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Jan. Sales: Japan , Chrysler, GM Up


Jan. Sales: Japan , Chrysler, GM Up

Car sales got off to a slow start in January, but the Japanese brands continued to put heavy pressure on the domestic brands. Honda's sales slipped four percent but Toyota Motor Sales, the largest Japanese automaker, posted a six-percent increase. Nissan reported a 17-percent increase. Both General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group reported sales gains, but Ford said its sales had dropped by 12 percent. Overall sales, however, were weaker than expected only a couple of months ago. The final figures weren't available yet but it appeared that sales were up about three percent. The annualized rate of 16.7 million units was about the same as a last January, automakers said. Besides Toyota and Nissan, Hyundai, Subaru, and BMW also all reported sales increases but Mercedes-Benz said its sales dropped 20 percent and ailing Mitsubishi reported its sales dropped 60 percent. Audi sales were essentially flat.

Jan. Sales: Japan, Chrysler, GM Up by Joseph Szczesny (2/1/2005)
Ford drops 12 percent as the year starts with a whimper.


VW's Bernhard's Orders: Shake Things Up

Wolfgang Bernhard started his new job as an executive at Volkswagen AG on Tuesday, and while he is expected to wade in gradually to his new responsibilities, his mandate is to shake up the company, hatchet costs, and shorten the time it takes VW to bring an idea from drawing board to showroom.

Bernhard starts off as a member of the executive board, and is scheduled to take over as chief of the Volkswagen brand group, which includes Skoda, Bentley, and Bugatti, by January 2006.

Bernhard is coming off a tumultuous year. As COO of Chrysler Group, he was lauded for revitalizing the company's product portfolio, especially the Chrysler 300C and Dodge Magnum. And just as he was about to take over as head of the Mercedes-Benz division last year, DaimlerChrysler chairman Juergen Schrempp denied him the job he was promised because he rankled too many executives during his five-month warming-up period before taking over.

VW Group chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder told TCC last month that he was surprised that Bernhard became available and that he called him almost immediately after the episode at Mercedes. "I think our company has so much more strength. But it's like a car with so much power and torque, but we don't have the right friction to bring it all out on the ground. This is exactly the reason I got him," said Pischetsrieder.

"We need for the VW brand more emotion," said the chairman. He continued, "And we need more Volkswagen brand identification for the other brands in the group. Ninety-nine percent of the questions that are asked of us about our products are always dealing with the Volkswagen brand. This ignores the fact that this is a part of the business in terms of profit and turnover that's less than 50 percent of the business."

Finally, about Bernhard, Pischetsrieder said, with a grin, "He needs to continue the part of changing our company in terms of processes and direction [that I have begun] and I'm not worried that he might stir our quietness too much."

At Chrysler, Bernhard hammered costs down, eliminated inefficiencies, cut supplier bills, and shortened the time in which it takes Chrysler to bring new models to market. He was out to do some of the same at Mercedes. But Mercedes executives resented Bernhard's overly caffeinated style and got the Works Council chief to complain about him, which ended up being the last straw that broke Bernhard's back. Bernard, too, had lost Schrempp as a booster when the former did not support the chairman in his bid to recapitalize Mitsubishi.

One of his top priorities, even before sorting out the VW Group's brands, is overhauling VW's purchasing apparatus, steeped in part with Lower Saxony-based suppliers and factories. The State of Lower Saxony owns part of Volkswagen, going back to the company's post-war roots. And Volkswagen has long been captive of the desire to protect jobs in Lower Saxony.

Volkswagen has forecast 2004 operating profit of 1.9 billion euros before one-time items. But it's up for grabs as to whether VW will be able to limit the one-time charges to 400 million euros. -Jim Burt

Bernhard Resurfaces at Volkswagen by TCC Team (10/11/2004)
Former DCX superstar signs on at Volkswagen.

PSA Link is Part of Mitsubishi's Regeneration Plan

PSA Peugeot Citroen has confirmed that it is close to signing an agreement with Mitsubishi that will provide the French group with an all-new SUV. The collaboration will plug a major gap in the Peugeot/Citroen model range and will play an important part in the restructuring plan that the troubled Japanese company announced last week. PSA Peugeot Citroen's CEO, Jean-Martin Folz, is visiting Japan this week to finalize the agreement.

PSA's link is similar to other joint projects in which it has been involved in recent years. These have seen it collaborate with Toyota on design and production of a small citycar, with Ford on the design of diesel engines and with Fiat on the design and production of a full-size MPV. In all of these, Peugeot has maintained its independence, and it has forged no long-term links with any of its partners.

