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News watch September 2011: today's auto industry news

Fri, 30 Sep 2011 00:00:00 -0700

Come 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 30 September 2011
• Toyota and Honda have both returned to full production after Easter's disastrous earthquake. September car sales will be released next week, and Bloomberg predicts a rise to 12.8 million seasonally adjusted annual rate (Bloomberg)
• The US now predicts a slightly smaller 2011 full-year sales total. Most analysts now agree 12.6 million new car sales are likely - lower than the 13m that had been projected (Detroit News) 

Thursday 29 September 2011
• Swedish Automobile, owner of Saab, has sold Spyker Cars, the Anglo-Dutch supercar maker. American private equity house North Street Capital has paid around $43 million for the boutique car maker (Automotive News Europe)
• The Spyker sale means that the UK's CPP in Coventry has missed out; it had entered negotiations to buy Spyker, but an MOU had lapsed this summer. Victor Muller will remain chairman of Spyker and the deal hinged on North Street Capital's ability to fund long-term projects
• PSA could be the worst hit by the economic uncertainty, judging by the 41% slump in its shares in 2011, reports ANE. The gap to Volkswagen's stock has accelerated to  €91 - from a 10-year average of  €16 (Automotive News Europe)

Wednesday 28 September 2011
• Bentley has a new chief engineer: Rolf Frech, 53, replaces Ulrich Eichorn, who's leaving to become managing director of the VDA, or German association of the automobile industry. Frech has worked at Porsche since 1983 and latterly worked on the Cayenne and Panamera, which will prove useful as Crewe moves into new waters with cars such as its proposed SUV (Bentley Motors)
• General Motors chief exec says that GM Europe is now profitable. Dan Akerson said the turnaround plan was working and they hoped to see further growth after Opel's $102 million pre-tax profit in the second quarter (Automotive News Europe)
• Aston Martin is today named the coolest brand in the UK. London agency Superbrands conducts the most influential survey of consumer tastes and publishes its findings annually (BBC News)
• GM plans to idle its Fort Wayne plant to cut production of full-size trucks. Sales of large pick-ups are still slow in America and GM is balancing its inventories (Automotive News)

Tuesday 27 September 2011
• The new Ferrari 458 Spider will be priced at €226,800 in Europe when sales start in October (Automotive News Europe) 
• Not content with his duties at General Motors and Lotus, former GM product chief Bob Lutz has joined the board of an American hybrid powertrain company. Via Motors, in Utah, has developed a plug-in hybrid system for pick-up trucks (Automotive News)
• The US Senate has agreed not to cut $1.5 billion from its rescue package to the American car industry. It is pumping money in to encourage the development of fuel efficient cars (Detroit News)

Monday 26 September 2011
• Caterham has launched a new standalone technology business, Caterham Technology and Innovation Limited. It will develop a new line of affordable sports cars and undertake independent consultancy for automotive and aerospace clients, the company says (Caterham Cars)
• Chinese car maker Chery and Magna are preparing to launch cars for export to Europe in 2012, according to German newspaper reports (Automotive News Europe)
• PSA Peugeot Citroen may have to cut up to 10,000 jobs in response to the slowing economy (Automotive News Europe) 
• Tim Zimmerman, 47, has been appointed managing director of Peugeot UK. He's been away from the UK for 14 years and previously ran Peugeot's operations in China (Peugeot)

Friday 23 September 2011
• McLaren Automotive today announced it would run its Asia Pacific region business centrally. A new subsidiary, McLaren Automotive Asia Pte Ltd, will be based in Singapore. It's a big area for the company - around one in four McLaren F1 road cars are based in the region (McLaren Automotive)
• Kia is introducing a third shift at its Zilina factory to cope with rising demand. It is taking on 1000 employees, and will increase production next spring (Kia)
• BMW chief exec Norbert Reithofer has confirmed in an interview with Auto Motor und Sport that it will build an X4 coupe-SUV to fit between X3 and X5. It's a likely rival for the forthcoming Porsche Cajun (Automotive News)
• Volkswagen stands by its accusations against Suzuki - and claims its Japanese former partner is being 'theatrical' (Automotive News Europe)

