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)

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)