Fiat signs Chinese training agreement
TURIN - The Fiat Research Center and the Chinese Science and Technology Ministry have signed a cooperation agreement for automotive training and research. Chinese automotive students will be offered prizes and one-year courses at the Fiat Research Center in Orbassano, near Turin. The Center will also start scientific cooperation with Chinese research institutes based in Beijing and Nanjing. Fiat already has similar agreements with various scientific institutions in Brazil, Poland, Mexico and India.
Eurostar introduces short-time working
GRAZ, Austria - Shrinking markets in Asia, Japan and South America have forced short-time working to be introduced at the Eurostar plant in Graz, Austria. Eurostar produces the Chrysler Voyager for all countries outside North America and Taiwan. Eurostar has an annual capacity of 70,000 vehicles but will only build 55,000 Voyagers this year.
DaimlerChrysler has taken full control of Eurostar from Magna International, which owned 49 percent of the plant. Last year Magna bought more than 90 percent of Steyr-Daimler-Puch, the former Chrysler Corp.'s original joint venture partner in the plant.
Meanwhile, production of the Mercedes-Benz M-class sport-utility started 26 May at the neighboring Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik plant.
Maserati harms Ferrari results
MARANELLO, Italy - Ferrari SpA sales and pretax profits rose sharply in 1998, but the consolidation of 50 percent of Maserati losses almost halved the net result.
Consolidated net profit decreased 46 percent to L15.7 billion ($8.7 million) in 1998, from L28.9 billion ($16 million) in 1997. The 1998 results include extraordinary changes at Maserati. Ferrari's parent company, Fiat SpA, transferred Maserati to Ferrari in July 1997. Maserati was not included in the 1997 results.
Consolidated profit before taxes and extraordinary items grew to $29.7 million in 1998 from $21 million a year earlier. Sales climbed 14.5 percent to $663 million from $580 million.
Not including Maserati, pretax profit grew 13.8 percent to $26.8 million, representing 8.1 percent of sales. Ferrari sales rose 7.2 percent to $511 million.
Maserati lost $27.4 million in 1998 on sales of $40.7 million.
Ferrari will invest $222.2 million to relaunch Maserati in 2001. In 2002, Ferrari is expected to take over the remaining 50 percent of Maserati owned by Fiat SpA.
Fiat gears up for Punto successor
TURIN - Fiat Auto will hire 500 temporary workers to boost the Punto replacement's production start-up. Beginning this month and through to September, 460 workers will be added to the Mirafiori assembly lines and another 40 to the stamping shop.
Fiat has also gained union approval to continue with the night shift for the Panda until the end of September. The night shift will also continue through to December for the 1.9-liter turbodiesel engine, and through to July 2000 for the 1.6-liter, 16-valve gasoline engine, both built in Mirafiori.
Mazda will maintain production capacity
TOKYO - Mazda Motor Corp. President James Miller does not expect to cut production capacity in Japan, even though he also doesn't see a return to the peak Japan-market sales volumes of the late 1980s. 'Our objective is to grow the business profitably,' Miller said in remarks after a speech at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. 'Our plan is not to reduce capacity. It would be helpful to have a 7 million-unit industry again (in Japan), but we're not expecting it' in Mazda's current five-year plan, Miller said. 'I personally don't see it getting back to that (level) for a much longer period.' Japan's 1998 vehicle sales totaled 5.9 million.
Mazda's current capacity utilization ratio at its plants in Japan is between 70 percent and 75 percent. That should rise into 'the 80 percent range' between October this year and March 2000, if the US and European markets don't collapse, Miller said.