JULY SALES HUMMING
JULY’S TOP SELLERS
GM REBUFFS FIAT
GM, DAEWOO SIGN ALLIANCE
VOLVO WORKING ON S60
GM, FORD TO GET PLASTIC TRUCK BEDS
CALIF. WANTS SULFUR LEVELS HALVED
DC RECALLS BABYSMART
MAZDA MOVES FOR EQUAL PAY
TOYOTA DOES FIVE-DAY ORDERS
TOYOTA BEGINS V-6 PRODUCTION
GM TO BUILD CARS IN JAPAN
NISSAN KICKING SAMSUNG’S TIRES?
AM GENERAL TO BUILD NEW FACTORY?
BMW GETS TIME OFF FOR ECLIPSE
JULY SALES HUMMING Another sales record
fell last month as Americans bought more cars and trucks in July than ever
before. Some of the big winners included the former Chrysler Corp., whose brands
sold 10 percent more vehicles than last July. Demand has been so strong for the
Jeep Grand Cherokee, for example, that DC has reversed in part a recent decision
to slow production at the Cherokee’s Jefferson North, Detroit, assembly plant.
Ford sales rose one percent overall, with cars surging 10 percent and trucks
declining 4 percent from a year ago – when Ford trucks were selling abnormally
well due to the GM strike. In turn, GM registered a 62.6-percent gain, inflated
by last year’s damped sales due to the UAW strike. Vehicle sales in the U.S.
this year are expected to top 1986’s rate of 16.02 million vehicles.
1999 Year-To-Date Best Sellers
|Ford F-Series PU||
|Chevrolet Silverado PU||
|Dodge Ram PU||
|Ford Ranger PU||
|Jeep Grand Cherokee||
|Chevrolet S-Series PU||
|Pontiac Grand Am||
GM REBUFFS FIAT In the latest in a series of
setbacks for the Italian automaker, General Motors Corp. has rebuffed a bid to
team up with Fiat SpA. Fiat has reportedly approached a range of potential
partners covering every corner of the globe, including Volvo, Mitsubishi, GM,
and even DaimlerChrysler. According to TCC sources, Fiat approached GM with a
range of options. At the simplest, these would have involved the swapping of
technology and, perhaps, some product platforms. But Fiat also envisioned a more
extensive arrangement with GM that might have led to a merger of their two
automotive operations. The scenario that seemed to be at the center of the talks
would have resulted in GM taking a one-third stake in Fiat. A GM officer
reportedly says there is no chance that such a merger will take place.
For more on the GM-Fiat talks, click here.
GM, DAEWOO SIGN ALLIANCE Turning its
sights instead to Asia, GM has signed a letter of understanding with Korea’s
Daewoo group to form an auto-manufacturing alliance. The letter indicates the
companies will pursue joint vehicle development and production; sources say
Daewoo hopes the agreement will lead to a cash infusion from GM. From 1978 to
1992, GM owned one-half of Daewoo in a rocky relationship that produced the
ill-fated econo-hatch Pontiac LeMans and even more corporate headaches. Daewoo
bought out GM’s shares in 1992.
VOLVO WORKING ON S60 Automotive News
Europe is reporting that Volvo will add a model to its lineup that seems to
be a replacement for the current S70/V70. The new S60, the magazine reports,
will be positioned between the current S80 and new S40 range, and will share its
platform with one of the two existing models. Volvo plans a station wagon of the
new midsizer, which seems to point to the current S70’s demise. Stay tuned
for more details.
GM, FORD TO GET PLASTIC TRUCK BEDS At
last week’s auto-industry management conference sponsored by the University of
Michigan, GM announced that it would make a plastic pickup bed optional on its
Chevrolet Silverado full-size truck. The pickup box will be 50 pounds lighter
and more resistant to dents and corrosion than current metal one, and will be
available next year. However, over at Ford, they’re insisting the 2001 Explorer
Sport Trac will be the first vehicle on the market with a plastic pickup
bed. Sport Trac goes into production in January, and on sale soon
For more news from this year’s Traverse City conference, click here.
