While America Slept. Thursday, March 5th, 2009

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
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while america slept thursday march 5th 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 notice – if & when time allows.

We are the German government, and we are here to help you, Opel: The German government is still waiting for Opel to hand in a solid business plan that could be the basis of financial assistance. What Opel has submitted so far has been found inadequate. Finance Minister Steinbrueck today put Opel on notice that without solid information there will be no money decision. Volker Kauder, head of the CDU faction said: “It looks like they need help to come up with a concept. We’ll help ’em.”

Saab? Volvo? Bu yao! Chinese automakers Dongfeng and Geely said that they have not held any talks over a possible bid for General Motors’ Saab brand, Gasgoo says. A Dongfeng spokesman as unaware of any interest by his company in bidding for the Saab brand. A senior Geely executive, when asked about his company’s possible acquisition of Saab or other brands, told reporters: “No, we did not. We’re not interested in Saab or the other brands out there.” Media reports have also said Geely was in preliminary talks with Ford Motor about the sale of the US automaker’s Volvo car unit. This was likewise denied by Geely. This comes on the heels of the Chinese government warning their automakers to buy overseas assets.

Chery coming to Europe: DR Motor, the European importer of China’s Chery vehicles showcased 18 re-badged Chery cars at the Geneva Motor Show, Gasgoo writes. DR Motor is a subsidiary of DR Automobiles Groupe, which sells about 8,000 vehicles a year in Italy and has annual revenues of about €250 million. Since November 2007, DR Motor has been producing a version of the Chery Tiggo medium SUV from kits shipped from China. The cars are assembled at a factory in Macchia d’Isernia, Italy. The plant has capacity to produce 12,000 units a year. DR Motor sells the SUV as the DR5 in Italy. DR Motor said it would uprate the models for local requirements. The company plans to begin selling DR1 in Europe by mid-2009 and expects to sell 10,000 units of the model a year by 2010. The is a re-badged Chery Faira NN powered by Chery’s self-developed 1.3-liter ACTECO engine, which can run on petrol (83 hp) or LPG (78 hp). Max speed is 156 kmh.

Not Seat for China—yet: Volkswagen AG will postpone its introduction of Seat brand vehicles to China, Winfried Vahland, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group China said to Beijing Times (via Gasgoo.) “Seat is a popular brand with Chinese young people according to our market survey conducted in China; however, under the influence of the financial crisis, VW will postpone the Seat introduction,” Winfried Vahland said. That doesn’t mean VW will give up Seat introduction, but actually the company has put it in the long-term program, he explained.

Parts bailout may benefit Japanese makers: Japanese autoparts makers will likely be among the beneficiaries if the US government decides to offer financial support for the U.S. autoparts industry, a high-ranking industry association official has told the Nikkei [sub]. If the US government comes through with an aid package, much of it will be shared with Japanese companies, said Dave Andrea, Vice President in charge of Industry Analysis and Economics at the Original Equipment Suppliers Association. The OESA and others asked the US government last month for up to 25.5 billion dollars in financial assistance, including 10.5 billion dollars in government guarantees for the money owed to them by the nation’s Big Three automakers.

Small is big: Minivehicles continued to be the most popular cars in Japan in February, with Suzuki’s Wagon R remaining the top seller for the third straight month, according to trade figures released to the Nikkei [sub]. The top three slots of Japanese domestic sales were dominated by mini-vehicles, underscoring consumer preference for fuel economy and environmental friendliness.

Honda warns of challenging 2009: Honda forecasts a 140 billion yen group operating profit for fiscal 2008, while domestic rivals Toyota and Nissan are bracing for losses of more than 100 billion yen each. Honda Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo, who oversees the carmaker’s financial affairs, said that the firm will not earn an operating profit next fiscal year from April 1 if global auto demand remains weak and the dollar continues trading around 90 yen, the Nikkei [sub] says.

Geely goes to Mexico: Geely, China’s largest private automaker, is pushing ahead with plans to build a factory in Mexico, Gasgoo says. The company intends to sell vehicles made at the plant in Central and South America. Founder Li Shufu said last year the plant would build cars for the US-Chinese automakers who have begun to target global markets as tumbling domestic demand and rising competition crimps margins. China FAW Group Corp., the nation’s second-largest automaker, has also announced plans for a Mexican plant.

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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2 of 6 comments
  • TireGuy TireGuy on Mar 05, 2009

    In the German newspapers Geely is quoted that they said they were not interested in Volvo and Saab as they were themselves barely surviving!

  • Greg Locock Greg Locock on Mar 05, 2009

    Slightly weird related topic. Has anybody driven bothe European and Saturn Astras? What is the difference between them? Why is the Astra loathed in the USA, yet reasonably well respected elsewhere? I have driven one for a week and thought it a pretty good package, comparable to the European Focus.

  • MaintenanceCosts So there is no Sonata trim without some type of Theta engine.It seems like they've been doing a bit better when attached to a hybrid system, so that's probably the one to get, but they're going to have to go several years without further engine troubles before I'd trust a H/K ICE product again.
  • Lou_BC Full sized sort of autonomous RC's. Cute.
  • Art_Vandelay Autonomous capabilities are being deployed (or planned anyway) in multiple combat vehicles. Should be fun from my perspective
  • Drew8MR Interior is trivial now you can get repro everything in various levels of quality. Getting the top sorted will be a couple grand, but I'd drive it as it. I drove a $1500 67 GTO convertible for 20 years, not every old car needs to be like new.
  • John Not everyone pays that much for power. Mine is 10 cents per kw…..