News watch Jan 2010: today’s auto industry news

Published: 29 January 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

Friday 29 January 2010
Nissan has announced the creation of 400 temporary jobs at its Sunderland plant to cope with strong demand for the Qashqai. The reintroduction of a third shift comes as the crossover is being updated in March 2010 (Nissan)
UK motorists will now be able to claim compensation for unfair or excessive clamping fees through new government-appointed independent adjudicators (Daily Telegraph)
The BMW group predicts that it will remain the world's largest premium car maker in 2010 with a slight rise in sales to 1.3m - thanks to the X1 and new 5-series (Automotive News)
CTS Corp, supplier of the accelerator pedal at the centre of the Toyota recalls, has redesigned the component and will be shipping it to Toyota factories soon. A 'sleeve' to fix the problem on cars already on the road is under development (Automotive News, subscription required)

Thursday 28 January 2010

Ford has posted a fourth-quarter profit and made its first full-year profit since 2005, it announced today. It made $868 million in the last quarter of 2009 compared with a loss of $5.9 billion a year before. Even better, it made a $2.7 billion net profit last year, compared with a loss of $14.8bn in 2008 (Automotive News)
Not a good day for Toyota. It has recalled a further 1.1 million cars in the US over concerns with throttles getting stuck under the carpet – and the recall is extending to Europe, although precise details haven't yet been confirmed (BBC News)
Toyota has also warned that it will have to cut 750 jobs at its Burnaston plant in Derbyshire. The site employs 3800 staff, but Toyota says the cuts will come from voluntary redundancies (
Secondhand car complaints have topped a list of the UK's most common consumer gripes for the fourth year running. Government support body Consumer Direct received 50,790 calls and emails from dissatisfied customers in 2009 (BBC News)
Ford is today expected to announce fourth quarter profits – and could even post a full-year in the black, analysts predict (Automotive News)
Scrappage incentives around the world have helped Hyundai quadruple profits between October and December 2009; net profits grew to $820 million (BBC News)

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Toyota has stopped sales of eight models in the US over the throttle recall scandal that's snowballing (Financial Times)
Toyota dealers admit 'it could be devastating' – it's the first suspension of US sales in the company's history (Automotive News)
Fiat chief exec Sergio Marchionne appeared to diss Saab's chances of survival as an independent at an event in Sweden yesterday. He said: 'Marginal players will continue to be marginalised. We cannot build on hopes and dreams' (Automotive News Europe)
GM has struck a deal to design and manufacture its own electric motors for hybrids and full EVs. It is investing $246 million in new EV motor manufacturing facilities in the US (Automotive News)
$25,000 is the sweet pricing point of the car market, reports the Wall Street Journal – a price that lets consumers treat themselves without feeling ripped off (

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Genii Capital pulled out of the bidding for Saab late last night, leaving the road open for Spyker Cars to sweep up GM's Swedish car maker. F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone had backed the bid by Luxembourg finance house Genii (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
A short statement said: 'Genii Capital believes that the timing of the next stage of the shutdown process at Saab is not compatible with its requirements for putting in place a solid business platform for the future and closing the transaction' (Genii Capital)
Porsche's failed takeover bid for VW has led to what's shaping up to be one of the largest corporate lawsuits ever seen in Germany. Four hedge funds, Elliott, Glenhill, Glenview and Perry Capital, have started legal proceedings in New York to recoup huge losses – more than $1 billion – after VW's share price soared last year (Financial Times)
Fiat Auto forecasts a return to profitability this year; the net loss in 2009 was €848 million, but it predicts a net profit of €200-300m in 2010 – 'a year of transition and stabilisation' (Financial Times)
China's Geely Holdings aims to complete its takeover of Volvo by May for between $1.5bn to $2 billion – and its plans are slowly becoming clear. Sources say it plans to build 300,000 Volvos a year in Beijing, on top of the existing Swedish operation (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)

