Iveco and Hyundai in China

News of a flurry of activity in China reaches us.

Fiat’s Chinese master plan now seems to be settling down a bit, with the news that Nanjing Iveco has been integrated with Yuejin. Yuejin will bear responsibility for light and heavy truck production, whilst Nanjing Iveco will manufacture light buses and forward control light trucks. Yuejin will share Nanjing Iveco's commercial vehicle technology. This deal makes Nanjing Iveco Fiat’s biggest Asian operation to date.According to the agreement, Fiat will invest RMB 400 (£26.49 / €39.38 / $51.58) million; Nanjing Automobiles will tip up a similar amount by throwing Yuejin's assets into the pot, and both parties will each hold a 50 per cent stake in the new Nanjing Iveco. When all is said and done, Nanjing Iveco will own two major product trucks and bus products giving effective coverage of the entire Chinese CV market. During 2007, the new operation is aiming for output of 100,000 units, with 25,000 bearing an Iveco badge, the remainder being branded with a Yuejin logo. More to the point, there is now open discussion about turning the Nanjing Iveco operation into a centre for Iveco exports to other markets.So far so good, but what are we to make of the news that Hyundai is about to give the finger to its South Korean workforce – which recently rejected a two-shift work system at the Jeonju plant - and is actively considering relocation of its CV business to China?In 2005 Hyundai Motor - formerly a best friend of DaimlerChrysler - signed an agreement with China’s Guangzhou Motor Group to establish a 50-50 joint venture company to make commercial vehicles in China. With a total investment of £220.86 / €331.83 / $430 million, the factory could have an annual production capacity of up to 200,000 units. Negotiations for the deal had stalled, but Hyundai sources report that the talks are back on and making swift progress.If this goes the distance, then the Guangzhou plant would be Hyundai Motor’s first large-scale overseas commercial vehicle plant. Hyundai has a factory to produce small commercial vehicles in Turkey, but its production capacity is low and it only assembles components sent from Korea. And we wonder if this could herald the start of a new, rather more international focus on the part of the South Korean OEM. Of course, the fact that its Chairman has just been banged up is unfortunate, but this could go somewhere interesting.

The rising wages of sin

If the value of losses or the threat to human life are true indicators, we are losing ground in the fight against truck crime. Last year hijackings were up by 53%. That equated to 129 drivers abducted for their cargos as opposed to 84 the previous year. The value of the vehicles stolen was the same year on year at £24m, but the value of the loads increased dramatically - perhaps a sign that the criminals are becoming more intelligence-led in their activities.

Hijacked loads were worth £60m in 2005; last year's haul was over £81m. At £105.2m the combined value of stolen trucks and loads topped £100m for the first time - an increase of almost 25%.

Detective Constable Andy Round of TruckPol says cargo-led crime is increasingly targeted. While the police are making progress at tracking specific gangs and putting names to faces, they are also painfully aware that many thefts are facilitated by insiders. Although drivers may be extremely careful about sharing details of loads and routes with those they don't know, they may not realise that friends and family can unwittingly reveal details of their job, or be put under pressure to do so.

The intelligence angle is supported by the huge peak in thefts of household goods and building materials, including the high-value metals crucial to developing economies. The TruckPol report for the last quarter of 2006 notes: "Ferrous and non-ferrous metals continue to be targeted by thieves due to the high price and demand by developing countries such as China.

"The Midlands region seems to suffer the brunt of the attacks but offences have occurred in Kent, Surrey and Cambridge," it adds.

About 110 such incidents occurred between September and December, compared with 130 loads of household goods snatched in the same period. These loads are not stolen for their high value but because they are the easiest stolen goods to sell.

London remains the capital of truck crime with almost 140 thefts in the last quarter. But while the area is a magnet for thieves, the problem is widespread with Kent, West Yorkshire, Essex, West Midlands and the Thames Valley all reporting between 60 and 80 truck crimes in the last quarter of 2006.

To emphasise the nationwide nature of the problem TruckPol has moved out of its base in the Met police area to Dunsmore, Warwickshire, where it forms part of the newly formed ACPO Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service. The initiative is still funded by its industry sponsors, whose money is matched by the Home Office.

DC Round emphasises that the fight against freight crime demands the vigilance and co-operation of the industry, both to maintain best practice and to inform and educate the police. "The main areas of concern remain keys left unattended," he says. "Don't forget, thieves will use any cunning lie to get the driver out of his cab."