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DAILY EDITION: Jan. 5, 2004 Page 2

Honda Gets Into Truck Game with SUT

2004 Honda SUT concept

2004 Honda SUT concept

Enlarge Photo
2004 Honda SUT concept

2004 Honda SUT concept

Enlarge Photo
2004 Honda SUT conceptDescribed as the dream vehicle for "cool dads" who still play hard and do extreme sports and other outdoor activities, the SUT is not intended to appeal to the typical pickup or SUV buyer, but rather the type of buyer that values carlike attributes first but also wants truck utility. Sounds familiar, right?

The SUT, a concept that closely resembles the production vehicle that will go on sale in calendar year 2005, is based on the same unibody platform as the Honda Pilot and Acura MDX SUVs and the Honda Odyssey minivan. It will be powered by an all-aluminum V-6 engine (assumed to be the same as that used in the Pilot, MDX, and Odyssey). Four-wheel drive will be offered, as well as Vehicle Stability Assist. Seating for five adults is accessible through the four full-size doors. The production version will be built in Ontario, while all Odyssey production moves to Lincoln, Ala.

The SUT synergizes all of Honda, officials said in a presentation, because the SUT is geared toward the people who live the lifestyle encouraged by Honda's line of outdoor equipment, motorbikes, and ATVs, among other things that the five-foot bed is able to hold. Tom Elliot, executive VP of American Honda, went on to call the SUT, "a next-generation truck for a new wave of truck buyers." Whether it's cool dads or other uncool folks, this one's destined to be a success. -Bengt Halvorson

Cloudy Crystal Balls

Things weren't quite as bad as everyone expected in 2003, but industry leaders seem to fear sounding too optimistic about 2004. The general consensus appears to be that sales for the new year should top 17 million. "The only question," according to Joe Eberhardt, Chrysler Group executive vice president-global sales, marketing and service, "is by how much?" The traditional industry forecasting tools just don't seem to work anymore, added Ford Chairman Bill Ford. That's likely the result of what he dubbed a "hellaciously competitive" market where incentives seem unbound by gravity. And unlike past years, where rebate-fed sales booms were followed by sharp downturns, there seems to be little "pull-forward" effect these days. The presidential elections could play a factor in the economic recovery, industry officials noted, but so could the fear of terrorism, said another insider, pointing to the recent string of international air flights canceled because of security concerns. Not surprisingly, the carmakers most bullish, also have strong new line-ups for the coming year. "With all our products," said Eberhardt, "we're confident about 2004."

Extremes Claim Car and Truck of the Year

It'd be difficult to find two products at more extreme ends of the automotive spectrum than those claiming accolades as the North American Car and Truck of the Year. There was no real surprise when the envelope was opened and Ford's newly redesigned F-150 took top truck honors. The full-sized pickup has won widespread media praise while consumers echoed that sentiment with orders for a record 912,000 F-Series trucks last year. "We're very proud," declared Ford Division General Manager Steve Lyons, who added that the award should help Ford achieve its 2004 goal of pushing pickup sales past the 1 million mark. If big is better on the truck side, NACTOY judges opted for small and friendly with the car-of-the-year choice, the Toyota Prius. Toyota division's Don Esmond said the victory validated the hybrid as a mainstream, rather than fringe technology. Consumers seem to agree, with soaring sales forcing Toyota to increase production of the high-mileage gasoline-electric vehicle. A total of 50 North American journalists serve as jurors for the NACTOY awards, which are not affiliated with the Detroit auto show. -TCC Team

GM Giving Away 1000 Vehicles in Two Months

In what many believe is the biggest sales promotion ever of its kind for a car company, General Motors will give away 1000 new vehicles in January and February to consumers who visit a GM dealership.

The world's biggest automaker and more than 7,000 dealers expect the offer to bring some 5.5 million prospective customers to showrooms, 40 percent-50 percent more than usual for two traditionally slow sales months.

Consumers need only visit a Chevrolet, Pontiac, Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Saturn, Saab or HUMMER dealership, sit in a car and push the OnStar button in the vehicle to find out if they are a winner. GM says the chances of winning a new vehicle in its "Hot Button" promotion are about one in 5500. No test drive of a vehicle is necessary.

OnStar, owned by GM, is a satellite-based service offered in GM vehicles, as well as in some other automakers' products, that puts drivers in touch with operators who can summon emergency help and other services.

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