SPORT-UTES SAFER THAN SMALL CARS?
JAGUAR STYLIST LAWSON DIES
GRECO TO LEAD LAMBORGHINI
GM, FEDS TO STUDY "SMART" CARS
BIG 2.5 SUED OVER RECLINERS
TOYOTA TO EXPAND IN N.A.?
BMW BETS $5 BILLION ON ROVER
SAAB 9-5 GETS ITS WINGS
SATURN PRICES L-SERIES
MAZDA RECALLS B-SERIES
FORD OFFERS $20 MILLION TO ROUGE VICTIMS
AUTONATION OPENS WEB STORE
DC EMPLOYEES PLAY THE BENZ LOTTERY
SPORT-UTES SAFER THAN SMALL CARS? A management consulting group says that consumers are being misled about safety "star" ratings coming from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The Anderson Economic Group, based in Lansing, Mich., said last week that it believed consumers are confused by the ratings: "Some consumers are being misled into believing that a four-star compact car is just as safe as a four-star van and it's not," Anderson Economic Group economist Paul Anderson said. Anderson says the NHTSA should modify its system to indicate that similar ratings in different classes of vehicles do not imply equal protection if, for instance, a sport-ute should crash into an economy car. Anderson's group studied years of NHTSA studies and found that SUVs and minivans protect their occupants better than compact cars in crash tests, and also that the chances for a serious injury in small cars was 10 percent greater.
JAGUAR STYLIST LAWSON DIES Geoff Lawson, Jaguar's chief stylist, has died in London after suffering a stroke. Lawson, 54, died Thursday after he was admitted to a hospital north of London, the company said Friday. Lawson had a role in the design of most Jaguars produced in the past 15 years, and was responsible for the recent S-Type and XK8 designs. Lawson had worked for Vauxhall and General Motors before joining Jaguar in 1984. He is survived by his wife and two children.
GRECO TO LEAD LAMBORGHINI Audi AG, the luxury car unit of Volkswagen AG, said it appointed Giuseppe Greco, 51, as chief executive of its Automobili Lamborghini SpA sports car unit, replacing Vittorio Di Capua who resigned last week, the AP reports. Greco comes to the Italian carmaker from rival Ferrari.
Former Lambo head Di Capua, 67, resigned for personal reasons after leading the maker of the Diablo sports car since 1996. He will become an honorary supervisory board chairman, the company said. Audi bought Lamborghini last summer for $110 million as part of a VW plan to offer customers every type of car. Last year, Lamborghini sold 213 of its roadsters, with price tags starting at about $185,000, according to the AP.
GM, FEDS STUDY "SMART" CARS GM and the federal government will spend $35 million to develop "smart cars'' that use radar, cameras and computer chips to ``see'' slower cars and other objects in the road ahead. The crash-avoidance system announced Thursday is intended for distracted drivers who are not paying full attention to the road as they talk on a car phone, tune a radio or try to settle a fight among siblings in the back seat. A dozen prototype cars with these systems of the future will be developed in the next 2 1/2 years, according to Reuters: then, about 100 drivers in southeast Michigan will be selected to drive the prototype vehicles for about two weeks.
BIG 2.5 SUED OVER RECLINERS GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler are being sued for allegedly selling cars with defective front-seat recline devices and concealing the defect, Reuters reports. The lawsuit is seeking class-action status on behalf of approximately 1 million owners in New York State; it seeks $5000 per vehicle for those owners. The lawsuit says automakers are aware that single-lever backrest reclines are unstable in crashes, and collapse backward in a rear-end collision. The suit, filed in New York's Manhattan district court on behalf of three New York-based car owners -- Linda Frank, Joshua Hornstein, and Ross Kass -- says the former Big Three should have installed double-lever recliners that would keep the backrest in place in a crash.
TOYOTA TO EXPAND IN N.A.? Toyota is once again eyeing North America as it considers adding another vehicle production center. The company said last week that it may build a fifth factory somewhere in North America to expand capacity by 20 percent; by adding another plant, Toyota could bump its North American production from this year's scheduled 1.25 million vehicles to 1.5 million. Toyota chairman Hiroshi Okuda said the expansion would create more space for assembly of a new sport-utility vehicle built off the Tundra truck platform -- which would make Princeton, Indiana, the current assembly site for Tundra, a candidate for the new plant. However, Okuda also noted that sales of the Canadian-built Corolla are expected to rise as well. A decision is expected by year's end.
