The Truth About Cars » reuters The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 20:36:40 +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 » reuters Reuters Claims 74 Fatalities Linked To GM Recall Through FARS Research Tue, 03 Jun 2014 23:55:26 +0000 GM RenCen Storm Clouds

Reuters reports the original fatality figure of 13 allegedly linked to the out-of-spec ignition switch that spurred a recall of 2.6 million General Motors vehicles this February may now actually be as high as 74.

The news agency researched the Fatality Analysis Reporting System database for “single-car frontal collisions where no front air bags deployed and the driver or front-seat passenger was killed,” then compared its findings between two of the vehicles under the spotlight of the recall — the Saturn Ion and Chevrolet Cobalt — and their competitors of the three most popular small vehicles: Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. The final analysis discovered the Ion held 5.9 fatal accidents per 100,000 units sold, followed by the Cobalt at 4.1, Focus at 2.9, Civic at 1.6 and Corolla at 1.0.

As for whether the findings held a link to the switch, the researchers weren’t able to confirm as FARS doesn’t include such data for the most part, leaving open other possibilities as to why the air bags failed to deploy in the affected vehicles.

Reuters presented their work to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and the automakers researched. Though GM remained silent on the findings, it stressed that its focus was on “doing the right thing” by their customer base. Toyota and Honda also remained silent, while Ford took issue with the agency’s methodology.

Among the two safety groups, NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman stated that while the final death toll wasn’t known by his agency, “it’s likely that more than 13 lives were lost” as a result of the defective part. IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer David Zuby noted the research may have overstated the number of deaths linked to non-deployment of air bags, as well as suggest that both the Ion and Cobalt were “less crashworthy” than the rest of the compacts compared. The FARS database itself also didn’t report information on five of the 13 deaths acknowledged by GM, and only has data through 2012.

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Reuters Sees EV Doldrums, Barrons Sees Tesla Hit A Brick Wall Thu, 13 Jun 2013 11:14:02 +0000

If TTAC would headline “Doldrums in U.S. electric car sales could linger indefinitely,” we’d come under screeching attacks by electric propulsion proponents, screaming “bias,” “slow newsday,” and “faux news,” along with choice invectives that would overpower our bad word filter. Well, we are sorry to disturb the peace again, but before the screeching starts, be advised that it’s not our headline. The headline is from buttoned-down Reuters. The wire doubts EVs will become a serious factor anytime soon, despite rounds of aggressive pricing.

In May, we recommended to “prepare for a low intensity price war over electric vehicles.” By now, the war is in full swing, and it is fought with big artillery. Writes Reuters:

“With even more new EVs and hybrids on the way later this year, including the BMW i3 and the Cadillac ELR, manufacturers are stepping up discounts on their green cars.”

According to the wire, “General Motors Co is the latest company to offer aggressive pricing.” GM offers incentives of up to $5,000 on the Volt. The new Chevrolet Spark EV was announced at a bargain price of $27,495 before government incentives. Nissan lowered the entry price for its Made-in-the–USA Leaf from $35,200 to $28,800. Honda lowered the lease cost for its Fit EV from $389/month for 36 months with 12,000 miles/year to $259/month for 36 months with unlimited mileage, free service, and a free 240V charger thrown in.

There are curious stories about bargain basement leases and a shortage of cars.

Then, there are people like Beau Boeckmann, whose family owns Galpin Ford, Ford’s largest U.S. dealership with locations all over California and Arizona, supposedly a hotspot for EVs.

Galpin sold only “very, very few” of Ford’s plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, Boeckmann told Reuters. Only 2 percent of the vehicles Galpin sold last month were plug-ins. The national average is even lower: Only 0.56 percent of all cars sold in America in May could be plugged in, Hybridcars says.

To Reuters’ bafflement, “both the Leaf and the Volt have been outsold this year by the Tesla Model S, a battery-powered luxury sedan that is more than twice the price of the Leaf and nearly double that of the Volt. Sales of the Model S through May were 8,850, making it the best-selling plug-in car in the United States despite a starting price of $70,890.” An analyst interviewed by Reuters thinks it’s a short-term phenomenon, and that the cars are bought “by the same set that will buy a Ferrari.” There aren’t too many of those.

