November 24, 2020

Nissan’s Net Profit Jumps

But Carlos Ghosn, who heads both the Japanese firm and France’s Renault SA, said that while Nissan’s annual global retail sales volumes will reach a record, he expects the European market to face another tough year.

“I think 2013 is going to be tough and I don’t foresee any growth in Europe probably before the end of (Nissan’s) mid-term plan, which means not before 2016, or even later,” Ghosn told a news conference at Nissan’s headquarters in Yokohama.

“We think the European consumer lacks of confidence. The European consumer is confused, he doesn’t know when Europe is going to get out of this crisis and until he sees or understands what’s going on in Europe, I don’t think (he’s) going to buy cars,” he said.

Nissan, Japan’s second biggest automaker by sales volume, expects global retail sales of 5.3 million vehicles in the business year that ends in March 2014, up from 4.9 million last year, when it eked out a 1.4 percent year-on-year rise.

That paled in comparison with increases in the same period for Toyota, which rose 16.3 percent, and Honda, which grew 32.2 percent.

Of the Japanese automakers, Nissan is the most exposed to China. The world’s biggest auto market accounts for about a quarter of its global sales.


A sales slowdown there last year as customers spurned Japanese brands in response to a diplomatic spat between the countries has led to uncertainty about whether Nissan will be able to achieve its goal of winning 8 percent global market share by March 2017, with an operating margin of 8 percent.

Ghosn was bullish, saying year-on-year sales in China were higher in April and that he expects a full recovery in China sales by the end of 2013, and that the overall mid-term plan is on track.

The company said on Friday it expects to make a net profit of 420 billion yen (2.74 billion pounds) in the year to March 2014, below an average forecast of 475.1 billion yen made by 19 analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Its profit growth rate forecast was also below Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co, partly because Nissan, which tends to use more imported components for parts in the cars it makes in Japan than do its rivals, is less able to cash in on the weakening yen.

In January-March, Nissan net profit’s grew 46.1 percent to 110 billion yen, above an average forecast of 100.8 billion yen net profit made by five analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

(Reporting by Yoko Kubota and James Topham; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

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European Cloud Over Ford

On Tuesday, Ford, the second-biggest American automaker, behind General Motors, startled the industry again by predicting that Europe, a critical market, would get worse before it begins improving later this year.

Ford said European auto sales, including commercial vehicles, could fall as low as 13 million this year, and its own annual losses in the region could reach $2 billion. Europe is Ford’s second-largest market, after North America.

“The industry did 14 million last year, and that was the worst in 20 years,” Bob Shanks, Ford’s chief financial officer, said in an interview. “But the industry is continuing to decline, and we think 13 million is the trough.”

The dire predictions for Europe overshadowed what were otherwise positive fourth-quarter results, which Ford reported on Tuesday.

The company reported a 54 percent gain in adjusted fourth-quarter profit as strong earnings in North America compensated for heavy losses in Europe. Ford said it earned $1.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared with $1.03 billion a year earlier, excluding the impact of tax-valuation allowances in 2011. Those allowances inflated last year’s fourth-quarter net income to $13.6 billion.

For the full year, Ford said it earned $5.67 billion, a 5 percent drop from $5.97 billion in 2011, not including the tax-valuation changes, which increased the 2011 earnings to $20.2 billion.

The auto market in Western Europe remains abysmal, but some analysts agree with Ford’s assessment that sales may be close to their low point and could start to recover late this year as the euro zone crisis subsides.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs forecast that European auto sales would fall an additional 2.2 percent in 2013, to 12.9 million vehicles. But they will rise 3.9 percent in 2014, Goldman predicted, as car buyers start to feel more secure about their economic prospects.

In the meantime, though, companies like General Motors’ Opel unit and PSA Peugeot Citröen are trying to make broad reductions in jobs and production capacity.

The recovery, if it comes, could be too late for many workers and even some of the manufacturers.

The companies that have suffered the most are those that depend on the mass market and on southern Europe, including Fiat, Peugeot and Renault. Steady declines in sales since 2007 have left two-thirds of European auto plants operating at a loss, Goldman Sachs analysts estimated.

North American sales have been a bright spot for the world’s automakers, and Ford is no exception. Ford’s overall revenue in the fourth quarter was $36.5 billion, a 5 percent increase from $34.6 billion in the same period a year earlier. For all of 2012, revenue was $134.3 billion, 1 percent less than $136.3 billion in 2011.

Healthy sales of new vehicles in North America resulted in good profit margins, particularly in the United States, where the overall industry grew 13 percent last year.

