News watch June 2011: today’s auto industry news | CAR Magazine

News watch June 2011: today’s auto industry news

Published: 23 June 2011 Updated: 26 January 2015

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

Thursday 30 June 2011
• Toyota is planning a massive media campaign in the US to promote its new Camry saloon, due in autumn 2011. At a dealer meeting in Las Vegas, Toyota executives announced the media campaign, set to commence in October, to position Toyota and the new Camry as ‘smart, safe and worry-free’. Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda told US dealers that the upcoming Camry will be a less-conservative design, and that Toyota US would have greater autonomy in terms of product design, manufacturing and sales (Wall Street Journal)
• The proportions of the Renault-Nissan combined majority stake in Russian carmaker AvtoVAZ have shifted as talks continue between the three carmakers. Renault is now proposing a 35% share, with Nissan offering to buy 15% – originally Nissan was to buy 25% on top of Renault’s existing 25% stake in AvtoVAZ. Renault-Nissanhas the Russian government’s approval to take a majority shareholding in Russia’s leading carmaker (Automotive News Europe)
• Details have emerged of Volvo’s plans for a second production plant in China. Volvo, owned by Chinese carmaker Geely, is planning a £440.4m plant in the northeastern city of Daqing, with an initial annual capacity of 80,000 vehicles.  Volvo also intends opening a production plant in the southwestern city of Chongqing (Reuters)
• Ford of Europe boss Stephen Odell has spoken out against the EU-Korea free trade agreement. Says Odell, ‘It gives improved market access for Korean manufacturers in Europe, while export opportunities for European-based manufacturers are likely to remain strictly limited in South Korea.’ The South Korean new car market consists of 95% Korean-made cars, and has one of the lowest levels of import penetration of any developed market says the European carmakers’ association ACEA (Automotive News Europe)
• Suzuki may have a partnership agreement with VW Group, but it is sticking with Fiat diesel engines for a new model to be produced at its Hungary plant in 2013. Suzuki currently uses 2.0-litre Fiat diesels in the Suzuki SX4/Fiat Sedici produced in Hungary, and license produces 1.3-litre diesels in India. (Automotive News Europe)
• Saab has received another short-term loan from shareholder Gemini Investment Fund. The 25 million Euro (£22.5m) loan from Bahamas-based Gemini is a six-month convertible bridge loan at 10% interest. Saab managed to avert disaster by paying its employee’s June wages on Wednesday, using funds from an advance order received from China on 27 June. (Reuters)

Wednesday 29 June 2011
• Speaking at the SMMT industry summit, Ford Europe CEO Stephen Odell echoes sentiments of market uncertainty ahead due to EU debt crisis. Austerity measures in some markets and sovereign debt issues may impact on second-quarter 2011 earnings in Europe (Automotive News)
• Chrysler loses its T-shirt war: a Federal judge has dismissed Chrysler’s motion to stop sales of T-shirts from a rival firm using Chrysler’s ‘Imported from Detroit’ slogan (Automotive News
• Ford has completed a $500m upgrade of its Silverton, South Africa manufacturing plant in order to export the new Ranger light commercial vehicle. The Ranger pickup will be solely manufactured in South Africa, for export to 148 markets, with South African-made kits being assembled in Thailand and Argentina  (Detroit News)
• Daimler group and Chinese joint venture partner BAIC are investing $2.8bn (£1.75bn) to expand production capacity, construct a local R & D centre, and launch five new models in china by 2020.   (Automotive News)
• The UK motor industry needs more engineers – that’s a key message to emerge from the 2011 SMMT industry summit. The UK motor industry body is planning initiatives to encourage more students to pursue careers in engineering (BBC News)

Tuesday 28 June 2011
• Nissan has produced its one millionth Nissan Qashqai at its Sunderland plant. Nissan claims that the Qashqai is the fastest British-built car to reach the production milestone, taking just four and a half years. Nissan produces on average 1200 Qashqais daily, of which 80% are exported (Nissan)
• Saab shares recovered 23% yesterday on news the embattled firm had secured funds to pay wages. However analysts remain sceptical that Saab will be able to find enough financing to restart production and fill the increasing backlog of advance orders (Reuters)
• Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche sounds another cautionary note over the current motor industry growth cycle. This time it’s the EU debt crisis, with the problems in Greece affecting Daimler and other European carmakers through adverse effects to the Euro exchange rate, and possible future refinancing risk (Automotive News)
• Batteries continue to be big business. Johnson Controls, the largest US autovotive component supplier is spending $138.5 converting a lead-acid battery plant in Ohio to produce Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) batteries. AGMs work more effectively with fuel-saving technology such as auto stop-start, and have a handy benefit to suppliers of selling for higher prices and offering greater profitability than traditional car batteries (Automotive News)
• Ford CEO Alan Mulally has won the 2011 CEO of the year award from Chief Executive magazine. The judging panel of CEOs cited Mulally’s foresight and leadership in Ford’s recovery as reasons for the award. Mulally was characteristically appreciative of the honour: ‘So neat for our extended Ford enterprise and our industry’ (Detroit News)

