Gilles Castonguay
January 23, 2009

A warning of unprecedented staff cuts at Toyota, the world’s biggest auto maker, and word of a possible first quarter loss by Volkswagen piled fresh pressure on struggling car manufacturers on Friday.

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The bleak news came after a halt in dividend payments on Thursday by Italy’s Fiat SpA, the first European car maker to report 2008 results, as it headed into what it called one of its worst years.

As the global auto sector reeled from economic recession, plunging demand and production cuts, UBS analysts said they expected France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault to suspend dividends as well.

European commercial vehicle makers also shared the pain of economic downturn with industry data on Friday showing a 24.4 percent year-on-year drop in the market for December.

Toyota is considering cutting full-time employees in Britain and North America, a company source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

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