

What says you?



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Japan Opens Up To Imports; Just Not From The Big Three Mon, 03 Sep 2012 12:00:12 +0000

All the complaints about Japan being a “closed market” are hogwash; look at all the imports coming in to Japan from places like Thailand, Malaysia and China.

No, Japan isn’t quite ready for a Malaysian or Chinese car, but Thai-made cars, like the Nissan March, are leading a trend against Japan’s mentality of buying domestic made goods. According to a report by Bloomberg, nearly 40 percent of goods made by Japanese companies will be made offshore, a record number.

The unfavorable exchange rate between the Yen and U.S. Dollar is being blamed for the new trend, and it’s unlikely to change any time soon. On the other hand, Japanese consumers tend to subscribe to the “buy local” mantra, and the rise of the Honda Fit has been attributed by some to the Thai-built March’s decline in popularity due to its origins.

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Say “As-Salamu Alaykum” To Yusuf al-Isuzu Fri, 20 Jul 2012 17:34:17 +0000

Isuzu is joining the “let’s flee Japan and the rising yen” bandwagon, and their latest venture involves assembling export-bound trucks in Saudi Arabia.

Just-Auto outlines Isuzu’s strategy, which has nothing to do with the VehiCross

Isuzu can minimize the effects of the strong yen and better compete for what is expected to be a growing market for commercial trucks as Gulf nations step up infrastructure investment.

Small and large commercial trucks will eventually be added in, with production reaching a total capacity of 25,000 units. As much as Isuzu is made out to be the butt of jokes in North America, their Middle East distributor network looks fairly robust – or at least more robust than the Lebanese parliamentary democracy.

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Italian Made Chryslers A Possible Solution For Fiat’s Overcapacity Problem Tue, 10 Jul 2012 15:27:39 +0000

Sergio Marchionne has been one of the most prolific alarmists regarding European overcapacity, and who can blame him? The economy is in the dumps in Fiat’s home market, as well as crucial export markets, and closing a plant would come with all kinds of blowback.

According to a report from Just-Auto, there may be a solution on the horizon, involving Chrysler products built in Italy and exported back to the United States. And it’s either that, or one of Fiat’s Italian plants will have to take the bullet.  A Fiat spokesman told the publication

“Given the under-utilisation of our plants in Italy [and] in an effort to resolve that issue, the company has [been] talking with Chrysler to see if we in Italy could build Chrysler or build products for export back to the States…Chrysler is doing well and they are close to saturation point in the majority of sites we have in the US. In order to have that [US export] we have to have the unions on board – if we can’t make this work… then there is one plant too many [in] Italy.”

The FIOM, a prominent metalworkers union, refused to sign a deal with Fiat that promised increased compensation packages that were linked to enhanced flexibility at the plants – something which could seriously hamper the Fiat/Chrysler export plans. According to the Fiat spokesman, other labor unions are on board with the plan.

The U.S. export plan has been in discussion since the beginning of the year. A report by Reuters in February quoted FIOM’s National Secretary for the Auto Industry criticizing Marchionne’s plans. FIOM’s Giorgio Airaudo told the news service

“It seems worrying to me. He’s telling us that there are two Italian plants at risk if the recession continues and if his plans do not materialize…”

Marchionne wouldn’t get specific with what product would be exported, he told the Wall Street Journal that “a lot of these [Italian] plants are going to be producing for the U.S.” While other automakers are lighting their hair on fire regarding over-capacity, Marchionne has a handy escape route; American exports. Even if they aren’t as profitable as American-built vehicles, the unions are kept busy (and happy), plants are fully utilized, and the appetite for Chryslers (and hopefully, an expanded Fiat/Alfa Romeo lineup) is satiated.

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Coda Teams Up With Great Wall To Build “Affordable” EVs Tue, 24 Apr 2012 18:20:04 +0000

Coda Automotive, a Southern California start-up that assembles EVs with Chinese components, announced at today’s Beijing Auto Show that it would partner with the Chinese OEM Great Wall to develop a new, lower-cost EV. Says Coda CEO Phil Murtaugh (who you might remember as a key character in American Wheels, Chinese Roads) explains in a press release

We’re excited to work with Great Wall Motors to develop the second product in Coda’s portfolio, to bring another solution to a global problem and together make high-quality clean technology accessible. Ultimately, this will enable drivers worldwide to go electric affordably and support our mission of putting an EV in everyone’s garage.

