While America Slept. Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
while america slept wednesday december 17 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.

D2.8 may get unexpected break – strength from weakness: The money-losing automakers made at least some money in some foreign markets. However, the recent strength of the greenback wasn’t in their favor. In July, a profit of one Euro translated into a $1.6. But what counts is when the books are closed, and that usually happens at year end. The recent strength of the dollar made foreign profits look less juicy. In October, that one Euro profit was worth only $1.23 – ever since, the Euro bounced around in the $1.25 to $1.29 range, which worried CFOs with foreign profits to no end. In the last few days, a miracle happed: The dollar got weaker. In the last few days, the Euro shot up into the $1.40 range, and it may even climb some more. With a little luck, and some end of year central bank machinations, a profit of one Euro could translate into a $1.50 by year’s end. Which will look quite good in the books. The bad news: If you have foreign losses, it will have just the opposite effect.

Nissan cuts output: Nissan wanted to make 1.38m units worldwide in their 2008 fiscal year, which ends in March 2009. That plan is no more: Nissan will end the year with 230,000 units less, a reduction of approximately 17 percent, the Nikkei (sub) reports today. Nissan will also eliminate “all nonpermanent positions” by March, becoming the first major Japanese automaker to ever do so. Starting in January, assembly work will be suspended for several days a month at two factories in Japan. Production speeds will be slowed. By March, all temporary workers will be gone. Any further layoffs, and the (in Japan) sacrosanct permanent workforce will be affected.

Union troubles ahead in Japan: Both sides of the Japanese fence are beginning to talk tough in preparation for the spring 2009 wage negotiations. Japan’s largest labor organization plans to demand an increase in base pay for the first time since 2001, the Nikkei (sub) says. On the employer side, the Japan Business Federation, or Nippon Keidanren, recommends that corporate leaders emphasize job protection over raises in contract negotiations with unions this coming spring.

Honda nixes Acura in Japan: Honda abandoned plans to sell its luxury Acura brand in Japan. They will also postpone or curtail domestic capital spending, The Nikkei (sub) writes. At a press conference today, Honda guided their operating profit for the business year to March to 180 billion yen ($2b), down 81 percent from last year, Reuters reports. Honda had pushed back the Acura line’s Japanese debut before, from 2008 to 2010. With the domestic auto market in tatters, and frugality replacing luxury, Honda now abandoned the Japanese Acura altogether. Saves them money needed for a fancy sales network.

Honda to develop the un-Fit: At today’s press conference in Tokyo, Honda announced that they are developing an entry-level car below the Fit model. The car should be ready in two to three years to and is targeted at emerging economies, such as India, Reuters says.

Toyota cuts output in India: Even in formerly red-hot India, Toyota reduces December production by 20 percent, The Nikkei (sub) reports. Toyota rolled out a fully redesigned Corolla in India this past September, but the automaker’s Indian sales still suffered year-on-year drops in October and November. “Consumers are still finding it tough to get loans,” a local Toyota official says. Sound familiar? Suzuki, which controls nearly 50 percent of the Indian auto market, has kept output at the same level as last year by expanding exports from India.

Gee, Geely: Despite the gloom and doom, China’s Geely says it will meet its annual sales target this year. Next year, they are planning for a lot more. Geely spokesman Chen Fangmin said to Gasgoo that Geely will have its capacity and sales increase by 25 percent above and jobs grow by 5 percent in 2009 compared to this year. Geely is hiring.

Opel can’t make enough Insignias: Opel’s new Insignia is flying out of the doors. The Opel factory in Rüsselsheim had to run extra shifts to keep up with the demand, das Autohaus reports. The car was launched in Germany on November 22, and a few weeks later, Opel had more than 10K orders on their books. Now how about that. Opel will now launch the car in their other European markets. The priorities are on the UK, Italy, Russia and France.

Losing their shirts: Artists’ models in Paris stripped naked Monday, braving freezing temperatures to protest against a ban on tips and to demand better pay and recognition. More than 20 male and female models, some posing nude while others were draped in a colorful array of shawls, sheets and fur coats, took part in the protest that had the backing of two of France’s biggest labor unions, Reuters reports. It is not true that CEOs of Detroit automakers will perform the same stunt in DC to demonstrate that they lost their shirts.

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2 of 12 comments
  • Inside Looking Out The next 4Runner will be BEV.
  • The Oracle This is a proper Italian red sauce turd.
  • Carson D This isn't a notice of a wait time for 4Runner fans. This is a deadline for the opportunity to buy one new before they're gone. Whatever comes next, there is no possible way that it will be as good at doing 4Runner things as what is available today.
  • Bkojote There's a lot "just right" with the current 4Runner, and having spent time in more contemporary equivalents for road trips, I completely understand why they sell a ton of these.Here's some topics that aren't super common among 4runner owners - excessive carbon buildup in the engine after 40,000 miles (Audi/VW), bent valves (Bronco) , failed oil coolers (Jeep), cracked engine blocks (Jeep), dead vehicles from OTA updates (Chevy Colorado), being stranded due to opening the door too many times (Defender), malfunctioning engine sensors (Defender, VW), dead batteries due to electrical system malfunctions (Jeep), unusable defoggers (Jeep), waiting for seat heaters to boot up (Subaru), randomly catching fire (Kia/Hyundai), crappy build quality (Ford, Tesla).The interior feels solid and rattle free, and everything feels substantial in the way a Jeep Grand Cherokee or Kia Telluride does not. 14 year run means accessories are plentiful and well sorted. The control inputs from the radio to heated seats to climate control work better than 99% of the cars you can buy new at this point and are dead simple and ergonomically satisfying. Even dynamically (I drove a model with the KDSS system to be fair) it is a surprisingly composed vehicle on mountain roads- it's far more civilized than a Bronco or Wrangler, and hell, it was far more pleasant than the past two peastant-grade Benz crapmobiles I've been in.So I get it- car journalist rags whine about how overly complicated and tech-heavy modern vehicles are while their substance is cost cut, but here's the literal definition of 'don't fix it if it aint broken.' . It's a trusty Ford Econoline in a world of craptastic Ram ProMasters.
  • Frank Sounds like they dont want to debut it at the same time as the new Land Cruiser, which is probably smart. The new 'runner is ready to go I am told, so there's a reason for this delay.