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Chrysler in talks with Tata and Fiat

By Kevin Krolicki and Poornima Gupta

Chrysler is in talks to lease U.S. production capacity and share retail distribution with Fiat SpA, allowing the Italian automaker to return the U.S. market for the first time in 25 years, people briefed on the talks said on Wednesday.

Chrysler, the No. 3 U.S. automaker, has also been in discussions with India's Tata Motors Ltd about selling its Jeep Wrangler SUV in India and possibly other Asian markets, said the sources, who were not authorized to discuss the negotiations.

A spokesman for Chrysler, which is controlled by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP, declined to confirm the talks.

A Tata representative had no immediate comment. Cerberus and Fiat representatives could not be reached immediately.

Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne, credited with steering a turnaround behind the Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Fiat brands, has said Fiat is looking for a partner for its return to the North American market.

Fiat is riding the popularity of its Fiat Cinquecento (500) compact car in Europe and Brazil.

A Chrysler tie-up with Tata could potentially open a new market for the Wrangler, the best-selling model from the brand widely seen as Chrysler's strongest.

One investment banker, who declined to be identified, said it was likely that a product-centered tie-up with Chrysler could lead to a larger deal over time.

"You could definitely see this evolve into something," the banker said. "It would make sense for Tata to buy Jeep if this partnership went through ... and Chrysler could really do with selling a brand and getting some cash."

ELECTRIC TALKS

Fiat and Tata already have a partnership. Fiat agreed this month to handle the financing in Europe for Tata's Jaguar and Land Rover brands, while Tata said it was open to Fiat selling Nano, the world's cheapest car with a price just above $2,500.

Tata and Chrysler are already cooperating on developing an electric vehicle. Tata said in January that "exploratory discussions" had begun with Chrysler over sales for a battery-powered version of its Ace mini-truck.

Chrysler is continuing those talks after reaching a memorandum of understanding for the negotiations, one person familiar with the automaker's plans said.

Tata, which controls about 60 percent of India's truck and bus market, has global ambitions and an emerging line-up that runs the gamut from luxury to the sold-out Nano.

By concluding a deal with Tata, Chrysler also could look to sell a version of the Jeep Wrangler to the Indian military, another person familiar with the talks said.

Chrysler currently has a small joint venture in Cairo that has begun producing an armor-ready variant of the Wrangler called the J8, intended for use by troops.

Chrysler redesigned the off-road-ready Wrangler in 2007, adding a popular four-door version of the SUV that has emerged as the linchpin of its Jeep line-up.

U.S. sales for the Wrangler dropped 4 percent in the first half, while overall SUV sales plunged 15 percent as Americans shifted toward smaller, more fuel-efficient passenger cars.

The sudden shift away from light trucks, including pickups, SUVs and vans, hit all three Detroit-based automakers hard in the first half and has forced them to restructure.

Like its larger rivals General Motors Corp and Ford Motor Co, Chrysler has faced scrutiny over its liquidity because of the sharp decline in sales.

'FINANCIAL STRAIN'

Chrysler lost $1.6 billion in 2007, and the holding company that includes both the automaker and its financing unit, Chrysler Financial, lost $509 million in the first quarter.

Fitch Ratings downgraded Chrysler on Tuesday, warning that the automaker could run below the "minimum required levels" of cash to finance operations by the second half of 2009 if industrywide sales remain flat or worsen.

Gerry Meyers, a professor at the University of Michigan business school and chief executive of the old American Motors when it owned Jeep in the early 1980s, said it was clear that Chrysler needed international partners.

"In my mind, they're clearly under a financial strain. It may even be a liquidity strain. There are a lot of questions floating around about how much longer Chrysler can go on with problems like this," he said.

An overseas partner for Chrysler "could end up with one of the great American automotive brands in Jeep," Meyers said.

Fiat left the U.S. market in 1983. The high-performance Alfa Romeo brand it later acquired pulled out in the 1990s.

In the years since, Fiat has been in merger or tie-up talks with all three U.S. automakers that ultimately failed. Most recently, GM paid Fiat $2 billion in 2005 to unwind a troubled industrial partnership.

Source: Reuters

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GM Teams With Dozens Of Utilities on Plug-In Cars :

Collaboration Seeks To Smooth the Path For Electric Vehicles

By REBECCA SMITH and JOHN STOLL

Three dozen electric utilities and General Motors Corp. agreed to collaborate on smoothing a path for a plug-in electric vehicle that is slated to roll out in about two years.

The collaboration is the first major effort by the two industries on an electric vehicle and includes some of the biggest names in the power sector, so far spanning utilities that operate in nearly 40 states: American Electric Power Co., Austin Energy, Consolidated Edison Inc., Dominion Resources Inc., Duke Energy Corp., DTE Energy Co., Edison International, New York Power Authority, PG&E Corp., Progress Energy Inc. and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., to name a few.

Both industries have a lot riding on the success of plug-in cars that will run largely on electricity, with gasoline or other fuels filling a supplementary role. Auto makers need a hot-selling product to revive sales and hope the technology will slash gasoline consumption and reduce reliance on imported oil. GM plans to introduce the Chevrolet Volt and Saturn Vue as its first models. Other auto makers, including Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co., are working on versions of plug-in cars.

After more than a century of relying on gasoline as the main fuel for automobiles, GM and its rivals are scrambling to diversify energy sources. The Chevy Volt, due in late 2010, is intended to be the boldest effort yet, designed to run at full speed for at least 40 miles solely on lithium-ion batteries. Unless plugged in for a recharge, the gasoline engine kicks in at that point.

Auto makers need the cooperation of utilities since they control the new technology's primary fuel -- electricity -- and must make sure that the vehicles' recharging processes mesh with the electricity grid and don't inadvertently undermine grid reliability. GM first started courting utilities and other energy-related companies last year, knowing it needs the cooperation of several players, including battery makers, to produce plug-in vehicles that function as well as conventional cars and trucks.

"GM is introducing production cars that have to work in all 50 states and Canada," said Mark Duvall, program manager for electric transportation at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif., an industry research group that is participating in the collaboration. "But every electric system is a little bit different, so there are a lot of little issues to work out."

At the most basic level, intelligence that will be embedded in the cars in the form of computer chips and software needs to be met with equal intelligence on the utility side. That way, a car that plugs into a garage electric outlet will be recognized as a car by the utility and recharged when it is best for the electric system and, perhaps, at a price that will be lower for cars than other appliances.

What utilities don't want is for cars to recharge during hot summer afternoons, when they could push wholesale electricity prices into a more expensive tier. Off-peak recharging actually could make the electric system more efficient by slightly increasing production at power plants with capacity to spare. Research shows there is enough excess electrical capacity at night to recharge tens of millions of vehicles.

MK-AQ779_PLUGIN_20080721172414.jpg

The Chevy Volt, due in 2010, is a plug-in car that will run primarily on electricity with gasoline providing an auxiliary fuel

Intelligence in the systems is important for another reason. Congress is considering climate-change legislation that would set a price on carbon-dioxide emissions. Utilities might get special consideration if they can prove their electricity is replacing gasoline and cutting overall emissions.

GM would like to take special rates and incentives and use them to build sales. According to current projections, it should be much cheaper to recharge a car overnight than to buy the equivalent amount of gasoline. Cars recharged daily could go 600 miles or more between fill-ups.

As utilities begin to confront the integration issues, they also are considering how much they want to encourage deployment . Austin Energy, a city-owned utility that serves the Texas capital, has decided to offer a $1,000 incentive to people who buy plug-in cars.

Electric-industry research shows electrifying transportation cuts emissions even if electricity is made by burning coal. That is because power plants burn coal more efficiently than the internal-combustion engine consumes gasoline.

Source : Wall Street Journal

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GM to cut 117,000 more truck units by year's end

By KATIE MERX

General Motors Corp. announced that it will cut 117,000 more units of truck production through the rest of the year, bringing its total truck production down by nearly 300,000 units by the end of the year.

GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner announced July 15 that the automaker would further cut production, but the company had not shared details until today.

“Basically, these actions are the detail that Rick Wagoner had announced earlier,” said GM spokesman Tony Sapienza. “These actions reflect the continuing shift in our need to balance our production to consumer demand.”

Sapienza said the company will eliminate a shift at its SUV plant in Moraine, Ohio, and a shift at its pickup and Hummer plant in Shreveport, La., beginning Sept. 29.

It will reduce the number of vehicles built at its plant in Mishawaka, Ind., where it builds the Hummer H2 and the Hummer H2 SUT, from one shift at 6.5 jobs per hour to one shift at 4.3 jobs per hour.

At the pickup plant in Silao, Mexico, it will reduce the work rate from two shifts at 47 jobs per hour to two shifts at 42 jobs per hour.

In addition, GM cut additional weeks of production at several plants, including some that already had been cut through the rest of the year.

• Fort Wayne, Ind., will be closed the week of Aug. 25.

• Oshawa Truck will be closed the week of Sept. 1.

• Silao will be closed the weeks of Aug. 18, Aug. 25 and Sept. 1.

• Shreveport will be closed the week of Aug. 25.

• Pontiac will be closed the month of December.

• Flint will be closed the weeks of Sept. 29, Nov. 10, Nov. 17, Dec. 15 and Dec. 22.

• Moraine will be closed the month of December.

%bull; Mishawaka will be closed the weeks of Aug. 18 and Aug. 25.

Source: Free Press Business

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Chrysler to shut all plants for a month

By Daniel Dombey in Washington, John Reed in London and Julie MacIntosh in New York

Published: December 17 2008 23:58 | Last updated: December 18 2008 00:46

Chrysler said it would shut all 30 of its plants for at least a month in the latest sign of the growing travails of the US car industry.

The carmaker said that in response to “the continued lack of consumer credit for the American car buyer”, and an accompanying drop in sales, it would make “all manufacturing operations” idle from tomorrow night

“Impacted employees will not return to work any sooner than Monday January 19,” it said, highlighting that in a recent meeting at Chrysler headquarters dealers complained they had lost 20-25 per cent of sales volume due to lack of financing.

Last week Chrysler sent a letter to dealers warning them to withdraw no more than “strictly necessary” from a fund intended to help financing. The letter added that withdrawals of about $60m a day were higher than average.

General Motors last week said it was halting North American operations during January. Reuters reported GM had suspended work on the $370m Michigan engine plant where it planned to build a showpiece small engine.

A report by Moody’s, the rating agency, earlier this week said a pre-packaged bankruptcy filing with government aid was the “most likely” scenario for restructuring the US car industry.

President George W. Bush has said he was willing to provide Chrysler and GM the money they needed to avoid a “disorderly bankruptcy” – which left open the possibility of a “pre-packaged bankruptcy” in which a company could seek Chapter 11 protection as a condition for a bail-out.

“The president wants to make sure that he doesn’t let the entire economy collapse,” said Dana Perino, Mr Bush’s spokesman.

She said the companies needed “to make some really tough decisions and make some concessions so that they can be viable and competitive in the future”.

Government support for Chrysler is complicated because of political resistance to using taxpayers’ money to help Cerberus, the private equity firm that owns the group. Legislation that failed in the US Senate last week would have made Cerberus liable for the $7bn Chrysler has sought to keep operating until the end of March – a commitment it may be unlikely to accept.

“Cerberus has basically become a millstone around Chrysler’s neck,” said one adviser to the carmaker

Source : http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/decb2832-cc95-11...?nclick_check=1

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Dev, good idea to open one thread to capture all Atomotive news!

GM is so desperate for cash they are selling off its past to survive.

GM Selling Off its Past at Barret-Jackson Auction

Thursday, December 18, 2008 | 1 comments » Categories | Classics, GM

These are very sad days for General Motors which is so desperate for cash that it has decided to sell off around 250 vehicles from its Heritage Museum Collection at the upcoming Barrett-Jackson auction that takes place in Scotsdale, Arizona from 13-19 January, 2009. Most of the cars that are up for auction are from the 1980s and 1990s though the list does contain older models like a 1955 Buick Century and a 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge as well as -oddly enough- a pair of Peugeot 205 Turbos. Unfortunately for us, Santa won't be bringing any extra cash this year but if you happen to have some savings set aside, you may want to check out the preliminary list after the jump. We're pretty sure that you'll find plenty of interesting cars.

http://carscoop.blogspot.com/2008/12/gm-se...-at-barret.html

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Dev, good idea to open one thread to capture all Atomotive news!

GM is so desperate for cash they are selling off its past to survive.

GM Selling Off its Past at Barret-Jackson Auction

Thursday, December 18, 2008 | 1 comments » Categories | Classics, GM

These are very sad days for General Motors which is so desperate for cash that it has decided to sell off around 250 vehicles from its Heritage Museum Collection at the upcoming Barrett-Jackson auction that takes place in Scotsdale, Arizona from 13-19 January, 2009. Most of the cars that are up for auction are from the 1980s and 1990s though the list does contain older models like a 1955 Buick Century and a 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge as well as -oddly enough- a pair of Peugeot 205 Turbos. Unfortunately for us, Santa won't be bringing any extra cash this year but if you happen to have some savings set aside, you may want to check out the preliminary list after the jump. We're pretty sure that you'll find plenty of interesting cars.

http://carscoop.blogspot.com/2008/12/gm-se...-at-barret.html

its been a long time coming this auto meltdown , especially amoung the US car makers

Sad reality is what it is :(

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its been a long time coming this auto meltdown , especially amoung the US car makers

Sad reality is what it is :(

At least they have a buy back agreement..... But they deserve this for not re-structuring their companies before. They've had so many calls to do this. Build economical cars to a high standard. But they just kept on churning out mostly crap.

