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News watch July 2012: today's auto industry news

Wed, 25 Jul 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

Tuesday 31 July 2012
•Porsche SE recorded a first half profit of €1.15bn, in comparison with €149m for the same period in 2011. The enormous jump has come not from directly selling cars, but from the group's investments in Porsche Zwischenholding GmbH and Volkswagen AG (Porsche SE)
•Reuters suggests Germany's car market is in recession, but few outside the industry would know it, thanks to a controversial sales practice that inflates official statistics and paints a flattering picture of demand. Three in every 10 new vehicles in Germany are sold not to customers, but to dealers self-registration. At nearly half a million 'self- registrations' in the six months through June, the total is greater than the entire new car market in Spain (ANE)

Monday 30 July 2012
•Opel/Vauxhall's new design chief has quit just a month before he was due to assume the role. Dave Lyons is the latest high-profile departure from Opel/Vauxhall after CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke resigned earlier in July 2012 (ANE)
•Meanwhile at parent compnay GM, global marketing boss Joel Elwanick has quit after two years. GM released a statement saying Mr Elwanick 'failed to meet the company's expectations of an employee of the company' (DetNews)
•Renault has reported first half net income plunging to €786m (£635m) from €1.3bn (£1.05bn) last year. The lingering Eurozone crisis means Renault has forecast the market will decline three percentage points more than previously thought. It is also predicting its domestic market in France to to drop 10% - 11%. Renault sold 1.33m units, down 3.3% on first-half 2011. Low sales in Europe were only partly offset by strong international performances. (Just-Auto)

Friday 27 July 2012
•Lotus has put its recent turmoils behind it and celebrated rolling the very first production Exige S track car off the Hethel factory line. Lotus need the £52,900 Exige to sell well fater this week announcing it has massively scaled back its five-model-range plan, as seen under ex-boss Dany Bahar (Lotus Cars)

Thursday 26 July 2012
•Honda is to scale back production at its Swindon plant due to falling European demand. A third of the 3500-strong workforce will work a four-day week in September (BBC News)
• Volkswagen Group has  reported a 7% profit rise so far in 2012, as Chinese and US demand for Audis insulated Europe's biggest carmaker from the effects of the debt crisis in its home region (Automotive News Europe)
• Nissan today announced an operating profit of 120.7 billion yen (£94 billion) for the first quarter of fiscal year 2012,  Compared with the first quarter of 2011, operating profit declined 20% due to the worsening foreign exchange impact of an abnormally strong yen, and the impact of the Japanese tsunami (Nissan Motor Company)
• Hyundai Motor Co. cut its global industrywide automobile demand forecast for this year, citing a worse-than-expected economic situation in Europe and China. he Seoul-based automaker expects 77.1 million units to be sold globally, down by about 500,000 units from what it forecast in April (Automotive News Europe)

Wednesday 25 July 2012
• Jaguar Land Rover today announced 1100 new jobs will be created at its Castle Bromwich factory. It's in response to the new Jag XF Sportbrake estate and strong sales of other JLR models. JLR has already hired an extra 8000 workers in the past two years (BBC News)
• Peugeot has posted an €819 million (£638m) loss for the first half of the year. The poor result explains why the French company is making €1.5bn of cost savings. Europe's second biggest car maker is cutting 8000 jobs and closing one of its two Paris factories, as sales in the first six months of 2012 slipped by 5.1% (BBC News)
• Meanwhile, Daimler reports a 13% decline in second quarter profits. Earnings before interest and tax fell to €2.24bn - despite sales rising 10% to €28.9bn (Automotive News Europe)

Tuesday 24 July 2012
• Toyota has reached an impressive milestone: a cumulative production of 200 million vehicles. The figure comes after 76 years and 11 months of production for the Japanese marque (Toyota)
• A £56 million public and private sector investment will lead to the development of technologies to cut vehicle carbon emissions and accelerate the commercialisation of low-carbon vehicles. Over £27 million of public funding, from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles and the Technology Strategy Board, together with £29 million of private sector funding, will be invested in seventeen projects, some led by Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover and Nissan (Technology Strategy Board)
• Renault is pushing ahead with plans to launch an upscale subbrand, according to COO Carlos Tavares. Renault hopes to firstly concentrate on premium versions of its standard models, like Citroen's DS subbrand, before moving to a totally standalone marque, similar to Nissan's Infiniti and Toyota's Lexus (Automotive News Europe)
• PSA Peugeot-Citroen is pushing for state government aid in return for promises it will not close a second factory, after previously cutting the Aulnay plant with around 8000 redundancies. PSA needs a tax break on top of the already-existing wage concessions to stave off further closures, according to today's reports (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 23 July 2012
• Volkswagen Group is heaping misery on its French rivals by affording to borrow at cheaper interest rates than many of its rivals. That advantage has translated into better deals for French consumers. With German carmakers borrowing at around 2 percent and the French at 6 percent, Renault and PSA are struggling to compete with VAG's strong financial position (Automotive News Europe)
• Audi has formally completed its takeover of Italian superbike maker Ducati, appointing its CEO Rupert Stadler as President of the Board and assigning a new director's board. The Ducati acquisition takes the total number of VW group brands to thirteen (Audi)

Friday 20 July 2012
• Ford is under pressure to close one of its European factories as its overall profits fall due to the ongoing Eurozone crisis. The news comes just two days after PSA Peugeot-Citroen CEO Phillipe Varin predicted PSa would be the first of many car makers forced to close plants as losses spiralled out of control (Automotive News Europe)
• Toyota is close to an agreement to purchase vans from PSA Peugeot-Citroen's threatened Sevelnord plant in northern France. Under the agreement, the Hapanese maker would buy 5000 to 10,000 vans annually from 2013, rebadged as Toyotas (Automotive News Europe)
• Lamborghini has celebrated the production of its 1000th Aventador supercar, after just 15 months of production. The car's predecessor, the Murcielago, took almost three years to reach the same milestone. Lambo's Sant'Agata factory produces 4.5 Aventadors per day, each retailing for over £253,000 (Autoblog)

Thursday 19 July 2012
• Opel has hired Michael Lohscheller as its chief financial officer, who is now tasked dealing with the spiralling debts of GM's European arm. Lohscheller, who previously oversaw the recovery of VW's unprofitable American operation, will be joined at Opel by new interim CEO Thomas Cedrin; GM promised this week to return the ailing brand to profitability and not wind the company down (Automotive News Europe)
• The future of Germany's famous Nurburgring racetrack looks in serious jeopardy, after its 90%-state-owned controller Nurburgring GmbH filed for insolvency. The company blamed the default on the European Comission's hesitancy in approving a rescure bailout (Automotive News Europe)
• Fiat will extend the factory production break at its Pomigliano plant by two weeks, due to falling demand for new cars in Europe. The plant, situated near Naples, is responsible for production of the Panda supermini, but is struggling in the wake of a 19.7% reduction in new car sales in Italy so far in 2012 (Automotive News Europe)

Wednesday 18 July 2012
• PSA Peugeot-Citroen CEO Phillipe Varin has defended his compnay's decision to close its Aulnay plant, and axe up to 14,000 jobs over the next year, with a prediction that other European automakers will soon follow suit in order to cut spiralling costs. Varin told French newspaper Le Monde: ""The problem of overcapacity doesn't just concern us. I wouldn't be surprised to see others taking this type of decision." (Automotive News Europe)
• In other PSA news, reports suggest Peugeot-Citroen has a 51% chance of defaulting on its debts. Credit swap studies have laid bare the dire state of the company's finances, with a default in the next five years a strong possiblity - forcing PSA to take drastic action to stave off a shutdown (Bloomberg)
• While Land Rover's production is struggling to meet demand - as News Watch reported yesterday - its sister brand Jaguar has seen a reversal in fortunes, with a 5% decrease in sales during June 2012. The strength of Land Rover is underlined by the fact that JLR's overall output still rose by 39% in the same period, thanks to worldwide demand for the Evoque SUV (Automotive News Europe)

