News : 22 September 2008

News digest

Compiled by Clive Goldthorp

1) SAIC Motor/MG and Roewe

Roewe SUV on the market H1 next year
China Car Times 13th September, 2008

Roewe is still reportedly out testing their Roewe branded SUV, which is more than likely to be a reskinned Kyron from SAIC’s Korean brand, SsangYong.

According to Internet media reports, SAIC are reportedly working hard to bring the Kyron into the Roewe design styling that will be used on the Roewe 550. SAIC are improving the luxury levels as well as the looks of the Korean designed SUV. The Kyron will be produced in China within the first half of 2009 and could well be triple branded as MG, Roewe, and SsangYong, although that seems a little extreme even by Chinese standards. Chances are, the Kyron will be a Roewe/SsangYong only model and probably won’t see MG use.

SAIC opens third plant in city with Roewe 550
Jin Jing , Shanghai Daily 20th September, 2008

SAIC Motor Corp yesterday opened a 150,000-unit production facility in Shanghai as part of an effort to lead China’s self-branded vehicle market. The 1.2 million-square-meter factory is located in Lingang Industrial Zone, 75 kilometers south of downtown Shanghai, and cost 2.9 billion yuan (US$424.2 million), said Chen Zhixin, executive vice president of SAIC Motor. The first phase will cover around 670,000 square meters.

It will be the nation’s largest auto maker’s third passenger car plant, enabling SAIC to have a total capacity of 300,000 self-branded cars a year in full operation. “We are committed to be the leader in China’s self-branded car market and form our own competitiveness for sustained growth,” said Chen. SAIC has another two plants in Yizheng and Nanjing in Jiangsu Province after it took over the smaller domestic rival Nanjing Auto at the end of last year.

Besides the production expansion, the Chinese partner of General Motors Corp and Volkswagen AG, has also set up three engineering centres in China and overseas. The Shanghai plant was unveiled yesterday with a Roewe 550 rolling off the assembly line. The vehicle is SAIC’s second self-owned model, following the Roewe 750 mid-to-high class sedan introduced in early 2007.

Chen said the Lingang plant was designed to make six models on two platforms. A new mid-class sedan would be launched by the end of next year. The car maker was also developing a compact car in the Nanjing hub in addition to a new engine with smaller displacement, he said. SAIC is one of a raft of domestic car makers aggressively taking initiatives to develop Chinese-owned vehicles in moves to be more independent from their overseas partners and enhance global competitiveness.

SAIC said it aimed to produce 600,000 units of self-designed cars by 2010, including 200,000 units of self-designed passenger cars and 400,000 units of commercial cars with self-developed technology.

2) Jaguar and Land Rover

Tata starts work on reducing JLR CO2 emissions 15th September, 2008

Tata has started work on reducing emissions from the Jaguar and Land Rover brands to help them comply with future European Union CO2 emissions limits.

Tata Motors managing director, Ravi Kant, told the Times of India that measures were underway. A spokesperson for the brands said that an 18% reduction in fleet CO2 emissions was expected over the next few years. No company publishes overall average fleet CO2 emissions but according to independent calculations Jaguar’s average emissions in the UK were almost 200g/km in 2007 and Land Rover’s were 250g/km. Not surprisingly these are at the top end of the scale compared to small car brands such as Fiat (142g/km). The EU legislation is targeting overall average fleet CO2 emissions of 130g/km by 2012, down from 160g/km in 2007.

One of the reasons that Ford sold Jaguar and Land Rover is the fact that the brands will struggle to meet future limits, but according to the Times of India, the companies are planning to invest £700m in developing new environmental technologies and introduce new manufacturing materials. “A whole lot of technologies are being worked out that include biofuels and hybrids. Apart from that, we are looking at getting in lightweight structure for manufacturing our cars, further developing on Jaguar’s expertise in aluminium body structures,” a spokesperson told the Indian newspaper.

COMMENT: Mr. Tata’s note over Jaguar XF showed good manners
Edward Lapham, Automotive News Europe 15th September, 2008

When was the last time some big shot sent you a handwritten note apologizing for an offhand comment made in a meeting? I don’t mean a garden-variety harsh, nasty comment; just an opinion that he later wanted to correct. Don’t strain yourself trying to remember. If it ever happened to you, you wouldn’t forget.

Al Kammerer hasn’t.

Last year, as part of the run-up to being sold by Ford Motor, executives from Jaguar and Land Rover made presentations to bidders on various aspects of the companies and the brands. Part of the process was a product review that included Kammerer, who was director of engineering and product development for Jaguar and Land Rover at the time. During one of the meetings, billionaire Ratan Tata, whose enterprise eventually bought the two brands, expressed concern about one of the design details on the then-new Jaguar XF.

Tata’s comment didn’t faze Kammerer, who retired from Ford this year. During his 34-year career at Ford, Kammerer had participated in scores of design review meetings in which executives routinely and enthusiastically critiqued each other’s work. So he forgot about it. But the 70-year-old Tata didn’t. When the English enthusiast magazine What Car? named the Jaguar XF its 2008 car of the year, the Indian industrialist sent Kammerer a note, allowing that his original opinion may have been too hasty.

To those familiar with the ways of established Western automakers, it may seem remarkable that a powerful business leader would admit he may have been wrong and take the time to put it in writing. It must be a cultural thing. You know, like good manners.

Maybe more significantly, it shows that although Tata has a more-or-less hands-off approach to letting managers run their businesses, it’s important to pay attention to the little personal details. That’s not something I’d forget, either.

3) India Watch

Tata says state offers home for Nano
Automotive News Europe 18th September, 2008

KOLKATA, India (Reuters) — India’s Tata Motors said on Thursday the southern state of Karnataka had offered land for a production plant for its cheap Nano car after the firm suspended work in West Bengal due to violent protests. The company planned to roll out the 100,000-rupee ($2380) Nano from communist-run West Bengal from October, but farmers angry over losing their land and supported by opposition politicians forced work to be halted.

“Karnataka has offered 1,000 acres (400 ha) of land and incentives for setting up the Nano plant in the state,” a Tata Motors spokeswoman said after Ravi Kant, the firm’s managing director, had met the state’s chief minister. Kant later told TV channels the company was considering its options on moving the plant out of Singur, an hour’s drive from West Bengal capital Kolkata.

“In case we were thinking of relocating the plant from Singur he (chief minister) would give all necessary support and assistance and incentives to make it happen. “We are watching the situation and actively looking at alternatives.” Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa told reporters he was hopeful the Nano factory would be relocated to his state. Tata Motors had said it would look for alternative locations for a plant for the Nano, dubbed the world’s cheapest car, after calling a halt to work in West Bengal.

Farmers in Singur, where Tata Motors was building its factory, say they were forced off their land without adequate compensation. Some said their consent was not sought and land was seized by authorities. They want their land returned and have been backed by the local Trinamool Congress party, which has been spearheading the protests.

But Tata Motors and state government officials said land where the factory was being set up could not be handed back to the farmers, and instead offered to raise the compensation by 50 per cent. The Trinamool Congress rejected the offer, threatening more protests. The dispute reflects a larger standoff between industry in India and farmers unwilling to part with land in a country where two-thirds of the billion-plus population depend on agriculture.

Keith Adams
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