The Mitsubishi deal is similar to the others, and it will provide PSA with expertise in all-wheel drive, an area where Mitsubishi has a strong track record. The Japanese company will lead the project, but a team of PSA engineers will be sent to Japan to work on the project alongside their Mitsubishi counterparts. The financial benefits of the association will be useful to Mitsubishi in its efforts to overcome the difficulties that have struck it in the past year or two. Part of Mitsubishi's reorganization plan, announced last week, is the promotion of links such as this and the one that will see Mitsubishi producing 36,000 minicars annually for Nissan.

Off-road vehicles are taking an increasing part of the European market, where 6.2 percent of vehicles sold are off-road capable. The figure is 5.5 percent in France, where PSA's big competitor Renault is planning to introduce an SUV, developed in collaboration with its Korean subsidiary Samsung Motors, in 2007. PSA will lag behind, but it could have been ahead of the game if an earlier link, discussed with Honda in 2002, had come to fruition.

Observers of PSA, which has expressed a wish to return to the U.S. market, will have noted that the addition of an SUV to the Peugeot range would make it much more attractive to dealers in the USA. -Ian Norris

Mitsubishi Gets More Cash by Joseph Szczesny (1/31/2005)
Another infusion into the patient - but is Mitsubishi Group losing patience with its carmaking arm?

Nissan Moves in Europe

Nissan is another company that will show a new concept at the Geneva show in early March. The Zaroot is billed as Nissan's view of how sporty SUVs could look in the future, combining SUV values with futuristic styling that includes gullwing doors. The doors stretch from the windshield pillar back to the rear of the passenger compartment, giving access to both front and rear seats on each side. The design cuts out the normal B-pillar, but the look is not one that could warrant the old coachbuilder's term of pillarless, since the rear edge of the door is considerably thick.

The overall look of the vehicle is tough, with aesthetics that follow those of a real off-roader such as a Jeep rather than the soft-roaders that have become a Japanese specialty. Judgment on the design will have to wait until the Zaroot has been seen in the metal, but it must be said that gullwing doors were first seen in the 1950s from Mercedes and the "window in a window" format this concept uses was featured in the 1989 Subaru concept that went into production in 1992 as the SVX coupe.

2004 Nissan QashqaiOn the production car front, Nissan has announced that it will add another model to those produced at its plant in Sunderland, England, from 2007. The new car, codenamed P32L, is based on the Qashqai concept car unveiled at the 2004 Geneva Motor Show. This was the first model to be styled at Nissan Design Europe in Paddington, London. It was developed at Nissan Technical Centre Europe in Bedfordshire, U.K.

Qashqai, pronounced "Cash-Ky," is a crossover vehicle, part people-carrier, part hatchback, with available all-wheel drive. Nissan believes it will fill a growing niche in the market for vehicles designed to live a dual life and will be aimed at young professional people who enjoy living and working in the city during the week but who want to escape at the weekend. It is the second new model to be announced at Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK Ltd (NMUK) in just six months, following confirmation that a production model based on the Tone show car unveiled at the Paris Motor Show last autumn will go into production in January 2006.

Initial production volume of the Qashqai (It is unlikely that the name will be applied to the production version) will be around 130,000 units per year. This would increase the plant's total annual volume to around 400,000 units - strengthening Sunderland's position as the U.K.'s biggest car plant. NMUK currently employs around 4,100 workers, capable of producing up to 500,000 units per year based on a three-shift system. -Ian Norris


GM Daewoo Boosts Jan. Sales

South Korea's GM Daewoo Auto & Technology said its total auto sales increased 15.7 percent in January from a year ago to 73,567 units, thanks to brisk exports to its two main markets, North America and Europe.

The third-largest automaker said its exports grew 14.5 percent on year to 64,673 units last month, boosted by the Lacetti and Kalos minicar, which are sold under Chevrolet and Suzuki badges in these two markets.

The exports of complete knockdown units - the bulk of auto parts that are assembled in overseas partner plants - also rose thanks to increased production at its plants in China, India, Thailand, and Vietnam.

GM Daewoo also performed well in the home market of South Korea, with sales rising 25.5 percent to 8,894 units from a year ago, fuelled by popularity of Matiz minicar. Due to the economic slowdown and higher oil prices, sales of the fuel-efficient Matiz soared 69.9 percent from a year ago to 4,259 units, according to the automaker.

