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News watch March 2011: today's auto industry news

Thu, 31 Mar 2011

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
Thursday 31 March 2011
• US President Barack Obama has strated all US government cars and trucks purchased from 2015 must be alternative-fuel vehicles (Automotive News)
• Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has denied a report in Japan's Nikkei newspaper that he is leaning towards a formal merger of Nissan and Renault (Reuters)
• Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne says that Chrysler's share IPO may now take place in 2012, depending on financial progress this year (Bloomberg)

Wednesday 30 March 2011
• Tesla CEO Elon Musk has called a report that the EV carmaker is a takeover target 'bad analysis' and remains confident the firm will stay independent (Bloomberg)
• The BBC denies that it rigged a December 2008 Top Gear TV test of the Tesla Roadster, in response to being sued by the EV carmaker (BBC News)
• First Group, the UK's largest public transport operator, has announced a £160m investment in new buses, ordering 955 new buses from UK manufacturers Wrightbus and Dennis over the next two years (BBC News)
• Japanese production woes look set to continue into April. Toyota expects the majority of Toyota and Lexus production on 14 April (Automotive News)
• Saab production has re-started again, following a half yesterday afternoon. A Saab statement read: 'Certain suppliers halted supplies to Saab Automobile pending discussions about payments and supply terms. Saab Automobile expects to resolve these issues in the short term, also to prevent any further disruptions in supply. Saab Automobile has sufficient means to meet its immediate liquidity needs from existing and available sources. In addition, Saab Automobile continues to work on longer term solutions to further strengthen its financial position and improve its capital structure.' (Spyker Cars N.V.)
• Audi has produced its five-millionth A4. Audi introduced the A4 name in 1994, and the landmark car rolled off the line at the company's Ingolstadt plant – it's an 2.0 TFSI Quattro saloon in Misano Red (Audi)
• Car companies are preparing to oppose the American government's forthcoming fuel and safety regulations, and ask for adequate time to meet the new rules (Detroit News)

Tuesday 29 March 2011
• Ford CEO Alan Mulally has been named the Financial Times Person of the Year in the FT ArcelorMittal Boldness in Business Awards.  Mulally was commended for his leadership in returning Ford to sustained profitability without resorting to a government bailout (Ford)
• RIP David E. Davis, Jr. The veteran US motoring writer and publisher passed away last weekend aged 80. Davis began writing for Car and Driver magazine in the 1960s, and went on to edit and publish that magazine as well as launching Automobile magazine in the 1980s. A contemporary of UK writers such as George Bishop, LJK Setright and Archie Vicar, Davis bought a similarly irreverant and entertaining style to the art of motoring journalism. (New York Times, Car and Driver, Automobile)
• Tata is expanding its partnership with the University of Warwick, planning to hire 100 new staff over the next two years as it expands its joint research with the Warwick Maufacturing Group (BBC News)
• A Green Party win in the Baden-Wurttemberg state elections may mean autobahn speed limits in the home state of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz (Bloomberg)
• Chrysler continues its legal offensive against other businesses using its 'Imported from Detroit' slogan, which has proved popular in the city (Detroit News)
• VW has announced a recall of 71043 2010-2011 Jetta saloons in the US for problems with the anti-theft system and horn wiring (Automotive News)

Monday 28 March 2011
• A report on EU mandated 2015 average CO2 emissions targets show Toyota is only 4.2% away from meeting its target. Daimler has to reduce its average emissions by 19.8% (Automotive News Europe)
• Porsche SE will commence its £4.4bn share sale on March 30, with the aim of reducing debt as part of the VW-Porsche merger plan (Bloomberg)
• Vauxhall's Luton plant has been confirmed as production site for the next Vivaro van, securing 1100 jobs. The Vivaro is a joint-venture with Renault (BBC News) 
• Japan quake supply disruption continues to cause issues for global carmakers as supplier subcontractors struggle to restart factories (Automotive News)
• Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne offers economic reform plan for Italy (Reuters)
• A special report on Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, notable for its headline:'Can an Italian Elvis make Fiat-Chrysler Dance?' (Reuters)

