News: Dec 2011

31 Dec

  • On 1 January 2012, 65 per cent of cars sold in Europe must emits 130g/km CO2 or less. Car makers building more than 10k cars a year must to this by law: a €5 fine per gram of CO2 for each car sold over this cap will be imposed if they don’t. (Left Lane News)
  • In 2006, the average European car produced 161g/km CO2. In 2011, this has fallen to 137g/km. (Left Lane News)
  • China has switched on its own GPS system called Beidou. It offers accuracy up to 10 metres: the US GPS system has accuracy of 20 metres. It currently only covers China with 10 satellites but, by 2020 35 satellites will give it worldwide coverage. (China Car Times)
  • Indian SUV firm Mahindra & Mahindra is expressing an interest in buying Saab assets. At least one Turkish firm is also reportedly interested in making an investment: the Turkish government wants the country to have a car brand of its own. (Automotive News)
  • Car firms have nested £4bn in British car manufacturing in 2011. The UK car production record was 1.92m cars in 1972 but this could soon be beaten. Car exports rose 19 per cent in 2011: 88 per cent of British-produced cars are exported, 10 per cent of Britain’s exports. (Glass’s)
  • Hyundai Design Centre’s new chief designer is Christopher Chapman. He moves from BMW DesignworksUSA: he designed the X5, X Coupe concept and BMW 1 Series Coupe. As BMW director of automotive design, he also included the X3 and Z4. (4wheelsnews)
  • A breakup of the Eurozone would hinder Volkswagen but help Fiat. A breakup would signal a stronger German currency, increasing production costs and thus making exports more expensive. However, a weaker Italian currency would help Italian production. (4wheelsnews)
  • Volkswagen’s new platform strategy begins in 2012 with the launch of the new Audi A3. Its platform will underpin at least 40 cars (3.5 million cars a year), lowering costs by €5bn annually. Assembly times will also reduce by 30 per cent. There is, however, the risk of a Toyota-style ‘epidemic plague’ if there are any defects in the common parts. (4wheelsnews)
  • BMW has reduced the cost of building the F30 3 Series by 7 to 9 per cent by using parts common to the 1 Series and 5 Series. (4wheelsnews)
  • GM is recalling 4000 Chevrolet Sonics to check for missing brake pads. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Fuel is the biggest export of the US for the first time ever (10 years ago, fuel wasn’t in the top 25 list). It has also become a net producer for the first time in 60 years. It is also, however, the world’s biggest importer of crude oil: the fuel exports are partly influenced by high prices. (USA Today)

30 Dec

  • Renault may soon sign a Chinese joint venture agreement with Dongfeng, a firm that already has partnerships with HondaKiaNissanPeugeot and Citroen. Renault’s Samsung-developed Koleos and Latitude are popular in China but it has yet to fully launch in the country. (China Car Times)
  • FAW Volkswagen paid $3.96bn in taxes to the Chinese government in 2010. Brilliance BMW paid $4.19bn, and SAIC GM paid $4.15bn. (Gasgoo)
  • FAW Volkswagen is also paying a yearly bonus equal to 27 months’ salary to workers. (Gasgoo)
  • Japanese scientists have invented a new system of car seat ‘bum-metrics’. (Glass’s)
  • Renault and Nissan may complete a deal to purchase a controlling stake in AutoVAZ. The Alliance bought a 25 per cent share in 2008 for $1bn. the 50 per cent plus one share deal is expected to be completed in March, said AutoVAZ chief executive Igor Komarov. The Russian new car market is bigger than France and is tipped for big growth. (4wheelsnews)
  • China is falling short of its electric car sales goals. In 2008, it targeted 500k EV sales a year. (Gasgoo)
  • Opel will launch a Corsa-based mini-SUV called the Mokka, says AutoBild. Similar in size to the Meriva, it will go on sale in November 2012. (4wheelsnews)
  • Lada has begun production of the Granta saloon, which replaces the 1997 Samara. It is derived from the Kalina hatchback, with 30 per cent unique parts. 20k orders have already been received: Lada plans to build 100k in 2012. It is set to appear in the 2012 World Touring Car Championship too. (Left Lane News)
  • Hyundai Motor Group has upped its R&D and facilities budget for 2012 by 15.6 per cent, to $12.3bn. It will also create 7500 jobs. (4wheelsnews)
  • Fiat will reveal a mini MPV extension to the 500 range based on the new Panda at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. (4wheelsnews)
  • Suzuki will show a concept at the 2012 New Delhi Motor Show that previews the Jimny/Samurai replacement. It may arrive in 2014. (4wheelsnews)
  • Auto Express says the new Honda NSX will be a 400hp four-wheel drive hybrid: a 3.5 V6 will drive one axle and in-wheel electric motors will drive the other. It will be revealed as a concept at the 2012 Detroit Motor Show.
  • Germany produced twice as many cars as the US last year (5.5m v 2.7m) and its workers were paid twice as much ($67 an hour average v $33). BMWDaimler and Volkswagen Group all operate plants in the US, whose workers are not paid rates matching their German colleagues. (Auto Guide)
  • Jaguar Land Rover is planning a £100m investment in a Chinese factory employing 5000 people and producing 50k cars a year. It is now on the hunt for a joint venture partner: Chery is heavily tipped. JLR sold 37k cars in China to the end of November: 32k were Land Rovers. (Gasgoo)
  • Chery is China’s best-selling own-brand auto maker. (Gasgoo)
  • Mercedes-Benz plans to make 1m cars in Germany in 2012: 65 per cent of Daimler’s worldwide car production. Targeted total output is 1.52m. (4wheelsnews)
  • Audi will launch the new A3, A8 hybrid, A6 all road and all-electric R8 in 2012. The latter is targeted with ‘enhancing Audi’s expertise in lightweight construction and electric mobility’. (4wheelsnews)

