Alfa Romeo cannot build enough 156 sedans to keep up with demand. The company may add a third shift at its Pomigliano D'Arco plant to raise capacity from 400 units a day to 600. Annual capacity would rise from 90,000 units to 130,000.
Sales in the USA were up 17.1 percent in March, at 3,352 units sold. For the year, Audi is up 14 percent.
Audi will join with Thailand's Yontrakit group in a kit assembly facility for the Audi A4 and Audi A6. Assembly of 1,000-2,000 units annually will begin early next year at a plant that already assembles BMW 3-, 5- and 7-series cars. Yontrakit has imported Audi since 1992. It also distributes Volkswagen, Seat, Peugeot and BMW.
Chrysler Corp. has taken complete control of its Japanese marketing operations.
The US automaker bought the 30 percent of Chrysler Japan Sales Ltd. it didn't already own from J. Osawa & Co. Ltd., a unit of the retailing Seibu Saison Group, for an undisclosed price.
J. Osawa will close a Chrysler showroom in its Tokyo headquarters building. The change does not otherwise affect Chrysler Japan's network, which consists of 53 dealer principals and 128 outlets.
J. Osawa is also ending sales ties with Fiat and Citroen. At one time, it also sold Jaguar, Peugeot, Saab and Alfa Romeo cars.
James B. Treece
Chrysler built its 250,000th Voyager minivan at its Eurostar plant in Graz, Austria, on 25 March. Production started there in October 1991. Eurostar is a joint venture with Steyr-Daimler-Puch.
Mazda will no longer distribute Citroen cars in Japan. Mazda plans to close its 100-dealer Eunos network, which sold Mazda-built cars and Citroens, by the end of the year. However, Citroen's other Japanese importer, Seibu Motor Sales Co., will continue to sell Citroen cars. Seibu has 65 dealers. The two networks sold a total of 2,535 Citroens last year, and 3,100 in 1996.
PSA's Chinese joint-venture, Dongfeng-Citroen Automobile Co., expects to break even this year, said company official Zhang Aiqun. The company received approval for a US$60 million loan from China's State Development Bank. Majority partner Dongfeng Motor Co. still owes $3.9 million in capital, and the joint venture lost money last year.
Although Zhang told the South China Morning Post that cost cutting during 1997 had greatly reduced losses, she would not disclose the level of these losses.
Daewoo is now testing engines built at its Romanian plant.
'Endurance tests are now in progress,' said Oh-Joon Kwon, president of Daewoo Co. in Romania.
The engines and transmissions will power the Cielo (the Nexia in Romania) and Nubira models that Daewoo manufactures in Craiova, as well as Daewoo plants in Poland and Uzbekistan, he said.
Giovanni Agnelli, honorary president of Fiat SpA:
'I am having limited satisfaction from Ferrari this year. When I was told that McLaren had been obliged to eliminate their (braking) third pedal, I said that to stop McLaren this year it would be necessary to eliminate their steering wheel.'
Ford of Britain plans to sell 10,000 UK-built Fiestas a year in Mexico. Sales start 16 April. Last year Ford of Britain exported more than 137,000 cars and light commercial vehicles. The 1997 exports, including engines and components, were worth $3.1 billion.
London-based advertising agency Summerfield Wilmot & Buhler will handle the UK launch of GM's Chevrolet Camaro, Blazer and Cadillac Seville. One of the agency's shareholders, Buhler & Partner, already has the European account for Cadillac and Chevrolet.
Vauxhall is expanding its dealership network in the UK, from 528 sites now to about 550 by the end of the year and 600 by mid-1999. About 20 Vauxhall dealers are spending an average $1.6 million each to refurbish their dealerships this year.
The US versions of Honda Accords and Civics are the first gasoline cars to receive the US Environmental Protection Agency's rating of low-emission vehicle in all 50 states.
Company exports from Japan to Europe were up 35.9 percent in February. Honda and other Japanese companies have new, higher import quotas in Europe and a bad market at home. Total Japanese exports to Europe jumped 37.3 percent to 127,688, while the USA consumed 105,586 Japanese vehicles. Honda's exports to its biggest market, North America, declined slightly.
James B. Treece
Sales of the City, Honda's new Asian car, are estimated at 3,000 units in the first quarter. For the next 12 months, Honda expects to sell 20,000 units.
Honda plans to invest $212.5 million by March 2004 in the project.
The company wrote a position paper suggesting that it should be allowed to buy the assets of bankrupt Kia, cheaply. A takeover would double Hyundai's capacity from its current 1.3 million units. Hyundai said such a merger would encourage the Korean parts industry to pursue mergers, reducing the number of suppliers from 1,200 to 100
UK buyers of Jaguar cars will be able to refine their driving skills on a one-day advanced driving training course. The customers-only rule will keep the course exclusive.
