GM

Japanese carmakers have been pouring money into Mexico in recent years.

Squeezed by higher production costs as a result of the weak yen, many have set up production lines in Mexico, lured by the country’s inexpensive labour and easy access to the key North American market.

In fact, so modern and cost-effective are their Mexican operations that General Motors, the leading US carmarker, this week tapped Nissan to help it build small cargo vans to sell in the US and Canada. 

General Motors’ South Korean subsidiary, acquired in 2002, has become one of the US company’s most successful foreign operations. But it has been a difficult ride, with the company plagued by strikes and speculation that it may reduce its presence in Korea, or pull out altogether.

These concerns may be eased by GM’s announcement on Friday of a Won8tn ($7.3bn) five-year investment plan, aimed at expanding research and production. 

Labour unions at GM’s Korean subsidiary are up in arms over the company’s plans to shed jobs and to move some production out of the country, as the carmaker launches a new early retirement programme for office workers.

It is GM’s second attempt so far this year to reduce its headcount as it tries to cut costs with European losses weighing on profits. 

Payback time? Back in 2009, Argentina lent money to General Motors to ensure production and jobs were preserved amid the global economic slowdown (it paid it back the following year). Three years on, the US automaker is investing 2.13bn pesos – about $450m – to base production of a new vehicle in Argentina. 

For global automakers, the Russian car industry appears to be a bright spot - a very, very bright spot - against a dismal European auto market.

At the Moscow auto show, which kicked off on the outskirts of the Russian capital on Wednesday, brands like General Motors, Volkswagen and BMW were falling over themselves to emphasise the market’s importance to their brands, lay out expansion plans and praise the Russian car buyer. 

Car dealers in any society are pretty much at the bottom of the pile when it comes to public trust. Ironically in China – where consumers are hyper-distrustful of all merchants at the best of times – car dealers have not been around long enough to become the particular object of public disdain they are in the west. They still have that to look forward to.

So there may not be much public sympathy for complaints from auto dealers that they are carrying too much inventory as the Chinese car market pulls out of a traditionally slow first quarter and ramps up for the usually busy spring and summer sales seasons.