News watch Feb 2010: today's auto industry news

Published: 25 February 2010

Welcome to CAR's news aggregator as we round up the seismic change in the auto industry. Top tip: news summaries are added from the top hour-by-hour

Thursday 25 February 2010
The European Investment Bank today completed the £340 million loan to Jaguar Land Rover. It's an eight-year loan to fund the development of micro and full hybrid drivetrains and new lightweight body tech (JLR)
GM is to close Hummer after the deal to sell to the Chinese – as reported yesterday – fell through. GM refused to divulge why the Hummer sale foundered, but said it was winding down the business with immediate effect (BBC News)
Toyota president Akio Toyoda burst into tears during his Congressional hearing; a tearful Toyoda admitted that Toyota would have to 'rethink everything' as it rebuilt its reputation after the global safety recall of some 8 million vehicles (Automotive News)

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Europe's car industry does not expect a quick recovery this year, warns Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche. Speaking as president of European trade  body ACEA, he warned that the 2010 economy only looked marginally improved because 2009 was so terrible (Automotive News Europe)
Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery's deal to buy Hummer from GM may be in trouble, reports the BBC. Apparently the Chinese government is withholding permission for the deal. An announcement is due on 28 February (BBC News)
UK car dealer group Pendragon reports a stronger growth in uprmarket cars, including Mercedes and Maseratis (Automotive News Europe)
Toyota vows to respond more quickly to consumer complaints, as bosses take to Congress (Automotive News)
Toyota president Okio Toyoda's opening remarks ahead of his Congressional hearing later today admit that Toyota expanded too quickly (BBC News)
GM is powering ahead and has invested $1.4 billion in more than a dozen US plants and created some 5500 jobs since emerging from bankruptcy in July 2009, reports local paper (Detroit News)

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Spyker issued a short press release at 3.39pm GMT today, confirming it has completed its acquisition of Saab. Saab Automobile and Spyker Cars are now sister companies under the umbrella of Amsterdam-listed parent firm Spyker Cars NV. Spyker boss Victor Muller said: 'We are delighted – Saab's future is now secure. From today we will be concentrating all of our efforts into reviving Saab and transforming it into a sustainable and profitable company with the confidence to be bold. We will reinforce the emotional experience between Saab drivers and their cars and we will focus on Saab's historical strengths in the fields of independent thinking, aircraft heritage, ecological performance and motorsport. Through this acquisition we add approximately €15 per share in equity and €60 of assets. With a well funded business plan in place we are looking forward to working with Saab's management on the realisation of that plan and bringing exciting new products to our customers. Real Saabs, Saab Saabs' (Spyker)
Toyota US boss Jim Lentz will start his Congress hearing today to answer politicians' questions over the recall; global chief Akio Toyoda is due tomorroow (BBC News)
Toyota is temporarily halting production in France and the UK to cut inventory as the recall crisis dents sales in key markets around the world (Automotive News)
Cadillac plans to relaunch in Europe after its distributor Kroymans collapsed into bankruptcy in 2009 (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 22 February 2010

BMW today confirmed it is gearing up its Leipzig plant to build electric vehicles. It has also struck a deal with composite specialists to make carbonfibre in Wackersdorf in preparation for the new Megacity Vehicle, due in the first half of this decade under a sub-brand of BMW (BMW)
Honda UK has appointed David Hodgetts managing director from 1 April. He replaces Ken Keir, who has been promoted to executive vice president of Honda Motor Europe. Hodgetts has 20 years' experience at Honda (Honda UK)
General Motors has revealed that new CEO Ed Whitacre will be paid $1.7 million with a $7.3m payment in shares at a later date. The deal was approved by the US Treasury, and former chief exec Fritz Henderson is being paid $59,090 a month in a consultancy role (BBC News)
Toyota president Akio Toyoda is preparing for the grilling he's due to receive at Congress, reports AN. It reveals that Toyoda is set to receive trial interrogations by fast-speaking US lawyers to make sure he's up to speed for a rough ride with US politicians (Automotive News)
The French government has vowed to prevent any petrol and diesel shortages after local strikes by Total staff continued to strike over the possible closure of the Dunkirk refinery (BBC News)

