By 28 February 2008 0 Comments Read More →

News : February 2008

Jeff Daniels

KEITH ADAMS


Jeff Daniels (second from left) meets the movers and shakers at Rover, back in the late-1960s

WE’RE sad to report that Jeff Daniels, award-winning motoring journalist and technical writer has died. Author of the book ‘BL: The Truth About The Cars’, and ‘Jaguar: An Engineering Story’, his work has been an inspiration to many an aspiring motoring journalist, as well motoring enthusiasts across the globe. Described by the Guild of Motoring Writers, of which he was a senior member, as a ‘larger-than-life character,’ the 68 year old writer was working until very recently.

During his career he worked at CAR magazine and Autocar before turning his hand to PR at Datsun and Citroen. During his time at the weekly magazine, he was closely involved in the resolution of the Morris Marina handling controversy, and had a productive working relationship with Harry Webster and Spen King. Recently he returned to writing as a freelance, contributing to Automotive Engineer, European Automotive Design and Evo magazine.

We send our condolences to Jeff’s family and friends.

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MINI John Cooper Works rides again

KEITH ADAMS


The JCW MINI looks suitably aggressive…

The new 211bhp MINI John Cooper Works has been revealed in advance of its public debut at next month’s Geneva Motor Show. The freshly uprated cars will be built at Cowley alongside its more humble cousins – with customers being able to place their order for the £20,500 pocket rocket (and £21,700 for the Clubman version) from this July.

Modifications have been made to the air filter, air mass meter, exhaust system and catalyst. Air supply to the modified larger turbocharger is increased through fitment of a larger air intake pipe, which in turn creates a quicker induction phase. The Works engines from Hams Hall also come with reinforced, specially polished pistons, as well as a strengthened cylinder head for optimised stability and a modified cylinder gasket. The intake valves and valve seat rings have also been upgraded with stronger and more resistant materials. This reduces the engine’s compression ratio.

The new Sports exhaust system is instantly recognisable through the large polished stainless steel twin tailpipes. Modification of the exhaust system has also helped to reduce counter-pressure at the point of exhaust gas recirculation. Ducts in the exhaust manifold and turbocharger are split between two cylinders each. Congestion is therefore minimised when air is inducted to the turbocharger and ‘turbo lag’ is claimed to be virtually eliminated.

The John Cooper Works MINIs are the first models in the range to fulfil all the requirements of the European EU5 emission standards that come into force in 2009.

Sports Suspension has been specifically tuned for the Works models. However, even greater chassis rigidity can be achieved by ordering through dealerships the John Cooper Works suspension that lowers the entire car by 10mm. Extra-large disc brakes adorned with uprated red callipers are fitted to Works cars. In addition, inner-vented discs are positioned behind the front wheels. The front discs are 17-inches in diameter while the rears measure 16-inches.

At a glance:

* Engine modifications deliver 211bhp and 0-62 in 6.5 seconds
* Engine, brakes, suspension settings and transmission adapted from MINI CHALLENGE race car
* Dynamic Traction Control makes MINI debut
* Full range of John Cooper Works body styling products available
* On-the-road prices expected to be £20,500 for the JCW Hatch and Clubman at £21,700
* New 160mph speedo to accommodate the higher maximum speed

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News digest

Compiled by CLIVE GOLDTHORP

1) SAIC Motor/MG And Roewe.

MG3 SW – 80,000rmb to 120,000rmb – actually might be worth it
China Car Times 21st February, 2008

The MG3 SW is set to formally go on the market on March 12th 2008, priced at a reasonable 80,000 to 120,000rmb. When China Car Times first heard of NAC’s plan to relaunch the Streetwise, we were dubious – could they pull off re-releasing such an old car? The answer is clearly yes, as the MG3 was looking good at the Guangzhou Auto Show, and looks pretty damned good…

The Streetwise is set to come with either a 1.4-litre engine paired to a manual gearbox, or the larger 1.8-litre engine with a CVT gearbox. The Streetwise is actually pretty well placed in China to take on the latest wave of mini crossover vehicles such as the SX4, Polo Cross, and perhaps even the Nissan Qashqai (once launched). MG dealers are reportedly accepting deposits of 5000rmb for the MG3 SW

MG-Rover fell from automotive grace when its life was ultimately extinguished in 2005, NAC and SAIC picked up the pieces, NAC took Longbridge and the MG brand, SAIC took the rights to the 25, and 75 models. SAIC takes the Rover 75 and makes the rather nice Roewe 750, only to buy the whole of NAC (and MG) later anyway. SAIC officials let loose their plans for the two brands today, they plan on keeping MG as a sports brand, and Roewe as a more business class type of brand.

Both brands, MG and Roewe, are planning to launch cars this year. Roewe is planning to launch the Roewe 550 (possibly the worst Chinese secret car) and the Roewe 750 1.8t. MG plan on launching an MG7 Automatic (this will do wonders for their sales), the MG 3 Streetwise, and the MGTF. The Roewe 550 is expected to be a luxury compact car, but priced competively against the Skoda Octavia, VW Sagitar (Jetta), and Ford Focus type models. Officials from MG also mentioned that within two to three years, MG will launch a high class MINI type vehicle to compete with BMW’s offering.

Roewe hopes to launch the 750, 550, and a mysterious smaller car named the Roewe 350. China Car Times can only guess that the smaller model numbers indicate that Roewe might actually have a stab at making something in the small car/compact range – bigger than the MG3, but smaller than the Roewe 550? We can’t wait to see it. It’s also rumored that the Roewe 750 could eventually be smothered out and be replaced by future generation cars named 751/752 etc.


Roewe 550, on the market in July 08, 750 range expands
China Car Times 18th February, 2008

The Roewe 550, above, is set to be launched onto the Chinese market by July 2008, presumably after Roewe have shown off the 550, and the 750 1.8t at the Beijing International Car Show later this year.

The Roewe 550 uses the same 1.8t engine as the Roewe 750 1.8t, which reaches Chinese 3 emissions standards. The Chinese motoring press believe the Roewe 550 is one of the best Chinese cars to go up against the likes of the Mazda 3, Civic, and the Focus in the Chinese market. The 550 measures 4624mm long by 1827mm wide and 1480mm tall. Some people are hoping the Roewe 550 will be reworked into the MG5 and see European production begin in MGs British factory.

Roewe 550 pricing is expected to be 120,000rmb to 160,000rmb when launched in China.

Roewe 750 1.8T – in detail

The Roewe 1.8T model will go on sale on March 10th according to our sources. The Roewe 750 1.8T is set to come in at three different spec levels, prices are expected to be 200,000rmb to 230,000rmb. This makes the lowest priced Roewe 750 1.8T 20,000rmb more expensive than the basic MG7 1.8T.

Roewe 750 1.8T – Basic model
Roewe 750 1.8T – Business Edition
Roewe 750 1.8T – Qi Ya Edition (top model)
The Roewe 750 1.8T puts out 118kw and 215nm of torque, which gives the car a top speed of 205km/h.


2) TATA and Jaguar/Land Rover

Defender for Defence, from Land Rover
Pankaj Doval, The Times of India, 16th February, 2008

EVEN as Tata Motors revs to buy Jaguar and Land Rover brands from Ford, Land Rover is firming up its own independent plans for India and is set to start assembly operations, targeting the defence and utility vehicle segments with its Defender range. John Stretton, Land Rover’s global corporate and direct sales director, said the company was chalking out its own plans that would also see it forging partnerships with Indian companies for localised content and for marketing and distribution arrangements.

‘We are looking at local assembly of our Defender range through the knocked down route and are targeting a whole range of applications, with a major focus on (the) defence sector,’ Stretton told TOI. Refusing to comment on Ford’s talks with the Tatas on the takeover of Jaguar and Land Rover and its implications on this move, he said Land Rover was currently working on the India foray independently.

The company, he said, was pitching for a major order from the armed forces that would provide thrust to its assembly plans. ‘A team from the armed forces have visited our factory in the UK,’ he said, and added that the company was looking to assemble its Defender range. The four-wheel drive vehicle has a track record with 100 forces worldwide, including the Australian Army, US Army, Algerian and UK MOD, apart from the United Nations and NATO forces.

A spokesperson for Tata Motors said the company had no comments on Land Rover’s independent plans and how it would affect its takeover talks with Ford. Though these companies are not ready to speak on possible synergies once Land Rover is sold to the Tatas, Land Rover’s plans could change significantly is the deal is through. Stretton said Land Rover was looking at an initial assembly capacity of 1000 units annually, which could be increased to 7000 units.

‘We plan to make investment of £1.5m for this,’ he said, adding that the project would kickstart with the order from the Army. The vehicle, he said, can be localised, keeping the cost low and making spares and service easier and accessible. ‘In certain markets, as much as 47 per cent could be localised,’ he said. However, he added that key aggregates like engines, axle, gear-box will be imported.

The Defender range is used for a variety of applications, (such) as troop carriers, communication vehicles, ambulances. ‘Also, the vehicles could be used for other utility purposes like fire tenders, recovery vehicles, pick-up cranes,’ he said. He said for servicing the army vehicles, the company plans to train people from its engineering division and will also offer service facility from its dealerships. Land Rover currently has three dealers in India – at Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai – and the network could be increased as and when the business grows, he added.

Stretton said the company would also sell the Defender range through the retail front and the vehicles could be purchased by the common people. On pricing, he said it cannot be ascertained now as the amount of local content was not known. The vehicle retails at a price of £20,000 in the UK, though the actual retail price here would be much more after adding duties and other costs.