Friday 25 March 2011
• Saab CEO Jan Ake Jonsson has announced he will retire on 19 May. Saab owner Victor Muller will act as interim CEO while a replacement is sought for Muller, who has lead Saab for the past six years after nearly 40 years with the Swedish carmaker (Automotive News Europe)
• New owner of Spyker sports cars, Vladimir Antonov has announced he is committed to investing $50m in former sister-brand Saab Automobiles (Automotive News Europe) 
• Kia built a record 229,505 cars at its Zilina, Slovakia plant in 2010. the plant produces Kia Sportage and Hyundai ix35 SUVs, and plans to add Kia Venga production in 2011 (Automotive News Europe)
• The petrochemical industry has reacted to the plan to increase oil exploration taxes as part of the fuel duty reduction, saying it will impact future investment (BBC News)
• UK motorists are reporting cases where fuel retailers had already increased their prices, cancelling-out the 1p reduction in fuel duty announced in the 2011 UK budget (BBC News)

Thursday 24 March 2011
• The US United Auto workers (UAW) union, who represents Chrysler workers, plan to strengthen ties with its Italian counterparts who represent Fiat employees now that Chrysler is under Fiat management (Bloomberg)
• Subaru has extended its plant shutdowns in Japan to 28 March, due to parts and electricity supply disruption. Component supplies to overseas Subaru plants and dealer spare parts has re-commenced on schedule this week (Subaru)
• VW Group has announced investment plans to challenge Fiat's dominance in Brazil. Fiat currently holds 22.3% market share, with VW second on 21.8% and GM third on 18.2% (Automotive News Europe)
• Valmet Automotive in Finland (who also produce vehicles for Porsche) has commenced contract production of the Fisker Karma range-extender EV luxury car. Fisker aims to sell up to 7000 Karmas in its first year of production (Automotive News)
• GM has launched legal action against Allied Systems. seeking to retrieve 1704 vehicles it claims are being held hostage after GM cancelled its haulage contract with Allied. The firm is also holding around 500 Chrysler minivans under similar circumstances (Automotive News)

Wednesday 23 March 2011
• Ferrari has announced its 2010 financial results following their annual shareholder meeting. Revenue was up 7.9% to £1.67bn, and profits increased 26.9% to £263.13m, representing an improved Return on Sales of 15.8%. Ferrari's net industrial cash is a record £548.34m and the board has approved distribution of £174m in dividends. The current board of directors has been re-appointed in full for the 2011-2013 term. (Ferrari)
• UK chancellor George Osborne presented the 2011 budget today. See CAR's budget report for all the budget changes affecting UK motorists (CAR)
• Volvo Cars and Pininfarina have announced Pininfarina's withdrawal from the 'Pininfarina Sverige' project, which assembled the C70 convertible at Uddevalla, Sweden. Volvo will now assume full ownership of the Uddevalla facility in May 2013. C70 production continues unchanged (Volvo Cars)
• Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn says that 40 automotive parts suppliers
remain in difficulty in Japan (Bloomberg)
• Fiat suspends investment at the Grugliasco, Italy plant formerly owned by Bertone after failing to reach a new labour agreement with the FIOM union (Automotive News Europe)
• Oxford-based engineering firm Liberty Electric Cars has won a £24m contract to supply 150 of its E-Range converted Range Rover EV to Icelandic firm Northern Lights Energy (Liberty Electric Cars)
• BMW is aiming for 1 million customers by 2020 as it launches DriveNow, a car sharing programme. DriveNow is a 50:50 joint venture with Sixt car rentals, and launches next month in Munich and Berlin before expansion across europe and possibly to the USA (Automotive News Europe)
• The global disruption to car production resulting from the disaster in Japan continues, but Korean parts maker Hyundai Mobis sees an opportunity to improve itsbusiness. This article also includes a concise summary of plant closures and related issues to date (Automotive News)