Friday 19 February 2010

Jaguar Land Rover has appointed Ralf Speth as CEO. German-born Speth, 54, is a former exec at Ford and BMW – and was vice president of Land Rover when BMW owned the brand (Automotive News)
Renault has appointed 11 specialist Renaultsport dealers across the UK. Each will have a dedicated Renaultsport sales and aftersales expert, and the full hot hatch range available for test drives (Renault) 
British petrol prices have failed to fall despite a drop in wholesale fuel prices. The AA says the average price of a litre of unleaded remains at 112p, but the wholesale price has dropped 2p in the past month (BBC News)
The president of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, has stood up to his critics and will address the US Congress next week over the global recall that affects some 8 million vehicles (BBC News)
Daimler shares slumped after the company refused to pay a dividend in the wake of its first loss for nine years (Financial Times)

Thursday 18 February 2010

UK car production increased rapidly last month, new figures out today show. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said volumes rose 65% on January 2009 – the biggest monthly increase since 1976 (BBC News)
British car parts specialist Halfords is moving into car servicing after it bought Nationwide Autocentres for £73 million. Nationwide's 224 outlets will be rebranded Halfords Autocentres (BBC News)
Contrary to rumours that he might step down, Daimler's supervisory board has extended CEO Dieter Zetsche's contract for another three years. It runs until 31 December 2013, at which point he will be 60 (Automotive News)
It's not all plain sailing at Daimler, however. It's reported a €352m loss in the fourth quarter of 2009 (Wall Street Journal)
Former Renault cars chief exec Louis Schweitzer will join Volvo Truck as chairman of the board (Automotive News)
Toyota president Akio Toyoda insists the company has nothing to hide, but yesterday he stressed he has no plans to testify in the US Congress on the recall scandal (Detroit News)

Wednesday 17 February 2010
Toyota is considering a recall on the Corolla, the world's best selling car, over a potential glitch on its power steering (BBC News)
Toyota is having to scale back its US factory overtime rotas because of falling sales in America. Tundra pick-up production will stop between 15 March and 12 April at the San Antonio plant, while assembly of Camry and Avalon sedans and the Venza crossover will be paused too (Autotmotive News)
European car makers will have to wean themselves off the drug of incentives, warns the Lex column (Financial Times)
GM is rolling out a costly programme to spruce up its American car dealerships (Detroit News)

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Alfa Romeo's return to the US is likely for 2012, officials at Fiat confirm. Chief exec Sergio Marionne is reported as saying: 'I'm a lot more confident now that Alfa Romeo will reconstitute a product offering that is acceptable globally, and more in particular in the United States and Canada. There is a strong likelihood that the brand will be back here within the next 24 months' (Automotive News)
Ford's deal to buy Volvo should be sealed in the coming weeks, with a price tag likely to be agreed just under $2 billion (Financial Times)

Monday 15 February 2010

Tata Motors announced its new CEO today: Carl-Peter Forster, the former chief exec of GM Europe until he quit after the Magna deal fell through last year (Tata Motors)
The full statement reads: 'Tata Motors has appointed Mr Carl-Peter Forster as the Group Chief Executive Officer of the company. He will have the overall responsibility of Tata Motors’ operations globally, including Jaguar Land Rover. Mr Forster, 55, has 24 years of international experience in the automobile industry. Most recently he was the head of General Motors Europe, where he looked after Opel/Vauxhall, Saab and the European activities of Chevrolet. Before joining General Motors in 2001, Mr Forster had 13 years' experience at BMW where he held various positions including that of managing director of BMW South Africa and was also on the managing board of BMW responsible for manufacturing. Mr Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Sons and Tata Motors, said, “Tata Motors expects that Mr Forster’s induction will greatly facilitate its ambition towards being a truly international company." '
Mini today confirmed prices for the Countryman will start at £16,000 (Mini)
Mercury will launch a small C-segment car based on the Ford Focus in 2011, the same year the Focus lands Stateside (Automotive News)
Fiat's new compact vehicle architecture will create 1 million cars a year by 2014, the company says: 700,000 Chrysler group products and 300,000 Fiat Group models – starting with the new Alfa Romeo Giulietta launched at next month's Geneva motor show. It will be available in Compact and Compact Wide formats (Automotive News Europe)
Advisors, lawyers and consultants have billed old GM more than $90 million in fees, new figures show. The money is essentially all being paid by the taxpayer (Detroit News)
BMW sales have jumped by 17% in January 2010 across the group. It shifted 82,120 units globally, compared with 70,419 last year (Automotive News Europe)
Vosa data in the UK reveals the manufacturers issuing the most recall notices in the UK last year: worst offenders were Citroën (16), Volvo (12) and Peugeot (nine recalls) (The Times)

Friday 12 February 2010

Spyker shareholders today approved the takeover of Saab. The meeting, which was closed to the public, ratified the Saab deal struck two weeks ago (Automotive News)

