DaimlerChrysler pulls out of Mitsubishi
After refusing to financially assist the ailing
Mitsubishi Company, DaimlerChrysler has really pulled the plug by
selling its entire 12.42 percent stake in the Japanese carmaker. They
were also so desirous of getting out that the shares were sold at
around 82 percent of the current share price.
Investment bank Goldman Sachs has bought the stake,
so as an investment, they must consider Mitsubishi to have a long term
future, despite its current problems, and was placing the shares with
institutional investors around the world, a financial source said.
DaimlerChrysler, the world’s fifth-biggest
carmaker, said that the Mitsu stock sale would boost the 2005
financial figures by around USD 589 million. And according to
financial analysts, the sale made good financial sense.
“DaimlerChrysler showed good timing with the sale,” said Michael
Punzet, an analyst at Landesbank Rheinland-Pfalz. “The money will
help offset the financial burden from its planned job cuts,” he
added, referring to the reduction of 8,500 staff at the premium
Mercedes division in high-cost Germany.
It is reported that this reduction, with all the
pay-offs and pensions will cost around USD 1.1 billion.
The sale follows DaimlerChrysler’s sale last year
of its stake in Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. and is also selling its
heavy diesel motor unit MTU Friedrichshafen. Cash from all these sales
will be used to top up pension contributions, finance restructuring of
its Smart minicar business, invest in new models or channel money to
investors via steady or even sweeter dividends.
It seems it is not just America’s big car makers
that are in trouble. Europeans are also tightening their belts. Most
of the Brits have already gone to the wall, other than AC Cars who are
spending money to open a factory in America!
The world is bracing itself for the Chinese
onslaught, and once China has built itself a reputation for making
quality cars cheaply (which will happen, believe me), it will be
“goodnight nurse” to all but the specialist automakers in the
It’s time to buy a Chery QQ and put it on blocks
and let your grandchildren sell it for a fortune in 50 years time. The
oracle has spoken!
Electric hybrids - the new way to go?
There is a man, dressed in long robes, holding a sign saying,
“The end is nigh” parading up and down outside all the world’s major
automakers. Well, if he’s not there, you would imagine that he is, because all
of a sudden, they are all jumping on the bandwagon of ecology, save the planet
and oil supplies are dwindling. The petrol engine is on its way out.
“Vehicles powered by gasoline engines linked to electric
motors are the new wave, with latest efforts putting these hybrids into
mainstream vehicles.” That was the leader for an article in the America auto
press in 2003. Increasingly, Americans are willing to give gas-electric hybrid
vehicles a try, according to J.D. Power and Associates, who said that the desire
for the technology that mates a gasoline engine to an electric motor for a more
fuel-efficient power plant rose from 20 percent to 29 percent in the five years
1997 to 2002 and that is still rising.
While the Japanese, Honda and Toyota in particular, are at
the forefront, Germany is also there with DaimlerChrysler. Their concept vehicle
is called the F500 Mind, the big four-door fastback being billed as a mobile
research laboratory housing technological advancements that are expected to
filter though into standard Mercedes-Benz models in coming years, including an
advanced hybrid drive system that uses both diesel power and yes, electric
Listening to the big automakers, you would think that this is
all something new, this gasoline and electric motor concept, but of course, it
The first hybrid, according to my research, was built in 1902
by the son of an Austrian tinsmith. His name was Ferdinand Porsche – yes the
same Porsche who designed vehicles for Daimler, Auto Union, made the Beetle and
finally gave birth to the line-up of some of the greatest sportscars ever seen,
the cars bearing his own name – the Porsches. It is now time to go back in
history, and the tale of Dr. Porsche and his involvement in the hybrid movement.
Ferdinand Porsche was born in 1875 in Mattersdorf, a village
close to Reichenberg, in what was then North Bohemia. In 1898, he joined Jacob
Lohner’s automobile company. This was Austria’s first production car company
but Lohner believed in electric cars and Porsche designed a car which had an
electric motor fitted to each front wheel hub. This was radical stuff and the
Lohner-Porsche was exhibited in the Paris Exposition of 1900 and attracted
international attention. This was, however, still an electric car, powered by
heavy lead-acid batteries. The hub motors had been designed by Ferdinand
Porsche, who was just 25 years old at the time. His employer, Jacob Lohner,
boasted to the press, “He is very young, but he is a man with a big career
before him. You will hear of him again.” And how prophetic was that? The same
basic motor design was used to power the Apollo buggy which American astronauts
drove on the moon 69 years later.
