Category: WAS

By on February 13, 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. WAS is being filed from Beijing until further notice.

European Carmageddon: “What, me worry?” Europe experienced the full brunt of carmageddon in January. Europeans bought 27 percent fewer cars in January than in the same month of the prior year. Only 958,500 cars hit Europe’s highways and myways, Das Autohaus reports. The German industry group VDA expects the trend to continue. Relatively benign losses were recorded in France (down 8 percent) and Germany (down 14 percent). The European basket cases are Spain (down 42 percent), Italy (down 33 percent) and UK (down 31 percent). Romania lost half of its new car sales.

Share or retire: Toyota will introduce work-sharing arrangements at assembly plants in the US and Britain in an effort to retain jobs after sharp production cuts at these facilities, the Nikkei [sub] writes. The move is expected to involve US factories in Indiana and Texas, which roll out large vehicles, as well as plants in the UK, including a facility that assembles midsize cars and subcompacts in the county of Derbyshire. Toyota plans to propose the work-sharing arrangements to workers at these facilities by the end of the month. Those that do not accept will be allowed to apply for early retirement.
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By on February 12, 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. WAS is being filed from Beijing until further notice.

HUMMER sold to China? General Motors Corp., working to sell assets to help keep $13.4b in US loans, has drawn interest in its HUMMER brand from a Chinese company and a private-equity firm, says Bloomberg [via Gasgoo]. The pace of negotiations has intensified in the past few weeks, said the people, who wouldn’t name the suitors and asked not to be identified because the discussions are private (so there). More meetings are scheduled this week. According to Bloomberg, “unloading the sport-utility vehicle unit would move GM closer to the goal of showing its future viability to the U.S. Treasury by Feb. 17. If the biggest US automaker can’t prove its ability to return to profit, it could be told to give up the loans or use the cash for a government-funded bankruptcy.” Dennis Virag, president of Automotive Consulting Group in Ann Arbor, Michigan, estimates Hummer might fetch $100m or less.

Fallout in Japan: The major production cuts being implemented by Japan’s carmakers are beginning to seriously hurt the finances of their parts suppliers, the Nikkei [sub] writes. Autoparts suppliers and other firms in the industry employ a total 670k workers in Japan, nearly four times as many as those working at domestic carmakers. Says the Nikkei: “If many of them fail, the industry itself could become unsustainable.”

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By on February 11, 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. WAS is being filed from Beijing until further notice.

Japanese bondage: Toyota plans to procure 100 billion yen or so by issuing about 50 billion yen each in five- and 10-year straight bonds as early as this month, the Nikkei [sub]. The issuance of straight bonds will be the automaker’s first since September 2002. The rating on Toyota’s long-term debt has been downgraded by both Moody’s Investors Service Inc. and Standard & Poor’s, each by one notch from the highest grade. This sets Toyota apart from other automakers who are treated by banks like lepers.

Nissan going for greener pastures: Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn talked up plans for mass-producing electric cars in the U.S., Europe and China, the Nikkei [sub] reports. Chief Operating Officer Toshiyuki Shiga admits that he would like to see Nissan’s electric cars made in Japan. But with the financial crisis crimping Nissan’s ability to raise capital, the US and Europe, which have introduced subsidies for environmentally friendly cars, are more attractive venues. Nissan would be the first Japanese automaker to apply for the US government’s 25 billion dollar program of low-interest loans to develop green cars.
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By on February 10, 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. WAS is being filed from Beijing until further notice.

Nissan’s no-hitter: After announcing an expected loss in the current fiscal, Nissan will suspend corporate sports activities, including its standout baseball team, the Nikkei [sub] reports. Nissan’s ball club, which was founded in 1959, has won corporate championships and produced a string of professional baseball players. Also to be sidelined is Nissan’s table tennis team, which also dates back to 1959. Its most recent stint atop the winner’s podium occurred in 2007. The table tennis and track and field teams will be disbanded at the end of next month. All eyes are on Toyota and whether they will ditch their vastly more expensive F1 team. The rumor mill says they will stick with it for the now.

