News watch December 2012: today's auto industry news

News watch December 2012: today's auto industry news

By Ollie Kew

Motor Industry

31 December 2012 09:30

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

Monday 31 December 2012
• Despite reports earlier this month that shareholders valued Mercedes-Benz at half that of its luxury rival BMW, Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche has remained bullish about his ambitious targets for the carmaker's growth. 'I am confident that we will be ahead of our rivals by 2020 at the latest,' he told German newspaper Boersen-Zeitung in an interview. He said he hoped to reach that target during his time in office. Zetsche's contract currently runs until December 2013 but is expected to be extended by three years in February 2013. Daimler has already promised €2bn (£1.63bn) in cost cuts at the Mercedes-Benz division by the end of 2014, after warning in October that it would miss its operating profit target this year by €1bn. Zetsche admitted to the newspaper Mercedes had failed to keep up with its rivals in the compact car market and in China (Automotive News Europe)
• Peter Schreyer has been promoted from design boss to president of Kia. He's the first non-Korean to hold the post. German-born Shreyer joined Kia in 2006 after a stint at Audi (where he played a part in the design of the original TT), and has since introduced the Kia brand's corporate 'tiger nose' look, now seen on all Kia models (Kia Motors)

Friday 28 December 2012
• According to Bloomberg, Audi plans to spend €13bn (€10.6bn) between now and 2016 to develop new cars and expand production capacity as it pursues BMW's lead in the premium car maker stakes. Audi aims to sell at least 2m cars a year and overtake BMW by the end of the decade. The brand's expansion is part of Volkswagen's goal to become the world's largest automaker by 2018. The manufacturer plans to spend €50.2 bn on its auto division, including Audi, through 2015. However, leader BMW is expected to widen its advantage in 2013. The carmaker will increase sales 4.6% to 1.54m vehicles in 2013, beating Audi's 1% growth to 1.44m units, according to estimates from industry researcher IHS Automotive (Automotive News Europe)
• Toyota Europe boss has reconfirmed that the company's automaking operations will make money for the first time in five years. 'Despite a difficult market, we are on track to return our automotive operations to a profit in the current fiscal year,' Toyota Europe CEO Didier Leroy told Automotive News Europe (Automotive News Europe)
• Nissan's luxury brand Infiniti will likely take longer than 2016 to meet its goal of 100,000 annual vehicle sales in Europe, Infiniti President Johan de Nysschen said. The target stills stands but Infiniti will likely not meet the timeline that was originally set, he said. Renault-Nissan CEO Carlo Ghosn had set a target for Infiniti to boost annual sales in Europe, including Turkey and Russia, to 100,000 vehicles by 2016 from 12,500 last year. The goal was part of Ghosn's ambition to triple Infiniti's global sales to 500,000 units by 2016 from 146,000 last year (ANE)
• Nissan Motor has confirmed it will replace some poorly performing batteries in its electric Leaf and will offer expanded warranty coverage to address battery issues for 18,000 U.S. owners. It's after some Leaf owners in hot-weather climates have complained of poor performance and battery capacity loss in the Leaf's lithium-ion battery (DetNews)

Friday 21 December 2012

• Since the first RX400h took to the road in 2005, through to the end of November this year, Lexus has sold more than 506,000 vehicles equipped with its Lexus Hybrid Drive system. In the UK more than 32,700 Lexus hybrids have been sold, with the RX the best-performing model. In 2005 26,000 vehicles Lexus hybrids were sold, while by 30 November this year the annual total was already at 113,000.  Today hybrids account for about 25 per cent of all Lexus sales (Lexus)

