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Ford Lightning Won't Strike Again


Ford Lightning Won't Strike Again

2001 Ford SVT F-150 LightningThose patient supertruck fans awaiting a new Ford F-150 Lightning will be upset to learn that Ford has killed plans for a new Lightning based on the new F-150. According to reports from Orlando Sentinel auto writer Steven Cole Smith, Ford is halting work on a new Lightning because the cost of developing the new vehicle was prohibitive. A Ford spokesman said that the vehicle had been "postponed" but that any revival would take until at least 2008. Without the Lightning and with the demise of the SVT Focus, the performance brand will be left with no vehicles to sell in 2005 and with just one for the 2006 model year — an SVT Mustang Cobra.

Preview: 2005 Roush Ford F-150 Tejon by Eric Peters (7/19/2004)
Beating the Lightning to the ground.


Kalbfell To Run Alfa

Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, who left a long career at BMW AG and his job of running Rolls-Royce this week, will be named by next week to run the Alfa Romeo brand at Fiat Auto.

Kalbelll, 54, replaces Daniele Bandiera, 47, who has run the business since 2002. Kalbfell will likely take over the job in spring.

Kalbfell, a 28-year veteran of BMW, is known as a savvy marketer, but with financial discipline that is drummed into BMW executives. That will be welcome at Alfa, which has frequently been the target of criticism for inconsistent marketing and cost over-runs. Alfa Romeo has been on a sales slide the last few years, going from 208,000 in 2001 to 178,000 last year. It is on track to sell fewer than 170,000 this year.

Fiat CEO Herbert Demel is amidst a German makeover of the Italian automaker. Besides Kalbfell, Demel in less than a year since taking over as CEO has appointed former VW executive Stefan Ketter to head Fiat quality; former Autogerma CEO Johann Wohlfarter to head the newly created position of market & network coordinator; and former Audi and Magna-Steyr executive Harald J. Wester as Fiat Auto head of engineering and design.

Kalbfell had long been frustrated at not being named to the management board at BMW, and saw it would not happen before he reached retirement age. The job of running Rolls-Royce, too, is seen as a bit of an operational outpost at BMW and it was a job he did not relish. — Jim Burt

Spy Shots: '05 Alfa GTV and Spider by Hans Lehmann/Hidden Image (9/27/2004)
If Alfa survives, so do these. Here's hoping.



Ford Wins One in Crown Vic Cases

Ford Motor Company has won a major victory in its continuing battle with a consortium of plantiff lawyers over safety of Crown Vic police cars. Last week, a jury in St. Clair County, Illinois — a jurisdiction known for both its remoteness and its generosity in suits against big companies — has ruled in favor of Ford. Trial lawyers had lined up countless police and sheriff departments around the country as plaintiffs, though most had no claim for injury, only hope of splitting up a hoped-for big jury award.

According to the Belleville, Illinois, News-Democrat newspaper, after hearing five weeks of testimony, it took the jury only two hours to conclude that the class-action suit against Ford alleging Crown Vics were unsafe had no merit.

A judge still has to rule on three other counts in the case. In the meantime, some of the plaintiff police agencies have complained Ford won't sell them Crown Vic police cars anymore. —Mike Davis

Numbers Don't Damn Crown Vic by Mike Davis (1/26/2004)
The controversy over burning cop cars has overwhelmed the facts.


SPECIAL REPORT: 2004 Convergence

Industry Converges At Convergence by TCC Team (10/18/2004)
Where cars and electronics collide.

Convergence 2004: New Horizons by TCC Team (10/18/2004)
More highlights from Detroit 's meeting of the minds - electronic and otherwise.

HUD Gets A New Fresh Look
The head-up display or HUD where information such as speed or fuel consumption is flashed up on the windshield has been kicking around the auto business ever since shortly after former GM Chairman Roger Smith bought Hughes Aircraft in the name of synergy. Despite Smith's best efforts, the HUD never quite caught on with car buyers, largely because it was to expensive for what was basically little more than a fancy speedometer. Nevertheless, the technology has never really disappeared completely and they can be found in some very sophisticated vehicles such as the new 2005 Chevrolet Corvette and the BMW 5- and BMW 6-Series. In fact, Siemens VDO recently had to increase the production of the HUD system it furnishes BMW because of increasing demand.

However, now the HUD systems could be on the verge of taking off as in-car feature thanks to advances in technology that makes them both easier to read and design into a dashboard. DuPont Automotive and Motorola teamed up during the Convergence 2004 automotive electronics show in Detroit to show how the system might work. Michael Sanders, global director of automotive safety, said one of the keys to the new HUD technology is the downsizing of the basic unit. The hardware for old-style HUD displays was about the size of toaster, which meant putting it in a car invariably led to fights between designers and engineers over where it should go inside the dashboard, where space is very valuable.

