News watch May 2012: today's auto industry news

Published: 29 May 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

Friday 1 June 2012
• Peugeot-Citoren has been hit hardest by a 17% drop in overall domestic sales during May. PSA saw a 28% fall in sales, with Renault suffering a 14% decline, and Fiat 21%. The French car market has declined month-on-month since Jan 2012 (Automotive News Europe)
• Ferrari will auction a 599XX Evoluzione track car and other race memorabila to benefit victims of the recent Italian earthquakes. Other items going under the hammer include genuine Alonso/Massa race overalls and an F1 V8 engine (Telegraph)

Thursday 31 May 2012
• Jaguar has usurped Lexus as winner of the JD Power owner satisfaction survey, marking the first loss in the survey in 11 years for Toyota's luxury arm.  The poll, which involves over 18,000 motorists, chose Kia's Sportage crossover as the individual model victor, just ahead of Jag's XF saloon. (BBC News)
• The Office of Fair Trading has sparked an investigation into the car insurance industry after it branded the system 'dysfunctional'. Articificially high premiums caused by insurers conniving with garages and courtesy car firms add £225million per year to British motorists' bill (BBC News)
• Ford USA has admitted it cannot build vehicles fast enough to supply demand. The company, which holds a 15.2% US market share, blamed the situation on supply chain delays, and has announced it will lay on more shifts at its plants to hit production targets (DetNews)
• Fisker has announced sales of its Karma range-extender saloon generated over $100m of revenue during the first four months of 2012. The California-based brand has delivered aroind 1000 of the £103,000 hybrids since December 2011 (DetNews) 

Wednesday 30 May 2012
• Jaguar Land Rover results were published yesterday - and pre-tax profits soared 34% in the 2011-12 financial year. It made £1.5 billion, up from £1.12bn the year before. Why? Because retail sales jumped 27% to 305,859 vehicles (BBC News)
• However, shares in JLR's parent company, Tata Motors, fell 8.3% as earnings at Jaguar Land Rover missed some analysts' estimates. It's the biggest drop since April 2009 (Bloomberg)
• Fiat has no plan to buy a stake in Mazda after last week's announcement of project-based cooperations. 'We have no plan to buy a stake in Mazda,' said Fiat chairman John Elkann. The Italian industrial giant does still want to increase its stake in Chrysler (currently at 58.5%) to 100%, but has not given details of the timing (Automotive News)
• Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati suspended production yesterday after a second Italian earthquake struck near Modena at 9am. The factories closed down and staff were allowed to go home to be with their families (Automotive News Europe)

Tuesday 29 May 2012
• Ford reports that sales of its downsized 1.0-litre Ecoboost three-pot are taking off in the Focus range; the model now accounts for a quarter of all Focus orders (Ford)
• Malaysia's DRB-Hicom has announced it has no plans to sell Lotus, despite the suspension in the past few days of CEO Dany Bahar. In a new statement, it said: 'We acknowledge that Lotus can provide value to Proton. Lotus is an iconic brand with global presence and positioning, coupled with unsurpassed engineering expertise and a talented workforce' (DRB-Hicom)
• China may revive a cash-for-clunkers scheme to pep up new car sales. The Chinese cabinet has approved a scheme to kickstart a stagnant market, reports AN (Automotive News)
• Lamborghini plans to open 11 new stores in China this year, taking the number of dealers to 25. Sounds like they're gearing up for the new SUV (Automotive News Europe)
• Toyota will stick with the Auris name for its Golf competitor in Europe. There had been speculation that it might return to the Corolla nameplate, but officials have confirmed that Auris will continue (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 28 May 2012
• Ford misjudged the growth in the US market and didn't build enough cars, according to North American chief Mark Fields. He blamed planning for the Blue Oval's 1.4% drop in the sales charts (Automotive News
• China's SAIC has approved selling a 1% ownership in its joint venture back to partner GM for $91.4 million (Bloomberg)
• The first Dodge Dart to be built off Alfa Romeo's platform shipped to dealers last week, reports the Detroit News. They're being built at Chrysler's Illinois plant in the US (Detroit News)