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some good news for our members from london it seems

autoblog.uk

London to consider scrapping congestion charge for economy's sake

London Mayor Boris Johnson is considering scrapping the city's oft-maligned Congestion Charge. The pay-to-drive strategy was instituted back in 2003 as a way of reducing traffic in the busy British capital, but it has met with fierce opposition from motorists and some politicians. Shortly after taking office, Johnson got rid of the latest extension which instituted the C-Charge in western parts of the city, but the Congestion Charge Zone is still alive and well in Central London. While it may be effective in reducing traffic (though that's often debated as well), the charge of £8 to enter the CCZ, along with fines of between £60 and £180 for non-payment seems to be enough to keep shoppers out of London during the holiday season, so it has been temporarily suspended. To help boost the city's ailing economy, Johnson is extending the downtime through January 1.

When asked if he would consider ridding the city of the C-Charge completely, Johnson didn't immediately discount the idea, saying that he'd "brood on it" for a while. While it's obvious that London has a serious congestion problem, in these troubled economic times, financial problems might take priority.

Edited by HelRazor

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Auto Bailout: Money Now, Cuts Later

Bush announces a $17.4 billion financing package to keep GM, Chrysler alive to March. But the toughest conditions are still to be hashed out

By David Welch and David Kiley

Finally, after a month of hearings, rhetoric, and a dramatic showdown in Congress, Washington has reached a decision over what to do about America's failing carmakers: President George W. Bush announced on Dec. 19 the government will bail them out with a $17.4 billion loan package. The upshot is that taxpayers are now part owners of General Motors (GM) and Chrysler.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the announcement is that after talk of "orderly" bankruptcy filings and tough conditions, the money will go to the two automakers with essentially no strings attached, but for the requirement that they won't get more money if they don't step up with realistic restructuring plans. If restructuring toward financial viability is not achieved and certified by the Treasury Dept., however, then the companies will be forced to prepare for a "prepackaged" Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

The $17.4 billion of loans should carry GM and Chrysler into next year. The two companies will divvy up $13.4 billion for December and January and $4 billion in February to avoid what the President called "a disorderly bankruptcy" and possible liquidation. Ford Motor (F) is not taking loans but is expected to receive a $9 billion line of credit from the Treasury after President-elect Obama takes office.

By the end of February, Obama and the new Congress that will be in place will be able to come up with a long-term plan for more financial assistance and a restructuring to make the companies competitive—and hence, a more secure borrower of tax funds—in the long run. But union officials are already calling on Obama to change the terms of labor concessions in the loan agreements.

Meeting Goals

The conditions of the Bush plan require that GM and Chrysler satisfy a number of restructuring goals spelled out in the legislation that failed to pass in the Senate earlier in December. The companies will have to reach a new wage and benefit agreement with the United Auto Workers and retirees that puts the automakers on parity with foreign companies manufacturing vehicles in the U.S., such as Toyota and Honda (HMC). Investors holding GM and Chrysler debt will also have to take a huge "cram-down" or discount on their bonds, reducing debt by two-thirds.

A "designee" of the White House, sometimes called a "car czar," will have the authority in the Obama Administration to certify by Mar. 31 that the plans and progress of the companies show financial viability. Unlike the terms of the bill that Congress failed to pass, though, the "car czar" and the White House will have a good deal of discretion to determine what "viability" means.

If the forced restructuring is handled correctly and the government enforces enough of a restructuring, the car companies could emerge stronger than before the credit crisis. Both their long-term debt burden and labor costs will be reduced. "It's a blueprint for a new GM," said GM Chairman and CEO G. Richard Wagoner Jr. "Our goal is to reinvent our company."

Money to Lend?

The companies have been brought to their knees by the worsening recession and credit crunch that has denied car loans to many consumers with good credit ratings. A Treasury official said Friday morning that measures the department and the Federal Reserve are taking will make it likely that banks and the auto companies' finance arms will have more money to lend starting in January.

The White House and Treasury Dept. have weighed an auto bailout since Dec. 11, when the Senate voted down a $14 billion loan plan using Energy Dept. funds originally earmarked for fuel-economy improvements. Bush will use cash from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, which was set up to rescue banks.