Tuesday 22 March 2011
• Toyota and Honda production restart in Japan stalls due to parts supply problems (BBC News) 
• PSA Peugeot Citroen announced that European production of its diesel engines will be affected from March 23, due to an electronics supplier in Japan being hit by the earthquake. Peugeot will revise production schedules and their supplier is working to restart their production within one week. (Peugeot)
• Chinese carmaker Lifan has expanded production at its Russian production plant and plans to expand production to 32000 units, up from 14000 in 2010 (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 21 March 2011
• Seat is creating 700 jobs at its Martorell plant to build the new Audi Q3 for its partner in Ingolstadt. The new staff will be full Seat employees, contracted to build Audi's new junior SUV (Seat)
• Skoda worldwide sales are up 25% for the first 2 months of 2011, to 132,000 vehicles (Skoda)
• Nissan has commenced UK deliveries of the Leaf EV, with the first customers receiving their vehicles today (Nissan)
• French industry minister Eric Besson said he did not intend to destabilise Renault further when asked if CEO Carlos Ghosn should step down (Reuters)
• Ferrari announces it has sold-out the first year's production (800 vehicles) of its new FF model (Automotive New Europe)
• Fiat dealer goes for a shopping mall 'studio' concept to sell the Fiat 500 in Indiana (Automotive News)
• Manganese Bronze, manufacturers of the TX4 London taxi, has announced a £17m deal to sell 1000 of the distinctive cabs to Azerbaijan (BBC News)

Friday 18 March 2011
• Mercedes will build its own fuel cell stacks in Canada. Construction of the new production facility will begin immediately and is scheduled for completion in early 2012. Following a test phase, small-series production of the next generation of fuel cell stacks will commence in 2013 – Mercedes says these next-gen fuel stacks will be suitable for use inthe C- and E-class saloons (Mercedes) 
• Mazda will resume temporary production from March 22 following the suspension of facotry activities in the wakes on the major earthquake in northeast Japan on 11 March. Mazda's Hiroshima and Hofu will produce replacement parts and parts for overseas production, but a decision on the resumption of full-scale production of both parts and vehicles will be made at a later date (Mazda)
• Daimler is providing €2m in aid for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan (Daimler AG)

Thursday 17 March 2011
• Daimler is contemplating a higher dividend for investors following significantly improved performance in 2010 (Automotive News Europe)
• Chrysler is suing a business selling merchandise bearing Chrysler's 'Imported from Detroit' slogan for trademark infringement (Automotive News)
• US manufacturers, including GM, Toyota, Chrysler, Nissan and Honda comment on contingency plans as Japan industrial disruption continues (Detroit News)
• Porsche SE, the holding company with shares in Porsche and VW, plans to reduce debt through a share sale to raise investment to £4.34bn by May 2011 (Automotive News)
• Indian utility vehicle manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra has completed its acquisition of Korean manufacturer Ssangyong, for £288m (Reuters)

Wednesday 16 March 2011
• Porsche announce their upcoming 'Cajun' small SUV will be built at their Leipzig plant, currently home to Cayenne and Panamera production. The expansion will lead to 1000 extra jobs, and new construction at the 400-hectare site will begin in 2011 (Porsche)
• VW group will introduce the Seat brand to China in 2011, with local production from 2013 (Automotive News)
• European vehicle sales rose 1.4% in February, the first rise in 11 months. VW (+9.1%) and Vauxhall/Opel (+8.3%) posted sales increases, while Ford, Fiat and Peugeot/Citroen sales fell (Bloomberg)
• Production disruptions in Japan following the north-eastern earthquake and tsunami may disrupt global production through lack of needed components (Automotive News)
• Chrysler have released a line of 'Imported from Detroit' merchandise following its successful Superbowl ad for the Chrysler 200, starring Eminem (Detroit News)
• Porsche is enlarging its management board to include a procurement department. Uwe-Karsten Stadtler, currently head of electrics/electronics group procurement at VW, will join Porsche on April 1, 2011 to lead the new procurement team (Porsche)