Jaguar: Dealers take 10,000 customer deposits for XF sedans
Mark Rechtin, Automotive News, 18th February, 2008

Jaguar Cars has taken 10,000 customer deposits globally for the upcoming XF sedan, including about 3000 in the United States. That’s a promising start. Jaguar executives say they released the figures to show the impact of the XF even without advertising or cars available to test drive. Instead, Jaguar has combined dealer training with posh customer-only events. The company put together a 21-city road show with a few demo XFs in tow, training entire dealerships at once. Dealerships then conducted events for loyal customers and luxury intenders.

Ken Gorin, owner of The Collection in Miami, has 80 sold orders from holding two events, one at the dealership and another in the Miami Design District. ‘I sold 30 XFs the first night,’ Gorin says. ‘I haven’t seen a reaction like that since the (Porsche) Boxster came out. When people hear that it’s $49,900 with a standard V8, they say, ‘Sign me up’.’

Irma Elder, who owns four Jaguar stores in the Detroit area, hosted an owner-only event at the Fox Theatre and didn’t invite the media. She has about 50 sold orders in hand. The United Kingdom, Europe and North America will all begin selling the XF on 10th March. The simultaneous launch is a first for Jaguar. It used to do regional rollouts, with the United States getting cars up to six months after Europe. But Jaguar has proved equal to the task, says Mike O’Driscoll, managing director of Jaguar Cars.

Marketing also is different. TV commercials will continue in the vein of past ‘Gorgeous’ ads. But Jaguar is returning to a more masculine stance with its print message. That includes running in magazines such as GQ, Rolling Stone, Esquire and Vanity Fair.


IL Insider: Jaguar Appears To Be Ugly Stepsister in Impending Tata Deal
Anita Lienert, Correspondent, Edmunds.com/Inside Line 19th February, 2008

RATAN Tata has long lusted after Land Rover, a marque he considers the ‘ride of the Rajas.’ But when the deal is finally inked between Ford and Tata Motors to exchange the luxury Jaguar and Land Rover car brands, look for Jaguar to be quickly spun off, Indian sources tell Inside Line.

Earlier this month, India’s top vehicle maker, Tata Motors, said it hoped to clinch the deal to buy the premium brands from ailing Ford ‘in the forthcoming weeks.’ Ford named Tata Motors as the preferred buyer for the Jaguar and Land Rover marques early in January. One source, who wished to remain unnamed because of his role in the negotiations, told Inside Line that Ratan Tata recently purchased a 450-acre parcel of land in Gurgaon, outside New Delhi, with the intention of building a factory to produce Land Rovers. “But Jaguar will be spun off almost immediately,” said the source, who is familiar with Tata’s plans.

That may come as news to Britain’s labor unions, which last fall announced their support for Tata’s bid — presumably in an effort to preserve as many jobs as possible in the UK after the deal is done. What this means to you: It appears that Ratan Tata only has eyes for Land Rover.


Fate of Jaguar Land Rover now likely to be held up
Birmingham Post 20th February, 2008

The fate of Jaguar Land Rover is likely to be delayed until detailed talks are completed between union leaders and the preferred bidder in the race to acquire the luxury marques, Indian company Tata Motors. There had been speculation that an announcement about the sale could be made as soon as next week.

However, sources close to the deal said yesterday this could be delayed until talks between the union Unite, Tata and Ford were concluded. Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group, will be at the Geneva Motor Show on March 4 for the European debut of Tata’s new Nano, the low-cost car unveiled in Delhi last month and which will sell for around £1250 when it goes on sale later this year.

There was a possibility that if the Jaguar Land Rover deal had been sealed by then that Mr Tata would outline his company’s plans for the two brands. However, it may now be mid-March at the earliest before a deal is concluded and there is a possibility that it could be delayed until the second quarter. Unite, which is seeking assurances about long-term job security and the retention of production facilities in the UK, is set to meet with executives from Tata tomorrow.

Unite spokesman Eddie Barrett was quoted in the Indian media yesterday as saying: ‘We haven’t met Tata yet since the presentation last year, so this will be a very important meeting.’ The union has already asked Ford to reconsider its position not to keep a minimum stake in the companies once they are sold off. Unite is anxious to secure the continued involvement of Ford in the supply of vital components such as engines, axles and other parts.

It has also sought assurances from Ford over other issues such as pension provision. Ford has said that pensions will be fully funded at the time of the sale and Unite is seeking an agreement from Tata that protects the rights of its members in the future. Tata is thought to have offered around £1bn for the two companies.

However, while the Indian company is Ford’s preferred bidder, it has not ruled out competing bids from Tata rival Mahindra & Mahindra and private equity group, One Equity, fronted by former Ford chief executive Jac Nasser.


3) XPart

XPart expands network for still-popular MG Rover parts
Birmingham Post 14th February, 2008

MG Rover parts producer XPart has expanded its wholesaler network to more than 90 outlets. The expansion means there are now more wholesalers stocking parts than when Longbridge was still manufacturing.

XPart general manager Craig Cooper said: ‘The loyalty of MG Rover owners has been significant. Owners continue to want the best for their cars and demand for service items and replacement parts remains strong and with our network of wholesalers in expansion, we continue to meet that demand.’

The company also aims to get individual parts to any of its 230 service centres overnight, if needed. One such centre is at Colliers in Erdington. The dealership has specialised in Rovers for 75 years. XPart, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Caterpillar Logistics Services UK, boasts a 92 per cent parts availability, with 47,000 part numbers in stock covering all the MG Rover models from the latest to roll off the Longbridge production line, such as the ZT and TF, to the days of Austin Rover.

Since March 2005 XPart has been working with more than 600 suppliers to source and ensure the ongoing supply of parts. It has invested more than £5 million in new tooling to fill the void left when the original production equipment was moved to China from the Longbridge plant.

In the UK, the marque remains the fifth most popular car on the road.


4) The demise of MG Rover Group Limited

MPs’ fury over wait for Rover report
Russell Hotten, Daily Telegraph 18th February, 2008

Pressure is mounting on Business and Enterprise Secretary John Hutton to explain the delay and spiralling cost of the official investigation into the collapse of the MG Rover car company. Almost three years since Rover imploded, and with more than £11m of costs run up by investigators, the UK taxpayer and 6,000 former workers appear no closer to receiving an explanation.

At the weekend, Peter Luff, chairman of the Commons Select Committee for Business, said the delay was ‘totally unacceptable’, while other MPs plan to raise the matter in Parliament. ‘Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Mr Luff. “On top of this, the cost to the taxpayer is going through the roof.’

Rover was Britain’s last major independent carmaker. After its collapse in April 2005, the Department of Trade and Industry called in inspectors to probe the affair and the role of the so-called Phoenix Four, the Midlands businessmen who ran Rover. Tory MP David Heathcoat Amory said he was suspicious that the Government was dragging its feet to avoid political embarrassment. Weeks before Rover’s collapse, ministers at the DTI – now the Department for Business and Enterprise (DBE) – tried to prop up the carmaker to secure a sale.

This month the magazine Accountancy Age revealed that the investigators appointed by the DTI, BDO Stoy Hayward, had incurred costs of £95,000 for hotels and £29,000 on subsistence. The total cost of the investigation so far, according to the DBE, is £11,155,790. Mr Luff said he and other MPs would start asking Commons questions and that his committee would launch an ‘investigation into the investigation’ if the DBE did not provide satisfactory answers. Last November, during a committee hearing into the workings of the DBE, Mr Luff accused lawyers representing the former Rover directors of deliberately delaying the investigation.

Mr Luff said last night that, soon after the hearing, he received a “strong” letter from the Phoenix Four lawyers, Herbert Smith. The MP, whose comments in the Commons are covered by legal privilege, said he would not comment further on Herbert Smith outside Parliament, ‘but may return to the subject’. Herbert Smith could not be reached for comment at the weekend.

A DBE spokesman said: ‘The department and the inspectors are very conscious of the need to complete the investigation as quickly and thoroughly as possible.’


5) India Watch

Tata looks to develop air-powered car
John Reed, Financial Times, 18th February, 2008

Tata Motors, which unveiled the world’s cheapest car last month, is studying a vehicle that would use air as fuel and emit no pollutants in city driving. The Indian carmaker last year signed an agreement with MDI, a private French company developing cars driven by compressed air. In an interview with the Financial Times, Tata’s top car-making executive confirmed it had taken the technology’s rights for India and was ‘studying whether it can be used’.

Ravi Kant, Tata Motors’ managing director, said: ‘It’s a very exciting concept, this way of running a car. We hope something will come out of it.’ Tata was looking at applying the technology for both mobile and stationary uses, he said. MDI, located near Nice, also owns a patent on a compressed air device that can be applied to emergency generators.

The group had ‘not yet announced when we will have a car’, Mr Kant said. A representative of the French company said Tata had bought rights to its engine, but not its car concept. MDI plans to launch the OneCAT, which it says is designed to operate ‘in overpopulated towns that are particularly polluted’, by the end of this year or early 2009.

The car weighs about 350kg and is powered by compressed air tanks built into its chassis, which can be replenished by an external or on-board compressor. Above speeds of 50km an hour, it is fuelled by petrol, diesel or another fuel. Low-emission vehicles are gaining purchase in India as it grapples with a car boom. Most of Delhi’s public transport has been converted to run on compressed natural gas.

Tata, the preferred bidder for Ford Motor’s Jaguar and Land Rover brands, riveted the attention of the world car industry last month when it launched its ‘one lakh’ or £1250 Nano in Delhi. Analysts said that any air car developed by Tata or MDI would probably remain a niche vehicle for the foreseeable future, much like the electric cars being developed or tested by other makers.

