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DAILY EDITION: Dec. 9, 2003

Daily Edition TCC WJR

Daily Edition TCC WJR

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Incentives May Have Finally Peaked

Incentives are still a fact of life in the industry, but the Chrysler Group’s chief executive says he is encouraged by recent trends, suggesting the increase in incentives may be leveling off. “I’m hoping the rate of increase is coming down. We’re beginning to see some sign of that,” Zetsche told reporters in Auburn Hills. However, the overcapacity in the global auto industry means incentives aren’t going to disappear any time soon, he said. Chrysler had relatively little to offer in the way of new product in the past year but that’s about to change in the next twelve months as the company rolls out nine new products, among them a new minivan with a slick new interior package and the company’s first new rear-wheel-drive cars in a generation. The lack of new product has given Chrysler’s competitors, particularly the Japanese, an edge, Zetsche said. “We have specific analysis where we know the strengths and the weaknesses of our competitors or at least we believe we do,” he said. “There is no doubt we have excellent competitors,” he said. “What’s changed is in the aggressiveness with which they’ve invested in their margins in the marketplace,” added Zetsche, who noted that companies such as Toyota have not hesitated to reduce prices or offer incentives in an effort to win more sales. “In the past they’ve been somewhat reluctant. There’s none of that out there,” now, he said. —Joe Szczesny

GM, Toyota Lovin’ Nov. Sales by Joseph Szczesny (12/8/2003)
Sales get a boost almost across the board.

Chrysler Set to “Stow ‘N Go”

2005 Chrysler minivans

2005 Chrysler minivans

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Hoping to rebuild its lead in the profitable minivan segment, Chrysler will launch a significant update of its Town & Country and Dodge Caravan models for 2005. Though a formal presentation isn’t scheduled until next month’s Detroit auto show, the automaker provided a sneak peek to journalists Monday, highlighting a range of new features. The one most likely to catch the attention of consumers is the “Stow ’n‘ Go” system. It permits both the second and third rows to fold up or down in as many as 250 different configurations — including a tailgate mode. With the seats up, there are two large storage tubs, including a covered one that can conceal valuables. Chrysler will add several safety features, including knee bolster airbags and smart front airbags. Side curtain airbags will be optional, though in light of Honda’s new safety initiative — making side bags, rollover curtains and stability control standard on the Odyssey by late 2006 — Chrysler officials admitted on background they may have to rethink their own safety strategy. Stow ’n‘ Go will be offered only on long-wheelbase models, the new minivans set to launch in March 2004. The eighteen-month project cost the automaker $400 million, but company insiders tell TheCarConnection that the virtually all-new minivan platform is far more flexible than before. As a result, it may find use in other new models over the next few years.

Chrysler Revamps Minivan Seats by TCC Team (12/9/2003)
Can the original regain its lead with “Stow ‘n Go?”

Saab 9-2X Set for L.A.

2005 Saab 9-2X

2005 Saab 9-2X

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Saab on Monday released the first official photos of its Subaru-derived 9-2X, a turbo wagon due to be launched at the Los Angeles auto show later this month. The 2005 model comes standard with all-wheel drive. Buyers have a choice of a 165-hp, normally aspirated 2.5-liter flat-four engine in Arc models or a turbocharged 227-hp, 2.0-liter flat four in the 9-2X Aero. The 9-2X goes on sale July 1 and will be priced below $25,000. Anti-lock brakes and flip-folding rear seats are among the standard features.

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