News watch January 2012: today's auto industry news

Published: 31 January 2012

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

Tuesday 31 January 2012
• Two Japanese car parts suppliers have been fined a staggering $548m for price fixing offences following an FBI investigation. Yazaki Corp. has agreed to pay $470m and Denso Corp. $78m for offences relating to instrument clusters and other parts. Four Yazaki employees will also serve prison sentences. (www.ft.com)
• The GM (and Chrysler) bailout will cost the US government $170m more than expected, according to latest US Treasury Dept estimates. With GM’s stock price in steep decline over the past six months, the cost could spiral to $23.77bn. (www.detroitnews.com)
• Honda announces a 41% slump in quarterly profits - blaming the continuing disruption from 2011's earthquake in Japan and floods in Thailand. Net profits in the third quarter fell to 47.6 billion yen (£396 million) (BBC News)
• Saab dealers in America are bidding for Saab North America to be placed in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection so they can continue trading (Automotive News)
• Avtovaz will start building Renault-based Ladas next month, reports ANE. It's the next stage in the ramp-up of the deal between the Russian car maker and Renault-Nissan (Automotive News Europe)
• Meanwhile Renault hopes to close its potential deal with Dongfeng Motor Group this year in a bid to start manufacturing in China. News agencies quote COO Carlos Tavares as saying a deal could be on the cards soon (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 30 January 2012
• Speculation is mounting that Lotus CEO Dany Bahar is seeking to lead a management buy-out of Lotus Cars, report various newspapers from The Sunday Times to local media. The company made a £20m loss last year, and owner Proton has been sold in the past month (Eastern Daily Press)
• Ford has reported a jump in profits - net income topped $20.2 billion (£12.9bn) in 2011, up from $6.5bn in 2010. However, Ford of Europe is scaling back production to meet a slump in demand (BBC News)
• Widening losses in Europe are to blame for the drop in fourth-quarter profits at Ford, reports Automotive News. It lost $190 million in the final quarter - nearly four times the $51m loss a year earlier. In the full year, Ford of Europe made a $27m operating loss, reversing the previous year's $182m profit (Automotive News)
• Volkswagen's supervisory board will discuss its plan to acquire the remaining 50.1% stake in Porsche at a meeting on Valentine's Day (Automotive News Europe)
• PSA Peugeot Citroen is looking for a new partner to replace Fiat in its light commercial vehicles operation. Fiat is withdrawing from the joint venture (Automotive News Europe)

Friday 27 January 2012
• Toyota has delivered its 400,000th hybrid in Europe, a British built Auris (Toyota UK)
• Kia is targeting a 22.8% European sales increase during 2012 (Automotive News Europe)
• US politicians lavish praise on Detroit car makers at the Washington DC motor show. They say the boom in US sales is a reflection on their bold rescue packages - despite costing the taxpayer billions (Detroit News)
• Honda has signed leading battery developer Yussa as a title sponsor for their British Touring Car campaign (Honda UK)

Thursday 26 January 2012
• Ford may be set to post its largest annual profit since 1998, thanks to a tax benefit (Automotive News)
• Toyota targets pre-financial crisis sales of 500,000 for Lexus during 2012 (Automotive News)
• Gordon Murray has entered into a technical partnership with materials producer Toray Industries. The deal covers development on Murray's iStream platform, as well as joint development of new materials (Gordon Murray Design)
• The Kia factory in Slovakia has produced its one millionth car since production started in 2007 (Kia Motors)
• The Fiat-Chrysler Group is in talks with the Guangzhou Automobile Group over a deal to produce Jeeps in China (Detroit News)
• GM CEO Dan Akerson has stoutly defended the Chevrolet Volt in front of Congress, saying the car has become 'a political punching bag'. He was referring to the furore over its recall for potentially dodgy batteries (Detroit News)

