While America Slept. Saturday, February 14th 2009

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
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.

Sweden to GM: “Take a hike”: GM is asking Sweden to guarantee $600 million in European Investment Bank loans to keep the Saab Automobile unit operating until it can be restructured. All they got from Sweden was a firm nej, inte alls. (Forgetaboutit.) Sweden’s Premier, Fredrik Reinfeldt, said that “GM has to bear the responsibility,” Automobilwoche [sub] reports. Some insiders see the mounting unwillingness of foreign governments to help US automakers as a backlash against the “buy American” campaign. Non-,conspiracy-bound observers point out that the Swedish government is hoping that both GM and Ford will be successful in unloading their respective Swedish brands. Sweden wants to add extra incentive to move fast by removing any additional life support.

Chery / Volvo still in play: Usually, on the second day after a dalliance between a Chinese manufacturer and a Detroit brand is floated, a denial follows like clockwork. Instead, Chery-owned Gasgoo today runs a new story reiterating a possible bid by China’s Chery for Volvo, a brand which Ford is desperately seeking to unload. The story itself provides no new insight, but the added traffic is relevant from a SIGINT perspective.

It’s a crimson-red bloodbath: More than 460, or nearly 30 percent of publicly traded Japanese companies, are expected to report group net losses in the year ending March 31, the Nikkei [sub] reports. The bloodletting is especially severe in the automobile sector, where profits through the third quarter have been wiped out by bigger and bigger losses in the last quarter of fiscal 2008.

Cheap plastic alert: Leading chemical producer Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. will by April drop its pricing policy for plastics used in car parts in favor of one that halves the time lag for reflecting market prices of the key material naphtha, the Nikkei [sub] says. More than 200 automakers (OMG, there are still 200 alive?) and other manufacturers have agreed to the switch. Subsidiary Japan Polypropylene Corp. will be responsible for sales and pricing under the new strategy.

El bailout, ole! The Spanish auto industry, one of the hardest hit of Europe, will receive €4.1b in help from their government. The money is earmarked for automakers and parts manufacturers, Automobilwoche [sub] says.

Porsche testdriver crashes: A Porsche factory testdriver crashed his 911 Cabrio on the autobahn near Darmstadt, Germany, at high speed, and died, Der Spiegel reports. His colleague, following in a Panamera, barely avoided similar fate. The perished Porsche driver had 25 years of experience.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href="http://www.tomokoandbertel.com"> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href="http://www.offshoresuperseries.com"> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • The duke The duke on Feb 14, 2009
    "More than 200 automakers (OMG, there are still 200 alive?) and other manufacturers have agreed to the switch." I believe the proper reading of this is that more than 200 companies, both automakers and manufacturers (read: suppliers, aka Tier 1, Tier 2, etc.) have agreed to the change in pricing. Not that there are 200 automakers. I must say, this is a smooth move on Mitsubishi plastics part. Agree to slash prices quicker now, when automakers are hurting, and of course they agree. But when the market eventually swings up, and prices go up, Mitsubishi gets to increase prices quicker than they did in the past - so they eat less costs then they used to. Lower costs quicker now also means easier sales for them now. Its a win-win for them.
  • 95_SC 95_SC on Feb 15, 2009

    GM should just kill Saab then. We know the brand is unimportant to Americans and if the Swedes don't care, then, well, who cares? Seems like a no brainer to me.

  • V16 I'm sure you could copy and paste most of the "NO" responses to 1960's Japanese sourced vehicles.
  • Canam23 I believe the Chinese are entirely capable of building good cars, BYD has shown that they are very forward thinking and their battery technology is very good, BUT, I won't buy one because I don't believe in close to slave labor conditions, their animosity to the west, the lack of safety conditions for their workers and also the tremendous amount of pollution their factories produce. It's not an equal playing field and when I buy a car I want it made with as little pollution as possible in decent working conditions and paying a livable wage. I find it curious that people are taking swipes at the UAW in this thread because you can clearly see what horrific labor conditions exist in China, no union to protect them. I also don't own an iphone, I prefer my phones made where there aren't nets around to catch possible suicide jumpers. I am currently living in France, Citroen makes their top model in China, but you see very few. BYD has yet to make an impression here and the French government has recently imposed huge tariffs on Chinese autos. Currently the ones I see the most are the new MG's, mostly electric cars that remind me of early Korean cars, but they are progressing. In fact, the French buy very little Chinese goods, they are very protective of their industries.
  • Jerry Haan I have these same lights, and the light output, color, and coverage is amazing!Be aware, these lights interfere with AM and FM radio reception with the stereoreceiver I have in my garage. When the lights are on, I all the AM stations havelots of static, and there are only a couple of FM stations that are clear. When Iturn the lights off, all the radio stations work fine. I have tried magnetic cores on the power cords of the lights, that did not makeany change. The next thing I am going to try is mounting an antenna in my atticto get them away from the lights. I contacted the company for support, they never responded.
  • Lou_BC Are Hot Wheels cars made in China?
  • DS No for 2 reasons. 1-Every new car pipelines data back to the manufacturer; I don't like it with domestic, Japanese and Euro companies and won't put up with it going to Chinese companies that are part financed by their government. 2-People have already mentioned Vinfast, but there's also the case of Hyundai. Their cars were absolutely miserable for years before they learned enough about the US market