29 Dec

  • Leaked patent images have revealed the BMW F21 1 Series three-door. It’s due to go on sale in spring 2012. (F20.1addicts)
  • The Chinese Fiat C-Medium saloon will go on sale in Q3 2012. Based on the C-EVO platform also used by the Dodge Dart, it will be built by the Guangzhou-Fiat joint venture. The wheelbase is 10mm longer than the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and it will offer a six-speed DCT gearbox. (Car News China)
  • Infiniti wants to build cars in China in a joint venture with Dongfeng. The proposal, that’s still to be approved, would see 25k cars built in the first year, 2014, going up to 80k saloons and 45k SUVs in 2015, and 145k overall in 2016. (Car News China)
  • Fiat has built its two millionth car with Blue&Me. Powered by Microsoft’s Windows Embedded Automotive system, it allows voice control of portable devices connected via USB or Bluetooth. (4wheelsnews)
  • Renault will launch the Safrane in China for 2012: it is not a new car, but a rebadged Nissan Teana. (Car News China)
  • Dongfeng, China’s third-largest brand, lacks its own self-developed brand. This is behind the rumours it may purchase Saab’s assets, although Youngman and an unnamed Turkish firm are also expressing interest. (China Car Times)

28 Dec

  • Toyota has more than 60k pre-orders for the Aqua, which returns 83mpg by the US measure – that’s 100mpg in the UK. (Cnet)
  • The Buick Verano automatically turns on the heated seats when the car is started remotely and temperatures fall below 7deg C. The heated door mirrors and heated rear window also auto switch on. (4wheelsnews)
  • China has overtaken Germany as the world’s second-largest market for luxury cars. The US remains top. It is expected to grow 16 per cent in 2012, with Germany’s premium sector growing 4.4 per cent. Mercedes sales have grown 31 per cent in China during 2011: Audi is up 35 per cent, and BMW is up 40 per cent. (4wheelsnews)
  • In four days, responsibility for Toyota’s small cars will pass to the firm’s European division. This will see Europe develop future city car, supermini and family hatch models. Current marketing boss Alain Uyttenhoven will move up to president of product planning. (4wheelsnews)
  • Moody’s has lowered the credit outlook of Toyota Motor Corp from stable to negative. It says the firm’s return to strong profits will be impacted by the strength of the yen (it has advanced by more than 8 per cent in the last six months alone). Toyota is targeting a 12-year high for car sales in 2012 as part of its recovery. (4wheelsnews)
  • Proton may be preparing to sell Group Lotus, which it bought in 1996 and has not made a profit from since. Experts say Proton may need the support of a larger car company than Proton in order to survive: the company may be worth £200m if it were profitable, three times more than its current worth – but this will require £500m of investment. To be profitable, Proton needs to seek 8k cars a year. (Bloomberg)
  • Speculation that Proton may sell Group Lotus has grown over the past few months: Chinese firm SAIC (which has a joint venture with former Lotus owner GM) last month denied any interest in the British sports car firm. A sale to investment firm Genii Capital was also denied in October. (Bloomberg)
  • Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has denied reports he will succeed Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn in 2016. (4wheelsnews)
  • The US premium car sector is, at 2 million units, as large as the entire UK car market. (4wheelsnews)

