Down history lane
Want to see the full history of German automakers? Then better tank up the car. Its a bit spread out.
Germanys premium carmakers are competing to have the best exhibition of their history just as furiously as they are in the marketplace.
Mercedes-Benz is building a new Mercedes-Benz World in Stuttgart. Mercedes already has an impressive car museum but the new one has a double-helix structure for 175 vehicles. It is designed to permit a chronological tour of its century-plus vehicle history and is large enough to include trucks and buses as well as passenger cars and race cars.
To the east in Munich, BMW is planning a larger new site for its BMW Tradition collection. About 100km north of Munich in Ingolstadt, Audi has its museum. And in Wolfsburg in northern Germany, Volkswagen group has Autostadt, a set of pavilions housing collections of all its brands.
Mercedes may have a goal of competing not merely with other German automakers, but also with Korean automaker Hyundai, which has locked up the exclusive automotive sponsorship for the 2006 World Cup that Germany is hosting. Mercedes-Benz World is located next to Gottlieb Daimler Stadium in Stuttgart, where many Cup matches will be played. And the muesums opening will coincide with start of the tournament.
Knight of the road
The boss of Toyotas UK factory was knighted in the countrys New Year Honors. Sir Alan Jones, as he will now be called, is chairman and managing director of Toyota UK, which has its plant in Burnaston in Derbyshire.
The Japanese automaker is Britains second largest car manufacturer behind Nissan. Nissans first managing director, Ian Gibson, was also knighted for his services to industry.
Jones said that Toyota made a slow start in Europe when he joined, but Burnaston now makes 240,000 Corolla and Avensis models a year.
PSA to keep Panhard
Two French defense contractors are trying to buy the Panhard military-vehicles unit from PSA/Peugeot-Citroen. But the French automaker will retain the rights to the storied Panhard brand, sources say.
PSA has received bids for Panhards business from two defense companies and is expected to make a decision soon. PSA does not confirm or deny the Panhard sale.
We are involved in talks in the defense field, says a spokesman.
Panhard and Levassor was a pioneer of the automobile industry. Citroen took it over in the 1960s and car production halted in 1967. But some analysts believe that if PSA ever intends to enter the luxury segment, it will need a prestigious brand such as Panhard – much like German automakers have revived other once-lustrous marques such as Bugatti and Maybach.
A home in Beijing
DaimlerChrysler board member Rüdiger Grube likes China so much that he has rented an apartment in Beijing.
As part of D/Cs plans to boost its activities in the worlds fastest growing auto market, Grube became responsible for all D/C China activities last October.
He spends at least 10 days a month in the Chinese capital to show that I am not just a visitor, but see here as a slice of home, Grube told Automobilwoche, a sister publication of Automotive News Europe.
Grube said the apartment is only a part of his effort to build closer business relationships, which are highly valued in Asia.
Seeking customer loyalty
As Volkswagens market share slips in China, the automaker is trying to breed brand loyalty in the countrys new drivers by offering cars to driving schools at a discount.
We always give driving schools favorable rates and better service because they are our biggest client, says Bai Degang, manager of the driving school department at the Beijing Shanghai Volkswagen dealership. People who attend those schools will feel familiar with the Santana. They will be our future clients.
About 70 percent of the Oriental Fashion Driving Schools 410 training cars are Santanas, says school employee Liu Xiang.
Sometimes the tactic works oddly.
Ji Cheng will buy a VW, but not a Santana made by Shanghai Volkswagen, VWs joint venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp.
Ill probably buy a car made at FAW-Volkswagen, he says. I dont like people from Shanghai so I wont buy an SVW car.
Speedier Italian data
Italy has had a reputation for fast drivers but really slow auto sales reporting.
Just a decade ago, Italian vehicle registration data was not released until 18 months after the end of a calendar year. Since then, Italy has improved dramatically, releasing registrations three business days after the end of a month.
Starting February 1, the Italian Transport Ministry will deliver final monthly registration numbers the day after the end of a month.
Perhaps Italy can explain the process to other European Union countries, not known for promptness in reporting. Even ACEA, the European automakers association, needs two weeks to compile monthly EU sales.
Pioneering Panhard built stylish cars in its heyday but only military vehicles since 1967.