Friday 25 May 2012
• The Swiss competition authorities have fined BMW $163 million for restricting sales to Swiss motorists. Because of the strong Swiss franc, which has risen 20% against the euro in the past two years, many motorists have looked to buy in other European countries - a practice BMW tried to prevent. BMW is appealing the fine (BBC News
• Nissan will build its second electric vehicle at its Spanish plant in Barcelona. The e-NV200 van will be built in Spain after a €100m investment. The Leaf arrives at the Sunderland production line from early 2013 (Automotive News Europe)
• Subaru is hedging that the yen will recover to a sensible exchange rate - it is boosting the level of Japanese production at a time when other car makers are moving it overseas. It is increasing production in Japan to account for 78% of its output by March 2013, 5% more than a year before. CFO Mitsuru Takahashi said it was cheaper in the long run than expanding its American factory (Bloomberg)
• Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne says the deal to co-develop a new Alfa sports car with the next Mazda MX-5 in 2015 could lead to other co-operations between the two car makers. 'I would be willing to make cars for Mazda anywhere in the world where I have capacity, including Chrysler plants,' he said (Bloomberg)
• Toyota plans eight compact cars for emerging markets, it said in a statement. It plans to sell half of its vehicles in emerging markets by 2015; in 2000, just 19% of sales were in emerging territories (Automotive News Europe

Thursday 24 May 2012
• Renault is considering using a Mercedes platform to launch an upmarket vehicle for a new top-line sub-brand, reports French newspaper Les Echos. It would be in addition to the proposed Alpine sports brand being previewed in a new concept car tomorrow. A decision on both is due by the end of 2012 (Automotive News Europe)
• GM has stated it won't shift Chevrolet production from Korea to Europe, as had been rumoured. 'Are we looking at [it]? We always do. But do we have anything? No," said CEO of GM Korea, Sergio Rocha (Automotive News

Wednesday 23 May 2012
• MG is offering a special purchase rate for the 46,000 staff who work for Birmingham City Council. It's the first of a Privileged Members Car Scheme aimed at getting people in the West Midlands to buy locally produced vehicles (MG Motor) 
• The UK Government has been accused of offering illegal subsidies to help sway the decision to build the next-gen Vauxhall Astra at Ellesmere Port. A UK news agency claims promised subsidies are contrary to EU competition law (Automotive News Europe)
• Ford has had its investment rating restored by agency Moody's. It raised the Blue Oval's senior unsecured ratings two levels to Baa3 from Ba2, while Ford Motor Credit was lifted from Ba1 to Baa3 (Bloomberg
• Nissan is doubling the rate of Qashqai production at its St Petersburg factory in Russia. It's investing €167m in the facility (Automotive News Europe)
• BMW has overtaken Toyota as the world's most valuable car brand, according to the BrandZ Top 100 survey (Automotive News Europe)

Tuesday 22 May 2012
• Sales of Toyota and Lexus hybrid cars have just passed 4 million. The milestone applies to full hybrids and was achieved on 30 April 2012. In Europe the total sales figures over the past decade is 423,000 units - and in the UK 94,000 (Toyota)
• Volvo has struck a deal with Mitsubishi Electric to develop the next generation of infotainment systems for future models. Mitsu will supply the central modules underpinning tomorrow's multimedia systems. 'We are very happy to have Mitsubishi Electric Corporation as a partner. Their world-leading knowledge and experience will bring the infotainment system in our cars up to an entirely new level,' said Stefan Jacoby, president and CEO of Volvo Car Corporation (Volvo)

Monday 21 May 2012
• Audi may be about to shuffle its board structure as it focuses further on new growth markets such as China, admits CEO Rupert Stadler. 'Against the backdrop of Audi's 'Strategy 2020' it would be negligent not to think about the team line-up,' he told German newspaper WirtschaftsWoche (Automotive News Europe)
• Vauxhall is to supply rent-a-car company Zipcar with Ampera plug-in hybrids, the companies announced today. Zipcar is the world's biggest car-sharing service and it'll run Amperas in its pay-as-you-drive scheme for the next six months (Vauxhall)
• Formula One is poised to float for $3 billion on the Singapore stock exchange, reports Bloomberg. The IPO could raise as much as $3bn, people familiar with the deal told the newswire (Bloomberg)
• General Motors will not advertise in the next Super Bowl championship on account of soaring costs. 'We understand the reach the Super Bowl provides, but with the significant increase in price, we simply can’t justify the expense,' said Joel Ewanick, global chief marketing officer (Bloomberg)

