Week of December 27, 1999

December 27, 1999

CLINTON SETS NEW EMISSIONS RULES
GM, HONDA JOIN HANDS
FORD SNIFFS AROUND DAEWOO
FEDS: DON’T FRET Y2K GAS SUPPLIES
FORD ZIPS ALONG WITH POST OFFICE
CHRYSLER BLASTS OLD RECORDS
FORD GRADES ON THE CURVE
GM GETS LONG-AWAITED HUMMER
HARLEY USURPS HONDA
VIRGIN DOES PLANES, SODAS, AND NOW, CARS
LIGHTS OUT AT NEW CENTER

 

CLINTON SETS NEW EMISSIONS RULES President Clinton’s latest legislative missive means that sport-utility vehicles and minivans will have to meet carlike emissions standards beginning in the 2004 model year. The new rules would cut emissions of nitrogen oxides in those vehicles by 90 percent, and would also cut sulfur levels in gasoline by the same amount. The EPA estimates the changes will add a penny to the cost of a gallon of gas and between $100 and $200 to the cost of a light truck. Larger trucks would have until 2009 to meet the new bogeys.

For more on the new clean-air regs, click here

 

 

GM, HONDA JOIN HANDS After weeks of speculation, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and General Motors Corp. finally have confirmed the two companies plans to purchase engines from each other. The "cross-supply arrangement is the first step in a new relationship that may lead to future cooperation in other areas," GM and Honda officials said in a joint statement announcing the agreement, which had been at the center of some intense discussions in the past couple of months. Executives from both GM and Honda stressed, however, that the arrangement does not go beyond cooperation on engines and other technical issues. "Honda is firmly committed to an independent path. This relationship will strengthen our ability to maintain this course," said Hiroyuki Yoshino, president and CEO of Honda Motor Co. Ltd. Each company also will continue independent technology development activities, Honda and GM officials said.

For more on the GM-Honda engine swap, click here

 

 

FORD SNIFFS AROUND DAEWOO Ford is adding itself to the list of companies interesting in buying the automotive assets of South Korea’s Daewoo, but insiders suspect the auction announced by the country’s government is simply a way to increase the price GM will eventually pay for Daewoo. Earlier this month, the Korean government said that it would negotiate exclusively with General Motors, which subsequently offered about $5.5 billion for most of Daewoo’s factories in Korea and around the world. However, since both Hyundai and Ford expressed interested in Daewoo last week, the government now says it will conduct an auction from a limited list of bidders. Ford will send a team to Korea in January before the bidding begins. GM’s existing offer included an offer to Daewoo’s creditors to own up to a third of the company in exchange for debt write-offs; Daewoo Motor alone is suspected of being more than $16 billion in debt, a drop in the bucket for its parent company’s estimated $73 billion debt.

 

 

 

FEDS: DON’T FRET Y2K GAS SUPPLIES Don’t fill up your tank before New Year’s, warns U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. Richardson says the government is urging Americans not to top off before the holiday weekend out of fear that Y2K jitters will cause massive lines at gas stations but no disruptions in fuel supplies. "Gasoline is plentiful, and the industry is confident that its pumps will work throughout the roll-over,'' Richardson said. "There's no need to top off your tank right before the year ends.'' AAA is joining in the effort, warning its members of price surges along with lines at service stations.

 

 

FORD ZIPS ALONG WITH POST OFFICE Ford has nabbed the largest single order of electric vehicles ever. The U.S. Postal Service will pay $24 million for a fleet of 500 electric-powered Ranger pickup trucks, with an option to purchase up to 5500 more. The post office, which is required to purchase alternative-fuel vehicles, said it expects to have 30,000 non-gas-powered vehicles on the roads by 2002. The electric Rangers are set to be delivered starting late next year, partly built by Baker Electromotive of Rome, New York.

 

 

CHRYSLER BLASTS OLD RECORDS DaimlerChrysler’s American unit — you might remember it as the Chrysler Corporation — says it’s already set a U.S. sales record with a few days remaining in the year. The company says it’s sold 2,538,384 vehicles through Dec. 20, against last year’s record of 2,510,011 vehicles. Sport-utility sales were especially strong, rising 100,000 above last year’s figures to top 714,000 units. Light trucks also paced last year, with 1,815,787 sold compared to last year’s record 1,770,794 trucks.


 

 

FORD GRADES ON THE CURVE Ford’s next step in weeding out its management pool will be report cards, according to industry newsletter Ward’s Automotive Industries. Managers at the Big Blue Oval will be rated "A," "B," or "C," with the lowest grade earning employees a round of training, coaching, and guidance by their supervisors. ("A" and "B" grades, which Ford expects of 90 percent of its 20,000 managers, will be considered passing grades.) Last year, Ford gave buyout offers to managers seen as poor performers, or seen as unlikely candidates for promotions. Ford spokesman Ed Miller said the "C" earners will be given the chance to improve, but eventually, "if you are in the bottom you could be asked to leave.''

 

 

GM GETS LONG-AWAITED HUMMER Arnie, take note: GM has penned the deal it’s been pursuing to take over marketing of the Hummer brand. While details are mum (we expect a big splash of news at the Detroit auto show), GM will get the rights to sell Hummers worldwide. AM General, the owners of the brand, will continue to assemble the vehicles for civilians and military in their Mishawaka, Ind., assembly facility, and will continue to sell vehicles directly to the military.

 

 

HARLEY USURPS HONDA U.S. cycle maker Harley-Davidson Inc. is rolling in sales this year, and may pass usual champ Honda for the annual sales crown, reports the Los Angeles Times. If Harley meets analyst expectations for a 26-percent market share, the paper concluded, it would best Honda by a single percentage and become the first domestic brand to lead motorcycle sales since the 1960s. Wisconsin-based Harley sells more than half of the big-boy bikes sold in the U.S.

 

 

VIRGIN DOES PLANES, SODAS, AND NOW, CARS In the U.K., buyers can fly Virgin Atlantic, buy Virgin Cola, shop at Virgin’s marvy Megastore. And now, they’ll be able to buy cars online for up to 20 percent off, if Virgin’s perpetual-motion owner Richard Branson gets his way. Branson says his company’s Web site, www.virgin.com/cars, will sell cars imported from continental Europe and slash the prices to counter Britain’s strong currency. The British market is being scrutineered by the country’s economists to determine if the system of car pricing and distribution causes Brits to pay up to 20 percent more for their cars than anywhere else in the European Union. Meanwhile, sales are slumping as buyers expect a serious price discount in the near future.


 

 

LIGHTS OUT AT NEW CENTER With GM mostly ensconced in the Renaissance Center, the grand General Motors sign that once marked GM’s former New Center headquarters has been turned off. The sign, with letters 15 feet tall, will be removed as the building is renovated for Michigan state employees. The sign had topped the Louis Kahn-designed headquarters since the 1950s; it will be removed by helicopter and stored until GM decides whether to donate it to a museum. A new sign will be placed on the RenCen; the remaining GM employees still in the old headquarters will move to the new location by October of 2000.

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