Italy and France fall
New-car sales in Italy fell for the third month in succession in March. Sales were down 18.4 percent, to 205,500.
Italian sales declined 13 percent in the first quarter. Most forecasters had expected a 9 percent fall this year from last year's record 2.43 million units. But the Centro Studi Promotor research center now predicts a 13.4 percent decline this year to just 2.1 million.
Meanwhile, French new-car sales declined 5.6 percent in March to 198,459 and 2.6 percent in the quarter to 563,612 from the same periods a year earlier.
Models with diesel engines took 62.2 percent of France's new-car market in March. Jean-Pierre Mercier, spokesman for French carmaker association CCFA, said: 'The rise of diesel is proving irresistible.'
- Luca Ciferri & Sylviane de Saint-Seine
David Herman, General Motors vice president for Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States and a former head of Opel, retired April 1.
Herman, 56, joined GM in 1973 as an attorney with the New York legal staff. He later held senior positions in several countries in Latin America and Europe. Those assignments included president and CEO of Saab in Sweden, as well as the top job at Opel.
In June 1998 he moved to Moscow and was instrumental in establishing GM's joint venture with AvtoVAZ in Russia. Herman will continue in a consulting role for GM matters in eastern Europe.
Jaguar wants cars with damaged aluminum bodywork to be repaired at independent body shops already equipped with Audi technology.
Future Jaguars will make extensive use of the lightweight metal. The new XJ, due for launch this autumn, will have an all-aluminum body. But setting up a network of workshops to repair aluminum bodywork would cost at least E500,000, Jaguar estimates.
Jaguar wants to take advantage of Audi's experience in alumimun and use garages trained and equipped by the German carmaker. But Audi is unsure if it wants to give Jaguar parent Ford access to its knowledge base.
Alcan is helping Jaguar in aluminum development. Alcan worked with Audi on the A2, which has an all-aluminum body.
Renault resumed production at its Argentinean plant in Santa Isabel, Cordoba, after a four-month closure prompted by the country's economic slump.
In January and February, Renault sales in Argentina fell 50 percent, to 4,500 units. The overall market declined by the same amount, Renault said.
The Santa Isabel plant builds the Clio, Megane, Kangoo and Trafic. It also produces engines.
- Sylviane de Saint-Seine