CALIF. WANTS SULFUR LEVELS HALVED
California isn’t content with some of the most sulfur-free gas on the planet:
now state lawmakers are working on a proposal that would more than halve the
amount of sulfur in its gasoline, from an average 80 parts per million to
between 20-30 parts per million. On average, U.S. gasoline contains 330 parts
per million sulfur, which is considered a key component in air pollution. The
Clinton administration has proposed that U.S. gasoline be limited to 80 parts
per million sulfur beginning in 2004. Oil companies say it will add 10 cents a
gallon to the price of gasoline, although BP Amoco recently introduced
reformulated gas with low sulfur content in the Atlanta area at no additional
DC RECALLS BABYSMART Mercedes-Benz USA says
its parent company, DaimlerChrysler, will recall some 6000 BabySmart infant
seats over concern that the airbag system will cause injury in a crash. MBUSA
says the company has received four reports that the BabySmart passenger "airbag
off" light did not illuminate when the seat was out of position. BabySmart uses
a special seat and sensors to disable a front passenger airbag, so that infants
and small children can ride in the front seat of an airbag-equipped vehicle. The
BabySmart Toddler seat is unaffected by the recall.
MAZDA MOVES FOR EQUAL PAY Mazda is pushing
for more women in senior management by promoting two or three to senior
management roles, the company announced last week. Mazda will also raise the pay
of some 500 female employees to reduce gender discrimination, the AP reported.
Mazda officials decided on the pay hikes and promotions after evaluating the
skills and job performance of some 1,000 of its female employees — who hold just
six of the company's 3,000 management positions.
TOYOTA DOES FIVE-DAY ORDERS Toyota says
it now can fill specific customer vehicle orders within five days, instead of
the more normal five weeks, a company spokesman says. A pilot program to build
vehicles within five days and deliver to customers within ten will begin in
September on Camry Solara coupes built at Toyota's plant in Cambridge, Ontario.
If that test is successful, Toyota will arrange similar programs for its Corolla
sedan, built on the same assembly line in Canada, and eventually to all models
at all its plants, including Japan.
TOYOTA BEGINS V-6 PRODUCTION Toyota’s
newest U.S. production facility began cranking out V-6 engines last week, the
company reported. Toyota’s new Buffalo, West Virginia plant will produce engines
for the redesigned Avalon full-size sedan to be introduced this fall. The plant
began making four-cylinder engines for the Corolla last November. When fully
operational, the plant will have the capacity to produce 300,000 four-cylinder
engines and 200,000 V6 engines per year, Toyota said. Production at a new
automatic-transmission factory next door will begin in early
GM TO BUILD CARS IN JAPAN To boost its
market share in Japan, GM says it will begin production of vehicles in Japan
within five years for the first time since World War II. GM is said to be
looking for an existing factory, which might be available from its Japanese
affiliates: GM owns ten percent of Suzuki and 49 percent of Isuzu, both of which
may supply GM with the capacity to build in Japan – something U.S. automakers
haven’t done since the 1930s.
NISSAN KICKING SAMSUNG’S TIRES? Still
sorting out its association with France’s Renault SA., Japan’s Nissan Motor Co.,
is said to be studying the acquisition of Korea’s Samsung Motors. Samsung, the
smallest of Korea’s carmakers, was to have been taken over by Daewoo in a
government-sponsored realignment of the country’s auto industry. However, Daewoo
and Samsung did not come to agreeable terms. Samsung halted production in
November after selling only about 50,000 cars, mostly to Samsung executives and
AM GENERAL TO BUILD NEW FACTORY?
Indiana’s South Bend Tribune reports that AM General may build a new
facility to produce a new version of its Humvee military vehicle. The new plant,
which could cost about $200 million, could produce a "Hummer II" that would be
sold by GM dealers. In June, GM said it will buy the right to use the Hummer
brand name worldwide and will explore product development and marketing
opportunities with AM General.
BMW GETS TIME OFF FOR ECLIPSE BMW says it
will halt production at its Munich and Regensburg plants for a half an hour this
Wednesday, so employees may watch the last total solar eclipse of the century. A
spokeswoman told the Agence-France Presse "it makes no sense if people want to
see the eclipse and get all nervous on the production lines.'' The total
eclipse, best viewed in Europe and the Middle East, can be seen in a band from
south England to India – peaking over Romania – on August