Coda’s first product exemplifies the challenges facing the EV startup: namely a high MSRP (starting price $38,145) for a product that doesn’t quite meet competitive standards for the US. Great Wall may not bring a vast improvement in quality to the partnership (although it was the first Chinese OEM to pass European Whole Vehicle Type Approval), but it should be able to help Coda offer a more affordable EV to the US market. The new vehicle will be jointly developed, with Coda taking the lead on the EV powertrain development and final assembly, and GW manufacturing gliders at its plant in Baoding.

Meanwhile, plenty of questions remain. Will lower costs help Coda battle its way out of a brutally niche positioning? Will even cheaper Chinese vehicles meet American-market expectations? Will new product even make a difference to Coda, considering its dealer net is currently only four stores strong? Bertel and I will be meeting with Coda while we’re in the Los Angeles area this week, and we’ll be sure to bring you more details on its alliance with Great Wall as they become available.

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Toyota Steps Up Exports. From North America Mon, 13 Feb 2012 14:11:03 +0000

Which country is Toyota’s second largest export hub? If all goes according to the wishes of Yoshimi Inaba, president of Toyota Motor North America, then that will be North America. Toyota has an annual production capacity of 1.8 million vehicles in the U.S. alone and wants to export increasing numbers to the world, Inaba told The Nikkei [sub].

According to Inaba,

“The U.S. has thick layers of parts suppliers. It has a huge workforce, and energy costs are falling as the development of shale gas and other types of natural gas progress. In other words, the U.S. offers both quality and cost advantages in everything from raw materials to assembly.

Some of Toyota’s export destinations are surprising:

South Korea, which has forged a free trade agreement with the U.S., comes to my mind. But its scale is small. Exporting to Russia and Australia makes better sense, given that we make larger vehicles favored by U.S. consumers anyway and if trading terms are taken into account. Trucks can be shipped to the Middle East. We must think of exporting to China, too, even though our production capacity is large there.

Non-U.S. companies are taking the lead in exporting from the U.S. Last month, we heard that the BMW Group is the country’s largest automotive exporter to non-NAFTA countries.


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It’s Starting: BMW To Export Made-in-China 5 Series Thu, 24 Nov 2011 18:52:03 +0000

We have always maintained that what will get exports of Chinese cars in high gear is not Chinese cars, but foreign cars. Foreign cars, made by joint ventures in China. Nevertheless, I admit my high surprise to read, from China Daily to Chinacartimes, that BMW will export Made in China cars. And not their bread and butter 3 series.

BMW will become the first foreign luxury car manufacturer to export China-made cars when it begins shipping locally produced long-wheelbase 5 Series sedans overseas at the end of the year.

BMW will start exporting the cars, which are made jointly with Brilliance, as early as December, destination unknown. Said Christoph Stark, CEO of BMW Group Region China:

“We will find some markets, maybe in the Middle East, somewhere in Asia, or some other markets that welcome the products where we can test this export effort. The main market of course is here (in China), because we can’t even supply enough here.”

BMW’s new 5 Series sedan has sold real well in China, especially in the long version, which is a Chinese peculiarity. The man who has everything also has a driver in China. And he wants room in the back.

Stark announced another first: BMW will build engines in China. A Twin-Power Turbo four-cylinder engine will be made at a joint venture factory, to go into Made-in China X1 and other models.

Hold the usual comments: The quality of cars made at joint venture factories in China is usually indistinguishable from imports. As long as the cars are made from foreign plans, with foreign methods and foreign QA, they sometimes exceed the imports.