The same analyst doesn’t see EVs “getting too far beyond a couple of percentage points” of market share between now and 2020. The man is an optimist, considering the fact that hybrids have been at it for well over a decade, and had to contend with much lesser obstacles, only to hover at around 3 percent market share today.

Barron’s thinks (and I agree) that the big test for Tesla comes when it exits its cushy supercar niche to go mainstream, something it has to do to fulfill the projections of hundreds of thousands Teslas that fuel its $100 stock price. “The high price of the Model S lets it pack enough battery capacity to overcome the range limitations that stifle sales of cheaper electric cars,” writes Barrons. Volume however comes at a price low enough to compete with the bargain basement offerings of other makers. Volume is created by people like you and me, with limited funds, people who buy a car to use it, not to show it at Cars & Coffee.

Tesla and its stockholders will soon face price range anxiety. To get in the general vicinity of the real world car buying demographic, Tesla must make a “Grand Canyon leap to reach its goal of cutting its car’s $90,000-plus sticker price in half,” Barrons says.

“The challenge is battery cost,” the paper continues. Analysts hope battery prices will drop by half, and that consumers will accept a driving range below 140 miles. However, says Barrons, “the U.S. government and industry researchers say the cost performance of batteries is coming down slower than hoped. At GM, Director of Global Battery Systems Bill Wallace believes that battery-capacity costs can improve by about 20% in the next few years.”

A mass market maker can afford a few quota cars sold at a loss. If all you have is EVs, EVs sold at a loss will kill you.

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Reuters Explains Why The Miles Bankruptcy Is Relevant To Other EV Bankruptcies Wed, 12 Jun 2013 16:26:01 +0000 Milesev

Yesterday, battery acolytes who hate to see stories of EV makers going bankrupt complained about a TTAC story of another EV maker going bankrupt.  They said the story was unfair, because Miles Electric made electric essential services vehicles, used for parking enforcement and the like, whereas bankrupt EV makers such as Coda tried to sell real cars,so where’s the connection?

Our story actually went to great pains trying to explain this promising niche, in an attempt to say “well, if it doesn’t work here, where will it?”

Wire services such as Reuters are less subtle.  In its article about Miles going bust, Reuters says that the Miles bankruptcy highlights ”the difficulties faced by battery-powered vehicles in gaining wide market acceptance.” Reuters goes on to say:

“Consumers have been slow to gravitate to electric vehicles due to their high cost and concerns about their driving range.

The U.S. Department of Energy in January backed off on President Barack Obama’s goal of putting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015, and laid out what experts called a more realistic strategy of promoting advanced-drive vehicles and lowering their cost.”

(Expect to read something similar – or identical – in future reports of EV bankruptcies. These paragraphs read like handy boilerplate.)

Today, Reuters comes to the rescue of readers who miss a connection between Miles and makers of real EVs.   It turns out that bankrupt Coda  and bankrupt Miles are connected, so much that, writes Reuters,

“Lio Energy Systems Holdings, based in Delaware, and Hong Kong-based Miles Electric Vehicles Ltd are seeking to have their cases jointly administered with those of parent Coda Holdings and its affiliates, including Coda Automotive, which filed for bankruptcy on May 1.”

According to Reuters, Coda’s founder Miles Rubin is the same Miles Rubin that founded Miles Electric, a company, Reuters says, “that is separate from, but related to, Coda.”

In its new article about Miles & Co., Reuters again uses a lot of the boilerplate language that soon will become very familiar:

“Consumers have been slow to gravitate to electric vehicles due to their high cost, lack of convenience and concerns about their driving range. Among the prominent “green” car makers that face an uncertain future is southern California-based Fisker Automotive Inc, which is seeking a buyer after hiring bankruptcy advisers.”

The U.S. Department of Energy in January backed away from President Barack Obama’s goal of putting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015, and laid out what experts called a more realistic strategy of promoting advanced-drive vehicles and lowering their cost.

Tesla has put thousands of cars on the road, but Fisker is considering a bankruptcy filing. Fisker’s lithium-ion battery maker, A123 Systems Inc, filed for bankruptcy late last year.”

