Blog: Dave LeggettThe sails are billowing (a bit)

Dave Leggett | 26 June 2008

Myself and j-a's news man Graeme Roberts yesterday found ourselves discussing how quiet things are on the news front at this time of the year. We're approaching the doldrums. The big auto shows are bunched around the first and fourth quarters of the year. Product news is thin on the ground. There will be Q2 financials to look forward to, but it's a slow drift into August when vacations kick in and automotive plants wind down for annual maintenance and retooling for the new model year. 

But there was some relief yesterday when the winds picked up and the sails flapped into life. We got some scoop pics of the new Volkswagen Gol in Brazil.

EXCLUSIVE: BRAZIL [updated 17:35BST]: Redesigned Volkswagen Gol caught.

Then there was a flurry of other interesting product stuff from our man in Brazil.

BRAZIL – The Chinese arrive

BRAZIL – It's a Peugeot 207 but not as we know it

Over here, Julian Rendell had also just given us some product intelligence on Land Rover.

UK: Land Rover plans new seven-seater

Then, news broke that things are happening at Ford's Volvo Car unit. The loss-making brand is taking a cost hit.

SWEDEN: Volvo axes 2,000 staff, 500 consultants

But Ford's still committed to Volvo, right? It has said so, quite clearly hasn't it?

Alan Mulally is also committed to a leaner and more focussed Ford. Two PAG brands have gone already and there's been a strong suspicion that Ford would talk to prospective buyers of Volvo. But it's not exactly a seller's market is it? Precisely. The thought that it might go relatively cheaply might interest one or two interested parties out there. That Volvo brand and what's underneath has plenty of value and is currently attached to a distressed owner.

Ford is publicly sticking to its line that Volvo is not for sale and that it is focussed on improving its results. It can hardly say anything else at this early stage.

But the ground has recently shifted. The situation in the US has worsened in terms of the market outlook. Gas prices are wreaking havoc on top of the credit crunch. The axe has had to be taken to costs again.

US: Ford to cut white-collar costs by 15%

Maybe Jerry York's public comments in early May were prescient?

US: Jerry York would sell Volvo Cars unit

And there was that recent meeting in Vegas to discuss Ford's turnaround strategy:

US: Ford bosses meet Tracinda for a chat

Our Rob Golding put his inimitable spin on it:

GOLDING’S TAPE: Ford bugged in Dearborn and Vegas

And now there are noises in the Swedish media and elsewhere that there may well be dicussions going on between Ford and possible buyers - a Chinese suitor in the frame. All I'd say is that it's not exectly beyond the bounds of possibility is it? The Swedish newspaper that broke the story - Dagens Industri - is a highly respected business journal, a kind of Swedish FT.

SWEDEN: Chinese talking Volvo buy - reports

Yes, the wind is in the sails now.


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