Friday 18 May 2012
• China's car dealers are struggling to cope with the volume of unsold inventory. According to the latest dealers association survey, Honda, Chery, BYD and Geely have more than 45 days' unsold stock as at the end of April (Bloomberg)
• Fiat's plan to sell rebadged Chryslers and Lancias in Europe is having mixed results, according to ANE. It says the Fiat Freemont is likely to hit its target of 30,000 sales in Europe this year, but the Thema, Voyager and 300 are struggling (Automotive News Europe)
• GM chief exec Dan Akerson says he hopes the General will revert to an investment grade rating within a year. 'There are things that will happen over the next year or so that will drive that decision,' he said in an interview (Bloomberg)
• Hyundai reports strong sales in April, with its European-built models selling especially well. It registered a record 35,977 new cars last month - up 1.3% on last year's figures. Hyundai's market share is now 3.4%, despite a market falling by 6.5% (Hyundai) 

Thursday 17 May 2012
• The UK's fast-fit outfit Kwik Fit says it is nearly trebling the number of apprentices it's taking on; this year it'll take on 320 apprentices, up from 120 last year (Kwik Fit)
• Supercharger giant Eaton has signed a distribution deal with Cosworth Group to supply twin-scroll turbos to low-volume specialists and the aftermarket (Eaton)
• It's now official: Vauxhall will build the next-gen Astra at its Ellesmere Port factory in the UK from 2015. At least 160,000 Astra will be produced there each year over three shifts - and Vauxhall says the plant will be profitable at that volume. GM Europe is investing £125 million and will create 700 new jobs as part of today's announcement (Vauxhall)
• Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant has secured its medium-term future after GM announced it was putting the next Astra into the UK plant. The new model is due around 2015 and the company had considered pulling the Astra out of its Cheshire factory as part of a shake-up of its loss-making European division. The BBC reports that the full announcement is due later this morning (BBC News)
• The news means that around 2100 jobs in Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant are safe. Business secretary Vince Cable told the BBC that no financial incentives from Government had been offered as a sweetener, although regional funds will support new jobs and training
• Putting the Astra into Ellesmere Port means that the spotlight now falls on Germany's Bochum plant. It produces 30 cars an hour over three shifts a day; Ellesmere Port produces 47 cars an hour over two shifts a day - a company record, reports the BBC
• Further reaction to the Ellesmere Port news. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: 'From a position of uncertainty earlier this year, there is now a potential for a future at the plant until 2020 and beyond, and with that 700 new skilled jobs at Ellesmere Port itself, and possibly hundreds more in the supply chain. Importantly this move will also bring component supplier plants back into the UK, a development that strengthens our manufacturing base generally' (BBC News)
• Car manufacturing in the UK rose 9.3% in April 2012 - and it's up 11.8% so far this year, reports the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders)
• The former CEO of Ford, Harold Poling, has died aged 86. He led the Blue Oval from 1990 to 1993 (Automotive News)
• BMW willl launch eight new or revised models in 2012 - part of the reason it's forecasting records sales this year. CEO Norbert Reithofer told analysts the car-making division would return a margin of between 8-10% (Automotive News Europe)
• GM has announced it is scaling back its advertising on Facebook - just as the social media channel starts its IPO (Bloomberg)

Wednesday 16 May 2012
• Jaguar Land Rover has applied for government permission to build a JV in China; it plans a $1.9bn factory in Changshu which could build 130,000 vehicles a year (Automotive News Europe)
• An horrific schedule of meetings rather stymied the rest of Wednesday's News Watch coverage. Apologies!

