By on May 17, 2019

Nissan’s Hiroto Saikawa appears to be staying on as CEO, despite claiming late last year that he would soon step down. While not sensational news in itself, the decision is underpinned by growing animosity between the automaker and alliance partner Renault.

Back in March, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance was doing damage control following the arrest of its chief architect, Carlos Ghosn — resulting in a memorandum of understanding that aimed to restore balance between the automakers and prove to the public that they were all still friends.  However, less than a month later, things began to unravel. Renault (encouraged by the French government) was, once again, pushing for integration and hoping to rejigger Nissan’s management structure.

Now the very legitimacy of Nissan’s board is being called into question.  (Read More…)

By on May 15, 2019

On Tuesday, Volkswagen announced its plan to assemble 600,000 electric vehicles utilizing the brand’s MEB platform at two plants in China. The facilities, said to be located in the cities of Anting and Foshan, will help bolster EV volume after the completion of VW’s Zwickau plant in Germany — which the company previously claimed would manufacture 330,000 cars annually.

While that facility is nearing completion and supposed to be up and running before 2020, there’s no firm timeline in place for China. But that’s the least of the issues Volkswagen must solve in order to make this dream a reality.  (Read More…)

By on May 14, 2019

Nissan is bracing for a bad year. On Tuesday, the automaker held a press conference at its headquarters in Yokohama, Japan, to tell the world that it’s forecasting a 28-percent decline in operating profit this year. While that sounds bad, it comes on the heels of the company’s financial results for the 12-month period ending March 31st, 2019 — which was a dumpster fire.

Operating profit plunged 45 percent to 318 billion yen ($2.9 billion), while revenue fell 3 percent to about 11.6 trillion yen ($105 billion). Vehicle sales were down 4.4 percent. “Today we have hit rock bottom,” CEO Hiroto Saikawa told the press, suggesting the company could rebound in a few years.  (Read More…)

By on May 7, 2019

General Motors’ self-driving vehicle unit, Cruise, has attracted new investors and an equity infusion of $1.15 billion as it continues work on its commercial fleet of autonomous taxis. The new investment, which effectively brings the operation’s valuation to $19 billion, is primarily fronted by Baltimore-based asset management company T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. and existing partners like SoftBank’s Vision Fund and Honda Motor Co.

“Developing and deploying self-driving vehicles at massive scale is the engineering challenge of our generation,” said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann. “Having deep resources to draw on as we pursue our mission is a critical competitive advantage.”  (Read More…)

By on May 6, 2019

Following last week’s announcement that the T600 will serve as the tip of Zotye’s spear, probing into North America, parent company HAAH Automotive Holdings dropped hints that the brand might be one of several Chinese nameplates offered in the United States.

Zotye USA emerged in 2018, after HAAH signed a distributorship agreement with Zotye Automobile International Co. with the clear intent to get its vehicles to market in the Western world. But HAAH CEO Duke Hale claims his company has always had loftier ambitions.  (Read More…)

By on May 3, 2019

Image: JLR

Last week, we examined the precarious situation impacting the way Jaguar Land Rover does business. If you want the abridged version, JLR isn’t sure what to do about Brexit, overestimated the Chinese market, and is concerned with tightening emission rules in Europe. The company’s now mulling the layoff of a sizable portion of its workforce to stem financial losses while parent company Tata considers what life might be like if it sold off its British properties.

Refreshingly, JLR isn’t secretive about its problems and doesn’t attempt to spin them into something positive. It knows it’s confronting real problems. It wants us to know that, too.  (Read More…)

By on May 1, 2019

Volkswagen’s singular U.S. plant has toyed with the idea of unionizing for the past five years. Chattanooga Operations, in Tennessee, initially seemed fine with the establishment of a German-style works council. However, while the United Auto Workers’ first attempt to seal the deal with votes failed in 2014, the union has since managed to rally more staff under its banner.

The UAW is now calling for another vote (its fifth), claiming a majority of the facility’s hourly workers are on its side. Meanwhile, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee spent the first part of this week pleading with plant staff not to unionize. (Read More…)

By on April 30, 2019

Faraday Future FF 91 rear

Faraday Future, the contentious automotive startup that always seems to find (and then lose) sizable amounts of cash, has announced it has once again managed to secure new funding. According to its press release, Faraday says will receive $225 million in bridge financing via a funding round led by Birch Lake Associates.

While the bulk of the cash will go towards paying off vendors, some of which have filed lawsuits, around 40 percent will be left over to help get the FF91 to market and prove the company can actually build a car. The strategy seems risky, but it may be Faraday’s best bet at this point.  (Read More…)

By on April 25, 2019

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC) plans to make a major announcement on Monday regarding its North Plant in Cambridge, Ontario. These days, such news automatically drums up concerns of layoffs and factory closures. However, Toyota’s announcement sounds as though it will be relatively positive in nature, focusing on production changes.