In my humble opinion, the mere act of starting a new car company in a hope of striking it rich is a symptom of dementia. This industry is very unkind to new entries. Electric propulsion, and producing the cars in China simply add to the already daunting odds. But as long as people invest in these companies, Reuters will be able to re-use its handy boilerplate paragraphs.

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Another One Bites The Dust: Better Place Bankrupt Mon, 27 May 2013 12:07:49 +0000

Better Place “filed a motion in an Israeli court to wind up the company, bringing an end to a venture whose battery charging network had aimed to boost electric car sales,” Reuters says.

Better Place, founded by former SAP executive (he never was SAP CEO, as often reported,) said it had the answer to three big problems of the electric vehicle: Charge time, range, and cost of the expensive battery. The idea was to swap the battery quickly, in many swap stations, and with batteries that are financed like a smartphone on a plan. Good idea, but it did not work.

The idea missed two important ingredients: Supply and demand. Sales of electric vehicles did not take off as hoped, and car suppliers did not want to standardize on batteries that can be changed like a AA cell. Better Place always talked up its “partnership” with Renault, which supplied the first batch of Fluence cars with a swappable battery. That partnership remained one-sided. Off the record, Renault executives kept their distance from the project and refused to mass market a car with a swappable battery.

Better Place said it wanted to move 100,000 of the Fluence ZE in Israel and Denmark by 2016. However, “just over a thousand cars are on the road in Israel and Denmark, the first two countries where Better Place began operating,” says Reuters.

Founder Shai Agassi was removed as CEO in October, his successor was replaced just four months later. Rapid changes at the top of a startup usually is a sign of impending passing of the company.

Founded in 2008, Better Place attracted $850 million in investments, which can be written off by names like Israel Corp., HSBC and Morgan Stanley. In a November earnings report published by Israel Corp, which owns about 30 percent of Better Place, it was said the company had an accumulated deficit of $561.5 million with more losses expected.

Coda, Fisker, A123, now Better Place: This hallowed publication always has been a bit doubtful when it came to the prospects of battery-operated locomotion. This hesitation is not driven by ideology. I am on record that I am strictly nondenominational when it comes to powertrains. I won’t argue if a two-cylinder fueled by woodchips is found better for the job than a turbine. But if someone tries to sell me on a car that takes eight hours to fill up, a car that needs an eight hour fill-up again when it barely got going, a car that costs double of what a comparable OTHER car would cost, then I will be a very reluctant customer.

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Car Fight: Chrysler Calls Out Tesla – Who Paid Up First? Thu, 23 May 2013 20:12:19 +0000

Ommm – ummmm

The first thing they drummed into me when I started as a copywriter for Volkswagen: “Never use superlatives. They only get you in trouble.” Now, Elon Musk is in trouble over who was first to fully pay back the government loan. 

Yesterday, Tesla wired $452 million to repay the remaining portion of its DOE loan with interest. The company told Reuters it is “the only American car company to have fully repaid the government.”

Chrysler fired back four hours later: “Not exactly, Tesla.”

Having repaid $7.6 billion in federal loans in 2011, Chrysler said today : “Tesla’s information is unmistakably incorrect.”

america tweet

Musk went on Twitter and came back with a retort that will enrage red, white and blueblooded  Chrysler fans. He said Chrysler is no U.S. car company, it is a division of Fiat and besides, Chrysler never fully repaid its loans.

Says Reuters: “The U.S. government recouped about $11.2 billion of its funds. In 2011, Treasury said it is unlikely to fully recover $1.3 billion owed by Old Chrysler.”

All I can say: Stay away from superlatives. They only get you in trouble.

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Mitsubishi Wants To Re-Tool Itself Thu, 23 May 2013 12:56:33 +0000 IMG_5537

After accumulating some $9 billion in losses, Mitsubishi Motors is bringing its financial house in order. According to Reuters, “Mitsubishi Motors is considering asking shareholders to approve plans for a 10-for-1 reverse stock split. At the same time, the company may ask shareholders to approve a capital reorganization – a change in accounting that would make it possible to resume paying dividends.”


