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2004 Detroit Show, Part VI Page 3

2004 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid concept

Sixteen Still In GM's In Box

The hit of last year’s North American International Auto Show, the Cadillac Sixteen show car is anything but a forgotten concept, said GM “car czar” Bob Lutz. The massive sedan, with its 16-cylinder engine, served as the model for a project under development dubbed ULS, for Ultra Luxury Sedan, the GM Vice Chairman revealed. What’s under development “would be a vehicle roughly in the category” of the Sixteen, though Lutz cautioned that final details are far from certain. Among the uncertainties: how big and engine to use, though it would very likely be “larger than eight cylinders.” While there’s no guarantee the ULS/Sixteen will ever reach market, Lutz stressed “It is clear Cadillac can go up (-market) and probably must go up. If we’re to reestablish ourselves as the standard of the world, we have to do an uncompromising vehicle only a few people around the world can afford.”

Growth Not Driving Force for Nissan

Sales growth is not the key for Nissan, said CEO Carlos Ghosn, during aDetroit auto show roundtable discussion. “We are using growth as the pillar for profitability,” he stressed. Of course, Ghosn wouldn’t mind seeing sales and market share continue to rise, as it did in 2003. In Europe, volumes soared 14 percent, to 571,000, while sales hit 794,000 in the U.S., a 7.4 percent increase. Worldwide, the numbers came to 3.04 million, and Ghosn forecast that will hit 3.6 million by the end of 2005. But he stressed that Nissan will not launch any product that it cannot expect to earn money. The resurgent automaker also will not match the heavy incentives of some of its competitors just to gain share. The company’s biggest problem, said the Brazilian-born executive, is a shortage of engineering talent. That is forcing it to delay some of the products it needs to become a “total global” company. Nissan hired 1000 engineers just in Japan last year, but it takes three to four years before they can be brought fully up to speed, Ghosn lamented. Should Nissan start closing in on its sales targets, Ghosn acknowledged, it could face another issue. “I have a capacity problem in North America in the mid-term.” That could force Nissan to add another plant, or to expand facilities such as its factories in Smyrna, Tennessee, and Canton, Mississippi.

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