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Michigan, it’s more than just Great Lakes, the Big Three and the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. To the surprise of many, GM, Ford and Chrysler aren’t the only games in town. Practically every major OEM and supplier company has offices, technical centers or test facilities in the mitten state, and Toyota is making a major investment its facilities.
Should General Motors’ German subsidiary be scrapped? Not according to its American parent, which plans to pour four billion Euros into it through 2016.
Just about 100 more Saabs will roll off the line after the Swedish automaker decided to send some employees back to finish incomplete units still standing in the factory.
The company was plagued with financial problems after changing hands from GM to Spyker Cars and ultimately Swedish Automobile. That forced them to shut down despite attempted rescue investments by Chinese companies, Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co. and Pang Da Automobile Trade Co. Unfortunately for Saab, GM, which manufactured the 9-4x crossover, said the move would unfairly share their technology in key markets and subsequently blocked it.
For now, new Saabs can still be seen on the road, and the company’s North American operation is trying to find a way to honor existing warranties, but the brand will soon be little more than an automotive relic.
Audi‘s expansion plans are materializing to the tune of €13 billion by 2016, heralding growth that enthusiasts are sure to cheer for and that will provide new jobs for German students.
That €13 billion will mostly go towards new technology, but the company is also looking to add about 1,200 new specialists to their team in 2012. That number is in addition to the 3,500 new employees the company added this year. Audi plans to find the fresh blood by offering permanent contracts to students from vocational academies and StEP program (Study and Experience in Practice) students once they finish their training.
Despite bringing so many new hands on deck, the company plans to spend €10.5 billion on new hybrid and electric vehicles.
“To maintain our profitable growth, we will step up investment spending on new products,” said Axel Strotbek, Member of the Board of Management for Finance and Organization at Audi AG.
On the more immediate horizon, the automaker also confirmed new models for 2012: the A8 hybrid that uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder and the next generation A3. Along with that, the company also confirmed the 2013 A6 allroad Quattro and fully electric R8 e-Tron (pictured above).
GALLERY: Audi R8 e-Tron:
Last week we brought you a story about Aperta employees boorishly smashing the remaining shells of their 2e electric vehicle, including quotes from their disgruntled former CEO, Steve Fambro. You may wonder how things went so wrong.
If you haven’t been following the Aptera saga, or if you don’t know what Aptera is, this is a good time to jump in.
Rewind to 2006 where founders Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony found a company called Aptera with the intent to build and sell super-efficient electric vehicles. They planned to take advantage of a program offered by the Department of Energy by which companies could take over abandoned factories and enjoy low-interest loans if they made vehicles 25 percent more efficient than those they would replace.
Aptera had a funky three-wheeled car in mind that looked a lot like a tear drop made out of plastic composite. In September of 2008 Fambro found himself on the outside of the company, replaced as CEO by Paul Wilbur.
By December, Aptera’s application for money from the DoE had been submitted and promptly rejected— three-wheeled cars apparently didn’t qualify.
Over the next two years Tesla and Fisker both recieve hundreds of millions of dollars in DoE funding, and three wheel cars are provisioned for subsidy by the DoE.
In 2010 Aptera re-applies and was denied funding again, this time becuause the DoE says they cannot pay back capital costs for the company.
Shortly afterwards, the company re-allocated their remaining resources to developing a four-wheeled sedan that had a better chance of catching on.
At this point the DoE committed $150 million in loans on the condition that the company also secure $80 million in private funding. That proved to be too much. Aptera simply couldn’t find investors to pour money into their company after another operation failed to get funding because of their similar plastic composite bodies.
By early December of this year the company had run out of cash and needed to shut down. They decided to execute the close early enough to distribute remaining cash reserves among their employees as severance.
In an interview with Green Car Reports, Wilbur admitted that they spent too much time chasing DoE finding and that a better path would have been to look for private money from the beginning. The DoE, he said, took far too long to yield any money for Aptera to stay afloat.
[Source: Green Car Reports]
In yet another twist to the ongoing Saab soap opera, the Swedish automaker has received a payment from Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile as it struggles to stay solvent. The payment, which is some $5 million will be reportedly be used to cover outstanding tax expenses.
Following on from that, Youngman, which is looking to take a significant stake in Saab, apparently plans to pay out more money by the end of this week, (some 20 million euros/$26.4 million), in this case to cover unpaid salaries. A spokesman for Saab, Eric Geers, confirmed that while the first payment had been received, nothing else could be confirmed, except the fact that talks with Youngman are “ongoing.”
Saab has been struggling to stay afloat ever since it was purchased from General Motors by Spyker and it’s main assembly plant in Trolhattan, Sweden, is currently idled in the wake of unpaid bills. In recent months the firm, owned by Swedish Automobile has sought creditor protection as it looks to find suitable investors.
Youngman has repeatedly tried to buy into Saab, but the latest deal was vetoed by General Motors, which still owns licenses for Saab technology. In the meantime Saab, still under creditor protection is under increasing pressure by the administrator overseeing the process, to have it’s protection agreement terminated.
A distric court in western Sweden, has given the automaker and its creditors, until Thursday this week to submit their views regarding the matter. A final decision on Saab’s status is expected to be made on December 16th.
Ford announced that they are investing $446 million into their Sao Bernardo do Campo plant near Sao Paulo, Brazil towards the production of a new global vehicle.
Unfortunately Ford didn’t announce any more details in regards to the new model, but it will likely be something geared toward’s Brazil’s emerging middle class.
The Sao Benardo do Campo plant currently produces the Ka, Courier and F-250 models and has an annual capacity of of 160,000 cars and light vehicles in addition to 40,000 trucks.
Brazil has become an emerging market for many vehicle manufacturers. Nissan also announced previously that they’ll be building a $1.5 billion factory in Brazil to supply some of the brand new models
[Source: Automotive News]
Things have been changing for a few years already, and the future is not looking good for Canada. Thanks to their lower labor rates and production costs, more and more car companies are looking to move their operations down to Mexico.
Currently, Canada accounts for 16-percent of production for North America, but since 2008 Mexico, has accounted for 20-percent, and that number will likely grow.
If the trend continues, Canadians might lose their jobs well south of their border. However, not all is doom and gloom for our northern neighbors as vehicle production increased in 2011 by 2-percent to bring a total of 2.1-million units produced.
General Motors is supporting the Canadian economy by announcing that the new Cadillac XTS sedan will be built in Oshawa, Ontario (where vehicles like the Camaro are already built), and Toyota Motor Corporation has announced that it will invest C$545-million to upgrade Toyota production facilities in Ontario.
[Source: Automotive News]
Singapore billionaire Peter Lim has made a “significant investment” in British sports car maker McLaren, the company said. With his contribution, Lim has joined McLaren Automotive’s board with immediat effect. Forbes ranked him the eighth richest person in Singapore, with an estimated fortune of 1.8 billion.
“Peter Lim’s track record in Asia as a highly respected business leader adds further quality to our board in this highly competitive business environment at an exciting time for the company,” Ron Dennis, executive chairman of McLaren Automotive and McLaren Group, said in a statement.
Part of the reason Lim invested in the company is because demand for its new MP4-12C sports car, is strong in the Asia Pacific region, with orders that will take eighteen months of production to fill.
Interestingly, Lim put in a bid of $525.5 million to buy the Liverpool Football Club, but later withdrew the offer after the club changed ownership.
General Motors has announced that it’s hiring 1,000 people over the next couple years to help improve electric vehicle related infastructure, as well as charging, motor and battery technology.
While the jobs aren’t as glamorous as developing the next generation of electric vehicles, there’s no question that without any of the above, EVs will forever be a niche for wealthy tree-hugger types and peak oil conspiracy nuts. All of the jobs will be located in Michigan, which should provide a nice boost to the states flaccid economy.
The announcement came as Chevrolet prepared to start production of the Volt at GM’s Hammtrack assembly plant.
[Source: Automotive News]