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Old 02-10-2009, 09:21 AM   #1
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Default France Announces $8.5 Billion Plan to Help Struggling Auto Industry

France announced a sweeping, 6.5 billion euro ($8.5 billion) plan on Monday to support its automobile industry As part of the plan, PSA Peugeot Citroën and Renault, the two largest French carmakers, will each get a five-year loan of 3 billion euros at an interest rate of 6 percent, while Renault Trucks, which is owned by Volvo of Sweden, will receive a loan of 500 million euros.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France said that the money should be used to invest in clean technology, and that “Renault and PSA have also committed not to close any production sites for the duration of their loan and to do whatever they can to avoid layoffs.”

Also on Monday, Nissan, the Japanese automaker controlled by Renault, announced the elimination of 20,000 jobs and forecast its first annual loss in nine years.

Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of Renault and Nissan, tied the French automaker’s troubles directly to the global credit squeeze.

“In light of the exceptional crisis impacting our entire industry, access to credit was indispensable for supporting our activity and that of the automotive industry,” Mr. Ghosn said.

Nissan’s announcement reflected an increasing sense of urgency among Japanese manufacturers as it becomes clear that the downturn and the strength of the yen are hitting Japan more severely than expected.

“In every planning scenario we built, our worst assumptions on the state of the global economy have been met or exceeded, with the continuing grip on credit and declining consumer confidence being the most damaging factors,” Mr. Ghosn said in a statement.

Nissan joined a chorus of profit warnings on Monday, saying it expected a full-year loss of 265 billion yen ($2.9 billion) rather than the 160 billion yen profit it had projected. It also announced several new measures to cut costs.

“Despite actions already taken during 2008 to respond to the global crisis, worsening conditions are prompting the need for further changes to the company’s cash management strategy, business structure and investment plans,” Nissan said. It said it would cut 20,000 jobs, or 8.5 percent, of its work force of 235,000.
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