/

Renault-Nissan alliance seeks 7.5% more savings

Bloomberg

Renault and Nissan raised their goal for combined savings by 7.5 percent as the 15-year-old alliance accelerates cooperation efforts.

The carmakers expect to save “at least” $5.83 billion by 2016 by stepping up joint projects in development, manufacturing, purchasing and human resources, the automaking partnership said late Thursday in a statement.

Carlos Ghosn, who is chief executive officer of both France-based Renault and Yokohama-based Nissan, had previously targeted $5.42 billion in cost savings. The tighter cooperation follows Fiat’s full takeover of Chrysler and its move to create a combined company. The plan goes beyond the Renault-Nissan alliance, which is underpinned by cross-shareholdings.

“Renault and Nissan’s partnership is fundamentally based on mutual respect and an attitude where all ‘win-win’ projects move forward on the fast track,” Ghosn said in the statement. “With the new convergence projects, we will continue on the same path and with the same principles of respect and transparency — at an accelerated pace.”

Renault has been Nissan’s partner in sales and production since 1999 and owns 43 percent of the Japanese manufacturer, which in turn holds a 15 percent stake in the French carmaker. The alliance generated $3.65 billion in savings for the two companies in 2012.

The French carmaker is introducing a modular-production strategy with Nissan to build more vehicles together and lower spending, Renault said in June. Sharing underlying technology will help the carmakers cut engineering and development costs as much as 40 percent and reduce spending on parts more than 20 percent by 2020, Jean-Michel Billig, executive vice president of engineering and quality, said at the time.

New projects are expected to be approved by the two companies by the end of the first quarter, the alliance said.

Renault-Nissan appointed Christian Vandenhende to spearhead new procurement projects. Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi will be in charge of joint research and development efforts. Shouhei Kimura will oversee efforts to streamline the group’s factories, and Marie-Francoise Damesin will look into ways to combine personnel efforts.

Toyota pulls six models

Detroit AP

Toyota has told North American dealers to stop selling six popular models with heated seats because the fabric doesn’t meet flammability standards.

One soft material beneath the seat covers does not comply with U.S. safety standards, company spokesman John Hanson said.

No fires or injuries have been reported, but Toyota can’t legally sell cars that don’t comply with U.S. safety codes, Hanson said. The company is still totaling how many vehicles are affected, but it will be in the thousands, according to the spokesman.

The stop-sale order could mean trouble for Toyota and its dealers because it covers the company’s top-selling vehicles. Dealers can no longer sell certain Camry, Avalon, Sienna and Tacoma models from the 2013 and 2014 model years, as well as Corollas and Tundras from 2014. The Camry, for instance, is the top-selling car in the U.S. with more than 408,000 sold last year.

It is unknown how long the repairs will take. Hanson said the company already has a new material that’s being installed at factories and will be put in cars that are on dealer lots.

“We don’t think it will take long to get the parts and make the changes,” Hanson said, without getting more specific.

As for vehicles already on the road, Hanson said that Toyota has reported the problem to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which will decide if the sold vehicles should be recalled. An NHTSA spokesman said he would check into the matter.

“We don’t believe that there is a safety issue here because there have been no reports of any problems,” Hanson said.