By on March 3, 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.

Time is money: GM Europe is running out of both, Carl-Peter Forster said to today at the Geneva Autoshow, Automobilwoche [sub] reports. GM needs the requested €3.3B “as soon as possible” Forster said. He’s not counting on private investors: “Each discussion with a private investor takes months, half a year at least, and we don’t have that kind of time.” Foster also said that GM has “three plants too many” in Europe. German Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said today he will not be pressured into making a quick decision on granting state aid to General Motors’ Opel unit, Automotive News [sub] says. Germany is considering whether to support Opel after GM Europe unveiled a plan to spin off Opel and its UK sister brand Vauxhall to try to avert job cuts and plant closures.

Volkswagen expects an endangered species: They want to make a profit this year, CEO Martin Winterkorn said. VW reported preliminary full-year results for 2008 that showed a 3 percent rise in operating profit to a record €6.33 billion ($8 billion), Automotive News [sub] writes. VW finance chief Hans Dieter Poetsch has forecast Volkswagen could post a loss in the first quarter amid what will likely be one of the worst years for the auto industry since at least the Second World War. VW said its 2008 after-tax profit rose 14 percent to €4.7 billion. The group beat the wider trend in the car industry, but with current sales “extremely weak” at the start of this year, it would be “impossible” to match those figures in 2009, the company said. Group sales last year rose 4.5 percent to €113.8 billion. VW group brands include Volkswagen, Skoda, Seat, Audi and Bentley.

Nissan to make batteries in Portugal: Nissan plans to mass-produce automotive lithium ion batteries in Portugal by 2012, when the automaker intends to be manufacturing electric vehicles globally at full clip, says the Nikkei [sub]. Nissan will be the first Japanese automotive firm to announce plans to produce next-generation batteries overseas. Nissan will supply lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles to itself and French partner Renault SA. It plans to roll out electric vehicles next year in Japan and the US, with a goal of switching to their mass production in 2012. The Japanese automaker aims to hammer out preferential terms for the battery plant in discussions with the Portuguese government.

Hmmmm: Toyota Motor Kyushu Inc. will directly hire all of its temporary employees by making them either permanent or contract workers, the Nikkei [sub] says. “The move is aimed at better preparing the firm for future output increases and improving morale.” By directly hiring temp workers, the company will not have to pay commissions to staffing agencies. It is considering using the resultant savings to increase their wages. Sumimasen, – did we read right?

Toyota borrows yen to ease US credit: Toyota Financial Services Corp., the auto financing unit of Toyota Motor Corp. is seeking the equivalent of about 200 billion yen in dollar loans from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation to secure funds for its US operations, the Nikkei [sub] says. Private-sector financial institutions are tightening lending standards amid the financial turmoil, significantly increasing the borrowing costs of their corporate customers. This has prompted the Toyota unit to seek dollar loans under the emergency program recently launched by JBIC to help Japanese firms operating abroad. No other automakers have sought loans under the program, but now that industry leader Toyota has applied, rivals might follow suit.

China hearts Land Rover: Tata Motors’ Land Rover division sold 11,108 vehicles in China in 2008, up 69 percent from 6,573 vehicles sold in 2007, says Gasgoo. This makes China the fifth largest market for the brand, following Britain, Europe, Russia and the US.

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7 Comments on “While America Slept. Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009...”

  • avatar

    So Toyota finally enters the bailout game, how many others will follow?

  • avatar

    Bailout? Since when is borrowing foreign funds from a bank a bailout? Toyota isn’t getting a bailout.

    Toyota has enough money IN the bank to actually buy up General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and probably a few other car companies, literally, with their pocket change.

    They’re just not STUPID enough to do so.

  • avatar

    More news from Sweden. According to TT:

    “Saab on the verge of bankruptcy

    If Saab Automobile does not succeed with their reconstruction, the company is headed for bankruptcy, owner GM reported at a press conference this tuesday afternoon.

    GM is open for discussions on sharing technology with every conceivable owner of Saab.

    According to GM Europe boss Carl-Peter Forster, talks with the British government concerning support for Opel/Vauxhall has been positive.

    He also said that Opel/Vauxhall has three plants too many.

    His estimate is that the european market is near bottom, there shouldn’t be any more need of financial support than has already been claimed.

    Forster also says that it is up to Saab management to continue the struggle of finding a new buyer, GM is merely supporting them in their quest.

    According to Forster, GM didn’t want to abandon Saab, but was reluctantly forced to do so.”

    No direct link available

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Bob Lutz was spotted waiting for his luggage in Geneva, and had the time to tell the spotter that SAAB and Volvo should be turned into one company, freeing GM and Ford of a problem each.
    He added that GM had sunk so much money into SAAB that they now just had to stop – he didn’t elaborate as to whether GM had sunk any worthwhile ideas into the brand.

    The comments thread at (Swedish business paper) is not being very nice to Mr. Lutz. The kindest asking “what the hell Lutz knows about running a profitable company.”

  • avatar

    In this mornings WSJ Fritz Henderson is quoted regarding Opel’s impending flame out:

    “Mr. Henderson said the company doesn’t have a solid backup plan….”


    They’ve known for years that local goverments would cave in and give them whatever cash needed to keep the factories going. Moral Hazard is a dead and gone concept at GM.

  • avatar


    That bank is run by the Japanese government. They’re asking the government for a bailout. Well, I guess Toyota needs to start making cars Americans want to buy!

  • avatar

    BDB said:
    That bank is run by the Japanese government. They’re asking the government for a bailout. Well, I guess Toyota needs to start making cars Americans want to buy!

    Tell me, then, which bank isn’t run by the government? Citi? BoA? Are you are recipient of bailout if you borrow mortgage from BoA?

    What Toyota just got is simply a loan. Toyota won’t go bankrupt without it, and Toyota has more assets than liabilities. So, it’s not a bailout. Toyota will not go bankrupt before the Japanese government does so.

    I would personally like to loan my own money to Toyota, if the interest is good enough to counter the procedural troubles.

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