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BRIEF - Bridgestone on recovery road

Published:Sunday | August 8, 2010 | 12:00 AM

  • Bridgestone on recovery road


Bridgestone Corp returned to profit in the first half and raised its full-year forecast Friday amid a recovery in global auto demand that lifted tyre sales.

The Japanese tire-maker, running neck and neck with Michelin SCA of France as the world's biggest, posted a 44.5 billion yen (US$517.4 million) profit for the six months through June. It had a loss of 39.3 billion yen a year earlier.

First-half sales jumped 15 per cent to 1.39 trillion yen (US$16.2 billion), Bridgestone said in a statement.

The turnaround echoes a recovery at global automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co of Japan, and their international rivals.

  • US auto sales rise


Most automakers posted higher US sales last month, a sign that Americans are still willing to buy big-ticket items even though concerns linger about the economy and hiring.

After a sluggish June, sales rose slightly at Detroit automakers General Motors Co and Chrysler. Foreign-based companies like Kia and Subaru posted bigger gains. Ford, meanwhile, had flat sales.

Sales were boosted by easier credit and new versions of cars and trucks ranging from Jeeps to large family wagons. Summer promotions also helped.

"Consumers have been conditioned to think that the summer is a great time to pick up a deal on a new car," senior analyst Jessica Caldwell said.

Credit is thawing, with auto loan approvals up for buyers in every tier. GM announced last month that it would buy AmeriCredit Corp. in an effort to expand loans to customers with poor credit and offer more leases.

  • Slow growth in China


General Motors and Ford said Tuesday their Chinese sales growth slowed sharply in July in a new sign China's rapid economic expansion is cooling.

China is the biggest auto market by number of vehicles sold, and automakers are looking to the country to drive revenues amid weak global demand. But growth has fallen since last year, when Beijing boosted demand with tax cuts and subsidies.

General Motors Co said July sales of its brands in China rose 22 per cent over a year ago to 176,645 units. That was less than half the 44.5 per cent growth rate for the first seven months of the year.

Ford Motor Co said sales for its two joint ventures rose 8 per cent over a year ago to 38,033 units - a fraction of Ford's 38 per cent growth for the first seven months. Sales of Ford-brand vehicles by its Changan Ford Mazda joint venture fell 6.3 per cent from last July.

"After a blistering hot 2009, we are seeing a return to more traditional sales patterns this year," said a Ford statement.

Chinese auto sales growth has declined steadily in recent months and fell from 19.4 per cent in June to 17.2 per cent in July, the official Xinhua News Agency said Monday.

  • Boost for Volt


General Motors said Friday that it is boosting production capacity for its new Chevrolet Volt due to strong public interest in the electric car that goes on sale this year.

GM will now have a production capacity of 45,000 vehicles in 2012, up from previous plans for 30,000 vehicles.

The automaker made the announcement as President Barack Obama toured the Volt production facility in Detroit. The federal government sank US$50 billion into GM as part of the broader rescue of the auto industry, giving taxpayers a majority stake in the nation's largest auto company.

The Volt, priced at US$41,000, can go 340 miles (545 kilometres) on a single battery charge, according to GM. The vehicle is powered purely by the battery in the first 40 miles (65 kilometres), and then uses a small tank of gasoline to create an additional charge for the remaining 300 miles (480 kilometres).

Chevrolet dealers began taking orders this week for the 2011 model.

GM recently raised the number of launch markets for the Volt from three to seven.