Reuters’ sources say the first steps could be announced as soon as Friday and put it before shareholders at the annual meeting at the end of June, “to close a chapter that began with a 2004 bailout for Mitsubishi Motors.”


Being part of the Mitsubishi group, one of the largest in Japan, Mitsubishi Motors has rich parents that were able to finance an often rocky career of its offspring. Mitsu had a partnership with Chrysler, which was dissolved in the 90s. A decade later, Mitsubishi and Chrysler were back together, as part of a tumultuous threesome with Daimler. In 2004, Mitsubishi dropped out after a boardroom drama at DaimlerChrysler prevented a financial salvage operation of the money-leaking company. At this point, Mitsubishi Motors basically moved in with its well-to-do parent.


Mitsubishi gave up production in Europe by the end of 2012, and is focusing on the developing markets, mostly Southeast Asia, where it is strong. Mitsubishi has three assembly plants in Thailand alone. At home in Japan, it is streamlining its production. At the Mizushima plant on Monday, I saw nearly to complete catalog of Mitsubishi cars come down the same assembly line. Mitsubishi had  two lines, one for Kei cars, one for regular cars. Even those were combined into one – rather long – multi-model line.

Mitsubishi’s best-selling models on a global basis are the Triton pickup truck and the small SUV sold as both the RVR and Outlander Sport.


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Lutz And Chinese Offer One Penny On The Dollar For Fisker Thu, 23 May 2013 10:33:24 +0000 Bob Lutz  Picture courtesy

Fisker is worth around 200 Karmas at retail. “A team including former General Motors Co executive Bob Lutz and China’s largest parts maker is looking to buy Fisker Automotive for $20 million, a fraction of the “green” car company’s estimated worth almost a year and a half ago,” Reuters says.

Late 2011, Fisker told prospective investors that its total capitalization was “approaching” $2 billion, according to an investor document filing obtained by Reuters. If the bid is successful, Fisker would have officially lost 99 percent of its valuation over the course of  less than two years.

Fisker now owes the DOE some $171 million in loans. Another deal is in the works to buy out the DOE’s position in Fisker at a discount. The DOE had no comment.


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Where Is Currency Manipulation When We Need It: Ford Shuts Down Down Under Thu, 23 May 2013 08:41:51 +0000 File picture of Ford Australia's head office in Melbourne

Ford has long been at the forefront of the currency debate, claiming currency manipulation when the yen went to levels that nearly killed the Japanese auto industry, and shouting “currency manipulation” now that the yen is back to normal levels. Now, Ford itself experiences the devastating effects of changing exchange rates:  Ford is shutting down all its manufacturing operations in Australia. The reason: A strong Australian dollar.  Says Reuters:

“Ford Motor Co  will shut its two Australian auto plants in October 2016, blaming a strong currency and costs that are hitting manufacturers just as the country looks for other sectors of its economy to cushion the end of a mining boom.”

According to the report, the closure of Ford’s  engine plant in Geelong and its vehicle assembly plant in Broadmeadows will cost 1,200 jobs. Ford  built 37,000 vehicles in Australia last year, and has been in the country since 1925.

“Our costs are double that of Europe and nearly four times Ford in Asia,” Ford Australia CEO Bob Graziano told Reuters. “The business case simply did not stack up. Manufacturing is not viable for Ford in Australia.”

The Aussie has climbed from just over 60 cents in 2009 to above parity with the U.S. dollar, where it has been for more than two years. Currently, one AUD costs 97 cents.

A few weeks ago, Jac Nasser, the former head of Ford, warned that Australia’s car industry has passed the point of no return, and said it would die within the next few years.

I am sure that in this case, Ford would have been grateful for a little currency manipulation – or shall we call in central bank intervention – and would not have complained.  GM’s Holden said it will cut 500 jobs, citing damage from the high Australian dollar.

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CAW And Chrysler Reach Deal: Marchionne May Get The Last Laugh Thu, 27 Sep 2012 12:30:15 +0000

Did Ken Lewenza hose Sergio Marchionne and Chrysler? Ask me that a few days ago and I may have said yes. Now that the terms of the CAW and Chrysler have surfaced, I’m not so sure.

A superficial glance at the situation seems to have the scoreboard favoring the CAW. Chrysler agreed to the pattern agreement that includes the $9,000 per worker lump sum payments that Chrysler was dead set against, as well as the return of the COLA payments in Q4 2016. Kenny 1, Sergio 0, right? Not so fast.

Ford and GM all have product and investment guarantees written into their labor agreements. Chrysler’s is noticeably void of them. One of the expected conditions of the agreement was that a third shift would be added at the Brampton Assembly plant that builds the rear-drive Chrysler LX cars. According to the Windsor Star, that didn’t happen

“In Brampton, the CAW could only secure a promise to maintain the two shifts at the plant that manufactures the Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger and Charger during  the life of the agreement.  “That plant is incredibly important,” said Lewenza.”

Chrysler will keep the three-shift Windsor plant up and running for the life of the agreement. The minivans are selling like hotcakes in Canada, and dominating in the US minivan market, and Chrysler needs every bit of capacity they can get. Previous reports estimated that further investment in the Brampton plant could add as many as 1,000 jobs and be worth as much as $400 million, but there’s a possibility that rear-drive car production could leave Canada, not for the United States, but Italy.

Here’s the scenario; the next Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger will use a rear-drive platform that will be utilized across the Chrysler-Fiat empire. Depending on the day, it can be an Alfa Romeo, or a Maserati or an SRT Baracuda.  The specific models aren’t as important as the fact that it’s a global platform. And that means products based off of it can and will be built and sold around the globe. Over at Fiat, plants are running at 50 percent capacity and Italy’s economy is in the toilet. Jobs would be brought home, plants could be running at or above the magic 75 percent number and Chrysler sheds the financial burden of assembling cars in Canada.

Meanwhile, the CAW sold 1,000 badly needed manufacturing jobs (the kind they complain are disappearing in Canada) for $9,000 per worker in lump sum payments. Right now, it looks like incredibly short sighted thinking. It may be a “damn good deal” for the current workers at Chrysler, but the lack of any job/investment guarantees likely came as a quid pro quo for Chrysler maintaing the lump sum payouts. What if the CAW agreed to rescind them, in exchange for promises to expand the future of Canada’s manufacturing base?

The odds of that deal getting ratified by workers is about as likely as Sergio not saying “vaffanculo” to Canada and the CAW come 2016.

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GM CFO Makes Reuters Correspondent Want To Throw Up Thu, 19 Jul 2012 15:29:22 +0000 Former Wall Street banker turned GM CFO Dan Ammann put the fear of a higher being into Reuters’ Detroit correspondent Ben Klayman. To drive home the point that bean counters can be car guys too, Ammann raced his gray-metallic Corvette Z06 around GM’s Michigan test track – with a nauseated Klayman in the passenger’s seat.

“I almost threw up afterwards,” recounts Klayman. Klayman’s feature story about the CFO who wants it understood that he’s not one of the gray-suited “bean counters” who once dominated, and nearly destroyed, General Motors, is required reading.

And as long as he won’t throw up in the car, no harm done.

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Grudge Match: Reuters Races TTAC! Complete Photo Documentary Tue, 06 Sep 2011 16:03:39 +0000

Reuters is widely considered the best in the business when it comes to the auto beat. They were that before Paul Ingrassia joined Reuters as Deputy Editor-in-Chief. That someone who won the Pulitzer-prize for his coverage of the turmoil at GM took the helm at Reuters only made their coverage better. Amongst the Tokyo auto press corps, Chang-Ran Kim of Reuters reigns supreme.

However, even the best journalists can become a bit territorial, and an aging TTAC blogger who air-drops into Tokyo every other month can become an irritant. After a little back and forth ribbing, we decided: “Let’s settle this like, well, persons.” And a grudge match was arranged:

Ran Kim of Reuters races BS of TTAC. Full race coverage after the jump ….

Immediate question: Race with what? The first idea was to use LFAs. Lexus provided a selection, 2 in black, 2 in white (probably to keep some quota).

Then we asked what would happen if something should happen to the $375,000 car. “No problem,” we were told. “Just buy a new one.” Did I mention that manufacturer largesse is very limited in Japan?

