Carmakers wasted no time trying to show off their new-found "green" credentials -- as well as their glittering profits -- at the start of the Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA) on Tuesday. Opening the world's biggest car show with raft of optimistic reports on improved earnings and greater fuel efficiency, executives from carmakers around the world were bubbling with confidence about their greener fleets and fatter profits.
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Carmakers wasted no time trying to show off their new-found "green" credentials -- as well as their glittering profits -- at the start of the Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA) on Tuesday.
Opening the world's biggest car show with raft of optimistic reports on improved earnings and greater fuel efficiency, executives from carmakers around the world were bubbling with confidence about their greener fleets and fatter profits.
Rather than being rattled about increased pressure to lower the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions believed responsible for climate change, automakers went on the offensive at the start of the show that a million visitors are set to see by September 23.
Executives from General Motors Corp , DaimlerChrysler, BMW , Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen, Audi and Fiat had plenty of good news to deliver to the thousands of journalists staked out in the cavernous halls of the trade fair's grounds.
Many also took the opportunity to try to argue they were leading the way on making low-emission, environmentally friendly cars -- and not being pushed by politicians or consumers.
"We're not just talking about cutting CO2 emissions, we're doing it," BMW Chief Executive Norbert Reithofer told reporters after presenting a new sport activity vehicle (SAV) with a hybrid engine that will be in showrooms in 2009.
"This isn't just a quick, half-hearted effort. We've been leading the way for years. We got an early start and it's not at all the case that we're being pushed into this by politicians."
Reiterhofer also had reassuring words for investors -- 2007 operating profits would be above 2006 levels, all three group brands would post record unit sales this year, and sales even in the weak German market this year would be above 2006 levels.
DaimlerChrysler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche also brought good news, saying chances for a dividend increase were good.
"The outlook for a rising dividend is very good," he said.
The group's premium Mercedes-Benz brand said it will begin serial production within three years of a small car powered by a zero-emissions hydrogen fuel cell.
"The small-scale series production of the B-Class F-Cell will begin in early 2010," the carmaker said.
General Motors Corp's European arm said unit sales rose 19.3 percent to 138,200 in August, helped by a 15.9 percent increase at its Opel/Vauxhall brand. In the January-August period unit sales were up by 101,800 to a total of 1.445 million.
Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said GM was watching the downturn in the U.S. housing market closely, however.
"It's created an environment where people are a little tense and when they get a little tense they hold onto their dollars and hold their cars a little longer," he said. "So we saw reasonably weaker sales the last several months."
Porsche posted preliminary full-year results with revenue growing faster than vehicle sales and forecast sales of its sports cars would be stable next year.
Revenue in the fiscal year to end-July increased by 3.4 percent to 7.4 billion euros ($10.20 billion) while sales rose 0.7 percent to 97,515 units.
Volkswagen said it expects to first generate "acceptable earnings" in the United States by 2010 at the latest although it could break even earlier.
The head of Volkswagen's premium Audi unit, Rupert Stadler, confirmed higher sales and profit this year. He said he expected the company to achieve its goal to raise unit sales to 950,000 this year from 905,000 last year.
Italy's Fiat expects to increase the Italian market share for its Fiat brand in 2007, Luca De Meo, head of Fiat's car brand said.
Antonio Baravalle, head of Fiat's Alfa Romeo brand, said the unit will reach its target of selling more than 160,000 cars this year.
"We'll close the year having sold more than 165,000 units," growth of about 5 percent in unit sales over the previous year, he told Reuters on the sidelines of the Frankfurt autoshow.
Toyota Motor Co said it sees European sales up five percent in 2008. But president Katsuaki Watanabe said he expected a slight decline in the U.S. auto market in 2007 to around 16.3 million units.
Renault Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said the French car maker remained in talks with Russia's AvtoVaz as it seeks additional production capacity in that fast growing market.
(Additional reporting Michael Shields, Marcel Michelson, Gilles Castonguay; Ran Kim; Christiaan Hetzner; James Kelleher and Andrea Mandala)