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Argentina: Want To Sell Porsches? Export Our Wine And Olives Fri, 04 Nov 2011 15:20:36 +0000

With a 35% import tax on new cars, Argentina is already a touch market for foreign brands seeking to bring cars into the country. But the Argentinean government has just made it  little bit harder by demanding that importers export an equal amount of Argentina-made goods for every car imported. As a result, Bloomberg reports that Porsche’s importer is exporting Malbec wines and olives, Mitsubishi’s importer is getting into the peanut export game, and Subaru’s representative is shipping chicken feed to Chile. BMW, which has had recent difficulties importing into Argentina, is focusing on its core business, exporting auto parts and upholstery… and a little processed rice to make up the difference. But why are these major manufacturers getting into all kinds of strange side businesses just because Argentina wants to improve its trade balance and foreign currency reserves? Simple: Argentina is South America’s second-largest economy, and it’s been growing at over 5% per year since 2007 (i.e. when other markets were shrinking). So if the government wants imports balanced with exports, well, Porsche’s importer is just going to have to get into the wine business, isn’t he?

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The Nano No-No: Export Launch Delayed Over… High Price? Mon, 17 Oct 2011 18:55:42 +0000

Designed to be the world’s cheapest car, the Tata Nano is supposed to compete with scooters and three-wheelers rather than full-priced, global-brand vehicles. But the Nano has already seen several price increases since the target MSRP of $2,500 was announced, and the price in India for a base-level Nano is now about $2,870. And when you talk about such low prices, even small increases can wreak havoc on expected volumes, and as a result the Nano is turning into something of a flop (helped along by its pyromania problem).

Apparently Year-To-Date sales of the Nano were just 29,377 units through September, down from last year’s 37,402 result over the same period. In order to make up for weak sales in India, Tata has begun planned exports to neighboring countries, but that effort is running into problems as well. Abdul Matlub Ahmad, director of Nitol Motors, the Nano’s Bangladeshi distributor tells the AFP

A lot of people came to us for booking at the fair. At least 23 people confirmed their interest. But we’ve deferred launch of Nano at the last moment as we’re seeking a re-look at the price, which some say is too high.

The price? $7,900 after a 132% tax on imported cars. No wonder Bangladesh’s auto market is dependent on some 30k annual imports of reconditioned cars. Meanwhile, the Nano’s promise of becoming “India’s Model T” seems to be fading fast. But at least Tata has done something Ford was never able to do: make money on Jaguar and Land Rover

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Australia Reacts To The Chinese Invasion Sun, 16 Oct 2011 17:55:46 +0000

China’s assault on the auto markets of the west may have been delayed another five years, but Australia is going to be the canary in the coal mine. The first mature Western-style market to see any significant imports of Chinese vehicles, led by the Chery J1, is adapting to a new era of low-cost, low-content cars. And it seems that the Chinese OEMs are right to be waiting for future generations of vehicles, as the J1 seems unlikely to make even the impact that Hyundai’s departed Excel made. One reason: safety. Or lack thereof. Hit the the jump to see what we’re on about.

Not wildly inspiring, is it? On the other hand, it could be worse: after all, Holden’s Barina (a rebadged Daewoo Kalos/Chevy Aveo) got a similar two-star rating back in 2005. So, weak safety scores alone shouldn’t keep the J1 back…

Similarly, the marketing for the new Chery is weak… but not fatally, embarrassingly bad. To wit

But, if we look to South Africa, which has already been exposed to earlier Cherys, the perception of the J1 is something along the lines of the recent crop of Chrysler 200 reviews: still not competitive but a huge improvement. Or, in the words of this reviewer, a “scarily large improvement.”

In short, the J1 seems to represent a step in the development of China’s car industry: better than the rolling jokes of even a few years ago, but still not ready for primetime in the Western markets. And if China makes the most of the next five years of development, the next wave of export-oriented Chinese cars could begin to make the kind of impact we’ve seen from Hyundai over the last several decades. But neither the Koreans nor the Chinese will enjoy the opportunity afforded the Japanese, which came into the US just as Detroit’s automakers were fatally losing their way in a rapidly-changing market. If China’s going to make good on the angst it inspires in the Western automakers, it’s going to have to earn it vehicle by vehicle, generation by generation. This is only the beginning.

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Chevrolet Global Colorado Debuts In Thailand Mon, 10 Oct 2011 19:09:16 +0000

Editor’s note: GM has officially confirmed what the UAW already let slip: Chevy’s new midsized Colorado pickup will be built at the Wentzville, MO plant and sold in the US. More details on that decision are forthcoming, but in the meantime, here’s Edd Ellison’s report from the global launch of the Colorado in Bangkok, Thailand.

