Archive for September, 2009

Late Summer 2009 industry round-up

Monday, September 21st, 2009
Porsche 911 Sport Classic

Porsche 911 Sport Classic

Time for an update!!! Let’s recap the last couple of months, organized by OEM:

Aston Martin

Aston is launching the new 4-door Rapide at the 63rd IAA in Frankfurt in late September. Beyond the KM will be at the IAA, so we are looking forward to check this one out! The exotic sedan is quickly filling up with Porsche and Maserati out with the Panamera and Quattroporte models, respectively. Out of the three, Porsche is offering the most options for powertrain and interior/amenties. For this reason the Porsche Panamera Turbo seems to edge out the Aston by nearly half a second.

Porsche

No doubt about it, some of the biggest European automaker news this Summer has been straight out of Stuttgart courtesy of Porsche. The august automaker has spent the last two years in audacious and clever takeover attempt of the continent’s largest automaker, Volkswagen Group. Due in part to the downturn in the economy and thus Porsche’s inability to pay down debt, Porsche’s ruling family has been forced to come to terms with VW and the Piëch side of the family.

Porsche was once one of the few companies family-owned and controlled, which commanded a fantastic share price, despite having no trading presence in the USA (partly due to the U.S. requirements of quarterly 10-Q shareholder reporting. The company was also one of the few that could command top-grade corporate bond rates and at the same time avoid holding an official rating from any of the major rating agencies.

But as Porsche CEO and CFO Wendelin Wiedeking and Holger Härter respectively resigned, VW and Porsche announced that they would merger. Wiedeking joined Porsche in 1983, spent nearly 16 years at its helm. When he took over the troubled carmaker in 1993, it was nearly bankrupt and running at a net loss. Last year, it reported 6.3 billion euros in profit, partially because of options it owned in Volkswagen. Wiedeking, already Germany’s highest paid executive at €77.4 million, will receive a €50 severance package from Porsche. However, Wiedeking has already set aside €25 million of that figure for charitable organizations.

Taking over Porsche will be Michael Macht, Porsche’s production chief who helped roll out the new Panamera and the Cayenne SUV.

According to VW, Porsche will act as an “independent” company within VW Group much in the same way that Audi has, but this begs the question for many Porsche-philes, “just how independent is Audi, anyway?”

In addition to the proposed merger, Qatar’s Investment Authority is also looking to buy Porsche’s derivates for VW stock, which would further reduce debt, but the Porsche family is also said to be injecting massive amounts of cash into the firm to make the VW deal happen. Several web sites are reporting that Porsche’s tax burden in the event of a merger would be in excess of US$3billion. The Qatar deal has been back by Porsche’s supervisory board. It does also appear that Qatar will buy a chunk of Porsche’s VW stock.

In the end, VW is said to be paying US$11.28 billion to make the merger happen.

In not-unrelated news, RUF has released it’s first new Porsche-variant in many years, called the Rt 12 S. The car produces 675 bhp and costs a whopping EU255,000.

http://www.autocar.co.uk/News/NewsArticle.ASpx?AR=241807

http://www.autonews.com/article/20090718/COPY01/307189997/1128

http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/23/porsche-ceo-wiedeking-steps-down/

http://www.leftlanenews.com/porsche-fires-ceo-cfo.html

http://www.leftlanenews.com/porsche-production-chief-michael-macht-to-be-new-ceo.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8165524.stm

http://www.autocar.co.uk/News/NewsArticle/AllCars/241871/

http://www.autocar.co.uk/News/NewsArticle.ASpx?AR=241955

Lamborghini

Lamborghini has announced a new Gallardo LP550-2 Valentino Balboni, starting at a paltry $219,000. This car is named after recently retired test driver Valentino Balboni, who has been testing developmental Lamborghinis since 1973. Is there anyone luckier in all of Italy?

http://www.leftlanenews.com/lamborghini-gallardo-lp550-2.html

Car rentals in the U.S.

If you have rented a car lately, you may have noticed the lack of American cars at Hertz, Enterprise, or any number of the competition. The L.A. Times also took notice and discovered that rental companies are now focusing on buying imports, including Mercedes-Benz (if you can believe that!).

http://www.latimes.com/classified/automotive/highway1/la-fi-rental-cars22-2009jul22,0,7180244.story?track=rss

BMW

BMW, ever the leader in smarter energy technology in vehicles, is working on a new project to recover energy from a car’s exhaust system. The programme is called Efficient Dynamics includes technologies including a disconnecting alternator, stop-start engine technology, and low-resistance tyres. The new 1er will get features such as pre-heating for the engine, differential and gearbox oil to ensure the oil is working at its most efficient from the moment the car is started.

BMW has also announced a heat recovery system that uses waste heat from the exhaust to generate electricity to power the car’s ancillaries.

Daimler

Mercedes-Benz’s parent firm Daimler posted of a loss of more than a billion euros in the second quarter of 2009 before taxes, but this result was better than expected.

Mercedes expects to see a return to profit in 2010; this process should be helped by sales of the new E-class which went on sale earlier this year.

http://www.autocar.co.uk/News/NewsArticle.ASpx?AR=241941

In other news, as a show of technical possibility, the company has apparently fit a next-generation BlueEfficiency diesel into an old 190D model. This increased efficiency from 32 to 48 mpg. http://www.leftlanenews.com/mercedes-benz-190d-blueefficiency.html

Lotus

In addition to launching the Evora, Lotus has been busy prepping a team for Formula 1 to begin in the 2010 season. This brings the grid to 26 slots (across 13 teams). Mike Kimberly retired from Lotus as CEO earlier in the summer, but has now been replaced by Dany Bahar, who has Formula 1 experience but also served as a VP of sales for Ferrari’s road cars.

VW

The Volkswagen Group today announced an operating profit of more than £1 billion for the first half of 2009. VW has increased its global market share in the first six months of the year increased to 12 per cent.

http://www.autocar.co.uk/News/NewsArticle.ASpx?AR=241955

Audi

Audi of America head Johan de Nysschen apparently told MSN that the Chevy Volt was a “car for idiots”. He may well have a point, and the reality remains that the Volt represents a project that has thus far come too little too late. In fact, it will not launch until late 2010. By then Nissan’s Leaf electric car will be out. BTKM looks forward to see the Volt in person. Still $40,000 for a CHEVY seems a little mental.

Audi is also unveiling a super-cool R8 spyder at the IAA Frankfurt. Imagine the price to be Audi-rageous!

Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce launched the “entry-level” Ghost. It is the 4th model for Rolls-Royce and while very powerful, the 12-cylinder is smaller and comes with a much smaller price tag of about US$250,000. That’s not cheap, or even attainable for 99% of the world, but it does given Rolls the opportunity to increase volume.

Bentley

While Rolls-Royce has introduced and entry-level model, Bentley has announced a new top-of-the-line sedan to replace the Arnage. The new model is call the Mulsanne and debuted at the Concourse d’Elegance and the IAA in Frankfurt.

Ferrari

Formula 1 troubles aside, Ferrari is launching a new car, the 458. This Michael Schumacher-tuned car is being unwrapped at the IAA in Frankfurt and replaces the F430.

Electric Diesels

Dan Neil of the LA Times is in Frankfurt and is writing about the IAA Frankfurt auto show. He does a thorough review of the new electric-diesel hybrids. Of particular note is VW’s L1 concept and BMW’s rather cool Vision sport coupé.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-neil18-2009sep18,0,820738.column