Thursday 20 December 2012
• Up to 13,500 Hyundai Velosters are being recalled in the US due to weakened panoramic glass roofs, which could shatter when the vehicle is in motion, or in a crash. A separate issue being chased up by Hyundai relates to the parking brake, which may become clogged with road dirt and not engage properly (safercar.gov)
• On 1 February 2013, Neil Williamson will take his place as Director of Seat UK, reporting to Volkswagen Group UK Managing Director Simon Thomas. Mr Williamson is making the move from Mercedes' retail Group. At the same time, the current Seat UK Director, Peter Wyhinny, will begin a new role as Director of Seat Italy (Seat)
• General Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroen will team up from 2016 to produce a new range of shared-component vehicles. The three compact vehicle platforms will nevertheless 'highly differentiated' to maintain their divisions’ identities, according to a report from Bloomberg (Automotive News Europe)
• Chevrolet's next-gen Camaro will be built in the US, according to GM. Production of the current retro muscle car is handled in Ontario, Canada, but from 2016 the Camaro will be stamped out at GM's Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant in Michigan (DetNews)

Wednesday 19 December 2012
• The recently facelifted versions of the Toyota Aygo/Citroen C1/Peugeot 107 city car trio have had their safety ratings downgraded in the latest round of Euro NCAP crash tests. Back in 2005 the then-new triplets scored four stars overall, but the increasingly strict tests, and ageing cars, have led to NCAP scoring the cars as three star models. Dr Michiel van Ratingen, Euro NCAP Secretary General says: ‘Our test protocols have evolved significantly over the past few years. There are more tests and the requirements have become more stringent. Despite this, many manufacturers have engineered their latest cars to achieve the highest score. On the other hand, we see that some manufacturers continue to offer popular best sellers without making the necessary incremental updates to safety. It is those models that obviously fall behind other, more modern cars competing in the same category.’ The current model of Aygo and its twins lack basic items such as side impact airbags and electronic stability control as standard equipment. In response to Euro NCAP's findings, Toyota will make safety kit like side head and thorax airbags, ESP and seatbelt warnings standard on all cars from July 2013 (Euro NCAP)
• Former Porsche SE CEO Wendelin Wiedeking and ex-CFO Holger Haerter have been charged with market manipulation by Stuttgart prosecutors over the use of options in the failed bid to take over Volkswagen AG. The indictment was filed after more than three years of investigations. The part of the probe looking into allegations of breach of trust was dropped, Claudia Krauth, spokeswoman for Stuttgart prosecutors, said in an e-mailed statement today. The two men and Porsche have denied the allegations. (Bloomberg)

Tuesday 18 December 2012
• Are you the lucky owner of a facelifted Porsche 997 GT3? If so, you may be one of the 455 owners in line for a recall, after it was found that the wheelhubs of the gen2 cars' lightweight centre-lock alloys could fail, causing a wheel to detach, a loss of control, and a crash. The defect only affects rear wheels; it appears longer-than-ideal service intervals are to blame for the failure of the components. The recall affects GT3s built from 15 May 2009 to 11 February 2010 . Porsche will contact owners in due course to organise replacement wheel hub fitment (safercar.gov)
• Porsche’s board has unanimously elected Dr. Wolfgang Porsche as its chairman. The grandson of the company’s founder, Prof. Ferdinand Porsche, and son of Ferry Porsche is also chairman of the Supervisory Boards of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG and Porsche Automobil Holding SE and a member of the Supervisory Board of Volkswagen AG (Porsche AG)
• Volvo expects 2013 to be a year of flat sales, though the Swedish company says it has no current plans to cut more staff to help balance its books. Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson said the company was budgeting for sales of 400,000 to 410,000 cars next year, roughly on par or slightly below this year's level. Volvo, which was sold by Ford to China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group in 2010, sold 450,000 cars last year and has an ambitious target to reach 800,000 annual sales in 2020 (Automotive News Europe)
• Renault has confirmed plans to build a factory in Oran, Algeria, as part of its push for growth in Africa. An agreement with the Algerian government will be signed during French president Francois Hollande's visit to the North African country this week. Algeria is a fast-growing car market: new car sales there boomed by 46.5% to 225,000 vehicles during the first six months of 2012. The new Renault facility will eventually produce 75,000 vehicles annually, according to a spokesperson (Automotive News Europe)
• In other Renault news, the company has set a challenge for Gerard Detourbet, the designer responsible for the low-budget Dacia Logan that's seen great success in eastern Europe. Renault wants Detourbet to come up with an even cheaper viable car that can fight Hyundai and Suzuki in emerging markets, especially India (Automotive News Europe
• According to The Detroit News, Toyota said today it will pay a record-setting $17.35m (£10.7m) fine for delaying the recall of 154,000 Lexus SUVs over pedal entrapment issues, and promises that it will 'make significant changes in how it responds to safety issues'. This latest fine is Toyota's fourth in 2010, relating to dithering over recalling unsafe cars while it assessed the reported faults (DetNews)