Chevrolet has launched its new-generation Colorado in Thailand where it will be built and exported to 60 global markets. In true GM style, the ceremony was lavish – a cluster of truck ploughed their way through a large field of crops planted in a Bangkok exhibition hall watched by the media, dealers and VIPs packed into several grandstands – and the message was just as upbeat, the automaker feeling it has a product that can compete in the crowded mid-size segment.

In ten days time Thai customers will be able to pass judgment on whether GM have got this right, quickly followed by Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. The New Colorado has to make up ground – the outgoing model, introduced seven years ago, never gained traction with consumers, particularly in the U.S. where robust initial sales tailed off very quickly. In the developing world, customers continued to prefer offerings from Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Isuzu – the latter somewhat ironically, as it shares its architecture with the Colorado.

GM is confident it has dotted all the ‘i’s and crossed the ‘t’s in developing the new Colorado. It has been a long and expensive project, involving the refitting of the Rayong factory, the construction of new engine plant next door to produce the new family of diesel engines, while styling was carried out in the carmaker’s Sao Paulo studios and extensive R&D was undertaken in Thailand and elsewhere. “It’s the most clean-sheet mid-size truck programme,” in GM history, said Martin Apfel, President GM Thailand/South East Asia.

According to Brad Merkel, GM Global Vehicle Line Executive, the big lesson which came from listening to customers was that they perceive pickups as “rough and tough” – but they don’t want “rough” to be a fundamental characteristic anymore, or even see why it should be. Growing aspirations and consumer demand that sees half of all pickups in Thailand bought as private cars has seen all OEMs scurrying to improve the comfort and luxury of their trucks. Toyota, the mid-size market leader, improved its Hilux this summer, and the others are following suit. Merkel says that the truck is now “refined” and points to the lack of vibrations, improved stability, and the dialing out of wind noise and rattles as key achievements. “It feels car-like,” he reckons.

The new Colorado will start from a low base here – 7,347 sales for the year to the end of August. That compares with 100,187 Hilux sales for tsunami-hit Toyota, 91,161 for the Colorado’s twin, Isuzu’s D-Max, 41,508 for Mitsubishi’s Triton and 16,032 for the Nissan Navara.

GM is anxious to emphasise the new project hasn’t been conducted in tandem with Isuzu, the two focusing on different directions after developing a common architecture. Addressing perceptions that the Colorado is more expensive to run has been a priority – the new model will go 20,000 km before its first scheduled service, while 100,000 km of running should be achieveable for a cost of no more than 20,000 baht.

Styling-wise, much of the design language has been carried over from the acclaimed Colorado “show truck” displayed at several major motor shows this year; however, some of that impact has been lost in the translation to production reality. The front end is dominated by Chevrolet’s twin-grille ‘family’ look which works quite well on what aims to be a big, butch pickup. It’s grown, too – the Colorado is now 5347mm long and there is a healthy choice of seven body colours. Inside the cabin is quite well laid out, but – as is to be expected with a pickup – there is a lot of hard plastic. The air-con controls are nicely laid out and backlit, there are umpteen storage areas and decent seats, but a number of areas, such as the instruments and door catches, feel basic and a bit clumsy.

The new four-cylinder diesel engines are based on the 6.6-litre V8 Duramax. They come in 2.5 and 2.8 litres and can be mated to 5-speed manual or 6-speed auto transmissions. The 2.5 (which should account for 75-80 percent of Thai sales) develops 150 HP and 350 Nm while the 2.8 has 180 HP on tap and 440 Nm (manual) or 470 Nm (auto).

Underneath, the body-on-frame chassis has been stiffened in torsion, and there are the expected safety features including front airbags, ESP, ABS, BA, CBC, HBFA and a deformable steering column.

GM is cautious about putting numbers on targets. The Rayong plant will assemble 12,000 new Colorados up to the end of this year, but management say they will be following demand. Capacity is likely to be around 100,000 units a year with a split between domestic and export. Only the 2.5 has been priced so far; it starts at 537,000 baht for the single cab, rising through extended/double cab, low/high ride and 2/4WD before reaching a range-topping 808,000 baht. That leaves the Colorado pretty much in line with existing pickup pricing here.