Bush Administration officials had opposed using TARP funds for the auto companies, arguing that TARP wasn't set up to rescue industrial corporations. But after the Senate killed the auto-bailout proposal, Bush stepped in, saying he feared a collapse of the auto industry would damage the economy at its most fragile point. Bush said a carmaker crash would "exacerbate the economic crisis," and "leave the next President to confront the demise of a major American industry in his first days in office."

Sources close to the Senate discussions say the President also didn't want to see two major industries—first banks and financial institutions and then autos—collapse during his tenure. When Vice-President Dick Cheney tried to get Senate Republicans to vote for the first loan proposal, he told some of them that the Republican party would be tarred with the same brush as Herbert Hoover, whose failed initiatives saw the nation slide into the Great Depression in the late 1920s.

Safeguard Concerns

While the Administration has acted to backstop the carmakers, there are still some unanswered questions. The President said the companies using the funds would have until Mar. 31 to submit a restructuring plan. It must include a reworking of the automakers' debt and bring compensation in line with foreign-owned car factories in the U.S.

That leaves the Administration open to criticism that there aren't enough safeguards for taxpayers from the start. But it also leaves time to work out a real plan. "They did that with good reason," says David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. "They need to establish where the industry is and where these companies are headed."

Debt holders are key to GM satisfying the conditions of the government loans. In GM's case, that would slash its automotive debt of $43 billion to about $29 billion. Roughly speaking, it would cut GM's interest costs of more than $3 billion a year by about $2 billion. "That's a big deal," says Cole. "The bondholders are ensured of a big loss if they don't commit to the exchange."

Shareholders will also take a hit. Since the companies will issue warrants to the Treasury, stockholders will eventually be diluted. The UAW will also take equity in stead of cash to fund some healthcare obligations. That means stockholders can expect more dilution.

Chrysler owner Cerberus Capital Management also says it will give up to $2 billion to the automaker. The private equity firm hasn't invested any more cash to fix Chrysler since acquiring the company last year. Members of Congress criticized Cerberus for withholding its own investment dollars while asking for public funds. Cerberus says it will commit future profits of Chrysler Financial Services, the auto lender that is owned by Cerberus as a separate entity. But Cerberus is only committing future profits from the finance company. Spokesman Peter Duda said he didn't know if the lender is in the black, if it isn't then it's doubtful that Chrysler will see any cash from its parent for the foreseeable future.

The UAW will be asked to eliminate the JOBS bank, which pays workers most of their pay while they're on layoff. The union has already agreed to that. It will also be compelled to accept wage and work-rule changes that make Detroit companies "competitive" with foreign makers building cars in the U.S. such as Honda and Nissan (NSANY). Defining "competitive" will be up to the Labor Dept. But the terms of the government loans spell out that the UAW will have to accept half of the value of their health-care trust fund in stock. Last year the UAW and carmakers agreed to accept cash worth 68% of the long-term health-care liabilities to set up a fund that will cover union worker and retiree health care starting in 2010. After that, the carmakers would be out of the health coverage business for hourly workers.

Matching the Japanese

The trouble is the automakers don't have the cash to seed those funds. GM, for example, has to pay $7 billion on Jan. 1, 2010, and more later. By putting stock into the fund, the government ensures that tax dollars won't just set up a health-care fund for union workers and retirees.

The President will designate a car czar to oversee the plan and whether or not targets are met. Treasury officials said Friday the Obama Administration will be able to change any stipulations for the plan.

That's where the negotiating starts. UAW workers cost $78 an hour, which is about $20 an hour more than what Toyota pays its U.S. workers. But most of that cost gap is accounted for by the retiree benefits GM and the other U.S. automakers must pay, which will be greatly reduced by the health-care trust.

The government could make the union accept a lower wage. UAW workers are paid $29 an hour, and Toyota workers max out at $24. But UAW President Ron Gettelfinger countered in an interview with BusinessWeek that Toyota pays its workers bonuses that push per-hour wages over $30.

Plus, Gettelfinger said, the UAW agreed in 2007 that it will reset its starting wage to $14 an hour with a much cheaper benefits package. The carmakers, he maintains, just need to get through the economic crisis so they can start hiring new workers at the lower pay package. Then, he says, the Big Three would have a cost advantage over the Japanese and Korean factories. Says Gettelfinger: "That's why we need to get banks lending and get the economy going."

Gettelfinger said in the interview that the union has done quite a bit to restructure. But he may have to cut wages and benefits to satisfy the government's mandate for compensation parity. That could mean mandating higher premiums and co-pays for union workers on their health-care plan until the VEBA trust kicks in. Gettelfinger has opposed what he calls more "cost sharing." But he indicated the union would do what it takes to get a deal done.

