August 29, 2000

August 29, 2000

DC WILL EXPAND ALABAMA PLANT DaimlerChrysler yesterday announced a $600-million expansion of its Tuscaloosa, Alabama, facilities. The expansion could effectively double production capacity of Mercedes-Benz M-Class sport-utility vehicles, from 80,000 up to 160,000 vehicles per year. The Alabama Mercedes-Benz assembly facility, called MBUSI, began production in 1997, and it now builds ML320, ML430, ML55 AMG, and ML270CDI models. M-B cites strong worldwide demand as a primary reason for the expansion.

POLICE RAID MITSUBISHI Police raided Mitsubishi Motors' Tokyo offices yesterday for evidence regarding the company's withholding of consumer complaints. Rumors persisted that Mitsubishi president Katsuhiko Kawasoe may resign in the wake of the recall scandal, although company officials denied the reports. Last week, Mitsubishi announced that it had been withholding government-required consumer-complaint information, dating back to 1977, that would have been used to instigate recalls.

VENEZUELA AND COLOMBIA MAY SUE FIRESTONE Venezuelan and Colombian officials may soon take legal action against Bridgestone Firestone and Ford Motor Company. Venezuela's government has investigated nearly 100 deaths in the country due to failure of defective Firestone brand tires similar to those recently recalled in the U.S. Ford has urged Bridgestone Firestone to recall all 15-inch and 16-inch tires made at a Venezuelan plant. Ford had already found that Firestone tires offered in the country on new Ford vehicles were four-ply, rather than the specified five-ply.

JOHNSON CONTROLS AND POLYMER GROUP PARTNER Johnson Controls and Polymer Group have announced a partnership to develop new interior vehicle components, including headliners. The partnership should result in better noise insulation and aesthetics by allowing the two companies to codevelop materials and parts at the same time.

U.K. UNION PRESENTS CLOSURE ALTERNATIVES Union leaders at Ford Motor Company's U.K. assembly plants will ask that the company shift production of some Volvo models to the Dagenham, England, plant, which is now set to close in 2002. The unions may also approach Mazda Motors, also affiliated with Ford. Ford announced earlier this year that it intends to shut down the Dagenham plant as part of a European cost-cutting effort.

CYLINDER CUTOUT IS BACK Automotive News reports that General Motors is actively pursuing a cylinder cutout feature for its pushrod V-8 engines, similar to the 8-6-4 feature offered twenty years ago on Cadillacs. The system, now called "displacement on demand," will temporarily use only four of the eight cylinders. GM expects to see an increase in emissions and a six to eight mile-per-gallon improvement in fuel economy. The new feature will be introduced on at least one model by 2003.

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