TTAC News Round-up: North Korea's Good Times Threatened, Suzuki Cashes Out, and an EPA Backup

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
ttac news round up north koreas good times threatened suzuki cashes out and an epa

New U.S. sanctions might spell the end of the glorious, glorious era of North Korean vehicle production.

That, Suzuki asks for its winnings and staggers home, automakers are being slowed down by the EPA (and it’s all Volkswagen’s fault), Audi still loves diesels (and so do you, America!), and Volvo tries to spice up its life … after the break!

Requiem for the North Korean dream

When you’re riding high in the saddle, it’s hard to imagine the good times could one day come to an end.

That’s the situation in the quaint Communist dictatorship of North Korea, which faces the prospect of a downturn in domestic vehicle production thanks to U.S. sanctions, according to Automotive News:

The measures were passed after Pyongyang rattled the world in January by conducting a nuclear test, then launching a purported satellite that critics called a veiled missile test.

They would expand sanctions through a so-called secondary boycott, which penalizes businesses and individuals in third countries that have financial dealings with North Korea.

They should tighten the screws on Chinese companies that ship essential parts and components to North Korean auto factories and Chinese companies involved with joint ventures in the North, a recent report in South Korea’s Korean Joongang Daily said.

All of this would threaten production of the buses and dump trucks that have made North Korea world famous.

To quote Blade Runner, “The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long.”

Suzuki moves on from a failed relationship

A fling with Volkswagen that didn’t go anywhere has Suzuki Motor Corp. burning the evidence to erase the memories.

In addition to selling $1.8 billion in convertible bonds, Suzuki will cancel a large chunk of the stock it bought back from Volkswagen after the two automakers consciously uncoupled, reports Bloomberg:

Suzuki will sell the bonds primarily to fund the 185 billion rupee ($2.8 billion) factory it’s building in India’s western Gujarat state, according to a statement filed Monday to the Tokyo stock exchange. The automaker also will cancel 70 million treasury shares, or 12.5 percent of outstanding stock, to boost returns for investors after ending its partnership with Volkswagen in September, the company said in separate statement.

Suzuki bought back millions of its own shares from Volkswagen last year.

EPA testing re-routes vehicle roll-outs into the slow lane

Thanks to a heightened focus on emissions testing in the wake of the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, the Environmental Protection Agency is inadvertently slowing the release of new products, reports Automotive News:

So far, only Volkswagen has been formally accused of deliberately manipulating emissions to fool lab tests. But top executives from more than half a dozen automakers say the scandal eroded the auto industry’s credibility in the eyes of European and U.S. environmental regulators.

“After the loss of the credibility between the industry altogether and the regulator, we see situations where the normal certification process which normally took four weeks all of the sudden takes three months, and you have to delay your launch for two months,” Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche told reporters last week at the (Geneva Motor Show).

The increased EPA scrutiny on emissions goes across the board, and isn’t relegated solely to new diesel models.

Audi knows you want its diesels

Never mind the controversy. Audi knows that Americans are thirsty for diesel fuel!

The continuing demand for high-end German diesels from American consumers is something Audi will honor, the brand’s board member in charge of technical development said in Autocar:

Speaking after it was announced that Audi had sold more than 200,000 cars in the US for the first time in 2015, a doubling of sales since 2011, Knirsch said: “In particular, customers of our Q models are saying ‘give us diesel engines’.

“The message we have received is that some of them love our diesel engines. Clearly they want them to comply with regulations, but that issue is set aside now. The fact is they love 900-1000 km (610 miles) of driving range on the U.S. cycle.”

Audi’s operating profit dropped last year due to the ongoing diesel emissions scanda l, which saw a stop order placed on sales of vehicles equipped with a 3.0-liter diesel.

As a prize for diesel aficionados, Audi announced it will bring the technologically advanced SQ7 diesel SUV to U.S. shores. Under its hood is a 4.0-litre diesel V8 outfitted with an electric compressor.

Volvo cranks it up to “11”

The days spent wishing your Volvo wagon could hug a turn better are over.

Volvo is shedding its staid image and bowing to consumer demand by offering parts from its high-performance Polestar division on all of its models, the Swedish automaker has announced:

Polestar Performance Parts offers a wide range of extensively developed enhancements for the Volvo S60, V60, V40 and XC60 models to begin with, including chassis parts, wheels, exhaust, interior and exterior details and more …

The Polestar Performance Parts can be purchased as a Complete Package, including chassis parts, rims and tyres, intake and exhaust, as well as exterior and interior parts. All of these components will together create a more compelling driving experience, especially in combination with the Polestar Performance Optimization and can be bought in separate packages as well.

Because the parts are developed with Volvo looking over its shoulder like a stern but forgiving parent, existing factory warranties won’t be affected by installation of these parts.

[Images: North Korea (J.A. de Roo, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia); Volvo (© 2016 Alex Dykes/The Truth About Cars); EPA ( Flickr); Pyongyang traffic ((stephan)/Flickr)]

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2 of 11 comments
  • Duaney Duaney on Mar 07, 2016

    I don't see any association with "good times" and North Korea. Their people live in a hellhole, and guess what, it's going to be even worse. As far as Suzuki building a factory in India, they recently burned a young woman alive there, I would boycott all of India for any and all purpose's. I know, nothing about automobiles.

  • Sector 5 Sector 5 on Mar 07, 2016

    Nazi Germany lasted 12 years? NK has been about 60-odd or 3 generations. They're truly indoctrinated. Sounds like they've got more of a production thing going than Cuba.

  • Keith Maybe my market's different. but 4.5k whack. Plus mods like his are just donations for the next owner. I'd consider driving it as a fun but practical yet disposable work/airport car if it was priced right. Some VAG's (yep, even Audis) are capable, long lasting reliable cars despite what the haters preach. I can't lie I've done the same as this guy: I had a decently clean 4 Runner V8 with about the same miles- I put it up for sale around the same price as the lower mile examples. I heard crickets chirp until I dropped the price. Folks just don't want NYC cab miles.
  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.