Separately, Mr Kant said Tata might consider exporting the Nano in about four years’ time, but for now was ‘focused on India’. Were it to export the car it would sell to countries with ‘norms equal to or lower than India’ in Asia, Africa or Latin America. To sell in developed countries, the car would need to be modified to meet higher safety, emissions and vibration standards, and would thus sell for a higher price.

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Ratan’s plans: an integrated Jaguar and Rover?

CLIVE GOLDTHORP


Under TATA, a revival of the F-type could be on the cards…

Automotive News Europe’s Tony Lewin has recently reported that Ford Motor and Tata Motors now expect to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the sale of Jaguar and Land Rover around the end of this month. Ford sources have, apparently, implied that, if an agreement is reached, an announcement may be made during the Press Days at the Geneva Motor Show which start on the 4th March, 2008.

The Daily Telegraph, in the meantime, reports that Ford Motor have agreed to ‘support Tata’s plans for product development up to 2012.’ However, if the details of Jaguar’s New Product Programme disclosed by Julian Rendell of just-auto.com (News Digest 6th February, 2008) are correct, a Tata Motors-owned Jaguar will not be developing a D segment X-TYPE replacement. Jaguar’s model range will, instead, expand to include:

– a two-seater sportscar (the F-TYPE or, more logically, the XE?) to compete against the BMW Z4, Mercedes-Benz SLK and Porsche Boxster/Cayman,
– a two-door XF Coupe with the lower roofline of the C-XF concept and
– a four-door, long-wheelbase, version of the XK to compete against the forthcoming Aston Martin Rapide and Porsche Panamera

in addition to the re-skinned XJ (Project X351) which will be launched in late 2009 for sale in early 2010. AROnline believes that Tata Motors should approve all three new models as that would firmly re-establish Jaguar as a Tier 2 – Prestige/Sports (as opposed to Prestige/Luxury) marque (Blogs 13th February, 2008).

However, many Automotive Industry observers expect the sale of Jaguar and Land Rover to include the IPRs to the Rover brand (and, hopefully, the original ‘Longship’ badge). Tata Motors would, in those circumstances, have the option of re-launching Rover as a Tier 3 – Premium/Luxury brand to compete against other Tier 3 – Premium brands such as Honda or Volkswagen and so compliment Jaguar.

Indeed, careful analysis of recent comments and events, suggests that the re-launch of the Rover brand in Britain and Europe may now even be a key element in Tata Motors’ evolving Business Plan:

– Tata Motors will, no doubt, have learned from MG Rover Group Limited’s experience with the marketing and pricing of the CityRover (nee Indica V2) and realised that, in order to succeed in the mature British and European markets, perceived quality must match price.
– Tata Motors European Technical Centre plc’s (TMETC) Dr. Clive Hickman has previously confirmed that Tata Motors uses Volkswagen quality standards as the benchmark and predicted that ‘if we can achieve the body and trim quality, and still maintain our costs, our vehicles will sell very easily in Europe.’
– the debut of the Tata Nano at last month’s New Delhi Auto Expo probably received more global news coverage than any other new car launch in recent times but, as a result, the Tata name will forever be associated with the World’s cheapest car and identified as a Tier 5 – Budget brand.
– Automotive News Europe’s Jesse Snyder recently questioned Ratan Tata about the Tata Nano’s profitability. Mr. Tata replied: ‘You can have a version that sells for two or three times the price of the base car. I don’t see this (the Nano), over time, being any less profitable than an ordinary car.’
– Ratan Tata has also observed that ‘it is indispensable that Jaguar and Land Rover remain two brands that are authentically English. Altering their Britishness would be crazy.’

Ratan Tata’s comments clearly demonstrate his understanding of the concept of added value and his appreciation of ‘Britishness.’ AROnline believes that Mr. Tata’s remark about the ‘Britishness’ of Jaguar and Land Rover also applies to Rover and, not unreasonably, infers that he associates that attribute of ‘Britishness’ with added value. The re-launch of Rover as a Tier 3 – Premium/Luxury (or ‘British’) brand in Britain and Europe would certainly be a much easier task than attempting to establish the Tata brand as anything other than a Tier 5 – Budget or, possibly, a Tier 4 – Value player here…

AROnline’s latest research suggests that Tata Motors intend to launch Rover versions of the following new Tata models between 2009 and 2012:

– a B segment five-door supermini based on the new Tata Indica V3 (Tata Indica V3: a Rover 25 successor?),
– a C segment four-door saloon and five-door hatchback/estate using the version of the Indica V3’s platform which underpinned the Tata Elegante saloon first shown at last year’s Geneva Motor Show,
– a D segment four-door saloon and, possibly, a five-door hatchback/estate which would utilise a second, larger, platform and, in effect, be a Rover 75 (and Jaguar X-TYPE?) successor.
– a large MPV which would also be based on the second, larger, platform mentioned above.

The TMETC-led ‘Roverisation’ process will be extensive and ensure that all the forthcoming new models are fully in tune with the demands of the British and European markets. AROnline anticipates that the Rover versions of the new models will differ substantially from their Tata counterparts by combining re-styled (i.e. re-skinned) exteriors with higher specification interiors and, where appropriate, the use of upgraded materials. Tata Motors’ new Rover models will be available with a range of petrol, diesel, hybrid and, in time, electric powertrains which are reportedly being developed by TMETC.

Tata Motors will, no doubt, wish to maximise production at all three of Jaguar and Land Rover’s existing British plants and would probably succeed in achieving that objective with the introduction of the three additional Jaguar models referred to above. However, even so, there must remain a chance that the Rover 75 successor predicted above might replace the Jaguar X-TYPE on the production lines at Halewood, Merseyside (Tata: Ratan’s Rover revival?).

AROnline has not, as yet, discovered whether Tata Motors plan to establish a separate Dealer Network for a revived Rover or to use the existing Jaguar and/or Land Rover Dealer Networks so the full extent of any integration of Jaguar and Rover remains unclear. However, with the four new Jaguars and four new Rovers forecast above, Tata Motors should, at least, have two uniquely British model ranges which would compliment rather than compete with each other in the showrooms.

A final thought: Tata Motors has taken a stand at the Geneva Motor Show for the last ten years and, given the company’s recent record of launching concept cars at the venue, there might just be a chance that the company will unveil a Rover concept car at next month’s event (assuming, of course, that the MoU has been signed by then). However, a better bet for the announcement of Rover’s return may be the Press Day at this year’s British International Motor Show in London’s ExCeL Centre on the 22nd July, 2008.

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News digest

Compiled by CLIVE GOLDTHORP

1) TATA and Jaguar/Land Rover

Fears for job security at Jaguar and Land Rover
Russell Hotten, Daily Telegraph, 9th February, 2008

Ford’s planned sale of car makers Jaguar and Land Rover (JLR) faces new hurdles after trade unions demanded further guarantees over job security and the US motor giant’s continuing relationship with the two UK companies.

Union officials and Ford met to discuss the sale yesterday ahead of what the company hoped would be a preliminary announcement next week about a deal with India’s Tata. Unions are concerned about the possible closure of one of the three JLR plants, and of job losses in the automotive component supply chain unless Ford commits to support the development of new models. Ford told unions yesterday that it would support Tata’s plans for product development up to 2012.

But Dave Osborne, national secretary of Unite, Britain’s largest union, said that this was not long enough. He has also told Ford that Unite still wants the car company to retain an equity stake in JLR after any sale, something that the US car maker has said it does not want to do.

Rather than inching closer to an announcement, Ford still appears to be a long way off. Mr Osborne said: ‘We are weeks away and not days. Not only do we want further meetings with Ford, we will want further meetings with Tata before we sign up to anything. Alan Mulally [Ford’s chief executive] seems only interested in swelling the coffers of Ford. We are more interested in the human aspects and securing employment prospects of the people who matter.’

A Ford spokesman said: ‘We have always maintained that the final decision will be in the best interests of Ford, JLR, and the workforce.’


Jag looks to XF to ease X-treme pain
Automotive News Europe 11th February, 2008

THE last time Jaguar was doing this poorly, Bill Clinton was just heading toward the White House.

Jaguar had a tough 2007, with sales down 24.2 per cent from 2006. And if January is an indication, Ford’s British luxury-car brand is sinking even deeper into the mud. Jaguar kicked off the New Year by plummeting 52.2 per cent below January 2007. Total sales were 664 units. When was the last time Jag sold so few cars in a month in the United States? November 1992, when it sold 616

What’s going on? Jaguar has walked away from the slow-selling X-Type, which basically is out of stock as dealers wait for the April arrival of its replacement, the XF. Coupes don’t sell in winter, hence the low sales of the XK. And critics say the XJ, despite its high-tech aluminum structure, looked dated from the second it hit showroom floors in 2003. In other words, hurry up, XF.


Ford and Tata memorandum on Jaguar deal expected this month
Tony Lewin, Automotive News Europe, 12th February, 2008

Ford Motor and Tata Motors expect to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the sale of Jaguar and Land Rover around the end of the month.

‘The expectation was that the memorandum would be signed in the third week of February,’ said Roger Maddison, national officer of Unite, the largest union in the UK auto industry. However, talks last Friday, January 8, between the unions and Ford were inconclusive, possibly pushing back the agreement a bit, he said.

Ford sources confirmed that, if an agreement is reached, it would be shortly before the Geneva auto show, whose press days start March 4. Tata, India’s second largest carmaker, was confirmed by Ford as the leading bidder for the UK-based premium automakers in early January. Since that date, both Ford and Tata have agreed not to discuss details of the final negotiations.