BMW BETS $5 BILLION ON ROVER Faced with sluggish sales and aging facilities, BMW is set to invest nearly $5 billion in faltering unit Rover in exchange for $241.5 million in aid from the British government. The monies will be used to reinvigorate Rover's Longbridge production facility, where the next generation of Rover's mainstream 200 and 400 compact cars will be built. Earlier this year, BMW said the new 200/400 would be used to challenge the supremacy of the Volkswagen Golf in that segment. BMW also hopes to expand Rover production from almost 700,000 cars today to more than 1 million per year in the longer term.
SAAB 9-5 GETS ITS WINGS Following in a long line of high-performance Saabs, the new 9-5 Aero will be added to Saab's lineup this fall, according to the company. Powering the potent front-driver will be a turbocharged 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine that turns out 230 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque. Tweaked suspension tuning and aerodynamic add-ons accompany the Viagra-laced powerplant, along with 17-inch light alloy wheels. The Aero will also offer a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions. It's set to make its debut this fall at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
SATURN PRICES L-SERIES Saturn is ramping towards the launch of its new midsize L-Series sedan and wagon by announcing pricing. Last week, GM's small-car division said the new L-Series will go on sale priced between $15,540 and $24,135. The new upmarket sedan and wagon will be built in Wilmington, Delaware, the first vehicles from the brand not put together in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Four- and six-cylinder engines will power the vehicles, and the brand's hallmark plastic body panels will be featured.
MAZDA RECALLS B-SERIES Mazda announced last Monday that it has voluntarily recalled about 22,500 pickup trucks to inspect and replace their cruise control systems. The North American arm of Japan's number-five automaker said that in certain 1998-1999 B-Series trucks, a control cable in the truck's cruise control system could come in contact with the system's servo pulley. When that occurs, the cable will not allow the vehicle's throttle return to idle when the cruise control is disengaged. Mazda says that it is unaware of any incidents caused by the potentially faulty cruise control.
FORD OFFERS $20 MILLION TO ROUGE VICTIMS In the aftermath of an explosion at its Rouge production facility, Ford has offered at least $20 million to 14 injured workers and the families of six killed to avoid being sued. Each injured worker and each family of those killed would get about $1 million, the Detroit News reports. The explosion was Ford's worst work-related tragedy in its 96-year history. "We do value our employees,'' said Ford spokesman John Spelich. "We hope this will allow Ford and its employees to put the tragedy behind them.'' As part of the settlement, the News reports that the families and the injured workers would waive claims against Ford and Rouge Steel Co., which has a mill on the 1100-acre site.
AUTONATION OPENS WEB STORE Wayne Huizenga's car-franchise brainchild is branching out on to the Internet. AutoNation Inc., the world's largest automotive retailer, announced its new online buying service last week. AutoNationDirect.com, now available in the Tampa, Florida, area, allows customers to reserve a vehicle for a test drive, withdraw money from their bank for a deposit and complete loan applications online. A nearby dealer would then deliver the vehicle to the customer's home. AutoNation's new site is the second that enables a customer to buy without walking into a dealership, the AP reports. CarsDirect.com, backed by Dell Computer Corp. founder Michael Dell and other investors, was introduced in May. AutoNationDirect.com will roll out nationwide later this year; however, buyers will not be able to negotiate prices from the one-price network.
DC EMPLOYEES PLAY THE BENZ LOTTERY DaimlerChrysler is setting themselves up for worker envy as it prepares to offer some 1630 Mercedes-Benz vehicles to the 125,000 employees of the former Chrysler Corp. Within the next few weeks, Chrysler and Chrysler Financial employees in the U.S. will be allowed to participate in a drawing for the right to lease 1630 Mercedes cars and sport-utility vehicles. Deliveries are to begin in September. DaimlerChrysler already gives U.S. employees of its Mercedes unit discounts on leases of Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth vehicles. The leases will run between $550 to $1,200 a month, depending on the model.