Motor industry news: May 2013

subaru-outback31 May

Subaru sales in the US are booming. They were up 25% in April, 17% YTD. The firm now expects to exceed the 380k cars it had allocated for the US: the challenge will be finding more…

26 May

EU regulations add £6000 to the price of an average car, says Ford chief Stephen Odell.

Tom Peters, Chevrolet’s Corvette Stingray designer, also had a hand in the Pontiac Aztec (and admits the design ‘got away from him’).

The Freelander name will be dropped and its replacement, due late 2014, will become part of the Discover family. Land Rover will base its future around three brands: Defender, Discovery. Range Rover.

25 May

Is Henrik Fisker trying to buy back his car company? Bob Lutz certainly is.

Remarkable – the next Mazda 2 (currently Ford Fiesta-based) will use a downsized CX-5 platform. Mazda will also move to four-year model cycles, facelifting after two years.

Also remarkable – Audi wants to reach 90% local sourcing at its new Mexican plant. Opening in 2016, it will make the Q5 and use ‘several hundred’ suppliers but the core will be 120 key ones: Audi’s already talking to them. Now for international producing in Britain to do the same?

EU regulations make a new car twice as expensive as it otherwise would be, revealed Ford of Europe chief Stephen Odell. He also called for a sensible approach to free trade agreements with Japan in an interesting address to the Cranfield Business School reported by Just-Auto.

Skoda is planning an estate version of the Rapid – called, rather neatly, Spaceback.

23 May

Former Saab chairman Victor Muller is being questioned in the accounting fraud investigation, although he hasn’t been arrested.

22 May

Peugeot plans to close an R&D site near Paris, as part of its plans to reduce its French workforce by 17% by the end of 2014. Along with the Meudon research site, it is also closing the Aulnay plant next year when the Citroen C3 ends production.

Volkswagen is to retro-fit 250,000 US-spec TDI diesels with fuel filler protectors that stop misfuelling. Legions of America buyers have apparently been caught out and misfuelling is not covered by the car’s warranty.

21 May

Former Saab CEO Jan-Aake Jonsson is one of three men arrested on Monday in an accounting fraud probe dating back to 2010 and 2011 (pre-bankruptcy, pre-Spyker). I’ve reported on him before, more positively.

Volkswagen has sold 15,000 Up in the UK in the 18 months it’s been on sale.

Half the 3000 Ford Fiesta STs ordered to date are headed to the UK.

18 May

When he was at Ferrari, current McLaren design director was sent to Fiat, to design a new car in 10 months. That car was the 500.

Toyota will now build 25,000 Yaris a year for export to the US in France rather than Japan: the first shipment, to Canada, sails tomorrow. The firm sold 182k Yaris in Europe last year, 22% of its overall volume.

BorgWarner is building a new production line and engineering centre in Bradford to support JLR’s new Wolverhampton engine facility with turbos.

ord builds the Fiesta at 10 sites worldwide.

GM shares have broken through the $33 IPO offering price (after rising 14% thus far in 2013). That’s still not enough to repay the $49.5bn of taxpayer money provided to rescue the firm in 2009, though. Shares would have to pass the $75 mark to do that…

The Saab 9-3 is coming back this autumn – as a petrol and diesel range first, prior to next year’s all-electric model. New Electric Vehicle Sweeden says 80% of the parts will be the same as the prior production 9-3 following successful dialogue with suppliers (the firm revealed there are around 2400 parts in a 9-3).

17 May

Evans Halshaw is the UK’s largest volume car retailer.

15 May

The EU is going too far in its eco drive, says BMW chief Dr. Norbert Reithofer. Politicians are backing a plan to impose a fleet average figure of 68-78g/km by 2025. The 2015 target is 130g/km. At some point, he warned, politicians will go too far.

12 May

Renault reckons not many people sit in the back of small hatchbacks, so the Clio 4 doesn’t get rear curtain airbags. And so, neither does the Captur either – and an exec has admitted ‘it could have been safer’ if it’d had them. But then, how many rival superminis have rear curtain airbags?

Alan Mulally will stay on at Ford until at least 2014. Or maybe 2025. No wonder: the firm, which lost $30bn in the last downturn, has made $35bn under his stewardship. Odd, then, that the firm’s stock price doesn’t reflect this: it will rise, Bill Ford has promised (particularly the all-powerful Ford family).

9 May

JLR will invest £2.75bn in the year to March 2014 in new product, facilites and R&D. A fine bounty for its more than 7000 engineers.

Daimler has confirmed it is in talks with Aston Martin about a possible engine/powertrain supply deal – plus further technical collaboration?

7 May

The Mazda MX-5/Alfa Spider JV cars will use different engines. It’s turbo MultiAir for Alfa and normally aspirated SKYACTIV-G motors for Mazda – the type of induction will be a key differentiator between the cars.

6 May

Jaguar has registered both Q-Type and QX names. To be used on its much-mooted crossover?

Super stuff – Audi’s said to be planning its own version of the VW e-Up. Has VW Group ever shared a base design between so many brands before?

Blimey – Tata Nano sales fell to just 948 units in April. That’s 88% down on April 2012. Can the revised model restore things? It’s unlikely to hit the launch-aim sales goal of several hundred thousand a year, mind.

Making 10k cars or more a year? Choose monocoque. Less than 10k? It’s either extruded aluminium (pioneered by Lotus in 1995), spaceframe or the more modern solution of central carbonfibre tub with bolt-on aluminium structures front and rear.

Volkswagen is looking to improve quality (and judging by the comments on this piece, it needs to). Board member and MQB pioneer Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg admits ‘there’s some potential to be better’. A task force is working on it in Wolfsburg as we speak…

Ford is reviewing its product launch process following much-publicised quality gripes with models such as the Lincoln MKZ. These will include more regular quality meetings and greater use of high-tech analysis techniques as the firm learns from the ‘growing pains’ in its accelerated model rollout. Mid-life facelifts are also to become more intensive.

Aston Martin’s Dr. Ulrich Bez is expected to step down as CEO at the end of the year, taking on an ambassadorial role with the company. A new boss will be in place by the summer to work alongside Bez and ensure a smooth handover.