Wednesday 25 January 2012
• The German trade union IG Metall is seeking pay rises of 7% for its memebers in the Southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, home to Daimler and Porsche (Automotive News)
• Nissan is to build a $2 billion production plant in Mexico with the capacity to build 175,000 cars a year (Automotive News)
• Britain moves up to the number four spot in European car production tables, thanks to increased production from Nissan and Tata-owned Jaguar Land Rover (Bloomberg)
• Sales of hybrid Hondas have hit 800,000 globally since the introduction of the Insight in November 2009 (Honda)
• Toyota has raised its sales forecasts by 100,000 cars for 2012, after the Japanese government created new incentives for fuel-efficent vehicles (Automotive News Europe)
• Executives at GM and Ford have suggested that Detroit parts suppliers should consider expanding into Russia. Most experts believe that Russia will surpass Germany as the largest auto producer in Europe by 2015 (Detroit News)
• Chrysler has opened a new training facility in Warren, Detroit, designed to teach its workers the principles of what it call 'world class manufacturing' (Detroit News)
• Czech car production is estimated to rise further in 2012, after sales increased by 11.5% last year (Automotive News Europe)
• MG is to enter the 2012 British Touring Car Championship with racing old timer Jason Plato and rising start Andy Neate (MG Motors)
• Drivers have been urged not to panic-buy petrol as one of the UK's largest oil refineries at Coryton closed, after its Swiss owner went into administration (The Telegraph)

Tuesday 24 Janurary 2012
• Bosch plans to aquire SPX's aftermarket division, which makes diagnostic equipment and other components, in a cash deal valued at $1.5 billion (Automotive News Europe)
• Opel may start to cooperate with Chinese manufacturer SAIC to expand its car sales in China (Automotive News Europe)
• Kia is recalling 145,755 of Optimas and Rondos in the United States over fears of faulty driver side airbags (Reuters)
• Truck driver strikes have led to a halt in production at four Fiat factories in Italy (Automotive News Europe)
• Component supplier Continental has announced a joint venture to build litium-ion batteries with Korean battery maker SK Inovation (Automotive News)
• Daimler has invested €10 million in the MyTaxi smartphone app. The app provides a taxi ordering service and will launch in Spain and Switzerland in February (Automotive News Europe)
• US president Barack Obama is likely to take credit for the bail-out of the Detroit car makers in his State of the Union address tonight (Detroit News

Monday 23 January 2012
• Volvo is still looking for a partner to share in the development of smalls cars to find economies of scale (City AM)
• TomTom has secured an exclusive deal to provide real-time traffic updates for the AA's Traffic News website (TomTom)
• Mercedes aims to save €1.5 billion by 2014 through reducing the number of platforms used and standardising parts across the range (The Economic Times)
• A unique two-seater that folds into itself for reduced size whilst parking is to be launched tomorrow. The concept is a result of a collaboration between The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Spanish Government (The Daily Telegraph)
• Following a 21% decline in production through 2011, Toyota is to cut 350 jobs at its production plant in Southern Australia (Bloomberg)
• The incredibly small Peel Trident is to go back into production. A UK-based business duo is resurecting the 50-year-old brand, with investment from BBC Dragon's Den star James Caan (Autoblog)
• Saab's recievers say they are talking with several possible bidders about a possible rescue package to save the Swedish car maker (Automotive News)
• Hyundai's Elantra wins North American Car of the Year, beating VW's Passat. Marking a breakthrough in the US, Hyundai is now setting its sights on Europe (Automotive News)
• The organisers of the Detroit auto show have reported a record attendance at the 2012 NAIAS of 770,932 visitors. This reflects the upbeat mood of the American market right now (Detroit News)

