'WE HAVE TO BE READY' —
That’s the word from DaimlerChrysler
President Tom Stallkamp, in case
there's a market shift away from
trucks and back to cars, "and
someday, we think there will be."
With that explanation, Stallkamp
is investing big dollars to launch its second-generation Neon subcompact.
THE NEW NEON is far less radical in design than the first-generation subcompact. The emphasis has been on evolutionary refinement, rather than revolutionary styling. Initial test drives reveal a vehicle that is quieter, smoother and better handling. DaimlerChrysler promises the updated Neon has overcome the quality problems that plagued the original, as well. The automaker hopes to score a big increase in sales with the new model, possibly selling out its Belvedere (Illinois) plant, which can produce up to 260,000 Neons annually.
LIGHT TRUCKS RULE THE ROAD — These days, it's an established fact, now that trucks have topped passenger car sales in recent months. Nissan hopes to gain ground in the soaring SUV segment with its redesigned Pathfinder, a midyear introduction that made its public debut in Los Angeles. It's an evolutionary update, with larger tires, improved ride and handling, and restyled bumpers and fascia. The interior sports a new, high-tech titanium look. For those who focus on safety, the new Pathfinder offers standard seat-mounted side-impact airbags that protect both head and chest in the event of a crash. Nissan also unveiled the 2000 Frontier Crew Cab, the first compact pickup to boast four full-size forward-swinging doors. Scheduled to go on sale in May, it delivers more than enough room for five adults, without giving up its expansive cargo bed. The standard 3.3-liter V-6 has more than enough power to give the Frontier Crew Cab a 5,000-pound towing capacity.
IS IT A CAR OR A TRUCK? — There's a new generation of hybrid vehicles capturing the public's imagination. Subaru's Legacy Outback wagon helped the troubled carmaker reverse a seven-year sales skid. Now, Mazda is testing the waters for what may soon be its own car/truck crossover vehicle. For now, the Protégé AllSport is just in the concept stage, but company insiders don't deny they'll be looking to see how the public reacts to the vehicle, a muscular "tall wagon" developed off the subcompact Protégé platform.