December 14, 2009

Saab technology heading East

Saab News reports from China suggest that Beijing Autos has agreed to purchase technology from the orphaned Saab unit, clearing the way for another buyer to swoop in and buy the rest of the Swedish brand.

There have been few details forthcoming from either party on the deal and no word on costs or a timeline.

An announcement today from the state-owned BAIC suggests it wants to own the rights to some powertrain technology for Saab’s 9-5 and 9-3 sedans. The Associated Press is reported that production equipment will be moved to China and Saab will support BAIC’s efforts to start making new vehicles with the Saab technology.

“This arrangement is excellent for both parties, now and for the future,” Jan Eke Jonsson, managing director of Saab Automobile, said in a statement released by GM on Monday. “We have developed a good relationship with BAIC and look forward to working with them to integrate this Saab technology into their future vehicles.”

Currently, BAIC makes trucks for the Asian market under its own brand name.

Talks to sell the rest of the brand to another buyer continue after Swedish sports car maker Koenigsegg Automotive AB failed to secure a sales agreement with GM late last month.

- with files from The Associated Press

December 11, 2009

China overtakes U.S.

China-flag For the first time, a nation has purchased more vehicles than the United States.

China has pulled ahead of the U.S. as the world’s largest market for automobiles – a title the U.S. had held for decades.

Forecasters predict more than 12 million vehicles will be sold in China by the end of the year. That number is a 44 per cent jump compared to 2008 and a few million more than the 10.3 million sales expected south of the border, says J.D. Power and Associates.

Many feel it was only a matter of time until the U.S. was overtaken by the Asian economic powerhouse. With a population of roughly 1.3 billion, China also enjoyed favourable tax cuts and a stimulus program in 2009 to help it earn the sales title.

Original predictions pegged this happening closer to the 2025 mark, but the depressed U.S. economy, coupled with automaker troubles and a population at a little over 308 million people made the title ripe for the taking.

- With files from The Canadian Press

December 10, 2009

Toyota to hire 800 in Woodstock

09812181990002-480 Toyota Canada has announced plans to hire 800 people at its Woodstock, Ont., plant as it ramps up production of the RAV4.

The company said adding the second shift to the plant next March would boost total Canadian employment to 6,500 people. Some industry observers are looking at the announcement as a sign of good times ahead for the Canadian auto industry.

A greater workforce will increase RAV4 production to 150,000 vehicles at the plant, which also builds the Matrix, Lexus RX350 and the Corolla.

Today’s news comes almost a year after the plant was officially opened. At the time, global auto sales were starting to slide as world economies fell into one of the worst recessions in history.

“Thanks to the high demand for this popular vehicle, we are able to increase production in Woodstock,” Ray Tanguay, president of TMMC said in a release. “We are very pleased to be able to continue our growth and provide jobs in the local community… this move demonstrates Toyota’s continued commitment to North American production and to building where we sell.”

Despite slumping sales worldwide throughout 2009, Toyota’s RAV4 is one of two units in the Japanese automaker’s lineup to post sales gains in 2009.

November sales alone saw it jump 35 per cent.

Sandra Pupatello, Minister of Economic Development and Trade for Ontario added, “The increase in RAV4 production means the addition of a second shift in Woodstock, the creation of 800 new jobs, more work for the entire supply chain - and most importantly it means that Toyota has confidence in Ontario’s workforce and business climate.”

Imports of U.S. vehicles tops 100,000

For the fourth straight year, Canadian imports of American vehicles hit more than 100,000 thanks to lower U.S. prices and availability of hard-to-find options.

The North American Automobile Trade Association reports over 13,600 vehicles were brought across the border in November alone.

The Canadian Press is reporting that over 650,000 Canadians are behind the wheel of a vehicle imported from south of the border since 2006.

- With files from The Canadian Press

Kia wants to reward its customers for their loyalty

Kia_forte_1 Like just one big happy family. That’s the way Kia Canada Inc. and its dealers want their customers to feel. So it launched the Customer Rewards Program.

“This is the first of its kind in Canada and the latest in a series of innovative marketing tools that Kia has pioneered to enhance its customer experience,” the automaker said in a release.

All Kia dealerships are part of the program and all Kia customers, whether they buy a new or used vehicle or just drop in for parts and service, are entitled to an awards card.

“It’s truly a dealer program,” Robert Staffieri, Kia Canada’s national customer retention manager, told Canadian AutoWorld. “It was developed with our dealer communications group. We wanted to make sure it was a viable program that all dealers could use.”

Like a frequent-flyer program, the more the customer does business with their Kia dealer, the more points they collect.

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