Check Your Mirrors
Odds and Ends About Cars and the Car Business
By Brendan Moore
FORD sustained their worst quarter ever in the last quarter of 2008, burning though $5.5 billion USD in only three months. Ford lost $14.6 billion for all of 2008. Ford officials stated, however, that they still have $13.4 billion in the bank, approximately $10 billion more in credit lines and think they’re not going to have get money from the US government. Meanwhile, Ford of Europe had a fantastic (and very profitable) year, but their last quarter looked pretty ugly, too, and they expect 2009 to be in the red.
NISSAN says that the Fiat interest in Chrysler will not affect their deal with Chrysler which calls for Nissan to supply Chrysler with two small cars and for Chrysler to supply Nissan with a full-size pickup. All this is supposed to happen in 2010, which also happens to be the year that Fiat will be supplying Chrysler with a lot of small cars. Chrysler may go from having no good small cars to an embarrassment of riches in that segment.
2009 will finally see the launch of a federal national database for badly damaged vehicles, that is, vehicles that should have been junked. There have always been companies and individuals that buy these sorts of vehicles cheap, rebuild them to various degrees of road-worthiness and then sell these vehicles to unsuspecting buyers for large profits. For the very first time, salvage yards, junkyards and insurance companies will be required to report vehicles that had been totaled in an insurance claim, and that data will reside in a national database. This data will be available for free (what is to become of CarFax?) and is scheduled to be complete (with data from every state) by the middle of 2010. So, if you have ever unknowingly bought a smoker (car that was totaled because of fire), a swimmer (car that was totaled because of flood damage), etc. in the past, maybe this will happen. If course, there will still be clickers (rolled-back odometer cars) on used car lots, so be careful out there.
I live in San Francisco, and I’ve lived in lots of other places, and I’m always pleasantly surprised by how much unusual iron you see in the neighborhoods in the city compared to other places. In the past three days, I have seen one unusual vehicle per day – a new Citroen C3 with one-year plates parked in Pacific Heights, a banged-up late-50’s Opel fire truck parked in someone’s driveway in the Sunset area and a lovely Tatra 603 down near the Marina. The city is a great place for car nuts with sharp eyes.
SATURN is not going to sell any 2009 Astras in the US because they still have way too many 2008 models in their inventory. They will sell the 2009 Astra in Canada, but skip the production year in the US, with plans to resume importation of the Opel (Saturn-badged) Astra in 2010. Provided, of course, the Saturn is still around then.
TESLA had planned to build their new factory in San Jose, California, but the crashing economy, nervous investors and restrictions on the money that Tesla was supposed to get from various federal, state and city governments is making that investment in San Jose increasingly unlikely.
CHINESE auto manufacturers continue their inexorable march into Europe, with two companies you probably never heard getting ready to start selling cars on the continent. Changhe and Lifan both signed a distribution deal with Martin Motors in Italy to sell their cars in Europe with the Martin Motors badge. Changhe and Lifan are both small auto companies in China, both started as motorcycle manufacturers and both are privately owned. Martin Motors says it plans to sell a combined 10,000 vehicles between the two Chinese car companies.
ISUZU is halting shipments of new vehicles to their dealers tomorrow. That’s right, tomorrow, January 31, is the last day Isuzu gives its dealers anything new as they slowly withdraw from the US car market. Isuzu says that 230 dealers have signed up to continue operations as parts and service franchises. Isuzu has sold new passenger vehicles in the US since 1971.
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