GM Daewoo, in a bid to grab bigger portion of South Korea's expanding SUV market, plans to launch its first SUV early next year, based on the General Motors' Theta platform, as part of its drive for a full-lineup.

Aiming to sell more than 1.1 million cars this year from last year's 900,000 units in and out of South Korea, GM Daewoo also plans to launch its first large luxury sedan in April.

The new models are necessary for GM Daewoo, which is battling against South Korea's top automaker Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia Motors. Hyundai and Kia hold more than 70 percent of the country's auto market.

With the two models included, the automaker plans to launch a total of five new products this year and, over the course of the next fifteen months, nine new products. It will begin with the launch of the all-new Matiz, followed quickly by the launch of the Statesman and the launch of the new SUV.

In September, GM Daewoo showed concepts of the SUV, the S3X, and Matiz mini car, at the Paris auto show. The SUV will be armed with 2.4-liter and 3.2-liter gasoline engines while 2.0-liter will be a diesel. -Peter Chang

WORLD REPORT: Brazil

General Motors celebrated its 80 years of presence in Brazil on January 26th. GM is the second oldest motor company in the country; Ford has been selling in Brazil for 85 years. The celebration was a dual one, because for the first time GM has taken leadership in the Brazilian auto market, when passenger vehicles and heavy trucks are combined. In passenger cars only, which represent 80 percent of total sales, the automaker was already the leader for the past two years… In 2004 GMB sold 364,000 units, for a 23-percent market share. Exports registered a record $1.3 billion, rising 30 percent in comparison to 2003. Production, including CKD units, was 563,000 units. The company has the broadest lineup in Brazil, with 11 different models ranging from the Corsa subcompact to the Blazer SUV… One of the curiosities of Brazilian journalists attending the recent Detroit auto show was to see how smart would introduce its tiny vehicles in the U.S. market. Presentation of the formore concept, a car to be produced in Brazil for export only (85 percent for the NAFTA area) was expected. But because of the announcement in Germany of a postponement of at least four months in the project, smart's CEO Ulrich Walker had to explain why there was no prototype: the compact SUV, he said, will be launched in the U.S. in September of 2006, too far away for a concept to be shown. Not everybody seemed to be convinced. - Fernando Calmon

CORRECTION

Yesterday, Daily Edition reported that "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's data for 2000 shows that 9873 occupants of SUVs died in rollover accidents, a third of the total for all vehicles."

The statement should have read, "…that 9873 occupants of cars, trucks and SUVs died in rollover accidents, a third of the total for all vehicles." Thanks to our readers for pointing out the error.


FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases

PRNewswire

Even though the expectations of Internet automotive shoppers continue to increase, they also continue to give record-high ratings to auto manufacturer Web sites, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2005 Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation Study(SM) - Wave 1 released today. The study measures Web site usefulness based on consumer ratings of three main components: relevance, navigation, and appearance/presentation. The study shows an average usefulness index rating of 799 for the industry - up 11 points from the measurement taken just seven months ago. Despite rising expectations by consumers for manufacturer Web sites, the lowest-rated site in 2005 receives higher usefulness ratings than did the highest-rated site in 2001.

The all-new 2005 Dodge Dakota Club Cab has received a Five-Star rating in front and side-impact crash tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Dodge Dakota marks the eighth consecutive new Chrysler Group product to receive Five-Star frontal crash-test rating. A Five-Star rating means the likelihood of injury in a frontal crash is 10 percent or less.


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Autobytel, Inc. ABTL 5.48 -0.10 (-1.79%)
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AutoNation Inc. AN 19.10 +0.06 (+0.32%)
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 18.81 -0.23 (-1.21%)
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Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 6.44 +0.26 (+4.21%)
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Cummins Inc. CMI 79.04 +1.37 (+1.76%)
Dana Corporation DCN 16.00 +0.13 (+0.82%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 46.15 +0.64 (+1.41%)
Delphi Corporation DPH 7.52 -0.07 (-0.92%)
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 9.25 +0.03 (+0.33%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 67.80 -0.19 (-0.28%)
Ford Motor Company F 13.08 -0.09 (-0.68%)
General Motors Corporation GM 36.88 +0.07 (+0.19%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 34.10 +0.27 (+0.80%)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 15.96 +0.52 (+3.37%)
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Lear Corporation LEA 54.44 +0.44 (+0.81%)
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Motorola Inc. MOT 15.99 +0.25 (+1.59%)
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