SUBARU marks company name change

Japanese carmaker Subaru celebrated its new company name at its factory in Gunma Prefecture, eastern Japan, on Sunday.

Fuji Heavy Industries decided on the change at a shareholders’ meeting last June with the aim of enhancing its brand value.
The company name was officially changed on Saturday to Subaru, the name of the cars it makes.

A plate bearing the company’s new name was unveiled at Sunday’s ceremony, which was held at the firm’s only domestic plant. (NEWSONJAPAN)

Honda’s N-Box best

Honda Motor Co.’s N-Box minivehicle topped Japan’s new vehicle sales rankings for the third straight month in February, industry data showed Monday.

Sales of the N-Box increased 8.6 pct from a year earlier to 19,429 units.
Nissan Motor Co.’s <7201> Dayz minivehicle ranked second, with sales of 16,093 units, down 2.1 pct, followed by Toyota Motor Corp.’s <7203> Prius hybrid vehicle, with 15,958 units, down 16.1 pct.

Nissan’s Note subcompact car came in fifth and Toyota’s brand-new C-HR sport-utility vehicle in sixth, amid popularity of models launched late last year, including through full remodeling or face-lifting.

Of the 10 best-selling models, five were 660 cc minivehicles with roomier cabins. (NEWSONJAPAN)

Ghosn cedes Nissan president-CEO role

Nissan Motor Co. said Carlos Ghosn will step aside as CEO after leading the firm for 16 years, allowing him to concentrate on deploying his cost-cutting expertise across its alliance with Renault SA and newly added Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

In handing over the helm to Hiroto Saikawa, a company veteran of 40 years, Ghosn ends years of speculation over when he would relinquish the top job at Japan’s No. 2 automaker amid investor concerns that he was stretching himself too thin.
The change in leadership is aimed at making the best use of the greater scale that Mitsubishi brings to lower costs at a time when automakers are under pressure to expand and compete in new technologies such as self-driving cars.

Known as “Le Cost Killer” from his earlier career at Renault, Ghosn burnished his reputation by engineering Nissan’s comeback from years of losses and debt. Unafraid to trample over long-standing business customs, he became a hero in Japan and one of the auto industry’s best known executives.

Ghosn, 62, will continue to be chairman at Nissan, a position he also holds at Renault and Mitsubishi. He also leaves in his place a man cut from very similar cloth.

Saikawa is a veteran cost-cutter with much of his career spent in managing purchasing and supply chains. The 63-year old was named the company’s chief competitive officer in 2013, became co-CEO last November and also currently heads Japan’s auto industry lobby.

“The timing is a bit surprising,” said Takeshi Miyao, Asia managing director at consultancy Carnorama. “It appears Ghosn has decided very quickly that Saikawa is the right person to lead the company.”

Brazilian-born, of Lebanese descent and a French citizen, Ghosn began his career at Michelin in France, moving on to Renault, where he oversaw a turnaround of the automaker.

He joined Nissan in 1999 after Renault bought a controlling stake and became its CEO in 2001. (NEWSONJAPAN)

Toyota and Suzuki agree to business tie-up

Japanese automakers Toyota and Suzuki say they have reached a basic agreement on a tie-up in wide areas, including eco-friendly and self-driving technologies. The 2 companies signed a memorandum of business partnership on Monday. They began talks on the deal last October. The collaboration includes fuel-cell and electric vehicles. The next step is to come up with specifics of the deal. Talks on possible capital alliance will also continue. Toyota is striving to take the lead in advanced technologies as competition intensifies around the world. The company has already agreed to a similar business tie-up with Mazda. The latest deal with Suzuki is aimed at expanding the cooperation with other automakers. (NEWSONJAPAN)

Toyota lifts FY 2016 profit outlook on weak yen, solid global sales

Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday it has raised its group earnings forecasts for the current business year through March, citing a weaker-than-expected yen and brisk global sales.

Japan’s top automaker is now expecting a group net profit of 1.7 trillion yen ($15.1 billion) in fiscal 2016, compared with its earlier estimate of 1.55 trillion yen.
The carmaker also raised its group operating profit forecast to 1.85 trillion yen from 1.7 trillion yen, on expected sales of 26.5 trillion yen, up from 26 trillion yen. (NEWSONJAPAN)

Toyota falls from top spot in global auto sales in 2016

Toyota Motor Corp. fell from the top spot in global auto sales for the first time in five years in 2016, outperformed by Volkswagen AG of Germany, according to data released by automakers Monday.

The Toyota group, which includes Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors Ltd., sold 10,175,000 units last year, up 0.2 percent from the previous year, while those of the German automaker increased 3.8 percent to 10,312,000 units.
Volkswagen’s sales rose significantly in China, while sales of Toyota dipped slightly in the United States, one of its main markets. (NEWSONJAPAN)

Takata fined $1bn in US over exploding airbag scandal

Japanese car parts maker Takata has agreed to pay $1bn in penalties in the US for concealing dangerous defects in its exploding airbags.

The firm also pleaded guilty to a single criminal charge, the company and the US Justice Department said.
Takata will pay a $25m fine, $125m to people injured by the airbags and $850m to carmakers that used them.

The faulty airbags have been linked to at least a dozen deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide.

Most major carmakers have been affected by the fault, with about 100 million Takata airbags recalled globally.

‘Falsified test data’

The company’s chief executive, Shigehisa Takada, said: “Takata deeply regrets the circumstances that have led to this situation and remains fully committed to being part of the solution.”

Takata has previously acknowledged some of its airbag inflators expanded with too much force and sprayed metal shrapnel into cars.

“For more than a decade, Takata repeatedly and systematically falsified critical test data related to the safety of its products, putting profits and production schedules ahead of safety,” said Andrew Weissmann, head of the Justice Department’s fraud section.

“I offer my deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those who died and to those who were injured as a result of the Takata Corporation’s failure to fulfil its obligation to ensure the safety of its airbag systems,” said Calvin L Scovel, inspector general of the US Department of Transportation.

Three former Takata executives were also charged by the US authorities on Friday for their part in the scandal. (NEWSONJAPAN)

Nissan halts joint development of luxury cars with Daimler

Nissan is halting joint development of luxury cars with Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz, sources close to the companies told Reuters, suspending a key project in their seven-year partnership and potentially hitting profitability at a new shared factory in Mexico.

Nissan decided in October its premium Infiniti brand would not use “MFA2″, an upgraded Daimler car platform that the companies have jointly funded, in part because Infiniti was not performing well enough to absorb Mercedes technology costs, the sources said.
“It wasn’t possible to close a deal on the basis of MFA2,” said one of the people. “The targets set by Infiniti were too difficult to achieve.”

The move could reduce efficiency at a $1 billion shared factory opening this year in Aguascalientes, Mexico, where the companies had planned to use the same compact car architecture to cut complexity and production costs, two of the sources said.

It could also ultimately force Nissan to write down part of a 250 million pound ($306 million) investment at its UK plant that included Mercedes-based tooling, they added.

Daimler and Nissan pursue joint programmes only when “beneficial for both sides”, the companies said in separate statements to Reuters, without directly addressing emailed questions about their plans for MFA2 vehicles.

Projects are constantly reviewed against targets to account for “developments beyond the control of management”, they added, and discussions about joint development of future premium compact cars are ongoing.

Nissan’s decision deals a blow to the broad cooperation deal struck between Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn and his Daimler counterpart Dieter Zetsche in 2010.

It also underscores the mixed results of Nissan’s battle over almost three decades to transform Infiniti into a significant global player in the lucrative luxury car market. (NEWSONJAPAN)

South Korea bans sales of 2 Nissan models

South Korea’s Environment Ministry has banned sales of 2 Nissan Motor models after the company submitted falsified emissions data.

The ministry said on Monday that it canceled the certification of the Infinity Q50 and Qashqai models.
The ministry fined Nissan’s South Korean arm about 2.65 million dollars. It also filed a complaint with prosecutors.

Nissan Korea has already admitted using fabricated emissions figures. It says that it respects the ministry’s decision and will sincerely accept an investigation by prosecutors if requested. (NEWSONJAPAN)