Thursday 22 September 2011
• The European car makers' association has agreed a common standard for electric car charging points - but the pan-European standard will only be implemented by 2017 (BBC News)
• Suzuki has asked Volkswagen to retract a statement claiming it had breached its contract in the terms of the cooperation between the two companies. In a letter to VW chief Martin Winterkorn, Suzuki claimed it had been 'significantly damaged' by the claim (Automotive News)
• New car production in the UK rose 11% in August, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. So far, year to date, output is up 4.4% (BBC News)
• Saab says it is on a major efficiency drive as it seeks to reorganise hastily. Yesterday a Swedish court granted it permission to seek protection from creditors as it bids to improve its cashflow. 'This is a battle won, but not the war,' said chairman Victor Muller. It plans to cut headcount and increase efficiencies promptly, and it'll meet creditors imminently (Automotive News Europe)
• Hyundai and Kia predict their European sales will jump 12% this year. It announced a new forecast of 405,000 sales in Europe, ahead of its original target of 400,000 (Automotive News Europe)

Wednesday 21 September 2011
• Credit rating agency Moodys has downgraded Fiat stock on account of its links with Chrysler and the weak European market outlook. It's moved from Ba1 to Ba2 (Automotive News Europe)
• Saab has won its appeal for bankruptcy protection in Sweden - giving it breathing space to draw more funds from investors. A court of appeal overturned a lower court's ruling that Saab should not be allowed to file for 'reconstruction', a Swedish form of protection while a company reshuffles its finances (Automotive News Europe)
• The court said its decision 'reverses the district court ruling and allows Saab to reorganise' (BBC News)
• Smart is relaunching in the US. The Fortwo starts at $12,490 in America and analysts say it has some ardent fans but most buyers don't know enough about it. A national TV ad campaign aims to correct that (Detroit News)

Tuesday 20 September 2011
• Chinese car maker Pang Da warns it may have to write off the €245m it paid to buy cars from Saab as a bad debt. The deal also included a plan to manufacture Saabs in China, but it's yet to be approved by the regulator (Automotive News Europe) 
• Fiat is on course to own 58.5% of Chrysler by the end of the year, Turin confirmed today. It currently holds 53.5% of the American car maker (Automotive News Europe)
• Saab has been handed a lifeline by a Swedish court, which granted it leave to appeal a lower court's decision denying it bankruptcy protection. It owes August wages and around €150m to suppliers (Automotive News)
• CAR's local race track - and backdrop to many a CAR photoshoot - Rockingham celebrated its 10th anniversary this weekend, as it hosted the BTCC Touring Cars race (Rockingham)
• Seat's Young Driver programme, which gives 11- to 17-year-olds a chance to get behind the wheel in safety, has just run its 25,000th lesson (Seat)

Monday 19 September 2011
• It's official: Jaguar Land Rover has now confirmed plans to build a £355 million engine plant in Staffordshire. It will build a new generation of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, which will replace the Ford-supplied units of today (Jaguar Land Rover)
• The new JLR engine plant will create around 750 new jobs, on top of the company's 19,000 direct employees. Jaguar Land Rover claims it supports up to 140,000 jobs in total through the supply chain (JLR)
• Toyota will start making parts for its hybrid cars in the US within four years (Automotive News)
• Volkswagen, whose cooperation with Suzuki unravelled this month, could buy the Japanese car maker wholesale, reports a German news magazine. Suzuki chairman Osamu Suzuki has offered to buy out VW's 20% stake in cash, but Wolfsburg says it has no intention of selling its share. Der Spiegel reports top brass are considering a complete takeover (Automotive News Europe)
• Meanwhile, ANE reports how Volkswagen is investing €62 billion over the next five years on future product in its bid to become the world's biggest car maker (Automotive News Europe)
• Jaguar Land Rover is poised to announce a new engine manufacturing plant in the West Midlands. The facility could have been built abroad, but the BBC reports it will be launched at the i54 business park in Wolverhampton, employing hundreds of people (BBC News)

Friday 16 September 2011
• Execs from European car makers admitted openly that they fear Hyundai-Kia, reports ANE. Their reporters heard nothing but respect for the Korean giant (Automotive News Europe)
• Rolls-Royce looks set for a record year in 2011, top brass reports. CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes predicted sales would break last year's record of 2711 cars, swollen by fuller demand for the new Ghost (Automotive News Europe)
• The more expansive deal announced yesterday between Nissan and Daimler (see below) is natural step for Daimler, chief exec Dieter Zetsche tells the BBC. 'The cross-shopping between Infiniti and Mercedes is extremely limited,' he declared, saying that Infiniti was a more natural rival for BMW than Merc (BBC News)

