Crunch watch October 09: the auto industry in crisis

Published: 29 October 2009

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

Friday 30 October 2009
Volkswagen generates a second consecutive quarterly profit, putting the German auto manufacturer in line to generate a profit over the course of 2009 (Financial Times)
Fisker Automotive buys a GM plant in Delaware, USA. The electric car specialist plans to build plug-in hybrid vehicles following a loan from the US Department of Energy (Copenhagen Post)
Ford Motor Co. today announced the preferred bidder for its Volvo car unit is China’s Geely Automobile Holdings. The move marks the second possible take-over of a major western company in 2009 (Reuters)
• Thanks to the government-led scrappage scheme, a new survey finds some new cars are cheaper to buy than second-hand ones (

Thursday 29 October 2009
Renault-Nissan has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Mexico City government to introduce the Leaf to Latin America in 2011 (Nissan)
Renault-Nissan has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Barcelona city government to introduce zero-emissions vehicles to the Catalan capital. Earlier this year Barcelona unveiled its plans to introduce 191 charging points across the city by 2011, as well as having tax breaks and special parking spaces for EVs (Nissan)
Lotus has begun offering the Evora's flexible platform to potential customers, showing it with an electric powertrain (Lotus)

Wednesday 28 October 2009
Ford has announced Chinese car maker Geely as its preferred bidder for Volvo, and that it doesn't intend to keep a stake in the troubled Swedish company after the sale (Ford)
Nissan's September production figures were down 8.5% year-on-year, and in the six months from April to September production was down 20.9%. But although global sales in those six months were down 10.5% year-on-year, in September alone sales increased 0.7% versus the previous year (Nissan)
Lotus has created a new role, Director of Motorsport, and appointed Claudio Berro to the position. Berro – who previously worked for Ferrari, Maserati and Fiat – will report directly to CEO Dany Bahar and oversee the return of Lotus to high-level motorsport (Lotus) 
Ferrari has reported its financial results for the first nine months of 2009. Revenues were down to €1287m (from €1419m over the same nine months in 2008), with 4680 cars delivered (down 6.9%), resulting in Ferrari’s profit dropping from €243m to €176m. However, in the last three months 1454 cars were delivered, a decrease of 4.3%, but Ferrari claims the high-end market in which it competes is down around 40%, so it has increased its market share in every country where it sells cars (Ferrari)

Tuesday 27 October 2009
The founder of Caterham Cars, Graham Nearn, has died. He worked on the Lotus Seven since 1959 and then stepped in to continue production at Caterham in 1973. The Nearn family continued to run Caterham until a management buy-out led by ex-Lotus general manager Ansar Ali in 2005 (Caterham Cars)
Tata Motors has reported a growth in revenues of 13% in the third quarter (Tata)
Nissan says the scrappage scheme has boosted Micra production at its Sunderland, UK, plant by 40%. It built 11,000 cars in September 2009 (BBC News)
Honda's profits in the third quarter halved to 54bn Yen (£359m). It blamed the strong yen for falling sales in overseas markets (BBC News)
But ANE reports that Honda today surprised investors by announcing a near tripling in its annual profits forecast thanks to stimulated demand from scrappage incentives. Its operating profit outlook has risen to 190bn Yen ($2.1bn) for the year ending March 2010 (Automotive News, subscription required)

Monday 26 October 2009

PSA chief executive Phillipe Varin has said he is talking to his BMW counterpart Norbert Reithofer about extending cooperation in purchasing and components, including transmissions and climate control systems. Current Peugeot Citroen and BMW share the 1.6 petrol engine in the Mini and PSA's small cars – and Varin said it might offer Munich a new three-cylinder engine in 2011 (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
GM said it would delay the sale of Vauxhall and Opel until early November while it responds to an EU review of the deal. Chief negotiator John Smith said the board would meet on 3 November to discuss the EU's concerns over the legality of state aid and the proposed sale to Magna (Financial Times)
Toyota expects global sales to fall 18% this year – but new president Akio Toyoda vows that won't continue. 'It is management's job to prepare for the next growth strategy... I won't accept Toyota as a shrinking business,' he tells Ray Hutton (The Times)
A sign of the times: Dodge is pricing the new and improved 2010 Ram heavy-duty pick-ups cheaper than the outgoing 2009 model year cars (Automotive News, subscription required)
Volkswagen aims to take over Karmann to stop it going bust, ANE reports. The coachbuilder and convertible roof specialist will otherwise have to shut down in early November (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)

Friday 23 October 2009
GM chief exec Fritz Henderson is going to take a 25% pay cut to $950,000 as part of president Obama's mission to to reduce the salaries of the top 175 execs of the seven companies that received federal bail-outs (Automotive News, subscription required)
The downward drop in car manufacturing in the UK has slowed more than at any point in the past year, reports the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)
In more good news, the SMMT is revising its total annual UK sales forecast up by 100,000 units after the scrappage scheme boosted sales. It now predicts 1,928,100 car registrations in 2009 – and expects that to fall further to 1,777,100 next year before a small recovery in 2011 (SMMT)
Britain's scrappage scheme yesterday entered its second phase. The Government has extended it with a further £100 million pay-out, swelling the scheme's total to £400m subsidising 400,000 new vehicles (Department for Innovation, Business and Skills)

Thursday 22 October 2009

Quarterly profits at Hyundai have trebled to a record high, the company said today. It reported a net profit of 979.1bn won (£497m) in the third quarter (BBC News)
Shares in Peugeot Citroen, Europe's second biggest car maker, fell 7% yesterday after PSA reported lower than forecast sales. Third-quarter revenues dipped 8% from a year earlier to €11.8bn (£10.8bn) (BBC News)
Honda would consider launching a halo green sports car, like the Lexus LF-A but propelled by eco technologies, says CEO Takanobu Ito. The first green sports car will be the CR-Z hybrid, at a more affordable price point (Automotive News, subscription required)

Wednesday 21 October 2009
 The European Investment Bank (EIB) today granted a €400m loan to suffering Swedish car company Saab (Automotive News, subscription required)
 Toyota Motor Corp may have to spend up to $440m (£266m) on recalls in the US to fix potentially faulty throttle pedals on 3.8 million cars (Automotive News, subscription required)
• Volkswagen announced it will buy a 49.9% stake in Porsche’s sports car business by the end of 2010 in a move expected to cost VW €3.9bn (£3.5bn) (Financial Times)
• Automotive output in China has reached 10 million units in 2009 according to China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). China is the third country ever to reach the milestone (
Fiat has reported a loss for the third straight quarter of this year, reporting a €168m shortfall despite a 10% increase in car sales. Farm and construction equipment sales were to blame, according to the Italian auto giant (Rockford Register Star) 

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)