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Crunch watch July 09: the auto industry in crisis

Fri, 31 Jul 2009 00:00:00 -0700

By Tim Pollard, Ben Pulman, Ben Whitworth and Alex Michaelides

Motor Industry

31 July 2009 11:23

Welcome to CAR's news aggregator as we round up the seismic change in the auto industry. Top tip: news summaries are added from the top hour-by-hour 

Friday 31 July 2009
• Lamborghini today posted pre-tax profits of €5.4 million – despite a sales drop of 37% in the first six months of 2009. Sant'Agata said turnover hit €156.9m in the first half (down 43%) as it sold 825 cars globally (Lamborghini)
• British motorists could have to pay £250 in tax to park at work from 2012. The AA dub it as a ‘tax on jobs’ and Nottingham will be the first city to trial the scheme (The Telegraph)
• VW expects 2010 to be a year of zero growth due to the falling profits that it announced yesterday (Financial Times)
• The US government fears that its ‘cash for clunkers’ scrappage sheme may have exhausted its $1 billion budget after just one week (New York Times)

Thursday 30 July 2009
• Mitsubishi Motors announces a net loss of £167 million in Q1, compared to a profit of £65m this time last year (Mitsubishi)
• General Motors has called Magna’s proposal for Opel/Vauxhall impossible to implement, owing to intellectual property rights and GM’s Russian operations (Detroit News)
• Renault reports a net loss of €2.7 billion (£2.3bn) in the first half of 2009; this compares to a profit of €1.6bn (£1.4bn) this time last year (Financial Times)
• Porsche predicts a pre-tax loss of €5bn (£4.3bn), adding further controversy to the €50m (£43m) pay-off given to ex-CEO, Wendelin Wiedeking (Financial Times)
• Ford has slowed the bidding process for Volvo in the hope that it will receive a better offer for the company (Wall Street Journal)
• The UK Government may never publish the controversial report into the collapse of MG Rover as it could be damaging to Gordon Brown and other senior ministers (The Daily Telegraph)
• Volkswagen announce an 83% fall in profit as net income fell from €1.6bn (£1.4bn) to €283m (£203m) (Bloomberg)

Wednesday 29 July 2009
• Porsche is preparing to sell cash-settled options on its VW shares. One of the interested parties is Qatar Holding LLC – which is also interested in a stake in Porsche (Porsche)
• Daimler has beaten expectations as it records a €1 billion (£857m) loss. Big money, but still much smaller than had been predicted (Financial Times)
• Germany has asserted its right to reject bids for Opel if GM’s selection means that German jobs would be lost (Bloomberg)
• Glass's Guide reports that secondhand car prices in the UK are rising fast. Year-old models have already risen 25% in some cases – and that could continue (Glass's Guide)
• Mazda UK dealers are doing well in the recession. Despite sales falling by a quarter in 2009, net profits are up by 60% compared to the first half of 2008 (Mazda)
• BMW will withdraw from F1 at the end of the season, saying that 'current developments in motor sport' are its reason for leaving
• ‘We are continually reviewing all projects and initiatives to check them for future viability and sustainability. Our Formula One campaign is thus less a key promoter for us,’ says Dr Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the board of management of BMW (BBC Sport)
• Fiat has just built the 1,500,000th Panda at the Fiat Auto Poland plant in Tychy (Fiat)
• Honda reports a 96% fall in net profit as it takes Y7.6 billion (£49.1 million) compared to Y173.4 billion (£1.1 billion) this time last year (Financial Times)
• PSA Peugeot Citröen announces a first-half net loss of €962 million (£832m), this is expected to fall further in the second half of the year (Financial Times)
• Nissan also posts a first quarter loss of Y16.5 billion (£107m), blaming poor sales in Japan (Bloomberg)
• Jenson Button reveals he will compete in the 2009 Race of Champions at Beijing in November (Race of Champions)

Tuesday 28 July 2009
• Magna has upped its bid on Opel/Vauxhall, raising its investment from €100 million to €500m (Reuters)
• More bad news for Vauxhall as driving school BSM ditches the Corsa in favour of the Fiat 500 – costing Vauxhall approximately 3000 orders a year (The Times)
• Nissan says that the financial support it has received from governments worldwide for its electric vehicle programme will ensure its future profitability (Bloomberg)

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Monday 27 July 2009
• Opel unions are demanding more say in picking its future owners – and threatening to boycott cost-cutting measures unless they are given more input (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
• Tata Motors today reports an 8% drop in net revenue to 872,373,737 rupees, or £11 million. The company has focused on efficiencies, nudging operating profits up by 48% on the first quarter of 2008 – up to £1.2 million (Tata Motors)
• The FT reports that Tata has appointed strategy consultants to advise on cost cutting measures at Jaguar Land Rover (Financial Times)
• Volkswagen planning to raise funds of €4 billion in order to acquire Porsche (Financial Times)
• Jaguar Land Rover announce a combined net loss of £673.4 million for operations in 2008 (Financial Times)
• It has emerged that redundant Porsche chief exec Wendelin Wiedeking was originally offered a payoff of €140 million by the company’s family owner (Financial Times)
• Renault F1 has posted losses of £10.3 million, as its outgoings leapt 38% to £158 million (Daily Telegraph)

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Friday 24 July 2009
• Fiat gains approval from the EU over plans to buy a 20% stake in a new company, formed from Chrysler’s assets. (Bloomsberg)
• Canadian parts group Magna has revealed that it will sack 20% of Vauxhall’s workforce, should it be successful in acquiring it from GM (The Times)
• The third bidder for GM Europe, Beijing Auto, has been squeezed out of the equation owing to intellectual property issues (Reuters)
• In a further step towards a merger with Porsche, VW board members approve plans and Qatar’s 17% stake in the company (Bloomsberg)  

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Thursday 23 July 2009
• Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking and financial chief Holger Haerter have both been dismissed with immediate effect (Porsche)
• Both men will remain on in advisory roles but have resigned fully from the supervisory boards of Porsche, VW and Audi
• A formal statement said: 'In the last weeks Wiedeking and Haerter have come to the conclusion, that the further strategic development of Porsche SE and Porsche AG is better off, if they are not on board as acting persons. They both see that step as a significant contribution to the appeasement of the situation and to support the forming of an integrated car manufacturing company'
• Michael Macht, Porsche board member of production and logisitics will take over as the new chief exec of Porsche. Thomas Edig, human resources director, will be his deputy
• Wiedeking to get a €50 million golden handshake. Nice work if you can get it!
• In a separate statement, Wiedeking says he will leave €25m to found a new charity at Porsche's factories to ensure 'socially fair development' for all staff. A further €1m will be left to two local charities. And Wiedeking pointed out that as a German tax payer half of his salary has gone back to the state
• Porsche plans to boost its capital base by €5 billion ahead of its anticipated merger with VW (Financial Times)
• Porsche is finalising talks with Quatar Holdings LLC over an investment to secure the €5bn which will lay foundations for the merger with VW (Arabian Business.com)
• Fiat says it is still considering car-making partners, despite pulling out of a deal to acquire Opel/Vauxhall (Financial Times)
• General Motors posts its sixth consecutive quaterly loss, but suggests that the car industry is finally picking up (Wall Street Journal)
• Hyundai posts an unexpected record quarterly profit, net income rising 48% to $650 million (Bloomberg)
• Ford posts surprise profits of $2.3 billion in Q2 thanks to its debt reduction moves (Wall Street Journal)
• After removing these one-time gains, the story looks a little bleaker with a loss of $424 million. But that is still a recovery from a loss of $1.03 billion this time last year (Wall Street Journal)

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Wednesday 22 July 2009
• Fiat today announced a €179 million loss in the second quarter; last year it posted a €646m profit in the same period (Financial Times)
• The German government has come out and backed Magna in the race for GM Europe; but CAR's Georg Kacher today tipped Ripplewood as the front runner in the takeover of Opel Vauxhall (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
• Ford is expected to post its fifth consecutive quarterly loss on Thursday. Although it hasn't collapsed into bankruptcy like rivals GM and Chrysler, Ford has struggled in the turbulent global economy and has fought to address its $25.8 billion debts since March (Automotive News, subscription required)
• But Ford Americas president Mark Fields tells reporters that the US car market has bottomed out. 'Things have stopped getting worse – the question is, at what point does it start to turn positive?' (Detroit News)
• Porsche chief executive is today reported to be close to quitting, according to German business newspaper Handelsblatt. It claims that VW and Porsche have privately reached an agreement that Wiedeking should go at a meeting of the supervisory board on Thursday (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
• Europe's components industry is pushing Brussels to approve a €3 billion loan programme to prevent more bankruptcies in the autumn as suppliers struggle amid sluggish demand (Financial Times)