Tuesday 15 March 2011
• Porsche has tripled its net operating profit in 2010, to 688 million euro compared with 227 million euro from August to December 2009. Porsche is shifting to a calendar year financial reporting model, hence the short fiscal year in 2010. Sales were up by 56.6 per cent to 40,446 vehicles for the period (Porsche)
• BMW held its annual accounts press conference today in Munich. Among key announcements by CEO Dr. Norbert Reithofer were possible expansion of production sites to new regions such as South America; and a New Energy Vehicle concept for the Shanghai motor show: a long-wheelbase 5-series with plug-in hybrid powertrain (BMW)
• Following yesterday afternoon's extraordinary board meeting where Renault discussed the consequences of the French prosecutor's office findings in the industrial espionage case, Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn has announced he has declined the resignation offered by COO Patrick Pelata. Ghosn has also relinquished his 2010 bonuses and stock options, while the three dismissed executives will be reinstated (Bloomberg)
• Skoda has tripled its profits in 2010, and announced ambitious plans to go from 2010's 762,600 sales to 1.5 million deliveries in 2018 (Automotive News Europe)
• Japan's motor industry remains in shutdown mode in the aftermath of the devestating earthquake and tsunami (Automotive News Europe) 

Monday 14 March 2011
• Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn has convened an extraordinary meeting of the Renault board, following the latest update from the French prosecutor's office. In a brief statement, Ghosn and COO Patrick Pelata gave 'their sincere apologies and regrets, personally and in the name of Renault, to Messrs Balthazard, Rochette and  Tenenbaum, who were wrongly accused in this affair'. They also committed to reparations for the three wrongly-accused executives, restoring the executives' honour in the public eye, and acknowledged the serious personal harm caused to the three men and their families. Ghosn and Pelata plan to meet with the executives as soon as possible. Renault is pressing charges and filed a civil suit as part of the organised fraud case mentioned below (Renault)
• Many of the Japanese manufacturers have idled their factories following last Friday's earthquake and tsunami. The disaster has caused disruption throughout the domestic industry and supply chain (Automotive News)
• Nissan and Infiniti lose 2300 vehicles awaiting shipment, which were hit by the devestating tsunami following the earthquake in northern Japan (Automotive News)
• French police question Renault security staff and open an organised fraud investigation (Reuters) 
• The ramifications of the ongoing Renault spy scandal may affect Renault's plans to alter the structure of its alliance with Nissan (Bloomberg) 

Friday 11 March 2011
• CPP, the UK coachbuilding firm owned by Russian investor Vladimir Antonov, have announced the successful acquisition of Bowler, UK makers of the Wildcat and Nemesis off-road racing vehicles for an undisclosed sum. Bowler will be joined by Spyker sports cars in Coventry-based CPP's growing portfolio of brands (CPP)
• Toyota has been forced to close some of its export assembly plants in the wake of the magnitude 8.9 earthquake and tsunami which struck Japan earlier today (Automotive News)
• Saab owner Victor Muller dismisses yesterday's comments by Spyker investor Vladimir Antonov on Saab missing its 2011 sales targets as 'nonsense' (Automotive News Europe) 
• UK car insurers have been criticised by the government's Transport Select Committee for encouraging injury claims in return for referral fees from lawyers (BBC News)
• Chrysler fires its US social media marketing firm after an 'F-word' profanity appears on the firm's Twitter feed (Detroit News)
• Further examination of the changes in GM's executive management (Detroit News)