Monday 17 December 2012
• Skoda has begun producton of the new Octavia at its Mladá Boleslav plant in the Czech Republic. The Octavia is is by far the brand’s bestselling model, contributing to 44% of worldwide deliveries in the first eleven months of 2012 (Skoda)
• Moustachioed Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche may have vowed to make Merc the world's biggest luxury car brand by 2020, but his shareholders aren't so optimistic. Daimler investors value the Mercedes-Benz cars unit at half what rival BMW would command, according to latest German reports. It's not actually as outlandish a claim as you might first imagine: market capitalisation at BMW has reached €45bn (£36.5bn), versus €42.2bn (£34.2bn) for Daimler. With the subtraction of a reasonable price for Daimler's truck business (incidentally the world's biggest HGV maker) the market value of Mercedes' car arm stands alone at around €25bn (£20.3bn). 'The market is saying that the prospects for Mercedes are much worse than for BMW,' said Hans-Peter Wodniok, an analyst with Fairesearch in Kronberg, Germany. 'The market's always right. In terms of innovation, BMW is the leader.' Lagging growth in China, sluggish expansion into popular segments like compact crossover SUVs, and an image that lacks appeal for younger drivers have hindered the Mercedes marque, allowing the BMW and Audi brands to widen their sales lead in the luxury segment. The growing gap comes a year after Zetsche, whose current contract expires at the end of 2013, vowed to almost double deliveries to 2.6m vehicles by the end of the decade and regain the top spot, which Mercedes relinquished in 2005. Zetsche has also announced in 2012 that Mercedes will introduce 10 new models by 2020, the first of which was the CLS Shooting Brake (Automotive News Europe)
• Renault has sold its share in Volvo's truck-building arm in order to concentrate funds on its troubled car business. The deal's proceeds amounted to a total of €1.47bn for Renault (Renault)
• Could the tax disc be abolished? More and more momentum is forming behind proposals to scrap the paper tax disc, due to its obsolescence nowadays. DVLA computers can now determine a car's tax status from their own databases, which, say campaigners, removes the need for a visual aid in the form of a paper disc in the windscreen (BVRLA)

Friday 14 December 2012
• Lamborghini is recalling 144 examples of its Aventador supercar due to a headlight fault. The recall affects cars built between 15 July 2011 and 20 April 2012 (Motor Authority)
• Volvo has received a $1.2bn (£740m) loan from the Chinese Investment Bank, in order to help the Swedish automaker pay off existing debts and invest in new models. Volvo, which is owned by Chinese outfit Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, has said it will invest $11bn as it aims to double total sales by 2020 to 800,000 vehicles. Currently, production at Volvo's European factories has been wound down from full capacity due to poor demand (Automotive News Europe)
• US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will meet with officials in Washington later this month to finalise regulations imposing rear-view cameras on all new cars sold in the US. Congress approved legislation in 2007 requiring the government to set rear visibility standards by February 2011, but LaHood has exercised his power to delay the rule. Low-speed pedestrian collisions, called 'backovers' in the USA, kill about 300 people annually and injure 16,000. About one-third of fatalities involve children age 5 or younger. Carmakers have warned that the move will add around $200 to the cost of each new car (DetNews)
• The Volkswagen Group recorded a further increase in worldwide vehicle deliveries from January to November, topping the eight million mark for the first time in this period. VAG saw a 10.4% increase to 8.29m vehicles from January to November, with an 11.7% rise in month of November alone (VAG)