That said, Gettelfinger issued a statement on Friday saying that the union would work with the Obama Administration to remove some of the union concessions from the loan terms. In a statement, the union boss said workers had been unfairly singled out.

The Administration's loan terms also call for total cost parity. So management and the union will have to negotiate how to get there. "We have big steps we have to take," Wagoner says. "We have to show that we can get this stuff done."

The carmakers may also need more money down the line if the economy worsens. Says Cole: "The biggest uncertainty is the recession and the credit markets."

Welch is BusinessWeek's Detroit bureau chief. Kiley is a senior correspondent in BusinessWeek's Detroit bureau.

Source : http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflas...+temp_top+story

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Land Rover Cancels G4 Challenge Programme

Friday, December 19, 2008 | 0 comments » Categories | Land Rover, Racing, Reports

As the global economic recession deepens, automakers around the world are either canceling or pulling out from all sorts of competitions. Land Rover said today that it will cancel the Land Rover G4 Challenge programme in order to focus more on product launches in 2009. The G4 Challenge that started in 2003 as the spiritual successor to the Camel Trophy, was recognized as the one of the world's top off-road driving and adventure events. It was held every two years with national selection events taking place in 18 countries around the globe.

"Given the severity of the global economic downturn and trading conditions, we need to make some tough decisions and that means prioritizing our budgets on new product launches," said Phil Popham, Managing Director Land Rover.

"We are disappointed for the competitors who have shown so much commitment and put tremendous effort into succeeding as representatives of their nation. We have and will continue to take swift and decisive actions for the benefit of the business; unfortunately that means the Land Rover G4 Challenge has to come to an early close," he added.

Source - http://carscoop.blogspot.com/2008/12/land-...-challenge.html

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Land Rover Cancels G4 Challenge Programme

Friday, December 19, 2008 | 0 comments » Categories | Land Rover, Racing, Reports

As the global economic recession deepens, automakers around the world are either canceling or pulling out from all sorts of competitions. Land Rover said today that it will cancel the Land Rover G4 Challenge programme in order to focus more on product launches in 2009. The G4 Challenge that started in 2003 as the spiritual successor to the Camel Trophy, was recognized as the one of the world's top off-road driving and adventure events. It was held every two years with national selection events taking place in 18 countries around the globe.

"Given the severity of the global economic downturn and trading conditions, we need to make some tough decisions and that means prioritizing our budgets on new product launches," said Phil Popham, Managing Director Land Rover.

"We are disappointed for the competitors who have shown so much commitment and put tremendous effort into succeeding as representatives of their nation. We have and will continue to take swift and decisive actions for the benefit of the business; unfortunately that means the Land Rover G4 Challenge has to come to an early close," he added.

Source - http://carscoop.blogspot.com/2008/12/land-...-challenge.html

thats such a shame :(

more a fan of the Camel Trophy as it was more hardcore and automotive focused , but it's sad none the less

but i'm pleased that Land Rover has got its priorities right and are focusing only on the essential value adding activities

The G4 is good no doubt but i'm not sure if its was need to consolidate the real life hardcre image that LR exudes in terms of its brand values seeing as most would have been familiar with the Camel Trophy exploits of the past

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damn shame about the Toyota-Subaru project...

i find it just a little hard to believe that Toyota has not made a loss in 60+ years! :blink:

now what will happen to the local SsangYong assembly project?? :huh:

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thats such a shame :(

more a fan of the Camel Trophy as it was more hardcore and automotive focused , but it's sad none the less

but i'm pleased that Land Rover has got its priorities right and are focusing only on the essential value adding activities

The G4 is good no doubt but i'm not sure if its was need to consolidate the real life hardcre image that LR exudes in terms of its brand values seeing as most would have been familiar with the Camel Trophy exploits of the past

I consider this as a wise mover form LR, knowing the economic situation is getting worse day by day their limited resources should be directed for survival.

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damn shame about the Toyota-Subaru project...

i find it just a little hard to believe that Toyota has not made a loss in 60+ years! :blink:

now what will happen to the local SsangYong assembly project?? :huh:

Hmmm... not a loss for 60 years its some thing hard to believe...

If MR can issue another permit scheme it will be a bail out for SsangYong :P

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If MR can issue another permit scheme it will be a bail out for SsangYong :P

:lol: Good one. But this is beyond MR tiny crookish brain I bet...

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i find it just a little hard to believe that Toyota has not made a loss in 60+ years! :blink:

It's been a well known fact that Toyota is the most efficient manufacturing company in the world. Hence the Toyota systems being practiced by ther companies in other industries.