Nissan goes for green green: Nissan has applied for low-interest loans being offered under a US government program aimed at promoting the development of environment-friendly cars, the Nikkei [sub] says. This is the first time a Japanese carmaker has applied for the 25-billion-dollar program. One of the conditions for qualifying for the federal loan program is that the applicant has been operating facilities in the US for an extended period of time. Nissan intends to apply for similar aid programs for developing environment-friendly vehicles in Europe and China.

Cheaper hooch: One of the many problems of bio-ethanol is that it’s expensive to make. Toyota, Nippon Oil, Mitsubishi Heavy and three other firms will jointly develop technologies to produce cellulosic ethanol from nonfood plants. By bringing together their know-how in such fields as plant cultivation, glycation and fermentation, they hope to develop a comprehensive production system and bring down production costs to around 40 yen ($0.44) per liter by 2015, says the Nikkei [sub].
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By on February 9, 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. WAS is being filed from Beijing until further notice.

Nissan sees red: Nissan cut its earnings outlook, saying it now expects a consolidated net loss of 265 billion yen for the year ending March 31, the Nikkei [sub] writes. The automaker earlier forecast a net profit of 160 billion yen, down 67 percent from the previous term. Nissan downgraded its sales outlook to a 23 percent fall. The carmaker also projects an operating loss of 180 billion yen, tumbling into the red for the first time in 14 years, in a sharp reversal from the 270 billion yen profit, down 66 percent. Nissan will cut 20,000 jobs in Japan and abroad by the end of March 2010, bringing the total payroll down to 215,000 employees. This is the first loss since fiscal 1999 when current President Carlos Ghosn became chief operating officer after Nissan formed an alliance with France’s Renault.

India keeps going down: India’s domestic car sales fell for the fourth straight month in January. Sales fell 3.2 percent in January, the Nikkei [sub] reports. They were down 7 percent in December, 19 percent in November, 6.6 percent in October, 4.4 percent in August, and 1.7 percent in July. Only in September 2008, sales rose 2.8 percent.
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By on February 7, 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. WAS is being filed from Tokyo this week. There will be no WAS on Sunday while we re-locate to Beijing.

Isuzu sees red: Isuzu posted net losses for the October-December quarter due to weak domestic truck sales, a stronger yen and higher material costs, the Nikkei [sub] reports. Net losses were ¥11.7b in the three months ended Dec. 31, down from a profit of ¥24.4b a year earlier. Sales dropped 21 percent to ¥340.4b in the quarter, down from ¥430b a year ago. On an operating basis, Isuzu lost ¥1.6b, compared with a ¥28b profit in the quarter a year before. For the full fiscal year ending March, Isuzu lowered its outlook to a loss of ¥15b.

Yen for govt. yen: Japanese auto makers are scrambling to raise cash before the end of the fiscal year in March, the Nikkei [sub] says. Nissan is considering applying for the low-interest funds, Isuzu said Friday that it may do the same to raise several tens of billions of yen. Mitsubishi Motors is also considering tapping the Japanese government program.
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By on February 6, 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. WAS is being filed from Tokyo this week.

Geely doesn’t want Volvo: China’s largest privately owned carmaker Geely has denied reports that it is acquiring the Volvo car unit from Ford Motor Co, China Daily reports. Ford has also approached Chery Automobile Co and Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. Li Chunbo, an analyst with CITIC Securities Co in Beijing, said when a Chinese enterprise attempts to acquire a foreign rival it has to consider how it will benefit from the deal and whether it is capable of dealing with the purchased unit. “When you compare the market value of Geely and Volvo, you will ask how can Geely raise enough money to buy the European car brand,” he said. If this goes on much longer, not much money may be needed.