While the corporate release gave no additional details as to what the announcement might entail, Toyota said the message will “will serve to further reaffirm Toyota’s commitment to manufacturing in Canada.” (Read More…)

By on March 28, 2019

The arrest of Carlos Ghosn, former head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, seemed a rather straightforward back in November. By the time he was changing into his orange pajamas (or whatever color is most common in Japanese prisons), Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa announced Ghosn had been dismissed from the company’s board. At the time, he claimed Ghosn and his top aide (Greg Kelly) underreported their compensation and misused corporate assets.

However, it wasn’t long until the narrative grew more complex. Following global accusations that Japanese courts could not be counted on for fair treatment, due to their ludicrously high 99-percent conviction rate, Ghosn began telling the press he believed he was on the receiving end of a corporate coup devised by Nissan. Slowly but surely, minor evidence supporting his claims trickled in.

On Wednesday, an external committee reviewing Nissan’s corporate governance suggested that enough facts exist to suspect Carlos of violating securities law and misusing company funds. However, the committee’s findings include a line indicating that Saikawa signed off on Ghosn’s retirement package.  (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2019

With Faraday Future and Evergrande Health having officially settled their bitter legal dispute late last year, the once-again independent automaker could finally get back to hunting for new investors. Despite Faraday’s entire existence being overshadowed by financial missteps and bizarre business dealings (resulting in an inability to deliver product), it’s extremely good at scrounging up funds. Breaking ties with its primary financial partner might have seemed like bad news, especially after so many near-death experiences, but this is where the company shines the brightest.

On Sunday, Faraday Future signed into a 50-50 partnership with Shanghai-based internet gaming operator The9 — which amassed its fortune after gaining exclusive licensing rights to operate and distribute the extremely popular World of Warcraft in China. Faraday said the deal marks the first step in its plan to officially launch its dual-home-market strategy in both China and the United States.  (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2019

Renault reportedly wants to restart merger talks with Nissan next year and is even considering a follow-up marriage with another automaker — possibly Fiat Chrysler.

While the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s official goals for 2019 are difficult to pin down, a memorandum of understanding was recently established to improve corporate synergy and reassure the public that members can play nice after the drama-filled arrest of Carlos Ghosn. However, it would seem that the long game still includes mergers.

Earlier this month, top executives from Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi appeared together to prove to the world that the alliance is not in jeopardy. It was known that Ghosn had been advocating for a merger against Nissan’s wishes for years, and many, including the defamed former alliance boss, have speculated that the associated pressures aided in the company acting against him in order to see him brought up on charges.

(Read More…)

By on March 22, 2019

Federal investigators are expanding their ongoing corruption investigation into the United Auto Workers and Detroit Three by taking a long look at donated money intended to buy flowers for member funerals. The concern is that the UAW’s “flower fund” may have been used as a slush fund to finance personal expenses for union officials.

It wouldn’t be the first time. Prosecutors have already secured the convictions of seven people via a probe into the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center. Several jailed union officials, along with former FCA-VP Alphons Iacobelli, helped investigators uncover illicit funds funneled through training centers and charities — including the Leave the Light On Foundation, created by the late General Holiefield. Now they’re helping the feds branch out.  (Read More…)

By on March 13, 2019

A recent report from Bloomberg frames Tesla CEO Elon Musk as quite the jerk in relation to his actions toward a former employee. This worker is the whistleblower who, last year, shared internal documents that suggested the company’s Nevada Gigafactory was blowing through raw materials at an alarming rate. Martin Tripp offered up information showing Tesla wasted $150 million in materials and accused the automaker of pursuing unsafe production procedures during its push to increase Model 3 volume.

Tripp, who tried briefly to maintain his anonymity, said he was concerned that Tesla was shipping cars that were potentially dangerous to consumers. However, Tesla quickly responded by suggesting the claims against it were ridiculous and the amount of waste cited in the report was an overstatement.

“As is expected with any new manufacturing process, we had high scrap rates earlier in the Model 3 ramp. This is something we planned for and is a normal part of a production ramp,” Tesla told Business Insider in 2018.

Following an intense Twitter rant from Elon Musk, the story died down. But the corporate task force charged with finding out who leaked the information would eventually lead to even more ridiculous claims.    (Read More…)

By on March 13, 2019

Volkswagen Group just announced a restructuring plan aimed at raising the company’s operating margin to 6 percent. Unfortunately, the strategy involves a staffing reduction of up to 7,000 individuals by 2023 — with the automaker saving an estimated 5.9 billion euros in the process.

While legitimate layoffs aren’t expected to take place for at least a few more years, VW claims the “automation of routine tasks” will make the jobs unnecessary, adding that the staffing cuts could be done by simply not replacing employees who take an early retirement package.  (Read More…)

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