Friday 20 January 2012
• Mercedes-Benz plans to sell 2.7 million cars annually by 2020, according to an interview given by CEO Dieter Zetsche in German publication Manager Magazin. That's just over double today's sales level (Automotive News Europe)
• General Motors has reclaimed the top slot in the global sales chart. With volumes in 2011 rising 7.6% to more than 9 million vehicles, it overtook Toyota which anticipates sales of 7.9m cars (BBC News)
• GM's increase was down to a big rise in Chevrolet sales. Chevy sold 4.8m of that grand total, according to the local newspaper (Detroit News)
• It might not be game over for Saab; now a Turkish private equity group may bid for the bankrupt Swedish car maker. Brightwell Holdings wants to acquire all of the collapsed manufacturer and said it would keep production in Sweden - but it'll be in competition with Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile which told Reuters this week that it was due to table a bid next week (Automotive News)
• Porsche is celebrating two milestones at its Leipzig factory in east Germany: it's the tenth anniversary this year, and it's just built the 100,000th new-generation Cayenne. That's in addition to the 360,000 first-gen Cayennes made since launch (Porsche)

Thursday 19 January 2012
• Car production in the UK jumped 5.8% to 1,343,810 vehicles in 2011, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has revealed (BBC News)
• Peugeot has dramatically announced it's pulling out of sports car racing. It has cancelled its Le Mans programme and won't race at La Sarthe in 2012; it has competed every year, with some success, since 2007 (Autosport)
• 'This decision has been taken in the context of a difficult economic environment in Europe,' the company said. 'Peugeot has chosen to concentrate resources on its sales performance in 2012'
• Jeep sales rocketed 61.8% across Europe in 2011, the company announced. That's against a decline in the region of 1.4%. The company credited fresh product such as the new Cherokee (Jeep)
• Hyundai is quietly building up its UK dealer network. It has added 29 new dealerships in the past year, bringing the total to 152. Why? Because the company is preparing for eight new models in 2012 (Hyundai)

Wednesday 18 January 2012
• Proton's new owner, Malaysian billionaire Syed Mokhtar Al-Bulkhary's DRB-Hicom, says it is open to selling British sports car maker Lotus after this month's takeover. MD Mohd Khamil Jamil said today he was 'open to options'. He added: 'We can't do due diligence on Lotus earlier, so will need time to look into Lotus (Automotive News Europe)
• The Malaysian government sold its controlling 42.7% stake in Proton to DRB-Hicom for 1.29 billion ringgit (£269m) this week
• The Government today announced a nationwide roll-out of hydrogen refuelling stations, albeit on a small scale. UK H2 Mobility is a consortium of 13 companies and organisations - it aims to prepare the UK for the anticipated 2014/15 roll-out of fuel-cell vehicles. However, it admits that no mass-market take-up will be likely before another decade has passed (SMMT)
• A Citroen TV ad flashing up the word 'Yes' has been banned in the UK after claims it brought on epilepsy and seizure among a handful of viewers. Ten viewers complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (BBC News)
• UK car insurers Direct Line and Churchill have been fined £2.17 million by the Financial Services Authority for tampering with customer complaints (BBC News)
• Four board members of Swedish Automobile, the parent company of Saab, have walked out in a fight over funding for its Trollhattan car maker. Hans Hugenholtz, Maurizio La Noce, Alex Roepers and Rob Schuijt stepped down 'as a result of a difference of opinion with Swan's CEO Victor Muller as to the funding alternatives available to Swan after the bankruptcy of Swan's subsidiary Saab Automobile AB,' according to a statement issued today (Automotive News Europe)
• Kia has increased production at its Slovakian plant in Europe by 10% in 2011. It made 252,000 cars - and 359,000 petrol and diesel engines (Kia)