27 Dec

  • Toyota has launched the Aqua, a hybrid supermini rival to the Honda Fit (Jazz). The firm plans to sell 12k units a month of its smallest hybrid model to date in Japan. It will be sold in the US as the Prius C. (Automotive News)
  • In Japan, the hybrid version of the Honda Fit outsold the Toyota Prius during the first six months of 2011. (Automotive News)
  • GM has begun work on the sixth generation Chevrolet Camaro. The model is now within the GM product system as a 2016 MY car, using a fifth-generation 6.2-litre V8. (GMInsideNews)
  • In the first 11 months of 2011, Lexus sold 24,623 cars, for a 0.2 per cent market share. BMW sold 590,453 cars, for a 4.7 per cent market share. Analysts say this is why the lack of BMW diesels as part of the deal with Toyota is not a big hindrance: Lexus’ niche position means it is best positioned as an “innovation leader and to go in the direction of plug-in hybrids and full hybrids”. (Automotive News)
  • Stefan Sielaff will move from Audi to head Volkswagen AG design from February 1 2012. He replaces Thomas Ingenlath and will report to VW Group design chief Walter de Silva. Sielaff has been head of Audi design since 2006: he is credited with creating the Audi frontal ID, including the use of LED headlights.  (4wheelsnews)
  • Wolfgang Egger, current head of Audi group design, replaces Sielaff. (4wheelsnews)
  • Youngman has bought Saab’s Phoenix platform architecture destined for future models including the 9-3 replacement. The firm is already beginning the process of establishing a company in Sweden to develop the new cars. (4wheelsnews)
  • GM was able to veto the purchase of Saab by Chinese firms Youngman and Pang Da because it retained enough preferred shares to veto any investment. (4wheelsnews)
  • Volkswagen is to restrict emails sent to workers’ Blackberrys. They will only be sent half an hour before and half an hour after shifts start and end. 1154 employees at Volkswagen’s six German plants carry a company smartphone. (Reuters)
  • Chrysler has ended production of the Dodge Caliber. Analysts say it is the last cynical ‘small car, small profit’ design: it will be replaced by the Dodge Dart, based on an Alfa Romeo-derived platform (a car prioritised by Sergio Marchionne following Fiat’s takeover of Chrysler in 2009). This car is expected to triple sales compared to the Caliber. (Detroit News)
  • Honda is developing new production methods to make cars lighter. This include welding outer plan els to the frame rather than bolting them on, saving the weight penalty of bolts and reinforcing materials. Small cars will initially use the new production methods but it will extend to all models (and will help Honda expand in emerging markets). The N Box is the first car to display this new concept: new assembly methods will make 10 per cent lighter and cheaper to produce. (Reuters)
  • Audi will invest $22m between 2012-2016 on new products and factories. It will add 1200 staff in 2012 too. (Straits Times)

26 Dec

  • The 2014 Toyota Auris will be the first Toyota to use a BMW diesel engine. In return, BMW will get access to Toyota’s battery cell technology IP. However, BMW will not get access to Toyota’s hybrid technology – and in return, Lexus can’t use BMW diesel engines. (Autocar)
  • Dongfeng, China’s third-largest car brand, wants to buy the assets of Saab. Swedish Automoble CEO Victor Muller has also met with Turkish diplomats regarding a possible sale or investment. (Gasgoo)
  • The liquidation of Saab will start in April 2012. (Gasgoo)
  • Chevrolet will post an all-time sales record in 2011: the brand sold 4.8m cars up to the end of November. 60 per cent of sales are outside the US and a Chevrolet is sold somewhere in the world every 6.6 seconds. (The Detroit Bureau)
  • Alfa Romeo is to launch a Giulietta estate in mid-2013. Estates account for 25 per cent of European sales and 75 per cent of German and Italian sales. Also following in 2013 will be a large crossover and the Giulia junior executive. Alfa currently only sells two cars, the Giulietta and MiTo: the Giulietta accounts for 60 per cent of sales. (4wheelsnews)
  • Youngman plans to salvage parts of Saab in a deal that would decouple GM technology (estimated to be around 10 per cent) from the Phoenix platform. This would take around one to two years. New rights to use the Saab name would also have to be agreed with defence and security company Saab AB plus truck maker Scania: the two own the rights to the Saab name. (Reuters)

20 Dec

  • The US accounts for 50 per cent of BMW M5 sales. It will be released there in August 2012 – with a manual transmission. (Bimmerpost)

18 Dec

  • Skoda has broken the 800k sales mark for the first time. Volumes up to November totalled 816k cars: its previous record year was 2010, where it sold 762k cars. The year-on-year rise of 16.2 per cent marks a successful first year of the Skoda Growth Strategy, said the firm in a statement.

