Just how tricky 2010 is shaping up to be was reflected in our close look at the European market in April at the start of this week.

Just as we thought it might to be getting safer to come out after the economic storms that began in the US in 2008, Greece crashed in flames and Portugal and Spain started to smoulder. Some markets are down, not helped by the ending of government incentive schemes that propped up 2009 results into earlier this year, but there is a little optimism. Worth a look.

Ford, along with Vauxhall, has been criticised for regularly hiking UK prices in tough times and, this week, it seemed there had been a change of heart with a new price list said to more closely reflect real-world ‘transaction prices’ – post haggling numbers – rather than some arbitary ‘list’ figure. I wonder how well this will work as I’ve seen it tried in the past in other markets; crafty buyers simply try to get the same discount off the new lower sticker…

Last week I commented on how there was growing good news in the parts sector; this week we saw something similar in the auto biz itself as Daimler said it was ending some work hour restrictions a month earlier than planned. Subaru, the recent quiet achiever Stateside if you are in the habit of studying sales statistics (numbers were tiny but growth was often the firm’s alone), is even considering adding capacity in the US, BMW reported a global group sales uptick, cost cuts, if not recall costs (yet to bite) swung Toyota back into the blackas was Nissan, Chrysler’s chequebook is open in Kokomo, Fiat Brazil has big local plans for its first new Uno since about 1983 and PSA is thinking about a third China JV plant. And a long-awaited scrappage scheme kicked some life into Russia.

Still a few clouds about, though. Any thoughts that super luxury car makers are immune from global economic turmoil were dispelled by this news (since disputed but not exactly denied by Ferrari whose spokesman promised ‘clarification’), Opel aid is still not sorted and the future looks a bit flat for Suzuki even if it does have a hybrid in its future.

Speaking of the future, just-auto is taking a big step with a full site redesign which, if you have yet to try it, can be previewed here. We’ll be telling you more about this and other plans next week.

Finally, for a bit of Friday fun, here, courtesy of PR firm Weber Shandwick’s Birmingham, Michigan, office is, in their words, “the last Dept 180 video before the series takes a break for the summer. This new internet series has used a unique method of videography to highlight the extreme and unconventional methods that Chevy engineers use to test the quality of their vehicles. From filling up an entire car with ping pong balls to driving it through a grit trough, from smoking-out the Equinox to creating an indoor blizzard, these eccentric methods get the job done.

“The last video of the season focuses on some of the coolest super-slow motion footage that has been shot so far. These shots prove to be automotive eye candy for any car enthusiast.”

This reminded me of the methods of the Ford Australia development test drive maniac with whom I once enjoyed a hot sunny afternoon Somewhere Near Melbourne trying out the then-new ABS system for the Falcon on an ice-slick test surface. Get it wrong (I did, often) and you ended up ‘off’ in the sand, surrounded by clouds of dust. Beats an office job any day…

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts
Deputy/News Editor