Opel to add PSA model at Ruesselsheim plant, report says

FRANKFURT — Opel is planning to start building a compact car for French parent PSA Group at its main Ruesselsheim plant from mid-2021, German business daily Handelsblatt reported, citing company sources.

The car will be based on PSA’s EMP2 vehicle platform, the paper reported, saying the move could be officially announced in the coming days.

Production at Ruesselsheim, where Opel builds the Insignia model, is currently halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. The next generation of Opel’s Astra model, which will also be based on the EMP2 platform, will also be built there.

Asked about the report, an Opel spokesman said in a written response: “We will shortly give detailed information on investments at the Ruesselsheim site and a new vehicle allocation. This is aimed at focusing on vehicle production with a higher volume.”

BMW struggles to cut 5,000 jobs; may increase incentives

MUNICH — BMW may offer more incentives to workers to persuade them to leave and help the automaker to reach a target of eliminating about 5,000 positions.

BMW has been unable to meet its headcount-reduction goal with existing measures, CFO Nicolas Peter said in an internal posting confirmed by the company. Those have included placing employees on unpaid leave and reducing working hours for those on shorter contracts.

The company could add early retirement packages to the list, a BMW spokeswoman said Friday.

While BMW typically loses and replaces about 5,000 employees every year due to natural comings and goings, uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic has slowed the outflow as people put off plans to seek other jobs or to start their own businesses.

The COVID-19 outbreak has made it tough for automakers to sell vehicles as government measures to contain the virus caused showrooms to close and slowed production to a crawl. Weak consumer demand has dashed any chance of a swift recovery, and companies have moved to reduce costs.

German automakers had hoped for help in the form of state car-buying incentives to stimulate demand, but were left frustrated when Chancellor Angela Merkel postponed a planned summit to discuss an incentive program.

BMW shut most of its factories in April, before restarting them earlier this month.

Second-quarter sales are expected to be worse than in the first three months of the year, the automaker has said, when they fell 6.4 percent.

The company lowered its 2020 profit-margin guidance earlier this month, and said it no longer expects to achieve positive free cash flow.

Datsun’s Russia exit downsizes Ghosn’s ambitions

The decision to withdraw Datsun from Russia reverses the ambitious global growth plans for the brand envisaged by Nissan’s former Chairman Carlos Ghosn.

Reviving the Datsun name, previously used by Nissan for export markets until 1981, was a key strategy of Ghosn, who wanted to expand in emerging markets by using older alliance technology to create affordable cars for the new middle classes who might otherwise have bought second-hand models.

Speaking at the 2014 launch of Datsun in Russia, Ghosn dismissed fears that the brand would struggle as Russia was entering another of its cyclical downturns.

“I’m bullish on the market, I recognize the fact the market declined last year and will probably decline this year, but when we invest, we engage not for this year but five, 10, 20 years down the road,” he said.

Nissan began production of Datsuns for Russia in 2014 in AvtoVAZ’s plant in Togliatti that builds Ladas. AvtoVAZ is part of the Renault-Nissan alliance.

Datsun’s on-Do small sedan and related mi-Do hatchback shared technology with Lada and sold for as little as 329,000 rubles (then $9,500) at launch.

Small market share

Datsun’s Russian sales never matched Ghosn’s ambitions. The brand’s market share in Russia was just 1.3 percent last year on unit sales of 22,426, according to the Moscow based Association of European Businesses.

Datsun sales in Russia fell 27 percent to 5,048 in the first four months in a total market down 19 percent.

Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida said on Thursday that Datsun would be withdrawn from Russia by the end of the 2023 financial year as part of a plan to discontinue older cars and trucks as well as models “unique to a specific region.”

As part Nissan’s new midterm plan, the automaker will trim the number of its nameplates by 20 percent to shrink the global lineup to under 55 models from 69.

Nissan is withdrawing Datsun from Indonesia, where it will shut its factory in Purwakarta, West Java.

Nissan would not confirm reports that it has decided to ax the Datsun brand entirely.

It said Datsun will be kept in India and South Africa for the time being.

Datsun struggled in some markets where Nissan found it was cannibalizing its own brand.

“We ended up pushing two mainstream brands in a market [Indonesia] where you have a one or two percent market share. You cannot do that,” a source told Reuters last year.

The source said there had been similar problems in India, South Africa and Russia.

Renault to announce 15,000 layoffs, union says

PARIS — Renault is poised to announce 15,000 layoffs worldwide on Friday as it unveils a plan to boost its profitability and cope with faltering sales, a representative for the CFDT union said after meeting with the company.

Some 4,500 jobs would go in France, though largely through a voluntary departure plan and a retirement scheme, the CFDT’s Franck Daout said on Thursday.

“They have insisted on the fact everything will be negotiated,” Daout said, adding that unions and state bodies would be involved in talks over potential job losses in France.

Renault was not immediately available for comment.

The automaker, which is 15 percent owned by the French government, had earlier this year flagged a “no taboo” plan to cut 2 billion euros in costs after posting its first loss in a decade last year.

This has raised concern for some of its factories, including in France, although closures could be politically sensitive.

The French government has already said it will not sign off on a planned 5 billion euro state loan for Renault — an aid measure linked to the coronavirus pandemic — until management and unions conclude talks over the company’s workforce and plants in France.

The coronavirus crisis has compounded Renault’s problems, accentuating a slump in demand which was already dragging on sales.

Marelli secures $1.2B in finance to withstand crisis

MILAN — Marelli said on Wednesday it had secured additional capital and loans worth 130 billion yen ($1.2 billion) from top shareholder U.S. investment firm KKR and Japanese banks.

The COVID-19 epidemic has forced most manufacturers to temporarily halt production and almost erased car demand in March and April, leaving automakers and suppliers in need of cash.

“Access to this additional capital gives us the flexibility to withstand an extended market downturn and protects the long-term financial health of the business,” Chief Financial Officer Christoph Hobo said in a statement.

Clients of the supplier, which combines former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles unit Magneti Marelli and Japan’s Calsonic Kansei, include Volkswagen Group, PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler.

Renault to cut 5,000 jobs in cost-cutting drive, paper says

PARIS — Renault plans to cut 5,000 jobs by 2024 to help save 2 billion euros ($2.20 billion) in costs, according to a report published by Le Figaro newspaper.

The automaker will not resort to outright lay-offs, the newspaper said on its website on Tuesday.

Renault will prioritize “the non-replacement of employees planning to retire,” the report said.

The company declined to comment on Le Figaro’s report.

Renault has a 48,500-strong workforce in France as of 2019. The automaker is expected to unveil job cuts and plant closures on Thursday as part of its cost-saving plan.

Earlier on Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron announced an 8 billion euro plan to make France the top producer of clean vehicles in Europe and urged French carmakers to make vehicles in their own country.

Macron said the government would not sign off on a planned 5 billion euros ($5.5 billion) state loan for Renault until management and unions had concluded talks over the company’s French workforce and sites.

Renault is 15 percent owned by the French state.