Monday 27 June 2011
• The world’s top 20 vehicle platforms will take 38% of global new car sales by 2015, predicts Magna International Executive VP Herbert Demel. In 2009 the top 20 shared vehicle platforms held 29% of the global market. A PriceWaterhouse Coopers study predicts Renault-Nissan’s Global B platform (Nissan Note, Renault Clio, Dacia Logan etc) will underpin 3.8 million vehicles, up from 2.6 million in 2010.  The current top ‘megaplatforms’ are VW’s PQ (VW Golf, Audi A3, Skoda Octavia etc) which sold 3.13 million units in 2010 and Toyota’s MC platform (Auris, Corolla, RAV4 etc) which sold 2.9 million units in 2010 (Automotive News Europe)
• Daimler may be considering closer collaboration with Renault/Nissan. Daimler CFO Bodo Uebber says in German business paper Boersen-Zeitung that the collaboration project with the mass-market carmakers was moving ahead of schedule and could lead to a deeper collaboration on compact cars (Automotive News Europe)
• Subaru’s significant emphasis on marketing its cars to women in the US has seen it petitioned by Saudi womens’ rights group Saudi Women for Driving. In a petition on the In a petition on the website. The group, which has organised demonstrations against the ban on female drivers in Saudi Arabia, called upon Subaru to publically support their cause and withdraw from selling Subarus in Saudi Arabia. The petition has received over 50,000 signatures (Bloomberg)
• Swedish real estate firm Hemfosa is ready to purchase and lease-back Saab’s property, offering a financial ifeline to the struggling carmaker. However its bid is complicated by Saab’s European Investment Bank loan conditions and financing via its new Chinese partners Pang Da and Youngman in order to secure the lease-back portion of the deal (Automotive News Europe

Friday 24 June 2011
• Ford US has plummeted from 5th to 23rd in the JD Power initial quality survey. The long-running consumer research survey canvasses experiences of around 70,000 owners of vehicles during the first 90 days of ownership. Ford’s complex MyFord touch multimedia touch-screen interface is seen as the main culprit. By contrast, Toyota moved from 21st in 2010 to 7th in 2011, recovering from the aftermath of various product recalls in 2009/10 (Detroit News)
• GM Europe president Nick Reilly says that Opel/Vauxhall is on track to meet or exceed its second quarter earnings forecast. GM Europe plans to break-even in 2011 and return to profitability in 2012, but its drain on parent GM’s finances has raised the possibility of Opel/Vauxhall being sold (Reuters)
• Reports from Reuters and German publication Manager Magazin indicate that Audi is planning to reach annual sales of two million units with profit margins of 8-10% by 2020. Audi CEO Rupert Stadler is said to be proposing the ambitious target in a strategy paper to be distributed within Audi next week. Audi’s 2015 business plan aims for 1.5m sales, up from 1.1 million units in 2010, with profit margins of 10.46% (Automotive News)
• VW’s Slovakia plant will be on round-the-clock production for a further six months as demand grows for the VW Touareg and Audi Q7 SUVs in Germany and emerging markets. An additional model line (a small family car) will be added to the plant, near Bratislava, in autumn 2011 and boost annual production levels to 400,000 units (Automotive News Europe)

