News: January 2012

28 Jan

  • Fiat has announced the 500L, a five-door mini MPV version of the 500 city car that will be offered in five- and seven-seat guise. Replacing the Idea, it is 60mm longer than the standard 500, says Fiat, with the seven-seat model 10mm longer still. Sales of the 500L, codenamed L-zero, will start in July. (Automotive News)
  • Fiat will build the 500L in its new €700m Serbian plant. The former Yugo facility is 67 per cent owned by Fiat, 33 per cent by the Serbina government. The 500 is built in Tychy, Poland. (Automotive News)
  • Honda president Takanobu Ito is bullish: he expects record earnings within five years, and sales to exceed 4 million for the first time in 2013. His forecasts are well above analysts’. (4wheelsnews)
  • Ford earnings fell 15 per cent in Q4 2011, to $1.1bn. Results are down due to mounting losses in Europe but it is still the best Q4 in Ford’s history. (4wheelsnews)
  • The 2013 Porsche 991 911 Turbo will get a tri-turbo system for the current 3.8-litre engine. A smaller turbo will boost low-end response and complement the two Borg Warner turbos currently used. (Autocar)
  • The third generation MINI range, codenamed F56, will arrive in 2013. Replacing R56 the new model will be modular and also underpin a future FWD BMW. Derivations will include an F54 five-door hatchback, F54 four-door clubman, F58 five-door SportVan and F59 four-door saloon. All engines will be three-cylinder turbos. (CAR)
  • The final R56 MINI derivative will launch later this year: the MINI Paceman, a BMW X6-style crossover coupe based on the MINI Countryman. (CAR)
  • Kia Motors Slovakia has built its 1 millionth car.

25 Jan

  • Japan has posted an annual trade deficit for the first time in 30 years. Imports rose 12 per cent and exports fell 2.7 per cent, which led to the £20bn deficit. The Japanese earthquake plus the strength of the yen, which investors are turning to as a save haven, is affecting Japan’s ‘competitiveness to produce domestically’. (BBC)
  • 94 per cent of car buyers use the internet at some point in the buying process (Nissan Insider)

24 Jan

  • The average UK car dealer made £90k profit per site, a return on sales of 0.7 per cent. This is better than expected: data agency ASE advises dealers of focus energies into used cars and aftersales to ensure profits are sustained until the new car market recovers. (Auto Retail Bulletin)
  • Porsche has built the 100,000th MkII Cayenne (360k MkI Cayenne were built between 2002-2009). The Leipzig facility is also celebrating its 10th anniversary. A third shift has just started there and, from 2013, it will also build the new Porsche Cajun junior SUV. (Car Advice)
  • Volvo is seeking a partner to build small cars with. This will involve sharing platforms and engines. Autocar reports Volvo chief executive Stefan Jacoby has taken various measures to streamline Volvo since joining from Volkswagen in August 2010. These include the development of modular engines and modular platform. (Autocar)
  • Volvo’s Jacoby prioritised the new Volvo V40 over the replacement for the Volvo XC90. The new VW Golf rival will launch at the Geneva Motor Show in March. (Autocar)

22 Jan

  • There are 190k Saabs on the road in the UK, and 200 brand-new models within the dealer network. A new company has been set up to distribute Saab parts, headed by former Saab GB MD Charles Toosey. (Autocar)
  • Fiat is to supply an extra 100k diesel engines per year to Suzuki’s Indian division Maruti Suzuki. The same deal led to the breakdown of the partnership between Suzuki and VW. (4wheelsnews)
  • Turkey’s Brightwell Holdings is expected to make a bid for Saab soon. The private equity firm is studying the worth of Saab’s assets and has met with both he administrators and Saab CEO Victor Muller. China’s Youngman may also bid for Saab. (4wheelsnews)
  • The Volkswagen Golf was Europe’s best-selling car in 2011 for the fourth year running. Sales declined 2 per cent to 484,547 units. The VW Polo was second and Ford’s Fiesta was third (sales were down 13 per cent). VW is Europe’s best selling brand with a 12.4 per cent market share. (4wheelsnews)
  • The VW Golf MkVII will debut at the Paris Motor Show in September. (4wheelsnews)
  • The five-door Fiat 500 will debut at the Geneva Motor Show 2012. The car will go on sale in the US in 2013, to lift sales: 2011 sales of 26k were half of forecast. (4wheelsnews)
  • Bentley will continue to ‘experiment’ with new models and features, in an expansion similar to Porsche. Engineering chief Rolf Frech, a former Porsche man, said plug-in hybrid drivetrains are being considered, because of efficiency and ‘huge low-end torque’, a Bentley characteristic. (Autocar)

21 Jan

  • The third generation MINI will be launched later in 2012. It is codenamed F56 and uses a new BMW-engineered front-wheel drive platform called UKL1, which comes in two wheelbase lengths and will also underpin FWD BMWs. The MkIII MINI will expand to a 10-model range and will use three-cylinder engines. There will also be a hybrid version. (Autocar)
  • GM is the world’s largest car manufacturer, with group sales of 9.03m units in 2011. These grew 7.6 per cent on 2010. Volkswagen was second on 8.16m. (4wheelsnews)
  • The US government still owns nearly a third of GM. In the first nine months of 2011, GM earned $8.47bn: through 2010, it earned $6.17bn. (4wheelsnews)
  • VW wants to be the car world’s Apple. (Autocar)
  • Daimler wants to boost Mercedes-Benz sales by 100 per cent by 2010. 2.7m sales will, it is intended, see it become the world’s biggest luxury car brand. In 2011, Mercedes sold 1.26m cars. The 2015 sales target is 1.6 million cars. (4wheelsnews)
  • The baby Porsche is on ice and may be killed off completely within the next two years. The decision may be influenced by Volkswagen’s rumoured decision to end the Bluesport roadster project: VW engineering chief Uli Hackenberg says strategists are struggling to find enough sales volume to make the mid-engined roadster a success, something that a decision not to sell it in the US (the world’s largest sportscar market) does not help. (Autocar)
  • Bentley will make a decision on its proposed SUV within the next few weeks, says Bentley chief Wolfgang Durheimer (who described it as ‘on the large side’). It’s a key vehicle for the Russian, Chinese and US markets: it will be powered by W12 and V8 engines and there may also be a pug-in hybrid version. (4wheelsnews)

8 Jan

  • The Toyota deals with BMW for diesel engines and Tesla for lithium ion batteries marks the first time Toyota has purchased core technology from other brands. Its previous deals were collaborations. The change has come thanks to CEO Akio Toyota ‘shaking up decades-old practices’. (Bloomberg)
  • This year, Toyota forecasts profits of 1 per cent of revenue. This is the lowest figure since 1992. in the 2000s, Toyota was recording profits of 7 per cent of revenue. in 2008, it made $22bn. Its stock has fallen 70 per cent from its 2007 peak. (Bloomberg)
  • 80 per cent of GM cars by 2016 will be fitted with new brake squeal-reducing technology. The GM-patented ‘Coulomb’ friction-damped system consists of a thin ring of metal embedded in the brake disc. (4wheelsnews)
  • The Dodge Dart will debut at the Detroit Motor Show. It will offer three engines: 2.0-litre petrol, 2.4-litre petrol ‘Tigershark’ and the 1.4-litre turbo from the Fiat 500. A six-speed manual gearbox will initially be offered, with a nine-speed DCT arriving in 2013 (supplied by ZF). (4wheelsnews)
  • Investors are interested in the assists of Saab but there are little left say industry analysts. GM will be reluctant to licence technology and the Saab name rights are owned by security company Saab AB and truck maker Scania. GM may, however, consider a licence agreement with a government rather than a company: ‘Turkey could be one such scenario’.  (Automotive News)
  • Chinese brands Geely and Great Wall are searching for UK dealers. Geely will debut at the end of 2012 and is seeking 30-40 dealers. Great Wall has already appointed its first 30 dealers: it is distributed by IM Group and some former Daihatsu dealers have taken the franchise. The brand will launch with a pickup called the Streed. (Car and Van News)
  • Suzuki has revealed a new mini-MPV based on an extended Swift platform. The Ertiga, impressively, seats seven. It goes on sale in March, with a new 93hp 1.4-litre petrol engine. (Car Advice)