The talks centered on assurances of continued components supply from Ford’s plants in the UK, explained Maddison. All Jaguar and Land Rover engines come from Ford-owned plants in the UK.

‘We were going through the future sourcing agreements including those for engines at Bridgend and Dagenham,’ Maddison told Automotive News Europe. The Ford delegation was led by Lewis Booth, head of Ford’s European operations. But Tata was not present as it believed the issues were for Ford and the unions to settle. Maddison was keen to stress that there were no disagreements, and that the unions were satisfied with the arrangements for issues such as pensions and conditions.

‘Our worry is that the only guarantees we have been given have been in un-minuted meetings,’ said Maddison. ‘We want it written down.’

The Unite General Secretary, Tony Woodley, said he would not recommend acceptance of the deal unless the arrangements were ‘tied down for at least the next few years’ noted Maddison. ‘Tata has no problem with the final salary pension scheme, and Ford will make up any shortfall before the sale,’ said Maddison.

Tata accepted the Jaguar Land Rover business plan through 2012, saying it was sound. ‘We’re a bit disappointed,’ continued Maddison. ‘It’s getting late now [if the deal is to be done next week] and there aren’t any dates set up in the diary. We’re on standby, ready to cancel any commitments to get this settled.’


2) India watch

Report: Tata to bring Nano to Europe in four years
Automotive News Europe/Reuters 11th February, 2008

Tata Motors plans to introduce its ultra-cheap Nano car to the European market in four years’ time, the head of compact car projects at Tata Motors told German magazine Focus.

‘We will develop a successor model in four years time, which will meet the Euro 5 emission regulations and the crash standards in Europe,’ Girish Wagh, head of Tata’s compact car business, was quoted by Focus as saying in an advance abstract on Sunday. The main target was to reduce the car’s fuel consumption to three from currently five litres per 100km (62.5 miles), Wagh told the magazine.

Tata Motors unveiled the £1300 Nano, the world’s cheapest car, in January and said the new four-seater would roll out later in the year from its factory in the eastern state of West Bengal. Tata has said it will initially produce about 250,000 Nanos and expects eventual annual demand of 1 million units.

Tata has said it would focus on the home market for two to three years before considering exporting the Nano to countries in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Global carmakers, initially skeptical that Tata could produce such a low-cost car, are now scurrying to make their own versions to meet the needs of cost-conscious consumers in emerging economies such as China, India and Russia.

General Motor’s Opel unit plans to develop a small car for 8000 euros ($11,590), the head of Opel, Hans Demant, told Germany’s auto, motor und sport magazine in an advanced copy on Saturday. A decision could be made next year, he said.

‘The Opel citycar is a vehicle for the coming decade,’ he said.

Ford said in January it would build a small car in India within two years, and the alliance of Nissan Motor and Renault, which has made a big success of its no-frills Logan sedan, plans a $3000 car with Bajaj Auto. Volkswagen, Toyota, Honda Motor and Fiat have also said they are looking at small cars for emerging markets, where strong economic growth has for the first time made car ownership an option for millions.


3) China watch

SAIC and Brilliance team up to develop transmissions
Kevin Huang, Automotive News China 12th February, 2008

In China automatic transmissions are still considered high-tech products and their suppliers are predominantly foreign companies. However, two major Chinese automakers recently joined hands to develop advanced double-clutch transmissions.

On January 23, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (SAIC) and Brilliance Jinbei Automobile Co. signed an agreement in Beijing to jointly develop and produce a wide range of manual and automatic transmissions for passenger vehicles, including double-clutch transmissions. Brilliance says the joint project will have designed annual production capacity of 400,000 units of manual transmissions and 100,000 units of automatic transmissions. All the transmissions will be built in a plant in Shenyang, a city where Brilliance is located.

Set up in 2003 with a joint investment of 150m yuan ($21m), the plant currently produces manual transmissions for Brilliance’s commercial vans. Brilliance says the two companies will increase their investment in the plant to 1.5 billion yuan ($210m). Meanwhile, SAIC initially held a 51.4 per cent stake in the transmission plant while Brilliance owned the rest. Now it has transferred part of its interest in the plant to Brilliance to turn it into a 50-50 joint venture.

In return, Brilliance has pledged to source transmissions from the plant for all of its vehicles in the future. Harry Zhao, manager of greater China powertrain forecasts at CSM Worldwide, says neither of the two companies would be able to develop double-clutch transmissions on its own. He believes the joint transmission project will be based on technologies that SAIC has sourced from BorgWarner for another transmission project.

According to local media, BorgWarner and SAIC started working together to develop double-clutch transmissions for Roewe cars in June 2007, and the two companies expect to mass produce the transmissions beginning 2010. SAIC and Brilliance declined to comment on the technology source of their joint transmission project.

Brilliance now imports automatic transmissions from Mitsubishi Motors and ZF Friedrichshafen AG, and also purchases manual transmissions from Getrag Corp.’s China joint venture Getrag (Jiangxi) Transmission Co. and Mitsubishi’s powertrain plant affiliate Harbin Dongan Auto Engine Co Ltd. SAIC currently sources automatic transmissions from Japanese Aisin for Roewe.

CSM’S Zhao notes by allying with Brilliance, SAIC will be able to reduce its R&D and production costs of the double-clutch transmissions. ‘Positioned as a high-end brand, the sales volumes of Roewe will be relatively small, and supplying Brilliance is a good way to expand the production of the transmissions,’ says Zhao. He also says the joint transmission project will also enable SAIC to divert part of the potential risks involved in developing the transmissions to Brilliance.


GM may increase stake in Wuling venture
Jamie LaReau, Automotive News China 12th February, 2008

General Motors could one day increase its share in SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co. as it looks to offer cheap small cars to compete with the Tata Nano from India. The Chinese joint-venture company produces the fast-growing Wuling brand, which makes small vans and pickups in China. The Wuling brand posted sales of 516,435 vehicles last year.

Bob Lutz, GM’s vice chairman of global product development, says Wulings would help GM compete with the Nano in the super low-cost segment. The tiny Nano’s price is expected to start at around $2500. GM has to develop a new product portfolio that is global, but for a ‘different part of the globe,’ namely developing markets in Asia and eastern Europe.

GM owns 34 per cent of the company that produces Wulings, SAIC-GM-Wuling Auto. Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., GM’s main joint-venture partner in China, owns 50.1 per cent. If Wuling were to produce cars, GM would consider using them to compete against the Nano, Lutz said. Asked whether there’s an opportunity for GM to increase its stake in Wuling, Lutz said: ‘That’s not impossible over time. It’s nothing we’d want to talk about today.’

Lutz said GM has factored into its budget the cost of developing products to compete with vehicles such as the Nano. ‘We move a legacy architecture and parts that have been around for a long time,’ he said. ‘Then we create a vehicle that’s very inexpensive, and it could not be sold in the developed world because it wouldn’t meet regulations.’

Lutz noted that in China, several producers sell cars $2500 cars ‘all day long.’ He added that there are also plenty of $2500 cars in the United States today. ‘They’re called used cars.’ Lutz questioned whether the Nano will retail at $2500 once amenities are added. ‘You add an extra passenger seat, that’ll be slightly extra and so forth,’ he says. ‘The average retail is probably going to be more.’

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ZT V8 engines uncovered, and on-sale now…

ANDREW ELPHICK


Fancy some cheap muscle? Here you go…

FOR many enthusiasts, the MG ZT 260 V8 was the ultimate MG Rover product – as discreet or as loud as you specified it, eminently tuneable, and driven by the right wheels for a performance saloon. However, the problem for petrolheads with a love of V8 engines and less-than deep pockets, it wasn’t cheap to buy or run… even after the closure of MG Rover, and PriceWaterhouseCooper’s subsequent fire sale.

A solution may be on hand, though – for all those hand’s on engineers who fancy themselves for a little knock-up work. An end-of-life Rover 75 and an email address is all you need (please note, though, some self-assembly and adult supervision will be required).

Yes, the remnants of Longbridge’s follies are still rising to the surface three years on. What would Sir like? A 385bhp supercharged Mustang V8? RRP £14000 from Phoenix; our price £3525. Too powerful for your mother to go shopping in? Buy the normally aspirated version for a mere £2173 then. Or you could pay £3407 and get the subframe, suspension and dinner plate brake discs (£1703 for the matching rear subframe and differential) in a ready-to-fit package.

There are also discounts for bulk orders of ten units or more. Yes really…

If you’re interested, then email the guys at soarer.uk@ntlworld.com for more information, and thank Steve Hole from www.totalkitcar.com for the tip-off.

It makes you wonder whats still left out there – if you know, let us know

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News digest

Compiled by CLIVE GOLDTHORP

1) TATA and Jaguar/Land Rover

Report: Ford exec hopes Tata talks concluded soon
Automotive News Europe/Reuters, 7th February, 2008

A SENIOR executive at Ford Motor said on Wednesday that he hopes in-depth talks with India’s Tata Motors over the sale of Ford’s Jaguar and Land Rover brands will be concluded soon.

Mark Fields, president of the company’s North American operations, told reporters on the sidelines of the Chicago auto show that he hoped ‘detailed discussions’ with India’s top vehicle maker over the sale of the two luxury brands would be concluded ‘in the relatively near term.’

Fields said Ford expects US auto industry sales of 16 million units in 2008 – including light and heavy vehicles – with the second half stronger than the first half of the year. He said that he hopes US Federal Reserve rate cuts and a potential government economic stimulus plan would have an impact on US auto sales in the second half of the year.


