While America Slept. Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
while america slept monday february 2nd 2009
Back from the dead after I’m back from Europe: 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 Tokyo this week.

Itai: Japan’s domestic sales of new cars, trucks and buses dropped 27.9 percent year-on-year in January, declining for the sixth straight month, the Nikkei [sub] writes. Sales in January totaled 174,281 vehicles– the lowest for the month since 1976. The Nikkei: “Auto sales are closely monitored by economists since they are the first consumer spending numbers released each month.” And these figures don’t bode well.

Oichi: Honda downgraded its earnings forecast, but still expects to report an 80 billion yen group net profit for the year ending March 31, the Nikkei [sub] reports. Stalled sales in Japan, the U.S. and Europe, as well as the stronger yen, led the automaker to lower its projected profit by 105 billion yen. Strong motorcycle sales in Asia helped Honda skirt the losses seen by Toyota and Nissan.

Aua: Worldwide sales of all brands dropped 25 percent in January. Compared to that, VW’s January loss of 15 percent is not all that bad, says VeeDub’s Martin Winterkorn according to das Autohaus.

Itai, again: In an effort to lower costs, after the car maker last reported a 90 percent drop in its net profit for the October – December quarter, Honda will cut its managers’ monthly pay by five percent. The Nikkei [sub] reports that the cuts kick in in February. Japan’s second biggest car maker has already slashed board members’ pay by 10 percent. Toyota is considering reducing executive salaries, says the Nikkei [sub].

Charge it: According to Gasgoo, China will provide subsidies to companies and institutions that use hybrid vehicles like electric and fuel cell cars. The scheme is not yet extended to private car users. China’s Finance Ministry maintains that high price tags on hybrid vehicles place them of reach of the common people, anyway.

Return of double digit growth: Chinese carmaker Geely expects sales to grow by over 25 percent in January from a year earlier, Gasgoo says. The automaker, which focuses on small car models, saw daily sales exceed 1,000 units on average last month. Hyundai Kia China says January sales rose 35 percent from a year before. January sales of Dongfeng Yueda Kia increased 15 percent. Earlier last month, China unveiled a wide-ranging plan to boost the auto industry, including tax breaks for purchases of cars with engine sizes below 1.6 litres and cash for clunkers subsidies.

Return of triple digit growth: FAW-Toyota, the joint venture between China’s FAW Group and Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor, reported sales of 372,688 vehicles in 2008. That’s a 129 percent surge relative to the prior year, Gasgoo writes. Now FAW-Toyota ranks fourth among top 10 Chinese automakers by sales in 2008, just behind FAW-VW, Shanghai-VW and Shanghai-GM. Toyota’s hybrid Prius posted the best percentage achievement; sales increased by 217 percent– to 899 vehicles.

Clunker culling no life saver: Despite the hoopla over Germany’s clunker culling subsidy, the German auto industry group VDA doesn’t see a return to the good old times, says Automobilwoche [sub]. January sales, to be reported tomorrow, will likely be down 19 percent in Deutschland.

Porsche hit hard: In the August to January period, Porsche’s global sales dropped 27 percent, Automobilwoche [sub] says. Wendelin Wiedeking– the world’s highest-paid automobile executive ($157m in 2008)– announced austerity measures. Wendy opined that a repeat of last year’s miracle (more profits than sales) is unlikely. Porsche still wants 75 percent of VW.

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  • Robert Schwartz Robert Schwartz on Feb 02, 2009

    "In an effort to lower costs, after the car maker last reported a 90 percent drop in its net profit for the October - December quarter, Honda will cut its managers’ monthly pay by five percent." The difference between Honda and Detroit is that Honda takes the idea of making money seriously.

  • Jerry weber Jerry weber on Feb 02, 2009

    A down market is no different than an up-market. The mfgs. who lose the least market share and can adjust quickly will survive. Look at how the Japanese quiclkly pull the plug on production but notice they keep their model lineup intact. Why is this? Because take Honda, with two lines in the US Honda and Acura, they can manage their brands. Toyota two brands lexus and toyota as scion is sold through toyota stores. Mercedes, one brand. Volkswagen one brand. etc.

  • FreedMike Race car drivers are all alpha-types. Aggression is part of the deal. I think you see more of that stuff in NASCAR because crashes - the end result of said aggression - are far more survivable than they would be in F1 or IndyCar.
  • Analoggrotto Only allow Tesla drivers to race, we are the epitome of class and brilliance.
  • Wjtinfwb When my kids turned 16 and got their Operators, we spent $400 to send both (twins) to 2 driving schools. One held by the local Sherriff was pretty basic but a good starter on car control and dealing with police officers as they ran the school. Then they went to a full day class in N Atlanta on a racetrack, with the cars supplied by BMW. They learned evasive maneuvers, high speed braking, skid control on a wet skid pad and generally built a lot of confidence behind the wheel. Feeling better about their skills, we looked for cars. My son was adamant he wanted a manual, Halleluiah! Looking at used Civics and Golf's and concerned about reliability and safety, I got discouraged. Then noticed an AutoTrader adv. for a new leftover '16 Ford Focus ST six-speed. 25k MSRP advertised for $17,500. $2500 above my self-imposed limit. I went to look, a brand new car, 16 miles on it, black with just the sunroof. 3 year warranty and ABS, Airbags. One drive and the torquey turbo 2.0 convinced me and I bought it on the spot. 7 years and 66k miles later it still serves my son well with zero issues. My daughter was set on a Subaru, I easily found a year old Crosstrek with all the safety gear and only 3k miles. 21k but gave my wife and I lots of peace of mind. She still wheels the Subaru, loves it and it too has provided 7 years and 58k miles of low cost motoring. Buy what fits your budget but keep in mind total cost over the long haul and the peace of mind a reliable and safe car provides. Your kids are worth it.
  • Irvingklaws Here's something cheaper, non-german, and more intriguing...
  • Wjtinfwb Happy you're loving your Z4. Variety is the spice of life and an off-beat car like the Z4 intrigues me as well. More than anything, your article and pictures have me lusting for the dashboards of a decade ago. Big, round analog gauges. Knobs and buttons to dial up the A/C, Heat or Volume. Not a television screen in sight. Need to back up? Use the mirrors or look over your shoulder. If your Z4 had the six-speed manual, it would be about perfect. Today's electronified BMW's leave me ice cold, as do the new Mercedes and Audi's with their video game interiors. Even a lowly GTI cannot escape the glowing LED dashboard. I'm not a total luddite, Bluetooth streaming for the radio would be nice and I'd agree the cooled seats would be a bonus on a warm day with the top down. But the Atari dashboard is just a bridge too far for me.