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A gimlet eye on Fiat attracted interest this week. “Such has been its shrinkage at home, Italy is no longer the number one market for the Fiat brand. A 20% slide to 323,342 vehicles sold to Italian buyers in 2018 compares to a 13.2% gain in Brazil to 325,726. Is FCA concerned? Not at all. The company seems happy to observe a planned slide for Fiat worldwide as it instead pushes higher-priced Jeep models,” we opined. Since I haven’t been offered a launch event or press vehicle drive for either brand since the earth cooled, I couldn’t possibly comment.

Our quarterly ASEAN market review found new vehicle sales in southeast Asia’s six largest markets combined increased by 5.3% to 988,948 units in the fourth quarter of 2018 from 938,692 units in the same period of the previous year. This was a marked slowdown from growth rates of almost 10% in the third quarter and 7.5% in the second quarter. Nevertheless, full-year sales were up by 6.0% at a new record high of 3,563,923 units in 2018 from 3,361,786 units in 2017, driven mainly by the region’s two largest markets – Indonesia and Thailand – as well as a rebound in Vietnam.

Weather can have a serious effect on car sales. As our US analyst said: “Up until the last week in January, it looked like US light vehicle sales would come in slightly ahead of January 2018. However, a severe winter storm brought sub-zero temperatures to the upper midwest and put a chill on dealer traffic. At the end of the month, total deliveries of cars and light trucks came in just over 12,000 units, or 1% shy of the volume of last year. Total industry volume was about 1.47m units, yielding a seasonally adjusted annualised rate of 16.9m, down from 17.22m last January.” A friend in Chicago reported weather in the minus 30s. Celsius. Brrrrrr. I told him years ago to either snowbird in Florida or move to California.

Nonetheless, despite some dire quarterly financials (a notable lack of the current default ‘Brexit’ bleat; China was largely to blame), Tata Motors’ Jaguar Land Rover had a record month in the US. Brexit, natch, did get some of the blame for Nissan axing plans to build the next X-Trail in UK, defaulting to its current Japanese source. UK media breezed over the fact that stupid politicians have all but killed diesel here (X-Trail is all-diesel) and failed to observe it’s also the US Rogue and made in multiple plants worldwide – it’s just that building it in UK no longer made sense and the Nissan decision is rational.

General Motors, back in the black in 2018, started firing white collar staff, as promised last autumn, but, on the other hand, blue collar worker bees in the plants looked set for a decent bonus. They will receive more, earlier, than their counterparts at Daimler who will trouser EUR4,965 in April. The company’s results this week had been dented by trade tariffs.

Ford, meanwhile, going through similar travails as GM, had some good news for Chicago where it is spending US$1bn on assembly and stamping plants and adding 500 new jobs as it prepares to launch three new SUVs later this year. The work at the plant, which will begin in March, will expand capacity for the production of the redesigned Ford Explorer line, a new police interceptor utility and the redesigned Lincoln Aviator. The work will be completed in the spring. The additional full-time jobs bring total employment at the two plants to approximately 5,800. The automaker is building a new body shop and paint shop at Chicago Assembly and making major modifications to the final assembly area. At Chicago Stamping, the company is adding new stamping lines in preparation for the three new vehicles. That also means loads of work for contractors helping add the new facilities. Good.

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That was countered somewhat by news of a 1,000 jobs cull at Flat Rock, Michigan, home of the Mustang where a shift is being cut, though the carmaker emphasised most workers were moving to other factories in the same state rather than losing jobs.

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor,