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News watch January 2013: today's auto industry news

Fri, 18 Jan 2013 00:00:00 -0800

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

Friday 18 January 2013
• Mazda Motor Corporation (Mazda) and Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A. (Fiat) announced today the signing of the Final Agreement which will see Mazda produce an open-top two-seater sports car for Fiat’s Alfa Romeo brand at its Hiroshima, Japan, plant starting from 2015 (Mazda)

Thursday 17 January 2013
•  Mark Reuss, North American chief of General Motors, has jumped to the defence of Electric vehicles and said he is not giving up on them despite struggling sales in 2012. The statement comes after the Detroit manufacturer abandoned initial forecast plans for its plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt. GM sold only 23,000 hybrid Volts in 2012, after initially forecasting sales of 45,000. That goal was abandoned due to slow sales and its Detroit assembly plant was forced to idle production to reduce supply. (DetNews)
•  General Motors is set to invest $1.5billion in its North American plants this year. GM North American chief Mark Reuss announced the investment plans in a speech made at the Automotive News World Congress on 16 January 2013. (DetNews)
•  Renault has announced 7,500 jobs are to be cut from its home patch by 2016 in order to boost the competitiveness of its plants. The announcement received a better reception from the French Government than a similar move made by rivals Peugeot-Citroën six months ago. Renault, 15% owned by the government, hopes about three-quarters of the cuts will be achieved through normal staff turnover. (Automotive News Europe)

Wednesday 16 January 2013
•  Fiat-Chrysler group has signed a framework agreement with Guangzhou Automobile to start manufacturing Jeeps in China for the Chinese market. China is now the world’s largest automobile market and manufactures have made growing their presence there a priority. Jeep was the first U.S brand to enter he Chinese market but also the first to abandon it. (DetNews)  
•  After facing criticism for the fuel-economy  some of its models produced, Ford may change its procedures for testing the mileage of hybrids in the U.S. Ford’s latest hybrids, the Fusion hybrid and C-Max hybrid, fell 21% short of the companies claimed mileage of 47mpg,  with both cars reaching averages of 39mpg and 37mpg respectively. (Auto News)     

Tuesday 15 January 2013
• Amid fears of increased competition from America and persistent weakness in the EU, Ford has announced that their lower costs and more profitable line-up protect them in the auto-market. Ford doubled its dividend last week based on the financial strength of its first three quarters of 2012. The company will report fourth-quarter results later this month. (Automotive News Europe)
• With sales lagging for the Nissan Leaf in the US, the car manufacturer has decided to cut the price for entry-level model by 18%. The 2013 model, which will go on sale next month in the US, will be priced at £28,800. Like the UK, American buyers receive a bursary when buying electric vehicles, this takes the Leaf down to a base price of $18,800. (DetNews)

Monday 14 January 2013
• Kia CEO Peter Schreyer’s inexorable rise continues: he’s been charged with overseeing design at sister brand Hyundai too. Schreyer’s brief is to improve Hyundai’s design, and boost efficiencies by streamlining the two design teams (Kia)
• Nissan – the largest car manufacturer in Mexico – will soon start production on a new version of the Note supermini and also continue to export cars throughout the Americas. The five-door model will be the third assembled at the Aguascalientes factory in Mexico. Nissan will continue to build cars in China, India and Thailand while using the Mexican manufactured Notes for the Americas (Bloomberg)
• Government vehicles in China are being ordered to stay off the roads in attempt to ease air pollution in the capital Beijing. Smog has covered the Chinese capital for three days and hospitals have been inundated with patients complaining of heart and respiratory problems. Hyundai have suspended production in the capital to help ease the pollution (Bloomberg)

Friday 11 January 2013
• Honda Motor Europe has announced plans to cut 800 jobs at its Swindon factory in the UK. It blamed weak demand in Europe (Honda)
• 'Honda remains fully committed for the long-term to its UK and European manufacturing operations. However, these conditions of sustained low industry demand require us to take difficult decisions. We are setting the business constitution at the right level to ensure long term stability and security,' said Ken Keir, executive vice president of Honda Motor Europe

Thursday 10 January 2013
• Opel has no plans for further factory closures at the moment, according interim CEO Thomas Sedran. Opel confirmed plans in December to shut a factory in Bochum, Germany, by 2016, the first shutdown of an auto plant in the country since World War II. Opel parent-brand GM closed a factory in Antwerp, Belgium, in 2010 and is selling a transmission plant in Strasbourg, France. Sedran also forcecast that the weak European car market may shrink by 4% this year. Through 11 months, year-on-year European sales had declined 7% to 11.7m vehicles, industry association ACEA said. Auto executives in Europe have said that they don't expect industry sales to recover before 2014 (Automotive News Europe)
• The BMW Group achieved its highest-ever sales result in 2012, with a total of 1,845,186 BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce vehicles delivered worldwide. This was an increase of 10.6% over the previous record year in 2011 (1,668,982). All three brands posted record sales for the whole year. The BMW Group finished the year on a strong note with 181,571 vehicles sold in December, 14.8% higher than in the same month last year (BMW)