But 1.1bn is probably nothing as they must be having a cash stack the size of Mt. Fuji.

Could there be a correlation between high profit and boring cars :rolleyes: ? Will Toyota start making some exciting cars at last? ;)

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I consider this as a wise mover form LR, knowing the economic situation is getting worse day by day their limited resources should be directed for survival.

i concur , but its still sad to see such events go..

but certainly better that then seeing such iconic brands vanish

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Toyota scion Akio Toyoda reportedly lined up to replace CEO Watanabe

Posted by: Ian Rowley on December 23

Could this week get any worse for Toyota CEO Katsuaki Watanabe? Yesterday, Watanabe took the unusual step of announcing a huge profits revision at a year-end press conference which is held every December in Nagoya. It was so unusual, in fact, that Toyota now projects it will make its first ever operating loss in the fiscal year ending March 2009. “The speed, breadth and depth of the downturn is beyond what we had imagined,” Watanabe told reporters.

Today, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun is reporting that Toyota will replace Watanabe, 66, with Akio Toyoda, the grandson of Toyota founder Kiichiro Toyoda in April.

According to the Asahi report, the appointment of a family member to the top job would help unify the company at a crucial time. If it was to happen, Toyoda, 52, would be the first family member to lead the company since Tatsuro Toyoda who stepped down in 1995. The newspaper calls the return of a family member “taisei hoken”—a reference to the restoration of imperial rule in Japan in 1868. Toyota denies the story and says nothing has been decided.

Changing CEO now would seem an odd decision. While Toyota is suffering, it is difficult to see how it could be handling the crisis differently or how a new chief could change things.

Toyota’s short term problems are to a large extent unavoidable. Yes, it could have stayed out of big trucks—it opened a Tundra plant in Texas in late 2006. But the collapse in auto sales makes it very difficult for any automaker to respond in a timely manner. Even Honda, which doesn’t have big exposure to the collapse in large SUV sales, slashed its forecasts last week.

And unlike European and U.S. automakers, Japanese carmakers and especially Toyota are suffering from the surging yen. For the year that ended in March, the yen averaged 114 to the dollar. In recent weeks the yen-dollar dipped below 90. Every one yen of change against the dollar costs Toyota $450 million in operating profits. The yen has appreciated even more against other currencies, including the euro. In some ways, it’s remarkable that Toyota only expects operating losses of $1.7 billion and still projects a small net profit.

Perhaps most important, though, is that it’s difficult to see what instant difference Toyoda would make. The Asahi’s suggestion that it would unify the company is vague to say the least. A Toyoda appointment wouldn’t make the yen weaken or car buyers enter showrooms. It’s not as if Watanabe has been a complacent leader. During the record earnings years of 2006 and 2007, Watanabe repeatedly warned that Toyota must redouble its cost cutting and other efforts. He has also voiced concerns that younger managers at Toyota have only ever known good times and worried how they would handle a crisis. Toyoda, 14 years Watanabe’s junior, might be better off biding his time

Source : http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/blog...ws+%2B+analysis

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GM Closes SUV Plant in Ohio

General Motors closed an assembly plant to make Chevrolet TrailBlazer and the GMC Envoy mid-sized sport utility vehicles Tuesday in Moraine, Ohio. The plant's 1,100 remaining workers all lost their jobs

By Tim Tresslar and John Nolan

Staff Writers

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

MORAINE — Labor and community leaders gathered near General Motors Corp.'s Moraine Assembly plant on Tuesday, Dec. 23, to mourn its closure and express concern for the workers who have lost their jobs.

Closure of the plant, which makes mid-sized sport utility vehicles such as the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and the GMC Envoy, will eliminate 1,100 jobs.

Jim Clark, president of the International Union of Electronic Workers-Communications Workers of America, said the shuttering of the Moraine plant isn't an isolated incident. Instead, it represents the hardships experienced by much of the country's manufacturing sector, he said.

"I think this is another blow to the middle class," he said.

The closure also will affect 51 local suppliers and 100 suppliers across the state, said Wes Wells, executive director of the Dayton-Miami Valley AFL-CIO.

IUE-CWA officials said the displaced workers will have access to training and education grants.

Still, the weak economy will make finding new jobs difficult, Clark said.

"It's not over for these families," Clark said. "They will fight another day. Unfortunately, this on top of the devastation we have in this country when it comes to manufacturing jobs, is going to make it very rough for these people to at least stay in this community and find new work."

Lisa and Pat Whittaker have each worked 14 years at General Motors Corp.'s Moraine Assembly plant, met there and married.

