By on March 2, 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. This column will be filed from Berlin until further noticeif & when time allows.

Japan down again: Japan’s domestic sales of new cars, trucks and buses fell 32.4 percent year-on-year in February, declining for the seventh straight month, the Nikkei [sub] writes. This is the sharpest fall since May 1974, when sales were hit by the first oil shock. Sales in February totaled 218,212 vehicles, down from 322,613 a year earlier, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said. The figures don’t include sales of mini-cars or mini-trucks. Toyota’s sales dropped 32 percent to 98,808 units, with sales of the Lexus luxury car plunging 63 percent. Nissan fell 35.2 percent to 40,694 units, while Honda sold 30,101 vehicles, 21.1 percent fewer than last year.

India coming back to life: Most Indian auto makers led by market leader Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. reported a continued rise in monthly sales, driven mainly by discounts, says the Nikkei [sub]. Analysts said if the sales continue to rise beyond March it may indicate a recovery in Asia’s third-biggest automobile market. Maruti, a unit of Suzuki, sold 79,190 cars, up 24.1 percent from 63,822 a year earlier. Total car sales at the Indian unit of Hyundai Motor Co. in February rose to 38,254 units from 29,001 units a year earlier.

Toyota guides suppliers lower: Toyota Motor told about 450 suppliers that its global production will likely drop 20 percent to roughly 6.2 million vehicles in fiscal 2009, the Nikkei [sub] writes. The Japanese fiscal runs from April to March the following year. Even with reduced output, Toyota intends to turn a profit, calling on the suppliers to join in its efforts to further reduce groupwide costs.

Honda slowly cranking up again: Honda plans to gradually relax production constraints at domestic plants from April, as inventories slowly return to appropriate levels, the Nikkei [sub] reports. Honda had reduced domestic output by 23 percent in January. Honda was stuck with global inventories of around 700,000 vehicles at the end of December, roughly 200,000 units above the optimum level. Although plant shutdowns will be relaxed from April, “it could be May or June before inventories return to normal,” warns Honda Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo. Honda is expected to slash domestic output by more than 150,000 units in fiscal 2009, pushing Japanese production below 1 million vehicles for the first time in 14 years, said the Nikkei [sub] in a separate report.

Even used car exports hurt in Japan—a lot: Japan’s exports of used vehicles plunged 65.2 percent to 26,751 units in January, the fourth straight month of decline and the sharpest drop since comparable data was first compiled in 2001, the Nikkei [sub] says. In 2008, about 40 percent of exports went to Russia, but in January 2009 shipments evaporated by 91.4 percent to 2,425 vehicles. That month, Moscow nearly doubled tariffs on used vehicles over five years old. Auto protectionism is also rising in South America. Japanese exports to Chile, which serves as a way station for shipments to nearby nations, plunged by 89.9 percent to 434 units in January.

Mitsubishi electrifies PSA: Mitsubishi Motors has agreed with PSA Peugeot Citroen Group to jointly develop an electric car for sale in Europe, writes the Nikkei [sub]. Mitsubishi has signed a memorandum of understanding under which the partners will cooperate on development of a new vehicle based on the i MiEV model under development at the Japanese carmaker. The cars will be released in Europe under both brands in late 2010 or early 2011.

Chery goes on a hybrid offensive: Not long after unveiling its first electric car called the S18, China’s Chery Auto said it plans to launch two more hybrid cars this year to tap into the growing hybrid car market, Gasgoo writes. Chery will launch an A5 hybrid car this year and an A3 hybrid in 2010. A Tiggo-based hybrid SUV and a QQ-based pure electric model are under development. All of the electric motors and hybrid systems on these future models are developed by supplier Ricardo.

Saab to pay supplier bills: GM has put aside $144 million to pay suppliers to its Saab unit, Automotive News [sub] says, citing the Swedish daily Dagens Industri. GM supply manager Bo Andersson said in an interview that the US firm would begin on Monday to pay bills left unsettled when Saab was granted protection from creditors on Feb. 20. According to Automobilwoche [sub] Saab owes tidy sums to suppliers such as the India steel maker Arcelor Mittal and Thyssen Krupp in Germany.

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3 Comments on “While America Slept. Monday, March 2nd, 2009...”

  • avatar

    Bertel, regarding Japan’s exports of used cars: the Japanese domestic market is right-hand drive, like Britain. Do buyers in Russia and South America have no big objection to using RHD cars in a LHD country? It makes for some pretty dicey passing maneuvers.

  • avatar

    @50merc: I’ve been thinking the same thing. So is Chile btw. Those JP used cars must have been quite attractive before, despite the wheel on the wrong side …

    Now, I recall having a used U.S. postal van in my fleet that also had the wheel on the right. No big deal to drive.

  • avatar

    I remember seeing a lot of right-hand-drive AMC vehicles in the late 60’s and early 70’s in use with the US postal service; not only small vans but Ambassador sedans. I read at the time that AMC was exporting a lot of cars to drive-left countries and so it seemed a good idea to go for the postal business.

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