While America Slept. Friday, February 13th 2009

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
while america slept friday february 13th 2009

An 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. WAS is being filed from Beijing until further notice.

European Carmageddon: “What, me worry?” Europe experienced the full brunt of carmageddon in January. Europeans bought 27 percent fewer cars in January than in the same month of the prior year. Only 958,500 cars hit Europe’s highways and myways, Das Autohaus reports. The German industry group VDA expects the trend to continue. Relatively benign losses were recorded in France (down 8 percent) and Germany (down 14 percent). The European basket cases are Spain (down 42 percent), Italy (down 33 percent) and UK (down 31 percent). Romania lost half of its new car sales.

Share or retire: Toyota will introduce work-sharing arrangements at assembly plants in the US and Britain in an effort to retain jobs after sharp production cuts at these facilities, the Nikkei [sub] writes. The move is expected to involve US factories in Indiana and Texas, which roll out large vehicles, as well as plants in the UK, including a facility that assembles midsize cars and subcompacts in the county of Derbyshire. Toyota plans to propose the work-sharing arrangements to workers at these facilities by the end of the month. Those that do not accept will be allowed to apply for early retirement.

Suzuki wooed: Suzuki’s Chairman and President Osamu Suzuki has become a very sought-after executive since the automotive industry downturn intensified last fall, prompting heads of domestic and foreign automakers to look for potential partners, the Nikkei [sub] reports. While most major automakers like Toyota expect to report group operating losses this year, Suzuki projects 67 billion yen in operating profit. Its success has been built on “small cars,” which have become a growth area, in addition to the automaker’s strength in developing countries such as India. It is no wonder that behind-the-scenes entreaties to partner with Suzuki have picked up steam. The Nikkei does not name the suitors.

VeeDub powered by Toshiba: Volkswagen and Toshiba announced an agreement to jointly develop drive systems for electric and hybrid cars and related technologies, the Nikkei [sub] says. To create a rival to Toyota’s iQ ultracompact car, Volkswagen is developing small vehicles for European and emerging markets. The new drive systems will be installed in those vehicles. Toshiba also plans to develop a high-output battery system for VW’s next-generation electric cars.

Carmakers with zero cars: In 2008, China had more than 130 auto-making companies. The top 10 carmakers by sales in 2008 sold 7.82 million vehicles last year, accounting for 83 percent of China’s total auto sales in the year. The other more than 100 auto companies sold fewer than 1.6 million vehicles, and 10 of these carmakers made no car in the past two years, Gasgoo writes, citing industry figures. Chinese carmaker Youngman Auto saw the Lotus RCR model rolling off line on December 6 at its Guizhou facility, pulling Youngman out of the “zero-production” ranks.

Berlin Opel pow-wow: Berlin. Today, GM Europe honcho, Carl-Peter Forster; Opel Boss, Hans Demant; and Opel Worker’s Council Chief, Klaus Franz, will meet officials at the German Chancellery to discuss loan guarantees of up to €1.8b, Automobilwoche [sub] reports. GM Europe says it’s a precaution in case GM’s mothership goes belly-up. Decisions are not expected.

Porsche owns Scania shares—wants to sell quickly: In the course of taking over Volkswagen, Porsche had to make an offer to Swedish truck maker Scania to buy their shares. Porsche made a low-ball offer, not thinking that Scania would go for it. Scania did, collecting €396m for 8 percent, Automobilwoche [sub] reports. Porsche wants to unload the shares as quickly as possible, and, most likely, Volkswagen AG will inherit them.

Join the conversation
  • Snabster Snabster on Feb 13, 2009

    French and German car sales have to include the "cash for clunkers" that both countries introduced. Interestingly, reading some other economic news, the 1% growth in sales the US saw in January was partly attributed to car sales. There are some real bargains out there with new cars, and I've seen used cars prices edge up a bit as more people buy them.

  • Bertel Schmitt Bertel Schmitt on Feb 13, 2009

    @snabster: France, yes. Germany no, program came too late to make impact in Jan.

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