Tuesday 17 July 2012
• PSA Peugeot-Citroen has said the closure of its Aulnay plant will save the brand €108 million (£85 million) in fixed costs. This is unlikely to appease French President Francois Hollande, who has demanded a rethink of the faxtory closure, as News Watch reported yesterday (Automotive News Europe)
• Lotus will not exhibit a stand at this year's Paris motor show, and will review all future promotional activity, in the wake of the Dany Bahar departure debacle. The 2010 Paris motor show was where Lotus first unveiled its ambitious five-car range plan, none of which have so far reached production (Autoblog)
• Land Rover is upping its supply of Evoques to the US from 750 per month to 1000, as of September 2012. Positive response to the car has left dealers struggling to cope with demand in the States, with 4355 Evoques sold there so far in 2012 (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 16 July 2012
• The mysterious departure of Karl-Friedrich Stracke as Opel CEO has reignited speculation over the future of the struggling GM-owned outfit. Some analysts believe no-nonsense GM CEO Dan Akerson is looking at a sink-or-swin plan for Opel, rather than factory closures and wage concessions: either Opel turns a profit soon, or the whole operation is wound up, at the expense of thousands of European jobs (Automotive News Europe)
• Volkswagen Group has seen continued strong sales in the first half of 2012. A total of 4.45 million vehicles were delivered worldwide in the period January to June 2012, marking a rise of 8.9% over the same period last year (Volkswagen Group)
• Purchasing Jaguar Land Rover looks to have been a masterstroke by Indian marque Tata Motors. Tata's global sales were 6% higher in June 2012 than the same month one year previous, thanks to a 39% rise from Jaguar Land Rover. JLR delivered 28,215 vehicles in June 2012, according to latest figures (Automotive News Europe)
• President of France Francois Hollande has intervened in PSA Peugeot-Citroen's cost-cutting plan to close the Aulnay factory and dismiss a further 8000 employees, demanding a rethink rather than savage austerity measures. PSA is looking to cut 14,000 jobs to stem massive losses as the European car market contracts (Automotive News Europe)

Friday 13 July 2012
• GM and Peugeot are unlikely to share their eco-car technology, according to GM-owned Opel development chief Rita Forst/ Despite the prodigious cost of engineering eco-friendly cars such as the Chevrolet Volt/Opel Ampera and Peugeot 3008 HYbrid4, the investment is justifed since they create interest in the brands respectively (Automotive News Europe)
• Strugglling Opel/Vauxhall will find it challenging to recruit a new CEO to replace the outgoing Karl-Friedrich Stracke, according to industry analysts. "Who wants to do the job of dealing with the endgame of two decades of GM mismanagement?" Arndt Ellinghorst, a London- based Credit Suisse analyst, said. "This is a very tough and indeed sad undertaking." (Automotive News Europe)
• Proposals for even tougher CO2 targets for new cars have been met with tough opposition by members of the auto industry. The European Commission said it will seek to cut average CO2 emissions to 95 g/km by 2020. Emissions from vans will be reduced to 147g/km. Stiff fines will be imposed on the volume car makers whose average CO2 emissions do not drop below the 135g/km threshold by 2015 (Automotive News Europe)

Thursday 12 July 2012
• With losses during the first half of 2012 so far totaling €700million, PSA Peugeot-Citroen is taking extreme measures to secure the business over the next couple of years. Closure of the Aulnay plant and slimming down the workforce total is all directed at stemming the losses caused by an 18% further reduction in output over a poor 2011. PSA hopes it can break even by the first quarter of 2014 (PSA Peugeot Citroen Group)
• McLaren has won the right to represent the excellence of UK manufacturing at the Science Museum in London. McLaren will exhibit an F1 car, MP4-12C road car and Specialized S Works + McLaren high-end bicycle at the Make It In Great Britain event, 24 July to 9 September 2012 (McLaren)
• Skoda has posted record high delivery rates during the first half of 2012. Sales from January are up 8.4% (to 493,000 units), with June 2012 becoming Skoda's all time second best-selling month (Skoda)

