GM could decide on Daewoo deal this month

This could be the month that General Motors Corp. finally decides whether to do the deal with Daewoo Motor Co. Ltd. GM has been in serious discussions on a possible takeover of the bankrupt Korean automaker since last September. Sources in Korea tell WAW that a postponed March 5 presentation by GM Korea officials to GM's board of directors on whether to purchase all or part of Daewoo's assets likely will be presented at the board's regularly scheduled April meeting. Insiders also tell WAW that GM Chairman John F. Smith last month met privately with South Korea President Kim Dae-Jung to discuss the possible acquisition. A GM spokesman says he cannot confirm the meeting. Mr. Smith was scheduled to introduce Mr. Kim as a guest speaker at a business luncheon in Chicago on March 9. Mr. Kim was on a six-day U.S. tour, during which time he was to meet with President Bush and other officials.

Sources say a private meeting between Mr. Kim, Mr. Smith and Alan Perriton, executive in charge of Acquisitions and Mergers for GM Asia/Pacific, was set to take place. Mr. Perriton traveled from Zurich to Chicago specifically to attend the meeting, sources say. Shin Kook-Hwan, Korea's minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy, told reporters last month GM has until April 30 to make an offer on Daewoo. GM denies it has been given a deadline.

Mazda to use Ford plant to build cars in Spain

Mazda Motor Corp. will use Ford Motor Co.'s Valencia Vehicle Operations plant in Almussafes, Spain, as its source for a new European small car. Ford owns 33.3% of Mazda. The Japanese automaker will start production in early 2003. Initial capacity will be about 40,000 vehicles annually but could expand to 100,000. The B-segment car most likely will be based on Ford's new Fiesta, which will be unveiled later this year and also will be built at the plant. Mazda will use Ford engines and transmissions in the car, which will be available in several body styles including a sedan and station wagon. Valencia now produces the Ford Focus and Ka, along with several different engines. Says Mark Fields, president of Mazda: “(This) gives us a cost-efficient European production base and makes us less vulnerable to currency fluctuations.”

Flat year may follow sales success

Sales of cars and trucks in Southeast Asia's four main markets — Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines — reached 989,884 units in 2000, a 46.5% rise over 1999. Success, however, may prove difficult to sustain. Some analysts forecast this year's sales to be mostly flat because foreign companies are not investing in the region the way they once did, causing a slow growth environment. The analysts predict sales in Thailand to grow 8.7% to 285,000 units, while the Philippines expects sales to surge 13.5% in 2001 to 95,000 units. Malaysia's sales are expected to fall slightly, from 343,173 to 340,000, while Indonesia, plagued by renewed national unrest, may see car sales drop 10.1% to 270,000 units, from year-earlier sales of 300,573.

PSA considers plant in Eastern Europe

French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen may build a new plant in Eastern Europe, supplier sources say.

The automaker is considering sites in southern Poland or the Czech Republic. The new facility could produce vehicles for both the Peugeot and Citroen brands. Specific vehicle information is unavailable. Claude Satinet, Citroen's general director, declines to comment on the plan. PSA does not have an official plant in Eastern Europe. The Citroen Berlingo and C15 are assembled in Poland at the Nysa Motor plant, which belongs to Daewoo-FSO Motor SA. The Russian company FPG Doninvest also assembles the Citroen Berlingo, which is badged as Doninvest Orion, in small numbers.

India's Maruti makes privatization moves

India moves toward finalizing the privatization of automaker Maruti Udyog Ltd., valuing the automaker at $1.3 billion. The state, as part of a two-step program to sell its share in the ailing carmaker, finalized a rights issue of 1.98 million shares, 15% of the company's worth. Maruti is jointly owned by the state and Suzuki Motor Corp., each of which holds a 50% stake. The rights issue of shares, slated to take place in September, allows the company to raise extra funds in order to help Maruti develop new models. The government says it will not buy any of the new shares. Rather, they will be issued to domestic financial institutions, then sold either to Suzuki or through the market.