Thursday 13 December 2012
• According to the latest SMMT figures, UK car manufacturing rose 4.9% in November and 9.2% over the year-to-date. UK engine production fell slightly though, down 1.4% in November and 0.3% for the year-to-date (SMMT)
• Production of the Citroen C6 comes to a close at the end of December 2012, marking the end of a 57-year run of big French saloons that began with the Citroen DS. Only 556 C6s were sold in Europe in the first 10 months of this year (Automotive News Europe)
• Sources report Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne will soon give details of his plans for the production of Fiat and Jeep SUV models at the automaker's factory in Melfi, southern Italy. One of the new models is thought to be the 500X, a crossover replacement for the Fiat Sedici (Automotive News Europe)

Wednesday 12 December 2012
• Jaguar Land Rover has recorded record sales for November 2012: JLR sold 29,893 vehicles in the month of November, an increase of 14% versus the same period last year. During the first 11 months of the year, Jaguar Land Rover sold 324,184 vehicles, up 32%. November sales increased in almost every major market with sales up in China (43%), Asia Pacific (26%), the UK (15%) and Europe (12%). In North America, sales were down 7%, reflecting model year changeover effects and increased competitive conditions. Since the start of the year, Jaguar Land Rover has seen strong sales performance across all of its major markets, with increases in China (73%), Asia Pacific (37%), the UK (20%), Europe (37%) and North America (12%) (JLR)
• This year, Porsche has delivered 128,978 new cars, surpassing last year's total of 118,868 with one month to spare. November 2012, the Stuttgart-based sports car manufacturer sold a total of 12,928 vehicles, achieving an increase of 38.7% over the same month last year (Porsche AG)
• PSA/Peugeot-Citroen will cut an additional 1500 jobs by 2014, deepening its workforce reduction as auto sales in the region plunge to a 17-year low. The redundancies come on top of 8000 job losses in July and will be made by not replacing people who leave, said Jonathan Goodman, a PSA spokesman (ANE)

Tuesday 11 December
• Volkswagen's worldwide sales grew 11.5% in November 2012, delivering 504,800 vehicles. That compares to 453,000 in November 2011. So far in 2012, VW has delivered 4.69m cars, up 11.2% on 2011's performance. (Volkswagen)
• It's a busy day for Jaguar news: for the full story on the canned C-X75 supercar, please click here. To read CAR's report on the planned Saudi Arabian JLR car factory, click here.
• Nissan is set to finish 2012 with a strong sales performance: the Japanese company has retained its 3.7% market share up to the end of November 2012; this contributed to the 48,581 units sold during the month. In the UK and Russia, where Nissan has some of its busiest factory facilities, year-to-date sales were up 15.7% and 5% respectively (Nissan)
• Russian new-car sales in November were flat for the first time in more than two years, as Russians put off spending following a slowdown in the country's economy. Western carmakers such as GM, Ford, Renault and Fiat have invested heavily in Russia in the hope a growing middle class will increase its spending, but a slowing economy and rising interest rates have caused would-be buyers to pull back, analysts said. A total of 240,322 vehicles were sold in November, up 0.4% from a year ago, a slowdown from the previous month when sales rose an annualized 5 percent, the Association of European Businesses (AEB) said. Industry analysts predict car sales figures could remain flat until 2015 (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 10 December 2012
•  Opel has told employees today that it plans to end vehicle production at the Bochum plant in Germany in June 2016. The company said it does not plan to give the plant another product once the Zafira completes its lifecycle, given Europe's shrinking vehicle sales market and overcapacity issues. 'Despite intensive efforts, this situation could not be changed,' Opel said in a news release (DetNews)