17 Dec

  • Generating 1kWh of electricity from a coal or natural gas fired power station in the UK generates 525g/km CO2. (Ben Rose)
  • Fiat wants to sell 230k Panda next year: up to 190k will be the new model, with the current car (Europe’s best-selling minicar since 2004) taking the rest. The current car will become the Panda Classic and its price will drop from €10,250 to €8500. (4wheelsnews)
  • The grandchild of Louis Renault has taken the French government to court, asking for the return of the French brand. It was nationalised in 1945 after L. Renault was accused of being a Nazi collaborator: Renault was under German control during the Nazi occupation of France in WW2. The French government today has a 15 per cent stake in Renault. (Automotive News)
  • GM may respond to China’s import tariffs for US-built cars by increasing production in the country. In 2010, 1.3% of GM’s 2.43m Chinese sales were imported. The duties are on cars with engines above 2.5-litres: China currently imposes tariffs of 25 per cent on imported cars. (Bloomberg)
  • Ford is unaffected by the Chinese duties on US-built cars: the Ford Edge it imports into China is built in Canada. (Bloomberg)
  • Fiat is to offer a headline finance deal in Europe for the new Panda – ’100 squared’: €100 a month for 100 months. The UK has not been confirmed for the UK. (Car and Van News)
  • 7000 people work at Fiat’s Pomigliano plant which has enjoyed €130m investment and been transformed into a ‘benchmark for all Fiat and Chrysler’s manufacturing sites in Europe, North America and Asia’. The redevelopment started in 2008: it closed for a few months when Alfa Romeo 159 production ended. (Just-Auto)
  • Saab’s new administrator is a Swedish lawyer called Lars Soderqvist. He will replace Guy Lofalk. Saab has this week received €3.4m from Youngman: the next deadline is Monday when a court decides whether it can remain in voluntary reorganisation (Lofalk will remain in his position until then). (Car Advice)
  • Skoda and VW are setting up a new centre of competence in India to develop low-cost cars for emerging markets. The move follows its failed alliance with Suzuki, which is market leader in India. (CAR)
  • Tata will begin customer clinics next year on expansion of its cars into Europe: a decision will be made by early 2013. The firm is preparing minicar, subcompact and compact models for the customer clinics. Tata cars are currently sold by private importers in Italy, Spain, Poland and Turkey. (4wheelsnews)
  • Honda is considering a rival to the Nissan Qashqai: in Q1-Q3, it outsold the entire Honda range in Western Europe: 153k sales vs 105k. Honda sales are down 19 per cent in Europe this year for a 1.1 per cent market share: Nissan’s sales are up 16 per cent for a 3.4 per cent market share. Honda is considering mini cars and compact MPVs to push sales above 300k and market share above 2 per cent. (Automotive News)
  • The US NHSTA wants to standardise engine start-stop buttons, with an engine shut-off time of 0.5secs if held down. It follows a fatal 2009 crash in a Lexus ES 350, whose start-stop button takes up to 3secs to shut off the engine. (Car Advice)
  • Scania has developed cruise control that uses a GPS feed to improve fuel economy. The Active Prediction system claims to save up to 3 per cent by altering vehicle speed before going up or downhill. (Telegraph)
  • China’s import duties on US-built cars, which started this week and are to run for two years, are part of a trade spat between the two countries. Mercedes and BMW, which assemble cars in the US, will be affected too. Cars with engines larger than 2.5-litres will be hit by duties between 2-21.5 per cent. Automotive News reports GM’s duties range from 8.9-12.9 per cent, Chrysler’s are from 6.2-8.8 per cent, while Mercedes and BMW’s duties range from 2-2.7 per cent. (Automotive News)

16 Dec

  • Ford’s Michigan production line has built SUVs and large trucks for years. Now it is building Focus: with normal or turbo petrol engines, Focus EV, C-Max hybrid and C-Max plug-in hybrid. $550m of investment has set a new Ford standard for flexibility – every variant comes down the same line. Multifunctional work stations aid this: one installs the fuel tank on petrol cars and the battery charger for EVs. Another installs the lithium ion battery pack for the EV and the exhaust for IC cars. (Automotive Engineer)
  • The Infiniti M will next year receive two Mercedes-Benz-sourced four-cylinder engines: the 204hp C 250 CGI’s turbo petrol and the 170hp 2.1-litre C 220 CDI diesel’s motor. The cars are expected to be revealed at Geneva 2012. An Infiniti hatch based on the Mercedes A-Class platform is also mooted for 2014. (LeftLaneNews)
  • Toyota doesn’t want to stretch the Prius brand. Soon, the regular Prius and Prius V will be joined by Prius plug-in hybrid and Prius C. Chief engineer Satoshi Ogiso confirms there will not be another version in the next two years, although Toyota is considering bringing EVs and hydrogen fuel cells under the Prius brand. Currently, 70 per cent of Toyota hybrid sales are badged Prius: by 2020, the target is 50 per cent. (4wheelsnews)
  • Mercedes may have lost second place in the premium car sales rankings to Audi this year, but it will still set another production record this year, of more than 1.25m cars. Production plants are operating at capacity thanks to adding extra shifts following agreements with works councils. (4wheelsnews)

15 Dec

  • Lotus will sell 2700 cars this year. That’s down on last year, but revenues from sales will increase 20 per cent, after improving 10 per cent in 2010. (Autocar)

