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)

Japan’s auto firms stepping up business in Myanmar

Japanese auto firms are stepping up business operations in Myanmar, where market growth is projected in Asia’s final frontier.

Suzuki Motor will begin constructing an assembly plant at Thilawa industrial park near the largest city, Yangon, before the end of this month.
The firm at one point suspended production in the country, but resumed in 2013, following democratization and economic reform.

Currently it produces small trucks and minivans at a plant in Yangon but is considering an increase in model types.

Nissan Motor plans to construct its first assembly plant in the country, in Bago, near Yangon. It intends to employ about 300 people and begin production of small vehicles by next March. (NEWSONJAPAN)

Chinese cars challenge Japan’s lead in Southeast Asia

Chinese car companies are building big factories in Southeast Asia, weaponizing low prices in an attempt to encroach on Japanese rivals’ 70%-plus share in the region.

This year’s Thailand International Motor Expo, which kicked off in late November near Bangkok, has been an unusually toned-down affair. Some automakers, including Toyota Motor, decided not to play background music at their booths out of deference to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Not so SAIC-CP Motor, a joint venture between Shanghai-based SAIC Motor, China’s largest state-owned automaker, and the Charoen Pokphand group, a Thai conglomerate. The venture promoted two models with upbeat music and video, punctuated by employees’ applause. Its MS GS was touted as an affordable fully loaded sport utility vehicle.

SAIC broke ground in late October on a plant in eastern Thailand’s Chonburi Province. With an annual output capacity of 200,000 units, this will be one of the Chinese company’s largest factories outside the mainland. SAIC has not disclosed the facility’s cost, but a Thai newspaper estimates a minimum of 30 billion baht ($842 million).

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, SAIC and General Motors have joined hands to build a $700 million Indonesian plant that will turn out 150,000 Wuling brand vehicles a year.

SAIC is strong in marketing affordable cars. The compact MG3, which accounts for 70% of sales, is priced around 20% below the competing Toyota Vios. “I was surprised at how inexpensive it is, given how nice the design is,” said a teacher in Bangkok who bought an MG3 six months ago. (NEWSONJAPAN)

Nissan sells auto parts firm stake in corporate shake-up

Nissan said Tuesday it is selling its stake in auto parts company Calsonic Kansei as the Japanese firm casts off non-core businesses to focus on electric vehicles and self-driving cars.

The automaker is hiving off its 41 percent stake to U.S. buyout firm KKR, which is buying Japan-based Calsonic in a deal valued at about $4.5 billion.
KKR is paying 1,860 yen per share for Calsonic, which makes vehicle interiors, climate control systems, compressors, exhaust systems and electronics.

That is a 28 percent premium on Calsonic’s closing share price Tuesday.

Calsonic-which has about 22,000 employees and 1.05 billion yen in annual sales-also supplies other automakers including Renault, Isuzu, Daimler and General Motors.

Nissan has been moving to sell off lesser businesses as it turns it attention to developing technology including for cars and self-driving vehicles, which it sees as a key part of its future business. (NEWSONJAPAN)

Toyota Corolla celebrates its fiftieth birthday

Launched in October 20, 1966, Toyota Motor’s Corolla has been an integral part of Japan’s automotive landscape over the past 50 years.

The Corolla contributed to the spread of passenger vehicles in Japan and became hugely popular around the world. Cumulative sales of this recurring top global seller reached 44 million vehicles as of August 31, 2016. Corolla’s history spanning a half century parallels the growth of Japan’s auto industry as it overcame difficult challenges and made dramatic advances.
The first-generation Corolla released in October 1966 was a two-door sedan with a 1,100 cc engine priced at ¥432,000 (standard model in the Tokyo area). This year heralded the era of privately owned automobiles in Japan. Just a few months earlier in April, Nissan launched the Sunny, a two-door sedan with a 1,000 cc engine. Toyota’s entry into the family car segment spurred a fierce rivalry between the two leading automakers, centered on the Corolla and the Sunny. New car sales in Japan in 1966 was 2 million, but it quickly doubled to 4 million in 1970, highlighting how the Corolla and Sunny drove market growth.

For Toyota, the Corolla was an epoch-making model that contributed significantly to the future expansion of its business through the creation of new technologies and development approaches. Hasegawa Tatsuo (1916–2008), who later became the company’s senior managing director, was the chief engineer leading its development. Two decades ago I had an opportunity to interview Hasegawa, who had already retired, and hear firsthand accounts of Corolla’s development.

The Corolla appeared with an uncommon engine displacement of 1,100 cc. This engine size was selected after it became known that Nissan’s new model-to be called Sunny on the basis of a public contest in 1965-would have a 1,000 cc engine. Although a 1,000 cc engine was initially planned for the Corolla as well, since Sunny was to be launched first, a decision was quickly made to increase the engine size by 100 cc. Over the course of several months before market launch, the development team succeeded in changing the engine design and in preparing for production. Once the Corolla was released, ads touted the “extra 100 cc” of power-a direct jab at the Sunny. This proved to be a successful advertising ploy, and many more consumers opted for the Corolla. (NEWSONJAPAN)

Toyota’s profit tumbles on stronger yen

Toyota Motor’s sales and profits for the April-to-September period fell from a year earlier, the first drop in 5 years. Company executives say the stronger yen hurt overseas earnings.

They say sales during the first half of this fiscal year were about 125 billion dollars. That’s down 7.2 percent in yen terms from the previous fiscal year.
Operating profit plunged nearly 30 percent to 10.7 billion dollars.

The executives attribute the drop to poor sales in North America and a shutdown of assembly lines due to a series of earthquakes that hit southwestern Japan in April. (NEWSONJAPAN)

Toyota mulls fully entering electric vehicle market by 2020

Toyota Motor Corp. is considering fully entering the electric vehicle market, with mass production slated to begin by 2020, company sources said Monday.

The world’s biggest carmaker plans to position EVs as a pillar of its environmentally friendly car offerings along with hybrid and fuel cell vehicles, the sources said.
Toyota marketed the RAV4 EV, an electric version of its sport-utility vehicle jointly developed with Tesla Motors Inc., in the United States for about three years from the summer of 2012, while in Japan it has released ultra-small EVs for urban driving. (NEWSONJAPAN)