Thursday 15 September 2011
• Nissan and Daimler bosses Carlos Ghosn and Dieter Zetsche announced the next stage of their cooperation at the Frankfurt motor show. Merc's MFA front-drive platform from the next A-class will underpin the Etherea, as predicted by CAR. And the first Merc diesel engines will power Infinitis from 2013, probably in the next-gen G family (Infiniti)
• Alfa Romeo has delayed its US relaunch again - by at least a year. CEO Harald Wester confirmed at Frankfurt it was scaling back its global expansion plans becuase of the European debt crisis. The American return has now gone back to mid-2013, from 2012 (Automotive News)
• GM and Ford are both hoping to turn a profit in Europe this year despite the economic downturn. Ford had been profitable in Europe, but the $51m pre-tax loss in Europe in the fourth quarter of 2010 surprised many (Automotive News Europe)
• Ford HQ meanwhile will today pay down $1.8 billion of its long-term debt. It wants to restore the investment grade status it lost in 2006 (Detroit News)
• Mitsubishi and Proton today announced a strategic partnership to build engines together in Malaysia, build Mitsus at Proton plants, share components and share Mitsubishi's electric and hybrid car know-how (Mitsubishi and Proton)
• The Goodwood Revival historic motorsport event this weekend has sold out for Saturday and Sunday already (Goodwood)
• Honda CEO Takanobu Ito confirms that the new Civic will get the company's new smaller diesel engine by the end of 2012 in his speech at Frankfurt (Honda)
• Bosch has launched a new cheaper radar sensor at the Frankfurt motor show. It also announced a 50:50 joint venture with Daimler to develop and build motors for electric cars. Production is scheduled to start in 2012 (Bosch)
• Volvo has confirmed a new Scalable Vehicle Architecture (SPA) so that most future models can be built on the same production line. The lightweight platform would chop 100-150kg from most model ranges. Volvo also said that its future engine range would consist solely of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines (Volvo)

Tuesday/Wednesday 13/14 September 2011
Normal service suspended during Frankfurt motor show coverage!

Monday 12 September 2011
• Bentley reports a jump in sales, as the new Conti range kicks in. Global sales are up 31% to 4016 deliveries year to date. Cewe reveals that China has sold more than 1000 for the first time, and predicts a 40% increase in the full year (Bentley Motors)
• Porsche, too, is bragging over its sales. It reveals that August 2011 it delivered 9031 cars - up 43% on the same month last year. It was the strongest August on record (Porsche) 
• Suzuki says it will end the business alliance with Volkswagen. Yesterday VW said that Suzuki's deal to source diesel engines from Fiat was against the terms of their cooperation (Automotive News Europe)
• Team CAR travel out to Frankfurt for the IAA Frankfurt motor show

Friday 9 September 2011
• Tata Motors CEO and MD Carl-Peter Forster has stepped down owing to 'unavoidable personal circumstances' (Tata Motors)
• Forster will continue to serve on the board of Tata Motors as a non-executive member (Tata Motors
• The Volkswagen-Porsche merger has been delayed and won’t happen until 2012 at the earliest because of legal hurdles. The two closely linked companies announced in 2009 that they would merge by the end of 2011, but the process has proved more complex than either party imagined – and been beset by legal complications (Automotive News Europe)
• BMW has been named the most sustainable car manufacturer by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the seventh consecutive year (BMW)

Thursday 8 September 2011
• Saab has had its request for bankruptcy protection rejected by Swedish courts. If its creditors demand payment, it seems likely that Saab will be declared bankrupt within days (BBC News)
• Saab owes suppliers a total of €150m, Saab boss Victor Muller has confirmed
• The court in Vanersborg district dismissed the claim for bankruptcy protection, ruling that there was no reason why a new creditor protection process would work. Saab has appealed the decision (Automotive News Europe)
• Peugeot Citroen is seeking partners with expertise in aluminium in its quest to reduce weight. Chief exec Philippe Varin said: 'The larger use of aluminium in our cars can only be achieved if we manage to build global and mutually beneficial partnerships. We are definitely considering entering into strategic supply relationships with some commodity suppliers (Automotive News Europe)