"We'll be taking more than our toolboxes out of here," Lisa, 39, said with a smile.

But both were coping with the emotional burden of bidding farewell to people they had worked alongside for years.

"When you see people every day for 14 years, it's like family," said Pat, 41.

The Beavercreek couple already have made plans to move on with their lives. Lisa is scheduled to start a nursing education course in January at Hondros College in Fairborn. In February, Pat is to start a welding training program at the Hobart Institute of Welding Technology in Troy.

They said they also are taking advantage of programs that their union, the International Union of Electronic Workers-Communications Workers of America, negotiated with GM. Under those programs, IUE-CWA members losing jobs at the Moraine plant can get cash severance benefits and transfer into jobs that become vacant at GM plants represented by the rival United Auto Workers union. In addition, IUE-CWA members who lose their jobs because of a plant closing can become eligible for retirement benefits at 50, Pat Whittaker said.

Also during Tuesday's press conference, Jobs With Justice, called for federal lawmakers to pass an economic recovery package that includes investments in physical infrastructure, investment in education and tougher regulation of banks and financial institutions.

Initially, GM announced in June that it would close the Moraine plant by 2010 as part of a larger restructuring. The following month, the company said it would eliminate its second shift.

In October, the automaker accelerated the closure, announcing it would shutter the factory this year. The company also shuttered an SUV assembly plant Tuesday in Janesville, Wis.

GM will continue to have a small manufacturing presence in the Dayton area through the DMAX engine plant it operates as a joint venture with Isuzu.

Source : http://www.daytondailynews.com/b/content/o...8gmsidebar.html

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Kirk Kerkorian sells remaining Ford shares

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Courtesy : Associated Press

By Martin Zimmerman

December 30, 2008

The investor spent about $1 billion acquiring a 6.5% stake in the struggling automaker this year, then saw the value of its stock plummet.

Kirk Kerkorian wasn't kidding when he said he was putting the brakes on his latest foray into the auto industry.

A spokeswoman for Tracinda Corp., the billionaire's Beverly Hills-based investment company, confirmed Monday that it had dumped its remaining stock holdings in struggling Ford Motor Co. She declined to provide details of the stock sales.

Kerkorian owned 107.1 million Ford shares, or 4.9% of the company, in late October, when Tracinda reported in a regulatory filing that it had unloaded 7.3 million shares and planned to sell the rest of its holdings by the end of the year.

Because it owned less than 5% of the company -- the regulatory threshold for reporting changes in stock ownership -- Tracinda was not required to file information with the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding the more recent sales, such as when the shares were sold or at what price.

But Kerkorian, who began buying Ford shares in April and spent about $1 billion acquiring a 6.5% stake in the automaker, clearly took a bath on the investment. Ford was trading at about $7.75 a share when Kerkorian began acquiring his stake. The average price since his last SEC filing in late October: $2.33 a share.

Kerkorian has had a long, if not always profitable, relationship with Detroit. He was the largest shareholder in Chrysler before it was sold to Daimler-Benz in the late 1990s. In 2006, he bought a 9.9% stake in General Motors Corp. and tried to use the resulting leverage in an unsuccessful effort to force GM into a relationship with Nissan-Renault.

And when Daimler put Chrysler on the block last year, Kerkorian sought to mount a buyout bid with the help of the automaker unions, but failed.

Although Ford is considered to be in better shape than GM or Chrysler -- unlike those two, it has yet to formally request a financial handout from Washington -- the company is burning through cash at an alarming rate as auto sales plunge in the U.S. and abroad.

Ford shares closed down 7 cents, about 3%, at $2.22.

[email protected]

Source : http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-kerk...1,3950570.story

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Pininfarina family to sell 50.6% stake in the company

Bad times in the auto industry are spreading like wildfire. Italian car design and coachbuilder Pininfarina is the next victim of the declining economy.

Pininfarina is famous for designing cars to manufacturers such as, Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar, Volvo, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Cadillac and others. In addition the company has designed trams, trolleys and provided design consultation.

Last year was emotionally hard for the Pininfarina family as company’s CEO Andrea Pininfarina died in a motorcycle accident. Now comes the news that this motoring dynasty is in a huge debt and has agreed to sell its controlling stake in the company.

Pininfarina family will sell 50.6 % stake in the group. Currently Pininfarina Group owes to banks nearly €600million ($838million). The company will appoint three investment banks by the end of February to advise on the sale.

As part of the agreement, the family is to assume €180m of the company’s debt. Whoever buys the family’s stake in Pininfarina will have to buy out the minority shareholders.

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