La bella clunker culleria: Italy is hopping on the European clunker culling bandwagon. Italian consumers will be given six months to go out and buy a new car under a “strong package” of incentives that Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right government expects to approve today, Financial Times reports. The package would provide possibly up to €1,500 a car, to exchange models at least 10 years old for new, relatively small cars. The government would also provide credit guarantees to banks to finance purchases. The incentives are not limited to Italian cars, but the conditions attached—small capacity and least polluting—“would clearly favor Fiat,” the FT says. Protectionism, with style . . . .
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By on February 5, 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. WAS is being filed from Tokyo this week.

GM flirting with FAW: GM is holding discussions with major Chinese automaker FAW Group to form a partnership for light commercial vehicles, Reuters reports. The two parties have already registered a name with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, which is the first step of Chinese joint venture courtship. GM already makes light commercial vehicles in China in a three-way tie-up with SAIC and Liuzhou Wuling. GM manufactures Buicks in Shanghai with SAIC, China’s largest auto maker. FAW, one China’s three biggest automakers, operates car manufacturing ventures with Volkswagen and Toyota. SAIC is also in a joint venture with VW. SAIC and FAW have been considered bitter rivals, although there are reports of a thawing. GM said its commercial vehicle venture in China sold 19.7 percent more vehicles in January than a year earlier, helped largely by sales of the Wuling Sunshine minivans.
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By on February 4, 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. WAS is being filed from Tokyo this week.

India‘s car sales up: Just like neighbor China, India reports rising cars sales for January. Most car companies registered positive sales despite the withdrawal of price rebate schemes, India’s Economic Times reports. Tata Motors continued its negative run, with its passenger vehicle sales declining by 9 percent.

Toyota losses spreading: Toyota’s parts arm Denso and four other Toyota Motor Corp. affiliates are expected to suffer group net losses for the year ending March 31 as the automaker’s drastic output reductions battered businesses along the supply chain, the Nikkei [sub] writes.

Hitachi lowers volume of auto biz: Hitachi considers cutting in half the number of 85 marketing and production sites handling automobile-related equipment, the Nikkei [sub] says. Hitachi group company Clarion has already decided to close a factory in Hitachinaka around the end of 2010 and keep just one domestic factory open. In the US, where Hitachi operates Hitachi Automotive Products (USA) Inc. in the state of Kentucky and three other production bases, two locations may be closed.

Mazda sees red: Mazda expects its first loss in eight years for this fiscal year due to damage sustained from a strong yen and a sharp downturn in consumer sentiment, the Nikkei [sub] reports. The Hiroshima-based company now expects a net loss of ¥13 billion for the current fiscal year through March, compared with its previous forecast for a ¥50 billion profit.

Ford moving to China: Ford Motor Company’s Asia Pacific and Africa region headquarters, will be moving from Bangkok to China, Gasgoo reports. Bangkok will continue to serve as Ford’s ASEAN regional headquarters. In 2004, Volkswagen AG and General Motors relocated their Asia Pacific regional headquarters to China.

Small getting bigger and bigger: Underscoring China’s move from big to small, SAIC-GM-Wuling, a Chinese venture of GM and leading manufacturer of mini-trucks and mini-vans in China, reported all-time high sales of 75,168 units in January, Gasgoo writes. The record sales were largely on the strength of Wuling Sunshine, which remained the best-selling model and saw its sales volume hit 1.4 million units by the end of January 2008.

Not a good start for Deutschland: Germans bought 14.2 percent fewer cars in January 09  than in January 08.  Saab (-60.7 percent), Chrysler (-53 percent), Land Rover (-51.9 percent), Nissan (-51.1 percent), Jaguar (-31 percent), Skoda (-30.7 percent), Mercedes (-30 percent), Porsche (-24.7 percent) and Opel (-22.7 percent) were the big January losers in Germany’s car market, Automobilwoche [sub] reports.  Ford sold 25.9 percent more. Smaller importers such as Hyundai (+50.8 percent), Mazda (+27.2 percent) and Lancia (+13.7 percent) gained. The trend goes from big to small.

