By on March 31, 2016

2016 Volkswagen Passat (1 of 14)

Volkswagen shareholders are wondering if they’ll be receiving a lump of coal in their dividend stocking this year.

That, Sergio is seeking a partner (but not those French guys), NASCAR’s Derek White is in trouble north of the border, GM seals the deal with a startup, and no Baby Buick for you … after the break!

Money (Frankleleon/Flickr)

Black Christmas at Volkswagen

Analysts are predicting heavily slashed dividends for Volkswagen shareholders next month.

The huge costs associated with the diesel emissions scandal will weigh heavily on potential payouts when the automaker posts its earnings at the end of April, Bloomberg reports:

One unidentified supervisory board member said it’s unlikely the carmaker will pay a dividend at all, German newswire DPA reported on Tuesday. Investors are expecting something, however. The carmaker may slash the dividend by more than half, to 2.37 euros per share, according to analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That would equal about 14 percent of the 17.80-euro average estimate for adjusted earnings per share.

Paying a dividend would cost Volkswagen money, but could temporarily placate investors who felt the automaker skimped on payouts as it went on a pre-scandal spending spree.


FCA Goes Looking for a Dance Partner

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is looking for a partner to collaborate with, but has no interest in hooking up with France’s largest automaker.

Marchionne, who has already made clear his plans to outsource production of small cars, could be leaning towards a technology collaboration with a startup, according to Reuters (via Automotive News):

“We have parallel conversations with many players who are outside the auto sector at the moment,” Marchionne said at a press conference after an industry event here on Wednesday.

“We can’t go into these discussions with a precise idea of what FCA wants. We’re learning, just as they are learning,” he said. “And the solution will be a shared solution and developed together with them, not developed by us alone.”

Marchionne poured cold water on rumors of a potential partnership with surging French automaker PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, which had declared itself open to new opportunities. The benefits to FCA would have been too small, Marchionne stated.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)

The French-Canadian Connection

A massive illegal tobacco and drug bust in Canada has snared NASCAR driver Kevin White.

Widespread raids by Ontario and Quebec authorities put the kibosh on the largest tobacco-smuggling operation in North American history, with White caught in the dragnet, Bloomberg reports:

Authorities said some of the suspects arrested early Wednesday have links to biker gangs and organized crime, buying tobacco in the U.S. and illegally importing it into Canada through three border crossings. The tobacco was ultimately sold on the Kahnawake and Six Nations reserves, according to police.

Quebec’s provincial police force didn’t confirm that the Derek White they arrested was the 45-year-old driver, who lives on the Kahnawake reserve and became the first Native American to start a Sprint Cup race last year. However, other sources claim it is:

Law enforcement officials, who requested anonymity because of restrictions about commenting beyond the scope of the warrants, said it was the same man. White is listed as one of the top ranking members of the smuggling operation, according to a chart provided by police.

General Motors headquarters in Detroit, Michigan

GM’s Cruise buy approved

The Federal Trade Commission has given General Motors’ rumored $1 billion purchase of California startup Cruise Automation its seal of approval, the Detroit Free Press reports:

A spokeswoman for the Federal Trade Commission said the agency granted expedited approval, saying the transaction would not violate antitrust laws …

What attracted GM was a device Cruise’s employees have created that enables drivers to take a car onto the highway, then push a button that transfers control of the accelerator, brakes and steering. The company also has worked on autonomous features on farming tractors and mining equipment.

GM’s plan to acquiring an outsider in order to bring autonomous technology in-house is a strategy that’s gaining traction in the automotive community.


America won’t get its Opel Adam

If you’d been hoping for a mini rebadged import to be added to the Buick lineup, consider your dream crushed like an empty can of Michelob Ultra against your semi-luxurious forehead.

Buick vice-president Duncan Aldred told Automotive News that his high hopes for turning the cute-as-a-button Opel Adam into a tiny Buick have crashed into the wall of financial reality:

In the past, Aldred said he’d like to add the Opel Adam minicar to Buick’s U.S. stable as a Mini or Fiat 500 fighter. But the sharp shift in market sentiment toward crossovers over the last two years has sapped sales of those vehicles — and Aldred’s desire to import the Adam.

“I very much did feel when I came over that that could really help accelerate the Buick brand story,” he said. “I don’t see that as much. Whether the market shifted or the fashion nature of those cars has changed, I don’t know. But I wouldn’t be looking for a small, B-segment car today.”

Good news for the newly dejected, though. If you’re looking for a crossover or larger car once your microcar fetish ends, Buick has you covered.

[Image: Passat, © 2015 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars; Money, frankleleon/Flickr (CC BY 2.0); NASCAR, Jonathan Moore/Getty Images]

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18 Comments on “TTAC News Round-up: Volkswagen’s Plans Paltry Payout, Sergio Talks up Players, and a NASCAR Driver’s Busted...”

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    “help accelerate the Buick brand story”

    Yeah, because Buick’s brand history has such a legacy of building tiny little sh*tboxes. Please…

    • 0 avatar

      Buick and Cadillac are zombie brands filled with the wrong product du jour for the most part.

