Global Investing

Route 312 – China’s Route 66

The world’s largest car market, China, with a population of 1.3 billion people and an emerging middle class, holds great potential for investors and consumers alike with annual growth rates in the auto sector expected to hold at around 23 percent to 2017, according to Alliance Bernstein Asset Managers.

Joint ventures (JV), the most popular structure for foreign firms investing in the automobile sector in the world’s largest car market, are set to capitalise on a growing consumer base in a country with 3.3 million kilometres of asphalt. Traversing the so-called ‘mother’ road 312 (China’s route 66) is becoming more of an attainable dream for the Chinese consumer.

VW has a JV with Changchun-based FAW, Dongfeng with Nissan, GAC with Toyota and  Honda. There are many investment opportunities, though a constantly changing sectoral environment and risks of mechanical recalls can cause sharp fluctuations as in any market, according to Bernstein Research, a subsidiary of Alliance Bernstein holdings.

China now has some 21,100 dealers nationwide, more than the United States (17,500), Germany (12,900), and the UK (4,700) in absolute numbers. Domestic dealers are overshadowed by international brands in the larger cities. The next step is for the international JV-backed dealers to make regional expansion where domestic dealers are currently concentrated.

Tassos Stassopoulos at Alliance Bernstein said:

The place we currently expect companies to generate most value in China is in the SUV and luxury segment. Land Rover is in a sweet spot to cover both and for luxury BMW and Audi. This is all contingent on them not messing up their product cycle, which is hard to predict.

from Russell Boyce:

The politics of bowing in Japan – How low do you go?

By Michael Caronna, Chief Photographer Japan

In Japan nothing says I'm sorry like a nice, deep bow, and lately there's been a whole lot to be sorry for. Ideally the depth of the bow should match the level of regret, allowing observers to make judgements about how sincere the apology really is. Facing massive recalls Toyota President Akio Toyoda and Toyota Motor Corp's managing director Yuji Yokoyama faced journalists at separate news conferences.

TOYOTA/

Toyota Motor Corp's managing director Yuji Yokoyama (R) bows after submitting a document of a recall to an official of the Transport Ministry Ryuji Masuno (2nd R) at the Transport Ministry in Tokyo February 9, 2010. Toyota Motor Corp is recalling nearly half a million of its flagship Prius and other hybrid cars for braking problems, a third major recall since September and a further blow to the reputation of the world's largest automaker.      REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOYOTA/

Toyota Motor Corp President Akio Toyoda bows at the start of a news conference in Nagoya, central Japan February 5, 2010. Toyota Motor Corp President Toyoda apologised on Friday for a massive global recall that has tarnished the reputation of the world's largest car maker. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

from DealZone:

Volvo’s Chinese journey

News that Ford expects to finalize the sale of Volvo to China's Geely in the first half of 2010 caps a year that saw China overtake the United States as the world's biggest auto market, something that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. With Geely rival BAIC announcing its intention to harvest intellectual property from Saab, Chinese automakers are going into high gear in both their short-term goal of serving the high-octane domestic market and their longer-term ambition of retooling their manufacturing base to better serve the global automotive market.

Geely is China's largest private automaker. Its charismatic founder, Li Shu Fu, is known as the Chinese Henry Ford. He has shown global ambitions and has pushed for Geely to become a global brand.

It's a road well traveled, the highway from Asia's industrial heartlands to the world's garages. Japan and South Korea have blazed the trail thoroughly. Rather than ponder the significance for lumbering Western automakers who are shedding assets to stay alive, it's worth wondering what Toyota and Hyundai make of their Chinese cousins.

Sen. Corker to Chrysler: best hope is merger

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (right, in the driver’s seat next to Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas), who pushed for tough conditions on the $17.4 billion U.S. government bailout for General Motors and Chrysler, said at the Detroit auto show that he hoped Chrysler would find a merger partner to survive.

“Chrysler probably needs to merge with somebody, not necessarily disappear from the standpoint of existence,” said Corker, who added the automaker owned by Cerberus Capital Management was not making the needed investment to remain competitive. He spoke to reporters as he toured the show before meeting with executives for GM, Chrysler and Ford.

Corker, whose home state includes the U.S. headquarters for Japan’s Nissan, also said he felt GM’s debt load was too heavy and it may not meet the restructuring targets set out under the $13.4 billion loan granted to the company by the Bush administration.

Automakers charged up about future for electric cars

Automakers are in a new race to be the first to market with an all-electric car so they can claim the mantle as the world’s greenest automaker.

General Motors again rolled out its Chevy Volt electric concept car at the Detroit auto show as a reminder that the struggling U.S. automaker intends to have it on sale by the end of 2010.

Cheering employees (above), as well as Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, waved signs that read: “We’re electric,” “Charged up,” “Game changer” and “We’re here to stay” as they walked ahead of th Volt. GM has said the electric car will have a 40-miles driving range on one battery charge.