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Solstice Set for Early August Sales


Solstice Set for Early August Sales

2006 Pontiac SolsticeReports of the Pontiac Solstice's supposed delay have proved somewhat exaggerated. Contrary to recent reports that the new Pontiac roadster would be delayed until after the end of the critical summer season, the first two-seaters will actually roll into showrooms during the first week of August. "It really is coming this summer," said John Larson, general manager of the General Motors division. The first 1000 cars will go to the people who placed early orders as part of a promotion on Donald Trump's popular TV show, The Apprentice. Exactly how long it will take to deliver those cars is unclear, as GM intends a slow and cautious ramp-up of production. Though Pontiac was able to hold the base price of the Solstice down below $20,000 by using many off-the-shelf components, the car also introduces some challenging new technology. That includes the first automotive use of hydroforming to shape large pieces of sheetmetal. In all, Larson told TheCarConnection.com that Pontiac has taken in nearly 9000 "sold orders" so far, which is well ahead of the company's expectations - and exceeds the total number of Miatas sold by Mazda last year. Pontiac officials are being cautious about sales and production plans, though insiders hint they'd like to get volumes up as high as 1500 roadsters a month, or close to 20,000 annually, but even at significantly lower volumes, they believe the Solstice will help kick-start the revival of the troubled Pontiac division. -TCC Team

Future Cars: General Motors (5/16/2005)

WJR Auto Report: Pontiac 's Slide

It's trivia time: so can you name the only General Motors division that actually posted a sales decline during the automaker's June blow-out? As TheCarConnection reports in its Daily Edition, the big loser was Pontiac. So far this year, the division's sales are down sixteen percent, and there's likely to be no short-term fix, despite the expanding line-up of new G6 models, and the launch of the all-new Solstice roadster. If anything, Pontiac is losing product. The aging Bonneville will soon be dropped, along with the Sunfire and the disastrous Aztek, one of the most reviled cars on the road. There is, however, an all-new small car in the development stage for 2007, something dealers were desperate to get their hands on. It's been a long time since Pontiac could brag that it built excitement. If anything, the brand is struggling for survival. As part of a shake-up at GM, Pontiac will effectively be merged with two other divisions, GMC and Buick.

Ford Posts Q2 Profit

Ford Motor Co posted a profit for the second quarter but its financial report for the period exposed the weakness of its automotive business in North America.

Ford reported earning $936 million or 47 cents per share for the second quarter on sales of $44.5 billion in the second quarter, compared with the $1.2 billion or 57 cents per share the company earned on sales of $42.9 billion the company earned in the same quarter a year ago.

But on a pre-tax basis, the automaker lost $245 million worldwide, down $342 million from a $97 million profit during the same period a year ago.

Ford's North American automotive operations also reported a pre-tax loss of $907 million, down $1.4 billion from a $454 million pre-tax profit a year ago. Higher costs and lower volumes contributed to the decline. Sales were $19.9 billion, down $568 million from the same period a year ago.

"Despite profitability in most regions, our global automotive results were disappointing, reflecting the fiercely competitive environment in which we continue to operate, particularly in North America," said William Clay Ford Jr. in a statement.

"We are responding to this tougher operating environment through actions aimed at improving our cost structure, optimizing our global footprint, strengthening our balance sheet, and making essential investments for the future. We'll continue to share our plans as the year progresses," the Ford CEO said.

Don Leclair, Ford chief executive officer, said overcapacity remains an issue throughout the industry, but refused to say if Ford was prepared to close additional plants. "We realize we have excess capacity," he admitted.

Leclair also said Ford has been hurt by rising steel and oil prices, which has made life extremely difficult for suppliers. "The supply base is very fragile," he said.

The turmoil among suppliers also blunted the company's cost-cutting drive, which the company hopes to get back on track during the second half of the year. Leclair also acknowledged that Ford had been hurt by General Motors Corp.'s successful employee-discounts-for-all promotion. Ford's own offers of employee discounts have boosted sales this month and reduced inventories of unsold vehicles, which will help sales and profitability in the future.