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Tuesday 21 July 2009
• Aston Martin has 'indefinitely delayed' the reintroduction of its Lagonda brand, reports claim. Chief executive Ulrich Bez told reporters: 'We have several sources ready to invest upward of £250m but the timing right now is simply wrong. We have some work to do yet, and it takes a lot of investment' (Autocar)
• A spanner has been thrown into the works of VW’s plans to take over Porsche – as the deal would incur a hefty multibillion dollar tax bill (Wall Street Journal)
• GM receives three final bids for Opel/Vauxhall from Magna, RHJ International and Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Company. The wait continues... (New York Times)
• Magna plans to turn the ex-Chrysler HQ in Detroit into an automotive components plant. Plans are yet to be approved by government (Detroit News)
• Car interior manufacturer Faurecia SA announces a €364.6 million net loss in the first half of 2009 as demand falls (Bloomberg)

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Monday 20 July 2009
• Nissan announces plans to produce lithium-ion batteries at its Sunderland UK plant, creating 350 new jobs – and the factory could produce hybrid vehicles in the future (BBC News)
• GM Europe expects two new bids from Canadian parts supplier Magna and Belgian Industrial group RHJ International (The Times)
• Police in Korea fail to rid a Ssangyong plant of 800 fired employees, who have occupied it for nearly two months (Bloomberg)
• Lord Mandelson presses Tata to respond to a new funding offer for Jaguar Land Rover (Financial Times) 
• Fiat has forecast a Q2 trading profit of €245 million. It is the only major manufacturer expected to make a profit this quarter (Reuters)
• VW is poised to buy Porsche’s sports car division for €8 billion in a two-stage takeover bid (New York Times)

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Friday 17 July 2009
• Ashok Raghunath Vichare of Mumbai, India, becomes the first customer to take delivery of a Tata Nano. Chairman Ratan Tata handed over the key to the Nano LX (Tata)
• Toyota confirms plans to manufacture a hybrid version of the Auris hatchback at its Derbyshire plant from mid-2010, using motors produced at its North Wales facility (Toyota UK)
• Renault announces a 16.5% drop in global car sales for the first six months of 2009 – in line with the global slump in demand (Renault Group)
• German chancellor Angela Merkel supports Magna’s Russian-financed bid for Opel (AFP)
• Belgian investor RHJ faces off against Magna with a €275m (£238m) bid to buy a 50.1% stake in Opel. But it would cut 9900 jobs if successful
(Reuters UK)
• Cross-party MPs in the Business and Enterprise Committee call for more urgency from the Government to start spending the £2.3bn support package for the UK car industry it announced in January (Financial Times)
• US president Obama tries to stop reversal of GM and Chrysler dealership closures (Bloomberg)

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Thursday 16 July 2009
• Porsche denies newspaper reports claiming chief exec Wendelin Wiedeking will leave the company after VW takes a 49% stake in the business (Justauto, subscription required)
• German newspaper Bild reports that RHJ International, the Brussels-based investment firm, has leapfrogged Magna International as the favourite bidder for Opel and Vauxhall (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
• Toyota strikes a deal to supply hybrid petrol-electric tech to Mazda (Financial Times)
• New GM has announced plans to invest more than $1 billion to develop two new car models in Brazil, creating around 1000 jobs. GM in Brazil is financed indpendently from the America (BBC News)

