Weekly News: April 2, 2001

April 2, 2001

EXIDE PAYS FOR PAST MISTAKES Exide Technologies has finally reached a plea agreement in an Illinois federal court, closing the door on the dishonest dealings of former Exide management. With the settlement, Exide will pay about $27.5 million in fines, payable over five years, and the federal government will agree not to bring any more criminal charges against the company for the dealings of its former management. Exide was implicated in a scandal with Sears Roebuck and Company, involving Sears Die Hard batteries that were mislabeled as premium products. Exide, now led by former Chrysler executive Bob Lutz, says that it has since taken legal action against the former top executives.

JURY WILL DECIDE FORD CASE September 17 has been set as the date that a jury trial will decide whether Ford owes damages to owners of its models equipped with allegedly faulty thick film ignition modules. Last October, a California judge ordered all two million of the affected 1983-1995 vehicles recalled in the class-action suit, although Ford has not yet complied with the order. The case alleges that Ford's placement of the ignition module makes it susceptible to heat buildup and stalling problems. If the jury decides against Ford, damages could be well in the billions.

DC DENIES INTEREST IN DITCHING CHRYSLER DaimlerChrysler officials in Germany have once again denied reports that they are considering selling the unprofitable Chrysler operations. The German magazine Spiegel had reported that Deutsch Bank, a major shareholder in the company, had wanted to address options for Chrysler. DaimlerChrysler cited the company's $4 billion turnaround plan and goal of restoring the division's profitability by 2003.

DOMESTIC CONTENT FIGURE NOT USED, SURVEY SAYS A study done for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has concluded that consumers pay very little attention to the domestic content labels required on vehicles sold in the U.S. since 1995, according to an Automotive News report. The survey found that the content listing influenced the buying decision of only five percent of nearly 650 surveyed new-car buyers. A surprising 77 percent were not aware that the content labels existed. The labels show the percentage of U.S. and Canadian parts content, along with the country of origin of the engine and transmission.

EXXON MOBIL JOINS FUEL CELL PARTNERSHIP Oil giant Exxon Mobil has joined the California Fuel Cell Partnership, a Sacramento-based group of energy companies, automakers, and government agencies studying the possible use of fuel cells in vehicles. Although fuel cells run on hydrogen and oxygen, Exxon Mobil has considerable interest in the development of a gasoline processor that would synthesize hydrogen for use in the fuel cells, from ordinary gasoline. This method would cut emissions compared to today's cleanest vehicles, although it would not be emissions-free.

GM AND FORD ANNOUNCE HIGHER-LEARNING GIFTS Ford Motor Company is providing a $10 million gift toward the construction of a new engineering building at Smith College, in Northhampton, Massachusetts. The automaker wants to encourage more women to become engineers with a new program at the college. Also yesterday, General Motors announced a $3 million investment in a materials research laboratory at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. The lab will harbor research between GM engineers, engineering professors, and students. Research will examine ways to make lighter, more recyclable cars.

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