Archive for January, 2014

Marchionne Downplays Fiat Chrysler’s Mounting Debt

But investors wary.

by on Jan.30, 2014

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne told analysts and reporters that the new automaker is carrying a lot of debt, but it was necessary to ensure the company's growth.

Fiat Chrysler Automotive, the new name for combination of Fiat and Chrysler, will be carrying a lot of debt, Sergio Marchionne, the company chief executive officer warned during a conference call with analysts and journalists.

But the CEO of the newly merged and renamed automaker Marchionne insisted the debt is “benign” and required to press ahead with a broad corporate rejuvenation plan. Among Marchionne’s goal are the expansion of global sales of the Jeep brand, the broadening of the maker’s business in China and the rebuilding what was Fiat’s automobile business in Europe and elsewhere. Marchionne also wants FCA to be less dependent on “mass market” vehicles and instead sell more luxury models through its Alfa Romeo and Maserati channels.

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Nevertheless, FCA reduced its guidance on 2014 profits, indicating net income will be 3.6 billion euros to 4 billion euros, or $4.9 billion to $5.4 billion. That’s well under the target set in 2012 for a profit of 4.7 billion euros to 5.2 billion euros. Fiat shares fell 4.1% on the news. (more…)

Natural Gas Gets Boost from President Obama

But automakers, energy suppliers still need come aboard.

by on Jan.30, 2014

Obama omitted battery power during his speech, discussing alternatives such as CNG, instead.

It’s being billed as a cleaner alternative to gasoline and one in wide supply thanks to new fracking technology – and now, President Barack Obama is lending his support to the use of compressed natural gas as an automotive fuel.

The question is whether that will be enough to move automakers and energy suppliers who have so far been reluctant to commit their resources to adding new CNG-powered vehicles to their line-up and the fueling stations needed to power them.

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After coming into office in January 2009, the Obama Administration seemed single-mindedly focused on battery power, shifting funds away from other promising technologies like hydrogen fuel-cells. But that has begun to change during the Obama second term and during his State of the Union address this week, the president put a focus on CNG.


Will Dylan Deliver Super Bowl Pitch for Chrysler?

Now merged with Fiat, U.S. makers apparently ready to declare the times, they are a’changin’.

by on Jan.30, 2014

“Well, the times they are a’changin’,” and nearly a half century after Bob Dylan made that the mantra of the counter-culture generation, Chrysler apparently sees that as the right message once again.

At least for Chrysler, which barely a week ago consummated its marriage with Italian automaker Fiat, this week delivering a four-fold increase in its profits while announcing that the newly united company would change its name to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, shift its headquarters to the Netherlands and begin listing its shares on the New York Stock Exchange. So, it seems, Dylan just might be the right person to tell the world as the latest in a series of unexpected celebratory pitchmen Chrysler has tapped for its unique, extended-form Super Bowl spots.

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Or so says Billboard magazine which claims to have gotten the inside word on preparations for the top secret spot Chrysler’s marketing team has been putting together in recent weeks.  And it would be a significant coup considering the 2-minute commercial will reportedly feature not just the singer’s music but an appearance by the 72-year-old Bob Dylan himself.


Chrysler Employees Getting $2,500 Profit Sharing Checks

Maker earns $1.8 billion for 2013

by on Jan.29, 2014

Chrysler employees are expected to received profit-sharing checks of about $2,500 this year.

Chrysler salaried and hourly employees were told today they’ll be getting profit-sharing checks after the maker reported earnings of $1.8 billion in 2013.

Based on a formula that UAW workers ratified in a 2011 contract, workers should expect a maximum profit sharing check of about $2,500 before taxes. That would be the highest profit-sharing check for Chrysler hourly workers since 1999. Last year, Chrysler workers profit-sharing checks averaged $2,250 before taxes.

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While employees may be happy to get the extra cash, the amount is about a quarter of the $8,800 checks about 47,000 Ford employees are expecting to get. (more…)

Baby Jeep Likely to Make Geneva Debut

New mini-ute key to Jeep’s grand, global aspirations.

by on Jan.29, 2014

The Jeepster is rumored to be making its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. Several spy shots, like this one of a mule undergoing testing, have turned up in recent months. Photo credit: Jim Dunne

Don’t be surprised to see the long-rumored “Baby Jeep” makes its world debut at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show, according to a variety of industry sources.