In addition, the company's financial services sector reported a pre-tax profit of $1.3 billion. The profit was down $229 million from the second quarter of 2004 due to rising interest rates.

Leclair said despite the setback in the company's North American automotive operations the company did make several moves in the second quarter that will yield significant improvements in the future such as the restructuring of the automaker's relationship with Visteon.

In addition, Ford also has now completed the consolidation of its Jaguar unit in the United Kingdom and is bringing several new products to market in the United States , he said.

Ford has launched the new 2006 Mercury Mariner Hybrid and will introduce the new Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Lincoln Zephyr this coming fall. -Joe Szczesny

CAW, GM Open Talks

General Motors Corp. isn't looking for concessions but it doesn't want any increase in labor costs in any new contract with the Canadian Auto Workers union. Allen Green, GM of Canada vice president of human resources, said the company's labor costs increased 5.7 percent each year under its last three-year CAW contract, and it can't afford those kinds of increases now. "We have to control our labor costs," said Green.

Buzz Hargrove, the CAW president, said he is concerned about GM and the intense competition in the industry. However, his members have earned the improvements in wages and benefits they are seeking with improvements in both quality and productivity, he said.

"Canada's the crown jewel of the General Motors Corporation worldwide," Hargrove said.

Hargrove reiterated the union also is looking for major improvements in pensions both for current retirees and older workers who will be retiring in the next few years. The current contract expires in September and Hargrove said the union will pick its target shortly in early September.-Joe Szczesny

Spy Shots: '07 VW Concept C

2007 Volkswagen Concept CAt the 2004 Geneva Auto Show, Volkswagen showed its Concept C show car and promised that it was indeed headed for production. Now these latest photos, taken in the U.S. southwest, capture a prototype of the production model as it goes through high-temperature testing.

Like the concept car, the production model has a metal roof that can be lowered to turn the car into a stylish convertible. The new four-seat convertible is sized between the Golf and the Passat, and it's reportedly much more luxurious than any previous VW convertible. Production is expected to start in late 2005 for the 2006 model year.

Spy Shots: '07 VW Concept C (7/16/2005)
Golf Cabrio or no, the roof still rotates.

Spy Shots: '07 Jeep Compass

2007 Jeep CompassWe've already shown you spy photos of the Dodge Caliber, and now comes the Jeep Compass-a sibling that shares the Caliber's running gear.

The five-passenger Compass will be built off the future Mitsubishi Lancer front-wheel-drive platform, although all-wheel drive will be available as an option. The Belvidere, Ill.-built Compass will likely be officially introduced next January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, with an on-sale date slated for late next summer, and an estimated annual production run of 45,000 to 50,000 units.

Spy Shots: '07 Jeep Compass (7/16/2005)
A high-Caliber compact SUV for Chrysler's off-road brand.

Mechanic's Tale: Talkin' Trash

Something happened last month that hasn't happened in a long time. I received a letter of complaint from a customer demanding that certain portions of his bill be refunded or he would seek legal redress. I always take complaints from customers seriously, especially ones who feel particularly wronged. Win or lose, a day spent in court will cost you more money in lost revenues than the couple of hundred dollars at issue. On the other hand, just wantonly handing out refunds is almost an admission of being a crook or incompetent - and it makes you an easy mark.

Mechanic's Tale: Talkin' Trash (7/16/2005)
When you hear the trash talk, start to walk.

FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases

PRNewswire

Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F ) today announced the following executive officer appointments and elections at two of its automotive operating groups, Premier Automotive Group and The Americas: Effective September 1, Joe Greenwell is appointed vice president, Government Affairs, Premier Automotive Group and Ford of Europe, a new position created to develop and coordinate the Company's strategy with government and other official bodies in Europe. He will report to Mark Fields, executive vice president, Premier Automotive Group and Ford of Europe, and Steve Biegun, vice president, International Governmental Affairs.


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