HIGHWAY DEATHS DROP
AIRBAGS GO TO COURT
GM ASKS NHTSA TO DROP RECALL
DC OPENS FIRST CHILD-SEAT STATION
FORD, GM RECALLS
CHEROKEE TO LIVE ON?
FORD SPENDS AGAINST HARASSMENT
SAMSUNG IN TALKS TO SELL
OLDS BRINGS BACK THE LOGO
ANTI-UAW GROUP AT MBUSI DISBANDS
DC MINIVANS GET TV
PENNSYLVANIA GETS CYBERPLATES
FOLLIES This week’s media previews at the Frankfurt Auto Show promise a
clutch of concept and production cars the likes of which haven’t been seen
since, well, since the Detroit auto show. DaimlerChrysler will debut the Java,
the basis for a future compact car destined for Europe and the rest of the
world. It’s based on the Neon platform but taller and with easier
ingress/egress. GM will show off its 2000 Cadillac Seville luxury sedan, with a
less-polluting, more-efficient Northstar V-8 engine, and Ford may show off the
entry it hopes to ply in Formula One next year as Jaguar Racing. Stay tuned all
next week for updates from the Frankfurt Auto Show.
BLUEOVALNEWS.COM WINS In a David-over-Goliath victory, a small Web site has delivered a knock-down blow to Ford Motor Co. A decision by a U.S. federal court judge in Detroit means BlueOvalNews.com may continue posting some of Ford’s most closely guarded company secrets. Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds refused to extend a temporary restraining order she issued last week against Robert Lane, who operates the Web site BlueOvalNews.com. Lane had published internal documents detailing future Ford engines, vehicles, and recall plans. As part of the ruling, Lane must identify the source of his documents, and cannot publish additional documents verbatim, nor can he solicit new documents from Ford employees.
For the final word on BlueOvalNews.com, click here.
HIGHWAY DEATHS DROP
The National Transportation Safety Board says last year’s highway
deaths dropped again despite increases in mileage driven and higher speed
limits. A total of 43,920 people died on the nation's highways in 1998, some 533
less than in 1997. However, deaths increased in the category of light trucks and
vans and in motorcycles. "The overall drop in transportation fatalities is
encouraging, however, we cannot stop there," NTSB Chairman Jim Hall said in a
AIRBAGS GO TO
COURT Among the cases it has decided to hear in the upcoming year, the
U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether automakers must defend against hundreds
of personal-injury lawsuits claiming they should have moved more quickly to
install airbags and other safety devices. Last week the high court agreed to
review a lawsuit against American Honda Motor Co. that charged the company
negligent for not installing airbags before they were mandated. In the case, the
plaintiff argued that an airbag would have prevented serious injury in a car
accident in 1992. Most courts on similar issues have ruled that federal rules,
such as the Department of Transportation’s airbag mandates, preclude traditional
GM ASKS NHTSA TO DROP
RECALL General Motors Corp. has petitioned the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration (NHTSA) to drop an investigation that could lead to the
recall of 280,000 of the company's sport-utility vehicles, arguing that the
agency's test for neck injuries from airbags is flawed. A recent test found that
the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon both exceeded limits for neck injuries during
airbag deployments. NHTSA has not yet announced a formal recall of the
DC OPENS FIRST
CHILD-SEAT STATION DaimlerChrysler last week unveiled its first
child-seat inspection station in an attempt to reduce the hundreds of injuries
incurred each year by children placed in incorrectly installed child seats. In
conjunction with Fisher-Price and the National Safety Council, DC’s "Fit for a
Kid" program ensures that the seat is being installed and used properly. It will
only be open to DaimlerChrysler customers. DC cites government studies that have
shown that four out of five children in safety seats are incorrectly restrained.
DaimlerChrysler's program will create 2,000 trained and certified inspectors at
1,000 of its dealerships across the country, at a cost of between $10 million
and $15 million a year.
