Bo Andersson CEO OAO Gaz Interview

Photo: Bloomberg

By Ben Aris of bne

Skoda, the Czech subsidiary of German car giant Volkswagen, launched production of its aptly named Yeti sports utility vehicle at GAZ’s facility in Nizhny Novgorod on December 6, as the iconic Russian car maker takes another step on the road to recovery.

GAZ (which stands for the Gorky Automotive Plant) was effectively bankrupt when Bo Andersson (pictured) was hired by owner oligarch Oleg Deripaska in 2009. “It was a nightmare. We owed $250m to suppliers, but within ten months we managed to pay them all back,” says the former Swedish brigadier general who remade himself as a car man working for General Motors. Read more

The production line at Opel’s factory in Gliwice in southern Poland is humming, with a steady stream of new Astra models rolling out of the factory – but a chat with factory executives reveals a much grimmer picture.

Output hit 174,000 units last year, its best since the pre-crisis year of 2007. But this year is likely to see a fall below 140,000 cars, says Jacek Zarnowiecki, personnel director for GM Poland.  “2012 will be a down year as we face a second wave of the crisis. Our portfolio seems to be quite good, but we have to improve our marketing and the company image.” Read more

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. Read more

The early 2012 surge in global sales of cars and vans will slow – but demand will still grow, thanks largely to emerging markets. But the market for trucks and buses will be flat – even with the help of EMs.

That’s the view of Volkswagen, the German motor group, which on Thursday reported first quarter results, with a 10.2 per cent per cent gain in operating profits on a 26.3 per cent increase in sales to €47.3bn. Long-established positions in key EMs, notably the Brics, is serving the world’s second-largest vehicle maker well in a troubled global economy. Read more

Nissan Motor on Friday announced plans to start manufacturing its luxury Infiniti model in China, in the latest investment news from the car industry in advance of next week’s Beijing motor show.

The Japanese group is hardly the first international maker to launch the assembly of upmarket cars in the Middle Kingdom. BMW and Daimler have been manufacturing in China for years.

But it’s evidence that the industry isn’t discouraged by last year’s slowdown in the Chinese car market or by forecasts of decelerating economic growth, not to mention warnings of a possible hard landing. With all eyes on Auto China 2012, Ford Motor and Volkswagen have also announced new Chinese factories this week. Read more

Three bits of proof on Wednesday, if more were needed, that for most carmakers China is crucial to survival – let alone success.

First, Jaguar Land Rover announced a joint venture with Chinese manufacturer Chery. Then BMW and Volkswagen took hits to their share prices on negative comments about their China sales. And finally, Skoda (a VW unit) announced a boost in profits, driven by Russia and India – and China. Read more

Greece, Portugual and other members of the troubled eurozone periphery could do worse than take a look at the experience of tiny Slovakia, which is showing that it is possible to undertake deep fiscal consolidation while still managing to eke out a reasonable rate of economic growth.

In what could be his final days as finance minister – his government faces defeat in Saturday’s parliamentary election – Ivan Miklos (pictured left with Evangélos Vénizélos, Greek finance minister) tells beyondbrics that Slovakia’s centre-right coalition reduced the budget deficit from more than 8 per cent of GDP in 2010 to about 4.3 or 4.4 per cent in 2011, all while having the economy grow by 3.3 per cent last year. Read more

Enforced holidays may sound like no bad thing, but they have become an ominous sign of the slowdown in Brazil’s auto market.

Volkswagen was the latest car manufacturer to send its workers home this week, ordering 1700 employees at one of its factories in the southern state of Paraná to take a two-week break. General Motors and Fiat have also recently enforced holidays at their Brazilian factories to help control stock levels as production has started to race ahead of sales.

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By Simon Mundy in Johannesburg

It’s striking season again in South Africa. Yesterday most of the country’s 1.3m civil servants stayed away from work (pictured) to demand an 8.6 per cent wage increase – a possible precursor to a lengthy general strike, some worry.

Today up to 31,000 automotive workers followed suit, according to the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa), which is representing them and calling for a 15 per cent salary rise. Read more

To visit Volkswagen’s plant in Puebla, a couple of hours south-east of Mexico City, is to witness the country’s export-led economic recovery. The plant, which can produce 2,100 vehicles a day at full capacity, expects this year to churn out 420,000 units – markedly up on last year’s 320,000. Read more

While global carmakers have headaches with strikes in some of their Indian and Chinese factories, life is much easier out on the forecourt. Figures published today show car sales rose by 26 per cent in China last month and by 30 per cent in India.

Not for nothing are the manufacturing pressing ahead with their rapid expansion in both countries, with Volkswagen confirming plans to build a 300,000-unit-a year factory in southern China, which, with other investments, is aimed at doubling VW’s Chinese capacity to 3m cars annually. Read more