Out with a Bangle: After 17 years with BMW, U.S.-born Christopher Bangle resigns as chief designer of the BMW Group. The Bavarians go Dutch with Adrian van Hooydon. According to Reuters, Chris Bangle is “one of the most well-known and controversial people in the auto industry.” Bangle was the object of multiple online petitions calling for his sacking. After his 2002 redesign of the 7 Series sedan, the vehicle was voted one of the 50 worst cars of all times by Time magazine, along with such other infamous models as the 2001 Pontiac Aztek and the 1998 Fiat Multipla.

By on February 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. WAS is being filed from Tokyo this week.

Here they come: China’s SAIC will sell its homegrown cars to Spain, UK, and Israel beginning in 2010, Gasgoo reports. Some of the cars will come directly from SAIC’s assembly plants in Shanghai and Nanjing, while others will come from the company’s UK assembly plants, which SAIC acquired from Rover. The UK will get domesticated Chinese. All cars will comply with EU Euro-5 emission standards.

Germany down 14 percent in January: Not quite 19 percent as feared yesterday, but close. Germany sold 14 percent fewer cars in January 2009 than in January 2007, Automobilwoche [sub] reports. If you are looking for a statistical savior: Adjusted for buying days, the drop is only 8 percent. All eyes on the clunker culling money, €2.5K. It was introduced 1/27, too late to save the first week of the year.

Sania rejects Porsche, Porsche happy: Much to the relief of Porsche, Sweden’s truckmaker, Scania, rejected a bid Porsche had to make after taking over VW, the Wall Street Journal [sub] writes.

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By on February 2, 2009

Back from the dead after I’m back from Europe: 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. WAS is being filed from Tokyo this week.

Itai: Japan’s domestic sales of new cars, trucks and buses dropped 27.9 percent year-on-year in January, declining for the sixth straight month, the Nikkei [sub] writes. Sales in January totaled 174,281 vehicles– the lowest for the month since 1976. The Nikkei: “Auto sales are closely monitored by economists since they are the first consumer spending numbers released each month.”  And these figures don’t bode well.

Oichi: Honda downgraded its earnings forecast, but still expects to report an 80 billion yen group net profit for the year ending March 31, the Nikkei [sub] reports. Stalled sales in Japan, the U.S. and Europe, as well as the stronger yen, led the automaker to lower its projected profit by 105 billion yen. Strong motorcycle sales in Asia helped Honda skirt the losses seen by Toyota and Nissan.

Aua: Worldwide sales of all brands dropped 25 percent in January. Compared to that, VW’s January loss of 15 percent is not all that bad, says VeeDub’s Martin Winterkorn according to das Autohaus.

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By on January 24, 2009

Definitely infrequent for a few weeks while I’m in Europe, hunting the elusive Euro: 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. WAS is being filed from Berlin – when I’m in Berlin.

Idle chatter: More and more drivers of Japanese cars will have their rides die on them at an intersection, only to miraculously re-start once they mash the pedal. “Japanese carmakers have been equipping more and more of their passenger cars with a function that automatically kills the engine when the vehicle is stationary,” the Nikkei (sub) writes. Mazda aims to make the idling stop function available with some configurations of its fully remodeled Axela to be launched this summer. Toyota started offering a newly developed idling stop system on some of its Crown Comfort sedans in August. Toyota plans to install the system in a wider range of its passenger cars in the future, with a focus on Europe. Mitsubishi aims to offer some of its European model Colt cars with an idling stop system starting this year.

Ready, set, fire: Toyota plans to reduce its full-time work forces in North America and the U.K., by more than 1,000 jobs, the Nikkei (sub) says. The move is unprecedented for the automaker, which has protected full-time jobs even in tough times. A rare exception was in 1950, when it let go roughly 1,600 workers in Japan through early retirement programs. Toyota employs nearly 30,000 in North America, mainly at seven assembly plants, and about 5,000 in the U.K., where it has one assembly facility. The scope of the job reductions there will likely be finalized as early as this month. Toyota is considering pay cuts as well.

