September 21st, 2010 at 11:48am
China and Japan are at each other’s throats again, this time over allegations that Toyota bribed dealers in China to steer customers toward their in-house financing arm. Ford revealed a teaser shot of its redesigned global Ranger pickup. The tire industry — and by extension, the auto industry — is facing a rubber shortage as droughts then heavy rains hamper production in Asia. All that and more, plus John shares a few of his thoughts on the design of the 2011 Jaguar XJ.
This is Autoline Daily for September 21, 2010. And now, the news.
OLD RIVALRY, NEW CENTURY
And the news coming out of China is disturbing. The Associated Press reports that Chinese authorities have fined Toyota’s finance unit in the country for allegedly bribing car dealers to steer customers to finance their cars through Toyota. Toyota says they were not bribing dealers. They offered dealers rebates to steer business their way. China and Japan are currently involved in a territorial dispute with Japan holding a Chinese fishing boat that sailed into waters claimed by both Japan and China. And the two countries have been arguing over how Japanese companies are being treated in China. It sure sounds like this alleged bribery case is part of the greater dispute.
WHAT INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS?
Even more disturbing is a story we’ve been following closely here at Autoline Daily, of China’s upcoming policy that could force foreign automakers to hand over their electric car technology to Chinese automakers, if they want to sell EVs in the country. In fact, Nissan looks like it’s already caving in to China’s demand, saying it’s in talks with its partner, Dongfeng, to share some of its leading EV technology. This is a bad move when we see a government formulate a policy that would force foreigners to hand over their intellectual property. It’s even bad for the Chinese automakers. First, it makes them look like they can’t compete on their own – like they have to hide behind their government. And second, by relying on foreign automakers for technology, they won’t come up with new technology of their own. These rules are not yet finalized, and let’s hope a saner policy emerges before they’re put in place.
NEW GLOBAL RANGER REVEALED (login required)
Now to the small-truck segment. Ford will unveil the latest version of its global Ranger pickup at the Sidney Motor Show in Australia next month. All it’s showing right now is a teaser shot with this three-bar grille. With this redesign, the truck grows a little bit and offers more powerful engines. It will be sold in 180 markets around the world, but guess what? Not in North America. Ford is saying “NO GLOBAL RANGER FOR YOU!” Apparently it’s too close in size to the F-150. The U.S. version of the Ranger is so old paleontologists have found frames and other parts mixed-in with dinosaur bones. It goes out of production next year.
INDUSTRY FACES RUBBER SHORTAGE
You can’t make cars without raw materials and according to Bloomberg, tiremakers are facing a shortage of natural rubber. A drought early in the year followed by heavy rains has hampered tree-tapping efforts across Asia. Experts say that demand will outstrip supply for at least the next two years, and that means tire makers will be forced to raise prices.
STEEL PRICES RISE (subscription required)
And speaking of raw material prices going up, so is steel. According to the Wall Street Journal, the price for certain types of steel has risen recently, anywhere from 1 percent to 12 percent depending on the type and where it is sold. Cutbacks in steel production in China ranging anywhere from 3 percent to 5 percent are causing prices to go up. China produces nearly half of the world’s steel.
INDIA, BRAZIL PUSH BIOFUEL
And you can’t run a car unless you have fuel, so India and Brazil are cooperating on promoting the use of biofuels. According to Ward’s, Brazil’s Minister of Agriculture was recently in India to encourage the country to use ethanol to power vehicles and use sugarcane biogases and residues to generate electricity. The two countries are also considering teaming up to produce biofuels and invest in agriculture. Brazil’s delegation also inspected GM’s biodiesel program in India. The company is studying the possibility of commercial production of jatropha-based biodiesel and has already test-driven vehicles using the biodiesel without any modifications to the engine.
2011 JAGUAR XJ
The Jaguar XJ is the newest sedan to come from the company. So what’s the car like? I’ll give you my instant impression, right after this.
The Jaguar XJ is the car that’s supposed to get the brand back on its feet. And initial sales are pretty promising. I recently got a chance to test-drive one, and here are the pros and cons of the car.
So far this year sales of the Jaguar XJ are up by more than 200 percent. Overall, Jaguar sales are up nearly 13 percent, which is much better than the overall market.
We’ve got a great Autoline After Hours coming up on Thursday. Our guest will be Chris Preuss, the head of OnStar. He’s got the task of making OnStar more relevant in today’s world of smart-phones, and other electronic media. Get ready for a great discussion Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Autoline After Hours.
And that’s the top news in today’s global automotive industry, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.