Week of May 3, 1999

May 3, 1999






PORSCHE SET FOR BOXSTER S Porsche says its new Boxster S will arrive this fall, stuffed to the gills with a 3.2-liter flat six. And that's all it is saying for now; no horsepower figures were released for the upcoming model, but it's expected the Boxster S will make at least 240 horsepower, versus the standard Boxster's 201 hp. Pricing and other standard equipment will be announced midsummer.





NISSAN NAMES NEW CEO FOR U.S. There's a new sheriff in town in Torrance, California, as Nissan Motor Co. has announced that Nobuo Araki, currently president of Nissan Mexico, is to become president and chief executive of Nissan North America, effective June 1. Araki succeeds Minoru Nakamura, 57, the exec credited with Nissan North America's financial turnaround since 1996 when he took over. He is also named as the driving force behind Nissan's renovated product lineup, including the new Maxima, Xterra, and the coming Z car, which he championed. Nakamura will take the new position of president of Nissan Car Leasing Co. in Japan.





TOYOTA TO PRESS FORWARD Toyota is also making changes at the top, naming Jim Press as head of Toyota's U.S. sales organization. Press, the company's senior vice president and general manager of operations, will replace Yale Gieszl, who is stepping down as executive vice president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. after seven years.

Gieszl, 57, will become a vice chairman of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. and hold a seat on the subsidiary's board. Both changes will be made at a Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. board meeting in June.




HONDA GIVES UP ON BATTERIES American Honda Motor Co. has pulled the plug on its electric EV Plus vehicle, company officials announced last week. The move is seen as a direct affront to California's requirement that any manufacturer selling vehicles in the state must sell electric vehicles. The Los Angeles Times reports that Honda isn't alone: Toyota may also be considering axing its electric RAV4 in favor of the coming Prius hybrid gasoline/electric vehicle. In a related story, Edison International, the nation's eighth-largest power utility, says it will close its subsidiary that installs electric vehicle charging stations because of poor customer acceptance. To date, the company has installed 250 charging stations in California and Arizona.

For more on Honda's move out of the electric scene, click here.




MITSU COMES CLEAN Mitsubishi has developed a gasoline engine which sharply reduces exhaust emissions and improves fuel efficiency, the Nihon Keizai newspaper reported last week. The new engine, the paper said, can reduce hydrocarbon emissions by half and nitrogen oxides by nearly as much, while improving fuel efficiency by up to 50 percent. The engine is expected to go into production this autumn. Japan's fourth-largest automaker also makes gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines, which the company says get about 30 percent better gas mileage than conventional gasoline-fueled engines.




DC AND VW BUY TECH FROM TOYOTA Toyota announced last week that it has licensed some of its nitrogen oxide reduction technology to DaimlerChrysler and Volkswagen. The Toyota system consists of a three-way catalyst that reduces NOx using a special nitrogen oxide-absorbing material. The automaker has installed the system on 300,000 cars made for the Japanese market since 1994. Separately, the Dow Jones news service reports that Toyota will be granted a license from DaimlerChrysler on the German-American automaker's brake assist system (BAS), which amplifies braking power when the driver is faced with an imminent collision.




GM TRUCKS TO OKLAHOMA? Trucks are hot, and GM can't build enough of them. That's why, according to USA Today, the General may convert its Oklahoma City assembly plant to truck production as early as next year. The Oklahoma plant currently builds the Chevrolet Malibu; if the decision is taken, the paper predicts the Malibu will move to Lansing, Michigan.

For more on GM's truck production difficulties, click here.




DC REPORTS STRONG Q1 PROFITS DaimlerChrysler says its first-quarter profits rose by 16 percent over the same period in 1998. Profits totaled $1.75 billion. Ever-visible company Chairman Juergen E. Schrempp said: "The first quarter figures support our confidence for 1999. We expect all business units to increase revenues over 1998. We are confident that over the course of this year, we will surpass our initial revenue target of Euro 137 billion." Of the total profit, the company's Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth and Jeep car and truck brands produced 12 percent profit growth, to $1.46 billion, and contributed more than half of the total to operating profits, while the Mercedes-Benz and Smart groups were the second-largest contributors.




DETROIT DIESEL RESISTS DC Detroit Diesel Corp., the world's second-largest maker of high-power diesel engines, says it wants to be left alone. Last week Chairman Roger Penske reiterated the company's intent to remain independent and said the company wants to repurchase DaimlerChrysler's 20-percent stake in the company, valued at about $122 million. Earlier this month, Automotive News quoted DaimlerChrysler Chairman Schrempp as saying that DaimlerChrysler "would very much like to acquire the majority or take over the whole of Detroit Diesel.''




FORD TO OPEN ONLINE JUNKYARD First paper, then plastic, now Pintos. Last week Ford, the world's second-largest automaker, said it will start recycling junked cars and reselling viable parts over the Internet. Under the system, customers could order a part online and Ford's recycling unit would deliver it via express mail. In addition to Ford parts, the unit is expected to sell components for a wide variety of cars, the newspaper said. "We are intent on transforming ourselves to a total consumer focus," Chief Executive Jacques Nasser said in a statement. The move also reflects

Chairman William Clay Ford Jr.'s avowed concern for the environment. To bolster its effort, Ford purchased a Florida-based company that will disassemble cars and trucks for recycling or redistribution. Ford says it expects the new venture may net an additional $1 billion in profit a year.




FORD WASHES ITS HANDS IN BRAZIL While it worked the aftermarket connection in Florida, Ford was shutting down plans to build a factory even farther south, in Brazil. Last week Ford canceled plans to build a billion-dollar manufacturing plant in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul after a newly elected government suspended nearly $260 million in financial incentives. The Ford plant was slated to begin production by January 2001; other sites within Brazil are being considered in the wake of the collapsed deal.




MAZDA PRIMES PREMACY? Mazda is studying the U.S. market as a possible outlet for its new Premacy multipurpose vehicle, the Dow Jones Newswire reports. In an interview with the news service, Mazda President James Miller said the Premacy, a sort of subcompact minivan, was being considered for U.S. sales in light of the recent tilt of American buyers toward utility vehicles. The Premacy is a Protégé-sized vehicle that has flexible seating inside for five to seven passengers. A timetable for a decision has not been set, according to Miller.



HYUNDAI: FEWER PLATFORMS, MORE LUXURY Hyundai, South Korea's largest automaker, says it will slice the number of platforms it builds from 23 to seven within three years. The move would mean a huge consolidation of platforms between Hyundai and recently acquired Kia Motors. Separately, the company last week introduced a new luxury car, called the Equus, which may eventually be sold in North America. The Equus goes on sale in Korea in May and will be available in South America and the rest of Asia by the end of the year. A U.S. intro likely would not happen until after the year 2000, a company official said.




AUDI FUNDS GERMAN CAR MUSEUM Audi has given $7.1 million to the eastern German city of Zwickau to found an automotive museum, the German daily Die Welt reports. The city was once home of Auto Union, Audi's predecessor, which was formed from several prewar German automakers, including Horch, DKW and Wanderer. Audi's investment coincides with the 100th anniversary of Horch, Audi's 90th birthday, and the 50th anniversary of Audi's move to Ingolstadt from Zwickau after World War II, when Zwickau was absorbed into East Germany, the paper reported.


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