Three stories dominated the autobiz news this week: the ongoing VW-Porsche merger and Opel sale sagas and Ford’s second quarter results.

A long-standing and mighty clash of egos saw VW’s Ferdinand Piech emerge triumphant from the locking of horns with Porsche’s Wendelin Wiedeking over who gets to own who and who will run what. We’re used to characters in this industry – Iacocca, Lutz, Marchionne, Ghosn come immediately to mind – and they’re usually a news reporter’s delight for their pithy, confident quotes, but the goings-on at Porsche, and there are parallels in the Conti-Schaeffler soap opera, boggle the mind. A little firm trying to take over the big competitor, getting stung by the debt burden and running to the banks is a bit like a snake trying to swallow a pig and asking for the Alka-Selzer mid-gobble; would it not be better to bite off what you can chew?

That said, though there were times recent Porsche financial statements read more like the results of a Wall Street stock broker, with share gains far outweighing the core autos business, Wiedeking did spend most of his tenure sorting out the product line and adding some successful niche models. He departed rather abruptly albeit with the blow softened by a EUR50m (US$70m) ‘golden parachute’ (half what he reportedly was originally going to get) alongside ally and former CFO Holger Haerter who agreed to struggle along on a EUR12.5m (US$18m) pay off. Stock market appeared to have been a bit rattled by all the carry-on, too.

The statement in which Wiedeking said he’d give half the bung to charity caused some amusement here at j-a towers: some EUR500,000 is going to a German charity that in part supports “elderly and suffering journalists”. We’d like a bit of that.

Wonder if CFOs ever whoop with joy when their results statement shoots out and we all report the analysts’ consensus has been bettered? Could have happened at Ford Towers this week. Still lots of red ink (and debt) around, but less than before and the experts’ comments were largely favourable.

Good to see a few more jobs open again at Nissan’s UK plant – yeah, we know, they’re just temp slots but work is work and three months’ pay is better than the dole some 2m+ Brits are on right now.

Speaking of Nissan (Nee-saaan if you’re in the US), I was at the European headquarters in Rolle, Switzerland, just a week ago to hear all about their electric vehicle plans. Unlike certain German takeover bids, the ambitions seem sensible, realistic and in measured stages and we heard more early this week – more jobs in there for Sunderland, too. I’ve long been a fan of electric public transport, choosing trolley buses over diesels for my student commute last century, but haven’t had a scoot in a ‘proper’ EV till now. The EV-02 Cube prototype has great acceleration (an EV trait sure to please city drivers); sort the range and fast battery change issues (which the boffins will, given time) and an EV will make sense to many drivers.

Finally, the Opel saga trundled on all week with little resolution. Speculators continued to speculate, analysts continued to analyse and all we know is that the Chinese have apparently been ruled out.

Time to crack open a beer and leave ’em all to it, I think. Have a good weekend.

Graeme Roberts
Deputy/News Editor