Canadian automakers are making money again

Conference Board report shows carmakers have reversed their fortunes from three years ago, when they lost $1.5 billion.

  • The image of cars in a showroom

After suffering $1.5 billion in losses only three years ago, Canada’s automakers will reverse that with $1.5 billion in profits this year.

According to the Conference Board of Canada’s latest industrial outlook, national vehicle sales are expected to reach pre-recession levels in 2012, with automakers adding up to 12 per cent in production this year.

The forecast pre-tax profit of $1.5 billion is the highest since 2002.

In 2013 and beyond, the report speculates profits will “stabilize” to a little more than $1.5 billion. Apparently, “fierce” competition (i.e. retail purchase incentives) will keep profit margins low.

Details emerge for Mazda’s next family sedan

The mid-size family sedan market is super hot. All-new or redesigned models from Chevrolet (Malibu), Ford (Fusion), Nissan (Altima) and Honda (Accord) are being, or plan on being, launched this year. Now details of yet another family sedan are emerging.

From a report in Britain’s Car magazine, the next Mazda6 is expected to appear at this September’s Paris auto show. Although European buyers will get hatchback and wagon models, North Americans will once again get just the four-door configuration.

Expect the car’s styling not to stray too far from last fall’s Takeri concept. After the Mazda3 and CX-5, the 6 will be the next Mazda to employ its Skyactiv lightweight engineering formula.

Still not confirmed, we may eventually see the Takeri’s turbo-diesel end up in the 6 at some pint. And finally, bucking the current trend, Mazda is moving North American 6 production back to Japan, after being built in the U.S since 2002.

The last Wankel engine rolls off the line

One type of engine the new Mazda6 won’t have under its hood is a Wankel.

Forty-eight years after the first Wankel (or rotary) engine car went on sale, powering Germany’s 1964 NSU Spider, the last rotary-engine car, a Mazda RX-8, was built last week.

Patented by German Felix Wankel in 1929, the rotary engine was doomed by its inability to meet current and future tailpipe emission standards. The last rotary was nonetheless efficient from a displacement standpoint. From only 1.3 litres, the RX-8’s engine puts out 238 horsepower.

Having built cars with rotary engines since the 1967 Cosmo, Mazda is best associated with the Wankel design, and officially has said it will continue to research the possibility of using a cleaner rotary in the future.

Toyota Prius to be more aerodynamic and lighter

Toyota is gearing up for the next version of its iconic Prius gasoline-electric hybrid, due around 2015. A report says the automaker is looking at areas beyond its hybrid powertrain to gain even further fuel savings from its top-selling Prius.

The report says Toyota admits that many of the “easier” fuel-saving results have already been developed. So the next-generation Prius will offer better ratings through such refinements as less weight, less resistance to the wind with a more aerodynamic shape, and roll-on tires with lower rolling resistance.

BMW and Toyota partnering on hybrids

One rival that’s looking to benefit from Toyota’s lead on hybrid technology is BMW.

Following BMW’s announcement that it will end talks with General Motors to cooperate on fuel cells to power future vehicles, several Japanese and German media outlets have reported Toyota will supply the German automaker with hybrid powertrains.

The Japanese automaker will supply BMW with hybrid drivetrain systems and hydrogen fuel-cell technology, as the two partners strengthen a green car development partnership they started last December.

  • Canadian automakers are making money again

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