Week of August 7, 2000

August 7, 2000

GM TO MAKE HYBRID PICKUPS
FORD CONSIDERS DROPPING FIRESTONE
FOCUS RATES POOR IN CRASH TEST
FORD OPENS ALUMINUM CASTING PLANT
FORD JOINS TELEMATICS RACE
SUPER DUTIES RECALLED
DC UPS INCENTIVES AGAIN
GM ANNOUNCES NEW ENGINE PLANT
EXXON MOBIL EXPANDS JOB CUTS
PRICELINE TO OFFER AUTO INSURANCE
NISSAN PUTS OFF DECISION ON UK PLANT
GM REVAMPS PLANT FOR ALUMINUM
DC SAVES ON DEVELOPMENT
TOYOTA CLOSE TO AGREEMENT FOR ONSTAR

 

GM TO MAKE HYBRID PICKUPS General Motors revealed that it will offer hybrid gasoline-electric, full-size pickups in 2004. The hybrid pickups, which will use a gasoline-powered V-8 engine and an electric motor, will improve fuel economy by about 15 percent. The automaker has not announced how many of the hybrid vehicles will be made or what their price will be.

FORD CONSIDERS DROPPING FIRESTONE Ford Motor Company is reportedly considering dropping Firestone as a supplier. The automaker is investigating tread-separation problems with several Firestone models that were installed on Ford's light trucks through the 1990s, including the popular Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicle. The affected tires, Firestone ATX, ATX II, and Wilderness tires, were installed as standard equipment on 1991- through 2000-model-year Ford Explorers, and also some Ford Ranger and Ford F-150 models. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that 21 deaths and 193 crashes have resulted from failure of the tires. Ford has already been asked by several safety advocate groups to recall the affected vehicles.

For more information on the Firestone tire-safety investigation, click here

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FOCUS RATES POOR IN CRASH TEST Chrysler's PT Cruiser isn't the only new model to perform poorer than expected in the latest batch of crash-test ratings released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Ford's new Focus two-door hatchback scored only one star for the rear passenger in the side-impact test, on a scale of one to five stars, with five being best. The model performed well in other released categories, with ratings of four and five stars. Ford has not yet commented on the model's poor showing in the test.

 

FORD OPENS ALUMINUM CASTING PLANT Ford opened its first new North American facility in five years, a new engine-block plant in Cleveland. The Cleveland Aluminum Casting Plant will build aluminum engine blocks for the Ford Ranger's new 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. The $125-million facility employs 95 people.

 

FORD JOINS TELEMATICS RACE Ford Motor Company and Qualcomm have announced a partnership that will yield in-car Internet access, navigation and safety devices, and entertainment systems, with products of the partnership first put in cars late next year. Ford expects the partnership spinoff, called Wingcast, to be in almost all new cars and trucks by late 2004. In its early stages, the system would be much like rival General Motor's OnStar system, with monthly subscription fees depending on the level of service. General Motors plans to have OnStar in most of its new vehicles starting this fall.

For more on Wingcast, click here.

 

 

SUPER DUTIES RECALLED Ford has announced a recall of 2000-model-year Super Duty trucks for a potentially dangerous brake problem. Some of the trucks, the NHTSA says, may be missing an important retaining clip, which may result in loss of control of the brakes. About 8100 vehicles are affected. Ford also issued recalls of about 27,000 cars and trucks for various other reasons.

 

DC UPS INCENTIVES AGAIN DaimlerChrysler last week announced a new wave of higher incentives for some of its U.S. cars and trucks. The incentives range from $1000 on many models up to $3000 on 2000-model-year minivans. The upped incentives are likely a reaction to sales figures released yesterday that showed Chrysler's July U.S. sales, versus a year ago, fell 12.2 percent.

 

GM ANNOUNCES NEW ENGINE PLANT General Motors will expand its facilities in Tonawanda, New York, with a new $500 million engine plant. The new plant, which will produce a next-generation inline six-cylinder aluminum engine, will begin production in 2003 and employ more than 600. The new plant will be adjacent to GM's existing Tonawanda engine facility, which employs about 4000 workers.

 

EXXON MOBIL EXPANDS JOB CUTS Exxon Mobil Corporation now plans to cut 3000 additional jobs, on top of the already announced cut of 15 percent of its total workforce, by the end of 2002. The cuts, which eliminate parallel jobs within the merged companies, will now reduce the workforce by about 19,000 employees. Exxon Mobil says that the merger should result in a savings of $4.6 billion, and for net income should increase by $3 billion in 2002.

 

PRICELINE TO OFFER AUTO INSURANCE Priceline.com has announced plans to team up with W.R. Berkley Corporation to offer auto insurance. Priceline cites competitive shopping and the size of the $110 billion market as reasons for entering the business. The auto insurance, which will also follow the name-your-own-price formula, will be first offered in early 2001.

 

 

NISSAN PUTS OFF DECISION ON UK PLANT Nissan Motor Company announced that within six months it will choose a location to build its small cars for Europe. Nissan currently assembles Micra minicars in Sunderland, England, although recently the automaker has considered other European countries due to currency fluctuation and a strong British pound relative to the Euro. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair met with Nissan president Carlos Ghosn earlier this week to discuss an aid package to keep the factory in the U.K., although no decision was made. Factories in France and Spain are reportedly sites under consideration.

 

GM REVAMPS PLANT FOR ALUMINUM General Motors announced that it will invest $160 million in adapting an existing facility near Defiance, Ohio, to build aluminum engine blocks. The plant, set to start production of the aluminum parts in 2002, will achieve full output by 2004. Cast-iron engine parts are currently made at the facility, which employs 4000.

 

DC SAVES ON DEVELOPMENT DaimlerChrysler says that it will save nearly $1.5 billion per year due to the use of a new vehicle-development system, called the Chrysler Development System. Although the company has reduced development time by about 25 percent, it seeks to achieve another 25-percent improvement with the new system, which emphasizes better planning in design and engineering to avoid costly corrections later.

 

TOYOTA CLOSE TO AGREEMENT FOR ONSTAR Toyota is currently in negotiations with General Motors to use GM's OnStar navigation and communications systems in some of its vehicles sold in North America. OnStar, which merges cell-phone technology and global positioning satellite (GPS) data, is expected to sell to other automakers as well by the end of the year. Honda announced in May that it will equip some of its Acura models next year with the OnStar system.

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