Tata to meet union as deal nears
Financial Times, 7th February, 2008

TATA Motors and the main trade union at Jaguar and Land Rover will meet in London tomorrow following signs that Ford Motor’s talks to sell the two marques are nearing an agreement.

Tata’s bid secured the union’s support last year largely thanks to supporting the five-year business plan already in place at Jaguar and Land Rover. It has also informally courted Unite’s rank and file through meetings with shop stewards.

Don Leclair, Ford’s chief financial officer, told the FT last month that the company planned to sell the two brands, which share a pension fund, management and accounts, in their entirety. Tata and Ford are now working through thousands of pages of agreements covering engine supply, information technology, intellectual property, and the two brands’ financial services.

Unite backed Tata over rival bids from carmaker Mahindra & Mahindra and buy-out group One Equity Partners. Amid continuing financial losses at Jaguar, Unite members fear any buyer might move to cut staff or close plants.

Despite slowing demand for vehicles this year in the US and Western Europe, Jaguar and Land Rover are both showing signs of improved performance.

The two brands together are believed to have made a joint profit of about £600m last year, although Jaguar lost about £275m. Ford does not report individual financial results for its three premium brands, of which Volvo is the third.


2) SAIC Motor/MG And Roewe

Chinese to decide UK factory’s future
Tony Lewin, Automotive News Europe, 6th February, 2008

A HIGH-LEVEL delegation of executives from Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. is in the UK this week to discuss the integration of its local operations with those of Nanjing Automobile.

SAIC took over Nanjing late last year. The deal has delayed Nanjing’s planned restart of production at the former MG Rover plant in Longbridge, central England. No cars have been assembled there since the factory’s grand reopening in May last year. Nanjing got control of the factory in 2005 when it bought the assets of MG Rover, which collapsed because of financial problems.

The Shanghai Auto delegation will meet Nanjing managers at Longbridge and visit SAIC’s own vehicle development base at nearby Leamington Spa, said an official close to Nanjing. The executives will decide on the carmaker’s future model policy for Europe and determine which models will be assembled at the Longbridge factory. Nanjing’s plans for the plant have never been truly clear beyond the promise to build a limited volume of the MG TF roadster.

‘Crucial time’

One executive close to the process was optimistic that a decision on future models and production volumes would result from the delegation’s visit.

‘Now is a fairly crucial time in the process,’ he told Automotive News Europe. Up to three volume models could be built at the Longbridge plant, Eleanor de la Haye, Nanjing’s Longbridge spokeswoman, said.

Last month, SAIC Motor President Chen Hong said SAIC aims to restore production of original MG models in Longbridge soon. It also plans new MG models for Europe, he said.

‘The British business will become SAIC’s new platform for overseas markets and a window for SAIC to Europe.’

In 2005, Nanjing beat SAIC in a bidding war for MG Rover. Soon after the acquisition Nanjing started looking for a financial partner to help it relaunch Longbridge production. Industry observers said Nanjing did not have the financial resources to revive volume production at the plant.

Car production started in Longbridge in 1905. At its height in the 1960s the factory was one of Europe’s biggest plants, building more than 360,000 Austin, Morris and MG cars annually.


Will the Chinese help save Karmann?
Bettina Mayer & John Revill, Automotive News Europe, 8th February, 2008

KARMANN is in talks with SAIC about a future development project, Automotive News Europe has learned. Karmann officials met with SAIC representatives at Karmann’s factory in Osnabrück, northern Germany last week.

A Karmann spokesman said that the contract manufacturer and SAIC only spoke about a development project and not a production deal. ‘The group of 10 high-ranking delegates visited our facilities to explore our development capacities,” a company spokesman said. “This visit does not mean we will get a production contract.’

The spokesman said that the SAIC delegation also plans to meet with other European contract manufacturers. SAIC occupies part of the former MG Rover factory in Longbridge, central England, and is currently deciding which models to assemble at the plant.

The Chinese carmaker could bring its cars to Europe, but needs to re-engineer them to meet European customer needs. SAIC has an engineering centre next to engineering consultancy Ricardo in Leamington, central England. The center could move to Longbridge after SAIC completed the takeover of Nanjing Automobile Corporation.

Karmann would not say which models they spoke to SAIC about and when a decision will be made.

Karmann ended production of the Chrysler Crossfire last December. The German contract manufacturer will stop production of the Audi A4 convertible this autumn and the Mercedes-Benz CLK class in 2009. Karmann’s dilemma reflects the depressed state of Europe’s contract manufacturing business. Many automakers have taken back production of niche vehicles leaving contract manufacturers such as Heuliez, Bertone and Karmann struggling to find replacement business.


3) The Demise Of MG Rover Group Limited

MG Rover inquiry reaches 15-million euros
John Revill, Automotive News Europe, 8th February, 2008

THE UK government inquiry into the collapse of MG Rover has run up costs of £11m (€14.8m), it has emerged. Inspectors have spent £100,000 on hotels and £30,000 pounds on food bills in the last three years.

The figures were obtained by trade publication Accountancy Age in response to a Freedom of Information request. The investigation was launched in June 2005 after MG Rover collapsed in April 2005. It is still unknown when it will publish its report.

Lorely Burt, trade and industry spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrat Party told The Birmingham Post ‘It feels like the government has issued a blank check. It is high time all those who lost their jobs, their families and the taxpayer got answers.’

The UK government said there was nothing it could do to speed up the findings. Ministers ordered an independent investigation after the carmaker closed with the loss of 6,000 jobs at the Longbridge factory in Birmingham, central England. The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) said it could not order inspectors to end the inquiry because it was independent.

Accounting company BDO Stoy Hayward was appointed to head the investigation and has so far spent £11,155,790. This includes £95,094 on hotel costs for inspectors and a further £29,279 on food expenses. Northfield Member of Parliament Richard Burden, whose constituency includes the Longbridge factory, told The Birmingham Post: ‘Everybody said they wanted an independent investigation and it’s not independent if ministers tell the inquiry what to do.’

‘But I think the accountants have had long enough and ought to publish their findings,’ Burden said. ‘This has taken longer than the inquiries into the Iraq war.’ Lawyer Guy Newey is leading the investigation, and has been instructed to examine what went wrong between Phoenix Venture’s acquisition of the car company in 2000 and 2005, when MG Rover was bought by Nanjing Automobile Corporation.

A 2006 report to the UK government estimated the total cost of MG Rover’s collapse to taxpayers, creditors and former employees was almost £1bn.


Three years, £11m, but no end in sight for Rover inquiry…
Jonathan Walker, Political Editor, Birmingham Post, 8th February, 2008

NEARLY three years after its launch, the official inquiry into the collapse of MG Rover has run up a £100,000 hotel and £30,000 food bill. And there is no end in sight to the investigation which has so far cost £11m. The costs were condemned last night with Conservatives claiming the inspectors appointed by the Government to look into the collapse of the carmaker were ‘living like kings’.

MPs of all parties insisted the inquiry started in June 2005 must publish its findings. But the Government said there was nothing it could do to speed up findings. Ministers ordered an independent investigation after the carmaker closed with the loss of 6000 jobs at Longbridge.

Last night the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) said it could not order inspectors to end the inquiry because it was independent – as unions and MPs demanded’

The spending was condemned by Solihull MP Lorely Burt, Liberal Democrat trade and industry spokeswoman. She said: ‘Almost £100,000 was paid in hotel bills and just under £30,000 for meals and other expenses. It seems a cruel irony this company was on site living in the lap of luxury when the Rover workers were facing redundancy. It feels like the Government has issued a blank cheque. It is high time all those who lost their jobs, their families and the taxpayer got answers.’

Northfield MP Richard Burden (Lab), whose constituency includes Longbridge, said: ‘Ministers faced a difficult situation because everybody said they wanted an independent investigation and it’s not independent if ministers tell the inquiry what to do. But I think the accountants have had long enough and ought to publish their findings. This has taken longer than the inquiries into the Iraq war.’

Conservative shadow Industry Minister Charles Hendry said: ‘The more we learn about this investigation, the odder it becomes. Whilst undertaking this inquiry into the debacle at Longbridge which saw many people lose their livelihoods, the investigators are living like kings courtesy of the taxpayer. It’s extraordinary the Secretary of State has not set a ceiling on the budget. John Hutton has got to get a grip and set a date for completion and prevent it becoming another exercise in Government waste.’

A BERR spokesman said: We want an accurate, thorough and fair inspection that provides answers. The Department and the inspectors are very conscious of the need to complete the investigation as quickly and thoroughly as possible.’

Barrister Guy Newey QC is leading the investigation, and has been instructed to examine what went wrong between Phoenix Venture’s acquisition of the car company in 2000 and 2005, when MG Rover was bought by Nanjing Automobile Corporation. The National Audit Office has estimated efforts to save MG Rover and minimise the effect of its collapse cost the taxpayer £250m.

Conservatives have also accused the Government of making a mistake by backing the Phoenix Venture bid in 2000. A report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee in 2006 estimated that the total cost of MG Rover’s collapse to taxpayers, creditors and former employees was almost £1bn. This included more than £600m owed to employees and unpaid creditors, and costs of £270m to the taxpayer.

The Phoenix consortium bought Rover for £10 in 2000.

The cost of Rover, according to the Commons Public Accounts Committee:
* £500m pension scheme deficit;
* £109m owed to creditors;
* £90m from the Treasury to rescue the West Midlands economy;
* £5.2m DTI loan to Rover unlikely to be repaid.

