The Germans are also strong
There is optimism in Europe, as the luxury
automakers see an increase in sales. Porsche reported a 44 percent
jump in first half earnings, and Daimler AG said sales of its
flagship luxury brand Mercedes Benz rose by 13 percent to 87,800
vehicles helped along by demand for the update of its C class model.
Total Daimler auto sales jumped by 18 percent last month helped
along by strong demand for the group’s revamped compact city car,
smart, which doubled its sales to 8,800.
CLK 63 AMG
“That is a good start to the year,” said Daimler chief Dieter
Zetsche, with a rare tinge of humor, adding that the company planned
to sell more Mercedes Benz cars in 2008 than in 2007 with a strong
growth in sales in leading emerging economies such as in Asia. There
are also upbeat sales and profit projections from BMW AG and Audi
However, the American market remains a problem as the US dollar
falls while the euro has become even stronger. Last month the euro
surged to an all time high of more than USD 1.52 against the dollar.
BMW chief Norbert Reithofer pumped up his company’s American sales,
saying that he expected total BMW sales in February to increase in
2008 from sales of its spread of brands - Rolls-Royce, Mini and its
core BMW range.
“We remain optimistic for the full year,” Audi chief Rupert Stadler
said at this year’s Geneva auto show. Audi, which is part of the
Volkswagen group, hopes to sell more than one million cars this
year, compared with 964,151 cars in 2007, which would be its 13th
consecutive year of record sales. However, Audi said US sales fell
6.9 percent to 6,152 in February.
Audi’s target is to raise its US sales to 200,000 per annum by 2015
from 93,000 at present and is considering establishing a production
plant in America.
Having recently moved to tighten its grip on Volkswagen, Porsche,
the manufacturer of the iconic 911 sports cars and Cayenne four
wheel drive vehicles, said it was planning to spend 10 billion euros
to raise its stake in VW to more than 50 percent. Currently owning
31 percent, this put another 484 million euros from VW’s profits
into the Porsche piggy bank.
With Europe being strong, Thailand doing well and China on the brink
of an automotive explosion, the American manufacturers will have to
do something spectacular - and it cannot come soon enough. For GM
this will be the Chevrolet Volt, provided it keeps its eye firmly on
Last week I asked when did the Porsche 901 come out? The
answer was 1963, but after finding that Peugeot had registered all the three
digit numbers with a zero in the middle, the factory had to re-christen the
follower to the 356 as the 9-1-1. Porsche fans will also tell you that the early
(long bonnet) Porsches had engine cases which were numbered “901”.
So to this week. The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray was another classic sports car
in the American tradition. What year did the Corvette Stingray come out? Hint,
think hard, it revolves around the name!
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Thailand Auto Industry looking very
The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) in Thailand has gone on
record with predictions of 11.7 percent growth for 2008, representing
automobile production for export this year reaching 777,000 units, according
to Surapong Phaisitpattanapong, a spokesman for the automobile industry club
of the FTI.
The growth would come partly because of Free Trade Agreements (FTA),
especially with Australia. However, the FTI believes exports to Asia would
grow only slightly due to the continued sluggish economy in the region.
That, of course excludes the auto industry figures in China.
Automobile production for the domestic market this year is projected to grow
to 657,000 units (around 10 percent increase from 2007). The Thai automobile
market would pick up this year but the extent would depend on the economic
and political outlook, said Surapong. Like everything else in this country,
everyone is waiting to see what the newly elected government might do.
Having scrapped the 30 percent withholding tax, economic pointers would
appear to be very positive for foreign investment, which will also drive up
the auto industry.
In total, local automobile production for export and domestic sales is
projected to reach 1.427 million units, with the export proportion 54
Toyota should remain the export leader this year, followed by Mitsubishi.
The big movers again being the one-tonne pick-up segment. In January, this
section rose 45.8 percent to 48,875 units for export. The total export
earnings by the automakers increased in January 2008 to 26.85 billion baht.
In addition, when exports of engines, kits and parts were taken into
account, the value rose 43.4 percent to 38.46 billion baht.
Thailand manufactured vehicles are well regarded in the world market and the
FTA with Australia has certainly helped the local auto industry.
FoMoCo has found the tunnel
After a few years of stumbling around in the dark with vehicles
unsuited to the marketplace, Ford looks as if it has found the legendary
tunnel with the light at the end of it.
Instead of producing vehicles the public did not really want, and having to
offer huge incentives with price cuts, money backs and similar ploys to maintain
market share, they have found that the smaller car market is where the sales
(and the money) can be found.
The car which is pulling Ford from the mire is the European designed Focus,
which, by the way, is an excellent vehicle. Sales figures in the US are
increasing exponentially, as petrol prices increase. In January 2008 Ford saw a
33 percent increase in sales against January 2007. February will also see a 30
percent rise. There may be greater profit margins in large trucks and SUVs, but
the public are going away from cars that are expensive at the pumps. When the US
discovers that the Euro-diesels are even more economical, America will have
caught up with the rest of the world.
With the swing towards smaller vehicles, the new Ford Fiesta, which will be
built at the AAT plant on the Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate, will be
another winner for the Blue Oval. Unfortunately we have to wait till 2010 before
the first cars roll off the new assembly line, which is still being built.
The 2008 F1 calendar
Time to pencil in the F1 calendar dates again. The geographic
closest to us are the Malaysian, Singapore, China and Japan. The Singapore
GP is also the first F1 night race, but if you want to go there, I would be
booking now. No joke!
1 Australian Grand Prix (Melbourne) 14 - 16 Mar
2 Malaysian Grand Prix (Kuala Lumpur) 21 - 23 Mar
3 Bahrain Grand Prix (Bahrain) 4 - 6 Apr
4 Spanish Grand Prix (Catalunya) 25 - 27 Apr
5 Turkish Grand Prix (Istanbul) 9 - 11 May
6 Monaco Grand Prix (Monte Carlo) 22 - 25 May
7 Canada Grand Prix (Montreal) 6 - 8 Jun
8 French Grand Prix (Magny-Cours) 20 - 22 Jun
9 British Grand Prix (Silverstone) 4 - 6 Jul
10 German Grand Prix (Hockenheim) 18 - 20 Jul
11 Hungarian Grand Prix (Budapest) 1 - 3 Aug
12 European Grand Prix (Valencia) 22 - 24 Aug
13 Belgian Grand Prix (Spa) 5 - 7 Sep
14 Italian Grand Prix (Monza) 12 - 14 Sep
15 Singapore Grand Prix (Singapore) 26 - 28 Sep
16 Japanese Grand Prix (Fuji Speedway) 10 - 12 Oct
17 Chinese Grand Prix (Shanghai) 17 - 19 Oct
18 Brazilian Grand Prix (Sao Paulo) 31 Oct - 2 Nov