Thursday 23 June 2011
• Porsche has passed another production milestone: it today announced it had built 300,000 Boxsters and Caymans after 15 years of sales (Porsche)
• Kia is aiming for 15% sales growth in 2011 to 300,000 units in Europe, with a 2013 target of 450,000 vehicles sold. Demand for new Kia models such as the Sportage SUV is running above projections and Kia believes new products in key segments will allow them to meet or exceed their goals (Automotive News Europe)
• Anticipating the closer integration of Chrysler and Fiat, the US and Italian trade unions representing workers at the two carmakers have formed an alliance for collective bargaining. Unions representing Chrysler and Fiat workers in other regions have been invited to join the global network (Detroit News
• Saab’s financial crisis deepens as the company revealed that the lack of short-term funding means it is unable to pay its employees’ wages. Efforts to secure short-term funding by the lease-back sale of property and negotiate payment terms with suppliers continue (Automotive News Europe)
• Nissan has announced its 2011 financial year forecasts. It expects annual operating profits to fall 14.4% due to supply disruptions caused by the March 11 earthquake, but on the bright side is expecting a 9.9% growth in sales. The forecast beat analysts’ estimates and is also higher than forecasts from quake-affected rivals Toyota and Honda (Reuters)
• Norwegian EV manufacturer Think, producder of the City EV hatchback, has filed for bankruptcy after recapitalisation and restructuring efforts failed. 2010 sales of the City were not viable at just 1,043 units. Think was owned by Ford from 1999 to 2003, and this marks the fourth occasion that the carmaker has collapsed financially in its 20-year history. (Automotive News Europe)

Wednesday 22 June 2011
• PSA Peugeot-Citroen boss Jean-Marc Gales is seeking to improve the global presence of the two French brands. PSA aims to sell over 50% of production outside Europe, grow from 3.3% to 5% of Chinese market share and move Peugeot from global No.9 to No.7 by 2015 (Automotive News Europe)
• Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche has warned of increasing risk in emerging markets, citing china’s battle with inflation as an example of economic factors that may temper the sales growth Mercedes and other brands are seeing in developing markets in 2011 (Reuters)
Aston Martin has successfully completed a £304m bond issue. CEo Ulrich Bez says the bond issue will provide financial stability for the next seven years and support the firm’s development (Aston Martin)
• Renault is planning a new hatchback model specifically for India to take on market leader Maruti-Suzuki’s Swift. The car forms part of Renault’s plans to sell 100,000 vehicles in India by 2013 (Automotive News Europe)
• Christer Palm, chairman of Sweden’s automotive supplier association, FKG, has responded positively to Saab’s supplier repayment proposal. ‘I think most Swedish suppliers will accept Saab’s proposal. Saab’s survival is at stake here.’ (Automotive News Europe)
• Saab has provided a repayment proposal to suppliers as it hopes to restart production. The proposal, reported by Sweden’s Dagens Industri newspaper, involves paying 10% of funds owed immediately, providing cash on delivery terms for parts shipments through to September, and payment of outstanding debts in mid-September with 6% interest. (Reuters)

Tuesday 21 June 2011
• Saab is back in News Watch for the wrong reasons: The Trollhattan factory will remain idle for the next two weeks as Saab returns to negotiations with suppliers to ensure component supplies continue. Saab is planning to restart on July 4, once it ensures that supplies of all components are resumed (Reuters)
• Toyota, Honda and Nissan are hiring temporary workers to boost production at their Japanese factories following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Toyota is planning to hire up to 4000 contract staff, Honda plans 1000 new hires on 3-month contract, and Nissan is expanding its production staff ranks by 200 (BBC News)
• Nissan is planning an upgraded hybrid system for front-wheel drive cars. The system, based around technology used in its Infiniti M35 Hybrid rear-wheel drive saloon, will reportedly debut first in the US market Altima midsize saloon in 2012 (Automotive News)
• Ford is planning a $1bn (£616m) rescue strategy for its ailing Lincoln division. The US-based luxury brand has lost a further 7.5% of sales in 2011, and at less than 35000 sales for the year to date is selling less than half of Cadillac’s US sales. the plan includes new and refreshed products and upgrades to the dealer network. (Detroit News)
• Mazda has begun a recall of 103,000 Mazda3 vehicles in the US manufactured between January and November 2008 due to a wiper motor flaw. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) received 132 complaints of wiper motor failure, traced to an assembly defect with the electric wiper motor’s earth terminal. Globally, the recall could affect up to 400,000 of Mazda’s family hatchback and saloon. (Automotive News)
• The battle to produce the best 2011 Frankfurt motor show pavillion has begun amongst the German carmakers. Audi and Mercedes-Benz are planning indoor test tracks for their exhibition spaces after BMW’s 2009 Frankfurt display included an elevated track around the perimeter. The 2011 Frankfurt show runs from September 15 to September 25 (Bloomberg)

