FORD EARNS Q2 RECORD $2.5
GM IS FORTUNE 500’S TOP COMPANY
NEW SEAT BELTS STRETCH FOR SAFETY
RANGER, TRACKER CATCH CAIR IN TESTS
MINIS, SUVS TO RULE AUTO PRODUCTION
MITSU MULLING AMERICAN-MADE SUV
GRAND CHEROKEE SLOWS DOWN
GM TO TAKE SAAB?
USED-CAR WEB SITES TO MERGE
NISSAN NEEDS TO TURN 2000 PROFIT
ROUGE WORKERS SETTLE
PROWLER PURPLE, YELLOW NO MORE
FREE SMARTS FOR SWISSAIR
FORD EARNS Q2 RECORD $2.5 BILLION Hot and heavy truck and SUV sales drove Ford to a second-quarter earnings record of $2.48 billion. At $2 a share, the earnings topped even last year’s strong $2.38 billion. Of that amount, Ford’s North American sales contributed the lion’s share of cash, just under $2 billion. Analysts warned that Ford’s sluggish European sales and scattered South American efforts need shoring up.
For more on Ford’s earnings, click here
GM IS FORTUNE 500’S TOP COMPANY For the third year in a row, GM sits atop the Fortune 500 list of the world's largest companies. Right behind the General in second and third places are DaimlerChrysler AG and Ford. The auto industry is riding record sales, which at current rates could top 16.7 million vehicles this year. Rounding out Fortune’s top ten: Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Mitsui, Itochu Corp., Mitsubishi Corp., Exxon Corp., General Electric Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.
For more on GM’s reorganization woes, click here
NEW SEAT BELTS STRETCH FOR SAFETY The next frontier in safety is stretchy seatbelts – or so believes Allied Signal, which will ship its first Securus belts, which are made of stretchier materials than standard fabric belts, the New York Times reports. The Securus system’s belts will allow a person strapped in to move forward about two inches more in a crash, and at a rate where injury from the belt itself is reduced. A spokesman said Allied Signal expects automakers to use the Securus belts first in back-seat applications, where belt rules are less strict. The belts will be available on unnamed 2000 models.
RANGER, TRACKER CATCH AIR IN TESTS Last week’s round of tests by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) saw the 1997 Ford Ranger and 1998 Chevrolet Tracker lift two wheels off the ground during tests that studied rollover accidents, the agency reported last week. In two cases, the Ranger may have rolled in an accident if not for special outriggers placed on the vehicle, NHTSA said; the Tracker’s wheel lift was more moderate. "Consumers should not draw conclusions on specific models because test data are not available on most vehicles," NHTSA spokesman Tim Hurd said. The rollover report can be read at www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
MINIS, SUVS TO RULE AUTO PRODUCTION Minicars and sport-utility vehicles will be the fastest-growing car segments through 2004, according to a report from the European Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). While the EIU predicts vehicle production will increase 12.5 percent worldwide, the minicar class is expected to grow more than 38 percent, and the SUV segment 25 percent (the latter largely based on demand in North America and Europe). The EIU’s candidates for shrinking market segments? Luxury cars and sports cars, which it expects will decline 1.3 and 21.4 percent, respectively.
MITSU MULLING AMERICAN-MADE SUV Will Mitsubishi’s Normal, Ill. Plant begin churning out sport-utility vehicles? That’s the latest speculation from Japan, where Mitsu executive vice president Takashi Sonobe last week said the company would like to raise its annual U.S. sales from about 190,000 to 300,000 in the near future. Such a vehicle would most likely be a hybrid all-activity vehicle based on the Galant platform: the Normal plant currently builds the Galant and the new 2000 Mitsu Eclipse. Earlier this month, Mitsu said it would work with Fiat to develop and sell a new sport-ute beginning in 2001.