Week of August 23, 1999

August 23, 1999






AMERICANS WON'T PAY FOR GREEN CARS Americans don't mind owning greener cars, but they're not willing to pay for them, DaimlerChrysler executives told a group of reporters last week. "A lot of people are asking for environmentally friendly cars, but nobody is willing to pay money for this, so it's a challenge for the engineers," said Werner Pollman, vice president and chief environmental officer for DaimlerChrysler. American consumers are willing to pay for environmentally friendly cars but only on a marginal basis, Reginald Modlin, DaimlerChrysler's director of U.S. environmental and energy planning, said.   Reuters reports Pollman said DaimlerChrysler, the world's fifth-largest carmaker, spends about 1 percent of annual revenues on environmental expenditures, similar to other auto companies.



MASS. MAY ADOPT CALIF. STANDARDS Massachusetts may become the second state to require light trucks to meet the same emissions standards as passenger cars, beginning in 2004. The state's legislature is considering a bill that would level the emissions requirements for light trucks and SUVs with the emissions of cars — a law that California implemented last fall. Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency lost a court battle to implement that standard nationwide after its methodology was deemed too vague. A new proposal is expected by the end of the year.



FORD SHOWS OFF HYDROGEN As part of a partnership with DaimlerChrysler AG and the Canadian research firm Ballard Power Systems, Ford will start field testing a small fleet of fuel cell-powered "supercars" in California next year. Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce water vapor and electricity, the current powering the 100 horsepower motor under the hood of Ford’s P2000 prototype. And to go along with that fleet, Ford has opened "Bill's Filling Station," only the second facility of its kind anywhere in the world, designed to support Ford’s increasingly aggressive effort to turn hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, into the fuel of the future.



JAG CASTS DOUBT ON SUV An SUV with claws may be farther off than expected, according to Jaguar's president, Mike Dale. Dale, speaking with a group of reporters last week, insinuated that an SUV is far down on the wish list:  "Have you ever seen an elegant SUV? There's lots of other good things to build that we haven't built yet." Dale also noted that a station wagon is "everything Jaguar isn't." Instead, Jaguar may build an all-weather activity vehicle of undetermined shape and size. But first, Dale said, the company will focus on the new S-Type, which is expected to top 22,000 sales in its first 12 months, and a future small sports sedan, dubbed the X400, which may arrive as early as 2001.



DC IN TALKS TO SHARE SMART? Is it once bitten, twice shy at DaimlerChrysler? As the company plans the second generation of its Smart microcar, rumor suggests the company is looking for a partner to ease the birthing process. German business daily Handelsblatt said last Thursday that DC was interested in an alliance with France's PSA Peugeot Citroen for the next Smart car. "We are planning the introduction of a second series but when that will happen and what it would look like is not decided. In that context we are talking to other companies," MCC spokesman Hubert Kogel told Reuters. The Smart project has not been a joyous one for DaimlerChrysler. The project ran six months overdue when the Smart car failed a lane-change "moose test" and had to be extensively re-engineered for more stability. Slow demand has also forced DC to cut production forecasts from 140,000 per year to 80,000.





AUDI RECALLS TT Audi is recalling 46 TT coupes in the United States for possible fuel leaks, the company announced last week. Audi says that some 2000 model-year TTs have a small section of the fuel line assembly that could have been damaged during production. Fuel leaks could occur, possibly resulting in fire. Audi has sold more than 2,000 TT coupes since it went on sale in the United States in April. There have been no reports of fires, accidents or injuries, but VW said a leak was discovered on a company-owned car. Owners will be notified by mail and repairs will be performed at no cost.



ACURA RECALLS RL, TL Honda will recall about 144,060 of its 1996-99 model-year Acura RL and 1996-98 TL sedans to fix faulty bolts that could disable the transmission. The sealing bolts may cause the axle and differential to separate, preventing the car from moving. No injuries or accidents have been reported, Honda said. Honda is recalling about 115,000 of the cars in the U.S. and 29,060 in Japan. Owners will be notified by mail later this month to have the bolts replaced at no cost.



NHTSA CHECKS FORD BLADES The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into windshield wiper blades on the 1997- 99 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer sport-utility vehicles. The investigation into a possible defect on the blades covers nearly 1.5 million vehicles. The NHSTA is also investigating a complaint from New York that Ford's compressed natural gas E350 van releases gas "in an explosive manner." An internal Ford review found a possible defect in the fuel-filler pipe, which is also found in CNG Crown Victorias and F-150s.





LINCOLN LS IS A SELLOUT They're cheering in Irvine over the new Lincoln LS. Last week Ford said it had sold out its entire production run for the 2000 model-year of the new LS sports sedan, just two and a half months after it went on sale.  Since June 1, dealers have ordered more than 30,000 vehicles, matching the company's forecast production for the year, Ford said. Next year, Ford expects 60,000 sales. The LS 6, with a V-6 and five-speed manual gearbox, starts at $31,450, while the automatic-equipped, V-8-powered LS 8 starts at $35,225.



HONDA CHARGED WITH DISCRIMINATION A lawsuit filed on behalf of all black employees at Honda's plants in Ohio charges the company discriminates against minority workers. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Columbus, alleges that Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. has excluded black employees from promotions for more than 20 years and allows white and Japanese employees to dominate the ranks of upper management. It claims that only 3 percent of Honda managers as of 1998 were black, despite the fact that the percentage of blacks in the company's overall workforce has been significantly higher, according to the AP. Employees at Honda of America plants in Marysville, East Liberty, and Anna, Ohio, are those named as plaintiffs.



AUTOALLIANCE NAMES COLEMAN AutoAlliance International Inc., the Michigan-based joint venture between Ford and Mazda, named Deborah Stewart Coleman as its president. Effective Sept. 1, Coleman will replace Bruce Bowman, 57, who is retiring after 34 years with Ford and AutoAlliance. Coleman, who joined Ford in 1987, became the first African-American woman to manage one of the automaker's assembly plants, in Lorain, Ohio, in September 1994. Currently, AutoAlliance produces the Mazda 626 and Mercury Cougar from its plant in Flat Rock, Michigan.


PRICELINE BIDS ON SEERGY Priceline.com, the Web site whose patented business model allows customers to name their price on airline tickets and hotel rooms, has named former Nissan North America marketing guru Mike Seergy to its executive team. Seergy, 44, will oversee all of Priceline.com's day-to-day operations, including sales, marketing and dealership relationships. He joins the company a month after former ING Barings Furman Selz automotive analyst Maryann Keller became president of Priceline.com's new-car service. Priceline is experimenting with allowing users to bid online for cars in the same way as its other services. Seergy, who worked with Nissan for nine years, was formerly vice president and general manager of Nissan North America.



DC GETS GM'S LYONS DaimlerChrysler is tapping GM for its newest executive. Larry Lyons, 51, formerly director of vehicle integration at GM, will become DC's small-car development guru. Lyons was a 34-year veteran of GM, and opted to retire from the company before joining DaimlerChrysler, a GM spokesman acknowledged. DaimlerChrysler and GM have been swapping employees this year in the wake of the DaimlerChrysler merger and turmoil within GM. Lyons replaces Cindy Hess, who becomes vice president of corporate quality.


SWEDE KIDS RACK UP TICKETS From our wacky Scandinavian file comes news that several youthful Swedes are racking up serious parking fines. One 10-year-old girl has run up 286 parking fines worth more than $44,000 over the past nine months, Reuters reports. Stockholm's parking authority also lists a 5-year-old girl with 15 parking fines amounting to $2,600 and a 3-year-old girl with five fines. Spokesman Tapio Tuomainen told the news agency the young offenders were not suspected of driving — just being used by parents to take advantage of a loophole in the rules by registering cars in their children's names. Currently, there are 5,000 vehicles registered to children aged under 16 in Sweden, where parents are not liable for their children's debts. "Parents who register cars in their children's names almost always get away," Tuomainen said. "It is immoral to use children in this way."


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