      • 0 avatar

        Errybody love their Regal priced like a mid-level 3-Series! And with the Cascada already here, Buick really doesn’t need something else that’s small and not interesting.

    • 0 avatar

      “help accelerate the Buick brand story”

      Buick is Geo. A collection of GM leftovers w/ the Buick name slapped on them.

      Buick died a long time ago, only the name lingers on because the Chinese don’t know any better.

      Come on now, does anyone know any remotely astute car person who would even consider a new Buick for anything other than a rental?

    • 0 avatar

      Well the mini hardtop and fiat 500 sales are down so I’m not surprised. While I think a premium compact would be good for the image Buick would like to have, we all know a rebadged Adam would come closer to Fiat than Mini.

      Anyway, I disagree with your overall assessment of the Buick brand. Their problem is that 3/4 their portfolio is at the end of its model cycle.

      The new LaCrosse and Envision look promising and competitive. The new Encore, Verano, and Regal are about a year out.

      Geo is a poor analogy.

      • 0 avatar

        Come on now, does anyone know any remotely astute car person who would even consider a new Buick for anything other than a rental?

        That was a rhetorical question.

        • 0 avatar

          Let’s just say for all that GM is trying to re-image Buick away from an old-folks’ car, they’ve turned it into something far worse. They should take their own commercials into account when they say, “I didn’t know that was a Buick!” Absolutely nothing about it says Buick any more; they’re all simply generic bubbles on wheels that offer nothing distinctive in appearance or comfort over any of the others. There’s no expression of luxury, sportiness, anything. Not even close to the level of the ’80s vintage models which were the last of the ‘decent’ Buick models.

          GM any more in the US is two “brands”; Chevrolet and GMC, mostly for the same reasons. If I were them I’d spin off those dead and dying brands and force them to re-live or die on their own without corporate interference.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe Buick could sell the car under the “Opel” nameplate and GM could bring back the old Buick-Opel division that they had from 1958 up through 1975 when Buick dealers sold Opels under the Opel name. Later (from 1976 through 1980) they sold Isuzus under the Opel name).

      They might even consider reviving the “Opel Kadett” name and sell the Adam under that. Back in the day Opel was often the second or third-best selling imported car in the U.S. behind Volkswagen.

      Ah, nostalgia. Now get off of my lawn!

  • avatar

    I’ve never heard of a Kevin White that’s raced in NASCAR, but I have heard of a Derick White ;-)

    On eidt, I see you got the right name later in the story, maybe the first time was just a typo.

  • avatar

    I said here months ago that VW should have bought back all the non-compliant cars privately owned in the US and crushed them, because it would have been cheaper in the long run (not to mention much more final.)

    The former owners would be more likely to feel as though they’d been treated fairly, and might have even bought another VW with the money they received. The government could have called it a win for the environment, and China would have more scrap steel for artillery shells. Done and done.

  • avatar

    Will Canada insist on building a wall to keep all them drug dealing Americans out and make the USA pay for it?

  • avatar

    Methinks Fiat should tie in with Tesla. FCA is having trouble keeping up with CAFE rules and going at least partially electric through Tesla’s technologies could go a long way towards giving them a jump on the other brands that don’t even have a properly road-able BEV yet.

    • 0 avatar

      Now that Sergio has given up on merger talks (nobody wants FCA), what he should do is break up FCA and spin off different brands.

      Its fun to think about the different ways you could split FCA and which brands would be a good fit to other automakers.

      The value of course lies in Jeep and Ram. But somebody willing to invest capital and time could do well with Maserati and Alfa Romeo. Tata’s handling of Jaguar Land Rover comes to mind.

      Also, Ford knew that nobody would buy Jaguar as a stand alone entity so it bundled it with Land Rover.

      Maybe Sergio could bundle Jeep with Alfa Romeo or Alfa and Maserati. Sell it to Honda, Hyundai, even Toyota could probably all take those brands and run with them.

      Leave behind Ram, Dodge, Chrysler, Fiat and it would be interesting.

      Anyway, my point is that there may be more value in breaking up FCA along lines other than the old Chrysler Fiat companies.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s the history of the “big 3” isn’t it? Buying up brands only a few years later to sell them off. Diversify or consolidate? It’s like they flip a coin to make these decisions.

      • 0 avatar

        Here’s the problem: The biggest piece of FCA is Jeep, and that alone is worth roughly $8 billion. The other pieces are worth much less. Against that total value, the original Fiat has an accumulated bond debt of about $42 billion. There isn’t enough value in the pieces to cover that debt.

        That’s why Sergio wants a partner – to assume that debt so the Fiat founding Agnelli family can walk away from the last of the Fiat conglomerate with their hands clean and cash in their pockets. That’s basically what he was hired to do, and he needs to pull it off, rather than break up FCA at a certain loss.

  • avatar

    Seems like Peugeot has all the things FCA does not: subcompact, compact and midsize chassis. FCA already knows the 500 is old, and that the Dart and 200 aren’t best in class. A tie up with Peugeot would expand the options for both.

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