Monday 25 January 2010

Jaguar Land Rover chief executive David Smith will stand down, reports the BBC. His departure is not linked to last week's breakdown in union talks over pay and pensions, JLR said (BBC News)
Spyker issues a formal statement on its bid for Saab: 'Spyker Cars NV, manufacturer of exclusive premium sports cars, has noted recent press speculation about the Saab negotiations. Spyker confirms that talks are ongoing, the outcome of which is still uncertain. As Saab is currently in liquidation talks must end soon' (Spyker)
Bloomberg reports that financial terms have been agreed between Spyker and GM on the long, drawn-out sale of Saab. The only remaining stumbling blocks are sorting out production issues (Autoblog)
As part of the deal, reports Bloomberg, Spyker's Russian backer and chairman Vladimir Antonov must stand down and the Swedish government must guarantee €400 million loans from the European Investment Bank
Rumoured deal is for Spyker to give GM $75m, GM keeps $100m in Saab liquidity, GM gets $325m in preferred shares in new Spyker-owned Saab
Audi has finally won a long legal battle to take full control of its Vorsprung durch Technik advertising slogan. Ad doyen John Hegarty spotted the phrase on a wall in an Audi factory and the rest is history. But Audi's been in a seven-year European Court of Justice lawsuit in a bid to extend the trademark protection to clothes and games, as well as just cars. The phrase now joins the likes of Kit Kat's 'Have a Break' catchline (The Guardian)

Friday 22 January 2010

The total number of vehicles built in the UK in 2009 slumped by 34%, new figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reveal; but car output rose 59% in December, signalling a recovery towards the end of the year (SMMT)
Toyota is recalling 2.3 million vehicles in the US over fears the accelerator could stick on models including the RAV4, Corolla, Matrix, Avalon, Camry, Highlander, Tundra and Sequioia (BBC News)
Brazil is a high spot in a tough global sales market, reports the FT. Vehicle sales last year rose 11% to 3.14 million (Financial Times)
Suzuki chief exec Osamu Suzuki says he would probably refuse any approach by Volkswagen AG to increase its 19.9% stake. 'When Suzuki becomes a bigger and more successful company, VW will probably want to buy more of our shares. If that happens, Suzuki will probably respond by saying, "Let's continue as we are" ' (Automotive News, subscription required)

Thursday 21 January 2010

GM will close its Antwerp factory in Belgium this year as it restructures Vauxhall/Opel. 'The decision was not taken lightly; instead, it is the unfortunate result of the current business reality,' said Opel/Vauxhall CEO Nick Reilly. 'We must make this announcement now so that we can secure a viable future for the entire Opel and Vauxhall operations.' The closure is part of GM's plans to reduce capacity by 20% in Europe (General Motors)

Wednesday 20 January 2010
Rolls-Royce has appointed Torsten Mueller as chief exec from the end of March 2010. He is currently BMW's global product management boss and will replace Tom Purves who will retire after 25 years with the BMW Group (Rolls-Royce)
Japan has bowed to pressure and extended its scrappage scheme to include American brand vehicles. Many had been barred from the scheme because they had different fuel economy standards (Automotive News, subscription required)
New GM Europe CEO Nick Reilly has vowed that Opel and Vauxhall will become a global company. In a letter to 48,000 staff, he pledged: 'It is time for Opel/Vauxhall to be clear winners again and to be recognised as clear winners' (Automotive News, subscription required)
Toyota's key battery supplier has secured a long-term supply of lithium in Argenina. Toyota Tsusho Corp, which is 22% owned by Toyota, has beaten Chinese competition to take a stake in a new lithium project there, which is expected to begin commercial production in 2012 (Wall Street Journal)

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Shares in old GM – now known as Motors Liquidation Company – gained 3% in recent days, giving the company a market value of close to $500 million. Earlier in the summer they were worth 47 cents each, rising to 77 cents on Friday (Financial Times)
Michigan has granted a Fiat subsidiary a $4.5 million state tax credit to expand a facility in Auburn Hills rather than take jobs out of the state (Detroit News)

