Commentaries

Now raising intellectual capital

China picks European cars off scrapheap

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GERMANY/Chinese carmakers are seeking to step into the gaps left by U.S. companies in Europe — but while acquisitions may give them access to badly-needed technical know-how, global brands and exposure to new markets, the question is whether they have learnt from past failures.

With China now the world’s largest car market, it’s no surprise that Chinese carmakers — which have few if any really solid brands within their home market — want to start making more of a mark.

In theory, foreign acquisitions offer a quick way to do so. Meanwhile the credit crunch has thrown world-renowned but now distressed car marques such as Volvo, Opel or Saab onto the block at what look like rock-bottom prices.

The worry is that Chinese carmakers haven’t always found it plain sailing abroad. SAIC Motor Corp is still feeling the pain of buying into Ssangyong Motor Co of Korea. Ssangyong has struggled to compete as South Korea’s smallest carmaker, failing to develop new models and running out of cash. A debt-for-equity swap threatens to slash the Chinese company’s holding in the South Korean carmaker from just over 50 percent to around 10.

Can Magna keep its model juggling act with Opel?

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OPEL/Cries from Volkswagen about pulling its business from Magna if the Canadian car parts maker ended up owning a stake in GM’s former European unit Opel ring somewhat hollow given the success Magna has had in juggling its customers’ different needs so far.

Even so, Magna is trying hard to keep its customers — which also include Toyota, Ford and BMW — happy by vowing to ringfence Opel from the rest of its business now it has won the long battle to buy GM’s former European unit.

Saab and Volvo – made in China?

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SWEDEN/At this rate it might not be long before Sweden’s once mighty Volvo and Saab car marques come with “Made in China” stamped on the chassis.

After failing in the auction of Opel, Beijing Automotive Industry Holding (BAIC) is set to take a minority stake in supercar maker Koenigsegg, which is bidding to take over all of GM’s Saab. Meanwhile, Geely Automotive’s parent company Geely Holding Group Co plans to bid for Ford’s Volvo.

That little thing called cash burn

Ford Motor Co, which could be referred to as the Big One after GM and Chrysler’s fall from grace, has investors cheering after it posted a $2.26 billion profit in the second quarter and a smaller than expected operating loss. But it’s still burning through lots of cash. Sure it’s less than before, but $1 billion in a quarter still isn’t anything to sneeze at, especially since it’s been trying to turn itself around since 2005.

From the release:

Automotive operating-related cash flow was $4.7 billion negative during the first half; on track with Ford’s plan.

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