Audi has opened an office in Dubai to serve markets in surrounding Middle Eastern countries. Seven staff will have responsibility for coordinating marketing, sales and customer services in the region. Georg Flandorfer, Audi board member for sales and marketing, called it 'another step on our road to globalization.'
Wolfgang Reitzle, head of product development and purchasing, said diesel engines have no future past 2005 unless oil companies reduce the sulfur content of fuel. 'We cannot reach Euro 4 emission standards while sulfur content is legally set at 50ppm,' said Reitzle at an engineering conference in Munich last month. He said sulfur must be cut to 10ppm.
Wim Oude Weernink
BMW sponsored this year's German women's basketball championship by selling VIP tickets. For each game in May and June, these tickets included a seat, parking place and admission to the VIP lounge to meet the players.
Chrysler will build an $18 million logistical center next to its Eurostar minivan plant in Graz, Austria. Eurostar builds the Chrysler Voyager minivan. The carmaker expects annual sales of $70 million at the center.
The Citroen Xsara has been introduced in Peru. Importer Rosales Diesel expects to sell a total of 500 Citroens this year, up from 230 in 1997.
Daewoo continues to invest in Romania, where it is the No. 2 brand behind the local Dacia.
Daewoo agreed to pay an undisclosed sum for 51 percent of Mecatim, a former automaker that will become a partsmaker under Daewoo's control.
For several years, Mecatim made a tiny, cheap Dacia 500, but no cars have been made since 1994.
'The total amount invested by the Korean carmaker will be $100 million,' said Mircea Parvulescu, Mecatim's director.
Parts made by Mecatim will be used in all Daewoo assembly plants, including the Cielo plant in Craiova, Romania.
Daewoo cut prices of its small Tico by $1,200 this year, to as low as $4,700, and sales are growing significantly. Ioan Ban, president of Daewoo Auto Trading of Romania, said the Leganza would be launched soon, and the Matiz city car will arrive in the autumn.
'We also intend to enlarge our dealers' network from 71 to 120 authorized centers,' said Ban.
Worldwide passenger-car sales rose 23 percent in the first four months of the year to DM19.9 billion ($11.3 billion) compared with the same period in 1997. The company sold 273,300 cars in the quarter, a rise of 25 percent.
Fiat may offer a V-8 option on the Lancia Kappa replacement due in 2000.
Sources say two V-8 options are being considered. The first is to create a new family of modular engines derived from the next-generation Alfa Romeo V-6. The second is to develop a new Maserati V-8 that would also be used in Lancia and Alfa Romeo models.
Maserati plans to replace its current twin-turbo, 3.2-liter V-8 with a new normally aspirated V-8. But Fiat sources say that a V-8 designed and built by Maserati may be too costly for Alfa Romeo and Lancia, and an Alfa V-8 may not be exclusive enough for Maserati.
Fiat SpA will sell its 45.8 percent stake in the chemicals group SNIA BPD SpA in order to concentrate on its core automotive business. The stake is valued at around L875 billion ($506 million). Fiat has defined its core business as passenger cars, commercial vehicles, heavy trucks, automotive components, tractors, trains, and airplane components - and its related financial services.
Fiat's Brazilian subsidiary Fiat Automoveis predicted it would export 90,000 Brazilian-built Palio Weekend station wagons to Italy this year.
Ford is considering selling shares in its new network of company-owned dealers in the USA.
The carmaker has set up new companies in three cities called Ford Retail Networks, which are jointly owned by Ford and a number of local dealers. The automaker is talking to dealers in 12 other cities.
Ford could sell shares in either these networks or in the company responsible for overseeing the move into retailing, Ford Investment Enterprises Corp.
Reuters News Service
Sources at Ford and Samsung Motors say Ford will not help Samsung buy Kia Motors. Ford owns part of Kia.
'We have different perspectives and opinions,' said Yoon Jong-Ho, executive managing director of Samsung Motors after the talks with Ford ended. Kia has debts estimated at around $6 billion.
Ford introduced a six-hour Saturday overtime shift at its body and assembly plant in Dagenham, UK, to help meet increased demand for its Fiesta.
The shifts involve eight Saturdays through the end of July. They are expected to produce an additional 4,500 vehicles for Europe, Mexico and Argentina. Last year, Dagenham made 238,971 Fiestas and vans.
Similar shifts have been introduced at the Cologne, Germany, plant, where Ford produces the Fiesta and Puma.
General Motors has launched three World Cup '98 special editions of the Opel Corsa in Germany. All three versions are equipped with power steering, anti-lock brakes, sunroof and aluminum wheels.
The base model is powered by a three-cylinder, 55hp, 1.0-liter engine. The price is DM22,990 ($13,000), a reduction of DM1,520 compared with a normal Corsa with the same equipment. A version with air conditioning sells for DM23,500. The customer savings is DM1,960.
The World Cup Sport version is available with 90hp, 1.4-liter or 106hp, 1.6-liter engines. The Sport is 25mm lower and comes with air conditioning, a special interior treatment and rear skirting in body color. The price is DM29,060. Customers save DM2,024 compared with a standard Corsa with the same equipment.
GM's Vauxhall will recall 26,187 diesel-engined Corsa cars and vans in the UK. A wire under the hood could be pulled loose. Vauxhall will also recall 8,134 Corsas equipped with 12-valve engines. The cars' wiring harnesses will be secured to keep them clear of the intake manifold.
Brazil will gradually supplant North America and Japan as the source for Hondas sold throughout South America, said Kazuo Nozawa, commercial director of Honda Brazil.
The company has built Civics at its Sumare, Brazil, plant since November 1997. Production is planned to reach 1,000 units per month in October, from 700 a day now. Honda expects to build 15,000 cars there this year and double that next year.