Tuesday 17 January 2012
• The UK Government has committed to the Plug-In Car Grant - and is expanding it to include vans too. Qualifying vans must emit less than 75g/km of CO2 and be capable of at least 60 miles between charges; if they meet this criteria, they will subsidised by up to 20%, or a maximum of £8000, of their value (SMMT)
• The Renault group sold 2,722,062 vehicles in 2011. That's an increase of 94,697 units, up 4%. Despite a sluggish European market, the 19% jump in sales elsewhere helped push Renault and Dacia's figures up. Sales outside Europe now account for 43% of its total business (Renault)
• Mini is recalling 235,000 cars worldwide over fears an electric water pump could start a fire in rare instances. The recall affects Cooper S and John Cooper Works models built between March 2006 and January 2011 (BBC News)
• Porsche is delaying the launch of its mid-engined roadster, according to CEO Matthias Muller. 'Possibly we need to wait until the next generation of customers before the idea of a small roadster will work for Porsche,' he told German mag Wirtschaftswoche at the weekend (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 16 January 2012
• Tesla shares have plunged a record 19% after two senior engineers have left ahead of the launch of the Model S. Peter Rawlinson, Tesla’s vice president and chief engineer, and Nick Sampson, head of chassis engineering, left this month (Bloomberg)
• Volkswagen says its 2011 sales in China rose 18% to a new record of 2.26 million vehicles across the group (Automotive News Europe)
• Meanwhile, Opel says it is targeting a 10% rise in sales in China this year. China market chief for GM Kevin Wale admitted the German brand would remain a niche player in the area with projected sales of just 5500 cars this year (Automotive News Europe)
• Tom Stephens, GM's chief technology officer, will retire on 1 April, the company has announced. He followed Bob Lutz as product development chief before being replaced by Mary Barra in February 2011 (Bloomberg)
• Aston Martin has opened a flagship dealership in Shanghai. It's the brand's sixth outlet in China (Aston Martin)
• Bosch has taken over the Uni­point Group in Taiwan - a specialist making starters, alternators, temperature control parts and wiper blades. Bosch did not disclose the price, but said Unipoint made sales of $124 million in 2010 (Bosch)

Friday 13 January 2012
• Fiat group chief executive Sergio Marchionne has warned that Europe's car makers must consolidate to survive. He said a weakening market, the Euro crisis and chronic overcapacity (Automotive News Europe)
• BMW is investing $900 million in its Spartanburg plant in the US in readiness for the new X4 compact SUV, due by 2014 (Automotive News Europe)

Thursday 12 January 2012
• Growth in China's car market has slipped behind that in the US for the first time in 14 years. Sales in China rose 2.5% to 18.5 million - it's the world's third biggest car market for the third year in a row (Bloomberg)
• Chrysler increased production by 27% to nearly 2 million vehicles in 2010, and predicts a further 20% jump this year (Bloomberg)
• Ford is accelearting its plan to reduce its platform count from 11 to nine architectures globally. It'll streamline its engineering by the end of 2013 with five global platforms and four local market ones, such as the F-150 pick-up (Automotive News)
• PSA Peugeot Citroen forecasts a rocky 2012. Last year its European sales slipped 6.1% and its market share fell to 13.3%. The group's new 207 supermini should help this year though (Automotive News Europe)
• Volvo is seeking a partner to build compact cars. Boss Stefan Jacoby said it was developing its own architecture for its larger cars and SUVs 'for 70-80% of our output', but it was seeking a partner for smaller cars such as the forthcoming V40 whose licence to use Ford component sets expired in 2017 (Automotive News Europe)

Tuesday 10 and Wednesday 11 January 2012
• Team CAR at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Check out our live coverage from the NAIAS here

Monday 9 January 2012
• Rolls-Royce reports record sales of 3538 vehicles in 2011 - up from previous record of 3347 in 1978 during the Silver Shadow era. Goodwood report sales in Asia jumping 47%, while the US rose 17% and Middle East grew 23%. Even the UK increased by 30% last year (Rolls-Royce)
• The organisers of the Detroit auto show in Michigan have announced a deal to continue hosting the NAIAS at the Cobo Center in downtown Detroit until 2017 (Automotive News)
• Volkswagen in America is targeting a 12% sales rise in 2012 to half a million cars, according to CEO Jonathan Browning (Automotive News Europe)

Friday 6 January 2012
• Ford plans to open a Silicon Valley test lab to trial high-tech electronics far away from the traditional car maker mindset (Automotive News)
• Audi is planning new models targeted at the US market in a bid to sell more cars there. It will unveil a Vail ski version of the Q3 SUV at Detroit next week and will build a saloon notchback A3 for the US too (Automotive News Europe)
• UK new car sales dropped 4.4% to 1.94 million vehicles in 2011. But that's still a massive quarter lower than their peak of 2.58 million in 2003 (BBC News)

