Car drivers in Germany, long held to be home to some of the best engineered vehicles in the world, are happier driving Japanese cars than German ones, a consumer satisfaction survey has shown. The survey, complied by German drivers association ADAC and the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) group, asked more than 38,000 German car owners how satisfied they were both with the product and the service they received from manufacturers. German industry stalwarts Mercedes, Volkswagen and Opel came in near the bottom of the pile, while Japanese names clinched the top seven places. Porsche, the world’s most profitable carmaker famed for its growling sports cars, was the only German company to make it into the top ten. Japan’s Toyota, maker of the world’s best selling car, the Corolla, and the envy of the auto industry due partly to the efficiency of its plants, topped the list. Subaru, Honda, Mazda and Nissan completed the top five.
George E. Strickler (55), who was to become new CFO of Visteon, the third biggest automobile supplier world-wide, has changed his mind. As he said yesterday, Strickler won’t take on the new job and explained that his about turn was for “personal reasons.” Until a successor for Daniel Coulson is found, he will stay in charge of Visteon’s finances as CFO. Up until 1999 Strickler was Vice President of Goodyear’s North American tyre section.
Alcoa Inc. plans to consolidate all of its automotive businesses into a Farmington Hills facility in a bid to lower operating costs and develop more new products. The Pittsburgh-based company expects to accelerate engineering efforts and improve trouble-shooting, whilst becoming more cost effective with the new 86,000-square-foot automotive centre. The aluminium giant will start moving more than 300 design, engineering, sales and marketing employees into the new centre in the spring.
Hayes Lemmerz International’s commercial highway and aftermarket group signed a long-term deal to provide iron hubs and brake drums to Hendrickson Trailer Suspension Systems for trailer applications. Hayes Lemmerz will also expand the supply of brake drums and hubs to Hendrickson Trailer for lightweight vehicle applications.
Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC (BFNT) and Bridgestone/Firestone Canada Inc. (BFCA) have jointly announced an “across the board” price increase of up to 5 per cent on the companies’ tyre products sold in the replacement and original equipment markets, including consumer, truck/bus, agricultural and off-the-road channels. This increase will be effective January 1, 2004, and affects Bridgestone, Firestone, Dayton, associate and private brand tyres.
A double success for Continental: The mould factory of Barum Continental (VFB) in Otrokovice and the Continental Teves factory in Jicín have been awarded the “National Quality Award 2003” of the Czech Republic in Prague. In addition, the Czech prime minister appointed Jicín’s plant director Ladislav Drázný “Quality Manager of the Year 2003”. Jicín is Continental’s only factory in Europe producing brake boosters. Since 2002 the staff has worked strictly according to the guidelines of the European Foundation for Quality Management, says Continental in a press release. Thus Jicín achieved relevant goals for customers in areas such as product quality, price and delivery satisfaction, plus the staff became better qualified and more strongly motivated. “This award shows that we are on the right track. We will continue to increase our competitive ability prior to European Union entry,” promises the plant director Drázný. The award was a confirmation for the 330 employees of the mould factory in Otrokovice, Drázný continues. Through consistently improved efficiency and quality as well as responsible personnel management the VFB factory has developed to become one of the leading suppliers for passenger car tyre moulds within the Continental corporate group. “We owe this award to a large extent to our employees,” says VFB chief Ladislav Zemko.
A ballot for strike action at the Nissan car plant in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, is under way after Nissan management refused to hold talks with the Amicus Trade union over compulsory re-location of the company’s purchasing department. Balloting of workers in the purchasing department could mean that Nissan are faced with the threat of strike action for the first time in the plant’s history. The result of the strike ballot is expected on 8th December.
The European Commission presented a road map for safer and intelligent vehicles at the ITS World Congress in Madrid. Erkki Liikanen, commissioner for enterprise and information society, presented a detailed action plan for eSafety over the years 2004-2008. It aims for rapid take-up of active safety systems using advanced information and communications technology. As part of the pedestrian protection agreement, the automotive industry will equip all new motor vehicles with anti-lock breaking systems (ABS) from 1 July 2004. Liikanen said he wants the industry to seriously consider electronic stability programmes (ESP) as the next standard safety features in all vehicles in 2005. 2006 should be a realistic target year to introduce eCall, which allows vehicle safety-related information to be passed to a public service answering point in the event of an accident. He also thinks collision warning kits using 24 GHz short range radars should be fitted in new cars from 2007.