The number of Honda dealers in Brazil will rise from 25 to 60 this year, said Nozawa.
Hyundai Motor Co. says it has developed high-tech shock absorbers that are four times more effective than conventional units in terms of durability and resistance to corrosion.
The key rods of the new shock absorbers are treated to prevent oil leaks. The new units will also cost 10 percent less to produce.
Kia's plant in the Russian Baltic coastal enclave of Kaliningrad is running below the break-even point, according to plant officials.
The plant currently assembles 450 cars a month, but needs to make 850 units a month to make a profit.
Maserati is rumored to be planning a return to US Indy Car racing in 2001, although the company's top executive said there are no current plans to do so.
Speculation grew following last month's Indianapolis 500 race. Piero Ferrari, vice chairman of Ferrari SpA, which has management control of Maserati, was hosted in Indianapolis by Gian Paolo Dallara, Ferrari's traditional partner in racing other than Formula One.
'Racing is part of Maserati's heritage,' said Ferrari Managing Director Paolo Marinsek, 'but we do not have any current plan to re-enter competition.'
Nissan announced new security measures to prevent illegal dealing in shares by employees and managers.
Former Nissan Managing Director Kenji Sawamura was charged last month with illegal trading. He is accused of using inside information to buy shares in Nissan affiliate Tosok Corp. in his wife's name in February 1997.
Porsche will decide later this year whether to go ahead with plans to assemble cars in economically-troubled Thailand. Porsche has said it is interested in assembling the Boxster from knockdown kits for both the domestic and regional markets. The carmaker has approached a number of manufacturing companies in Thailand.
PSA Peugeot-Citroen will acquire the Peugeot Motorcycles subsidiary of Ecia as part of the reorganization of Faurecia, the new name for the group created by the merger of Ecia and Bertrand Faure. Faurecia, which is controlled by PSA, owns 74.2 percent of the French scooter maker. The rest is owned by Honda. The company builds small-cylinder scooters and mopeds of 50cc and 100cc.
The passenger-car version of Renault's Kangoo has been an unexpected success. Of the 100,000 Kangoos built at Renault's Maubeuge plant in northern France since last summer, 55 percent have been passenger-car versions. Renault production plans originally anticipated 30 percent as passenger cars and 70 percent as commercial vans. The Kangoo has 1.9 percent of the French passenger-car market.
Rover Mini sales rose 9.6 percent worldwide in the first quarter of 1998 to 4,910. The biggest rise for the 39-year-old model was in Germany, where sales rose 53 percent to 818 units. Rover brand sales were up 54 percent in Germany in the quarter to 11,708 cars.
Saab will invest SKr1.2 billion ($158 million) over two years to upgrade its Trollhattan assembly plant and Gothenburg manual transmission facility.
The changes will lift Trollhattan's annual capacity from 120,000 to 150,000. About SKr850 million will be spent to break a production bottleneck in the stamping plant, said spokesman Olle Axelsson. Saab will add a fifth line in the stamping plant, which makes body panels for all Saab models.
Around SKr200 million will be spent to raise capacity in Gothenburg from 145,000 transmissions annually to 185,000 by 2000. Saab will add a third shift in the machining area and a second shift in assembly, increasing the workforce by 100 to 560.
About 30 percent of current gearbox production is delivered to General Motors, which owns 50 percent of Saab. The proportion will rise to 50 percent by 2000.
Improvements will also be made to the body shop, paint shop and final assembly area. New transfer presses will allow Saab to raise quality through finer tolerances, said Production Manager Lars Danielsson.
Saab needs new capacity for the 9-5 wagon that goes into production this fall and growing sales of the 9-3 and 9-5 sedans, said Chairman Robert Hendry.
Hendry said Saab aims to sell 120,000 units this year. The total includes about 20,000 convertibles built at Valmet Automotive's plant at Uusikaupunki, Finland.
Japanese importer Yanase & Co. will start selling the Saab 9-3 in Japan this week. Yanase hopes to sell 300 by the end of September, a spokesman said. Yanase aims to sell a total of 3,400 Saab cars in the year ending 30 September.
Yanase sold 1,031 Saabs in the period from October last year to April. Yanase started selling Saabs last July.
Toyota President Hiroshi Okuda wants to take a majority stake in affiliated companies Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors Ltd. Toyota has a controlling 33.4 percent of Daihatsu and 20.1 percent of truckmaker Hino.
James B. Treece
Toyota plans to export the Prius, a low-emission, 1.5-liter, gasoline-electric hybrid, to North America and Europe, starting in 2000. The carmaker has sold more than 5,000 of the cars since they went on sale in Japan in December. Toyota plans to double output to 2,000 per month in June.
Volvo claims its new S80 sedan is the first car with a fully integrated global mobile phone as an option. The phone can be used hands-free, but there is a handset in the center armrest for greater privacy when the car is immobile.
Volkswagen Group Japan KK will offer a limited edition of 500 'Polo Silver Selection' models to commemorate selling 30,000 Polos in Japan since the car went on sale in August 1996. The car has never been offered in silver in Japan before. The limited edition is priced the same as the regular car: 1,865,000 yen, or $14,023.
Volkswagen Group will be the first car manufacturer to put in place a global works council. The council will deliberate on behalf of Volkswagen's 280,000 workers throughout the world. It will include representatives of VW units in Germany, Belgium, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Mexico, South Africa and Poland. The body was proposed by VW's European works council and approved by the company's management board. It will meet for the first time next year.
'With our world works council we will build up an essential framework for the growing global integration of our group,' said Klaus Volkert, president of the European works council. 'Mere national and isolated works council activities are no longer sufficient.'