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Wednesday 15 July 2009
• Lotus chief executive Mike Kimberley announced this afternoon that he would step down, owing to an ongoing bad back. He will be 71 in August (Group Lotus)
• Jaguar will axe up to 300 jobs at its Halewood factory in the north west of England, as X-type production comes to an end in autumn 2009 (The Guardian)
• Halewood will be put on a three-week shutdown in September to ease supply; 'Ceasing production of the X-type early, with further redundancies and temporary shutdowns at Halewood is necessary to protect our other investment plans,' said Jaguar Land Rover chief exec David Smith (The Guardian)
• Chrysler's finance arm, Chrysler Financial, has repaid $1.5 billion in loans from the Treasury Department's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). It's the first auto company to pay back the government loan (Autoblog)
• Ousted GM chief exec Rick Wagoner will officially retire in August with a severance package worth $8 million over five years (Automotive News, subscription required)
• Indian electric car specialist Reva – maker of the G Wiz – is building what it describes as the world's biggest EV factory. The Bangalore facility will have capacity to build 30,000 battery cars a year from 2010 after the $6 million investment (Financial Times)

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Tuesday 14 July 2009
• Toyota is considering building a hybrid petrol-electric version of its UK-built Auris in Britain (Financial Times)
• Fiat is readying a bid to buy struggling contract manufacturer Carrozzeria Bertone. It will be one of five bids according to those familiar with the tender (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)

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Monday 13 July 2009
• Private equity giant Ripplewood is in advanced talks to purchase Vauxhall, effectively giving second bidder Magna a run for its (government guaranteed) money. Some 5000 UK jobs are at stake in the sale (The Times)
• Porsche shares rocketed 9.3% on the back of German media reports that the oil-rich state of Qatar was considering a £7bn stake in the sports car maker. The move came after a weekend showdown between Porsche and Volkswagen suits over the companies’ futures
• Within days of unveiling the new XJ, Jaguar – along with Land Rover – is planning extended factory closures and more staff retrenchment as it battles with slumping global demand. Owner Tata Motors said purchasing Jaguar had pushed it into the red, to the tune of £332m for the first time in seven years (The Times)
• Belgian-based holding giant RHJ International is set to bounce back to GM with an improved bid for a controlling stake in Opel. The move, expected early this week, sees its call for €3.8bn in government guarantees for a 51% stake in Opel, compared to Magna’s €4.5bn for its proposed 55% interest. (Financial Times)

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Friday 10 July 2009
• General Motors today exited bankruptcy at 6.30am EST. Chief exec Fritz Henderson spoke of the buzz around the new company, which plans to launch 10 new cars in the US and 17 cars internationally in the next 18 months (Automotive News, subscription required)
• A bankruptcy judge has refused a last-minute appeal by creditors to hold up GM's planned asset sale. There are now no obstacles remaining to stop General Motors selling its best bits to the government-funded 'new GM' (BBC News)
• Automotive News reports that GM's product chief Bob Lutz, who had announced earlier this year his plan to retire, has changed his mind. The 77-year-old may head up the marketing and communications team of 'new GM' (Automotive News, subscription required)
• Aston Martin has launched its Assured seal of approval endorsing its products and services. It's like a kitemark for Aston's relaunched Pre-Owned and Extended Warranty programmes (Aston Martin)

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Thursday 9 July 2009
• Honda will build its final FR-V next month. The last vehicle will roll off the Suzuka line in August (Honda)
• Car sales in China jumped by 48% in June compared with a year ealier. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said 872,900 cars were sold – the biggest rise since February 2006 (BBC News)
• GM Europe's sales have fallen by 20% in the second quarter – amid uncertainty over its ownership as parent firm GM crashed into bankruptcy. The market share of Opel and Vauxhall stood at 9.2%, with 471,823 sales (Financial Times)
• Better news at Audi: it has posted its first monthly sales increase in 2009, with a 1.3% rise in June to 91,200 sales (Financial Times)
• Nissan says it is well placed to launch its zero-emissions electric cars, as the world is gripped by recession and carbon concerns (Automotive News, subscription required)

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Wednesday 8 July 2009
• General Motors confirms the Chinese BAIC bid for its European arm Vauxhall Opel. It had been speculation until today (BBC News)
• But German unions are opposed to the Beijing bid – worrying that they aren't interested in the long-term interests of European assembly (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
• Bankrupt components giant Delphi is in renewed talks with Federal-Mogul Corp (Automotive News, subscription required)
• Scooter firm Piaggio has launched its first petrol-electric two-wheeler – the MP3 Hybrid (Financial Times)
• The row over MG Rover's collapse is escalating. UK business secretary has referred the case to the Serious Fraud Office, but he's now being accused of kicking the complex issue into the long grass – so any scandal won't rock the Government's credibility in the run-up to the General Election in the next 12 months (Financial Times)