Friday 7 December 2012
• In the latest fuel economy scandal to hit US-market motors, Ford's new C-Max Hybrid is coming under fire for its seemingly unachievable mileage figures. Fans on Ford's C-Max Facebook page have panned the car for not achieving anywhere close to its quoted 47 miles per gallon. Trade watchdog Consumer Reports said the car's fuel efficiency fell 10 (US) mpg in testing — getting 37mpg combined, with 35mpg for city driving and 38mpg highway. Ford's Fusion Hybrid, certified for the same 47mpg, scored 39mpg in testing overall, with 35mpg city and 41mpg highway. 'These two vehicles have the largest discrepancy between our overall-mpg results and the estimates published by the EPA that we've seen', Consumer Reports said in a statement. This follows a reprimand for Kia and Hyundai after their US arms were found to have artificially inflated claims of fuel efficiency for their most popular compact models (DetNews)
• Italian private equity fund Investindustrial announced today that it has agreed it a deal to invest in Aston Martin. For the full story, please click here.
• Sales of Hyundai's Golf sized i30 family hatchback have surpassed half a million units in Europe. Global sales of the car since its first-gen outing in 2007 have now topped 1m: 59,000 i30s have found homes in the UK. The total makes the i30 Hyundai's best-selling European model (Hyundai)
• Ford has reported positive results, seeing its car sales grow ahead of the UK market trend. Ford car sales in November were 21,152, accounting for 14.2% of the market, while for the year-to-date Ford registrations of 266,261 equate to a 13.9% share and are up 6% compared with the same period in 2011. The Fiesta and Focus continue to occupy the two best-selling model spots in the country (Ford Motor Co.)
• Mercedes-Benz UK has scored a record 4.5% new car registration market share for the year-to-date, according to figures released by the SMMT. In total, 6625 cars were registered by Mercedes-Benz in the UK in November – adding to a total of 85,819 cars for the year-to-date. It's not just the new A-class and B-class propping up the numbers either: high-performance arm AMG is enjoying bumper sales. AMG's sales rose 88.1% in November, part of a  135.8% rise in the first 11 months of 2012. AMG models released in 2012 include the C63 Black Series, SLK55, SL55 and SL65, G63, ML63 and GL63 (Mercedes-Benz)

Thursday 6 December 2012
• The latest news in the Aston Martin sale story: private equity fund Investindustrial is near an agreement to buy an Aston Martin stake to shore up the finances of sports car maker, according to reports from Automotive News Europe. The exact size of the stake transaction, which values the automaker at about £750m including debt, has not yet been determined (ANE)
• According to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, UK new car registrations rose 11.3% to 149,191 units in November, on the back of increased private demand. The UK new car market has grown 5.4% to 1,921,052 units during the January-November period. This positive performance over the year-to-date puts the full year market on track to be the best since 2008. The UK is now the second largest new car market in Europe, following growth in the UK over the last 10 months and a drop in demand in the other big markets (SMMT)
• Tesla, the US brand behind the electric only Roadster and Model S, has reported positive cash-flow for the first time in its history. Founder and CEO Elon Musk shared the news via his personal Twitter feed. Tesla, which hasn’t yet turned a quarterly profit, is racing to expand production of the rechargeable Model S sedan at its factory in Fremont, California. The base price of the car will increase by $2,500 to $59,900 on 1 January 2012 (Bloomberg)
• BMW predicts the new 4-series Coupe and Convertible will push the brand to even higher sales records when it goes on sale late next year. BMW said sales will probably reach a third consecutive annual record in 2013, due to the glut of new models on the way, including the 3-series GT and X5. The U.S. car market is 'continuing to be in good shape,' Ian Robertson, BMW’s head of sales and marketing, said at a presentation of the new 4-series concept in Munich late yesterday. The U.S. will be the biggest market for the car, which replaces the coupe version of the 3-Series next year, followed by Germany and the U.K., he said. Growth in demand in China and the U.S. has largely shielded Munich-based BMW from the effects of the sovereign-debt crisis in Europe, where the car market may shrink by the most in almost two decades this year (Bloomberg)