Edd Ellison is a Thailand-based auto journalist, covering the ASEAN markets and beyond. He can be contacted at Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Soon to be available in Colorado... (All images courtesy: Edd Ellison) IMG_4795_resize IMG_4767_resize IMG_4765_resize IMG_4700_resize IMG_4661_resize IMG_4653_resize IMG_4597_resize IMG_4454_resize


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Sibling Rivalry Watch: Is Kia Outshining Hyundai? Wed, 05 Oct 2011 16:01:38 +0000

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.

Fox Business reports that, last month in Korea

Kia’s domestic sales rose 4.4% but Hyundai’s slid 1.1%.

And that differential could be higher if it weren’t for the company’s single largest “problem”: demand is outstripping supply. The Korea Herald notes

“Some purchasers of Kia cars have to wait two or three months to see their products due to the weaker production capacity,” a local dealer said.

So, why is Kia pulling ahead of Hyundai in Korea? The Herald opines

Automobile dealers attributed Kia’s noteworthy sales performance in the local market to growing popularity of four models ― K5, K7, Sorento R and Sportage R.

Kia Motors has been successful in attracting Korean consumers by launching cars with innovative designs after the company scouted Peter Schreyer, a car designer known for helping to create the New Beetle and the Audi TT, in 2006.

And Automotive News [sub]‘s Rick Kranz has a similar interpretation

While the styling for the Sonata has been a home run in the United States, the Korean market initially was turned off by what some buyers might say is the car’s audacious design language, which Hyundai calls “fluidic sculpture.”

Simply, the Korean market apparently prefers something less radical; judging from Hyundai’s past model line, maybe “ultraconservative” is a better term.

“There are some people who are very critical of our (design) activities” in Korea, Cho Won Hong, Hyundai Motor’s chief marketing officer, told Beene. “However, we believe we should continue to apply this design identity.”

And because both firms are seling more vehicles than they can produce, a decision will have to be made at the top of the group’s leadership in order to determine how to invest in future production capacity. And because that decision will define relations between the two firms, it has huge political implications. The Herald notes

Executives of Hyundai Motor Group, however, are allegedly taking the situation seriously.

Should Hyundai be overtaken by Kia at home, the automaker will see its brand image as the long-standing No. 1 carmaker of Korea undermined and overseas sales damaged.

“It is quite interesting whether Hyundai Motor Group chairman Chung Mong-koo and his only son Eui-sun, CEO of Kia Motors, will tolerate the scenario,” a dealer said.

Meanwhile, there are already signs of change at the top of the chaebol. Last week, the WSJ [sub] reported

Hyundai announced Friday the retirement of Chief Executive Yang Seung-suk, who ended a nearly three-year stint in the post, during which time the car maker outpaced the competition in one of the industry’s worst downturns. In March, Lee Hyun-soon, Hyundai’s head of research and designer of the company’s first engine, also retired abruptly.

Hyundai’s ability to absorb such high-profile departures is rooted in a complex management structure built around Chairman Chung Mong-koo, the son of the company’s founder. Its day-to-day operations are handled by a suite of executives, the most visible of which in recent years has been Mr. Yang, known outside of South Korea as Steve Yang.

Mr. Yang was chiefly responsible for nondomestic operations and global marketing for Hyundai, which, with its affiliate Kia Motors Co., is the world’s fifth-largest car maker by unit sales.

In a statement, Hyundai said Mr. Yang’s duties would be divided among two executives, Mr. Chung and Kim Eok-jo, but neither would immediately receive the CEO designation.

The consolidation of power around Mr Chung, and the rise of executives with strong ties to Kia (which Mr Chung personally oversees), caused Wards Auto [sub] to report

Some analysts say Kia has outperformed Hyundai in the domestic and some overseas markets, speculating the two executives initially were brought over to provide a spark.

Is Kia coming into its own? Certainly US sales of the brand are nowhere near Hyundai’s blazing growth, but globally the balance of power appears to be shifting. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on this emerging sibling rivalry.



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Are You Ready For: An American Volvo? Tue, 13 Sep 2011 16:01:30 +0000

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?

Volvo’s Stephan Jacoby has opened the door to just that possibility, telling Bloomberg [via Automotive News [sub]]

One weakness of Volvo cars is the exposure to the U.S. dollar, so we are investigating increasing our sourcing in North America. The utmost solution would be to have a North American industrial footprint. We haven’t made up our mind.