Thursday 10 March 2011
• Citroen WRC boss Olivier Quesnel is confident Citroen can compete against VW's rumoured £86m WRC programme in 2012 (Autosport)
• BMW beat analysts' expectations with a 19% rise in earnings for 2010 and a profit of £3.12bn, up from £180.6m in 2009. The new 5-Series and Mini Countryman are cited as key vehicles in the improved performance (Bloomberg)
• GM's Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Chris Lidell, formerly CFO of Microsoft, will leave the firm on April 1. His replacement is Dan Ammann, currently GM's Treasurer. In a curious coincidence, both men are from New Zealand (Automotive News)
• Renault's board contemplates its options for the three executives dismissed as part of the industrial espionage affair, along with the future of COO Patrick Pelata(Automotive News)
• VW remains committed to merging with Porsche, but warns of significant legal and tax barriers (Reuters)
• Vladimir Antonov, invester in Saab-Spyker and recently-announced buyer of the Spyker sports car business, believes Saab will miss its 2011 sales targets (Automotive News Europe)
• Ford Australia have released details of its new 2011 Ford Territory diesel crossover SUV, which will use the 2.7-litre TDV6 engine built by Ford at Dagenham and previously used by Jaguar-Land Rover (The Age)

Wednesday 9 March 2011
• Audi aims for growth and possible manufacturing in the US (Detroit News) 
• VW has had the best February sales of its history. A record 758 100 VWs found owners worldwide in February 2011 (VW)
• New car sales growth in China has slowed to 2.6% year on year in February, its lowest since a drop of 7.8 percent in 2009. 967,200 new vehicles were sold. (Automotive News)
• In contrast, new sales in Russia are up 80% year on year in February 2011, with 165,518 vehicles sold (Automotive News Europe)
• Toyota has released its Toyota Global Vision strategy, seeking to double operating profits by 2015 amoingst other improvements (Automotive News)

Tuesday 8 March 2011
• Ford UK is celebrating its 100th anniversary today (Ford)
• Audi posted its best financial results ever for 2010, with sales of 1,092,411 and profits of £3.13bn (Audi).
• Fiat announce Alfa Romeo will launch in Mexico this summer with the Mito, Giulietta and 159, and is also considering a second Fiat model to be assembled at Chrysler's Toluca, Mexico plant (Automotive News)

Monday 7 March 2011
• More than half – 14 – of the 25 Caterham-Lola SP300 Rs have been sold, just one month after being unveiled (Caterham)
• The French government is embarrased by the latest developments in the Renault spy scandal; COO Patrick Pelata's future with the company in doubt, reports a news agency (Reuters)
• Fisker aims to sell 7000 of its Karma range-extender EV saloon this year, and 12,000 in 2012 (Automotive New Europe)
• BMW sees a good start to 2011 and looks to Brazil and India for further sales growth (Automotive News Europe)
• GM and Mazda US production disrupted by a fire at supplier Magna International's plant in Howell, Michigan (Automotive News)

Friday 4 March 2011
• Bristol Cars has collapsed into administration Read CAR's story here
• The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has released UK new car registration figures showing year-to-date registrations of 190,876 vehicles
in 2011. New registrations are down 10.3% on 2010 figures (SMMT)
• Chrysler is in refinancing talks ahead of its post-bankruptcy initial public offering of shares (Automotive News)
• Standard & Poors revises Toyota's debt rating downwards, citing weak profitability (Detroit News)
• Renault chief operating officer Patrick Pelata expresses doubt over the industrial espionage case which led to the dismissal of three executives on Renault's EV programme, and an ongoing investigation (Automotive News Europe)

Thursday 3 March 2011
• Newswatch March delayed by two days due to the CAR news team covering the motor industry's most significant annual international trade show taking place in Geneva. Normal service resumes today!
• Japanese trading house Itochu Corp has purchased major tyre and vehicle servicing chain Kwik-Fit for £637 million (Reuters)  
• VW appears to be starting a price war in Europe with its regional rivals PSA, Fiat and Renault (Automotive News Europe)
• One Ford reaches the Mustang – Ford's network of international design studios will compete to design the next-generation of the iconic pony car (Automotive News)

By Mark Hamilton