14 Dec

  • Each major Volkswagen Group brand has been charged with developing a new platform. Volkswagen itself is doing the small car platform, with the Modular Transverse Matrix (‘MTM’) set to be used by all VW Golf/Audi A3-derived models. Audi is doing the Modular Longitudinal Matrix (‘MLM’) for larger A4-sized and above saloons plus Q5-sized and above SUVs, Porsche is doing the Modular Standard Matrix (‘MSM’) sports car platform (both front and mid-engined designs). VW hopes the new strategy will help cut production costs by 20 per cent and engineering costs by 30 per cent. (Car Advice)
  • The first Jaguar-Chery joint venture car may launch in 2015-16, as news strengthens that a deal between the two will be signed imminently (following approval from China’s NDRC). A source tells China Car Times the new car will be an entry-level premium compact saloon and hatch, similar to the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 (suggesting the new car may be derived from the forthcoming ‘small Jaguar’ platform apparently derived from the Range Rover Evoque). The JV may work in a similar way to the Mazda-Ford setup, where both firms share R&D costs. (China Car Times)
  • Chery previously inked a joint venture deal with Alfa Romeo but this later fell through. The firm has recently been trying to finalise a JV deal with Subaru, but Toyota’s 16.5 per cent ownership of Subaru has created hurdles: Chinese laws say foreign companies can only be involved in one JV. However, a deal to badge Subarus as Cherys for the Chinese market is expected to clear the JV. (China Car Times)
  • There are around 31m cars in the UK: the Royal Mail reveals there are also 29m addresses.
  • There are 120m electric scooters in China, powered by lead acid batteries: electric transport is not a new concept for the Chinese. However, the high price of electric cars is rousing ‘ridicule’ in the country. (China Car Times)
  • Volkswagen will reveal a Jetta Hybrid at the Detroit Motor Show next month, to rival the Toyota Prius. It will pair a 1.4-litre turbo petrol to an electric motor, and go on sale in November 2012. (Car Advice)
  • Porsche new car sales are up 25 per cent year to date, to 109k. China is up 68.9 per cent, Asia 47.8 per cent and the US is up 19.5 per cent. Europe is up 9.9 per cent. To meet demand for its key models, the Panamera and Cayenne, Porsche is adding a third shift at Leipzig in January 2012.
  • Ford hopes the new Focus Electric will break the 100MPGe barrier. The Nissan LEAF achieves 99MPGe. (Left Lane News)

13 Dec

  • Honda hopes its new 1.6 diesel engine will give VW sleepless nights because it has caused its engineers sleepless nights. It is the highest-output 1.6-litre diesel in its sector, at 120hp, and it produces 300Nm. At 180kg, it is 50kg lighter than the current 2.2-litre i-DTEC. Honda says it will emit less than 100g/km CO2. The new engine, part of Honda’s Earth Dreams Technology portfolio, will be built in Swindon, will debut at the 2012 Paris Motor Show and may also go on sale in the US. (Automotive News)
  • Honda is also developing direct-injection turbo petrol engines and three new transmissions. There will be a seven-speed DCT, an eight or nine-speed automatic and a new CVT that addresses a current DCT weakness of lag. Honda is improving it with a new drive belt supplied by Bosh that reduces the ‘rubber band’ feel, while an optimised ECU reduces hunting. (Automotive News)
  • Jaguar might develop a Chery-badged model based on one of its platforms in order to get approval for a Chinese joint venture. China’s NDRC demands ‘substantial cooperation’ for any joint ventures to be approved – it can’t solely be a manufacturing deal. Jaguar would also commit to developing green cars for China. JLR’s discussions with Chinese partners (it has spoken with Great Wall, amongst other) have been unsuccessful to date. (Reuters)
  • 2013 will be the year of Chrysler and Fiat, says Sergio Marchionne. That’s when model development plans will mature, Alfa Romeo will launch in the US and the two firms may possibly merge.
  • Both Lexus and Honda are to unveil new supercar concepts at the North American International Auto Show in January. Honda’s Acura-badged model is the NSX Concept and is rumoured to include electric hybrid drive.
  • China is now Lamborghini’s largest world market. 300 cars have been sold there this year, 70 per cent more than last year (when total sales numbered 1302). (Gasgoo)

12 Dec

  • Bentley Crewe is the largest producer of 12-cylinder engines in the world.
  • The 2013 Chevrolet Volt’s lithium ion batteries will be less volatile than the Chevrolet Volt. The Spark will use safer, longer-lasting phosphate-based batteries built by A123 Systems Inc. NHSTA investigations into three reported Chevrolet Volt battery fires continue. (4wheelsnews)
  • Daimler AG’s market value was €17bn higher than BMW AG in January. It was €39bn in 2007. Today, it has narrowed significantly, to €700m. Daimler and BMW have similar market valuations but Daimler’s revenue was 38% lower than BMW in 2010 and it employs twice as many people as BMW (270k) (4wheelsnews)
  • Group Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar has signed a new four-year contract a year before his current one expires. Bahar is leading the Lotus reinvention to become a British Porsche, after joining the firm in October 2009. The first New Lotus will be the 2013 Esprit: all should be on sale by 2018. (Autocar)