Tentatively known as the Jeepster – a name first used by Willys-Overland back in 1948 on one of the first post-War Jeeps – the new model is expected to share its underlying platform with the new Fiat 500L. But don’t think the downsized ute will be just another soft-roader. Inside sources are confident that Jeep will offer a true, off-road capable model, much like the Trailhawk version of the new Jeep Cherokee.

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The Baby Jeep, whatever name is ultimately chosen, is expected to play a significant role in the brand’s future. Jeep set an all-time sales record in 2013, delivering nearly 790,000 vehicles worldwide. The maker has expressed a near-term goal of boosting sales to 1 million or more. And considering that compact crossovers are expected to become the industry’s fastest-growing segment globally over the coming decade, the Jeepster can’t come to market soon enough. (more…)

VW Set to Reveal New 2015 Polo

No U.S. plans – yet.

by on Jan.29, 2014

Volkswagen continues to tease U.S. buyers looking for an offering in the B-segment, which seems to have more options than ever.

Volkswagen continues to tempt – and frustrate – the growing number of American buyers who are migrating to the downsized B-segment, which has been flooded with a growing list of offerings from makers as diverse as Ford, Mini and Fiat, among others.

For now, the German maker says, U.S. buyers won’t be able to get their hands on the new 2015 Volkswagen Polo set to go on sale in Europe by mid-year, but that won’t stop fans from hoping that VW planners soon see the error of their ways. And with a production version of the high-performance Polo R prototype reportedly set to make its own debut at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show, VW could hear even more calls to rethink its decision.

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The 2015 model is more facelift than major remake, with relatively modest styling changes but more significant changes to be found under the hood – with a number of new technologies being added to the little car, as well. (more…)

Chrysler Earnings Quadruple in Q4

Maker Reports $1.8 billion earnings for all of 2014.

by on Jan.29, 2014

The belated launch of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee helped buoy Chrysler's Q4 earnings.

Chrysler Group more than quadrupled its earnings for the final quarter of 2014 — in part due to a huge one-time tax gain, but also due to a surge in U.S. car sales.

The smallest of the domestic makers this morning reported net income of $1.62 billion for the fourth quarter, a figure including a $962 million one-time tax benefit.  Even without that boost Chrysler would have come in 74% ahead of the final quarter of 2012.  For the full year, meanwhile, the maker earned $1.8 billion after excluding one-time gains, a 9% bounce over all of 2012.

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The full-year earnings were Chrysler’s best since it exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009.

“The 2013 year-end financial results reflect the commitment Chrysler Group has made to rapidly refresh our product lineup with vehicles that achieve exacting performance standards,” Sergio Marchionne, CEO of both the Chrysler Group and Fiat SpA, said in a statement.


Tata Managing Director Slym Found Dead in Thailand

Former GM, Toyota exec’s death investigated as suicide.

by on Jan.28, 2014

Police in Bangkok, Thailand, are investigating the death of Tata Motors Managing Director Karl Slym.

The death of Tata Motors’ Managing Director Karl Slym in Bangkok, Thailand, is being investigated as a potential suicide. Slym’s body was found Sunday morning at his hotel.

Slym, 51, joined Tata in October 2012 to help revamp the company’s product portfolio. Prior to that, Slym held leadership positions at General Motors in China and India as well as at Toyota in the United Kingdom.

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According to reports, Slym was facing some difficulties, including marital issues. During the investigation, police found a three-page note, which was initially thought to be a suicide note, in the couple’s hotel room. His wife wrote the letter. Apparently, the pair had been arguing about a family matter and she wrote the note detailing her concerns because she felt she could no longer talk to him about the undisclosed matter. (more…)

Ferdinand Porsche’s First Car Resurfaces After 111 Years

P1 battery car to go on display in Stuttgart.

by on Jan.28, 2014

The Porsche P1 is formally known as the 1898 Egger-Lohner C.2. Phaeton.

It wasn’t your classic “barn find.”  In the case of the rare P1, it was found stuffed in the back of an old Austrian warehouse – since 1902.

Officially known as the Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton, it’s the first car ever designed by the legendary Ferdinand Porsche. And it was one of several electric vehicles the automotive pioneer – later known for his groundbreaking sports cars – developed in his early years.

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The classic, newly restored after 115 years – more than 111 of them in storage – is getting its rightful place of honor at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart this week as part of the gallery’s fifth anniversary.