Mitsubishi aims to achieve 90 percent recyclability for its vehicles by 2000. That is two years ahead of the target set by Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry. Mitsubishi says its current recyclability level is 85 percent.
Mitsubishi sales in western Europe rose 33.7 percent in the first quarter to 32,547 units.
The company said last week that it lost more than $388 million on the shares it holds in related companies in the just-ended fiscal year.
The portfolio loss will further drag down Nissan's earnings, which will be reported in May.
Nissan executives declined to provide a breakdown of the loss.
In early March, Morgan Stanley auto analyst Noriaki Hirakata cut his forecast for Nissan's consolidated worldwide earnings to $538 million from $669 million previously. Last week, Hirakata lowered his forecast to $385 million.
That would be costly. Citing Nissan's 'subpar' earnings outlook, Standard & Poor's recently cut the automaker's credit rating, which raises financing costs.
James B. Treece
Peugeot said it will keep its production of the Peugeot 406 coupe in Pininfarina's Italian plant, rather than move production to a Peugeot plant. Output will rise to 23,000 units this year, from 11,000 in 1997.
Engine maker Francaise de Mecanique will build a 1.0-liter engine for the Renault Clio sedan that will be produced in Brazil starting in 1999. The 50-50 joint venture between Renault and PSA is based in Douvrin, France. The new engine will be derived from Francaise de Mecanique's current 1.2-liter engine.
Rover has added two versions to its 600 model in the UK. The sporty iS and luxury iL are both offered with 1.8-liter gasoline and 2.0-liter diesel engines. Prices start at £17,050 ($28,680). The new versions replace the 618i Auto, 618Si and 620sdi.
A 10-day international Land Rover rally starts 21 May in the UK, to celebrate the marque's 50th birthday. About 6,000 vehicles are expected. Of the two million Land Rovers built, 70 percent are believed to be still in use.
Three Land Rover Freelanders will begin a 32,000km charity drive in August that will take them through 50 countries in 50 days, from Norway to South Africa.
Saab has postponed the introduction of its 3.0-liter, 200hp V-6 Ecopower engine from 30 April to early autumn. The carmaker said production resources were too stretched by strong demand for its 9-3 and 9-5 models for it to start offering another new engine.
After a seven-month pitch, Seat awarded its US$156 million Europe-wide advertising account to Bates Worldwide in London.
The appointment displaces Wilkens International of London and Casadevall Pedreno & PRG of Barcelona as the agencies for the automaker. Wilkens handled the $94 million Seat account outside Spain while Casadevall controlled the $62 million Spanish business.
Seat ended production of the Marbella mini at the end of March. The Marbella was launched in 1982, as a derivative of the Fiat Panda.
Skoda aims to start production in Russia when the new Felicia is introduced in 2001 or 2002. 'The problem is to find the right partner,' said Frank Farsky, executive director of communications.
Skoda assembles 28,000 cars a year in Poland, and is evaluating possible plants in Russia, Egypt and India.
Skoda set a production record in March of 40,000 cars. First-quarter production rose 32 percent to 106,910 cars, compared with 1997. Skoda's 1998 production target is 420,000 cars, a rise of 18 percent over last year.
Reuters News Service
Toyota Motor Europe's showroom on Paris' famous Champs Elysees, will be at No. 79, near the Mimi Pinson dance hall.
Renault, Peugeot and Citroen all have showrooms there, as well as Mercedes-Benz, Fiat and some others, but there are no other Japanese.
Toyota's new No. 1 outlet will have approximately 1,000 square meters. It will be managed by Eric Le Paire, the godson of Michel Le Paire, chairman of Volkswagen France group.
Toyota may source automatic and semi-automatic transmissions from Europe for Japan-built cars. Anglo-Norwegian manufacturer Kongsberg TechMatic has supplied transmissions for Toyota running prototypes in Japan.
Kongsberg TechMatic also supplies Ford, Renault, Audi and Iveco and has a licensing agreement with Daewoo.
President Hiroshi Okuda is the first non-American to be named Manufacturer of the Year by the California Manufacturers Association.
Toyota manages the NUMMI assembly plant that is a joint venture with General Motors.
The Volkswagen brand had its best March sales in the USA of the past decade, as deliveries of the new Passat and New Beetle accelerated.
'The Europeans have figured out lean production,' said Greg Kagay, an analyst with McDonald & Co., speaking of VW, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
'The implication of that is competitive prices combined with rich heritage and deep engineering capabilities.'
Reuters News Service
US car sales rose 28 percent in March to 10,379 vehicles. Year-to-date, sales are up 13.1 percent to 27,437 cars.
Reuters News Service