Tuesday 15 May 2012
• Jaguar Land Rover sales rose 29% to 25,143 vehicles globally in April 2012, parent firm Tata Motors announced. Land Rover sales are increasing faster, up 32% to Jag's 17% (Automotive News Europe)
• Aston Martin has opened a new 1400sq m technical training academy at its global HQ in Gaydon, Warwickshire. It'll be used to train engineers and staff throughout the business (Aston Martin) 
• A new report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and funded by the RAC concludes there is a 'compelling case for road charging in the UK' rather than relying on fuel duty and other instruments. They currently raise around £38bn a year, but that figure is lowering as more fuel-efficient cars become commonplace (BBC News)  
• GM may bid for Ally Financial Inc's international operations, according to CEO Dan Akerson. He told Bloomberg: 'We’re interested in it, but we’re not going to bleed to buy it. We’re the natural buyer.' It's the company spawned by GMAC, GM's former finance arm of which it sold 51% to Cerberus Capital Management in 2006 during the crisis years (Bloomberg)
• Shares in Mazda Motor Corp plunged 9.1% at its worst yesterday as Japan's car makers buckled under the climb in the yen exchange rate. It hit its highest against the Euro in three months - and Mazda is the most reliant on exports of all Japan's car makers. Its shares fell 9.1% to 100 yen, the lowest intraday level since 1974, according to Bloomberg. All of Japan's big car makers saw shares fall overnight (Bloomberg)
• France's new president Francois Hollande is to arrive at his inauguration in a Citroen DS5 today, giving a symbolic boost to PSA (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 14 May 2012
• American motoring legend Carroll Shelby died over the weekend, aged 89. After a successful racing career, he started making cars in the 1960s and sired the Cobra and some warmed-over Shelby Mustangs (Automotive News Europe)
• Opel could build future versions of the Citroen C5 in Germany, after the tie-up between Opel/Vauxhall and PSA Peugeot Citroen, according to ANE. The two manufacturing groups are seeking massive economies of scale through their new partnership (Automotive News Europe)
• Car sales in the US are growing at their fastest rate for four years - and the benefit is spilling over in to the wider American economy. Sales have hit an annualised rate of 14 million in every month so far in 2012 (Bloomberg)
• Tesla is using up the last of its $465m federal loan and plans to start repaying it later in 2012; the US electric car maker said it will deliver its first Model S saloons in June (Bloomberg
• Toyota has launched a new K-car in Japan: the Pixis Epoch G is a tiny city car built to the Kei car regulations for Toyota by partner Daihatsu. It has a 660cc petrol engine, a CVT and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive (Toyota)
• Porsche reports that global sales rose 7.2% in April 2012. It has delivered 43,141 vehicles in the first four months of the year - up 12.6% on the same period last year. Best seller globally? The Cayenne (Porsche)

Friday 11 May 2012
• Renault expects sales of its new Zoe EV to outpace those of its alliance partner Nissan's Leaf (Automotive News Europe)
• Fiat intends to open 20 exclusive dealerships in India by the end of 2012 (Automotive News Europe)
• Toyota reclaims the number one global sales spot from GM in Q1 2012, reports Bloomberg (Bloomberg)
• Volkswagen reports its sales continue to soar in 2012. The VW Group delivered 2.89 million vehicles to customers from January to April, up from 2.66m last year (Volkswagen)
• Nissan today announced profits rose sharply in the January to March 2012 first quarter; Nissan reported net profits of 75.3bn yen (£585m), up from 30.8bn yen a year earlier (BBC News)
• Infiniti's new mid-sized car based on the Merc A-class will be built by Magna Steyr, according to product chief Andy Palmer. The hatch is based loosely on the Etherea concept car and is due in 2014 (Automotive News Europe)

Thursday 10 May 2012
• Nevada issues first driverless car license in the US (BBC News)
• US auto sales in 2012 are on track to be the best since 2007 (Bloomberg)
• Ford plans to triple production of EcoBoost engines in Europe by 2015 as it gears up to meet tougher new Euro emissions standards. Last year it sold 141,000 EcoBoosted engines in the area - that should rise to 480,000 in three yeats time, said powertrain director Sherif Marakby (Automotive News Europe)

Wednesday 9 May 2012
• Audi outsells BMW in April thanks to strong demand in China, Germany and United States (Automotive News Europe)
• Jaguar will invoke the spirit of the Swinging 1960s to market its F-type roadster when sales start in 2013, according to ANE (Automotive News Europe)
• Ford delivers its 1,500,000th Ford Focus in the UK - a five-door Titanium X. It went to Essex cricketer Jaik Mickelburgh (Ford)
• Fisker's hybrid Karma was number two for luxury car sales in Denmark in the first quarter of 2012, beating more conventional rivals such as the BMW 7-series, Mercedes S-class and Audi A8. The Porsche Panamera was the biggest seller in the Danish luxury sector (Fisker)
• The UK's year-to-date car sales are up 1.47% over 2011, according to the latest registration figures out this week (SMMT)
• Ford sees a 24% increase in China sales thanks to the new Focus (Detroit News)
• Toyota forecasts profits will double compared to 2011 and rise to highest levels in 5 years (Bloomberg)

