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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 12:18 GMT
Automotive Empires
The world car industry is under pressure to consolidate, but it is already one of the most multinational industries, with the biggest firms owning subsidiaries around the world. BBC News Online guides you through the main automotive groups and what they own.

There are five major groups: General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota and Volkswagen.

Of these only Toyota relies on one global brand name. All the others have a web of subsidiaries spanning the world.

General Motors

General Motors is the world's largest car company, based in Detroit, Michigan. It produces more than 8 million cars and trucks a year.

General Motors
GM was the company that pioneered the development of different brands. In the United States it sells cars under the Cadillac, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile labels, and more recently it developed the Saturn as a separate, Japanese-style quality car brand.

GM is one of the largest car producers in Europe, using the Vauxhall badge in the UK and Opel in the rest of Europe. More recently, it acquired a controlling stake in Sweden's Saab Motors, which it continues to operate as a separate brand.

In Australia GM operates one of the country's most well-known brands, Holden. It also has a tie-up with the Japanese car and truck maker Isuzu.

In Latin America the company has a major subsidiary in Brazil, which makes engines and Opel cars.

In 2000 GM purchased a 20% stake in the world's seventh largest car maker, Fiat, and holds the right of first refusal to buy the rest. The two companies carry out joint marketing and engine production in Europe and Latin America.

GM saw its market share in the US rise during 2001 for the first time in many years, but said at the beginning of this year that it was planning to cut about 5,000 jobs.


Ford, the main US rival to GM, is the world's second largest car company, and is expected to unveil its first annual loss since 1992 later this month.

Land Rover
Unlike GM, it has tended to market cars under its own label - until recently. It was one of the first US companies to set up production abroad, moving to Dagenham in the UK in the 1920s.

In the US it also markets cars under the Lincoln and Mercury labels.

But in recent years it has gone on a buying spree abroad, acquiring luxury carmakers Jaguar and Aston Martin in the UK and a big stake in Japan's number three car company Mazda.

Ford has been highly profitable in previous years and even after its purchase of Volvo it still has a large war chest to fund further acquisitions.

Ford acquired Land Rover from BMW in 2000.

Late last year the company dismissed Jac Nasser, its tough-talking former chief executive. Mr Nasser has been replaced by William Clay Ford.


Volkswagen, Germany's largest car maker, has been aggressive in acquiring other car companies throughout Europe.

Bentley (& Rolls-Royce)
To complement its own cars and Germany's upmarket Audi brand which it bought in the 1970s, it has spent heavily to acquire the Rolls-Royce car factory, only to be pipped at the post by BMW who will own the brand name after 2003, leaving VW with the Bentley label and the manufacturing plant.

It has moved into Eastern Europe, buying the main car company in the Czech Republic, Skoda, which it is trying to re-invigorate with its own reputation for quality. It operates the SEAT subsidiary in Spain.

Volkswagen has sought out more luxury badges to add to its range, buying up Italy's Lamborghini and Bugatti labels.

At the end of last year, the company announced that it would carve up its brands into two distinct product groups, one combining the "sporty" Audi, Seat and Lamborghini models and the other comprising the "classic" VW, Skoda, Bentley and Bugatti models.

The company also produces cars in the United States and Latin America.


The merger of Germany's Daimler Benz and the US-based Chrysler Corporation created the world's third largest automotive group.

Chrysler markets cars under the Plymouth and Dodge labels, as well as sports utility vehicles under the Jeep badge. It has a range of minivans or people carriers.

The addition of Mercedes-Benz cars gives the group a complete spread of models, from basic to luxury.

DaimlerChrysler has the world's largest truck business, marketing its Mercedes trucks and owning the Freightliner brand in the United States.

Currently, DaimlerChrysler is implementing a restructuring program that aims to bring its struggling Chrysler division back into the black by 2003.


Toyota is Japan's biggest car company and the most successful exporter of cars in the world.

It has suffered like other Japanese car makers from the Japanese recession which hit sales in its home market - but its more efficient production methods and economies of scale have allowed it to remain independent, unlike other Japanese car makers.

However, it had to cut back further on costs, squeezing its Japanese suppliers and move some production overseas.

Toyotas have been successful in Europe and America, with a reputation for reliability.

The company has also created a successful luxury brand, the Lexus, which has overtaken many European luxury makes in the US market.

Recently, a tough cost-cutting programme and a weakening yen have helped boost its profits.

Renault/Nissan and the rest

On the next rung of the global automotive tree are the European carmakers Renault, Peugeot-Citroen, and Fiat, most of whom lack a global presence.

Renault, formerly state-owned, is the only one that has tried to become a global player in its own right, buying a controlling stake in Japan's Nissan, which was in financial difficulty.

It has begun a sharp cost-cutting programme in Japan, as well as in its European plants. Nissan has major production plants abroad in the UK and the US.

Renault's main rival, Peugeot-Citroen, is looking increasingly vulnerable in the overcrowded European market, despite making a series of popular models.

Fiat now has a monopoly over the old Italian names uniting Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Maserati and Lancia and its own brand under the same corporate roof.

But after many merger rumours, it has now sold a major stake of itself to GM, and ruled out other merger partners.

BMW, the other main European car maker, and MG Rover, which it sold in 2000, both look too small to survive in the long-term, although BMW is still profitable in the luxury niche.


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