Audi: Recruitment stand
Audi dealers in the UK will recruit new employees at the Birmingham auto show in October. Potential recruits among visitors to the show - especially from competing dealerships - will be invited to take an Audi evaluation test to find out whether they are an 'Audi person.' Openings at the UK Audi Centers will be posted, and application forms will be available.
BMW: Asia expansion
BMW spent $30 million upgrading or opening 10 sales outlets across Asia in the first half, despite the economic crisis that saw sales there fall 31 percent to 33,700 in the period. BMW plans to add or upgrade a further 20 facilities in the second half.
Daimler-Benz: A-class in India
Mercedes-Benz India Ltd. has been studying whether to try to build 4,000 A-class kits annually at its plant in Pune. The plant will assemble about 4,000 E-class models this year, but capacity is 25,000.
Sources said factors against the proposal are that kits would have to be made in Europe, where demand is still high, and the A-class had not done well in Indian car clinics.
The A-class is built in Rastatt, Germany. Production at a plant in Juiz de Sora, Brazil, will begin in the first half of 1999.
Fiat: Schumacher drives
MICHAEL SCHUMACHER will star in pan-European advertisements for the Fiat Multipla, which will be launched in October. The Ferrari racing hero was filmed on 5-7 August at Spezzano Castle, near Fiorano, Italy. Two years ago Schumacher appeared in a television ad for the 16-valve Fiat Punto, but he was overshadowed by the main character, a wild Schumacher fan.
Ford: Hire-car expansion
Axus UK, part of the Ford Financial Services Group, has bought the vehicle contract rental subsidiary of UK distribution and fleet management group Alexanders, for £14.4 million ($23 million) in cash.
Ford's most productive plant in Europe is its Dagenham, UK, operation, which will build the new Focus. Dagenham produced 62 cars per employee a year, compared with 59 at Saarlouis in Germany, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.
GM: Vauxhall raises prices
Vauxhall Motors has raised UK prices on selected models. The Corsa LS has gone up by 0.9 percent from £9,135 ($14,825) to £9,220, while the Omega CD is up from £20,520 to £20,975 (2.2 percent). Prices of big sellers like the Corsa Breeze and Vectra Arctic remain unchanged.
Honda: Million engines
The Swindon, UK, facility produced its one-millionth engine this month. The plant began engine manufacturing in 1989 and opened a second line in 1992, bringing annual capacity to 200,000. Rover has taken 416,000 of the engines.
Isotta Fraschini: Back again?
Isotta Fraschini could reappear at September's Paris show with a revised version of its roadster T8 and a concept of a four-seat coupe.
Isotta Fraschini was a luxury brand in 1920s and 1930s. Attempts to revive it began in 1993 and culminated with the T8 unveiling at the Geneva show in March 1996, but it disappeared before its first press conference.
Mitsubishi: Warranty offer
Customers purchasing used Carisma cars from Mitsubishi dealers in the UK will get the same three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty the company offers on its new vehicles. The company said the deal, which it claims is unique, reflects the reliability of the Dutch-built cars and will encourage buyers to return to approved dealers for servicing and for their next Mitsubishi.
PSA: Summer maintenance
PSA/Peugeot-Citroen is spending FF1.7 billion to renovate factories this summer.
Reuters News Service
Price cuts in France
The price of the Peugeot 406 2.1 SV turbodiesel upper-medium sedan has been cut in France by FF6,000 ($995). Citroen cut the price of the diesel versions of its Saxo mini by between FF2,800 and FF7,000.
Renault: Sales up
Renault group sales increased 18.6 percent to FF121.7 billion ($20.2 billion) in the first half of 1998. Car and light commercial vehicle sales were up 21 percent to FF97 billion and truck sales up 28 percent to FF20 billion. Renault car registrations increased by 17 percent in western Europe and 14.8 percent elsewhere.
Financial analysts predict Renault's net income for 1998 will reach FF7.5 billion to FF7.9 billion, up from FF5.4 billion in 1997.
Twingo price cut
Renault has cut the price of its redesigned Twingo mini by FF4,000 ($655) in France.
Reuters News Service
Rover: Film boost for Mini
Mini sales increased after the car starred in the 1960s classic crime film The Italian Job, in which three Minis outdrove police Alfas by taking to the rooftops and sewers of Turin after a robbery. Rover now hopes for a similar boost from the new Warner Bros. movie The Avengers. This time the Mini is driven by the villain in pursuit of the heroine. Rover is producing an edition featuring the black-and-white checkered paint job from the new film.
Skoda: Bosnia plant ready
The first Skoda Felicia is expected to roll off the assembly line in Sarajevo, Bosnia, in September. Skoda Auto hopes to produce several hundred Felicias in Sarajevo this year from parts made in the Czech Republic. Skoda sales rose 11.9 percent in the first half to 212,465 units.
Skoda Auto is building a $245 million, 40,000-square-meter central parts warehouse in the Czech Republic. The facility at Mlada Boleslav will be completed by summer 1999. The warehouse will also store parts for Audi, Seat and Volkswagen, all part of Volkswagen group.
Suzuki: Wagon R+ revamp
Suzuki is offering an all-new 1.2-liter, 16-valve engine for the Wagon R+GL in all European markets. The whole Wagon R+ range gets a restyled grille and front bumper, electrically adjustable door mirrors and new body colors. Interior surfaces, including steering wheel, gear knob and grips, are now manufactured from anti-bacterial material.
Toyota: Japan's problems
Toyota will have to pay more if it wants to borrow money in the future, despite its healthy balance sheet.
Moody's downgraded Toyota's credit rating one notch, from the AAA top rating to AA1.
Toyota President Hiroshi Okuda had argued that the company should keep its AAA rating. Okuda told analysts Toyota has reserves of 2.7 trillion yen ($20.3 billion) and should be treated separately from the Japanese government.
Moody's has warned that it may downgrade Japan's rating because of the economic crisis. By tradition, Moody never gives a higher rating to a company than it gives to its national government, so the Toyota downgrade is taken as a sign that Japan's rating will drop.
Seeds of progress
Toyota's Future Project Division is genetically engineering trees to increase the rate at which they consume carbon dioxide. Two experimental woodlands in Japan are part of the Forest of Toyota anti-greenhouse-gas research. 'We are focusing on the natural ability of plants to cleanse the atmosphere,' said Yasuhiko Komatsu, general manager of the project.
VW: Brazil layoff canceled
The Brazilian unit of Volkswagen canceled a scheduled shut-down on 20 and 21 August after it predicted sales would grow following the government's tax cut. The government this month reduced the IPI production tax, levied on automobile manufacturers, by 5 percent in a bid to boost slumping sales. Car sales at Volkswagen do Brasil were down 34.4 percent to 28,632 in the year to July.
Volvo: New trucks
Volvo has launched two new trucks. The FM replaces heavy trucks in the FL range introduced in 1985. Its target market is regional distribution, construction and municipal operators. It is joined by a new generation of Volvo's FH long-haul truck. The two models share 78 percent of components.
Suzuki: Vitara special edition
A three-door Vitara sport-utility special edition, the 1.6-liter JX 4U, is available to distributors across Europe. In the UK the JX 4U will be offered as both hard-top and soft-top, priced at £11,995 ($19,750) including two years' free insurance. The Vitara is built at Santa Ana, Spain.
Terrano II launch
Nissan has launched a van derivative of the Terrano II sportutility. It is built at Nissan's Barcelona plant and is powered by a 2.7-liter turbodiesel. The basic model is priced in the UK at £14,350 ($23,250), excluding taxes.