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News digest

Compiled by CLIVE GOLDTHORP

1) TATA and Jaguar/Land Rover

Tata cannot wait to get its hands on British brands’ R&D
John Revill, Automotive News Europe, 4th February, 2008

IF Tata Motors buys Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motor, it would greatly improve the Indian automaker’s research and development capability. It also would give Tata immediate respectability as a global automaker. Those are two benefits that have convinced Tata to pursue the British automakers.

Tata is Ford’s preferred buyer for Jaguar and Land Rover. The US and Indian carmakers are in detailed discussions about the sale. Roger Maddison, national officer for the Unite union, said Tata was keen to own the carmakers’ research and development facilities in Whitley and Gaydon, England. He told Automotive News Europe in December: ‘Tata is quite excited about the prospect of getting Whitley and Gaydon. The Tata people have been around a couple of times already.’

Unite represents many Jaguar-Land Rover workers in the UK. The Whitley design center in Coventry, central England, employs 2000 people working mainly on Jaguar design and engineering, while the engineering center at Gaydon — just 20 miles to the south — has a staff of 2900 working mainly on Land Rover projects. Peter Cooke, professor of automotive management at Buckingham University in central England, told ANE that Gaydon and Whitley have state of the art R&D.

‘Tata could use both as a training base for Indian technicians and as a design consultancy. Tata has been making cars for years, but this will be a quantum leap in its research and development capability.’ Cooke said Tata was also interested in Jaguar and Land Rover because they will give Tata a presence in Europe and in a market they are not present in now.

An industry source familiar with Tata said that for the Indian company ‘this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.’


US sales plummet for Jaguar and Land Rover
John Duckers, Business Editor, Birmingham Post, 4th February, 2008

THE American downturn amidst the ongoing global credit crunch is beginning to take its toll of Jaguar and Land Rover. Both have suffered major setbacks in January’s US car sales figures. Sales of Jaguar models tumbled 52.2 per cent to 664 vehicles, from 1390 a year ago. And that is a further blow for the Big Cat after a terrible 2007 – sales were off two per cent in December to 1522, while the year saw a 24.2 per cent slump at 15,683. But Land Rover, which performed solidly in 2007 across the Pond, seems to have caught a cold, too.

Land Rover sales slipped 16.7 per cent in January to 2859 vehicles. That followed a dip of 18.7 per cent during December to 4887, although over the year they were 3.7 per cent up at 48,550. Both marques are in the process of being sold to Indian conglomerate Tata, with a deal expected to be completed by March 31. And the latest grim statistics are likely to confirm the views of Dearborn bosses that they were right to take the decision to offload the pair.

Ford’s total sales fell 4.1 per cent to 159,914 vehicles in January. Ford-branded vehicles showed a more modest decline, slipping less than one per cent to 131,074, from 132,006 vehicles a year ago. That will give the company some hope that its massive restructuring in the States may be beginning to bear fruit. Overall, company truck sales showed a slight decline, falling one per cent to 109,838 vehicles sold. Total car sales were 10 per cent adrift at 50,076 vehicles.

Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president of marketing, said the company was pleased with the January results in a ‘challenging economic and competitive environment.’ But he said sales aren’t likely to recover in the near term. ‘It’s not going to get any easier – at least for a while,’ Mr Farley added.

He said recent interest rate cuts from the Federal Reserve and a proposed government economic stimulus package might help the economy later in the year, but Ford wasn’t counting on that. ‘Our plan is based on restructuring our business to be profitable at lower demand and changed mix while also accelerating the development of new products people want to buy,’ he said. It has previously been revealed that Jaguar and Land Rover turned a profit for Ford in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Ford cut its net loss for 2007 by £5.1bn to £1.4bn. The Blue Oval company is breaking up its Premier Automotive Group (PAG) stable of luxury European brands, of which Jaguar and Land Rover are part, as a result of a massive cost-cutting programme that has seen more than a dozen factories closed in North America and nearly 33,000 jobs axed.

PAG reported a full-year pretax profit of £258m in 2007 compared with a loss of £176m the previous year. General Motors saw a surprise 2.6 per cent increase in vehicle sales in January on the back of popular new models. The rest of the major automakers reported sales declines, including Toyota, now the No. 2 best seller in the United States. Toyota suffered a 2.3 per cent dip. Chrysler, controlled by Cerberus Capital Management, said sales fell 12 per cent.

Industry executives and analysts broadly expected US auto sales to decline in January, typically a weak month, but the overall figure was worse than most foresaw. Higher petrol prices combined with the slumping housing market have raised concerns the US economy could tip into recession this year and cause consumers to delay big-ticket purchases such as new vehicles. That has led many in the auto industry to predict a second straight year of lower sales.

They suggest 2008 sales in the range of 15.5m vehicles – down from 16.14 million last year, their lowest point since 1998. January sales ran at about 15.26 million vehicles on an annualised basis, adrift almost eight per cent. New models, hybrids like the Toyota Prius and small cars performed best.


Tata happy with Jaguar talks; Fiat denies interest
Automotive News Europe/Reuters, 5th February, 2008

TATA Motors, India’s top vehicle maker, said on Monday it was pleased with the negotiations to acquire Ford Motor’s luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover, and hoped to complete a deal in weeks. Despite persistent news reports of Fiat’s interest in helping out Tata, the Italian automaker came out with a statement later Monday saying it would not take part in the bidding.

‘Furthermore, Fiat has not had discussions … with Tata regarding this potential transaction or its participation in it,’ it said. Tata, which unveiled the world’s cheapest car in January, has been in talks with Ford since it was chosen as the front-runner to buy the brands. ‘Tata Motors is pleased by the progress in the discussions with Ford to date and hopes that both parties can reach an agreement in the forthcoming weeks,’ Debasis Ray, head of corporate communications, said in a statement.

It also denied media reports that it may share the technology of Jaguar and Land Rover with Fiat, with which it has a joint venture to make cars and engines in India and an alliance for trucks in Latin America and Europe. ‘Tata Motors, which is engaged in focused and detailed negotiations with Ford on the Jaguar Land Rover business, clarifies that the company has had no discussions with Fiat on deployment of technologies developed by Jaguar and Land Rover,’ Tata said.

Fiat nevertheless said it was considering other types of collaboration with Tata that did not involve Jaguar or Land Rover.


Jaguar runs model plans past Tata
Julian Rendell, just-auto.com, 5th February, 2008

JAGUAR is eyeing a significant expansion of its model range with at least three new models, after its sell-off by Ford, most likely to Tata Motors of India. Executives and engineers are eyeing a new £40,000 two-seat sports car, a two- door coupe version of the XF saloon and most radically, a four-door version of the XK luxury coupe.

None of the three models are officially signed off, but all three have been presented to Tata Motors’ management and will be key new programmes for the Indian automaker to evaluate and decide whether to invest. Privately, insiders favour the two-seat sports car, dubbed the F-type, as the highest priority. It would be pitched against the BMW Z4, Mercedes-Benz SLK and Porsche Boxster.

Although Jag has the concept clear, it hasn’t yet decided on the industrial strategy for manufacture. Engineers favour the car as an aluminium variant of the XK, other executives favourite it as a steel variant of the new XF. The alloy F-type would be four inches (100mm) shorter than today’s XK, sit on a narrower track and be designed with an engine bay capable of taking both V6 and V8 engines. The V6 would be the volume seller and the V8 reserved for high end performance versions.

Jaguar has been interested in a two-seat sportscar since 2000, when it showed the F-type concept at Detroit. But the handsome design wasn’t based on a particular platform and Jag couldn’t industrialise the design. It eventually turned into an alloy, mid- engine design that was canned when Jag hit financial trouble four years ago.

Easier to get into production is the two-door, XF coupe. Models of this car have been built at Jag’s Whitley advanced design studio in Coventry, based around the two-inch lower roof-line of the C-XF concept. Apart from this detail, the XF coupe is understood to share its design and components with the XF saloon. Unlikely is a soft top convertible version. Engineering studies suggest that the weight of added platform strengthening would be too high and the size of the fabric roof needed too difficult to engineer.

Also vying for future investment is a long-wheelbase version of the XK, extended along the lines of Aston-Martin’s DB9-based Rapide. The XK four door would have an extra pair of rear doors and a small rear cabin, compromised to keep the XK’s elegant roofline. It would also compete against Porsche’s forthcoming Panamera and high-end Merc CLS models, as well as the Rapide. Supporters of this design believe it to be an excellent brand extension, but a secondary priority to the F-type two-seater.

Room for the swooping four-door XK in Jag’s range would be opened up when the re-skinned XJ, aka project X351, debuts in late 2009 for sale in early 2010. Essentially a new ‘top-hat’ on the alloy XJ chassis, it would get a major interior rework to squeeze in more legroom without having to extend the current XJ’s footprint. Similar clever re-packaging has made the new XF roomier than the outgoing S-type, even though it shares the same wheelbase.

Also in Jag’s new product pipeline is a 500bhp-plus XKR-R range-topper and designs for a crossover XF. Designs of the latter model have split Jaguar, with US dealers clamouring for the model, while Coventry high-ups prefer to leave 4x4s/SUVs to Land Rover.


2) SAIC Motor/MG And Roewe

MG roadster poised to return
John Reed, Financial Times, 4th February, 2008

China’s Shanghai Automotive (SAIC) hopes to begin producing the MG TF roadster in Nanjing in May and at its plant in Longbridge, UK, within three months of that date, a senior executive said yesterday. But SAIC admitted the car’s long-awaited relaunch could be delayed again as it grapples with quality issues and rebuilds tooling bought in 2005 from bankrupt MG Rover and shipped to China by Nanjing Automobile (NAC), with which SAIC merged in December.

