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News watch April 2012: today's auto industry news

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 00:00:00 -0700

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

Monday 30 April 2012
• Kia posted global first quarter 2012 profits up 26%, with sales up 12% worldwide. 635000 new Kias found homes, 79000 in Europe (up 24.6% on 2011 in a total market which contracted 7.1%), with the USA now Kia's largest market ahead of Korea. (Kia)
• 500 new staff hired by Honda UK Manufacturing as part of a second shift expansion commence work today at Honda's Swindon plant. Total staff now number 3500, and production volume is forecast to double to 180,000 units in 2012. Civic, Jazz, the upcoming CR-V soft-roader and Honda's new small diesel engine will be produced at the plant. (Honda UK)
• The Chevrolet Corvette goes on sale in South Korea on 4 May 2012 - part of GM's plans to globally integrate the Korean-developed and US branches of the Chevrolet product line, and following the signing of a US-South Korea free trade agreement in 2011. (Detroit News)
• The Dodge Dart, an Alfa Romeo Giulietta-based saloon, goes into production this week at Chrysler's Belvedere, Illinois plant after last-minute supplier issues pushed the launch back from early-April. (Bloomberg)

Friday 27 April 2012
• Daimler has reported a sharp rise in profits in quarter one of 2012 - rising 20% on the same period last year. Strong Mercedes sales sent net profits soaring to €1.42bn while revenues rose almost 10% to €27bn (BBC News)
• Honda has announced a 61% jump in first quarter profits, as net income for the first quarter climbed to 71.5bn yen (£547m) - up from 44.5bn yen for Q1 in 2011 (BBC News)
• Component supplier Bosch has warned that its margins will be under pressure this year, despite sales rising 5%. Raw material costs will be to blame (Automotive News Europe)

Thursday 26 April 2012
• Chrysler Group's net revenues in the first quarter of 2012 have quadrupled to $473 million, the company has announced. Operating profit soared by 55% to $740m, compared with a year earlier. It's doing especially well in the US, where its market share rose to 11.2% in Q1, compared with 9.2% last year - with 607,000 sales worldwide (Chrysler)
• Renault sales dropped 8% in the first quarter of 2012, down to 638,498 vehicles - causing a 9% slump in revenues to €9.5 billion. It's suffering in Europe, but sales outside the EU rose 12% (Renault)
• Ferrari plans to open five more dealerships in China by the end of 2013, from its current 10-strong network. Maranello said sales rose 66% in China last year to 777 supercars (Automotive News Europe)
• As reported by CAR, Seat this week launches in China. It has eight showrooms at launch, but this will swell to 15 dealers by the end of 2012 - selling the Leon and Ibiza, with the Alhambra MPV to follow (Seat)
• Volkswagen has reported higher-than-expected first-quarter results, thanks to soaring sales at Audi. Operating profit rose 10% to €3.2bn, compared with €2.9bn at the same time last year (Bloomberg)

Wednesday 25 April 2012
• Lotus's owners Proton has appointed KPMG to seek a potential buyer for the Norfolk sports car maker in China, according to local MP Richard Bacon. He is lobbying to protect the 1200 jobs supported by Lotus (BBC News)
• PSA Peugeot Citroen's first-quarter results are down: revenues slipped 7% in Q1 to €14.3 billion, the company said today. Sales from the automotive division slumped 14% (Automotive News Europe)
• Bentley executives indicated in China that they hope to produce around 3000 SUVs annually once production starts around 2015 (Automotive News Europe)
• Ford is playing major league catch-up in the China car market, reports Bloomberg. It says the Blue Oval is investing $4.9 billion to build eight new factories in the region - and launch 15 new models in China by 2015. It's part of a drive to play catch-up with US hometown rival GM, which outsells it five-to-one in China. Ford has just a 2% market share in China (Bloomberg)
• Meanwhile ratings agency Fitch has raised its ranking of Ford to investment status again. It was BB+ and has now been raised to BBB- by Fitch - an improvement on the junk status held since 2005 (Detroit News)

Tuesday 24 April 2012
• VW plans to expand in China. Volkswagen will invest €170m to build a new plant in Urumqi, Xinjiang Province (Volkswagen)
• Jaguar Land Rover is adding 1000 new jobs at the Halewood manufacturing facility near Liverpool. Job interviewing will be a busy task - there have been over 35,000 applicants (Jaguar Land Rover)
• Growing vehicles sales in China last year prove convincing enough for GM to add a further 600 dealerships to their network (Detroit News)

Monday 23 April 2012
• CAR team bit snowed under at the Beijing auto show. Full News Watch service to resume in next 48 hours!