Bridgestone Motorsport has confirmed that it will not supply the Lucky Strike BAR Honda team with tyres for the forthcoming 2004 FIA Formula One World Championship. Bridgestone and BAR have amicably agreed to cease the current supply contract with immediate effect. Commented Director of Bridgestone Motorsport, Hiroshi Yasukawa: “Whilst Bridgestone is naturally disappointed not to continue its working relationship with the BAR formula one team, we wish them the best of luck in their future endeavours.” BAR Team Principal, David Richards, commented: “We would like to thank Bridgestone for the excellent technical partnership we have enjoyed with them over the past five years. We wish them well for the 2004 Championship and beyond.”
ArvinMeritor Inc. has dropped its bid to take over Dana after Dana’s board of directors recommended share owners reject the offer. Just a week ago, ArvinMeritor raised its original offer from $15 a share to $18. CEO Larry Yost said the offer would expire Dec. 2 and was as high as the company would go. However, ArvinMeritor withdrew from the bid when Dana’s board recommended against the offer. In its letter to shareholders, Dana’s board called ArvinMeritor’s offer “neither attractive nor compelling.”
Tenneco Automotive announced that the company has signed a jointventure agreement with China-based Chengdu Lingchuan Mechanical Plant to establish Chongqing Walker Exhaust System Co., Ltd. The new jointventure will supply emission control products and systems to Changan Ford Co. Ltd., the joint venture between Changan Automobile Group Company and Ford Motor Company. Tenneco Automotive will have 60 per cent ownership of the joint venture expected to be formally established by the end of this year and to begin production in 2004. Tenneco also announced an agreement with Eberspacher International GmbH to establish Walker-Eberspacher Automotive Exhaust System Co., Ltd, a jointventure in China. The jointventure will manufacture and distribute emission control products and systems for BMW and Audi vehicles produced in China. The joint venture will operate just-in-time (JIT) final assembly manufacturing operations in Dalian and Changchun, China at Tenneco Automotive’s existing joint venture facilities in those cities. The jointventure will be owned 30 per cent by Tenneco Automotive directly, 25 per cent by one of Tenneco Automotive’s existing majority-owned joint ventures in China and 45 percent by Eberspacher.
Goodyear has signed an agreement whereby its tyres will be fitted as standard on all Volvo trucks sold in North America over the next three years. The tyres will be manufactured at Goodyear’s plants at Danville and Topeka and products will include the new generation G395 LHS plus Goodyear’s complete commercial portfolio of application-specific tyres. The tyre manufacturer says it is delighted to be associated with a prestigious brand such as Volvo and expects considerable benefits in sales of replacement tyres.
Goodyear’s 3rd Quarter 2003 results were taken up by the financial world with a deal of restraint and also with some disappointment. The Analyst at UBS Investment Research fears that because of the continuing loss situation in North America Goodyear shows signs of a possible breach of a covenant, while an analyst at Fitch Ratings asks impatiently, how long one has to wait for signs of the promised turnaround in North America? There was particular criticism that Goodyear was able to increase sales volumes only by approximately four per cent, in a market which grew by 6 per cent, while competitor Cooper added around nine per cent. Doubts were voiced that Goodyear can increase prices to the full extent needed, because of raw material price increases. While Goodyear mentioned positive trends, these were not apparent to observers.
Tyre manufacturer Goodyear announced a net loss of 332.4 million US Dollars for the first nine months of this year. The net loss for the 3rd Quarter totalled $105.9 million. Sales in the last quarter rose around eleven per cent from 3.5 to 3.9 billion Dollars. However, volumes increased only by approximately two per cent from $54.4 (3Q 2002) to $55.3 million (3Q 2003). According to Goodyear, the turnover increased partly due to currency-exchanges and partly due to an improved product-mix. CEO Keegan is of the opinion that the efforts of the last months are bearing fruit. Nevertheless the fact is that the company disappointed again on the full line.
JK Tyres has responded to the Apollo Michelin JV by saying that it is open to an equity tie with Continental. “We are in constant dialogue with Continental. India is an important market for them. It’s one of the potentially developing markets. It is a possibility that we can enter an arrangement with them,” JK Industries MD, R. P. Singhania said. Singhania is not worried about Michelin’s entry into the Indian tyre market. It will not pose a big threat to JK Tyres, he said. “We have been producing truck and bus radials for the last four years and have foreseen the market and opportunity. We have radialised the Indian market to the extent of 1.5 per cent. We are well prepared to meet the challenge of Michelin,” he added.