‘We want to begin production of cars at Longbridge as soon as possible, but the first priority for us is the quality of the product,’ Chen Hong, SAIC’s president, told the Financial Times yesterday. ‘If we launch the product on the UK market and don’t have sufficient quality to meet customers’ expectations, we damage the brand.’

The relaunch of MG’s two-seater, which has a passionate UK and US following, will mark the highest-profile European debut yet for a Chinese-made car. SAIC has selected 50 dealers to sell the car, and distributed a teaser brochure of the roadster with the slogan ‘A New Journey’.

MG is also studying at least three new models, including a replacement for the TF, which it hopes to produce from 2010, Mr Chen said. However, the carmaker is still building a supply base in China and Europe that would allow it to meet European quality standards. About 70 per cent of the cars’ content, including their engines, will be made in China, and 30 per cent in Europe.

‘From the point of view of SAIC, more time is needed for quality,’ Mr Chen said. Other Chinese carmakers, including Chery Automobile, have recently postponed export plans over quality concerns. Some early Chinese cars exported to Germany have performed poorly in crash tests and been derided in the motoring press. ‘They realise the eyes of the world are upon them,’ a person close to SAIC’s management said yesterday.

SAIC is one of China’s biggest and most ambitious carmakers, with joint ventures with General Motors and Volkswagen. It acquired some of MG Rover’s model rights and makes a version of the Rover 750 saloon in China, rebranded Roewe. NAC had planned to relaunch the MG TF last year, before being sidelined by the merger. The May launch schedule for the MG TF was ‘very tight,’ Mr Chen acknowledged. The UK production launch would come ‘one, two or three months later’.

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Tata: no talks with Fiat about Jaguar and Land Rover

CLIVE GOLDTHORP


Alfa Romeo’s gorgeous ‘169’ may not, after all, use Jaguar’s XF platform…

The Automotive Industry media in Europe has recently been awash with apparently informed speculation about the potential for a JV between a Tata Motors Limited-owned Jaguar and Land Rover and Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A’s. (FGA’s) Alfa Romeo marque.

However, in a move no doubt intended to put an end to that speculation, Tata Motors’ Head (Corporate Communications), Debasis Ray, has today issued a Press Release in which he states: ‘Tata Motors, which is engaged in focused and detailed negotiations with Ford on the Jaguar Land Rover business, clarifies that the company has had no discussions with Fiat on deployment of technologies developed by Jaguar and Land Rover.

‘Tata Motors is pleased by the progress in the discussions with Ford to date and hopes that both the parties can reach an agreement in the forthcoming weeks.’

AROnline can still, nevertheless, see the commercial logic of a cooperation agreement between Jaguar and Land Rover and FGA/Alfa Romeo which would provide Alfa Romeo with access to both the Jaguar XF platform and Jaguar or Land Rover’s Dealer Networks in the United States.

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News digest

Compiled by CLIVE GOLDTHORP

1) TATA and Jaguar/Land Rover

Fiat boss hopes Tata will share Jaguar’s secrets
Ray Hutton, Sunday Times, 3rd February, 2008

FIAT has its eyes on technology developed by Jaguar and Land Rover and hopes to use it in Alfa Romeos and Maseratis. Ford, which owns the two British marques, is in talks to sell them to Tata, the Indian conglomerate. Tata collaborates extensively with Fiat, with several joint ventures in India including vehicle and engine production, and a shared dealer network.

Sergio Marchionne, Fiat’s chief executive, told The Sunday Times last week he hoped Tata would be successful in acquiring Jaguar and Land Rover. Marchionne said Fiat’s close association with Tata would make it possible to share Jaguar’s rear-wheel drive chassis platforms and Land Rover’s four-wheel drive systems. The first application would be a new flagship model for Alfa Romeo.

Fiat evaluated the two British premium car brands when Ford put them up for sale last year, but decided not to bid. Marchionne said Fiat was open to expanding its relationship with Tata into Europe, where Tata sells cars in only a few countries, and that it would ‘look at the possibilities’ for European distribution of the recently launched Tata Nano, which will sell for £1225 in India.

The Fiat chief has presided over a remarkable turnround at Fiat. Last week he received the Car of the Year trophy for the new Fiat 500. He announced that production of this model, for which 140,000 orders have been received, will be increased from the planned volume of 120,000 a year to 190,000. From the end of this year, the new Ford Ka will be built alongside the 500 at the Fiat plant in Tychy, Poland. Marchionne is adamant that although they will be the same technically, the 500 and Ka will present an entirely different image to the public.

The possibility of Tata sharing some of its newly acquired technology could answer analysts’ concerns about how it will handle Jaguar. Land Rover’s SUVs look a good fit with Tata’s existing range but the Indians have no experience with luxury saloons and sports cars.


Jaguar and Land Rover make money for Ford
John Cranage, Birmingham Post 25th January, 2008

Up-for-sale Jaguar and Land Rover turned a profit for parent group Ford in the fourth quarter of 2007, the Detroit carmaker said yesterday. The two West Midland luxury brands were put up for auction last year and Ford is now finalising a deal with its preferred bidder, the Indian conglomerate Tata whose interests encompass steel, cars and tea.

A final announcement is expected to be made in the next few weeks, with Tata expected to see off rival offers from Mahindra & Mahindra, another India vehicle maker, and One Equity Partners, a private equity group whose bid for Jaguar and Land Rover is led by former Ford chief executive Jac Nasser. Ford announced yesterday that it had cut its net loss for 2007 by £5.1bn to £1.4bn.

The Blue Oval company is breaking up its Premier Automotive Group (PAG) stable of luxury European brands, of which Jaguar and Land Rover are part, as part of a massive cost-cutting programme that has seen more than a dozen factories closed in North America and nearly 33,000 jobs axed. Like its bigger Detroit rival General Motors, Ford has been hit by the double blow of soaring pension and healthcare costs and haemorrhaging sales as dollar-conscious turned their backs on its big gas-guzzling vehicles in the teeth of soaring petrol prices.

PAG reported a full-year pre-tax profit of £258m in 2007 compared with a loss of £176m the previous year. The improvement was due to a boom in sales and higher prices at Land Rover, which broke records for the third year running plus some cost cutting. Volvo, the third PAG brand, which Ford is retaining, made a loss last year, the company said.

For the fourth quarter of last year, PAG reported a £30.2m compared with £89m in the same period the year before, although comparisons are slewed by the absence of one-off profits included in the 2006 accounts. ‘Within PAG, Volvo was break even, with the combined Jaguar and Land Rover operations accounting for the profit,’ Ford said.

The company did not give separate figures for the two West Midland operations, but it is widely known within the industry that Land Rover contributes profits while Jaguar makes losses. The situation at Jaguar is, however, slowly improving as the manufacturer begins to reap the benefits of abandoning its ill-judged pursuit of volume in favour of concentrating on selling more profitable higher margin cars at the upper end of the model spectrum.

Despite putting the brake on its group losses last year, Ford was yesterday cautious about its prospects for 2008, especially with the US seemingly heading into a recession, and warned that it expects another annual deficit. It said it would take further cost-cutting actions on its home turf, including offering buyouts to all of its unionised workers. US car sales fell for the second consecutive year in 2007, and the consensus among Wall Street analysts and high-profile investors points to a further decline this year. ‘Concerns about a weaker US economy are well-founded, but we believe that Ford is relatively well-positioned to weather a slowdown,’ Calyon Securities analyst Mark Warnsman said.

Ford reported a fourth-quarter net loss of £1.4bn compared with a loss of £2.9bn. ‘Although our automotive operations are improving on a year-over-year basis, the US economy is slowing and the outlook for the auto industry remains challenging,’ Ford chief executive Alan Mulally said.


No stake for Ford after Tata sell-off
Birmingham Post 31st January, 2008

There were new indications last night that Ford has no plans to retain a minority stake in Jaguar and Land Rover following a sale of the West Midland luxury car brands. The US group is in detailed negotiations with its preferred bidder, India’s Tata industrial conglomerate, but no announcement is expected before the end of March or the beginning of April.

There has been speculation that Ford would retain a junior interest in the two companies, as it has done with Aston Martin. But an Indian financial newspaper said yesterday that Tata Motors was gearing up for an outright purchase of Jaguar and Land Rover, for which it is expected to pay in the region of £1bn. The Economic Times of India, quoting ‘sources close to the development’, said Ford was confident enough about the future of the companies in Tata’s hands not to feel the need to retain an interest.

The report reinforced comments made by Ford group chief financial officer Don Leclair in Detroit last week.

Answering questions at the Blue Oval’s annual financial results presentation, Mr Leclair said: ‘Our plan right now is to sell the business in its entirety.’ Neither Ford nor Tata would comment yesterday. Trade unions representing some 16,000 Jaguar and Land Rover employees want Ford to retain an interest in order to protect the continuity of the manufacturers’ plants at Solihull, Castle Bromwich and Hale-wood on Merseyside.

It is believed that union leaders have been invited to tour a Tata plant at Pune in India in order to get a feel for the company’s manufacturing capabilities. Jaguar design director Ian Callum recently became the first senior executive of the company to give his views on the prospect of a Tata takeover.

Management was ‘entirely relaxed’ and believes that both companies would be free to develop new cars in whatever way they thought best. Mr Callum, who is responsible for the XK sports and XF saloon, the two models expected to restore Jaguar to profitability, was quoted as saying: “We have shown Tata our new model lines and the planned product cycle.

‘The two national cultures appear to fit together very well and Tata is being very respectful about what we are doing.’ Meanwhile, automotive industry expert Geraldine Tickle said a takeover by Tata of Jaguar and Land Rover would put a question mark over the Indian group’s European Technology Centre which has been based at Warwick University since 2005.

