While America Slept. Friday, November 28, 2008

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
while america slept friday november 28 2008

How was your Thanksgiving? Get ready for turkey sandwiches, turkey soup and a dose of turkey news from all over the world. While America Slept (WAS) is a daily round-up of the news that happened in other continents and time-zones. TTAC provides round-the-clock coverage of everything that has wheels. And that has its wheels coming off. Soup to nuts, all the news that would be unfit to eat on an empty stomach.

Indian market blows up. The emerging Indian auto industry hasn’t quite emerged yet. Now, it’s getting it in the shins, big-time. After Toyota’s debt rating was cut, “Indian automobile stocks were lower tracking the fall in Asian peers,” the India Times has it. “Due to lower demand, automobile companies have been forced to shut down plants.” Now, shell-shocked investors take their money and go home. “The attacks in Mumbai could accelerate the trend,” the Nikkei (sub) writes, citing Mitsushige Akino of Ichiyoshi Investment who said: “Worldwide economic downturns have historically triggered wars and political instability.” Not what they call an investor-friendly environment. The Mumbai attack is already called “India’s 9/11.” Say ta-ta to Tata for a while. Internationals have advised expats to keep indoors, or better, get out.

Hyundai declares war on Nissan: Speaking of wars, “Hyundai has made its 2009 Accent the cheapest new car on sale in America by lopping $1,100 from its MSRP, so the numbers on the screen now read $9,970 the LA Times reports. That’s a price-war to the tune of $20 less than the $9,990 Nissan Versa 1.6 – but every penny counts these days. Wars have erupted about less. Considerable fine print applies. Check with your dealer, or the LA Times for details.

Wagoner squeezes Forster, Forster squeezes Opel: GM Europe must wants to save $750m in labor costs at Opel. Forster sent a letter to all workers and announced less work, less pay. Opel’s union boss Klaus Franz signaled to Forster to insert letter in pipe and smoke it. Or choose other dark cavities. According to Automobilwoche (sub,) Franz asked six questions from Forster, the most salient being “what are your plans to protect the European business from an insolvency of GM?” Franz doesn’t expect any answers. The cosmopolitical Franz even paraphrases Nancy Pelosi: “If you don’t show us the plans, we won’t show you the money.” Wait, it’s getting worse …

Dealers think dealers will buy Opel: In the meantime, Das Autohaus is running one of their ever so popular polls. Question this time: “Opel’s future is unsure. Again and again, new investors are being discussed. In your opinion, which solution would be best for Opel?” 1495 votes have been cast so far. “Opel dealers take over Opel” leads by a wide margin: 26.3 percent. “Another solution:” 18.5 percent. “Government invests:” 15.5 percent. “Foreign investor (Asian producer: )” 14.4 percent. “Stays with GM:” 13.8 percent. “Outside investor:” 11.6 percent. Keep in mind, Das Autohaus is a dealer rag. If dealers think dealers can and will buy Opel, the situation must be dire indeed.

Read that, Wagoner: “Hiroshi Okuda, the venerated Toyota boss, Japanese business-lobby chief and government counselor, once said an executive who fired workers during a downturn should chuck himself out too,” says the Nikkei (sub) Except for letting temporary workers go, Toyota has stayed true to Okuda’s no-firings promise. In the US, where Toyota views axing jobs as politically dangerous, shift-shortening and short-term suspensions have sufficed. Other Japanese companies may be less traditional.

I beg your pardon? Still-Prez Bush missed a big chance yesterday by pardoning a turkey named “Pumpkin” (see Reuters for the photo-op.) If asked, TTAC readers would have come up with a short list of other turkeys worthy of a pardon. Or not.

Land of the setting sun: Japan’s exports of cars, trucks and buses fell 4.2% in October from the year-earlier month, dropping for the first time in two months, Nikkei (sub) writes. Production of cars, trucks and buses in Japan fell 6.8% on year in October. Japanese domestic vehicle demand totaled 379,366 vehicles in October, down 6.6% from a year earlier, the Nikkei sub) also reports. The Nipponese sun may be less bright, but no falling skies reported.

Honda has epiphany: “Honda Motor believes its strategy of focusing on the development of low-emission, fuel-efficient vehicles will help it survive the turmoil in the rapidly changing auto industry.” We are not kidding you. Says so in the Nikkei (sub.)

And they have another one: Despite seeing the (green) light, a Honda executive admitted to Reuters that his company “will have a tough time meeting its lowered annual profit forecasts due to an increasingly severe sales environment.” Executive VP Koichi Kondo told Reuters that “reaching the annual profit forecasts is going to be a Herculean task.” Reason given: “The environment is becoming tougher by the day.” Which counts as epiphany three in a row. Epiphany-wise, Honda is doing great.

On the other hand: “Global vehicle production at Toyota and Nissan declined in October, hit by a U.S. slump, but worldwide production was up at Honda,” says AP via Yahoo. “Honda Motor Co. said its worldwide production reached a monthly record high, edging up 1.4 percent to 368,245 vehicles for the second consecutive month of increase.” We are confused.

Fiat coming to China: Fiat has submitted its request to China’s top economic planning body to approve a joint venture with a Chinese automaker, Gasgoo reports. Fiat submitted two joint venture projects with Chery and Guangzhou’s GAC. The deal or deals are expected to be approved as early as next month. Did we mention Fiat has plans for a low-cost second brand?

The return of double digit growth: Mazda posted 27% sales growth in China during the first ten months of the year. They say it’s a result of dealership network restructuring and having the right product. From January to October, Mazda sold 105,000 cars in China, up 27% year on year and 11% higher than the industry average. Gasgoo has more on the Chinese/Japanese eco-box miracle. Mazda’s global sales are expected to be up by 3% to 1,405,000 units for 2008. Ford’s sale of their stake in Mazda may have been a bit mis-timed.

Going for the gay green: Massachusetts and Connecticut are carving out an economic niche for gay and lesbian weddings — and the spending that comes with them, Reuters reports. “California’s loss will be Connecticut’s and Massachusetts’ gain economically,” said M.V. Lee Badgett, an economist at the University of Massachusetts’ Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies (yes, it exists.) Which cars will cash-in on the boom? CarTalk has the answer. For boyz and gurlz. Niche (and butch) marketing is alive and well. At least something is.

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  • SCE to AUX I charge at home 99% of the time, on a Level 2 charger I installed myself in 2012 for my Leaf. My house is 1967, 150-Amp service, gas dryer and furnace; everything else is electric with no problems. I switched from gas HW to electric HW last year, when my 18-year-old tank finally failed.I charge at a for-pay station maybe a couple times a year.I don't travel more than an hour each way in my Ioniq 1 EV, so I don't deal much with public chargers. Despite a big electric rate increase this year, my car remains ridiculously cheap to operate.
  • ToolGuy 38:25 to 45:40 -- Let's all wait around for the stupid ugly helicopter. 😉The wheels and tires are cool, as in a) carbon fiber is a structural element not decoration and b) they have some sidewall.Also like the automatic fuel adjustment (gasoline vs. ethanol).(Anyone know why it's more powerful on E85? Huh? Huh?)
  • Ja-GTI So, seems like you have to own a house before you can own a BEV.
  • Kwik_Shift Good thing for fossil fuels to keep the EVs going.
  • Carlson Fan Meh, never cared for this car because I was never a big fan of the Gen 1 Camaro. The Gen 1 Firebird looked better inside and out and you could get it with the 400.The Gen 2 for my eyes was peak Camaro as far as styling w/those sexy split bumpers! They should have modeled the 6th Gen after that.