Thursday 11 February 2010

Renault today announced a massive €3 billion loss in 2009 – reflecting the big crash in sales and €1.6bn of losses in partner firms (Financial Times)
Renault said it was concentrating on generating positive cashflow in a tough 2010 market – despite a forecast 10% dip in European car sales this year. Renault shares dipped 4% (Automotive News Europe)
Nissan has invested £53 million in Sunderland to gear up for the new Juke crossover. At yesterday's launch, it said 1000 jobs would be safeguarded – with 2000 extra in the supply chain (BBC News)
Fiat-Chrysler plans to build 500,000 cars a year in Russia in a new €2.4bn joint venture with Sollers, its local car building partner (Automotive News)

Wednesday 10 February 2010
The mainstream media continue to latch on to Japanese manufacturer recalls; today the BBC reports that Honda has recalled a further 437,700 cars – mostly in the US – to an existing airbag safety recall (BBC News)
Meanwhile, Toyota today starts the extensive programme to fix potentially dodgy accelerator pedals in the UK. It can fix 6000 cars a day, so the whole process will take a month (BBC News)
PSA Peugeot Citroën has reported a boost from car scrappage schemes across Europe – despite filing a €1.16 billion (£1.02bn) loss in 2009 (BBC News)
But PSA predicts an operating profit in the first half of 2010, thanks to a cost-cutting programme and new product (Automotive News Europe)
Renault is reviewing its joint venture in India with Mahindra & Mahindra. The two companies manufacture the Logan saloon, but Renault is keen to shake up its operations, citing a local market due to treble in the next decade (Automotive News Europe)

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Opel/Vauxhall said today it would cut 8300 jobs over the next five years in a bid to return to profitability by 2012. It requires €3.3bn to run the company during the restructuring (Automotive News Europe)
Toyota's reputation in the public eye has taken a battering in the past 10 days, according to new research by pollsters YouGov (BrandIndex by YouGov)
New car CO2 emissions in the UK fell by 5.9% in 2009 – the biggest fall ever (SMMT)
Toyota today confirmed it was recalling a further 436,000 cars, this time hybrids including the new-gen Prius, Hybrid Sai and Lexus HS250h. A total of 8500 cars in the UK are involved in the recall, which will fix a braking problem on rough roads (BBC News)
Nissan has reported a return to profit in the last three months of 2009 – it announced a 45 billion yen profit (£320m) from October to December 2009 (BBC News)
Hyundai chairman Chung Mong-koo has been ordered to pay almost $60m in damages to his employer for losses from his business decisions. The AFP news agency reports it's in a civil court case and follows Mong-koo's conviction of embezzlement and breach of trust (Automotive News)
Spyker has secured the financing to close its purchase of Saab from GM, it said today. A $25m convertible loan agreement with Heerema Holding has come up with the goods. However, Spyker hasn't yet secured the funds for a subsequent $24m payment due on 15 July (Automotive News Europe)
Daimler shares leapt yesterday on the news that Wolfgang Bernhard had rejoined the board in charge of production, purchasing and the commercial vehicles division. He's touted as a possible successor to CEO Dieter Zetsche (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 8 February 2010

The European Commission today approved the Swedish government's support for the European Investment Bank loan of €400 million. New owner Spyker has said it needs around $1 billion to develop three or four new models – and a large tranche of that will come from the newly ratified EIB loan (Automotive News Europe)
The EC said the EIB loan was approved because European countries were allowed to provide finance to stricken companies. 'The state guarantee will contribute to the implementation of Saab's business plan without giving rise to any undue distortions of competition,' said competition commissioner Neelie Kroes (European Commission)
Toyota is planning to recall the new Prius owing to a possible fault with the brakes (BBC News)

Friday 5 February 2010

Toyota president Akio Toyoda has apologised for the recall of more than 8 million cars globally after a sticky throttle scare. He said he was 'deeply sorry' and called the recall scandal 'a moment of crisis' (BBC News)
The recall scandal is proof of mismanagement at Toyota, argues the FT. 'The car maker's breakneck growth has allowed defects to come into both its manufacturing and its communication with customers,' says a report – pointing out that Toyota sales have grown by 50% in the past decade to send it to no.1 (Financial Times)
Honda has raised its profits forecast after cost cuts sent profitability soaring to the highest for 18 months. Sales are on track to hit 3.6 million vehicles in the next business year and execs hint that an operating profit of around $1.1bn per quarter (Automotive News)
UK business secretary Peter Mandelson says European governments would consider aid to GM Europe if they were presented with a business plan (Automotive News Europe)
Suzuki tripled its operating profits in the last quarter, the company said today. Soaring sales in India helped lift the business, as it posted a 17.99 billion yen ($201m) operating profit from October to December (Automotive News Europe)