Ms Tickle, a partner at Birmingham and London law firm Martineau Johnson, said Jaguar and Land Rover had their own research and development centres. A takeover could ‘mean the end of the road’ for Tata’s complex, which was set up to enable the fast-growing group to acquire western automotive development expertise. Such a takeover would take two West Midland global manufacturers into ‘uncharted territory with uncertain consequences’, Ms Tickle said.

‘It is hard to see the way these businesses will go if the Tata deal goes ahead. Tata has some characteristics of a global conglomerate, with many different businesses, including commercial vehicles, in their portfolio but as regards cars, their interests until now seem to have been at the bottom end of the market.’

She went on to say that she believes that a ‘wholesale shift of production elsewhere’ is unlikely under Tata.


2) SAIC Motor/MG And Roewe

No fears over MG at council
Neil Elkes, Birmingham Mail 23rd January, 2008

NANJING gave a cast-iron guarantee to Birmingham’s council leader that full-scale production at Longbridge would launch by the end of March, it emerged today. Coun. Mike Whitby was given the assurances in face to face talks with MG owner Nanjing Automobile during a high-profile trip to China.

Today, Coun. Whitby said he remained ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the future of Longbridge. Union bosses claimed in yesterday’s Birmingham Mail that signs of an MG relaunch were ‘non-existent’, and that their requests for assurances had been brushed aside. Coun. Whitby drove a new hand-made MG off the Longbridge factory last May to herald the start of its new era of Chinese production, but the unions say little has happened since then.

A spokeswoman for Coun. Whitby said there might be some ‘slippage’ on the production timetable, but he was confident that production will start. Coun. Whitby (Con, Harborne) said: ‘It is my belief that the MG marque has powerful appeal and I look forward to the day when MGs are produced. SAIC has now merged with Nanjing, which gives me cautious optimism, and I look forward to my forthcoming meeting with its senior management.’

Northfield Labour MP Richard Burden said the merger would offer greater opportunities for Longbridge. ‘Whatever the frustrations, it is much more important to get the automotive operation at Longbridge right for the long-term rather than to rush it.’

NAC told Coun. Whitby in China that it would start large-scale production in the first quarter of 2008.


SAIC appoints senior management to strengthen Nanjing Auto
Namrita Chow, Automotive News Europe, 1st February, 2008.


MG 3 will be launched soon…

SHANGHAI — Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (SAIC) has appointed senior SAIC management to head Nanjing Automobile, strengthening the company and bringing it under stricter SAIC control. Chen Zhi Xin has been appointed general manager of Nanjing Automobile Corp. Chen was previously vice-president of SAIC. Earlier, Chen Zhi Xin managed Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive, a 50-50 joint venture between Volkswagen and SAIC.

The MG division is now under General Manager Huang Ke Ji. He was previously general manager at Shanghai GM Dongyue Motors. Shanghai GM Dongyue is a joint venture between General Motors and SAIC. ‘SAIC is strengthening the controlling of Nanjing Auto by appointing Mr. Chen and Mr. Huang,’ says John Zeng, Senior Market Analyst, Asian Automotive Research, Global Insight.

SAIC continues to develop the MG brand at its Nanjing Automobile base in Nanjing, under SAIC leadership. The company will roll out three MG cars this year. Lv Qiang, spokesperson for Nanjing MG says: ‘MG 3SW (station wagon) will be launched after the spring festival.’ The MG 3SW launch will be followed by the launch of the MG TF roadster. A third MG car, the MG3 family sedan will be launched later this year, says Lv.

Under SAIC management, Roewe and MG will continue to be produced as two separate brands, says a company executive who declined to be named. A fourth car, based on the MG 5 series, will begin development. SAIC and MG will both develop cars on SAIC’s W261 platform. SAIC will develop the Roewe 550. MG will develop the MG 5.

Local media reports say the two cars will share r&d, procurement and planning operations. Although SAIC has appointed senior management at Nanjing, the official name of Nanjing Automobile Corp., has not been changed, says the executive. The executive also points out that no other major management changes are expected.

The Longbridge, England, plant will continue to work on the MG cars, beginning with the TF launch later this year. In an earlier interview, Chen Hong, president of SAIC said: ‘The British business will become SAIC’s new platform for overseas markets and a window of SAIC toward Europe.’

Chen says production of MG models in Longbridge will start soon. SAIC plans new MG models for Europe, he says. ‘We will thoroughly consider the requirements of European customers and EU regulations when we develop our new products and continue to improve MG brand’s image in Europe,’ he says. In 2007 the Roewe 750 had total sales of 16,549, earning it a segment share of 2 per cent. The MG 7 had total sales of 3131 units according to data from Automotive Resources Asia.

SAIC will also shift some production of the best-selling Santana 3000, made by Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive, to the Nanjing Fiat plant. ‘The latest version of Santana will be produced in the Nanjing Fiat plant from this May,’ says an official of the Nanjing Jiangning Economic & Technological Development Zone, where the former Nanjing Fiat plant is located.

Suppliers of Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive say the Nanjing plant will begin production of the Santana 3000 on May 1. A supplier says about 500 people from Nanjing are being trained at Shanghai Volkswagen’s plant. In December, SAIC acquired Nanjing Auto and the Nanjing-Fiat partnership was ended. Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive is a 50-50 joint venture of SAIC and Volkswagen.

The Nanjing Jiangning development official says the former Nanjing Fiat plant will be run at full capacity with an annual output of 60,000 vehicles. Plant capacity will be expanded in the future, he says. He also says Shanghai Volkswagen is looking at producing a model of the joint venture’s own brand at the Nanjing plant. The model is under development, says the official.

Shanghai Volkswagen started sales of the Santana Vista, the latest generation of Santana 3000, at the beginning of January.

The Santana 3000 is one of the best-selling models of Shanghai Volkswagen. The company sold 97,048 units of the Santana 3000 in 2007, up 17 per cent from 2006, according to Automotive Resources Asia, a division of J.D. Power and Associates. Shanghai Volkswagen currently makes the Santana 3000 at a plant in Shanghai’s Anting District.

Kevin Huang contributed to this report


3) China Watch

Cooperation deal
Shanghai Daily 24th January, 2008

BRILLIANCE Automotive Holdings Corp. yesterday signed agreement with SAIC Motor’s subsidiary Shanghai Automobile Gear Works Co. Ltd. to deepen cooperation on developing advanced transmissions. Both companies agreed to jointly produce 500,000 transmissions every year including 100,000 automatic transmissions. Total output could be further lifted to meet rising demand.

Dongfeng said to be in talks on Hafei deal
Shanghai Daily 25th January, 2008

China’s third-largest car maker Dongfeng Motor Group Co is in talks to acquire smaller home rival Hafei Automobile Group, people close to the deal said. The buyout might be the latest merger and acquisition deal in China’s auto industry following the alliance of SAIC Motor and Nanjing Auto last month as the nation encourages industrial tie-ups to increase competitiveness against overseas peers.

Wuhan-based Dongfeng has already launched a due diligence probe against the mini van maker Hafei, the people, who preferred to remain anonymous, said yesterday. Zhou Mi, a spokesman of Dongfeng Motor, didn’t deny the possible takeover, saying he was not aware of the issue yet. Officials from Hafei were not available for comment yesterday.

Details of the deal emerged as part of consolidation plans of China National Aviation Corp Group, or CNAC, which plans to exit the auto business and focus on the airline and aviation-related sector. CNAC, the parent company of China’s second-largest carrier Air China, also has other auto-related assets in an engine manufacturer and Chang He Auto, the Chinese partner of Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp.

‘Dongfeng will benefit from an expanded output with Hafei’s facilities in north China and a more complete product line-up with its small engine-sized vehicle,” said Dong Jianhua, an auto analyst at Southwest Securities Co Ltd. The deal will also help Hafei enter the profitable and passenger car segment.”

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Tata to get all of Jaguar, Land Rover

JOHN REVILL, Automotive News Europe

Ford Motor has no plans to keep a stake in its Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands, an industry source told Automotive News Europe. Ford earlier this month picked Tata Motors as the front-runner to the purchase of the two brands. It had been thought that Ford would wish to keep a stake in Jaguar-Land Rover to protect its supply contracts for components such as engines.

‘There is no need for it,’ the source said. “Ford really wants to concentrate on its North American operations; that is the whole reason why it is selling Jaguar and Land Rover.” Retaining a stake, however small, would only divert management time from the North American turnaround plan, the source said.

The Indian media also are reporting that Tata Motors is preparing for ‘an outright purchase’ of Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands. ‘Ford has decided not to retain a minority stake, as it is convinced about the future development of these two brands in the hands of the Tatas,’ the Economic Times said, citing sources close to the development.

Both Jaguar and Land Rover use Ford supplied engines, while Ford kept a stake in Aston Martin when it sold the luxury carmaker last March. The ANE source said Tata had agreed to continue to use Ford components. ‘Everything has been resolved. Tata will use Ford engines and other parts for the foreseeable future,’ the source said.

The deal, which is expected to be completed early this year, has been pegged at $1.5bn to $2bn (£750m-£1bn) by analysts. ‘We are still in detailed and focused discussions with Tata Motors, and these discussions are confidential,’ a spokesman for Ford Motor told the Economic Times. A Tata spokesman declined to comment to ANE, saying the discussions are confidential.

Reuters contributed to this report

Posted in: AROnline News
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and watched it steadily grow into AROnline. Is the Editor of Classic Car Weekly, and has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, Classic Car Weekly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

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