Then someone at Toyota said: “Why not go-karts?”

Great idea! Gazoo Racing volunteered to do race support and to provide the split second timing.

The grudge match promised world-wide attention, so Gazoo took the opportunity to show off some cars. This is the boss’s LFA in “24 hours Nürburgring” livery. He can afford it. If it breaks, they just build a new one.

A nice hot hatch concept. Not for sale.

The sports hybrid concept was ignored by Ran. Even the fake eyelashes could not impress. Ran focused on her race.

Driver’s meeting. Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco moonlights as Chief Referee and explains the course. He also shows the current course record: 13:644 seconds, achieved by a professional Gazoo driver.

This is the coveted trophy the winner of the grudge match will take home: A genuine Team Gazoo wristband! Akio Toyoda has one. The winner of the race will have one as well.

Time to suit up. Ran Kim gets a helmet …

… and race gloves.

BS is likewise outfitted. What did they say about a big head?

Pre-race briefing. Ran gets instructions from a Gazoo race driver.

Ran receives advice I did not get: “You want to win against that German guy? Attitude is everything!”

And Team Reuters is off!

Ran rearranges the track barriers a bit.

And she crosses the finish line at 13:480 seconds.

My time? 16:981. Ran brings home another win for Team Reuters. And did you notice that she even did beat Team Gazoo by a few fractions of a second?

Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Race. Picture Courtesy Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Race. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Race. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Race. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Race. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Race. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Race. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Race. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Race. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Race. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Race. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Race. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Race. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Race. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Match. Picture coutesy Bertel Schmitt Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Match. Picture coutesy Bertel Schmitt Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Match. Picture coutesy Bertel Schmitt Reuters v.v. TTAC Grudge Match. Picture coutesy Bertel Schmitt ]]> 9
Ghosn Sees One Or Two Global Chinese Carmakers. Eventually Wed, 22 Jun 2011 19:43:41 +0000

The Chinese quest to own a large Chinese automaker with global reach fell on sympathetic ears with someone who should be scared of the yellow peril: Carlos Ghosn. After all,Ghosn is in charge of two automakers. Nissan is the largest Japanese brand in China. Renault is trying to get traction in China. At the Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event in Tokyo today, Ghosn said he does not only expect one or two large Chinese automakers to emerge on the global market, he also understands why.

First, Ghosn had interesting news for those who think there is no money to be made in China:

“For carmakers, China is one of the most profitable markets in the world. It used to be the United States. Now it is China.”

Ghosn explained that Europe is by and large in the hands of European automakers. The Korean market is nearly 100% in Korean hands. Japan’s auto market is dominated by Japanese. Even “the Americans still hold a substantial market share in the United States.” Then why should the world’s largest auto market be left to the foreigners? Said Ghosn:

“When the government in China says, hey, this is a huge industry, we want to generate a Chinese champion, then that’s logical, it’s normal, we are expecting this. Is this a handicap for us? I don’t think so. It’s a factor. We are facing it everywhere.”

“We are expecting presently that there will be at least one or two global makers coming out of China .How this is going to take place, nobody knows. What is going to be the company, nobody knows. It probably will go through acquisitions of pieces of other companies outside of China, but at the end of the day it is going to happen.”

Ghosn thinks this is a while off.

“I think it is going to be some time before we see a major Chinese makers competing globally. At least five years. Unless there is an acquisition.”

Ghosn mentioned Volvo and Geely en passant, but didn’t see it as a game changer. Saab never came up. Ghosn said it needs a “volume maker.” He stressed “volume maker” several times.

When Paul Ingrassia mentioned Opel, Ghosn sidestepped the issue, and said “I’m not going to give you names.”

Through the power of YouTube, you didn’t have to travel to Tokyo to hear Ghosn uncut. The unedited, full length video on YouTube is required watching if you are interested in where this industry is heading.

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Ghosn To China: Give Us Your Rules, And We’ll Give You Our EV Wed, 22 Jun 2011 16:03:48 +0000

Nearly two months ago, American senators complained that China is continuing its “long history of breaking international trade rules” and that there is a “trade barrier that is designed to prevent U.S. automakers from accessing the Chinese market” for electric vehicles.