Nissan joins club of lost profits: Nissan joins other Japanese car makers such as Toyotay and will most likely ost a group operating loss of more than 100 billion yen for the year ending March 31, its first dip into the red since fiscal 1994, the Nikkei (sub) says. Depending on car sales for the January-March quarter, the loss could even swell to around 200 billion yen. The automaker logged an operating profit of 790.8 billion yen for the year ended March 2008. Sinc January, “the situation has grown more dire each day,” a company official says. Depressed demand alone will eat into operating profit by more than 200 billion yen. In addition, the yen’s appreciation against the dollar, the euro and emerging-market currencies is seen dragging down the result by some 100 billion yen.
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By on January 21, 2009

Definitely infrequent for a few weeks while I’m in Europe, hunting the elusive Euro: 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. WAS is being filed from Berlin – when I’m in Berlin.

Alliances ahead: The not yet wrapped-up tie-up between Fiat and Chrysler “may spur Japanese automakers to look into alliances of their own,” the Nikkei (sub) writes. Already, Nissan and Chrysler produce each other’s vehicles on an OEM basis, Suzuki teams with Fiat in environmental technologies. “While these two Japanese firms may need to rethink their strategies, the Fiat-Chrysler alliance could have broader implications,” says the Nikkei: “Budgetary constraints may force Japanese carmakers to focus on their strengths while striking partnerships in other areas. Foreign rivals are said to be looking for Japanese partners for the technologies needed to make fuel-efficient vehicles.” The Nikkei speculates that this could be”setting the stage for an industry reorganization involving domestic and foreign carmakers, including such midtier players as Suzuki, Mazda and Mitsubishi.”

Japanese carmakers have hat in hand: Mazda has appealed to the Japanese government for financial assistance to cover roughly 10,000 employees’ wages at two domestic plants where it has scaled back production, says the Nikkei (sub.) Mazda will pay 80 percent of the basic wages while output is suspended. The government subsidies are to cover a portion of these salaries. Mitsubishi has already filed for such aid, Nissan plans to do same soon.
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By on January 19, 2009

Definitely infrequent for a few weeks while I’m in Europe, hunting the elusive Euro: 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. WAS is being filed from Berlin – when I’m in Berlin.

Hybrid price war: Toyota plans to lower the Japanese price for the existing Prius hybrid when it releases a redesigned, more efficient version in May, the Nikkei (sub) writes. Japan’s top automaker will continue to sell the existing Prius after the new version’s release in May. Toyota plans to cut the price for the current model to around 2 million yen. Rival Honda is slated to release the Insight hybrid in February, with a starting price of less than 2 million yen. The remodeled Prius will cost 2.5 million yen.

Mazda cutbacks: Mazda will slightly increase plant operating hours in Japan in February and March, but will stick with its plan to cut output through March by 100,000 vehicles or more in addition to the originally planned 73,000-vehicle cutback for the period, the Nikkei (sub) writes. Mazda has started cutting salaries of manager-level employees by up to 10 percent from this month. Its executives already began returning 20 percent of their salaries to the company from December.
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By on January 18, 2009

Definitely infrequent for a few weeks while I’m in Europe, hunting the elusive Euro: 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. WAS is being filed from Berlin – when I’m in Berlin.

Toyota closed on Saturdays: Toyota closed all of its 12 Japanese factories Saturday in response to the worsening global sales slump. Toyota plans to suspend production for a total of three days in January, the Nikkei (sub) says. Toyota will have a total of 11 no-work days in February and March. As a result, its daily production capacity in February and March will fall to 9,000 units, about the half the year-earlier level. Toyota also plans to reduce output by closing all seven vehicle assembly plants in the U.S. and Canada on some days through early April.

Buyers return in Beijing: After disappointing sales in the second half of 2008, China’s auto market is showing signs of life. As the Lunar New Year holiday season approaches, prices have been cut and favorable credit sales policies expanded to lure customers into showrooms, Gasgoo writes. Sales in Beijing’s biggest auto market have jumped over 40 percent compared to the same period last year. Financing is becoming more popular. Currently, only 10 percent of car buyers in China financing vehicles, the rest pays cash.
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