The system developed by Motorola, however, is about the size of "two sugar cubes," which means its much easier to design into the vehicle, said Gardner, who said DuPont has matched the Motorola system up with its new windshield interlayer that can serve as the HUD screen. The whole system uses relatively little electrical power — something that wasn't true with the older HUD systems, Gardner said. Denso, the big Japanese automotive supplier, also is working on a new HUD system that would be capable of flashing more information than just the vehicle's cruising speed on the windshield. Part of the new interest in HUD displays is a reaction to BMW's iDrive system. BMW executives have defended the iDrive because its one way of accessing the wealth of information stored in the vehicle's onboard computer. But the iDrive's human-machine interface has been roundly criticized both in the press and by other design professionals.

Gardner said one of the things the HUD can do is give the driver access to information created by more sophisticated electronic systems. If a car is equipped with a turn-by-turn navigation system, for example, it makes more sense to display the route information on the windshield than to have the driver constantly trying to squint at a screen on the instrument cluster or on the center stack, Gardner said. "It's just safer," he said. Gardner said the DuPont/Motorola system is still a work in progress but he thinks it has some serious potential. — Joe Szczesny

High-Voltage Cars Take a Back Seat

One thing missing from Convergence 2004 is talk about 42-volt batteries, which have been moved to the back burner by carmakers, who have opted at least for now to continue using the familiar 12-volt system. However, one thing that has happened, according to officials from Siemens VDO, is that it has harnessed electronics to help better manage the current from the 12-volt system. The new battery management systems have basically extended the capability of the traditional 12-volt battery, says David Ladd, Siemens spokesman. Meanwhile, another trend evident at this year's edition of Convergence is miniaturization. New iterations of screens and cameras, for example, draw less power than their older technology and thus are helping postpone the need for a 42-volt system. Nevertheless, Bran Ferren, the chief creative officer from Applied Minds Inc., which specializes in helping companies think about future technology, said the industry has to get serious about introducing the 42-volt technology because it will open automotive design and technology and encourage the design of new features that will define the future vehicles and eliminate some of the glitches now found in the electronic systems now found in automobiles. For example, "The GPS systems on cars are a complete embarrassment," because they are too slow and generally off the mark, he noted. A 42-volt system would enhance the functionality of most car based electronic systems, Ferren added. — Joe Szczesny

Consumers Aren't Engineers

Consumers can't be asked to help manufacturers or suppliers do the research and development on new electronic features, Carl-Peter Forster, the chief executive of General Motors of Europe, said during a speech Convergence 2004 conference. New advance in electronics will continue to account for more than 90 percent of the innovations on a new car, said Forster. But manufacturers have to choose carefully and cannot support innovations that don't generate tangible value for the customer.

Manufacturers, increasingly, have to ask whether customers are willing to pay for it and experience indicates that customers are not willing to pay for discrete improvements in features that are already on a vehicle, Forster said. Forster also said more work has to be done to improve the "human-machine" interface of electronic features. In many cases, the interface leaves a lot to be desired, he said. However, Forster also said that such electronic-based systems such as brake-by-wire and drive-by-wire hold great promise and GM Europe will continue to explore the feasibility of using them both in future products. — Joe Szczesny

FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases

PRNewswire

R. L. Polk & Co. today announced the appointment of Cristina Foster as vice president of Polk's Ford OEM team. In this role, Foster will be responsible for managing the development, production, sale, and delivery of products and services for the Ford account within Polk's OEM organization.

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Autoliv Inc. ALV 40.02 +0.47 (+1.19%)
AutoNation Inc. AN 16.81 -0.18 (-1.06%)
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 16.58 -0.08 (-0.48%)
American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 27.10 +0.23 (+0.86%)
Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 7.99 +0.14 (+1.78%)
BorgWarner Inc. BWA 39.98 -0.23 (-0.57%)
Collins & Aikman Corporation CKC 3.46 -0.18 (-4.95%)
Cummins Inc. CMI 72.74 -0.90 (-1.22%)
Dana Corporation DCN 14.17 -0.22 (-1.53%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 41.07 +0.38 (+0.93%)
Delphi Corporation DPH 8.35 +0.07 (+0.85%)
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 6.51 -0.05 (-0.76%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 61.98 unch (unch)
Ford Motor Company F 12.90 -0.03 (-0.23%)
General Motors Corporation GM 37.84 -0.16 (-0.42%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 31.85 +0.48 (+1.53%)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 9.31 -0.21 (-2.21%)
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) HMC 23.83 -0.03 (-0.13%)
Johnson Controls Inc. JCI 54.62 -0.59 (-1.07%)
Lear Corporation LEA 49.73 -0.78 (-1.54%)
Magna International Inc. MGA 69.56 -0.24 (-0.34%)
Motorola Inc. MOT 17.09 -1.41 (-7.62%)
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) NSANY 22.05 +0.31 (+1.43%)
Sonic Automotive Inc. SAH 18.88 -0.12 (-0.63%)
Siemens AG SI 73.70 -0.36 (-0.49%)
Sirius Satellite Radio SIRI 3.78 -0.01 (-0.26%)
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TRW Automotive Holdings TRW 16.90 -0.10 (-0.59%)
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United Auto Group Inc. UAG 26.10 +0.48 (+1.87%)
Visteon Corporation VC 6.81 -0.13 (-1.87%)
XM Satellite Radio Hold. XMSR 29.16 +0.11 (+0.38%)

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