Thursday 4 February 2010

New car registrations in the UK rose for the seventh month in a row, figures out today reveal. The Society of Motor Manufacturers said 145,479 cars were sold in January, up 30% on the same month in 2009 (SMMT)
The new rolling forecast for UK new car sales in 2010 stands at 1.82 million cars, down 9% (SMMT)
A total of 316,210 cars have been sold under the UK's scrappage scheme, new figures out today reveal. Leading brands are Ford and Hyundai, which have both sold 36,000 cars with the Government-supported £2000 discount (SMMT)
Toyota says it will be nearly a week before it can start repairing the 180,000 cars in Britain affected by the global throttle recall. Toyota is recalling millions of cars around the world – yet this week announced a return to profit in the final quarter of 2009. It made 153 billion yen (£1.06bn) after a loss of a similar amount in the same period in 2008 (BBC News)
Separately, Toyota has admitted a problem in the brake software on the new Prius which can cause a clash between the ABS and the regenerative braking (BBC News)
Toyota officials stand accused of making different statements in public and in private about the unintended acceleration glitch, warns the US chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Henry Waxman (Automotive News)
Citroën, which has been dragged into the Toyota recall because of the city car joint venture, is recalling just 36 C1s in the UK, a spokesman told CAR (Citroën)
Fiat staff at plants across Italy walked out yesterday in a four-hour strike to protest against plans to close a factory in Sicily (Automotive News Europe)
Tesla has announced production of right-hand drive Roadsters; previously only LHD copies have been for sale (Tesla Motors)

Wednesday 3 February 2010
BMW and PSA Peugeot Citroen have agreed to continue their existing engine collaboration. BMW boss Norbert Reithofer and PSA chairman Philippe Varin signed the new deal in Paris, which will see the two companies working together to develop the next generation of four-cylinder petrol engines. BMW and PSA have also agreed to examine other areas for cooperation (BMW)
• The Electric Car Corporation's Citroën C1 ev’ie is set to get a new lithium-ion battery. Dundee-based Axeon, Europe’s largest independent lithium-ion battery systems supplier, will supply a battery pack with a higher energy density, following a 12-month trial (Axeon)

Tuesday 2 February 2010
 Spyker has outlined its plans for Saab, which include a new 'all Saab' 9-3 to be launched in 2012. (Saab)
 EuroNCAP has named the VW Golf as 'Safest Car of 2009' after ranking all the 33 models it crashed last year (Volkswagen) 
 Toyota's massive recall to fix fault accelerator pedals could cost the company £1.25bn in lost output and sales (BBC)
 Ford will unveil an Edge SUV at next week's Chicago auto show with a turbocharged four-cylinder Ecoboost engine, but the extensive visual mid-life facelift has been made economically possible thanks to Ford's worldwide consolidation of its model ranges (Detroit News)
 Toyota has denied that it ignored warnings and acted slowly over reports of unintended acceleration in its vehicles (Detroit News)

Monday 1 February 2010
Lotus's vehicle engineering director Roger Becker announced his retirement today. Becker, 64, joined Lotus in 1966, worked alongside Colin Chapman and helped develop every single model since (Group Lotus)
Tata Motors' total sales last month hit 65,478 vehicles – a rise of 77% over January 2009. That includes 4001 Nanos and Jaguar Land Rover sales were also up (Tata)
Spyker Cars has called an extraordinary general meeting on 12 February to ratify its takeover of Saab (Spyker Cars)
PSA Peugeot Citroen is recalling some of the 107 and C1 models it makes in Europe with Toyota, over fears the accelerator can jam. Peugeot said it will reall 'under 100,000' cars – on top of the 1.8 million cars Toyota is recalling across Europe (BBC News)
Recalls are in vogue; Honda too is recalling 646,000 vehicles globally to fix a switch problem that can cause a fire (BBC News)
New Saab owner Spyker promises not to cut the dealer network immediately and is working on a long-term financing agreement with GMAC to be the primary lender (Automotive News)
Tesla papers reveal that it will stop building the Elise-based Roadster in 2011 – because a new Elise/Exige line is due at Norfolk (Motor Trend)
Porsche Automobil Holding SE, the holding company, has appointed 31-year-old His Excellency Sheikh Jassim Bin Abdulaziz Bin Jassim Al-Thani onto the supervisory board. Qatar Holding LLC holds 10% of the ordinary shares in Porsche (Porsche)