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A new survey of top global automotive executives indicates both Volkswagen and BMW are the most likely to grow their market share over the next five years.
Tax advisory firm KPMG LLP has released its 14th annual Global Automotive Executive Survey, which includes responses from over 200 executives. A total of 81 percent of respondents said they expect to see Volkswagen make gains, compared to 70 percent last year. BMW, meanwhile, saw 70 percent of those surveyed say they believe the company will increase its market share. That's a jump of 7 percentage points over last year. This is the first time in the history of the survey that BMW has claimed the second-place spot.
Meanwhile, Hyundai has seen its perceived market share potential slacken for the third year in a row. Around 61 percent of those surveyed predicted gains for Hyundai, down from 63 in 2012. Toyota also has a surprising year, but for just the opposite reason. While the manufacturer had slipped in ranking since 2011, it enjoyed the largest increase of any company in the 2013 survey, jumping to 68 percent from 44 percent last year.
The redesigned Volkswagen Passat has been a decent seller since its debut in 2011, but sales have apparently dropped off enough that the automaker is trimming some of the employees from its Chattanooga, TN assembly plant. According to Automotive News, Volkswagen will be cutting shifts and laying off 500 contracted workers in response to slowing sales.
Currently, the plant has three teams running 10-hour shifts Monday through Saturday, but starting May 13, this will be reduced down to two teams running 10-hour shifts Monday through Thursday. This will be done to reduce dealer inventory (the article says that VW dealers, on average, have a 97-day supply of Passats) and production capacity (currently running at an annual pace of 170,000 units, which is more than the 150,000 annual units the plant was planned to produce).
This, of course, isn't saying that the Passat has been a failure since VW added 200 full-time employees to the plant in February 2012 to keep up with increased demand. The AN article says that automakers frequently overstaff plants during the launch of a new product - or in this case, a new product and a new plant - but eventually reduce the workers as things run smoother and more efficiently.
Bloomberg Markets is reporting that BMW, Volkswagen and Ferrari have been using tungsten ore sourced from Columbia's FARC rebel terrorists. The extensive story focuses on Columbia's illegal mining trade and calls into question the provenance of the rare ore that is used not only in crankshaft parts production, but is also found in the world's computing and telecommunications industry for use in screens.
The ore is mined by the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People's Army), and exported to Pennsylvania, where it is refined. The refined ore is then sent over to Austria, where a company called Plansee turns it into a finished product. Now, it's important to note that we aren't talking about the world's supply of tungsten here. In 2012, Plansee's American refinery purchased 93.2 metric tons of tungsten, valued at $1.8 million. That's peanuts, with the entire Colombian tungsten mining industry producing just one percent of the world's supplies.
That doesn't make indirectly supporting FARC any more acceptable, though. BMW, VW and Ferrari are all committed to not accepting mineral supplies from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is also in the grips of a guerrilla insurrection funded, in part, by illegal mining. The same commitment would figure to extend to Colombian mining, but as BMW points out, it's difficult for a multi-national manufacturer to know where every item in its supply chain comes from. A company spokesperson says as much, telling Bloomberg, "These few grams out of the billions of tons of raw materials passing through the BMW supply chain are of no practical relevance."