News Briefs: March 21, 2012

Here's what we have our eye on today:

  • Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told Bloomberg News today that European automakers need to incur "painful" restructuring to stanch losses in the region. Europe's sovereign-debt crisis has stymied consumer confidence, drying up auto sales and leaving automakers with too much plant capacity. Fiat sales slipped 2.4% in 2011, with factories in Italy running at just 50% capacity. Other European brands saw losses mount. GM's European divisions, including Opel, lost $747 million in 2011, and French automaker Peugeot Citroën, in which GM recently took a 7% stake, saw its debt more than double in the second half of the year. Marchionne told reporters in Belgium he believes Europe as a whole needs to push plant closures and job cuts. "If you leave it to the national countries, it won't happen," he said.
  • Jaguar Land Rover signed a deal with China's Chery Automobile Co. to build and sell cars in China, Reuters reports. The British company, owned by India's Tata Motors, will require approval from Chinese regulators to finalize the joint venture, which is worth about $2.8 billion at current exchange rates. Reuters notes that approval could take some time, however. Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries signed a deal last year with Chery to build cars in China, but officials have yet to approve it.
  • Mercedes-Benz will stop selling the R-Class after 2012, Automotive News reports. The wagon, which seats up to seven, arrived in late 2005, and Mercedes updated its styling for 2011. But the automaker sold just 2,385 R-Classes in the U.S. last year — a fraction of the M-Class SUV's 35,835 sales. Automotive News says Mercedes will continue building the R-Class at its Alabama plant for export, and it plans to sell the wagon in Mexico, Canada and China until at least 2015.
  • Honda says the first redesigned 2013 RDX from its Acura luxury division rolled off the assembly line in East Liberty, Ohio, last Monday. The plant, which began assembly in 1989, also builds the Honda CR-V crossover. Honda says more than 80 Ohio suppliers make parts for the RDX, which goes on sale next month.
  • Hyundai CEO Kim Choong-ho told Reuters the automaker would introduce a redesigned Sonata in 2014. A redesigned Genesis sedan, meanwhile, would arrive in late 2013. Following a slew of new small cars, Hyundai and its Kia affiliate had just one global introduction this year, the Hyundai Santa Fe SUV.

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Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price.  Email Kelsey