News watch August 2012: today's auto industry news

Published: 31 August 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 31 August 2012
•European car sales continue to struggle, down 8.2% in July. Spain, europe's biggest market, saw sales frop the most, by a massive 26%. Only the UK saw a sales rise, up 9.3% in the period (Automotive News Europe)
•There's good news for Peugeot though - at last. The new 208 supermini has got off to a strong sales start, in at number 5 in the list of best-selling European cars with a total of 17,986 units shifted in July. Peugeot will be hoping for the pace to pick up further still- the previous-gen 207 was Europe's best-selling car in 2007 (Automotive News Europe)
•PSA Peugeot-Citroen will invest more than €750m (£596m) to build its future vans at its Sevelnord plant, securing the future of the northern French factory. Sevelnord is currently co-run between PSA and Fiat, but the future of the plant was jeapordised when Fiat decided to phase out production of its Scudo MPV/van (Automotive News Europe)
•While fortunes may be improving for Peugeot, Volvo is struggling to manage disappointing sales. Production in Sweden will be cut by 10% and 200-300 jobs lost in order to manage the slow-down (Automotive News Europe)
•Mexico's automotive production will boom by 38% over the next three years, according to Carlos Guzman, head of Mexico's investment promotion agency. Mexico is already the world's fourth largest car exporter, but this will rise as the country's output tops 3.6m vehicles in the coming years (DetNews)

Tuesday 29 August 2012
•AC Cars has announced the sudden death of its Chief Engineer, John Owen. Mr Owen, 62, suffered a heart attack at his home on Friday 24th August. John Owen had worked on most of AC’s projects in recent years after a long and distinguished career first at Ford Motor Company and then at Lotus where he was involved in engine development, leading the design team for the V8 engine project (AC Cars)
•Despite the European recession, Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo predicts Ferrari's sales will continue to buck the trend of slow new car sales. Montezemolo stated: 'From the latest data I've seen, we are on track to make this year another record year.' This comes off the back of a record-breaking 2011; last year Ferrari racked up sales of 7195 units, and an operating profit of €321m (£255m). Through June, Ferrari's sales were up 7% to 3,664 compared with the first six months of 2011. More than a quarter of Ferrari's first-half sales were in the United States (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 28 August 2012
•Lotus is fighting a claim of £6.7m in compensation for unlawful dismissal from ex-CEO Dany Bahar, who was ousted on 7 June 2012 after concerns about his conduct in the role. Lotus has confirmed it will 'vigourously oppose and defend the claim', just weeks after cancelling the five-car plan outlined by Bahar with outlandish concepts and ambitious profit targets during his tenure (Automotive News Europe)
•Peugeot is diversifying from its ailing car-building fortunes, and following in the footsteps of BMW, Mercedes and Porsche in setting up a design studio for non-automotive products. Using talent from the company's studios in Paris, Shanghai and Sao Paulo, the Peugeot Design Lab's portfolio will stretch from powerboats to motorcycles and wristwatches (Automotive News Europe)
•There's mixed fortunes for Fiat's workers: while employees are poised to return to the newly-retooled Grugliasco plant outside Turin in September to start work on the next-gen Maserati Quattroporte, slow car sales in southern Europe could provoke redundancies and plant closures elsewhere. The new Punto supermini has already been pushed back to 2014 because of worries over demand, but is now under review again due to a re-evalutation of Fiat's investments. The new Punto may be delayed beyound 2015 unless sales performance in the region improves (Automotive News Europe)

Friday 24 August 2012
•General Motors has been granted a 30 day extension on its deadline to respond to the $3billion lawsuit by Spyker, regarding the failure of Swedish automaker Saab. The deadline had been due to expire on 28 August. GM, which has publicly declared the lawsuit as 'without merit' is accused of deliberately blocking Chinese attempts to save Saab, for fear of trade secrets and copyrights being infringed or copied by Saab's new owners (Automotive News Europe)

