THE WEEK THAT WAS: Good news, bad news
This time last week I contrasted the generally lousy car sales news coming out of Europe with the generally good news from elsewhere on this mortal orb, with the exception of India, perhaps. This week's been much the same - a lot of good news, still some bad.
If you're one of the 3,500-odd workers currently assembling new Hondas and their engines at Swindon, today is Bad News Friday after the company announced that 800 jobs will have to go by next spring. It would be a hard autobiz heart that did not feel sympathy for the workers - and their employer - after the four-month, post credit crunch shutdown in 2009, the gradual build-up of volume and workers, the awarding of new product, some export wins (including some Civics and CR-Vs for Australia, supplementing Thai-sourced models), a big spend to put the redesigned Civic on the line last September, with a new CR-V and a new 1.6-litre diesel engine following on, and now this.
You have to wonder why Honda can't sell enough cars over 'ere. I live in a street of several happy Swindon-built Jazz and CR-V owners but, while Jazz is everywhere, the latest and previous generation Civic hatchback is not so common a sight, despite the praise of owners (I have a retiree friend on #2 contemplating a third in as many years). The latest Civic - out in the third quarter of 2012 - is still a rare spot in the traffic (and we have a local dealer with an excellent reputation); has the unusual styling of the last two generations sent the previous 'retiree' demographic that bought the earlier generations in droves fleeing to showrooms housing more conventionally styled hatchbacks like the Auris and the Hyundai/Kia offerings?
On the other hand, Ford announced today it is adding 2,200 salaried jobs in the US, mostly in in product development, manufacturing and IT, and GM said earlier it is adding 1,000 IT jobs in Atlanta, not far from the Doraville plant it closed four hard years ago. And, still in the US, Nissan last night said it would transfer production of the next Murano SUV from Japan to its newer US plant in Canton, Mississippi, adding a few hundred new jobs and greater security for the current workforce, while Toyota announced a 41% year on year hike in its North American vehicle output last year. Sure, the Japanese 'quake, Thai floods and US recall scandal meant 2010 and 2011 output was down unexpectedly but 41% is 41% and getting headlines Stateside.
Also today, we're reporting a very interesting and wide ranging survey of automakers' and markets' prospects from management consultants KPMG, we're keeping you up to date with the planned Detroit new product reveals and have now started eyeing what's to come this side of the Atlantic in Geneva next month. Manufacturers continue to add new models into new niches - latest is Renault with the Captur intended to give alliance partner Nissan's Juke (with which it shares a platform but not a factory) a bit more competition. Not be left out, Peugeot this week shared details and images of its 2008 crossover, another Geneva must-see and, hopefully as well finished and as nice to drive as the three-cylinder 208 Allure I've been pedalling around a blast chilled Middle England this week.
Yet more good news came from the German owned, 'British' uber-luxury brands Rolls-Royce and Bentley, which both announced their 2012 sales tallies this week. Rolls-Royce owner BMW reported yet another (yawn) group annual sales record as did, this just in, Volkswagen group's VW Passenger Cars brand - 5.74m, up 12.7%. I'd expect full group results out in a day or two, to be just as encouraging - or discouraging if you're working for one of several other European automakers we could name right now. Toyota, too had a passable 2012, with Toyota/Lexus brand volume up 2% in what it called "a sharply declining market" thanks, in varying degrees, to the new Yaris, eastern Europe and hybrids. New Auris, Lexus and even more hybrids will sure help in 2013.
Have a nice weekend.
Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor, just-auto.com
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