Wednesday 9 January 2013
• The Consumer Electronics Association has predicted that automotive electronics spending will climb over $1bn (£622m) in 2013. Car manufacturers are racing to fit more and more electronic gadgetry to their cars, convinced that the next generation of buyers will demand more in order to stay connected to the social world on the move (DetNews)
• Car manufacturers have demonstrated their efforts to ramp up their in-car entertainment systems at the 2013 Consumer Electronics International (CES) show. The main focus is on internet based services that will allow drivers to gain access to cloud based music servers or web-based application (DetNews)
• Russia’s motoring industry is in danger of heading in the same direction as the rest of Europe and sliding into the same overcapacity problem, analysts say. The speculation comes after contract manufacturer Avtotor Holding announced they were the latest major investor in the Russian motoring industry. It announced plans to open a complex of six assembly plants and 15 part plants in Russia’s Kaliningrad province (Automotive News Europe)

Tuesday 8 January 2013
• Bankrupt car manufacturer Saab has signed an investment deal with the Chinese city of Qingdao thanks to its Chinese-controlled buyer. Part of the plan is to start producing and selling small electric cars in the country.  National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS) bought the majority of Saab’s assets after the company went bankrupt due to failed investment and outstanding balances owed to suppliers (Automotive News Europe)
• Toyota recalled a 5.3m vehicles in the US last year, more than any other car maker. Figures show that 16.2m vehicles in total were recalled in the US in 2012 with Toyota sharing almost 31% of that figure (DetNews)
• New rules introduced by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will require hybrids and electric vehicles to meet a minimum sound level in order to warn pedestrians of their presence.  The NHSTA estimates that an electrically powered or hybrid vehicle is 19% more likely to be involved in a pedestrian crash than traditional petrol or diesel powered vehicles. Plans are set to be rolled out in 2016 (Bloomberg)
• Toyota and Volkswagen have revealed they are researching autonomous driving features to aid drivers. Initially these functions will replace the more monotonous aspects of driving such as parking but it is hoped that some features may also reduce the risk of drivers becoming involved in car accidents (DetNews)

Monday 7 January 2013
• Fiat is set to buy a further 3.3% stake in Chrysler for a rumoured $198m (£123m). The money made available through a retiree healthcare trust fund connected to the United Auto Workers union would take Fiat’s ownership of Chrysler up to 65.17% (JustAuto)
• GM has recalled 68,000 vehicles in the US and Canada due to a problem with the park lock cable and a crooked steering column. GM fears that cars may shift out of the park position, resulting in a crash. No incidents have so far been reported (ABR)
• This morning, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders revealed 2012'a car registration results. CAR Online has published the full list, but here's the highlights. Biggest sales percentage growth? Ssangyong, up 351% year-on-year. Saab and Daihatsu were the biggest fallers (unsurprisingly, given their withdrawal from the UK market, and in Saab's case, sad demise.) Lotus sold just 137 cars in 2012; while Aston Martin and Maserati saw falls of 8.98% and 20.36%, other exotic car makers boomed: Porsche and Bentley were up by 23% and 22% respectively (SMMT)
Click here for the car registration results for 2012

Friday 4 January 2013
• Hyundai and Kia forecast that 2013 will bring their slowest sales growth for seven years, thanks to the slowing global economy. The two companies plan combined sales to rise 4.1% to 7.41m vehicles in 2013, Chung Mong Koo, chairman of both Hyundai and Kia, told employees during a new year address in Seoul. That's the lowest growth since 2006, when deliveries shrank 1.2%, and compares with the 7.43 million average of three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News (Automotive News Europe)
• US 2012 car sales figures are out, and Japan has come back fighting. All three Detroit automakers reported big sales increases in 2012, but only Chrysler Group LLC made any real market share gains. GM saw its share of the market fall to levels not seen since the 1920s, as Japanese automakers roared back to life in the wake of 2011's devastating earthquake and tsunami. And Volkswagen AG — long a niche player in the American market — reported the strongest gains of any automaker. Overall, automakers sold 14,491,873 cars and light trucks in the United States last year, an increase of 13.4% over 2011's total and the best year since 2007. Just 44.5% of those vehicles were manufactured by Detroit's Big Three, down from 46.9% the year before (DetNews)

