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US, Canada finalize new auto fuel economy standards
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 1, 2010


China's BAIC wants to invest in Saab: report
Stockholm (AFP) April 1, 2010 - China's Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. wants to invest in Saab after it failed to buy the Swedish car company, BAIC's chief said in a newspaper interview published on Thursday. "We have a durable interest in deepening our partnership with Saab and we are ready to invest in the company," BAIC chief executive Wang Dazong told Swedish business daily Dagens Industri. China's fifth biggest car maker was one of the bidders to take over loss-making Saab from General Motors, but the US group dismissed BAIC's bid and sold it to Dutch sports car maker Spyker Cars, Wang said.

In December, BAIC acquired the intellectual property rights for Saab's 9-3 and 9-5 car models for 140 million euros. It also signed a contract this week to sell Saab cars in its network in China. In February, Spyker Cars bought Saab for 400 million dollars (296 million euros), rescuing the Swedish company which GM was about to close down as part of its own efforts to recover from bankruptcy. Spyker chief executive Victor Muller said last week that he intended to restore Saab to profit by 2012, raising annual production sixfold to 120,000 cars in 2012, employing an extra 500 workers and extending a Saab factory.

GM China reports record sales in March
Shanghai (AFP) April 2, 2010 - US auto giant General Motors said Friday it sold a record 230,048 vehicles in China last month with demand strong for smaller, fuel-efficient cars. The result marked a 67.9 percent year-on-year increase and was the 15th straight monthly sales record for GM in China, the world's biggest and fastest growing auto market. "We have seen particularly strong interest in GM's newest passenger car models, the Chevrolet Cruze, Chevrolet New Sail and Buick Excelle XT," said Kevin Wale, managing director of GM China Group.

"This is a clear indicator that many consumers across the country -- especially first-time car buyers -- are placing smaller, more fuel-efficient products at the top of their shopping lists." Sales in the first quarter by GM and its joint ventures reached 623,546 units, up 71.4 percent from the same period last year, the company said in a statement. China's auto sales overtook those of the United States for the first time last year to become the world's biggest auto market. Sales have been driven by government incentives such as lower taxes on cars with engines smaller than 1.6 litres and subsidies for clean-technology vehicles. Most of those measures have been extended into 2010.

GM said demand for small cars was particularly strong, with Chevrolet sales soaring 151.5 percent on-year to 46,139 units in March. Shanghai GM, the company's flagship joint venture with China's largest automaker SAIC Motor, sold 86,967 vehicles last month, an increase of 88.8 percent from the same month last year. Sales at SAIC-GM-Wuling, a mini-commercial vehicle joint venture with SAIC and Liuzhou Wuling Automobile, grew 42.6 percent on-year to 129,489 vehicles. FAW-GM Light Duty Commercial Vehicle, a tie-up with China's FAW Group launched in August, sold 13,200 vehicles in March.

The US government Thursday finalized new automobile fuel economy standards starting with 2012 models, a move officials said would save billions of barrels of oil and reduce greenhouse emissions.

The rules announced by the Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency "will significantly increase the fuel economy of all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the United States," the agencies said.

"The rules could potentially save the average buyer of a 2016 model year car 3,000 dollars over the life of the vehicle and, nationally, will conserve about 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce nearly a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lives of the vehicles covered."

Starting with 2012 model year vehicles, the rules require automakers to improve fleet-wide fuel economy and reduce fleet-wide greenhouse gas emissions by roughly five percent every year.

By 2016 the industrywide standard will be 34.1 miles (54.9 kilometers) per gallon (3.8 liters), taking into account improvements in efficiency of car air conditions.

The standards also require that by the 2016 model-year, manufacturers must achieve a combined average vehicle emission level of 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile.

"These historic new standards set ambitious, but achievable, fuel economy requirements for the automotive industry that will also encourage new and emerging technologies," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

"We will be helping American motorists save money at the pump, while putting less pollution in the air."

In a simultaneous move, Canadian Environment Minister Jim Prentice also announced new vehicle emissions standards would be applied on passenger cars and light trucks imported or manufactured in Canada and the United States.

The regulations affect 2011 and later model year vehicles, and are expected to cut 92 megatons of CO2 emissions over the lifetime of 2011-2016 model year vehicles sold in Canada, a statement said.

"Yes, vehicles will cost a little more up front, but the money saved on fuels should make up for the extra cost," Prentice told a press conference at a local Ford dealership.

"In the end, by 2016, they will be 25 percent more fuel efficient than they are now."

The moves were hailed by the Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson.

"This is a significant step towards cleaner air and energy efficiency, and an important example of how our economic and environmental priorities go hand-in-hand," she said.

DOT and EPA received more than 130,000 public comments on the September 2009 proposed rules before issuing the final standards.

Officials said the program would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 960 million metric tons over the lifetime of the vehicles regulated, equivalent to taking 50 million cars and light trucks off the road in 2030.

Later in the year, Canada and the United States are expected to announce continental emissions standards for passenger trucks and heavy trucks, as well as for ships and trains.

Canada's Prentice also hinted at a continent-wide emissions credit system.

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