Wednesday 5 December 2012
• Nissan and Fiat are engaged in a war of words over the styling of their respective electric cars. Fiat began the spat with a subtle dig at the Nissan Leaf: 'Let's be honest, ugliness is probably one of the worst forms of pollution,' marketing head Matt Davis told Bloomberg News. 'The Fiat 500e proves that you do not have to give up on good looks to deliver an electric car.' Nissan has now hit back at Fiat, saying 'Let's face it, Fiat has not shied away from controversial styling themselves. Many would describe many of their products as visual pollution. Take a long, hard look at the Fiat Doblo.' (Automotive News Europe)
• Volkswagen Group has named Renault's former chief of Europe, Jacques Rivoal, as president of the German automaker's French operations. Rivoal, 54, will spearhead VW's aggressive campaign to gain more market share in Renault's home market. That's bad news for Renault and Peugeot-Citroen: despite the French new car market being in its lowest state since 1997, VW's market share is actually increasing, from 12.3% to 13.8% in the first 11 months of 2012 (Automotive News Europe)
• Sales of the US-market Dodge Dart make for worrying reading for Dodge: the compact family car is missing sales targets and saw sales fall by 1000 to just 4849 units. This comes in the month the rest of the US car industry has posted its strongest sales in five years. The disappoint performance is being blamed on the Dart's much-lauded 100,000 customisation possibilities, which is causing a several month waiting list that puts off new buyers. Something for the million-combo Vauxhall Adam to ponder...(DetNews)

Tuesday 4 December 2012
• New car sales in the Italian market fell by 20% in November, according to latest figures. The numbers freefall comes after a 12.4% plunge in October. This year is shaping up to be even worse than 2011, when Italian car sales fell 10.% to 1.4m cars, dropping for the fourth year in a row (Automotive News Europe)
• Daimler has refused to comment on rumours that Mercedes may co-build cars in Mexico with high-end Nissan arm Infiniti. The report, in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, cited a senior source at Daimler as saying the two automakers planned to build a plant in Mexico to manufacture Mercedes small cars and Infiniti luxury vehicles, but added that no final decision had been reached on the project (Automotive News Europe)
• Good news from across The Pond: America's automakers reported their strongest monthly sales in nearly five years yesterday, suggesting a solid end to 2012 and continued recovery in 2013. Overall industry sales totaled more than 1.14m units in the United States in November — up 15% from the 994,721 reported during the same period a year ago (DetNews)

Monday 3 December 2012
• Porsche has restyled its Macan SUV with a more radical exterior after noticing the considerable sales success of the Range Rover Evoque. The 'baby-Cayenne', which goes on sale in late 2014, has got a bolder look according to Porsche design chief Michael Mauer, though Mauer did not specify exactly which aspects of the Evoque the Macan would cherry-pick. The SUV is part of Porsche's plans to double annual vehicle sales to 200,000 by 2018 (Automotive News Europe)
• The details of Lotus' response lawsuit to ex-CEO Dany Bahar's unlawful dismissal row have emerged, with the Norfolk carmaker seeking to recoup £2.5m of unauthorised expenses and overpaid wages. Bahar is also accused of leaving Lotus saddled with the cost of his lavish lifestyle, including a private chauffeur, helicopter travel and ten wristwatches. Bahar himself dismissed the claims as 'ill-founded'. (Automotive News Europe)
• Aston Martin could have its credit rating downgraded as it chews through cash reserves, according to Bloomberg reports. The Gaydon-based carmaker is said to have 'high credit risk' by Moody's, thanks to a weak performance and poor cash-flow in the third quarter of 2012 (Bloomberg)