Wednesday 7 September 2011
• Saab is filing for court protection from creditors, it emerged today. CEO Victor Muller said in a statement: 'We have concluded that a voluntary reorganisation process will provide us with the necessary time, protection and stabilisation of the business, allowing salary payments to be made, short-term funding to be obtained and an orderly restart of production to be prepared' (Automotive News Europe)
• Saab is waiting for cash from Chinese investors, Swedish Automobile said. It has sold a 53.9% stake to Chinese distributor Pang Da and car maker Zhejiang Youngman for $351 (Automotive News Europe)
• Staff at the Saab factory have not been paid for three months, reports the BBC (BBC News)
• The UK's Technology Strategy Board today reports the findings of what it calls Europe's largest low CO2 electric vehicle trial: 340 EVs have been tested across Britain, covering 680,000 miles. At the start of the trial, every single driver was worried about range, but after three months only 35% still had range anxiety (Technology Strategy Board)

Tuesday 6 September 2011
• The Volkswagen-Suzuki deal is in danger of unravelling, after comments made in the VW annual report have caused waves in Japan. 'Volkswagen is not talking to us,' said Suzuki chairman Osamu Suzuki. 'We have no plans to talk to them' (Automotive News Europe)
• The row began in March 2011 when VW's annual report claimed it could influence policy in Japan, describing Suzuki as an 'associate'. When the two companies struck a deal in 2009, the plan had been to hatch numerous joint projects and use Suzuki's scale in Asia and VW's expertise in western markets. Two years later, not a single joint project has got off the ground
• New car sales in the UK have risen for the first time in 13 months. Sales in August 2011 rose 7.3% to 59,346 vehicles - but year-to-date sales are still down 6.1% on last year. The SMMT warned the outlook remains 'challenging' (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders)
• Jaguar Land Rover today welcomed 336 new graduate recruits, as the company expands it engineering teams to cope with a planned new model rush (JLR)

Monday 5 September 2011
• Fisker has struck a deal with BMW to supply a four-cylinder turbo petrol engine for its next small car, dubbed Project Nina. At peak, Munich may supply 100,000 engines a year (Fisker Automotive)
• Toyota says it will shift production of its hybrid hardware to China in a bid to boost sales (BBC News)
• Porsche will compete in a new FIA-approved endurance race series from 2014. Sounds like it might be a new hybrid series (Automotive News Europe)
• Audi will easily surpass 1.2 million sales in 2011, vows CEO Rupert Stadler. 'We will clear the bar of 1.2 million sales cleanly, perhaps with some air in between,' he told ANE (Automotive News Europe)

Friday 2 September 2011
• Mini is on course for a record year in 2011, according to BMW group sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson. He hinted that sales could top 270,000 now the Mini range is expanding with the Countryman and Coupe (Automotive News Europe)
• Ford is lifting US production in the fourth quarter after shortages in inventory cost it sales this summer (Automotive News) 

Thursday 1 September 2011
• Saab's owner Swedish Automobile has reported a €201.5 million loss in the first half of 2011. It has forecast a substantial net loss for the full year, blaming the loss of production at Trollhattan (Automotive News Europe)
• Saab chief executive officer Victor Muller said in a statement: 'Right now, the focus of Saab management is on working as hard as possible to bring the company back into calmer waters by significantly strengthening our financial position, reaching agreement with all our suppliers on payment and delivery terms and restart production as soon as possible' (Saab)
• Bosch today announced a pilot production line at its Eisanach base to research next-generation lithium ion battery cells. It's planning annual production of more than 200,000 cells by 2015 and is partnering Basf and ThyssenKrupp (Bosch)
• Fiat may shift production of Alfa Romeo's planned SUVs from Turin to a North American factory, reports Bloomberg. The euro is strengthening against the dollar, making European manufacturing less favourable. In November 2010 Fiat announced a €1 billion investment at Mirafiori to build as many as 280,000 Jeep and Alfa Romeo 4x4s (Automotive News)
• Chrysler will launch its first eight-speed automatic transmission this autumn, the company has revealed. It's the first US car maker to go for an eight-speeder (Detroit News)
• Ford is partnering car share group Zipcar to put Ford vehicles at 250 American university campuses (Detroit News)


By Tim Pollard