Ford said it had $1.87 billion in pretax earnings in North America during the quarter, a 110 percent increase from $889 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. For all of 2012, Ford had pretax profit of $8.34 billion in North America, compared with $6.19 billion in 2011.

But the company’s European operations continued to struggle as overall demand plunged, particularly in southern Europe.Ford reported a $732 million pretax loss in Europe for the fourth quarter, compared with a $190 million loss in the same period in 2011.

For all of 2012, Ford said it had a pretax loss of $1.75 billion in the region. By comparison, the company reported a loss of $27 million in Europe for all of 2011.

Investors, apparently shaken by the scale of the losses and Ford’s dismal forecast for 2013, sent the automaker’s shares down nearly 5 percent to $13.14 in Tuesday’s trading.

Jack Ewing contributed reporting from Frankfurt.

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Wheels Blog: Toyota to Pay Record $17.35 Million Fine for Delaying Recall

For the fourth time in two years, Toyota has agreed to pay fines related to allegations of delaying safety recalls.Kimimasa Mayama/European Pressphoto Agency For the fourth time in two years, Toyota has agreed to pay fines related to allegations of delaying safety recalls.

For the fourth time, Toyota has agreed to pay a fine to settle allegations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the automaker delayed a safety recall.

In a news release Tuesday morning, the safety agency said Toyota would pay $17.35 million, the maximum allowed by law.

Toyota did not admit any wrongdoing and said it was paying the fine to avoid a continued dispute with the safety agency. The automaker said the same thing when agreeing to pay the three previous fines, which totaled $48.8 million.

The recall the safety agency says was delayed occurred last June and covered 154,036 sport utility vehicles — the 2010 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h — to fix a problem that might allow the floor mat to become snagged on the gas pedal.

The safety agency contends that those vehicles should have been included in an October 2009 recall of 3.8 million vehicles for the same issue.

But the agency says it wasn’t until early this year — after it contacted Toyota about consumer complaints of floor-mat problems on the two 2010 Lexus models — that the automaker agreed the recall should be expanded.

In a statement Toyota said it was “dedicated to the safety of our customers and we continue to strengthen our data collection and evaluation process to ensure we are prepared to take swift action to meet customers’ needs.”

The safety agency described the $17.35 million fine as a record. That is the maximum currently allowed by law; the amount is periodically increased to reflect inflation.

Some consumer safety advocates, like Clarence Ditlow, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, have long argued that such amounts are no more than a “rounding error” for automakers and that to make companies take their responsibility more seriously, auto executives should face criminal penalties.

The previous fines occurred in April 2010 and twice in December 2010.

Toyota routinely describes its recalls as “voluntary,” but under federal regulations once a manufacturer is aware of a safety problem it has five business days to inform the agency of its plan for a recall.

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Saab Resumes Production With Push From Chinese Partner

Saab Automobile said on Friday that it was aiming to produce a “first batch of around 100 cars,” which would be the first time since April 6 that the plant had produced vehicles. The company said it hoped to increase output over the next few weeks “in parallel with the full re-establishment of the supply chain.”

“We have gone through a rough patch in recent weeks, but Saab is back in action again,” Victor Muller, the chief executive of Saab and its parent company, the Dutch automaker Spyker Cars, said in a statement.

Spyker bought Saab from General Motors last year, taking on a daunting challenge in trying to restore it to health. But Mr. Muller is aiming to generate cash by selling some of Saab’s real estate holdings to a Russian businessman, Vladimir A. Antonov.

The company’s rebuilding plans are complicated by the fact that it needs financial support from the European Investment Bank and the Swedish government to modernize.

Mr. Muller was joined at the plant by Pang Qinghua, chief executive of Pang Da Automobile, the largest publicly traded car distributor in China. Pang Da stepped in on May 16 and provided crucial aid to get Saab back online after the collapse of a previous deal with Hawtai Motor left the Swedish company scrambling to stay alive.

Saab said that the factory in Trollhattan had outstanding orders for more than 6,500 cars, and that total orders for the company — including for 1,600 Saab 9-4X cars — amounted to more than 8,100 vehicles. Pang Da itself has ordered about 1,300 cars, paying 30 million euros, or $43 million, up front.

Mr. Muller was upbeat about Saab’s prospects for entry into the Chinese auto market, the world’s biggest, with its new partner. But Pang Da must first win approval for a tie-up from the Beijing authorities. Saab has said the deal with Hawtai fell apart because it feared the Chinese company would be unable to obtain official authorization in time to rescue Saab.

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