While America Slept. Monday, December 29, 2008

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
while america slept monday december 29 2008
A short overview of what happened in other parts of the world while you were in bed. TTAC provides round-the-clock coverage of everything that has wheels. Or has its wheels coming off. For the next two weeks, WAS will be filed from Tokyo.

GMAC to announce real soon now. GMAC “expects to soon announce the results of a debt exchange offer that is key to North America’s largest auto finance company’s capital levels,” says Reuters, citing a GMAC spokesperson. The successful swap is crucial for GMAC to become a bank, and to get under the TARP. The debt swap deadline expired Friday as planned, spokeswoman Gina Proia said, adding that the company expects to put out the results in “the near term.” Sounds like Farago’s Option A.

Charge! Carmakers worldwide are turning into Energizer bunnies, and enact plan B as in batteries. Nissan and NEC will invest 100 billion yen or more to manufacture enough large-capacity lithium ion batteries to equip a total of around 200,000 electric and hybrid vehicles a year in 2011 or later, The Nikkei (sub) writes. Honda and GS Yuasa Corp. plan to construct a factory in Kyoto for lithium ion batteries. Toyota and Panasonic are working on a joint-venture mass production of lithium ion batteries at a Shizuoka factory in 2009. Mitsubishi will start manufacturing lithium ion batteries in partnership with GS Yuasa. Volkswagen plans to develop automobile lithium ion batteries with Sanyo.

Getting real about EV: Taking the contrarian view, Bosch chief Bernd Bohr borrowed a line from Greenspan and cautioned against “irrational exuberance” when it comes to electric vehicles. “We should not tell the consumer that there will be an electrical vehicle in 2010 which is affordable and meets market demands” he said according to Automobilwoche (sub.) He expects small production runs before 2015, “but all will be heavily subsidized, either by the government or by companies that sell below cost.” Bohr figures, 80m units will be built worldwide in 2015. Of those, only 2.5m to 3m will be hybrids, and only 800K pure plug-ins.

Japanese oil burners: Europe is still big on diesel, and Nissan wants a part of it. Nissan Diesel Motor Co. will set up marketing offices in Europe next month to consider forays into such markets as Eastern Europe, North Africa and Turkey, the Nikkei (sub) writes. As the engines are targeted at trucks, one site will be inside the headquarters of Swedish truck maker AB Volvo and another on the premises of Renault Trucks SAS, a Volvo group firm in France.

Bu hao: Almost all Kia and Ford dealers in Beijing are witnessing losses “amid vanishing market confidence,” Gasgoo writes. No dealer of Chang’an Ford Mazda and Dongfeng Yueda Kia Auto can make any profits before the end of this year, the newspaper said. A salesperson at a Dongfeng Yueda Kia dealership told reporters that it loses some 2,000 yuan to 4,000 yuan on every car sold. Dongfeng Citroen and Dongfeng Honda are also losing money with almost each car that leaves the show room floors. Nationwide statistics show that 80% of China’s auto dealerships have become loss-making businesses.

Yet Another Car Maker: Undeterred by vanishing market confidence, Dongfeng Passenger Vehicle Company, a subsidiary of Dongfeng, has finished construction of its Wuhan plant as planned and is to start trial production, Gasgoo reports. The subsidiary had postponed its 2008 new car mass-production, but it is supposed to start production in earlier 2009, with results of their work to be seen at the 2009 Shanghai International Auto Show.

Room to grow: Shanghai GM and SAIC-GM-Wuling, the two Chinese joint ventures of GM, boast a joint capacity if 1.66m units, reports China’s official news agency Xinhua. However, they are using only 60 percent of it: The sales of GM China are expected to be slightly over 1m this year.

Plug it in: China’s Zotye Holding Group, a small car and medium sized SUV manufacturer in China, plans to launch a pure electric SUV model soon, Gasgoo says. The ESUV will be equipped with the lithium iron phosphate battery provided by Wanxiang Electrical Vehicle Co. A launch date for the vehicle is not available. Zotye produces the Fiat Multipla and Lancia Lybra under their own brand.

BYD builds more: Wang Chuanfu, president of BYD said he expects his company to release two more electric car models in 2009, in addition to the recent Chinese release of the What is keeping the cars from hitting U.S. shores are American government regulations, complains Chuanfu. He thinks that BYD will have their cars in compliance with US and European regs by 2011. “The new releases in China mean that the company will have three electric vehicles on the road in 2009, while no other major automaker has managed to produce even one,” sneers Gasgoo. According to BYD, the sixty-mile range battery that powers their F3DM can be charged to half capacity in just ten minutes at a specialized charging station. The hybrid can run purely as an electric vehicle (which it does for the first sixty miles), and then shift to a gasoline engine for greater range.

SAIC/ Ssangyong update: China’s SAIC said it and South Korea’s Ssangyong Motor are seeking support for Ssangyong from the Korean government and banks, Reuters reports. SAIC, which owns 51 percent of Ssangyong, said the two companies were also discussing with union representatives how to cut labor costs. Chinese analysts say a deal would eventually be worked out between SAIC and the Korean side to help the troubled automaker. “SAIC certainly does not want Ssangyong to go under as it is China’s first cross-border auto acquisition,” said Chen Qiaoning, an analyst with ABN AMRO TEDA Fund Management.

Join the conversation
2 of 5 comments
  • Enderw88 Enderw88 on Dec 29, 2008

    I've written (poorly) about the gorilla in the room with respect to EVs: the power plants.

  • Pf21 Pf21 on Dec 29, 2008

    The Chinese auto makers will get their share in the second stimulus package. Auto industry is one of the industries that the Chinese government deemed essential for China's future.

  • SCE to AUX This is good news, as long as the Tesla plug can deliver the kind of power needed in the future. I'm not sure that's a settled matter.
  • SCE to AUX Hyundai/Kia/Genesis, if we're talking mfrs of consequence in the EV space.But to their credit, they've tried to remain distinct from the Tesla approach to everything. They've been quick to respond to the Biden IRA domestic content stuff for EVs (by building more US plants), so maybe they'll jump on this NACS bandwagon.
  • FreedMike I guess it's good to hear they finally made the third row livable - the one on the old RX was a joke - but, man, is this generic-looking.
  • Alan I read the front wheels are driven by the engine and the rear wheels by electric in the hybrid. I also find it odd it isn't offered as the 2.4 hybrid with 250kw on tap.
  • KOKing That base hybrid system must be something other than the normal Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive, since that uses the two electric motors as the ('CVT') transmission without a separate transmission of any kind.