Thursday 23 August 2012
•According to German business daily Financial Times Deutschland, Daimler could build compact Mercedes models with alliance partner Renault-Nissan. The report said the first cars would arrive by  2016, and be built in eastern Europe, likely at the Kecskemet plant in Hungary, which currently handles Mercedes B-class production and will take on the CLA 'coupaloon' from next year. Plans could include a compact Mercedes SUV built alongside vehicles from Nissan's premium brand, Infiniti (Automotive News Europe)
•Factory tours of the Bowling Green Corvette plant in Kentucky will cease temporarily as of 14 September 2012 to allow for retooling ahead of production of the new C7 Corvette. No word has been given on how long the refurb will take (Autoblog

Wednesday 22 August 2012
•Production of the all-new Kia Ceed Sportswagon (read: estate) has begun at the Kia plant in Zilina Slovakia, becoming the second new model to be built at the facility this year. The new model will boost production at Zilina to 285,000 vehicles in 2012. The previous generation Ceed SW represented more than a fifth of the site's overall production (Kia Motors)
•The chairman of Tata wants the company to make another push to promote the cheap Nano supermini, after sales were damaged by reports of three separate vehicle fires involvong the model. The Nano, which sells for around £1600, was created after Tata chairman Ratan Tata saw a family all riding on one scooter in his native India, demand fell to an all-time low by November 2010, with just 509 units sold (Automotive News Europe)

Tuesday 21 August 2012
•VAG may not grow beyond 12 brands, as News Watch reported yesterday, but even in its current statuts the might of the VW Group is actually threatening the long-term survival of its rivals. VAG commands a market share of 24% in the EU and EFTA countries, up from 18.6% in 2004; in the same period, PSA Peugeot-Citroen's European share has freefallen 12% to 13.8% (Automotive News Europe)
•Fiat has denied it intends to close any of its five car plants in Italy, but the government has sought assurances from the company that it will maintain investment in its home country. Last month, CEO Sergio Marchionne confirmed Fiat's plan to spend €7.5bn in 2012, most of it outside Italy. Fiat has already approved temporary factory shutdowns during the quiet summer period in order to stem production losses as demand slumps (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 20 August 2012
•The Volkwagen Group won't grow beyond its current 12 brands, according to union chiefs. There had been rumors that VAG would make a play for Malaysian outfit Proton, but Volkswagen labor representatives would not back any further acquisitions by the carmaker (Automotive News Europe)

Friday 17 August 2012
•Ford is controlling the the UK fleet car market with a 15.9% for the year to the end of July, up from 15.4% for the same period in 2011. Ford’s total fleet vehicle sales – comprising 95,752 cars and 32,654 vans – make up 62% of Ford’s total vehicle sales, showing just how crucial the fleet market is, especially in the current economic climate (Ford Motor Company)
•Mercedes wants to boost production in Hungary to 300,000 units by 2015, up from around 150,000 units today. The Kecskemet plant currently handles B-class production but will also be responsible for the baby-CLS 'coupaloon' from 2013: the Mercedes CLA (Automotive News Europe)

Thursday 16 August 2012
•Maybach has finally wound up operations, with production actually ceasing back in June, despite previous reports the super-luxury marque would soldier on until 2013. Maybach sold just 46 cars in Europe in 2011, far behind its Roll-Royce and Bentley rivals, who sold 472 and 1774 units respectively (Automotive News Europe)
•In an effort to cut costs, Opel is in talks to shorten working hours at its main production plant at Ruesselsheim, near Frankfurt. It's the latest automaker to declare shift cuts after Peugeot-Citroen, Fiat and Honda all recently bowed to economic pressure and slashed production (Automotive News Europe)
•Despite disappointing figures for the overall UK economy, UK car output rose for the 13th consecutive month, up 22.2% in July and 15.1% for the year-to-date. The report from the Society of Manufacturers and Traders did note that UK engine production was down 1.9% in July, but is up by 0.3% in 2012 as a whole (SMMT)

Wednesday 15 August 2012
•Fisker Automotive has a new CEO: Tony Posawitz. Posawitz previously headed the project to develop the Chevrolet Volt range extender at General Motors (Fisker Automotive)
•Bloomberg reports that savage taxing of high-end cars in Italy is causing a mass exodus of exotic metal from the home of the supercar. The number of secondhand high-performance cars exported from Italy nearly tripled to 13,633 vehicles in the first five months of 2012, from 4,923 a year earlier. Ferrari and Maserati predict that sales, which have more than halved in since 2008, won't recover until at least 2016 (Automotive News Europe)