7 Jan

  • 701k people visited the Mercedes-Benz museum in 2011. 4.2m people have visited since it opened in 2006. (4wheelsnews)
  • SAIC is China’s largest publicly traded car maker (and owns the MG brand). Sales grew 11.9 per cent last year, to 4m cars. (Car News China)
  • The Chinese new car market grew 3 per cent in 2011. It grew 32 per cent in 2010. (Car News China)
  • The Mazda3 has knocked the locally-produced Holden Commodore off the top slot of Australian new car sales. The advantage was just 812 cars. (Car Advice)
  • 1m new cars were sold in Australia in 2011. It is the fourth time in history that the 1m mark was broken. (Car Advice)
  • Bentley’s last annual profit (of €10m) was recorded in 2008. It lost €245m in 2010 but this lessened to €6m in the first nine months of 2011. (Car News China)
  • Tata is not planning to acquire Saab. (4wheelsnews)
  • Ashok Leyland has increased its stake in struggling bus manufacturer Optare from 26 per cent to 75.1 per cent. Ashok Leyland aims to become a world top-five bus manufacturer. (AROnline)
  • BMW expects the premium car market to grow 8 per cent in 2012, twice the rate of the overall car market. European growth will be flat but China’s growth will continue. A decision is expected on a mooted BMW plant in Brazil too. (4wheelsnews)
  • Audi is planning a new RS4 that will be Avant only. The majority of RS4 sales are traditionally in Europe. It is scheduled for launch at the Geneva Motor Show and will use the RS5′s  450hp 4.2-liter V8. (Autocar)
  • The UK van market is recovering: 260,153 vans were registered in 2011, almost a 17 per cent rise. Larger vans fared best: the sub-2.0 litre sector was down 4.3 per cent and pickups were down 2.5 per cent. The Ford Transit was the best selling van: Vauxhall Commercial Vehicles topped the retail sales chart for the first time, thanks to a 28 per cent rise. Vivaro sales were up 58 per cent. (Car and Van News)
  • Audi will take on BMW and Mercedes in the US with more models. At Detroit, it will launch a ‘vail’ version of the Q3, set to go on sale in the US. The A3 saloon will also go on sale there. Audi beat Mercedes to no.2 in the worldwide premium brand stakes – but both Mercedes and BMW outsell it 2:1 in the US. (4wheelsnews)
  • The German new car market grew by 9 per cent in 2012. (Just-Auto)
  • Toyota sales in Germany were up 5 per cent: Hyundai sales were up 17 per cent. Hyundai outsold Toyota in Germany, Europe’s biggest new car market. (Just-Auto)
  • Emerging European markets to watch are Poland and Turkey. (Just-Auto)
  • Bentley now sells more cars in China than the UK. 2011 sales grew 37 per cent, to 7003 cars. Its record year was 2007, when it sold 10,014 cars. Bentley’s largest market is the US: China is second. (Car News China)
  • China is also Maserati’s second largest market. Sales doubled in 2011, to 780 cars. (China Car Times)
  • Hyundai US sales were up 20 per cent in 2011, to 645k cars. Kia sales were up 36 per cent, to 485k. (4wheelsnews)
  • Honda is rumoured to be planning a crossover based on the Civic, to rival the Nissan Qashqai. It would be an European-only model: speculation is that it could be produced at Swindon. (4wheelsnews)

6 Jan

  • Fiat has increased its stake in Chrysler by 5 per cent, to 58.5 per cent.
  • Audi set a sales record in America last year with 117k cars sold, a 15.7 per cent rise on 2010. A6 sales were up 124 per cent in December, to 1855 cars: the TT was up 238 per cent, to 216 cars. TDI sales grew too: 55 per cent of A3 sales were diesel.