Monday 20 June 2011
• Hyundai’s European chief Allan Rushforth says he wants to swell Euro sales to 500,000 by 2013 – a jump of 40% on last year’s figure. In 2010 it sold 400,000 vehicles (Automotive News Europe)
• VW sales globally rose 14.6% in the first five months of 2011 – and the US is leading that increase, with group registrations up 18.5% in the same period. The company said demand for its new Jetta had been especially buoyant (Detroit News)
• Mercedes-Benz is beefing up its design team, chief stylist Gordon Wagener told ANE. He is hiring 24 new designers for Daimler’s Chinese studio and is creating new specialist roles at other design centres around the world (Automotive News Europe

Friday 17 June 2011
• Technical issues have delayed the construction of Renault’s battery production plant in France. Renault will source batteries from AESC (the Nissan-NEC joint venture) and LG Chemicals in the meantime. The move will not affect Renault’s EV production programme (Automotive News Europe)
• Mazda has announced it will build a production plant in Mexico. The £309m plant will have a 150,000 unit capacity and will begin producting the Mazda 2 and 3 models in 2013 as part of expanded sales plans in the Americas (Reuters
• Chevrolet Camaro sales continue to outpace the Ford Mustang, with the Camaro outselling the Mustang by 33% as of May 2011. Lower sales put additional pressure on Ford’s production planning following the withdrawal of Mazda from the joint manufacturing plant at Flat Rock, Michigan where the Mustang is built (Automotive News)

Thursday 16 June 2011
• Some of Opel’s largest dealers have spoken in favour of the brand being divested from GM and sold to Chinese interests, saying it will give Opel an opportunity to expand into new markets (Automotive News Europe)
• Slovakia’s motor industry body predicts output will rise 12% to 630000 vehicles in 2011. VW, Kia and PSA Peugeot-Citroen operate factories in Slovakia (Bloomberg)
VW has released its second pilot test fleet of 80 Golf Blue E-Motion EV test cars. The Golf EV will be the second electric VW to launch in 2013, following the Up! city car and proceeding the Jetta EV saloon (Automotive News Europe)
• Nissan is in talks to buy a 25% stake of Russian carmaker AvtoVAZ. Renault already holds 25% of AvtoVAZ, and the move would make the Nissan-Renault Alliance the majority shareholder of Russia’s largest carmaker (Automotive News Europe
• Chrysler will invest £71m to re-open part of its recently-shuttered Trenton North engine plant in Michigan, with a gain of 268 jobs. The plant will re-open to produce components for Chrysler’s 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine (Detroit News)

Wednesday 15 June 2011
• VW Group have had their best-ever start to 2011, delivering over 2 million cars in the year to date for the first time in its history (VW Group)
• Analysts are sceptical of Saab’s chances of success after selecting Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co as its joint venture manufacturing partner. The selection of a minor manufacturer is perceived as a weakness in a sector that the Chinese givernment is seeking to consolidate (Bloomberg)
• Ford of Europe is realigning its vehicle production, with Transit Connect and Kuga production moving to Ford’s Valencia plant, and the new B-Max mini-MPV to be produced in Craiova, Romania. Ford’s Turkish plant will produce a new light-commercial vehicle, the Saarlous plant in Germany will handle Focus BEV production and Ford Southampton will produce cab-chassis versions of the otherwise Turkish-built Transit range (Automotive News Europe)
• Tata Motors is reported to be considering raising £307m in external commercial bonds to reduce its debt level, currently at £2.33bn (Bloomberg)
• Russia new car sales were up 48% in May and expanded 66% in value compared with the same period in 2010.  Annual sales are forecast to reach 2.35m vehicles in 2011, up from 1.97m units last year (Automotive News Europe)
• Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne says that Fiat will not risk its credit rating further by purchasing Chrysler outright. The Chrysler and Fiat boss said the easiest route for Chrysler was a public listing of its shares. (Bloomberg)
• Volkswagen has signed a production agreeement with Russian carmaker GAZ for joint venture production of VW and Skoda cars at the GAZ plant in Nizhniy Novgorod until 2019 (VW Group)