Porsche was a sporting fanatic and spent many hours at the
drawing board to see where he could refine the design and in 1902 fitted one of
his electric hub motors to each wheel, producing the world’s first four wheel
Porsche then looked at the weight problem with the lead-acid
batteries and worked out that what he needed was a lightweight generator to
provide the electric current, rather than batteries, so he harnessed Daimler’s
and Panhard’s internal combustion engines to power the generators for the
wheel-mounted electric motors in a new technology that he called ‘System
Mixt.’ The system might have been ‘mixed’ but the results were not. More
speed records were won by his 4WD hybrid race car, European acclaim followed,
and in 1905 Porsche won the Poetting Prize as Austria’s most outstanding
One of his designs was the ‘Landwehr’, a train designed
for the road. The leading car, or engine, was powered by a Daimler gasoline
engine of 100 horsepower, linked to an electrical generator. In keeping with his
proven race car approach, all four wheels were equipped with an electric motor.
This progressive design became even more ahead of its time when Porsche decided
that all of the cars should be equipped with the same four wheel drive system,
with the electrical power supplied by the engine car through long cables. During
the First World War, these trains traveled on difficult terrain to supply the
army, and could also be fitted with special tires in order to ride on normal
The next hybrid was the C Train. It was a purely military
concept and was equipped with an 81 ton gun and four cars, each with eight wheel
electric hub drives, following the concept of the Landwehr train. The total
weight with cargo was in excess of 150 tons. That was some hybrid!
Dr. Porsche also saw that pure electric vehicles were not the
way to go over 100 years ago and built the hybrids. It is a pity that the
automakers did not look into history a little more!
Will Japan take over the auto
Having said that China will be dominant probably in around 20
years, will Japan take over in the meantime? Over one year ago, I predicted that
Japan would do this. I clearly stated that Japan does not make the best cars in
the world. Japan does not make the fastest, the most sporting, the largest or
the most innovative cars in the world either, but Japanese cars have something
that puts them way in front, in the mind of the motoring public. Customer
12 months ago, the figures from Europe were very telling.
From the customer satisfaction viewpoint the best small car was the Honda Jazz.
Lower-medium car was the Toyota Corolla. The upper-medium bracket was the Toyota
Avensis. SUV went to Toyota’s RAV4. MPV section was won by Mazda’s Premacy,
while the only two European manufacturers listed were the Peugeot 607 for the
executive/luxury group and Porsche with its 911 in the sports car category.
That should have been enough to make the European car makers
sit up, but even sitting bolt upright in their seats, it was already too late.
World number 1, General Motors are in huge financial problems, and so is Ford.
Volkswagen, that incredible post-war success story, is also going downwards,
with its sales shrinking 4 percent. DaimlerChrysler has seen its market share go
down as well, and BMW is having to tighten its belt.
By contrast, Japan (and Korea) are on the way inexorably
upwards. Toyota, Mazda, Honda and Hyundai all showing positive growth in the
past 12 months, with up to 30 percent increase in sales.
Needless to say the European automakers are full of tales of
woe, citing high wages, pension plans and similar smokescreens. However, the man
in the street who buys a new car every three or four years is buying a Toyota or
other Japanese car because it is more reliable, not because it is cheaper (which
it is not, in many instances).
However, the European arms of the big international firms are
now finding that they are having to scale down their operations, because of the
downturn in demand. On the other hand, the Japanese are increasing production.
One year ago I wrote, “In world market terms, GM is reputedly number 1,
Ford is number 2 and Toyota is number 3. But if you look at annual profits, I
think you will find Toyota is well ahead.” That was 12 months ago. Toyota has
already overtaken Ford, and the predictions are that Toyota will build more cars
than GM in 2006, to take the top step on the podium. The Europeans and the
Americans can stop looking over their shoulders to check on the Japanese
onslaught. They’ve gone right past and are increasing their lead.
Citroen C3 in melt-down
lady in Europe has managed to do what no test driver has ever done – melt a
Citroen C3. She rented the C3, planning to drive to the destination 250 km away.
She did not mention to the car hire firm that she only drove automatics, and
then drove the 250 kays in first gear all the way. After all, you don’t shift
the lever do you, with an auto gearbox. The engine got so hot it melted the
sound proofing under the bonnet, and then the center of the bonnet itself!
Citroen when contacted declined to confirm whether she was going to be offered a
job as a design and development driver!
Last week I asked what was the common component in the 1923
Fadag, Lindcar and Swaze vehicles? It was the German ZF-Soden pre-selector
So to this week. Who drove 24 hours at Bonneville and on the
last lap shaved his chin, so that he could get out looking presentable?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected]