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Crunch watch October 09: the auto industry in crisis

Thu, 29 Oct 2009

Tuesday 20 October 2009
• Honda's CEO said he would consider launching electric vehicles for sale in Europe, Japan and the USA in a possible change of strategy for the Japanese car manufacturer (Automotive News, subscription required)
• Ford 59-plate car sales up by 22% in September ‘09 compared to the same month last year. Ford claims a 14.8% share of total new car sales for the same period (Ford)
• Porsche, VW and Daimler all sent top executives to the Shanghai motor show in April, but chose to snub the Tokyo motor show this week. The news comes as China’s automotive market is set to become the world’s largest (Bloomberg)
• Toyota enters the Korean car market, challenging the 72% market share owned by Hyundai Motor Co (Bloomberg)

Monday 19 October 2009
• The organisers of the Geneva motor show claim that 'all of the major manufacturers have already confirmed their participation' for the March 2010 event (Geneva Palexpo)
• Jaguar is auctioning off the first XJ off the line to raise £1m for the NSPCC children's charity. In a system similar to those airport win-a-supercar raffles, XJ tickets will cost £125 each and they're on sale for one week from 25 November (Jaguar)
• The ding-dong continues: Brussels makes noises suggesting that GM can reconsider its sale of Opel Vauxhall to Magna, but German politicians say they will address EU concerns over its aid package and worries jobs could be linked to loans (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
• Daimler is on track to hit its financial targets, CEO Dieter Zetsche told a German news magazine (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)

Friday 16 October 2009
• 'Paperwork problems' hold up completion of GM's Opel sale to Magna, reports the FT (Financial Times)
• A former Ford engineer has been charged with stealing trade secrets when he took a new job for a Chinese car maker. Xiang Dong Yu, 47, was arrested in Chicago (Automotive News, subscription required)
• VW is asking shareholders to approve plans to issue 135 million new shares to raise up to €10 billion to help fund its acquisition of Porsche and other projects (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
• The autos consultant embroiled in the MG Rover scandal has bought into LDV, the Midlands van maker. Qu Li, who became known for her relationship with one of the MG Rover directors, heads up Eco Concept Ltd, which has bought the LDV assets (The Times)

Thursday 15 October 2009
• GM is 'very close' to signing the deal to sell Opel and Vauxhall to components supplier Magna and its Russian banking partner Sberbank. News is expected shortly (Automotive News, subscription required)
• But in the Scandinavian corner of GM's empire, the decision to give loan guarantees to Saab is said to be months away. Sweden's enterprise minister Maud Olofsson said today that the decision over the guarantees was 'a couple of months' away (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
• Proof that the UK's scrappage scheme is helping Britain's car dealers more than its manufacturers: dealer group Vertu posted a 49% jump in interim profits, after sales of 1686 vehicles under the incentive scheme (Financial Times)
• A new JD Power survey suggests what many of us have long suspected: that young children no longer lust after cars. JD Power monitored hundreds of thousands of posts on social networking sites and found that Generation Y (those born in the 1980s and 1990s) have less auto interest than older generations at the same age (Detroit News)

Wednesday 14 October 2009
• The Unite union says it has struck a deal with Magna to safeguard the majority of UK jobs at Vauxhall. According to the union, around 600 jobs will go at Ellesmere Port and Luton, all through voluntary redundancy (BBC News)
• Opel needs a partner with whom to build a new mini car, according to Alain Visser, head of sales and marketing. His quotes to ANE are taken to refer to a Fiat Panda rival, perhaps based on the 2004 Trixx concept car (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
• Tata Motors plans to ramp up Nano production by a fifth. But it'll still be only 3000 per month in India after the gradual ramp-up (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)

Tuesday 13 October 2009
• Ford's European sales rose by 12% in September compared with the previous year. And the Blue Oval's market share in Europe hit 10.1% – its best for eight years (Automotive News, subscription required)
• GM is poised to sign off the deal to sell Vauxhall and Opel to Magna this week. The General has already agreed in principle to sell 55% of its European division to Magna and its Russian partner Sberbank, but negotiations have been held up by political interference. Expect an announcement on Thursday (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
• Aston Martin has poached Michael van der Sande from Tesla to become Gaydon's first chief commercial officer. Van der Sande, who worked at Harley Davidson for 12 years before Tesla, will develop Aston's commercial focus (Aston Martin)

Monday 12 October 2009
• Audi is opening the world's biggest Audi centre in west London tonight. It's cost Audi £45 million and totals 190,000sq ft – with space for displaying 116 cars beside the elevated section of the M4 (Audi)
• Pininfarina's chief exec Silvio Pietro Angori says its electric car joint venture with French financier Vincent Bollore is on track. They are developing the Bluecar for launch in 2011, and claim to have 6000 advance orders (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
• Scandinavian electric car specialist Think today announced a new board of directors, led by chairman Reidar Langmo (Think)
• GM's deal to sell Hummer has been completed, reports the BBC. It's flogging 80% of Hummer to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery; the remaining 20% stake goes to Hong Kong entrepreneur Suolong Duoji (BBC News)

Friday 9 October 2009
• Tata is issuing new equity shares to raise $750 million. The proceeds will be used to pay down the debt incurred by buying Jaguar Land Rover (Tata)
• Goodwood has announced its 2010 dates: the Festival of Speed will be held from 2-4 July, while the Revival is slated for 17-19 September next year (Goodwood)
• Audi is on track to sell 900,000 cars this year, despite the downturn. That'll be less than the 1m it notched up last year, but the company said today that its sales were more buoyant than it had hoped (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
• Ford is employing 19 Ph.Ds in mathematics, physics, economics and engineering to calculate new pricing models to raise its profitability (Detroit News)
• UK business secretary Peter Mandelson is witholding around £400 million worth of loan guarantees to Magna over fears that the UK could bear the brunt of the 10,500 job cuts planned for Opel and Vauxhall (The Times)
• GM is very close to finishing the deal to sell Hummer to China's Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co. for around $150 million, Bloombery News reports (Automotive News, subscription required)

Thursday 8 October 2009
• The European Union says it won't let the levels of state aid pumped into Vauxhall and Opel affect the job cuts as a result of the takeover by Magna. Competition commissioner Neelie Kroes said she wanted a 'level playing field', despite Germany having forked out the lion's share of aid with a €4.5bn injection (BBC News)
• Ford has denied Swedish media reports that Volvo's British CEO Stephen Odell will be out by the end of the year. The Blue Oval put Volvo up for sale late in 2008, shortly after Odell succeeded Fredrik Arp on 1 October 2008 (Automotive News, subscription required)
• Jaguar Land Rover has secured further funding worth £175 million in a loan from the State Bank of India – bringing a total of £500m new funding so far this year (BBC News)
• Magna has won a prestigious order to build the aluminium bodies for the Mercedes SLS supercar. Magna already builds the G-class for Daimler, but it was feared its deal to buy Opel might lead to manufacturers pulling orders (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
• A $420bn Norwegian fund is opposing VW's deal to buy Porsche, claiming Volkswagen has not explained why it is taking on Porsche's debt (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
• Aston Martin's new Cygnet supermini – a poshed-up Toyota iQ in drag – is set to be launched in 2010, the latest reports claim (Autoblog)
• Susan Docherty will replace Mark LaNeve, who's left GM, as vice president of US sales (Automotive News, subscription required)

Wednesday 7 October 2009
• MG's Longbridge plant producing the MG-TF has ceased production, reports the BBC. Further models were expected to be built at the Midlands plant, but the TF has failed to take off (BBC via Autoblog)
• The Swedish government says it has asked the European Commission whether its planned €400 million loan to Saab would break rules on state aid (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
• Porsche is one of the few car makers prepared to pay bonuses to execs this year. It has announced plans to pay all 12,500 employees a bonus of €1100 each for the fiscal year ending July (Financial Times)
• The Dodge brand is likely to be dropped in Europe, as part of a shake-up tipped to be announced next month. Chrysler sold fewer than 4000 Dodges in the UK last year (Autocar)
• Renault has confirmed it will invest more in AvtoVAZ, the troubled car maker in which it holds a 25% stake (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)

Tuesday 6 October 2009
• Fiat and Chrysler plan to integrate their product line-up in Europe – sharing everything from small hatchbacks to upscale saloons, including the twinning of the next Thesis with the Chrysler 300C. Lancia CEO Olivier Francois is now the new brand boss of Chrysler and the two brands will share distribution in Europe 'in the near future' (Automotive News, subscription required)
• The UK new car market rose 11.4% in September compared with the same month a year before, the official SMMT figures showed. A total of 367,929 new 59-reg cars were registered (SMMT)
• Mazda plans to raise $1.1 billion in a share sale to help fund a new generation of eco cars. It plans to offer 363m new shares, and sell an additional 97m existing shares that it bought a year ago from Ford – to help pay for hybrid car development (Financial Times)
• Two of Chrysler's three brand chiefs have left the company just four months after their appointment. Peter Fong, head of Chrysler, has resigned for 'personal reasons' while Michael Accavitti, head of Dodge, has left to 'pursue other interests'. Meanwhile, new owner Fiat is set to put more emphasis on the Mopar tuning arm to help lift Chrsyler's fortunes (Financial Times)
• Tyre firm Pirelli is the latest UK employer to close its final pension scheme, which will affect all 743 UK staff (BBC News)

Monday 5 October 2009
• As tipped, Chrysler has created a new Ram sub-brand for its trucks. Designer Ralph Gilles will take over as CEO of Dodge cars (Automotive News, subscription required)
• The UK's SMMT trade body says that sales in September 2009 will show the third monthly increase in a row, as the new 59 reg arrived and scrappage incentives continued to pep up the market. Full figures out tomorrow (SMMT)
• GM's deal to sell Saab to Koenigsegg is set to be completed by late October, sources in Sweden told CAR today
• An American-led consortium has entered the fray to buy Volvo from Ford, the FT reports. The Crown consortium is headed up by former Ford director and turnaround specialist Michael Dingman and is linking up with Swedish investors keen to keep Volvo in Sweden. China's Geely had been in pole position (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
• Reborn Chrysler wants to push the eponymous brand further upmarket – 'a notch above Lincoln, a notch above Cadillac', brand chief Peter Fong has told reporters. A new business and product plan is expected to be announced in November (Detroit News)

Friday 2 October 2009
• The grandson of the founder of Toyota – Akio Toyoda, the new president – has admitted that the company is 'grasping for salvation' as it struggles to return to profit. He said it expects 7.3 million sales this year, down from 8.9m in 2008 (Automotive News, subscription required)
• McLaren could end its long relationship with Mercedes-Benz as its engine supplier; the Formula One blogs are tipping BMW as the likely new partner (F1-Live via Autoblog)

Thursday 1 October 2009
• GM is to close its Saturn brand after the last-minute collapse of a deal with Roger Penske (Detroit News)

By Tim Pollard, Ben Pulman and Gareth Evans