Wednesday 11 July 2012
• Porsche delivered 14% more cars in the first half of 2012 than the same period last year. The impressive total of 69,171 cars was buoyed by the arrival of the new 991, which propelled a 27.9% rise in 911 sales (Porsche)
• Ford's Dagenham plant has produced its 40 millionth engine. The milestone 1.6-litre diesel engineis the latest in a long successionof Ford motors made at the East London plant, which ceased entire car production in 2002 (Ford)

Tuesday 10 July 2012
• Kia today announced it had built 149,000 vehicles in the first six months of 2012 – up 10% on last year and setting a new record at its European factory in Slovakia. It said output leaped by 17% in June alone, topping 27,000 units as Zilina increased production of the new Ceed (Kia)
• VW’s car divisions sold more than 2.79 million vehicles worldwide in the first six months of 2012, it announced today. Despite a tough European market, it sold 907,900 units here (Volkswagen)
• Volkswagen is doing well in China, too. In the period January to May 2012, VW-FAW sold 138,740 Audis and 362,268 VWs. The two partners have extended their joint venture for a further 25 years and plan an assembly plant in the central China city of Wuhan, where Nissan and Honda are also present (Automotive News Europe)
• The new Chevrolet Confidence marketing campaign in the US says: ‘Love it or return it!’ Chevy is so confident punters will love its vehicles that it’s offering a cashback promise if they don’t like them – even after 60 days and 4000 miles (The Detroit News)
• Honda's UK sales rose 11% in the period January to June 2012, buoyed by strong fleet sales of the new Civic hatch. The addition of the new CR-V SUV this autumn should further strengthen the marque and secure jobs at the Swindon Honda plant (Honda)
• Russian new car sales are close to reaching pre-financial crash levels. After posting 2.9 million vehicle sales in 2008, the worldwide recession caused that figure to halve, but 2012 has seen sales rise 7.5% over a strong 2011 and 2.85million sales by the end of the year is a possibility (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 9 July 2012
• Is Audi not growing as fast as it hoped? Having previously targetted the position of world's number one premium car maker by 2015, Audi has now pushed back that evauluation to 2020, according to CEO Rupert Stadler. (Automotive News Europe)
• Mini has confirmed its commitment to producing cars in the UK with a £250m investment for its Oxford, Hams Hall and Swindon plants. This follows a £500m injection in 2011, and will be distrubted over the next three years, offering job security for the 5500 employees of the Mini UK operation (Mini)

Friday 6 July 2012
• Audi's popularity in China continues to grow: the brand posted sales rises of 20.4% in June 2012, thanks in particular by demand for the Q5 SUV (Automotive News Europe)
• Production of the Peugeot 408 saloon has begun ast PSA's joint-venture plant with Mitsubishi in Kaluga, Russia. Due to Eastern demand, the plant has received a €550 million (£438 million) investment to boost annual production to 125,000 units, 85% of which will be Peugeot Citroen models, including the Peugeot 308, 4007, Citroen C4 and C-Crosser (Automotive News Europe)

Thursday 5 July 2012
• VW has finally agreed the terms to buy the remaining 50.1% stake in Porsche it doesn't already own by early August; the deal was agreed in 2009, but it's taken this long to iron out the small print. Wolfsburg will pay €4.5bn plus one VW common share to acquire the stake - a loophole which sidesteps VW an €900 million tax bill (BBC News)
• Fiat may close a second Italian factory, warns CEO Sergio Marchionne. It comes as European sales drop for a fifth consecutive year (Automotive News Europe)