Tuesday 8 May 2012
• GM will stop Astra production at the Ruesselsheim plant in Germany in a bid to stem Opel's losses (Automotive News Europe)
• China's Beijing Auto will start selling its first model based on the old Saab 9-5 later in 2012, reports ANE. The state-owned car maker bought the rights to the Saab tech in 2009 - it'll power its new C70G mid-sized saloon (Automotive News Europe)
• Volkswagen sees its own brand sales climb by 9.4% in the first four months of 2012 thanks to strong demand in China, the United States and Russia, despite falling numbers in Europe (Automotive News Europe)
• Meanwhile, BMW Group posts record April sales up 6.1% on 2011; deliveries climbed 9.8% to a record 571,040 vehicles in Q1 2012 (BMW Group)
• Porsche's Q1 sales are up 29% and revenue up 32.4% over 2011; today the Porsche Group also posted €327m post-tax profit (Porsche SE)

Monday 7 May 2012
• Toyota's recovery continues, with a 68% sales rise in China for April 2012 and is 14.4% up on year-to-date sales versus the same period in 2011 (Reuters)
• The German motor industry continues to confound analysts' expectations with increased sales and profit growth, primarily in the China and recovering US markets (Automotive News Europe)
• Car makers are failing to agree on a common plug standard for EVs. US and German carmakers are supporting the DC Combo plug which uses a single connector design for standard or fast charging, while Japanese makers support CHAdeMO, a standard requiring different plugs depending on the charging source (Bloomberg)
• Jaguar is preparing to invest £200m in its Castle Bromwich plant to produce the 2013 F-Type sports car. Plant capacity will be boosted by 50% and result in up to 1000 new jobs (The Daily Telegraph via Automotive News Europe)

Friday 4 May 2012
• BMW and Hyundai are in talks to examine potential cost-saving partnerships in engine development (Reuters)
• Nissan-Renault Group and the Russian government conclude an agreement for the Franco-Japanese alliance to take majority ownership of AvtoVAZ, Russia's largest carmaker and manufacturer of the Lada range of vehicles. (Automotive News)
• Porsche is commemorating the 10th anniversary of its Leipzig production plant (home of the Cayenne SUVand Panamera hatchback). The 500,000th Porsche will be produced in Leipzig at the end of June, and the Macan midsize SUV will begin production at Leipzig at the end of 2013 (Porsche)

Thursday 3 May 2012
• Fiat Auto and Tata Motors have agreed to end their sales agreement in India. Fiat will establish its own distribution network in a bid to increase sales (Reuters)
• Opel/Vauxhall remains in the spotlight for the wrong reasons as its poor financial performance continues to impact GM's overall profitability (Automotive News)
• Peugeot and other French car manufacturers are caught in the French presidential elections as job security pledges hamper efforts to remove overcapacity (Bloomberg)
• Toyota's fortunes continue to improve, with an 11.6% rise in April sales in the key US market (BBC News)
• RIP Anatole 'Tony' Lapine, former chief designer at Porsche from 1969 to 1988. Lapine's era leading Porsche's styling team was notable for the 'G-series' update of the 911 with its distinctive integrated plastic bumper design, and the 924/944 and 928 front-engined sports cars. Lapine passed away on 29 April 2011 at the age of 81. (Porsche)

Wednesday 2 May 2012
• April sales results in the US show Chrysler group continuing to make significant sales gains. Rivals GM and Ford posted single-digit percentage declines (Detroit News)
• Mercedes Advanced Design Centre China boss Olivier Boulay discusses design in China and the Daimler-BYD joint venture Denza brand. (Automotive News Europe)
• Chrysler goes against the trend and moves into downtown Detroit, becoming the name tenant at Chrysler House with the top two floors of the historic 23-floor Neo-Classical office tower formerly known as the Dime Building and opened in 1912. Chrysler will base sales and marketing staff, and executive offices in the building, and also plans to contribute US$3m to the M1 Rail downtown  light rail project (Detroit News)
• Ford Europe boss Stephen Odell warns of job losses in the face of European manufacturing overcapacity and free trade agreements with rivals in Asia (BBC News video)

Tuesday 1 May 2012
• Volvo Cars has big ambitions for China, its 'second home' market. Plans include growing the dealer network to 220 outlets by 2017 (currently 125) and selling over 200,000 Volvo cars in China by 2020 (Automotive News Europe)
• Hyundai adds a third shift to its Alabama, USA assembly plant, bringing total annual output to 320,000 units (Bloomberg)
• Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann has opened its second Indian dealership, in Mumbai. Lamborghini's first dealership was opened in Delhi during 2006.(Lamborghini)