Tuesday 14 August 2012
•Porsche's sales leapt up by 16% in July 2012 versus the same month in 2011. That equates to 12,391 new cars being delivered in July; so far in 2012, Porsche has delivered 81,562 units. The new Boxster has been especially popular, with Porshce maintaining positive results in Europe despite the financial mire afflicting the region (Porsche AG)
•To meet exceptional demand for the Range Rover Evoque, Jaguar Land Rover's Halewood plant will switch to a 24 hour shift pattern, with the 4500 staff working around the clock for the first time in the plant's 50 year history. JLR will also launch a recruitment campaign to create 1000 new jobs. Since July 2011, more than 88,000 Range Rover Evoques have been sold, across 170 worldwide markets (JLR)
•Despite ongoing financial hardship, PSA Peugeot-Citroen has dismissed reports speculating that production of its Citroen DS5 and Peugeot 508 models would be moved to GM's Ruesselsheim plant in 2015-16. Under the move, similarly-struggling European brand Opel would handle construction of the larger PSA models (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 13 August 2012
•Predictions from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders suggest 330,000 new cars will be registered in the UK in September, as the automotive industry prepares for one of the traditionally busy periods of the year. As '62-plate' vehicles arrive in dealerships in the coming weeks, buyers will spend £4.95bn on new cars in one month, accounting for 17% of the entire yearly registration figure (SMMT)
•Russian new cars sales jumped 14% in July 2012 - a record for the month. This growth follows a 10% surge in sales in June, with Chinese manufacturers in particular enjoying large success in the Russian market (Automotive News Europe)

Friday 10 August 2012
•The French government is set to launch an investigation into PSA's job cuts and Aulnay factory closure. Set to deliver a verdict on 11 September 2012, the probe will consider if PSA had an alternative to the 8000 redundancies created by the move; new French president Francois Hollande has been a staunch opposer to Peugeot-Citroen's savage cost-cutting, calling for a move away from austerity measures (Automotive News Europe)
•Electric car sales continue to disappoint across western Europe. Sales of EVs totalled just under 11,000 in the first half of 2012, according to newsletter Automotive Industry Data. Peter Schmidt, AID editor, described this market share of 0.15 percent rate as a sales pace 'so slow as to be barely measurable.' Even large government incentives in the UK and France have failed to entice buyers into the Nissan Leaf, PSA iOn/C-Zero and Vauxhall Ampera, the latter being the current sector leader with 2858 sales (DetNews)

Thursday 9 August 2012
•Jaguar Land Rover has posted positive sales and profit results for the first quarter of the 2012-13 financial year. Output was up 34.4% thanks especially to strong Chinese demand, while revenue has grown 36.4%, particularly due to huge worldwide demand for the Range Rover Evoque (JLR)
•Predictably, Audi's latest sales figures aren't looking too shabby either. The company delivered 119,600 vehicles worldwide in the period January - June 2012: a rise of 12.9%. Strong demand in the US and China also meant a best-ever set of sales results for July, up 12.4% over 2011. (Audi)
•Mitsubishi has halted supplies of its i-MiEV electric city car to Peugeot and Citroen, who rebadge and sell on the zero-emission car as the iOn and C-Zero respectively. A Mitsubishi spokesman smoothed over the situation, protesting that the hiatus was simply 'a matter of PSA adjusting its orders to market demand'. That rather equates to a lack of demand, in fact: debt-ridden PSA sold just 852 iOns and 935 C-Zeros in the first six months of 2012: with electric cars underperforming across the board in Europe it's likely these models would be first for the chop should drastic restructuring be undertaken by the struggling French brands (Automotive News Europe)

Wednesday 8 August 2012
•Europe's most beleaguered automakers are predicting their salvation will come not from resurgent growth in their traditional western markets, but demand from growing segments in eastern Europe. Ford, Renault and Opel forecast countries such as Romania - where Renault's budget subbrand Dacia is based - will exhibit upscaled demand for new cars as prosperity returns, and are seeing a slow but steady rebound from the inital sales freefall of 2008-08. (Automotive News Europe)