Monday 18 January 2010

American company Fisker Automotive has secured access to $115.3m (£70m) in private equity. The cash is crucial for Fisker to be granted access to a $528.7m (£332m) conditional loan from the U.S. Department of Energy which it will use to help develop the Karma, the company’s first plug-in hybrid. Fisker plans to put the Karma into production in 2012 (Fisker)
• Ford, Mazda, and Chinese company Chongqing Changan Automobile have decided to dissolve their three-way joint venture by 2012, according to reports. Mazda and Chongquing will now run a factory in Nanjing, while Chongquing and Ford will continue to run the rest of the joint venture's factories in China (Detroit Free Press)

Friday 15 January 2010
Bosch is closing its South Wales plant with the loss of 900 jobs. Work building starter motors is being transferred to a Bosch facility in Hungary from 2011 (BBC News)
The remainder of the UK's scrappage scheme will be run by quotas from the Government after it emerged that three quarters of the £400 million cashpile has already been spent. The Government will allocate the £2000 incentives to manufacturers based on brand popularity – and there's funding left for 82,000 new cars (Financial Times)
Tata Motors' global sales leapt 84% in December 2009, the firm announced this morning (Tata)
Opel managing director Hans Demant has been promoted to vice president of global intellectual property rights at GM. He is likely to be replaced by Nick Reilly, who's already GM Europe president (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)

Thursday 14 January 2010

GM has ended Tiger Woods' deal to drive free Buicks as a brand ambassador (BBC News)
Renault has been ordered by the French government to keep production in France rather than switch it to lower-cost Turkey. The French government holds a 15% stake in Renault and opposes a plan to shift production east for the next Clio due in 2013 (Financial Times)
Volkswagen aims for 800,000 US sales by 2018 – up from 298,000 last year (Automotive News, subscription required)
Luxembourg's Genii Capital said it has submitted a better offer for Saab; GM is expected to respond by the end of the week (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Audi's head of sales and marketing, Peter Schwarzenbauer, has said the German car manufacturer plans to sell over 80,000 A1s in the first full year of production. Figures are expected to rise after that as the five-door (Sportback) and other bodystyles are added. Schwarzenbauer also confirmed the A1 would have stop/start technology, brake energy recuperation, and an array of infotainment options (Audi)
The Renault Megane has topped a chart for MOT failure rates, with 28.1% of French hatches not getting through the test. The Toyota Corolla had the lowest rate, at 11.2% (BBC)

Tuesday 12 January 2010
Saab's slow demise continues to rumble on. Senior GM executives at the NAIAS were not confident that a buyer would step forward. GM is winding down the operation, although GM Europe chief Nick Reilly said today it was still considering bids for its Swedish division (Detroit News)
Saab's entire management team including managing director Jan Ake Jonsson will be replaced immediately as part of the windown. Jonsson will remain with the company as an advisor during the wind-down; he has been MD since March 2005 and with Saab for 36 years (Automotive News, subscription required)
Acting GM CEO Ed Whitacre told reporters at the NAIAS today: 'We're closing down Saab.' Vice chairman Bob Lutz added: 'The offers we've received so far in terms of risk and financing up-front have been just as good as winding it down.' But Lutz added that GM remains open to offers, although time is very limited
Volkswagen AG announces an astonishing record sales year in troubled 2009. The group saw deliveries rise 1.1% to a record 6.29 million vehicles – placing it third in the global rankings, with a worldwide sales share of 11.4% (Volkswagen AG)

Monday 11 January 2010

All our reporting effort is going into the North American International Auto Show 2010. Check out our industry news from Detroit via the homepage