Wednesday 4 July 2012
• Dany Bahar may have been sent packing, but the Lotus lifestyle brand expansion continues: the first Lotus Originals apparel store has opened its doors in Regent Street, London (Lotus Cars)
• Good news for Bentley too: the Crewe-based marque reports sales have leapt by a third. Overall sales are up 32%, with the Mulsanne seeing a 30% surge in demand. The US has also regained top spot as Bentley's biggest market from China (Bentley Motors)
• Ford's sales in its crucial home market are up seven percent over 2011, with June alsone showing a seven percent increase over output in the same month last year. 207,759 Ford Motor Company vehicles found homes in the US last month. (Ford)
• Suzuki is confident of a successful severance of legal ties with Volkswagen, following the German company's acquisition of a 19.9% stake in 2009, during a short-lived partnership agreement. Suzuki is offering to buy back the shares for €2million (£1.6 million); VW paid €2.1 million for the stake three years ago (Automotive News Europe)
• Volvo has been ordered to pay a $1.5million (£958,000) fine for failing to disclose six safety defects which led to vehicles having to be recalled. Safety flaws must be delcared within five business days of discovery, a rule which Volvo failed to adhere to six times in 2010 and once in 2012 (Automotive News Europe)
• Mercedes has increased its luxury sector lead over rival BMW with a 7.6% monthly sale rise in the US. The buoyant sales have been encouraged by the new M-class SUV and C-class Coupe; 22,231 Mercedes found US homes last month - BMW saw a rise of just 0.4% in the same period (Automotive News Europe)

Tuesday 3 July 2012
• Mazda is reacting to strong demand for its CX-5 crossover by upping annual output from 200,000 to 240,000 units per year, the maximum capacity for the Ujina Plant (Mazda)
• Sergio Pininfarina, Honarary Chairman of the Pininfarina Group, has passed away aged 85. He became chariman of the illustrious Italian styling house, synonymous with Ferrari, in the 1960s, and pioneered the use of wind tunnels and research into alternative transport measures during his career. (Pininfarina) 
• Peugeot Citroen PSA plans to axe as much as 10% of its workforce, claims the head of PSA's second biggest union FO. Christian Lafaye said: 'They will raise the job cuts target in France alone to 8000-10,000,' he said in an interview. The claim comes after CEO Philippe Varin reportedly told unions the firm must raise its savings target for 2012 to €1bn (Automotive News Europe)
• Fisker has appointed ex Ford executive Jim Yost as chief financial officer (Fisker Automotive)

Monday 2 July 2012
• Kia has broken ground on its third Chinese new car factory, which will have the ability to build 300,000 cars a year. When the plant in Jiangsu province opens in early 2014, Kia will have capacity to build 730,000 vehicles in China - showing how seriously it is taking the market (Kia)
• The UK manufacturing scene is benefiting from the car industry: automotive manufacturing turnover rose 12% to £55 billion, setting a new UK record. Exports rose 14% and are now valued at more than £30bn (SMMT)
• Mercedes is taking the unusual step of launching its A-class with incentives - in a bid to grab sales from rivals such as the VW Golf and BMW 1-series. Private buyers will be offered €535 discounts from launch, according to reports in the German media (Automotive News Europe)
• Toyota has delivered the first Prius Plug-in in Europe to His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco. The royal already drives a regular Prius (Toyota)
• Mercedes is planning to reclaim the top sales slot in the US through a raft of new SUVs. American sales rose 18% for Merc in May 2012 - and the maker hopes the new M-class, refreshed GLK and GL, and the mooted new A-class-based smaller 4x4 will push sales higher (Bloomberg)
• Kia has appointed Paul Philpott to head up Kia Motors Europe. The former COO and MD of Kia UK is the first non-Korean president and CEO (Kia)
• French government ministers are pressuring PSA Peugeot Citroen to decide the fate of its French car factories quickly. One of its two Parisian plants is earmarked for closure, fear union officials (Automotive News Europe)


By Sophie Williamson-Stothert, Ollie Kew & Tim Pollard