Archive for the 'Daimler' Category

Economic failures = new car models for European automakers. Month in review.

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Audi R8

The economy is hurting and more and more carmakers are suffering. Not all are doing poorly, though. Audi, as an example reported record sales for 2008, with over 1,000,000 vehicles sold. Lamborghini, owned by the VW/Audi Group, also posted record sales for 2008. Both companies produce sports cars that retail at over US$100,000.

Let us examine the developments of the last month by automaker:

Porsche. There is no substitute for a strong economy. A poor economy negatively impacted sales at the sports car maker, and even a significantly revised 911 model did not save it from a virtual sales slump. Porsche is tighter with numbers than most companies, but while sales were slowing, the company hopes that new models in 2009 will help it combat slumping sales. A four-door car, the Panamera should hit showroom floors in the first half of 2009, while you can expect to drive a 2009 Boxster/Cayman with revised powertrain as soon as March.

In financial news the company announced the first week of January that they had bought an additional 8.16 per cent stake in VW worth 6.1bn Euro/US$8.2bn. Porsche now owns 50.76 per cent of VW Group but may gain further stake in VW, rising to 75 per cent in coming months (if all goes as planned).  In November, news came out that Germany’s upper house of parliament passed new laws regarding ownership of VW, despite European Commission rulings that such laws were illegal.

In November, the high profit-maker in the world gobbled up a stake, which sent hedge funds scrambled to recover from trading, which briefly left VW as the most valuable company in the world. Porsche’s finance team effectively practiced something called “cornering”. Let us not forget that Porsche is better as an investor than as a carmaker – though they are a damned good carmaker. In 2007, the company made 3.6 billion Euros on investments, and only a paltry 1 billion Euros on cars. At a 12 per cent profit margin, the decision to invest in VW stands financial positioning, and partly seeking a partner with whom to share technology development costs.

Still, everyone is watching the dollars and cents these days. Even Porsche has announced that is it pulling out of the American LeMans series for 2009 – in part. It is pulling the P2 team, but not pulling support for the 911 GT3 RSRs in the GT2 category.

Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes has finally announced the much-anticipated E-class for 2009. The new car replaces the round headlights with more rectangular ones, perhaps in the style of the C-class or a Lexus.


Cost Cutting Ahead for European and US Automakers

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

The big news today was of course DaimlerChrysler has announced massive layoffs – 16% or 13,000 – of their total US workforce at the Chrysler division. One article here. The layoffs come as Chrysler division struggles to bring costs under control and at the same time roll out highly successful products. Of late, Daimler’s US brand has successfully rolled out well-designed products, some of which have certain cachet to American buyers. Still, they have struggled to find mass-market appeal in key vehicles such as the Chrysler Crossfire and the Aspen. Most successful has been the 300C. A large part of this success can attributed to the designers – and the customizers who seem to “pimp” nearly every Black 300C to hit the road. God knows they aren’t buying the car for the amazing handling and braking (perhaps the 300C is meant to be a drag racer).

To return to the main point, European manufacturers are looking to cut costs. Most notably the changes are affecting Peugeot. Both Renault and PSA Peugeot-Citroën have gone from strong product lineups a few years ago to abysmal performance today. Sales are off and both companies are working to improve. Renault with the key ownership of Nissan is in a much different position than Peugeot. 2006 results showed that Peugeot sales slipped .7% to 1,960,000 from 1,995,000 the year prior. In line with these results Peugeot axed the CEO at the beginning of the year and has installed former Airbus and Saint-Gobain executive Christian Streiff.

Unlike Nissan-Renault’s Carlos Ghosn, who seeks to develop broad global alliances, Streiff is seen as a master of cost cutting. It is widely speculated that such cost cutting could come in the form of plant closure in France, Spain, or the UK as noted by the Financial Times earlier this month. Streiff could take two different approaches or a hybrid. One option would be to sell or spin off certain parts of Peugeot’s vertically integrated infrastructure, thus freeing up cash flow and at the same time driving cost competition among suppliers. A second, less likely, approach would be to adopt the aforementioned alliance schematic that Ghosn has adopted at Nissan-Renault.

We will continue to research and write about this topic for future articles, but we would close by noting that the auto industry is nearly cyclical in nature. VW with its governance problems, and Fiat with problems in every area, were considered in recent years to be quite poor off. VW has made a great comeback with 9.3% sales increase and Fiat’s turn around is also worth noting. Bottom-line is that the French automakers may be a bit down, but they are certainly not out.

Sources: Financial Times, January 9, 2007.
Examples of the latest Peugeot