RECALLS This week’s big recalls hit Ford Motor Co. and General Motors
Corp. On Friday, GM recalled 168,036 1999 Buick Century and 1999 Buick Regal
midsize sedans manufactured between March 1998 and April 1999. GM said a short
in the anti-lock brake system could cause the fuel hose to overheat and leak,
possibly resulting in a fire under the hood. No reports of accidents or injuries
had been received as a result of the defect. Also last week, Ford recalled
183,000 1998 and 1999 Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique compact sedans, the
second recall on those cars this summer. The recall will repair a fraying
accelerator cable that could cause the gas pedal to stick while the vehicle is
running. Ford officials said they have received no reports of accidents or
injuries from the defect on those vehicles manufactured between July 1997 and
CHEROKEE TO LIVE
ON? Reports in the automotive press suggest DaimlerChrysler will keep
building the current antediluvian Jeep Cherokee, even after a new "KJ" Cherokee
hits the streets in 2001. The plan might include building older Cherokees for
other markets for some time, while filling the pipeline with the new vehicle for
North American markets. The Jeeps are built in Toledo, Ohio, where a new plant
for the new vehicle is to be built. An unnamed source told Reuters: "Some of the
sales and marketing people think that there's a place for the Cherokee to
continue life even after the new KJ comes out. And then there's some people who
think it's a ridiculous idea."
FORD SPENDS AGAINST HARASSMENT Ford Motor Co. will spend $17.5 million to fend off sexual and racial harassment at its assembly plants. In the past year, complaints at two Chicago-area Ford plants allege that women were subjected to pornography, sexual graffiti on factory walls, and daily degrading comments. In order to avoid the nasty PR that befell Mitsubishi Motors in a similar case, Ford said it would pay $250,000 to two women for damages, create a $7.5 million damage fund for between 700 and 900 women, promote more women in Chicago plants, start a $10 million nationwide training program, and hold supervisors accountable for harassment.
SAMSUNG IN TALKS TO SELL South Korean car company Samsung (it makes VCRs, too) says it’s negotiating with three carmakers to take over its car-making operations. "We have been seriously negotiating with three foreign firms on the sale of Samsung Motors since we filed court receivership application in June," Samsung Group spokesman Ha Joo-ho told Reuters. Samsung has been caught in the swirling economic mess in South Korea that drove Kia into the arms of Hyundai and has driven just about every other company into the red. Earlier this summer, Nissan denied it was interested in acquiring Samsung, even though it lent the company the old Nissan Maxima platform to build its only car line.
OLDS BRINGS BACK THE
LOGO With brighter sales in its forecast, Oldsmobile is doing something
it hasn’t done in nearly five years — it’s putting its name and logo on the back
end of its cars. The company had deleted the identifiers, beginning with the
Aurora in 1994, for fear that the company’s then-moribund lineup would hurt
sales of new products. The brand’s sales are up more than 26 percent from 1998,
and although they haven’t met an internal goal of 400,000 units a year, Olds
expects to sell between 360,000 to 370,000 cars and trucks this
ANTI-UAW GROUP AT
MBUSI DISBANDS An anti-UAW support group that included Mercedes-Benz
U.S. International support has been disbanded. The nonprofit group, shuttered at
the request of Democratic Alabama Gov. Don Seigelman, was raising money for
workers opposed to a UAW organizing drive at MBUSI, the plant that builds the
M-Class sport-ute. MBUSI denied knowing about the anti-UAW activities when it
joined, a spokesman told Reuters. The UAW has been keen to unionize the Alabama
plant and break the stranglehold of nonunion transplants, such as MBUSI and
Honda’s North American assembly operations.
DC MINIVANS GET TV If you want your MTV and your DaimlerChrysler minivan, your wish may finally have come true. The company will offer a rear-seat video entertainment system in its minivans, following the lead of the Nissan Quest and Ford Windstar.
The Chrysler vans will feature a liquid-crystal display, a choice of where to position the system console, and wireless headphones, for $1,500, including installation.
CYBERPLATES The Net generation is taking to Pennsylvania’s highways
with the issuance of new license plates that include the state’s Internet
Gov. Tom Ridge said the Web address is both symbolic and functional,
illustrating the state's high-tech leadership, but also directing people to
Pennsylvania's Web presence.