Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

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.

Mercedes-Benz 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 AG.
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 the ball!

Autotrivia Quiz

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 [email protected]
Good luck!


Thailand Auto Industry looking very strong
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 percent.
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.

Ford Focus

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