As Ed Niedermeyer said it back when, there were no new rules. There still aren’t any. If there is one man who should be up to date on rules on electric vehicles around the world and especially in China, then it’s Carlos Ghosn. After all, he did bet the future of two companies, Renault and Nissan on the future of the EV. Also, Nissan is the largest Japanese brand in China, and Nissan’s joint venture partner is Dongfeng, a company owned by China’s central government. So he should know what the rules are.

The trouble is: Carlos Ghosn has no idea. This is what he said today:

“China still did not officialize their policy on electric cars. The official policy has not been made official yet. Obviously we will launch an electric car in China. But before launching it we want to know: What are the rules?”

“Will China give incentives to the consumer? It seems like the answer is going to be yes. Who will be benefiting from the incentives? Do you have to be a Chinese brand in order to benefit? Under what conditions will you be able to produce batteries in China? Does the 50:50 rule apply to batteries? Does it apply to the new technology we will be bringing?”

“There are a lot of questions that still are not officially answered. We have some hints. But the stakes are so big that you cannot afford massive investments without knowing exactly what the rules are.”

“This will hopefully happen around summer this year. We have the intention to go with the electric car and the new technology to China, because the Chinese believe in the electric car, they need zero emission, and every single sign they are giving is that they are going to support it heavily.”

There is something that Ghosn knows, and it’s that the  Chinese market is still growing:

“During the month of May, the sales of passenger cars continued to grow in China. And I can tell you even in the month of June we see the sales of passenger vehicles continue to grow. Commercial vehicles are going down for a very simple reason: There were a lot of incentives on the table. When you stop the incentives, obviously you will drive the market down.”

TTAC readers have known this for a while.

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Carlos Ghosn Predicts Record Year, No Double Dipping Wed, 22 Jun 2011 15:08:03 +0000

A beaming and relaxed Carlos Ghosn dispensed a little insider knowledge tonight in Tokyo and let (surely not involuntarily) slip that there will be “significantly higher numbers tomorrow” when Nissan announces its predictions for the current fiscal year.

“Tomorrow, the company officially will put the forecast for the fiscal year 2011. When I announced the financial results in May, we said that our sales in 2011 will probably be higher than in 2010. Everybody was stunned and said I am very optimistic. Well, we are going to show you the numbers tomorrow, and they will be significantly higher than in 2010.”

Interviewed by Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Ingrassia at the Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event at the spiffy Reuters Tokyo bureau, Ghosn predicted 2011 to become “record year of sales and total volume produced for the industry.”

Recession you say? Ghosn doesn’t believe in a double dip recession.

“The recovery will not happen in a linear fashion. We will have two steps forward, one step sideways, two steps behind, three steps forward – it will be a bit chaotic before we come back to growth. We are seeing crab movements, and we will do this until there is a clear recovery. My fundamental feeling is we are not going to a double dip. However, we are not on this boulevard of growth everybody is hoping for.”

From what we currently have, it appears as if Nissan is escaping the March tsunami far less affected than Toyota or Honda. Nissan has a smaller percentage of production in Japan and is growing faster in emerging markets.

We were not allowed to take pictures during the event, such as not to steal the thunder from the video, which is available in full length on YouTube. To prove that the story wasn’t researched using YouTube, I enter the picture above into evidence.  The guy in the blue shirt, front row, left side of the aisle is me. It just looks like I’m kissing Ghosn’s derriere.

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The WikiLeak-Leak: BYD Targeted By Guangzhou Consulate Gossip Wed, 09 Mar 2011 20:41:04 +0000

While Julian Assange fights extradition proceedings to Sweden on charges of a ripped condom (note to Jack Baruth: Never get close to a Svenska flicka), the Wikileak cablegate haul is being used to do a hatchet job on a down and out car company that should qualify for a handicapped parking sticker.

Today, Reuters runs a five page “special report” titled “Warren Buffett’s China car deal could backfire.”

The story is about BYD.  If you read the story, read it with a cup of strong coffee: you’ll need it to stay awake.

Reuters is a great news organization, and they tried really hard. The story was compiled by Reuters’ correspondents in New York, Detroit, Hong Kong, Beijing and Tokyo and edited by two people. Despite all the work, there are no new revelations. It’s warmed-over material which will be quite familiar to the attentive follower of our on-going BYD coverage. Actually, some of it sounds VERY familiar. But there is a twist:

The story was supposedly triggered by “diplomatic cables revealed by WikiLeaks and provided to Reuters by a third party.” Now that got my attention. But after reading all five pages, I feel more used than the alleged rape victim in Stockholm: That’s it? Where’s the sexy stuff?

We won’t bore you with quoting the wikileaked passages, they aren’t worth the bits. Let’s just say that if you have read Ed Niedermeyer’s “BYD Blasted For Reverse Engineering, Labor Practices, Expansion”, written more than a year ago, you know more dirt on BYD than what is revealed in the Desperate Housewives gossip emanating from a US Consulate in the backwaters of Guangzhou, written in an apparent attempt to break the tedium of denying U.S. “tourist” visas to unmarried Chinese females.

If you absolutely have to read them, there you go. (We hate to lose readers.)

The only thing that is REALLY interesting is the fact that the Guangzhou embassy party gossip was “provided to Reuters by a third party.” It had to be. Reuters had no way of accessing it on their own.

Use the handy Cablesearch tool, put in “BYD”, and ye shall receive:” No matches found for « BYD ».” Put in “Guangzhou” and you find no cable from Guangzhou.

The BYD material is not amongst the many cables already published by Wikileaks.  Someone gave Reuters Wikileaks material that is not available. Reuters is not on the prerelease list of Wikileaks. This leak must be intentional.

Now who’s that ominous “third party” that  leaked unpublished Wikileaks material, as boring as it may be, to Reuters? I have no idea. All I know is: To leak something to the press, you first need to have access to the material. And most of all, you need to have a motive to do the leaking.

BYD is in horrible shape. The BYD stock had its all-time low of 29.90 honkies (not a racial slur, this is what Hong Kong Dollars are called in China) on February 24. It has since recovered a bit to 36.75 HKD.  BYD’s sales were down 15 percent in January when the overall market was up 13.8 percent. In February, their sales were half those of January. Nobody wants their electric cars in China, even with very generous subsidies. But the New York Times kind of likes the F3DM, in a campy kind of way.

But then why the Wikileaks-leak hatchet job? Can’t they let BYD die in peace? Or is someone afraid BYD might actually recover? Shorts getting nervous about a bounce? But since when do shorts have unpublished Wikileak material. Strange.

Any theories who might be behind the lame leak?

Cui bono?

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Death Of Saab: Sweden’s Prime Minister “Not Surprised” Sun, 20 Dec 2009 10:01:22 +0000 Rest In Peace. Picture courtesy

Sweden’s prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt had his fill of failed negotiations. Returning home from round-the-clock talks at the Copenhagen climate conference, he said that he saw the Saab collapse coming. Sweden’s prime minister is “unsurprised” by the collapse of the sale, says Reuters.  Asked if he was surprised, Reinfeldt  said: “No, the process was built around a loss-making company and an American owner that owned Saab for 20 years and made a profit in one of the 20.  It’s clear that it was not successful enough.” Sweden’s head blames GM for the failure.

Fredrik Reinfeldt said GM had failed to make Saab strong enough to survive.

“Basically, they GM have not been successful enough at building Saab’s profitability, and they have not either come up to those volumes which modern carmakers probably need,” the premier said in an interview on Swedish public radio.

That’s the charitable way to look at it. The other version is that GM can’t even dispose of its unloved brands in an orderly fashion. Opel was withdrawn. The Saturn-Penske deal fell through. Even the Hummer-Tengzhong deal is stuck somewhere in never-never-land.

BAIC would have been more than willing to take Saab completely off GM’s hands, instead of just buying used tooling and machinery. Ironically, hours before the announcement of the failure to sell Saab, BAIC had signaled their intention for further cooperation with Saab, Dow Jones had on its wire. It wouldn’t be astonishing if the large Beijing expat community receives a large influx of engineers from Trollhättan. A friendly IKEA beckons.

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