Friday 20 April 2012
• Infiniti is to start building two model lines in China from 2014; it’s a bid to increase sales of 20,000 cars in China – and a step towards CEO Carlos Ghosn’s target of 500,000 vehicles a year by 2016 (BBC News)
• VW chief Martin Winterkorn has warned that the year ahead will be 'very demanding', with weak demand and currency problems in numerous markets. Yet the group still forecasts a growth in sales and revenues (Automotive News Europe)
• Alfa Romeo has registered the 4C name for sale in the US. It's a sign that the small sports car will indeed spearhead the Italian brand's return to the US (Automotive News Europe)

Thursday 19 April 2012
• Ford has announced plans to build a $760m car factory in Hangzhou, which would come on stream in 2015. The Blue Oval's playing catch-up in China; last year it sold 320,658 vehicles in China - compared with in excess of 2 million by GM and VW (BBC News)
• UK car production rose 0.3% in March 2012, new figures reveal. Nearly 80% of the 135,456 vehicles built last month were exported (BBC News)
• British prime minister David Cameron has asked the Malaysian government to intervene to protect Lotus in the wake of the sale of owner Proton Cars and questions over its future (Automotive News Europe)

Wednesday 18 April 2012
• As first revealed by CAR, Audi has indeed bought Ducati. No price has been announced yet, but chairman Rupert Stadler said: 'Ducati is known worldwide as a premium brand among motorcycle manufacturers and has a long tradition of building sporty motorcycles. It has great expertise in high-performance engines and lightweight construction, and is one of the world’s most profitable motorcycle manufacturers. That makes Ducati an excellent fit for Audi' (Audi)
• Britain's fuel tanker drivers have rejected a pay deal, according to their union, but say they will not go on strike yet (BBC News)
• Sales of cleaner cars in the UK are growing, according to the SMMT. It said 46.8% of cars sold in 2011 emitted less than 130g/km of CO2, up from 10.6% in 2007. The average emissions of a new car in the UK is now 138.1g/km (BBC News)
• Jaguar Land Rover stock is flying high, says Automotive News. The premium car maker is now worth £14 billion, according to Bloomberg - more than Fiat or Suzuki. AN suggests that the time could be ripe for an IPO, as the company expands in China and India and looks set to benefit from a $12bn investment programme (Automotive News Europe)
• Opel may be about to move some Astra production from Germany to Poland, according to media reports in Germany. It may shift build from Russelsheim to Gliwice (Automotive News)
• Audi may build a factory in Mexico as it plans to ramp up sales in the region to challenge BMW. The Volkswagen board meeting will vote on the plan for local production today (Bloomberg)

Tuesday 17 April 2012
• Audi is poised to buy superbike maker Ducati for $1.1 billion, close sources suggest. As revealed by CAR, Ingolstadt is finalising its takeover bid. The announcement is likely tomorrow (Automotive News Europe)
• New car sales across Europe fell to a 14-year low in March, according to trade body the ACEA. Registrations were down 6.6% to just 1.5 million vehicles - the lowest since 1998 (Automotive News Europe)
• Ford chief executive Alan Mulally says the copmany is prepared for a slow take-up of its electric Focus, which it is selling for $39,200 in the US. He has refused to give a sales target and insisted the Blue Oval was in the EV game for the long haul (Automotive News)
• Digger giant JCB has announced record financial results, as 2011's turnover hit a new high of £2.75bn - up 37% on 2010's figures. The Staffordshire, UK, manufacturer sold 69,100 vehicles (BBC News)
• Fiat has unveiled its new €1billion production line in the Serbian industrial town of Kragujevac, where the 500L model will be produced for sale by late 2012. The new plant will create 2400 jobs. (Automotive News Europe)
• Volkswagwen Group chairman Ferdinand Piech is expected tyo recieve shareholder backing for a third term as the company's CEO. The 74-year old German has overseen the expansion of VAG for 18 years and is currently seeking a twelth brand addition: superbike maker Ducati. (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 16 April 2012
• Lamborghini has returned to the Russian car market - and opened a new dealership in Moscow (Lamborghini Automobili)
• It's less than 100 days until Dacia goes on UK sale. Renault is taking £100 deposits for the Duster SUV (Dacia) 
• Strike action is possible at BMW's UK Mini plant in Oxford after the Unite union rejected a 2.21% pay increase with a claimed 97% majority - BMW maintains a 4% rise was offered. Fresh talks are continuing but union members hint preparations are being made for industrial action (Just-Auto)
• Volkswagen Group posted record sales of 862,700 units in the first quarter of 2012, thanks largely to strong U.S. and Chinese demand. However, despite a 9.6% increase in European sales, the Western outlook remains a concern thanks to the uncertainty surrounding Eurozone financial markets. SEAT remains the only VW Group brand with falling sales, dropping 11.6% Jan-March 2012 (Automotive News Europe)

Friday 13 April 2012
• The World Bank will provide a £16.3m loan to a key Fiat supplier in Serbia to support the wilting eastern-European car industry. The investment will be directed at the Zastava Automobili factory in Kragujevac, central Serbia, which is gearing up for Fiat 500L production while still building the current-gen Punto (Automotive News Europe)
• Alfa Romeo insiders report the upcoming 4C sports car will be built for the company by its Fiat Group sister brand, Maserati. The arrangement follows Maserati's deal to build the Alfa flagship 8C coupe 2007-2010. Alfa Romeo is aiming for 2500 annual sales of the c£40k 4C when it goes on sales in May 2013 (Automotive News Europe)
• A Lamborghini SUV is unlikely to appear before 2017 at the earliest, according to CEO Stephan Winkelmann. A concept is expected to be unveiled at the Beijing motor show on April 23, but even if public reaction is more positive than that directed at Bentley's EXP 9 F at Geneva, Winkelmann predicts an all-new 'everyday' model would take at least four years to develop (Automotive News Europe)

Thursday 12 April 2012
• The deadline passed this week for bids to buy bankrupt Saab, which has debts of 13 billion kronor ($1.9 billion) and assets of just 3.6 billion kronor. Several suitors, including China's Youngman, India's Mahindra & Mahindra and Chinese/Japanese consortium, are said to be bidding for the brand (Automotive News Europe) 
• BMW has struck a four-year deal to be the official car provider to the England Rugby Football Union (BMW) 
• Fears over the eurozone economy have hit car production in Poland, with output showing a 26% drop versus this time last year. Fiat, VW and Opel all rely on their Polish outposts for supply of some of their core models (Automotive News Europe)
• Lexus has enjoyed strong UK sales in the first quarter of 2012, buoyed by the arrival of the CT200h. The company says overall sales are up 68.7% on the same period last year after strong fleet buyer interest in the compact hybrid. Lexus's new GS saloon and refreshed RX SUV arrive in the UK in June 2012 (Lexus)
• Mercedes has announced the range-topping ML63 AMG will be priced at £82,995 when it hits UK showrooms in July 2012. A further £2920 buys the 'Driver Package' taking the top speed from 155 to 174mph (Mercedes)

Wednesday 11 April 2012
• Volkswagen will show the new Beetle convertible at the 2012 Beijing auto show later this month, according to ANE (Automotive News Europe)
• Aston Martin has confirmed it will enter two V8 Vantage GTEs at the 2012 Le Mans 24 hours. The LMP1 programme has been suspended for now (Aston Martin Racing)
• Sales of small cars like the VW Up and Fiat Panda will rise 25% to 11.2 million annually by 2015, according to IHS Automotive. ANE says the new Up will spawn a whole new family of affordable small Volkswagens and is a vital part of the group's global expansion plan (Automotive News Europe)
• Ford says it will rely on Yahoo and other digital outlets to market its electric cars, more than television and traditional media. It is planning its campaign for the Focus Electric (Bloomberg)

Tuesday 10 April 2012
• The new Nissan hatchback will be built in Sunderland from 2014, the company announced today. Nissan is investing £127m at the north-east factory, supplemented by an £8.2m grant from the UK Government Regional Growth Fund. With the new model joining the Qashqai, Juke and Note-replacing, Invitation concept-aping B-MPV, Nissan says output could top 500,000 units a year (Nissan)
• But Nissan is set to switch some Qashqai production to Russia, as part of a plan to double production in St Petersburg to 100,000 by 2014. ANE reports Russia is the largest market for cars built in Sunderland (Automotive News Europe) 
• Ford and PSA Peugeot Citroen said they will end their partnership building large diesel engines. They 'have decided to independently develop and manufacture their larger diesel engines (2.0 litre and above) to meet their future needs as well as new regulations,' the companies said in a statement (Automotive News Europe)
• Honorary president of the Porsche board, Ferdinand Porsche, died late last week aged 76. The creator of the 911 was the eldest son of Ferry Porsche, and his achievements include creating Porsche's first design studio. In 2005 he handed his post of honororary chairman of the supervisory board to his son Ferdinand Oliver (Porsche)
• Mercedes says it's posted the best-ever quarterly results in its history in the UK: it registered 16,166 new vehicles, a rise of 12.7% (Mercedes)
• Unprofitable Mazda is likely to sell off more assets in the coming year as it seeks to turn around its forecast biggest loss in 11 years. Mazda is particularly at risk of fluctuations in the yen, since it produces 70% of its cars in Japan - of which 80% are exported - the highest ratio in the industry (Bloomberg)
• Nissan will start using Intel chips in its entertainment systems from next year, as part of a drive by the microchip giant to diversify away from the PC market (Bloomberg)

Friday 6 and Monday 9 April 2012
• CAR Towers closed down for Easter break. Normal News Watch service resumed on Tuesday. Happy Easter to all!