Thursday 3 January 2013
• Tesla has announced UK prices for the Model S electric saloon. The top-level Signature trim model will start at £83,000 and will only be available with the larger battery. The entry-level model, capable of 160 miles via its 40kWh battery, will be available for approximately £50,000. All versions will be eligible for the UK's £5000 government grant (MotorTorque)
• Chrysler's December 2012 sales were its best since 2007. With full year sales also up (by 21%) it's also the company's best performance since 2007 overall (Chrysler)
• German car sales were down 2.9% in 2012, with demand falling to its lowest ebb for two years, according to new figures. New car registrations in Europe's biggest economy dropped 16.4% to 204,330 in the final month of the year, leading to a decline in full-year sales to 3.08 million, said the German motor transport authority (Automotive News Europe)
• Subaru has dropped its 'ETC' after sales care package, which entitled Subaru buyers to free dent and chip repair, and even free washing and vacuuming. The 'Everything Taken Care of' deal has been shelved, and replaced by a 5-year / 100,000-mile warranty for all models in the line-up, except the WRX STi which comes with a 3-year / 60,000-mile warranty (WorldCarFans)
• California-based Fisker has sued insurer XL Group PLC, after 338 brand new Karma range-extender saloons were destroyed during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Fisker says it was entitled to up to $100m of insurance coverage for the cars, many of which caught fire after being submerged in five feet of seawater, which engulfed their New Jersey port during the superstorm. The value of vehicles destroyed stands at around $33m, though XL has so far refused to pay out (AutoNews)
• Ford topped two million vehicle sales in the US in 2012, and expects its final confirmed total to be as high as 2.2m when figures are released next week. It's the second time Ford has topped two million sales in two years: Ford is still the only brand to have reached the milestone since 2007. The Focus is still the world's best-selling car, and the smaller Fiesta the best-selling supermini (Ford Motor Co.)
• Car-share scheme Zipcar has been bought out by car-hire giant Avis, for a fee of $500m (£307m). Avis estimates the growing car-sharing market is worth $400m in the US. Zipcar has 767,000 members, who pay an annual joining fee and then are charged by the hour to use its cars (BBC News)
• Nissan's new low-cost Datsun cars will be based on a Lada, executive vice president Colin Dodge said. 'Datsuns will be built off the new Lada Kalina platform,' Dodge, who is Nissan's top executive for Europe, told Automotive News Europe. Nissan will sell its revived Datsun brand in Russia, India and Indonesia starting in 2014. The entry-level cars will fight Renault's Dacia and the budget sub-brand due from Volkswagen soon (ANE)

Wednesday 2 January 2013

• Happy New Year! Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2013 to all our readers, from the team at CAR magazine.
• A report in German magazine Speigel suggests Opel will slash car production by 10% in 2013, in response to the brand's financial difficulties, uncertain GM future, and low demand. Loss-making Opel is planning to produce just 845,000 cars in Europe in 2013, Spiegel reported, without citing any sources. The company produced 1.19m cars at its Opel and Vauxhall plants in Europe in 2011, the last year for which figures are available. Figures for the whole of 2012 will be released in the second week of January 2013, so stay tuned to News Watch for the freshest data (AutoNews)
• Renault has hailed the success of its low-cost sub-brand Dacia, with Renault's chief financial officer calling the Romanian outfit a 'cash-cow'. According to a report by Automotive News Europe, Dacia's profit margins are akin to those of a luxury carmaker: Morgan Stanley estimates that Dacia has an operating margin of 9%, which is more common for premium automakers. That's good news for Renault, which reported an operating margin of only 0.4% for the entire first six months of 2012 (ANE)
• Good news for American employees of Japanese car brands: the number of cars the US exports to Japan is expected to overtake the amount the US imports in the next few years. Honda celebrated its 1,000,000th US-built vehicle for export on 5 December 2012, and analysts now predict the US will become a hub for the manufacture of Japanese cars. The weak dollar and rising US energy production has been credited with the boom in foreign autobuilding in the US (DetNews)
• Suzuki has announced record year on year sales in the UK, with a closing figure of 24,880 units. That's up of 24% over 2011’s 19,800 units. Suzuki is reportedly the second-fastest growing franchise in the UK car market (Suzuki GB)
• Rolls-Royce is celebrating a decade of Phantom production. The first car in the latest era of Rolls-Royce was delivered at one minute past midnight on 1 January 2003, and back then just one car was built per day. Now Rolls Royce produces 20 units per day, of either the Phantom range, or the smaller Ghost saloon (Rolls-Royce Motor Cars)

By Jonathan Burn and Ollie Kew