Thursday 5 January 2012
• Merc parent Daimler has reported a record year of car sales in 2011. It sold 1,260,912 vehicles last year, a jump of 8% on the previous year. Including Smart and Maybach, its car sales topped 1.36 million, with records in China, Russia and India (BBC News)
• Tata chief exec Ratan Tata has admitted the launch of the Nano wasn't particularly well handled by his company. Speaking at the Delhi motor show he told the BBC: 'I don't think we were adequately ready with an advertising campaign or a dealer network. But I don't consider it to be a flop. I consider that we have wasted an early opportunity' (BBC News)
• Fiat has raised its stake in Chrysler by 5% to 58.5%. The increase brings full merger even closer to reality and meets the final target set by the US authorities in 2009's takeover (Automotive News)
• Skoda sold a record 875,000 vehicles in 2011, the company confirms. that's a 15% jump on the previous year (Automotive News Europe)
• Tata is not looking out to acquire Saab from the administrators, chief Ratan Tata confiorms at the Delhi show (Automotive News Europe)
• GM has announced a raft of upgrades to the Chevrolet Volt to prevent the battery fires following an accident. It has put further reinforcement into the area carrying the battery cells (Detroit News)

Wednesday 4 January 2012
• PSA Peugeot Citroen has a new head of both brands - finance chief Frederic Saint-Geours is to succeed CEO Jean-Marc Gales, who is leaving to head up a European supplier association. Europe's second largest car maker is struggling and has warned it will likely post a €405 million loss in the second half of its financial year (Automotive News Europe)
• Porsche USA reports a 15% increase in sales in 2011. Biggest sales rise was the Cayenne, whose 12,978 sales were up 56%. Porsche says it is investing more than $100m in its Atlanta head office and a test facility in Carson (Porsche)
• Nissan's Sunderland factory in the UK has set a new record for a British car plant - producing 480,485 vehicles in 2011. That's a 14% rise, year on year and more than has ever been built at a single UK site. More than 300,000 were Qashqais (BBC News)
• Porsche will hire 300 extra engineers in 2012 - representing a rise of more than 10% of its R&D staff. The expansion comes as Porsche prepares a slew of new models, according to engineering chief Wolfgang Hatz (Automotive News Europe)

Tuesday 3 January 2012
• Mercedes has sold its two millionth SUV since launching the G-class more than 30 years ago. Most have been sold in the USA, and then China (Daimler)
• Bentley sales leapt 37% to 7003 in 2011, Crewe announced today. Most markets increased significantly, even Europe - thanks to Germany's 50% jump. December was the second best month on record (Bentley Motors) 
• The administrators of Saab say they are still looking at offers to take over the Swedish car maker as a going concern. 'We are working for a complete takeover and restart with the current models in place,' said Hans L Bergqvist from administrator Delphi (Saabs United)
• Fisker says that 'a majority' of all customer cars and dealer demos suffering from battery problems have had a new A123 battery installed. The company issued a recall after a potential glitch with the hose clamp assembly - and claims to have fixed the problem within just two weeks (Fisker Cars)
• Porsche is being sued by a group of investment funds seeking around €2 billion in damages over its failed attempt to take over Volkswagen in 2008 (Automotive News)
• BMW expects the premium car market to blossom in 2012 with more than 8% growth forecast by finance chief Friedrich Eichiner (Automotive News Europe)
• The volume of cars forecast to be sold in 2012 is likely to grow by 6.7%, according to Detroit research firm Polk. It predicts sales of 77.7 million vehicles globally (Automotive News Europe)
• The reliance on electronics on top-end cars could make them the subject of cyber-attacks, warns the Detroit News. It claims researchers have found that cars' computer controls could be accessed remotely through Bluetooth, wi-fi or OnStar connections (Detroit News)

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