Tuesday 14 June 2011
• Honda has forecast a greater than expected 63% drop in full year earnings for 2011 due to the March 11 earthquake. Honda’s production output dropped 63% in March and 81% in April 2011 (Bloomberg)
• Nissan and Renault have opened a joint research office in Silicon Valley. The office, located across the road from the Google campus in Mountain View, California, will focus on will focus on new Internet-based technologies, vehicle information technology and advanced engineering (Automotive News)
• Mitsubishi is predicting higher production outputs and strengthening earnings for 2011 in spite of disruptions from the March 11 earthquake and continued weakness in the US market (Automotive News)
• Ford is appealing against the decision of the Ohio state court which awarded damages of $2bn in a class-action (collective) lawsuit by 3000 Ford truck dealers who claimed Ford had overcharged them on truck prices for 11 years (Bloomberg)
A decision on the future of the Maybach luxury brand is due by June 30. Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche has confirmed talks with Aston Martin over collaboration on the next Maybach model, and that a partnership for the struggling brand would help ensure its future (Automotive News Europe)
• Nissan is facing delays with production expansion of the Nissan Leaf EV due to disruption caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Production levels in Japan Commencement of US production of the Leaf may be delayed, further frustrating US sales ambitions as order delays cause complaints from prospective US customers (Automotive News)

Monday 13 June 2011
• Saab’s factory remains idle this week but the firm and its Chinese partner Pang Da Automobile Trading have been busy, announcing their Chinese joint venture production partner. Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Company will buy £120m worth of parent firm Spyker (equivalent to a 29.9% share). Youngman, which currently manufactures MAN coaches and has a distribution agreement with Lotus Cars, will hold 45% of the planned manufacturing joint venture (Automotive News Europe)
• Honda and Toyota are losing market share in the US as buyers turn away from the Accord/Civic and Camry/Corolla to try other brands. Honda’s US market share has fallen to 9.9% (down 0.7%)  and Toyota suffered a 2% drop to 13.2% as Hyundai/Kia, Ford, GM and VW all improve their competitiveness in the midsize and compact family car markets (Automotive News)
• The union at Opel’s Bochum plant has demanded GM make a clear and unambiguous statement denying the possible sale of Opel following last week’s reports (Reuters)
• German Chancellor Angela Merkel has sought a clarification from General Motors on Opel’s future after reports on Opel’s possible sale broke last week. GM has declined to comment on the reports and has not contacted the Chancellor’s office or the government’s ministry for the economy (Reuters)
• Toyota lost 220,000 units worth of production in the 2010 financial year due to the March 11 earthquake, and was projecting a loss of another 800000 units in the financial year ending March 31 2012. However increases in production planned from October 2011 mean that Toyota now estimates an annual loss of 450000 units in the 2011 financial year (Automotive News)

Friday 10 June 2011
• French newspaper La Tribune is reporting that Renault and Daimler have delayed the launch of the next Twingo and Smart Fortwo by 12 months. The jointly-developed cars will now debut in 2014 (Automotive News Europe)
• Nissan have developed an ‘EV Rescue Vehicle’ in conjunction with the government environment ministry and Japan Automobile Federation (JAF – Japan’s AA/RAC/AAA-style motorist association). The truck carries a 29kW diesel generator to deliver a rapid recharge to stranded EVs. Nissan is piloting the service in Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo. JAF reports 73 cases of call-outs for EVs with flat batteries since last summer (Automotive News
• Ford has decided to offer the C-Max MPV in the US with a hybrid powertrain only, and will not sell the seven-seat Grand C-Max in the US as originally planned. The C-Max, in both hybrid and plug-in hybrid form, will be part of Ford’s plans to build 100,000 hybrids and battery EVs by 2013, up from 35,000 at present (Detroit News)
• European Union commerce authorities have raided the offices of several component suppliers, including Autoliv and TRW, as part of an inquiry into possible EU antitrust law violations. The investigation centres around an alleged cartel arrangement for the supply of seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels (Automotive News Europe)
• Toyota Motor Europe CEO Didier Leroy expects Toyota sales to break 1m units again by 2013, after sharply declining from a 2008 peak of 1.2 million units due to the financial crisis and quality recall issues of 2009 (Automotive News)
• GM Europe could be sold, and VW could be the buyer? Read Georg Kacher’s exclusive report here (CAR)

