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Auto blogMon, 29 Oct 2012
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.
Three Ford owners from Ohio have filed a lawsuit against the automaker over defects that they allege exist within the company's twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine. Automotive News reports that the lawsuit claims the engine "contained serious latent design, manufacturing, or assembly defects." Those defects, the suit claims, cause the vehicle to shake, misfire and lose power quickly.
Two of the plaintiffs, a married couple, own a 2010 Ford Taurus SHO, and allege they experienced a loss of power and stalling, while the third, an F-150 owner, claims he lost power while accelerating. In addition to the Taurus SHO and F-150, the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine is also available in the Ford Flex, Explorer Sport and Lincoln MKT and MKS. Other three- and four-cylinder EcoBoost engines are not included in the suit. There have been no recalls associated with 3.5-liter V6 engine, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently not investigating the matter.
The plaintiffs, however, claim Ford has known about the problem, citing several technical service bulletins issued to dealers of the F-150 that suggest possible fixes. Ford had no comment for Automotive News, saying that it's yet to review the lawsuit, which was filed last Friday in Columbus, OH.
Looking at a Ford Focus? These days you can get it as a five-door hatch, a four-door sedan, or... that's all. European buyers don't even get our sedan, but they do get a wagon. And while the three-door hatch, two-door coupe and two-door cabrio have long since ended production, buyers around the world can also get the company's larger C-Max. And now, like the Focus upon which it's based, Ford is preparing to roll out a new version.
The tall wagon (or small minivan, depending on your perspective) is being treated to what Ford says is "an extreme makeover." Details to accompany the teaser image above remain few and far between, but following the spy shots we recently posted, it looks destined for some of the same visual updates as Ford rolled out on the 2015 Focus, with "even more refinement, practicality and technology."
Like the Mercedes B-Class, which is only available Stateside as an EV, American buyers can only get the C-Max in electrified form, either as the C-Max Hybrid or C-Max Energi. Overseas buyers, however, will be able to choose from a range of powertrain options and two wheelbase lengths - the longer of which boasts seven seats and the Grand C-Max name. (Remember when Chrysler did the same with its minivans?) Both are set to debut on September 17, so watch this space. After that, we'll expect to see it on display at the Paris Motor Show.