Tuesday 7 August 2012
•Dutch supercar maker Spyker has sued General Motors for $3bn (£1.9bn) due to GM's apparent obstruction of a deal to sell Saab to a Chinese investment firm. Saab, owned by Spyker, filed for bankruptcy in December 2011 when a buyer could not be found. There were reports at the time that GM was worried a sale to Chinese manufacturers would lead to plagiarism of GM technology in Saab models (BBC News)
•Volvo has denied its CEO Stefan Jacoby has been linked with the vacant CEO position at struggling European brand Opel. Jacoby had been one of the top names connected with the Opel post, but remains 'fully occupied' with his job at Volvo, according to a spokesman (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 6 August 2012
•New car sales in the UK continued to rise in July 2012, as the month posted a 9.3% growth in registrations. It's the fifth month-on-month improvement so far in 2012: July saw 143,884 cars sold, with the SMMT revising its annual sales forecast from 1.94m to 1.97m. (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders)

Friday 3 August 2012
•Figures from General Motors show the company suffered a smaller second-quarter loss in Europe than initially forecast, but the company could not confirm when it expects to return a profit in the market. GM lost $361m (£232m) in Europe during the period April - June 2012; the loss expected was around $426m ($274m). Meanwhile, rival Ford's second-quarter European deficit totalled $404m (£260m) (Automotive News Europe)
•In other GM news, CEO Dan Akerson is confident the company is progressing well in formulating a plan for saving loss-making European arm Opel. Akerson said GM was focused on reducing production costs and bureaucracy: it's crucial they do, as GM is predicting a total European loss in 2012 of $1.4bn (£901m) (Automotive News Europe)
•Mazda has begun production of its crucial 6 family saloon and estate at the Hofu plant in Japan. Staying close to the looks of the Takeri concept, the new 6, which utilises Mazda's lighter, more efficient SkyActiv technology, is expected to sell around 126,000 units per year (Automotive News Europe)
•Toyota is hiking global production as the after-effects of the devastating tsunami, and growing demand from emerging nations eats up supply. Output will be boosted by around 300,000 units, especially among the hybrid models, which continue to sell well as the price of oil remains unpredictable (Just-Auto)
•Ford's electric Focus continues to struggle in the US. After posting sales of 89 units in June, that performance dipped to just 39 sales in July. It follows no sales whatsoever of the zero-emission hatchback in February, March and April 2012 (DetNews)

Thursday 2 August 2012
•Cost-cutting measures by PSA Peugeot-Citroen and Fiat could cost around 500,000 people their jobs, as the European debt crisis bites. Easy-to-fire temporary workers, which account for about 1.5 million of the industry's 7 million employees, would likely bear the brunt of the cuts (Automotive News Europe)
•Is the manual transmission making a comeback? Perhaps, but it's only a temporary stay of execution. Reports from the US suggest 'stick-shifts' accounted for 7% of vehicle sales so in 2012, compared to 3.9% in 2011. However, the declining range of manufacturers to even offer a manual, along with fewer and fewer new drivers even being able to operate them, means analysts are predicting the auto will have a complete monoploy within 20 years (DetNews)

Wednesday 1 August 2012
•Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has seemingly admitted defeat on Fiat's hemorrhaging European sales, and instead turned his focus to making Chrylser more profitable. Marchionne confirmed a second Fiat factory closure will be necessitated unless Fiat can come up with a profitable plan to export more cars to the crucial US market. (Automotive News Europe)
•Meanwhile, Chrysler will raise its sales and profit forecast for the rest of 2012, as the US market continues to defy the woes of the Eurozone. As Fiat's European investment is reduced by €500m (£394m) this year, Chrysler's capital spending will grow to $4bn (£2.56m) (Automotive News Europe)
•BMW's second quarter profits fell 19% versus the same period in 2011, as pricing pressure took its toll on the manufacturer's margins. This fall came despite sales actualy rising 7.3%, accounting for a total of €19.2bn (£15.1bn) (Automotive News Europe)