Model: Other Pickups
Pots and kettles, glass houses and stones - that's a little of what we appear to have going on in the European car market. New reports say that that three European automakers have registered their opposition to a loan deal that PSA/Peugeot-Citroën is working on with the French government. Peugeot's finance arm, Banque PSA Finance, is struggling with its debts and has been downgraded by Moody's to its lowest investment-grade classification, one step above junk. This makes it more expensive for a potential buyer to finance a car through Peugeot. The last thing Peugeot needs is more difficulty selling cars in the tough European market, and the situation will only worsen if the bank's credit worthiness takes another hit.
A deal being worked on would have the French government offer €7 billion ($9B U.S.) in bonds to guarantee the bank's loans, which would give the institution some breathing room to manage its debts and lower its interest rates. Outside of that, a group of banks would provide other, non-guaranteed loans to the bank to further help its position. In exchange for state help, though, the government wants seats on Peugeot's board for worker representatives and a government liaison, along with factory and worker guarantees. The Peugeot family would maintain control of the company.
So what we have is government assistance being provided to a car company's finance arm, akin to the way General Motors' GMAC (now Ally Financial) and Chrysler Financial got help in their time of need. What we also have is Ford and Renault, and Germany's State of Lower Saxony, the second-largest shareholder in Volkswagen, voicing their concern about the proposal, because they say it could create an unfair competitive advantage for Peugeot. Everyone in Europe's down market is fighting for every sale, and if Peugeot gets help to keep its auto loan costs down, it figures to help buyers choose Peugeot or Citroën.
Sat, 29 Jun 2013 13:01:00 EST
We know that Ford is positioning the new, upscale Vignale brand in Europe to fill a niche market of customers who want a bit more luxury, a lot more service and the same reliability and dependability that a non-Vignale Ford offers. But so far, we've been in the dark regarding how the Blue Oval will sell Vignale vehicles, how many of them will be created, and what the new sub-brand has in store for the future.
Gaetano Thorel, Ford's European marketing head, recently was interviewed by Automotive News and shared details about Ford Vignale. Thorel says, "The Vignale trim line will be priced like an ST model but attract a completely different type of customer." Specifically, he says it will attract customers in the upper 15 percent of the price band who don't want a performance-oriented ST model. He adds that Vignale cars will be about 10 percent more expensive than Titanium-trim cars. About 500 of Ford's European dealers will sell Vignale Fords, Thorel says, "in areas that make sense." The automaker expects 10 percent of its European sales to be Vignale cars, which equates to about 5 percent of its global sales. When asked if there are any other Vignale models planned beyond the Mondeo, Thorel said, "There is nothing written in stone yet."
Our spy photographers have just popped off a few shots of something curious. This little runabout was spotted in Germany out testing with a current-generation Ford Fiesta. We're fairly confident the machine is a Ford, but exactly which Ford model is up for debate. The hatchback could be the next-generation Ka, but we've also heard that the Blue Oval supermini might not get a replacement. Our shooter says the five-door is a bit smaller than the current Fiesta, though there is a chance that this rig is just an engineering mule for drivetrain development. Then again, it could be a model built specifically for the South African market or China, or not a Ford at all.
Whatever it is and wherever it's headed, you can check out in the gallery for a closer look before heading into Comments to weigh in with your best guess.