While America Slept. Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
while america slept wednesday december 3 2008
This week while your eyes are wide shut: Our 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. Or has its wheels coming off. Note: For all of this week, WAS will either be late, or non-existent. I’m in Germany on business and will post as time allows. They woke me up for the Chinese story, so you get WAS on time today.

It’s official: Saab for sale. Long predicted by TTAC, now confirmed by GM’s Frederick Henderson: Saab will be sold. If no buyer is found, they will be shuttered. Automobilwoche (sub) has the story.

Sweden to bail Saab and Volvo from hell: According to AFP, “Sweden will come to the rescue of its US-owned carmakers crippled by the financial crisis, Saab and Volvo, to secure the future of an automobile industry which accounts for 15 percent of exports.” Details are yet murky. There isn’t much more than a “we want to keep that here and to protect it,” announced by Frank Nilsson, a spokesman for Sweden’s enterprise and energy ministry. Anything akin of a bank rescue package is definitely being ruled out by Nilsson. But he “can guarantee that we will have car manufacturing in Sweden.” Interesting undertones: Volvo is officially up for sale, Saab is, see above, on the block also. According to the report, “no matter who ends up as the owner, the [Swedish] government is committed to supporting the industry.” How? When? For whom? Stay tuned.

Volvo doesn’t want to buy Volvo: Ford bought the Volvo brand from Swedish Volvo Group. Their chairman Finn Johnsson doesn’t want them back. He told Swedish financial daily Dagens Industri via AFP that they are not interested, and that the Swedish government shouldn’t buy Volvo either. Johnsson: “The state knows nothing about the car industry and Volvo needs an owner that can increase sales and cooperate with suppliers on components and development.” He thinks, Renault would be a fine partner. It’s Swedish for “Up urs.”

Revenge of the hedgies: Overlooked in yesterday’s reports of catastrophic US car sales, but noted by Automobilwoche: Porsche sold 46 percent less, their Boxter is nearly unsaleable with a 73 percent reduction. Exactly 161 of the poseur Porsches changed hands in November. BMW is all grins: Their Mini had a boom of 43 percent.

And the greenest of the green is? It’s Toyota. At least in Japan. For the third year in a row, Toyota is the leading manufacturer in Nikkei’s 12th annual environmental management rankings, followed by Toshiba and Hitachi. According to the Nikkei, “environmental awareness increased in 2008 because it was the first year of the five-year period covered in the Kyoto Protocol.” The Nikkei also notes that “the automakers and electronics firms near the top of the standings received high marks for their wares and pollution control measures, thanks to firms’ competition to develop products that consume less fuel and power as well as their response to European regulations restricting the use of chemical substances.” Polite as they are, the Nikkei doesn’t mention that the US signature is missing from under the Kyoto agreement.

Bridgestone tired of Tennessee plant. Japanese Bridgestone is in talks with unions to suspend production of tires for passenger cars and light trucks at its La Vergne, TN, plant. Production is scheduled to stop at the end of June. About 500 of the 1,700 employees will be out of work. Bridgestone already scaled back output at five North American plants. “The La Vergne site was singled out for cutbacks due to its high personnel costs,” the Nikkei (sub) says.

Mitsubishi hatches hatchback. They launched the Galant Fortis Sportback at the Japanese public, their first new hatchback offering in Japan in 12 years. The automaker is targeting monthly sales of 500 units, says the Nikkei (sub.)

Tata on public begging spree: As the Detroit 2.8 go to DC for tax payer’s money, India’s Tata is taking the direct approach: Tata takes it to the people themselves. Tata Motors has taken what the Nikkei (sub) calls an “unusual step of appealing to the Indian public for cash as India’s third largest carmaker struggles to refinance its acquisition of Ford’s luxury Jaguar and Land Rover marques early this year.” Tata offers to pay as much as 11 per cent annual interest to those willing to enter into a fixed deposit scheme with the group. Any guesses how this would work for the D2.8 ?

Germany looks at a bleak 2009: The German Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA,) the club of Automakers in Deutschland, doesn’t need a crystal ball to predict only 3.2m units sold for 2008. And they see their misfortunes even sinking depper in 2009, to 2.9m unitsif all turns out according to plan, Autombilwoche reports today. Of course, that means fewer jobs, says the VDA in the direction of a do-nothing Berlin.

Get otherworldly drunk: Sapporo Breweries have brewed a small quantity of beer using barley grown from seeds cultivated for five months on the International Space Station, the Nikkei (sub) reports. The 100 liters of space-based beer are served to special guests only. For those who think drinking doesn’t mix with driving: Sapporo uses the space seeds to make barley tea, too. Also for ceremonial purposes only. Don’t even think it to drink it.

Join the conversation
2 of 16 comments
  • Bill h. Bill h. on Dec 03, 2008

    psarhjinian's sentiments echo much of mine. My own take is the GM "plan" is so North American-centric that I wonder if they're saying the same thing overseas....the idea of making Cadillac their 'global' lux brand has no credibility, given the one-model Caddy lineup (CTS) with any hint of international marketability. And how soon could they change that? BLS? Yeah right. Even with all their troubles, Saab had a market (however small) in a greater number of countries than Caddy does, or is likely to. Even by the time that situation could change significantly, GM will have blown it's share of loan guarantees several times over.

  • AJ AJ on Dec 03, 2008
    For those who think drinking doesn’t mix with driving: Sapporo uses the space seeds to make barley tea, too. Also for ceremonial purposes only. Don’t even think it to drink it. NASCAR makes it's money by mixing cars and beer (myself included). :)

  • Fred Ford needs to understand that 99.99% of those who said they should build it, won't be buying it. That the small number who will be able to buy it, will flip it for profit. I want to see it on the racetrack and driven by good drivers in sanctioned events. Not in auctions or BAT
  • MQHokie Picked up my X3M40i from the BMW Performance Center in South Carolina last week, and immediately drove it on US178 in SC, NC215, a stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, NC28 through the Fontana Dam area, and over Tail of the Dragon into TN. All very enjoyable once the slowpokes got out of the way. Also drove the entire Skyline Drive on my way home, but it was raining and pretty foggy, so that wasn't as much fun as it might have been.
  • Spookiness I have heard countless stories of people not being served alcohol because their District of Columbia driver's license was refused on the grounds that international ID was not acceptable. Most people know when travelling to carry their passport as backup. I also know one person who got infraction for not displaying vehicle registration expiration stickers. DC plates say "See Window Sticker" in the place where a sticker would normally go.
  • Mattwc1 I drove a right hand drive Samurai in the Caymans years ago. They are perfect beach vehicles and go anywhere off-roaders. They were everywhere in the late 1980s (to think these were many of my peers first cars. We really didn’t care about safety back then).However, I couldn’t imagine driving this every day. Sprung stiffer than a Cj-5 , underpowered, and super easy to tip over. Definitely a vehicle for a specific use purpose.
  • Xidex my dad had this exact car, same colour. Only differences was his had the blue interior that was velour i think and it had the rare continental kit on the trunk lid. nicest driving car ive ever driven and so comfy. Had the quadraphonic 8 track also. 1975 model i believe.