Thursday 9 June 2011
• Good news for UK motor manufacturing continues, as BMW announced a £500m investment plan for its UK production plants. The plan, which will take place over the next three years, covers Mini Plant Oxford, the engine plant at Hams Hall, and the pressings plant in Swindon (BBC News)
• Nissan’s top executives were paid twice as much as counterparts at Toyota and Honda in 2010, with CEO Carlos Ghosn receiving $11.2m. Whilst Nissan compensation was generous for 2010 and reflected a strong financial performance for the firm, its CEO still earned less than half of Ford CEO Alan Mulally’s $27m salary and earnings in 2010 (Bloomberg)
• Saab production has halted again. After securing the necessary financing and supplier agreement to restart production at Trollhattan on 27 May 2011, production faltered on Tuesday due to component shortages and the plant remained idle on Wednesday. Saab cited possible difficulties for suppliers restarting shipments after the seven week idle period of Saab’s initial shutdown as a factor, but would not offer a prediction of when production would recommence (Reuters)
• Ford and Sollers, Russia’s second-largest carmaker, signed a collaboration agreement to build up to 350,000 vehicles in Russia. The agreement will cover six models: Transit, Mondeo, Focus and three un-named future models to be launched between 2012 and 2014 (Bloomberg)
• Audi sales in May 2011 were up 19.5%, largely due to increased sales in China. Sales in China accounted for nearly a fifth of Audi’s May deliveries, at 25.153 vehicles. For the first five months of 2011 Audi sales are up 17.5% to 535,400 vehicles (Audi)

Wednesday 8 June 2011
• Nissan has announced that the next Qashqai crossover hatchback will be designed, engineered and built in the UK. The move safeguards 6000 jobs and represents a £192m investment in Britain and safeguards 6000 jobs at Nissan’s production, engineering and design facilities in the UK (Nissan) 
• Chevrolet have announced UK pricing for the Cruze Hatchback. The five-door family Chevy starts at £13995 for a 1.6 petrol LS, with the top of the line LTZ Executive 2.0 diesel listing at £20,295 (Chevrolet UK)
• BMW Group is reporting a 20.7% sales increase for the year to date over the same period in 2010. 667,511 BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce vehicles have been delivered so far this year. BMW expects a record sales year in 2011, with strong sales growth from BMW and Mini (BMW)
• Spyker Cars NV, the parent firm of Saab, will be officially changing its name to Swedish Automobile NV on June 15. The Zeewolde, Netherlands based company sold its Spyker Sports Cars business to Coventry-based CPP last year, so this move better-reflects their current ownership of Saab (Spyker)
• Ford is planning for 8 million sales worldwide by 2015, up from its 2010 sales of 5.3 million. Growth in Asia and increasing demand worldwide for Ford’s small cars are seen as the key drivers for Ford’s growth ambitions (Automotive News)
• Volvo have begun production of the C30 Electric. The first production cars will be delivered to customers in Europe at the end of the summer. Volvo expects to produce around 250 units of the C30 Electric, as the second stage of their EV pilot programme, which began with a fleet of 50 C30 Electrics in 2010 (Volvo)

Tuesday 7 June 2011
• Aston Martin is moving Rapide production back to Gaydon in the second half of 2012. Due to production constraints in 2008, Aston appointed Magna Steyr to produce the four-door Aston in Austria. Improved production efficiency and flexibility at Gaydon means that the Rapide can now be produced in-house with the rest of the Aston Martin range (Aston Martin)
• Contrary to GM’s hopes for higher fuel taxes to drive demand for fuel-efficient vehicles, environmental groups are using high fuel prices to push the US government on more stringent mileage requirements for manufacturers (Automotive News)
• GM CEO Dan Akerson has suggested higher fuel taxes as a more effective energy policy incentive to drive fuel efficient vehicle purchasing than enforcing higher average fuel efficiency targets on manufacturers (Detroit News)
• Mazda has confirmed that the Mazda 6 will cease production at its Ford joint venture manufacturing plant in Flat Rock, Michigan. Ford, which currently builds the Mustang at Flat Rock, is currently in talks with Mazda as the Japanese carmaker considers its US production plans (Detroit News)
• Fiat confirms that it is in no hurry to purchase the 45.7% share of Chrysler held by the United Auto Workers pension fund. Fiat purchased an option to buy the shares when it purchased the US Treasury’s share in Chrysler, which some observers saw as a signal Fiat would attempt to purchase 100% of Chrysler’s shares (Reuters
• VW’s expansion plans in China continue, with a tenth production plant planned for Golf and Audi A3 production with joint venture partner FAW (Automotive News Europe)
• European markets had mixed performance in May 2011. Germany (up 22%) and Italy (up 3.8%) provided the good news, while France (down 8.3%) and Spain (down 23.3%) joined the UK (down 1.7%) in the negative column (Automotive News Europe)

Monday 6 June 2011
• Imported brands are seeing increased demand in Japan, as production disruptions affect delivery times for Japanese carmakers. BMW sales were up 56% in Japan for April 2011, while Lexus sales fell 45% (Bloomberg)
• Saab and partner Pang Da Automobile Trading may have trouble ahead trying to convince Chinese legislators to approve their joint-venture manufacturing project. Although Saab and distributor Pang Da remain confident that they can find a third-party manufacturer to produce Saabs in China, the government is determined to bolster the domestic manufacturing sector through consolidation, and has been wary of new ventures (Reuters)
• Meanwhile, Pangda has paid Saab an additional £13.4m for further vehicle orders as another stage of the Saab-Pang Da collaboration goes into effect (Saab)
• General Motors chairman and CEO Dan Akerson has outlined his plans for GM. Key milestones he hopes to achieve in his tenure include achieving $10 billion annual profits, transitioning the U.S. employee pension fund to fully funded, see Cadillac continue to grow as a global luxury brand and making GM Europe profitable on a sustainable basis. No pressure, then (Detroit News)
• After announcing the purchase of the US Treasury’s remaining shares in Chrysler for $500m (£304m), Fiat has also announced an offer of $125m (£76m) for the 1.7% share held by the Canadian government (Reuters)

Friday 3 June 2011
• Nissan Leaf sales have failed to meet initial expectations in the US. Nissan was planning on allocating up to 20,000 units of the Leaf’s 50,000 unit production run in 2011 to the US market, but Nissan has revised estimates downwards to 10-12,000 units (Automotive News)
• Japan’s national broadcaster NHK has reported that Mazda is preparing to withdraw from its joint venture US plant in Flat Rock, Michigan. The plant, shared with Ford, currently produces the Mazda 6 for the US market, but has been suffering from overcapacity and poor profitability in recent years. Mazda has not confirmed the report, but is known to have been reviewing the plant’s future (Bloomberg)
• Honda’s post-earthquake production recovery is accelerating. Plants in Japan are expected to be back to pre-quake production levels in August, and worldwide Honda production output could be back to normal by September (Automotive News)
• Ford appears to be having its ‘iDrive moment’, as critics and customers find flaws in the new MyFord Touch in-car communications system introduced in US Fords in 2011. The system has been criticised as over-complicated, distracting for drivers and has also suffered system reliability issues which may affect Ford’s improving product quality performance (Bloomberg)

Thursday 2 June 2011
• Tesla says its new Model S EV saloon is on schedule for launch in mid-2012. Production prototypes will be built in the third quarter of 2011 for testing, and Tesla holds 4,600 reservations for the Model S which it will satisfy in the first year of production. A Model X crossover based on the same platform will debut at the end of 2013, and a Tesla-built replacement for the Lotus Elise-based Tesla Roadster is possible in three years time (Automotive News)
• Spyker Cars N.V’s chief financial officer Hans Go is stepping down from his role on July 1. As Saab’s parent company has sold its sports car business, the firm’s focus on Saab means that Go’s role has become redundant. Rob Schuyt, Saab acting CFO and member of the Spyker board, will in Go’s role until the new CFO is announced later this year. Go will remain with Spyker in an advisory role assisting on various transitional projects until the end of 2011 (Reuters)
• Fiat is set to announce a new venture in China to produce gearboxes on June 3, coinciding with a visit by a Chinese vice-president to Italy. Fiat is currently working on its joint venture manufacturing plant with Guangzhou Automobile Group, prior to launching a locally-manufactured small saloon during 2012 (Bloomberg)

Wednesday 1 June 2011
• Toyota pledges it should have car production back nearly to normal levels this month. The company predicts it should be building 90% of normal stock in June (BBC News
• Renault chief exec Carlos Ghosn has been forced to fasttrack development of large cars and agree to spend more time in France after the French government took more of a say in long-term strategy. The state is the largest stakeholder in Renault (Automotive News Europe)
• Volvo has announced it is testing flywheel technology in a bid to save a fifth on its cars’ fuel consumption figures. The Swedes claim the tech can make a four-cylinder petrol engine feel like a six-pot – yet mpg is reduced by up to 20% in early lab tests (Volvo Car Corporation)
• Carlos Tavares, named yesterday as Renault’s new COO, is tipped to be a potential successor to Carlos Ghosn in the top job as CEO of the auto maker (Automotive News Europe)