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Auto blogSun, 23 Feb 2014
Volkswagen owns or has controlling interests in three commercial truck operations: besides its own, VW began buying shares in Sweden's Scania in 2000 and now controls 89.2 percent of its shares and 62.6 percent of its capital, then bought into Germany's Man in 2006 - in order to prevent Man from trying to take over Scania - and now owns 75 percent of it. The car company has managed to work out 200 million euros in savings, but believes it can unlock a total of 650 million euros in savings if it takes outright control of Scania and can spread more common parts among the three divisions.
It has proposed a 6.7-billion-euro ($9.2 billion) buyout, but according to a Bloomberg report, Scania's minority investors don't appear inclined to the deal. Although effectively controlled by VW, Scania is an independently-listed Swedish company, and a profitable one at that: in the January-September 2013 period its operating profit was 9.4 percent compared to Man's 0.4 percent. Some of the other shareholders believe that Scania is better off on its own and will not approve the deal, some have asked an auditor to look into the potential conflict of interest between VW and Man, while some are willing to examine the deal and "make an evaluation based on what a long-term owner finds is good," which might not be just "the stock market price plus a few percent." The buyout will only be official assuming VW can reach the 90-percent share threshold that Swedish law mandates for a squeeze-out.
Many of the arguments against boil down to investors believing that Scania's Swedishness and unique offerings are what keep it profitable, and ownership by the German car company will kill that. (Have we heard that somewhere before?) If Volkswagen can buy that additional 0.8-percent share in Scania, perhaps its buyout wrangling with Man will give it an idea of what it's in for: "dozens" of minority investors in the German truckmaker have filed cases against VW, seeking higher prices for their shares. It is likely only to delay the inevitable, though. If VW is really going to compete with Daimler and Volvo in the truck market, it has to get the size, clout and savings to do so.
We're set to record Autoblog Podcast #366 tonight, and you can check out the topics below, drop us your questions and comments via our Q&A module, and don't forget to subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes if you haven't already done so. To take it all in live, tune in to our UStream (audio only) channel at 10:00 PM Eastern tonight.
Discussion Topics for Autoblog Podcast Episode #366
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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."