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Tuesday 7 July 2009
• More good news in the car industry: specialist maker Caterham is increasing production by around 10%, to around 420 cars this year. Great for the 45-strong workforce in Dartford, Kent (Caterham)
• Britain's scrappage scheme has started to filter through to stabilising new car sales figures. June 2009's sales fell by 16% on last year, compared with a 25% year-on-year drop in May (BBC News)
• Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation plans to build an Opel factory in China if its last-minute bid for GM Europe is successful. Magna had been the front-runner in the race to buy Vauxhall and Opel, but GM has opened up the bidding (Financial Times)
• Magna International has delayed its board meeting to finalise the GM Europe takeover until 14 July, well placed sources told AN (Automotive News, subscription required)
• Seating and electronics supplier Lear Corp today puts its US and Canadian operation into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (Automotive News, subscription required)
• Fiat has struck a joint venture with Chinese car maker Guangzhou Automobile Group to build cars and engines in China from 2011. It will produce around 140,000 vehicles and 220,000 engines at first (Financial Times)
• Chrysler is on the front foot – it's launching two new dealerships in the UK (Chrysler)

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Monday 6 July 2009
• The collapse of MG Rover in 2005 will today be referred to the Serious Fraud Office, the BBC reports. Business secretary Lord Mandelson will confirm the announcement later today. There has already been a four-year government inquiry costing £16 million. The latest news casts new questions over the role of the Phoenix Four, the directors who picked up MG Rover from BMW for a nominal £10 in 2000 along with a £427 million interest-free loan (BBC News)
• A US bankruptcy court judge approves GM's bankruptcy sale, allowing the company to flog off its most valued assets. New GM will inherit the best bits, including the Chevrolet and Cadillac brands, a cheaper workforce, small dealer network and much less debt; Old GM, which includes unpopular brands, unneeded factories and chronic liabilities, will remain in bankruptcy court and be liquidated (Financial Times)

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Friday 3 July 2009
• Chinese car maker Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation has submitted a €660m (£565m) bid for Vauxhall/Opel. Reports suggest BAIC's non-binding offer is a financial match for rival bids, but would allow GM to keep a larger stake of its spun-off European arm. The bid replaces BAIC's letter of intent send to GM in May (Financial Times) 
• UK business secretary Peter Mandelson has said the UK government would be willing to provide Vauxhall/Opel with loans or loan guarantees to finance its spin-off from GM (Financial Times)
• The Dutch government has asked the Renault Nissan Alliance to aid the introduction of electric mobility in the Netherlands and to participate in a plan designed to reduce CO2 emissions (Renault Nissan) 
• General Motors is awaiting a decision from a US judge that will decide whether it can sell its assets to a company owned by the government, thus reducing its debt and workforce (BBC)

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Thursday 2 July 2009
• Hitachi announces it will sell lithium ion batteries to GM from 2010; it will raise production from 40,000 cells a month to 3 million (BBC News)
• Jaguar Land Rover officially launch in India –  but the venue had to move from the Taj Mahal Palace to the Taj President Hotel after the former caught fire (Financial Times)
• Ford reports a gain in US market share in June – down just 11% in volume on June 08, compared with GM's 34% drop and Chrysler's disastrous 42% fall. Even Toyota decreased its volumes  by 32% (Financial Times)

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Wednesday 1 July 2009
• GM chief executive Fritz Henderson warns a New York bankruptcy court that the car maker would lose its government funding and be forced into liquidation if its restructuring is not approved by 10 July (Financial Times)
• General Motors is seeking court approval to sell off the bulk of its assets to a new, leaner entity controlled by the US and Canadian governments. The hearing is set to last several days, but there are 750 objections from creditors, suppliers and bondholders (Financial Times)
• Saab is set to unveil its new 9-5 in August, CAR learns
• Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne claims that the company is slowing the rate at which it's burning through cash. It went through a whopping $9.6 billion in cash in 2008, but Marchionne said that figure had slowed (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)

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By Tim Pollard, Ben Pulman, Ben Whitworth and Alex Michaelides