Monday, July 23, 2007

Global Auto makers' report card (H1 2007)

Referenced from The Globe and Mail

General Motors Corp.: GM is now being challenged in its long-standing position as the world's top auto maker by surging Toyota. But the company vows to regain the Number One spot by dramatically reducing its costs, slashing low-profit sales to rental companies and other fleets, and revamping its product lineup as sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles slump. It is closing plants and cutting jobs to try to become competitive with Asian-based car makers, and 2007 is expected to show some improvement on 2006, when it lost $2-billion (U.S.).

Ford Motor Co.: Ford continues to lose market share in North America, as the markets for its sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks weaken. The company lost a whopping $12.7-billion (U.S.) in 2006, and it is in the process of eliminating thousands of jobs, while closing plants in Canada, the United States and Mexico. Its goal is to return to profitability by 2009 by shifting its focus to growing segments such as crossover utility vehicles and passenger cars.

DaimlerChrysler AG: The German-American auto giant signed a deal this spring to sell off about 80 per cent of its Chrysler arm to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP. Chrysler has a deep cost-cutting plan and will eliminate 13,000 jobs by the end of 2009, mostly by offering buyouts to employees. While all the North American car firms are losing ground to the Japanese, Chrysler has not been hit as hard as GM and Ford. To boost sales of its key minivans, Chrysler recently dramatically cut prices of the product line in North America.

Toyota Motor Corp.: Toyota has been reporting record sales and profits, driven by dramatic growth in North American and European markets. Earlier this year, it surpassed General Motors for global sales for the first time, taking the lead in the January-to-March quarter. Toyota has a reputation for high quality, but it has also been an innovator. It is the top player in the gas-electric hybrid market with the Prius, and the company has now sold more than a million hybrids. It is also a leader in using fuel cells, which power cars from electricity generated from hydrogen.

Honda Motor Co.: Like Toyota, Honda has made huge inroads in the North American car market with double-digit sales increases. And it is also active in emerging markets such as China and India. While Honda has done well with its gas/electric hybrids, it has also hit some speed bumps; it decided earlier this year to stop production of its slow-selling hybrid Accord, which was designed for extra power rather than fuel efficiency.

Nissan Motor Co.: The Japanese auto maker saw sales decline in 2006 in its two largest markets, Japan and the United States, although the numbers have picked up sharply in North America in the past few months. Nissan has also put in place a series of cost-saving measures to try to boost profitability. It is behind Toyota and Honda in developing the hybrid market, but is putting on a big push to catch up in green technologies.

Volkswagen AG: The German company is the biggest European car maker, posting strong results in Europe and Asia, but has been less successful in North America where it has lost money for the past several years. Volkswagen has been cutting thousands of jobs to improve its competitive position, but it owns a range of strong international brands including Audi, Bentley and Skoda.

BMW AG: The German-based luxury car maker saw a dip in profits in its most recent quarter, after spending bags of money launching new models. But it predicts a turnaround in the balance of the year, and record profits for 2007. BMW is planning to boost production at its plant in the United States – its biggest market – to insulate it from exchange-rate fluctuations. The company has also turned the Mini brand into a big success by targeting aging boomers, and it also owns Rolls-Royce.

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