11 Dec

  • There are 49m people living in South Korea, a country the size of Indonesia. US cars account for 1.1% of the new car market, and the recent US-Korea trade deal (calling for the phasing out of South Korea tariffs on US vehicles) is unlikely to improve this, say analysts. South Korean brands account for 92% of the 1.2m cars registered in the country in 2010. European makers account for 65% of all imported cars, followed by Japanese cars on 26%. US cars are third at 8.2%. (Business Week
  • GM hasn’t recorded an overall profit in Europe in over a decade. The firm is aiming to emulate Volkswagen’s high profit margins, which it attributes to high prices, effective cost management and strong performances in key markets. (4wheelsnews)
  • Toyota is planning a design overhaul inspired by president Akio Toyota and led by designer Tokyo Fukuichi. He is ‘highly regarded’ within Toyota for creating the 1989 Previa and is being charged with creating ‘cool cars’. Current Toyotas have good proportions, he says, but little character. Insiders say it is he that drove through the distinctive nose of the new Lexus GS. (Autocar)
  • China has overtaken Germany as Audi’s biggest new car market. Production capacity will be boosted to 700k with the addition of a new plant from 2013: it’s being built by Volkswagen and JV partner FAW. The new plant will build the Q5 and a new A3 version, the firm’s third best-seller in China after the A4 and A5. Audi sales increased 32 per cent between Jan-Oct 2011: it is targeting 300k sales this year. (China Car Times)
  • Suzuki builds 280k Fiat-licensed 1.3 JTD turbodiesels in its Indian Maruti-Suzuki joint venture. 50k are sent to Hungary: the rest remain in India. Fiat has recently signed a contract boosting the license to 380k (despite the conflict with Volkswagen…). Diesel cars are growing in popularity in India due to high fuel prices (4wheelsnews)
  • A conventional four-cylinder engine requires 45 machining processes and 15 assembly operations. Mazda’s new SkyActiv-G engine needs four machining processes and six assembly operations. Autocar’s Hilton Holloway says other manufacturers are reportedly expressing interest in buying SkyActiv engines. (Autocar)
  • Mazda currently makes 1.3m cars a year. By 2016, it wants to boost this by 400k cars. 
  • Audi has already topped 2010′s record US sales of 101k with a month still to go. Lexus, BMW and Mercedes still sell twice as many cars as Audi, but the brand is growing fast: full-year estimates of 117k could have been 10k higher too, as Audi is supply constrained. It takes Audi 11 days to receive, prep and ship cars within the US: the Q5 has 14 days’ supply… (MSNBC)
  • BMW will co-develop an electric car with Chinese partner Brilliance, as part of its joint venture obligations. ‘It’s a legislative requirement’ said sales and marketing board member Ian Robertson. Brilliance and BMW have already collaborated on the plug-in hybrid 5 Series. (4wheelsnews)
  • Audi sales will pass Mercedes-Benz for the first time this year to see it take second place in the global luxury car sales league, behind BMW. Automotive News reports Audi leads Mercedes by 56k cars: Mercedes sales are up 7 per cent this year, to 1.13m cars, but Audi sales are up 18 per cent, to 1.19m. BMW sales are up 13 per cent, to 1.25m – and BMW Group has already sold more cars in the fist 11 months of the year (1.51m cars) than in all of 2010. (Automotive News)
  • Audi is aiming to become the world’s number 1 premium luxury brand by 2015: Mercedes wants to take the slot in 2020. BMW wants to retain its position. (Automotive News)
  • Sergio Marchionne says Maserati will launch three cars ‘in quick succession’: a new Quattroporte, a Chrysler 300C-based saloon (which could be built alongside the Quattroporte in Modena) and the new Jeep Cherokee-based Maserati Kubang. Which comes first is being kept under wraps: CAR reckons it will be the new Quattroporte. (Auto Guide)
  • Chinese brand Chery has exported 80% more cars so far in 2011 (more than 150k) than in 2010: it is China’s most exported car brand. (Gasgoo)
  • Porsche wants to double its US sales in 7 years, reaching 50k annual sales by 2018. 2010′s total of 25k case represents 28% of worldwide sales: this year’s total will grow to over 29k cars. New models will drive this growth, including the H2 2012 launch of the first diesel US Porsche, the Cayenne Diesel (which will make up 15% of US sales). (4wheelsnews)

