By on September 7, 2012

Opel must feel like someone who’s on his deathbed, surrounded by relatives who muse how much the organs will fetch. After we ran our piece on Detroit rumors about Opel and PSA, everybody started to weigh in on the issue. The recommendation by a Wall Street analyst that GM should “dump Opel” made headlines around the world. The Economist mused aloud what an “Opel-less future” would be like.

Even here in Chengdu, China, Opel was given up for dead. (Read More…)

By on September 6, 2012

Rubbing shoulders with industry types displaced to a Chinese city called Chengdu has its good parts. You hear stories you normally don’t see in a press release. An executive who works for the western partner of a large Chinese joint venture told me today that my story about Chinese interests killing the Opel deal between GM and PSA wasn’t true. At least not completely. As so often, in the denial was a much more interesting story. After another drink for encouragement, said executive told me very much off the record that GM is tired of the PSA deal and wants out. If that means leaving Opel for dead, so be it. (Read More…)

By on September 6, 2012

The hordes of Chinese and Japanese reporters roaming the halls of the Chengdu Global Automotive Forum in Chengdu were not really interested in exports. They were sniffing blood. There are tensions between China, Japan, and a few other countries over some rocks in the sea. The rocks are called Diaoyu by the Chinese, Senkaku by the Japanese, and choice words by many others. Nissan’s COO Toshiyuki Shiga sat on the podium, next to the always photogenic Atsushi Niimi. The Japanese were flanked by a BAIC president and a Dongfeng CEO. The reporters wanted to know: How bad is it? (Read More…)

By on September 6, 2012

There is one thing about the Chinese car industry that can’t be said often enough: It is learning fast. A year ago, the recurring theme at the Chengdu Global Automotive Forum was brands, brands, brands. This year, nobody talks about new brands anymore. The only one who does is the CEO of Dongfeng, one of China’s largest automakers. He says last year’s brand binge was misguided, “irrational, incompetent, and immature.” (Read More…)

By on October 14, 2011

 

My fleeting 15:21  minutes of dubious fame.

By on October 14, 2011

 

There was no better place to clear up some questions about Saab than in Chengdu. After all, nowhere can you find the CEOs of all major Chinese carmakers and government officials all under the same roof, or even at your dining table. There also was no better place to get entangled in the messiest web of facts and fiction. Here is some local color: (Read More…)

By on October 13, 2011

If your dearest wish is that the Chinese car industry will implode, then you should pray that the Chinese remain on strategy. For whatever inconceivable reason, the Chinese car industry has embarked on a plan, which – if properly executed – will mean its assured destruction. (Read More…)

By on October 13, 2011

The third day of the Chengdu get-together morphed into what was called a “Global Automotive Media Summit.” The idea was to prep the Chinese car manufacturers for their global push as far as the global media are concerned. For that, the services of TTAC were enlisted.  The manufacturers need any help they can get when it comes to handling the media. From BAIC to SAIC, from Chery to Geely, from state-owned Dongfeng all the way to wannabe manufacturer Pangda, they all were there and delivered their speeches. The speeches could be summed-up in two words, looped like techno-rock:

“Global. Global. Global. Global. Brands. Brands. Brands. Brands. Global Brands.”

Paul Ingrassia, deputy chief of Reuters and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the management turmoil at General Motors, was there and warned about too much haste. His warnings largely fell on deaf ears. (Read More…)

By on October 12, 2011

While U.S. Senators are wringing their hands and pounding their chests about EV know-how allegedly escaping to China, makers from other countries are doing business. The most recent EV entry is Honda. Honda will build an EV in China and sell it in China in 2012 “in limited quantities,” its R&D chief Toshihiro Mibe told TTAC in Chengdu. The electric vehicle will undergo tests this year. When ready, the EV will be launched under the Honda brand. When asked, Honda spokesperson Natsuna Asanuma was convinced that the Honda EV will qualify for Chinese subsidies.

Mibe dismissed know-how issues: “An EV is much simpler than a regular car. The only difference is the battery and the electric motor.” (Read More…)

By on October 11, 2011

The Chengdu meeting might ruin the appetite of the Saab faithful. Saab wasn’t a topic during the proceedings, although Volvo was mentioned a lot. On the sidelines of the conference however, death sentences to Saab where handed out by the truckload.

Jim Holder, Editor of the U.K. magazine AutoCar is at the meeting. He scooped me by learning from a highly reliable source:

“A last-minute rescue deal to save Saab is virtually certain to be blocked by the Chinese government, meaning the company is almost certain to be declared bankrupt – possibly as soon as later today. (Read More…)

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