OK, so currency exchange is the overriding business factor, but on a secondary level, building cars in the US would override any concerns American consumers might have about buying a made-in-China Volvo. For years now, the industry has fretted that the rise of Chinese automakers would be accompanied by waves of cheap, Chinese-built exports wiping out traditional brands on sheer cost alone. That Li and Jacoby are talking about building a US plant confirms that Chinese ascendancy need not follow the worst possible scenarios of industrial realpolitik. And as Sweden’s other automaker circles the drain, making Volvo a more global brand by assembling in Europe, China and the US is another triumph of reason over “automotive nationalism.”

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Will Rising Euro Push Alfa/Jeep Compact CUV Production To Toledo? Wed, 31 Aug 2011 14:46:08 +0000

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.

Fiat’s first-half volume in the European market is down 13%, and its market share has fallen from 8.1% to 7.2%, forcing the firm to think hard about its product mix and production plans. A city car would be sold primarily in Europe, and since the Euro as risen 9% since last November when Fiat said it would build Compact CUVs at Mirafiori, it now makes more sense to build global/US-market products somewhere other than Europe. US production would be a huge boon to the reintroduction of the Alfa brand to the US market (led by the new C-CUV), as it would keep prices and profit margins far more competitive.

There’s no indication as yet of where Chrysler could build the Alfa/Jeep Q5/Forester-fighters, but Toledo North seems like the most likely candidate. Not only is the Jeep Liberty (predecessor to the new Fiat-derived Jeep C-CUV) already built there, but Chrysler is already sniffing out incentives to expand to 327,000 units per year.

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Flopping Tata Nano Prompts Talk Of Overseas Production, Styling Changes, Diesel and Hybrid Options Wed, 03 Aug 2011 20:35:00 +0000

Tata’s Nano was launched with much fanfare in 2009, as the world’s cheapest car and a symbol of India’s automotive and economic aspirations. But first Tata had problems with its factory, which was to be built on land [allegedly] stolen from local farmers. Then, early last year, the cars started catching fire and refused to stop. Then finance was the issue, and when Tata revamped its finance, advertising and retail presence, it looked like things were beginning to improve. It turns out the bump was short-lived. After hitting 5k monthly sales last December, volume has fallen again dropping to 3,260 units in July (1/8th the volume of its main rival the Maruti Suzuki Alto) according to, which reckons

Startlingly, the most fuel efficient petrol car in the country, which is the most inexpensive too isn’t finding takers in a market troubled by high petrol prices and rising loan interest rates, that is clearly favoring cheaper and more fuel efficient cars… the market isn’t biting and the Nano sales have begun the downward spiral, this time continually.

So, what’s Tata going to fix to get its attempt at “India’s Model T” back off the ground. How about “everything”?

The crew at indiancarsbikes think they know what the Nano’s problem is:

a diesel engined Nano is the need of the day if Tata intends to reverse the Nano’s fortunes

A diesel engine is supposed to arrive by the end of this year, and could get up to 95 MPG (non-EPA)… although likely only with a CVT transmission that is also supposed to debut late this year. And sometime in 2012 a hybrid drivetrain could appear, although again, the Nano is already the most efficient car on the Indian market… it’s unlikely that more efficiency is the missing ingredient. In fact, if I had to guess, I’d say more standard equipment might be the key to improving sales.

But instead of upgrading the Nano’s equipment, a styling change could be coming, courtesy of Tata design boss (and designer of the new-look Jags) Ian Callum. Tata’s boss of Indian operations PM Telang was cagey about Tata receiving styling assistance from the Jaguar team, but  he admits

They (JLR) are part of the Tata family, so some idea exchange will always happen

So, what’s Telang’s solution? Not much.