10 Dec

  • Volkswagen, meanwhile, is to get a new sub-Tiguan crossover model: the Cross Coupe Concept   previews first ideas for its appearance, said Walter de’Silva, when confirming the new model. The next Tiguan will retain its traditional proportions. (4wheelsnews)
  • Europe’s small crossover sector is up 81% in 2011 to 112k sales – the Dacia Duster accounted for most of this with a sixfold sales growth to 76k vehicles. (4wheelsnews)
  • Vuxhall/Opel is targeting €1bn a year profit from 2016, with 5 per cent return on sales and an 8.5 per cent EU market share. CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke revealed the target in a staff newsletter: he also said 30 new models will come to market by 2014. (Automotive News)
  • Ford is replacing the Econoline van name in the US with the Transit. Production will start in 2013 with a family of next-generation Transit, further broadening sales of the model designed by Ford of Britain and Ford of Germany in 1965 (whose genus move was the forward-mounted engine, variety of body styles and passenger car derived mechanicals). (Automotive News)
  • Volkswagen has approval to build its 13th plant in China: the latest is a $315m site with a 50k annual capacity (it will produce mid-size cars). VW Group wants to sell 2m cars in China this year; and its nine current factories have a 1.9m capacity (imports account for the rest). VW Group cars account for nearly 18% of total car sales in China. (4wheelsnews)
  • Restricted supply and tight competition mean Honda US sales have fallen 5.3% in 2011. Market share has fallen from 10.5% to 9%: Hyundai and Kia share has risen from 7.8% to 9%. Its situation is improving – the Civic was the best-selling compact car in November. (Businessweek)
  • Mercedes will replace Maybach with a 6.5-metre long S 600 Pullman in 2014. It will be base on the current W222 S-Class but will have unique front and rear ends. (4wheelsnews)
  • A new Mercedes A-Class AMG will boast a twin-scroll 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine producing up to 320hp. The A 25 AMG will also use a Haldex four-wheel drive system. There may also be a performance version of the 2013 GLC Range Rover Evoque rival. (Autocar)
  • The 2012 Mitsubishi Colt will be built in Thailand and Outlander production has also been moved away from the Dutch Nedcar plant – leaving its future in doubt. It built 250k cars in 1999 but only 50k last year. UK MD Lance Bradley says the oct difference between assembly in Japan and the Netherlands is minimal. (4wheelsnews)
  • Chinese new car sales will beat last year’s record and exceed 18 million in 2011, reports the Chinese Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
  • Ferrari is planning a HGTE handling pack for the California. The suspension will be 50% ‘more responsive’, steering is 10% faster and power will go up 28bhp to 483bhp. (4wheelsnews)
  • The last R 230 Mercedes SL has been produced on the Bremen: 165k have been sold since launch in 2001. Production of the R 231 at Bremen will be combined with C-Class, E-Class, GLK and SLK production in 2012 – the 40th anniversary of the Mercedes SL. (4wheelsnews)
  • Audi is planning a Q6 rival to the BMW X6. Suggestions are it will be akin to an A7 crossover. Audi design boss Walter de’Silva says it is already signed off. Audi is also considering a Q4 rival to the upcoming BMW X4. (Automotive News)
  • Europe’s best selling luxury SUV is the BMW X5; the Audi Q7 is fifth. (Automotive News)

6-9 Dec

  • Porsche is to delay a decision on whether to build a ‘baby Boxster’ until 2012 following concerns over the global economy. CEO Matthias Mueller wants to see how far the financial crisis develops. The baby Boxster is earmarked to go on sale in 2014: it will use a new four-cylinder boxer engine. (Car Advice)
  • Fiat is to cut 300k cars from its 2012 European production total: it was forecast to build 1.3m. This year, it is aiming to build 1.15m cars. Automotive News explains car makers are keen not to large inventories of unsold cars in an economic downturn. This happened in 2008/09 and led to deep discounting and disrupted production plans. (Automotive News)
  • Morgan Stanley forecasts a 5-10% define in new car sales in 2012, due to government cutting new car scrap page schemes and customers being unable to source credit. (Automotive News)
  • Ferrari designer for Chrysler Fiat: Lorenzo Ramaciotti, designer of the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, 550 Maranello and the Maserati Quattroporte, is to come out of retirement to create a common design language for Chrysler and Lancia. It will be an international design language to work in both Italy and the US. ‘It is a delicate problem’, he told Business Week. Currently, 90% of Lancia sales are made in Italy. Fiat is targeting dual sales of 800k cars by 2014, up from today’s 300k: the group sales target is 5.9m by 2014, a 64% increase. Ramaciotti has already designed the Maserati Kubang concept shown at the Frankfurt IAA 2011. (Business Week)
  • GM steadfast over Saab: GM is still opposing the Saab takeover by Pang Da and Youngman. It refuses to allow the 9-4X and the GM technology used by Saab to be part of the deal, due to concerns over releasing IP to the Chinese brands. (4wheelsnews)
  • Alfa Romeo debuted at the Chinese Guangzhou Auto Show this week: sales will begin in 2012. The cars will initially be imports as the Guangzhou-Fiat joint venture is still two years away. (Car News China)
  • Tata has face lifted the slow-selling Nano, which sold 1200 units in September 2011, half the figure from 2010. This has more power (28kWh is 2kWh more), better economy, new colours (8 out of the 10 offered are new) and interiors yet retains the old car’s price. Tata says it matches the Toyota Prius’ 3.9 l/100km economy and emits the least CO2 of any car on sale in India. It also gets a front anti-roll bar, new steering system, servo-assisted brakes and a sportier-sounding exhaust. (Car Advice)
  • Renault is planning a €2500 car. Development will start on January 1 2012 and it’s earmarked for emerging markets. Renault small car boss Gerard Detourbet will lead development of the car and its new interchangeable ‘platform A’ base. (Car Advice)
  • Ferrari is planning a ‘car collectors’ club open only to those who own at least five Ferraris – around 300, reckons the firm. They’ll get first option on the most exclusive new Ferraris, such as the SA Aperta. (Car Advice)
  • SEAT Leon range to expand: The new SEAT Leon goes on sale in 2012 and will arrive in the UK in 2012. CAR has caught it testing and says a more distinctive three-door, similar to the Astra GTC, is planned. There may also be an ST estate version. (CAR)
  • Cadillac may offer a diesel model in the US to compete with AudiBMW and Mercedes-Benz rivals. The brand’s last diesel was the woeful 1980s petrol engine derived V8 diesel. (4wheelsnews)

5 Dec

  • The Bank of China (China’s fourth-largest bank) has replaced car retailer Pang Da as proposed investment partner in Saab, alongside car maker Youngman. It is suggested the two are looking to take just under a 50% stake in the Swedish maker, in a revision of the original 100% takeover. GM objected to this and, in a Detroit meeting with Saab administrator Guy Lofalk, indicated that each investor should take no more than a 20% stake. (Automotive News)

4 Dec

  • BMW is planning a 320hp M135i version of the F20 i Series. It will use the N54 twin-trubo 3.0-litre straight six. (4wheelsnews)
  • Ford is planning temporary lay-offs for 4000 workers at the Valencia, Spain plant in 2012 (reducing capacity 34%). 6200 work at the plant, which is also to switch from Fiesta production to MkII Kuga and Transit Connect. (Business Week)
  • Ford is the fifth largest car maker in Europe after overtaking Fiat in the latest ACEA statistics. the brand sold 6.4% more vehicles in September despite the market shrinking 1.4%. (Business Week)
  • GM CEO Dan Akerson says the European debt crisis is more serious than the 2008 housing bubble, which helped tip GM into bankruptcy in 2009. The cost of the US government bailout has also been raised by 65% this month, to $23.6bn. (Bloomberg)

3 Dec

  • Revised Renault Scenic economy surprise: February 2012 sees a much more economical Scenic go on sale, marked out by a mild facelift with LED running lights. The key 1.5 dCi now gets stop-start, for a 23g/km CO2 cut down to 105g/km, plus an 11.3mpg economy boost, to 68.9mph. A new 1.2 TCe 115 replaces the old 1.6 110. It emits 135g/km and ups econoy by 20%, to 49.6mpg.
  • Renault aims to become the number 1 brand for CO2 emissions in Europe. A greener Scenic is a key part of this: it’s Europe’s best selling compact MPV, with 400k sold since its launch in 2009. Built in Douai, Northern France, 3.9m Scenic have been sold since the model debuted in 1996.
  • The Renault 1.6 dCi 130 is the most powerful and fuel efficient diesel engine of its size on sale.
  • Honda R&D base for UK: Honda is planning an R&D centre in the UK, following a decision to renew focus on Europe. Honda president Takanobu said Europe is the world’s most challenging market and the one where a future focus is most important. ‘We must be successful there if we are to succeed elsewhere,’ he told Autocar, which points out Honda year to date UK sales are 54k: in 2008, it sold 100k cars here. (Autocar)
  • BMW scoops lucrative new engine sales outlet with Toyota: BMW and Toyota MoU for longer-term collaboration on eco technology, including next gen EV architectures. BMW will also supply Toyota with 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesel engines for the European market from 2014. Norbert Reithofer, chairman of BMW AG, summarised it: Toyota is the world leader for green tech in the volume segment, and BMW is world leader in innovative premium cars. Pairing the two adds strength in force (and also gives BMW a profitable new outlet for its engines and powertrain systems).
  • Chinese brand on sale in UK by 2015: Great Wall will begin assembling cars in Bulgaria from spring 2012. The Voleex C10 will be sold in Bulgaria, Romani and Turkey. First year sales will be 8000 but grow to 50k by 2015 – when the Chinese brand plans to expand in to Norway, Sweden and the UK. (Autocar)
  • Ferrari no longer offers manual-gearbox cars in the UK: the last car with a manual option was the California, but the 2012 model ends this. Just 1 out of 260 UK California is a manual: a manual 599 has never been sold here in the five years it’s been available. (CAR)