Automakers Struggle to Survive

More than 57,000 unsold new domestic and imported automobiles sit parked at the port of Baltimore. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

JAPAN — The Asahi Shimbun, (Mar. 16): For the first time, the "Big Three" U.S. automakers — General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp.— have all declined to take part in the event to save money and focus on riding out the global economic crisis. Among Japanese commercial vehicle manufacturers, Isuzu Motors Ltd., Hino Motors Ltd., Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp. and Nissan Diesel Motor Co. have all opted not to participate in the show to save money. … Sales of new cars in Japan have decreased over most of the past 19 years. [The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association] estimates they will fall to about 4.86 million units this year — the first time in 31 years that the figure has sunk below 5 million. The figure is also about 40 percent below the peak of 7.77 million, recorded in 1990 at the height of the asset-inflated "bubble" economy. … The downward slide has been attributed to waning enthusiasm for cars among young Japanese.

UNITED KINGDOM — The Daily Telegraph, (Mar. 20): Car production has suffered its biggest fall since 1970 as Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, insisted the industry in Britain can still thrive. … Months of lay-offs, factory shutdowns and shift cuts have led to a 59 percent fall in February compared to the same time last year. … They come as unemployment passes two million, intensifying pressure on the government to act to protect the motor industry on which more than 800,000 jobs depend. "The large fall in February's vehicle production is a direct result of weak demand and the need to protect the highly-skilled workforce and valuable industrial capability in the industry," said Paul Everitt, SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited) chief executive.

UNITED KINGDOM — The Guardian, (Mar. 30): Global stockmarkets tumbled today as fears that the U.S. car industry might go bust crushed hopes that the economic crisis might be easing. Shares fell in Europe and across Asia, ending their recent rally, after Barack Obama's administration rejected turnaround plans from ailing carmakers General Motors and Chrysler. … The U.S. government's taskforce for the auto industry shocked investors overnight with the suggestion that a quick surgical bankruptcy might be the best chance for the companies to survive. Analysts said that Barack Obama's decision to force out the G.M. chief executive, Rick Wagoner, showed that the U.S. government was losing patience with struggling businesses.

CHINA — China View, (Mar. 21): China aims for 10 million units in both vehicle production and sales this year, according to an online government document concerning a detailed automobile support package. … The auto support package was among nine others for the country's 10 industry initiatives by the government since January in a bid to cope with the downturn in the short-term, and upgrade its industrial structure for the long term. … Analysts say smaller-engine cars use less oil and are more environmentally friendly. They are also cheaper compared with big-engine, gas-guzzling cars.

GERMANY — Spiegel International, (Mar. 23): Opel, the German subsidiary of ailing United States auto giant General Motors, Inc. urgently needs a new investor but so far none seems to have come forward. … Chancellor Angela Merkel's economic advisor, Jens Weidmann, told the civil servants' meeting that Daimler had refused to buy Opel's modern assembly plant in Eisenach. Separately, German Chancellor Angela Merkel poured cold water on hopes that the government might take a stake in Opel, but she kept the government's options open. … She said it was impossible to devise a proper plan for Opel's future until G.M.'s own fate had been decided.

RUSSIA — The Moscow Times, (Mar. 18): Russians increasingly prefer foreign cars to domestic ones, a study released Tuesday found, indicating that government measures to encourage demand for domestic autos have yet to kick in. … The poll also suggests more trouble ahead for Russia's beleaguered auto sector, which has had major production stoppages this year and is struggling to remain financially viable. … Domestic production in the first two months of the year was 65,100 cars, a 68.9 percent drop year on year, the State Statistics Service said Monday. February's production, however, was 60 percent higher than January's, when most of the country's plants went on an extended winter break.

PHILIPPINES — The Manila Times, (Mar. 17): New car sales in Europe slowed again in February, boosted only by growth in Germany, industry figures showed on March 13, as the economic crisis fuels concern about auto industry job losses. … The auto industry is one of the largest and worst-hit industrial sectors in Europe, where the recession resulted in the weakest sales in 15 years in 2008, with new car registrations plunging eight percent. … Spain — with Europe's fourth-biggest auto industry and where rescue measures are in the pipeline — plunged 48.8 percent, while Italy fell 24.4 percent and Britain dropped 21.9 percent. In France, February sales were down 13.2 percent. Total European car sales in the month came to 968,159, compared to 958,517 in January, when new registrations plunged 27 percent to the lowest level in two decades.