Nano has a different clientele, people who perhaps never thought they could own a car. That’s why the decision making process is a little more complex as that’s a big step for them. It’s a very unconventional vehicle, so it’s taking some time in the market

Ultimately, it seems that, before radically altering the Nano, Tata will see if other markets take to it with more enthusiasm. Exports have begun to neighboring Sri Lanka and Nepal, and talks are under way with the Indonesian government about production for the South East Asian markets. And Telang says talks are underway with other Asian countries as well as Latin American countries about exports and eventually CKD assembly, telling the WSJ [sub]

Looking at the potential, we can think of importing the car first and later assembling it in those countries. At present we are considering many countries for assembling the Nano, but there is no timeline

Whereas the Model T caught the public’s attention nearly instantly, the Nano faces a lot more competition and very different world. Tata certainly thought that selling a cheap car in fast-growing  developing would be like printing money, but the reality turns out to be much more difficult.

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Stump The Best And Brightest: How Did This Opel Vivaro End Up In Illinois? Tue, 26 Jul 2011 23:49:23 +0000

I spotted this Opel Vivaro CDTI on the University of Illinois campus.

How did this apparently-European vehicle end up in Illinois?  Opel’s website suggests that they don’t do business in Canada, but this Vivaro has Quebec license plates, and a stuffed animal in the window that suggests it is a personal vehicle.

Does anyone have any idea how such a vehicle could end up legally touring the American Midwest with Canadian plates?  What say you, readers of TTAC?

Open Vivaro CDTI in Illinois (back) Open Vivaro CDTI in Illinois (front) Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail


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Saab Recasts Itself As Auto Industry’s Answer To Wal-Mart Tue, 10 May 2011 17:24:22 +0000

Saab has started paying suppliers again (although production hasn’t restarted yet), and CEO Victor Muller is once again all popped-collar confidence as he dismisses the “speed bump” that he blames on negative publicity. But behind Mueller’s yacht-club breeziness and talk of “true Saabs,” major changes are afoot in Saab’s business model. Saab’s deal with Hawtai, the product of a desperate search for support in the midst of a liquidity crisis, has changed how Muller sees the global car business, and as a result he’s shopping what may be Saab’s last meaningful asset: Western dealerships. Muller explains his thinking to Automotive News [sub]

We laughed when the Japanese came. We laughed when the Koreans came. But we will not be laughing when the Chinese come. The Chinese are like a steamroller. It took 67 years to build up our dealer network. It is the biggest asset not on our asset sheet, and these guys buy into it for free. If they make the proper cars, can you image how much simpler it will be to push product through the distribution network that is already there? It is like a railway network that is already there.

Bertel and I have a running bet about whether the first actual Chinese import to the US (not a converted glider) will be a Chinese brand or one of the western brands… but it’s not much of a bet because neither of us can ever commit to picking one brand that seems most likely to bust America’s Chinese car cherry, and our “bets” change on a weekly basis. In any case, though, think it’s safe to say that neither of us saw Saab as playing much of a role in any of the scenarios we’ve discussed.

Regardless, Muller’s attitude towards the Chinese industry is something akin to a sailor on shore leave, with a “come one, come all” approach to dangling its dealer networks in front of the entire Middle Kingdom. That’s right, Saab and Muller are in the general-purpose Chinese car evangelism business, rather than being tied up in some kind of exclusive deal with Hawtai.

Asked if this would be a vehicle produced by Hawtai, Muller said “there are 120 companies” in China. Saab would be interested in “the one with a strategy,” he said.

And what about branding? Will Saab be careful to pick only the safest, most upscale Chinese cars and brands to sell at its struggling dealer network?

Muller said the first Chinese cars sold here likely would not receive a 5-star safety rating. But he expects a low price would attract buyers.

In China “you can get a $10,000 SUV with air conditioning and electric windows, everything that was ever invented for a car. Do you really worry about a five-star (crash rating)? They look good,” he said.

Sweet. So, rather than using Hawtai’s ridiculous diesel engine production overcapacity to re-cast Saab as a diesel-first, Euro-niche maker, Saab’s struggling dealer base is being dangled as the automotive industry’s answer to Wal-Mart. Sure, there will be a day of reckoning when the Chinese start selling cars in the US, but many of the more legitimate Chinese OEMs have acknowledged that their products aren’t ready for the US yet. Chinese automakers who are tempted by Saab’s siren call of US-market exports should beware: with so much popular suspicion and antipathy towards China here in the US, a premature launch of not-ready-for-primetime products could set the entire Chinese industry’s US market ambitions back by years. Plus, you’d have to go into business with Saab. We’d suggest sitting this one out.

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