3 Jan

  • 701,000 people visited the Mercedes-Benz museum in 2011. 4.2m people have visited since it opened in 2006. (4wheelsnews)
  • The Fiat mini-MPV will debut at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show in March and may go on sale in the middle of the year. Based on Fiat’s Small US Wide platform (also to underpin a new compact Jeep crossover), it is codenamed Ellezero, which could become its production name. (4wheelsnews)
  • The Fiat Ellezero will be assembled at Fiat’s new Serbia factory, formerly a Zastava plant, and will be exported to the US. (Autocar)
  • 30 years after the launch of the G-Class, Mercedes-Benz has sold its 2 millionth SUV. (4wheelsnews)
  • Images have leaked of the Vauxhall Insignia CrossFour – an Audi allroad-inspired off-road-estate. It will have standard four-wheel drive, FlexRide adaptive suspension and a locking rear differential. It may debut at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show. (Car Advice)
  • Nissan’s Chinese JV partner Dongfeng is to produce Renault cars in the country. Renault is currently an importer: sales of 15,958 in the first 10 months of 2011 is an 49 per cent rise on 2010. (4wheelsnews)

2 Jan

  • Hyundai Motor and Kia Motor growth will fall to 6 per cent in 2012, following years of double-digit growth. The two will sell 7m cars in 2012. (Automotive News)
  • Youngman is preparing its own SUV, loosely based on the 2006 Lotus APX concept car. Lotus Engineering is co-developing the new compact crossover SUV. Engines will include a 150hp 1.5-litre turbo. It is expected to launch at the Beijing Auto Show in April. (Car News China)
  • Toyota recalled 12m vehicles in 2009 and 2010. During this time, Volkswagen Group was finishing its new modular compact platform and modified its testing process as a result. Boss Martin Winterkorn was described by suppliers as ‘merciless’ in testing the new toolkit platform, to ensure similar problems do not occur. (4wheelsnews)
  • Toyota’s problems were partly attributed to management limitations, plus an inability to train foreign managers and integrate them into the company culture. 50 per cent of VW’s 500k employees work outside Germany: in 2018, this will rise to 60 per cent. (4wheelsnews)
  • Porsche expects the worldwide new car market to grow 6.5 per cent in 2012, to 66 million cars. It wants to outperform the market, though. Asia and Russia will be its big growth markets. (4wheelsnews)
  • A €2bn lawsuit has been filed against Porsche for damages related to its failed 2008 takeover of Volkswagen AG. Porsche is alleged to have taken control of the VW common stock share price by ‘secretly’ building ‘enormous derivative positions’ that covered nearly all VW’s freely traded shares. Porsche is also accused of causing a ‘massive short squeeze’ and releasing €bns into this for its own profit. (4wheelsnews)

1 Jan

  • Victor Muller has initiated discussions with the Turkish government after the country expressed interest in helping stage a Saab recovery. (4wheelsnews)
  • European car sales will fall 4 per cent in 2012 to 13m units predicts PriceWaterhouseCoopers. The peak was 16m in 2007. (4wheelsnews)
  • RenaultFiat and PSA will suffer the most from a fragile European market in 2012. 73 per cent of PSA sales and 70 per cent of Renault and Fiat sale are in Europe. Fiat and PSA are most at risk because their balance sheets are already stretched and they lack product momentum said Credit Suisse. (4wheelsnews)
  • The Chevrolet Sonic (Aveo) is the only supermini built in the US. It is assembled in GM’s Orion Township, Michigan plant. (Automotive News)
  • Growth in the Chinese car market has fallen to a tenth of last year. (Automotive News)
  • China has ended benefits encouraging foreign car makers to invest in the country, following seven years of benefits. The changes commence from 30 January and mean it will be harder for foreign brands to get approval for new plants. Foreign makers will still be encouraged to invest in green vehicles. (Automotive News)