Week of November 1, 1999

October 31, 1999




FORD OPENS 'STANG TO TUNERS In a dramatic change in policy toward the aftermarket, Ford Motor will announce this week at an industry trade show that it will give aftermarket manufacturers full access to Mustang GT specifications, Brandweek magazine reported in its Monday edition. The announcement, scheduled this week during the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas, comes as both Ford and SEMA are attempting to become more consumer focused. The release of the Mustang GT information would give SEMA members unprecedented access to specifications they need to make performance parts.  In the past, automakers actively worked to prevent SEMA members from getting access to their specifications and in some cases lobbied against the performance industry, arguing only parts designed and approved by the automakers should be used on factory vehicles. If the Mustang GT pilot is successful, Ford plans to release specifications for other vehicle lines, Brandweek reported.



NEXT-GEN AIRBAGS ARE SAFER The de-powered airbags that automakers have been installing since 1997 are doing the job, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The newer bags are causing fewer injuries and deaths. Thus far in 1999, airbags are responsible for no driver deaths, and only two passenger deaths; to date, airbags have killed 83 children and six adults on the passenger side and 56 on the driver side of cars and trucks, reported the Washington Post.


DC EARNS $1.6 BILLION IN Q3 DaimlerChrysler AG, the fifth-largest automaker in the world, announced strong third-quarter earnings of $1.6 billion last week, fueled largely by the strong North American market. Per share, earnings increased to $1.61 a share versus $1.45 last year. Co-Chairman Juergen Schrempp credits the results to integration of the former Chrysler Corp. into Daimler-Benz: "The merger is over," he said. "It shows that we are delivering what we have promised, that we are right on track."

For more on DC’s earnings, click here



FORD AD GOES GLOBAL It might not teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, but with the auto industry’s first "global" TV ad ready to hit the airwaves, Ford Motor Co. hopes audiences around the world will be convinced to sing its corporate praises. At 9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 1, in more than 100 countries around the world, Ford will air an unusual two-minute commercial that will highlight the company and its diverse brand portfolio. The campaign loosely draws its inspiration from Coca-Cola’s legendary ad campaign, which was designed to project a global image and create a corporate halo. The ad features seven vehicles, one from each of its brands: Volvo, Mazda, Aston Martin, Lincoln, Jaguar, Ford and Mercury.

Read about Ford’s global ad by clicking here.



GM PLANS HUGE DETROIT SHOW Following on the heels of the former Chrysler Corp. and Ford, GM says it’s going to build the mother of all auto-show displays for the 2000 North American International Auto Show. A single 160,000-square-foot space will showcase all of GM’s North American brands and, for the first time, will include foreign brands Opel, Vauxhall and Holden; the brands will be divided by visual cues and by a signature tower for each nameplate. The display will also contain a 1200-seat arena that will show a film loop about GM during media days and normal show days. Last year, Ford followed up the former Chrysler’s often astounding displays with a single stand that encompassed Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Jaguar, Mazda, and Aston Martin. GM’s display is estimated (not very narrowly) to cost between $10 million and $100 million. The Detroit auto show opens to media Jan. 9 and to the public the following Saturday.



HONDA PASSES NISSAN AT HOME There’s a new No. 2 among Japanese brands. For the first time, figures released by Japan’s carmakers show Honda as the No. 2 vehicle producer, behind Toyota and ahead of Nissan, the former second-place carmaker. Between April and September, Honda’s production rose 4.4 percent to about 1.17 million units, according to Reuters; Nissan's output fell 5.7 percent to about 1.16 million units during the same period.



BMW X5 DEBUTS ON EBAY The first BMW X5 sport-activity vehicle to roll off the production lines is being auctioned off on eBay.com, BMW announced last week. The auction began at 9 a.m. Friday and will run for eight days. The winning bidder will take delivery of a silver X5 on Dec. 1, almost two weeks before it is available in dealer showrooms. Among the extras included on the eBay Bimmer: a navigation system, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, heated front seats, a moonroof, larger tires, sport suspension calibration and a ski bag. The vehicle proceeds will be contributed to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The winning bidder will be flown to Spartanburg, S.C., to pick up the $57,105 sport-ute.



JENSEN IS REBORN Famed sports car purveyor Jensen is back in business. After kiting a proposal to build humpy V-8 hot rods, the U.K.’s Creative Group announced the production of the Jensen S-V8 and began taking orders at the recent London Motor Show. Chairman Graham Morris, former head of Rolls-Royce, says the company will build 600 cars a year and sell them through 10 dealers. Jensen first became famous in the 1960s and 1970s with sports cars such as Interceptor and the Jensen-Healy. The new vehicle, with an aluminum body and a Mustang Cobra V-8, will be built near Liverpool, England.



WINKLER HEADS FORD CREDIT Donald Winkler is the replacement for Philippe Paillart, who resigned last week as the head of Ford Credit. Winkler, 51, comes to Ford from Finance One, a subsidiary of Bank One Corp., where he served as chairman and CEO. Finance One is the second-largest U.S. bank-owned automotive finance company.



CHRYSLER SUED OVER DEBTORS Chrysler Financial Corp., one of the consumer-finance arms of DaimlerChrysler AG, is the defendant in a suit that alleges the company used illegal tactics to collect debts from thousands of bankrupt customers. Plaintiff

Randy Metcalf alleges he was harassed on the phone and via the mail with demands that he pay off his car loan, even after the debt had been wiped out in bankruptcy proceedings, according to the suit, in violation of federal bankruptcy laws.



NHTSA LOOKS INTO DC RAMS NHTSA is pursuing further some 275 complaints regarding fires or excessive heat in 1994-96 model Dodge Ram trucks. No injuries are reported over the complaints, but 22 fires have been. The agency will now send its engineers to study the design. At the same time, NHTSA is also upping its investigation into the Chrysler Sebring and Cirrus and Plymouth Breeze, in which floor mats can become entangled in the steering column and impede steering ability.




MITSU CUTS WORK FORCE Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will cut its global work force by 11 percent, or about 9,900 workers, in its latest cost-cutting effort. The jobs will be cut by March 2004. The announcement follows Nissan’s dramatic gesture of cutting 21,000 jobs within the next few years, as a result of restructuring and integration with global partner Renault. Mitsubishi said it will rely mostly on attrition, including hiring fewer people and encouraging early retirement, Reuters reports.



FORD TRUCKS GET BLOCKER BEAMS Ford Motor Co. plans to begin installing steel energy-absorbing bars in all of its 2001 model year heavy-duty trucks, the New York Times reported last week. The bars will be placed below the front and rear bumpers of the trucks to reduce the risk that its vehicles will ride over cars in crashes. Ford's top safety researcher, Priya Prasad, said the company is also researching the feasibility of putting the bars into its Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator and F-150 pickup models, the paper reported.




AUDI COLLIDES WITH ART When is art not art? Apparently, when it’s sponsored. The Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art in Amsterdam is being criticized within art circles and by its city council for considering a proposal to gain Audi sponsorship — and a vehicle display area in its galleries. Reuters reports that Audi has offered the museum an interest-free $6 million loan to fund the construction of a new wing, along with annual $50,000 grants for 10 years; in return for its generosity, Audi wants a display lounge in the new wing. The museum, famous for its Picassos and modern-art collection, defends the plan by stressing it would have final approval on all displays in the lounge and stressed that the museum would not become a car dealership.

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