Thursday 5 April 2012
• UK new car registrations in March - typically the biggest month of the year - rose 1.8% to 372,835 vehicles, according to the SMMT. It forecasts total sales in 2012 of 1.92 million cars (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders)
• Meanwhile Porsche reports deliveries in March rose by 21% globally. It sold 12,094 vehicles worldwide, buoyed by the arrival of the new 911 (Porsche)
• Nissan chief exec Carlos Ghosn predicted that sales of the Nissan Leaf EV will rise this year once local production starts in the US. 'The Leaf will get a boost from local production in the United States starting this summer,' he told Bloomberg. 'Not only the environment but also economic concerns will move people to the Leaf' (Bloomberg)
• Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne forecasts European car sales of 13 million this year. That'd be the fifth straight year of decline, down from 13.6m in 2011 and a high of 16m in 2007 pre-crash (Automotive News)
• A nascent flying car was shown at the 2012 New York auto show: the two-seater Terrafugia Transition has been designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained engineers and can drive on any public road and take off at one of 5000 airfields in the US. It's taken 95 people deposits of at least $10,000 to reserve one of the $279,000 planes (Bloomberg)

Wednesday 4 April 2012
• Sat-nav specialist has had to offer a software patch after a so-called 'leap year bug' meant certain models were failing to pick up a GPS signal. The glitch affected certain models in the UK and elsewhere in Europe (BBC News) 
• BMW sales in the US are neck and neck with Mercedes after an 18% jump in March registrations. BMW is just 36 models ahead (Bloomberg)
• Skoda factory staff are to strike on Saturdays over a pay dispute, the unions in the Czech republic report. They are demanding a 6% increase, while Skoda is putting forward 4.3% (Automotive News Europe)
• Credit ratings on Japanese mortgage bonds have leaped past Toyota's shares, traditionally the highest-ranking Japanese company according to Standard & Poor's (Bloomberg)

Tuesday 3 April 2012
• PSA Peugeot Citroen is selling its 48-year-old Paris HQ near the Arc de Triomphe for €246m as part of a plan to reduce the company's debts (Automotive News Europe)
• Fiat is to convert some of its savings class of shares to ordinary shares so it can simplify its capital structure - and pave the way for it to buy the 42% of Chrysler it doesn't already own (Automotive News Europe)
• Toyota has set a Prius sales record in March and the first quarter of 2012. It sold more than 25,000 Priuses globally last month - beating May 2007's record. It said high fuel prices and a swelling range of hybrid models helped boost sales (Bloomberg)

Monday 2 April 2012
• Combined Fiat-Chrysler sales are up 8% so far this year - with rising sales in the US countering weak demand in Europe. Sales globally were 616,800 in the first two months (Automotive News Europe)
• Ticket sales for the British Grand Prix are 10% on the same period last year, according to Silverstone. It has increased capacity by 3500 at the Buckinghamshire race track with the opening of two new grandstands (Silverstone)
• Mitsubishi Motors Europe has a new CEO and president: Tomohisa Nishina. He replaces Akinori Nakanishi, who's now heading up the Mitsu operation in North America (Mitsubishi)
• Dunlop plans to build a £5 million Dunlop Motorsport Centenary Bridge across the M6 in Birmingham. If approved, it will open in 2016 alongside the Fort Dunlop factory in the West Midlands, marking the tyre maker's centenary on site (Dunlop)
• Ford will invest $1.3 billion (£800m) in its Mexican factory in Hermosillo, creating 1000 new jobs, the company said. It'll increase production of the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ models (BBC News)
• Daimler denies a report in a newspaper that it will join Audi in bidding for Italian motorbike maker Ducati. 'We have no interest in a takeover of Ducati,' said a spokesman (Automotive News)
• Audi is still the preferred bidder for Ducati, it seems. Reuters reports Ingolstadt is on the brink of acquiring Ducati for between €870m and €875m
• Ford has increased the pay packet of chief exec Alan Mulally by 11% to $29.5 million, but has cut his cash bonus by 42% for a year in which the Blue Oval's shares fell 36% (Bloomberg)
• Union leaders warn that a decision by Vauxhall/Opel to close its Bochum factory in Germany 'would cost GM billions' in pay-offs and redundancies and wind-down (Automotive News Europe)

By Sarah-Jayne Harrison, Ollie Kew, Tim Pollard and Ben Pulman