Friday 8 January 2010

GM announces it has appointed closure specialists AlixPartners to supervise the orderly wind down of Saab. But it will continue to study the clutch of new bids submitted last night (GM)
GM Europe president Nick Reilly warns Opel and Vauxhall staff that job cuts are looming; GME has already committed to axing around 8300 staff from the 50,000 it employs in Europe as part of a €3.3bn cost-cutting exercise (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has joined forces with Lexembourg-based private investment firm Genii Capital to bid for Saab. The deadline passed at 10.00pm GMT last night; Spyker has also submitted a renewed bid (BBC News)
Ecclestone told the Bloomberg news agency: 'It's a good brand that has probably been neglected by the current owners.'
The GM board will meet today to discuss the latest bids for its Swedish arm

Thursday 7 January 2010

Two anonymous Swedish groups are secretly preparing last-minute deals backing a management buy-out of Saab, Swedish business newspaper Dagens Industri reports today. It quoted industry secretary Joran Hagglund who said both bids could be ready for GM's deadline later today. 'The problem is that none of them can show that they have financing in place,' he warned. He also ruled out a further bid from Koenigsegg (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
Saab's interim CEO and chairman Ed Whitacre said last night that none of the potential bidders for Saab had applied with the necessary funding. 'It's real easy,' he said. 'Just show up with the money and you can have it, and nobody's showing up with the money'
GM's current deadline for bids on Saab is the close of business today; Spyker is expected to offer a renewed bid, in addition to the proposed Swedish offers, but Whitacre warned last night that he would proceed with the orderly closure of Saab once the deadline was passed
UK new car sales might have crept up in the second half of 2009, new SMMT year-end figures out today reveal, but there is pain ahead, warns the BBC. It warns of 'a vacuum, with fewer potential buyers in the market' as the scrappage scheme ends in February 2010. And those companies that made hay during the scheme have the furthest to fall (BBC News)
GM will reinstate at least 100 dealers that it scrapped during last year's emergency bankruptcy restructuring, says chairman Ed Whitacre (Automotive News, subscription required)
Indian car maker Mahindra & Mahindra plans to export a new electric mini truck to Europe and the US, following Tata's lead by seeking exports in the West. The Maxximo will sell for around $6000 in its home market (Financial Times)
Volkswagen said today that it sold 37% more cars in mainland China and Hong Kong in 2009 – 1.4 million cars. It's now clearly a very important chunk of its global business (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)

Wednesday 6 January 2010
Swedish government ministers will meet GM chiefs next week to discuss Saab's future, Sweden's national news agency reports. Spyker Cars, which is reportedly the only bidder for Saab, says GM has set a new 7 January deadline for bids on Saab (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)
The UK's 2009 annual sales figures are due out tomorrow. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders hints that total registrations will beat the 1.92 million forecast, although they are not expected to exceed 2008's 2.13m (SMMT)
America's sales figures are due soon, too. After the worst year since 1970 for the US industry, some analysts expect an uplift, after strong December 2009 sales. The more bullish analysts predict up to 13 million sales, still way below the market's peak of 17.4m at the start of the last decade (Detroit News)
The Wall Street Journal reports that US sales rose around 15% in December – pointing to a gradual recovery in 2010 (
Fiat plans to unveil its small car in India in 2012, reveals Rajeev Kapoor, president and CEO of Fiat India Automobiles. Indian car sales are set to grow 16% in 2010 to around 1.4 million vehicles, after posting double-digit growth throughout 2009 (Automotive News Europe, subscription required)

Tuesday 5 January 2010
Spyker is reportedly the only bidder in town for Saab, reports AN. Financing remains the main obstacle for the deal, and GM apparently has rebuffed one Russian finance partner that Spyker had lined up (Automotive News, subscription required)
The US scrapped more cars in 2009 than it bought new ones, according to a new report by the Earth Policy Institute. It claims 14 million cars were scrapped, while just 10m new ones were registered (Automotive News, subscription required)

Monday 4 January 2010
A Californian businessman who was until 2009 one of Nissan's biggest US dealers, is suing the car maker for alleged fraud. Superior Automotive boss Michael Kahn alleges in a $250m lawsuit that he was forced to close seven garages after Nissan 'precipitously' axed financing (Financial Times)

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet