Week of May 17, 1999

May 17, 1999

 

JAGUAR TOPS J.D. POWER
EPA MUST REWRITE CLEAN-AIR RULES
FORD SAYS FORD'S GREEN
CDC SAYS DRIVING SAFER THAN EVER
TRAFFIC BEGINS EARLIER THAN EVER
AUTO DEALER HAS TOP AFRICAN-AMERICAN BUSINESS
FORD BUYS INTO CANADIAN DRIVING SCHOOL
HONDA SETS ITS SIGHTS ABROAD
HONDA RECALLS 125,000 VEHICLES
GMC SUBURBAN BECOMES YUKON XL
NISSAN MULLS PLANT CLOSINGS
DC ENDS TRUCK PLANS WITH NISSAN
SMART DAYS NUMBERED?

 

 

 

JAGUAR TOPS J.D. POWER Marking a stunning turnaround from the beginning of the 1990s, new Jaguar cars have been rated best by consumers in this year's J.D. Power Initial Quality Study. With 110 defects per 100 new vehicles, Jaguar topped the list of manufacturers. Throughout the early 1990s, Jaguar regularly ranked in the bottom third of manufacturer quality. This year's Power study was based on 41,004 owners of 1999-model vehicles, and results were based on the first 90 days of ownership. Although J.D. Power only issues a limited report of its results, the Associated Press reports the survey's results as follows:

Jaguar
Buick
Infiniti
Acura
BMW
Lexus
Toyota
Honda
Cadillac
Chrysler
-INDUSTRY
AVERAGE

110
114
118
124
125
131
135
137
139
148
167

Ford
Saturn
Oldsmobile
Dodge
Mercury
Pontiac
Chevrolet
Hyundai
GMC
Mitsubishi
Land Rover
Daewoo
Volkswagen
Jeep
Isuzu
Suzuki
Kia

169
171
174
175
185
185
192
194
199
199
200
216
223
234
242
299
333

 

 

 

 

 

EPA MUST REWRITE CLEAN-AIR RULES A federal appeals court ruled last week that the EPA overstepped its bounds in setting the last round of auto tailpipe emissions.

The 2-1 decision, in a case brought by the American Trucking Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will most likely force a thorough revamp of rules written under the 1990 Clean Air Act -- and will likely give whomever is elected president in the 2000 elections the final authority over any new rules. As a direct result, the ruling brings into question the Clinton administration's Tier Two emissions standards, proposed May 1, which would require automakers to make sharp cuts in auto emissions and refiners to produce cleaner gasoline beginning in 2004. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the EPA had exceeded its authority because the regulations' standards for distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy levels of pollution were too broad and vague.

 

 

 

 

FORD SAYS FORD'S GREEN Ford will market a zero-emission fuel-cell vehicle for sale by 2004, chairman William Ford Jr. told the company's annual stockholder meeting last week in Detroit. The meeting was also piped into the Internet and was broadcast on the jumbo TV on New York's Times Square. In response to questions about Ford's green commitment and its new Excursion sport-utility vehicle, Ford responded, "We could make all 80-mile-per-gallon small cars. But if they are all sitting unsold on dealer lots they aren't doing the environment any good…We have an obligation to make whatever we make as clean as we can."

 

 

 

 

 

CDC SAYS DRIVING SAFER THAN EVER Driving today is 90 percent safer than it was in 1925, the Centers for Disease Control announced last week. Thanks to safety measures such as seat belts, bumpers and the yellow centerline, the number of deaths has dropped from 18 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 1925 to 1.7 in 1997. At the same time, total miles driven has increased tenfold, and there are 11 times as many vehicles on the road -- 215 million. Safety equipment introduced after 1966's National Safety Act, such as shatterproof windshields and rigid steering wheels, helped a great deal, as did seatbelt usage. Where 11 percent of drivers in the early 1980s wore seatbelts, nearly 68 percent of us wear them today.

 

 

 

 

TRAFFIC BEGINS EARLIER THAN EVER The nation's daily traffic jams are beginning earlier than ever -- usually before dawn, according to a USA Today analysis pf Department of Transportation statistics. The paper reports that more than ten percent of the nation's drivers leave for work between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., the largest percentage ever. Taking the blame: more drivers on the road, more trips for errands added to the commute, a lack of new roads to alleviate congestion, and an increasingly global workforce prepared to work earlier to meet needs around the world during U.S. business

 

 

 

 

AUTO DEALER HAS TOP AFRICAN-AMERICAN BUSINESS A survey by Black Enterprise magazine ranks Mel Farr Automotive Group of Oak Park, Michigan, a dealer chain headed by former Detroit Lions football star Mel Farr Sr., as the largest black-owned business in the United States. Farr's network of car dealers reported 1998 sales of $596.6 million, up 4.1 percent from 1997. "This is the greatest thing that could happen to me as a businessman," Farr told the magazine. Farr's chain includes 11 franchises in Michigan and Ohio. Among them are three Ford and three Lincoln Mercury dealerships, and one each of Toyota, Mazda, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Suzuki, and Kia, plus a 13-acre used-car superstore.

 

 

 

 

 

FORD BUYS INTO CANADIAN DRIVING SCHOOL Ford's Canadian unit said on Tuesday it will buy a majority stake in Canada's biggest driving school, another step in Ford's strategy of making itself a "cradle-to-grave" company, Reuters reports.

The school, called Young Drivers, uses 400 vehicles each year but only 25 of them are Fords. "We will be connecting with our customers like never before," Ford Canada president Bobbie Gaunt told reporters at Ford's Canadian headquarters in Oakville, Ontario. Young Drivers, privately owned and based in Hamilton, Ontario, runs 158 Canadian schools as well as 25 in the United States and 25 in Finland. A price for the school was not revealed.

 

 

 

 

HONDA SETS ITS SIGHTS ABROAD A shrinking home auto market and rising demand in the U.S. are causing Honda to shift its production capacity from Japan to America, the Dow Jones Newswires reports. Honda said that it will close one of its five assembly lines in Japan to cut excess capacity while it will build a $400 million factory in Alabama to produce minivans or sport utility vehicles starting in 2002. At their peak, Honda's two main Japanese plants produced nearly at their maximum capacity of 1.4 million units a year. But Honda's output in Japan has shrunk to 1.25 million units annually in recent years, creating, in effect, excess capacity of about 150,000 units a year, the report said. Meanwhile, Honda's sales in the U.S., which surpassed the one-million-unit-a-year mark for the first time (1,009,600) last year, have grown much larger than those at home, which totaled 690,000 units last year. Of its North American sales, about 250,000 vehicles a year are exported from Japan.

 

 

 

 

HONDA RECALLS 125,000 VEHICLES American Honda says it is recalling 125,000 1996-98 Honda and Acura cars and minivans for possible suspension problems related to the lower front ball-joint assembly. The recall affects the Acura RL, TL and CL cars, as well as Honda Accord and Prelude cars and Odyssey minivans. Honda says a plastic part of the ball-joint assembly may wear excessively, causing the joint to separate, which could lead to a collapse of the front suspension. The failure is mostly likely to occur when the steering wheel is turned as far as it can go during low speeds. The joint attaches the lower control arm of the front suspension to a hub and spindle assembly. Honda said it received one report of a ball joint failure. There have been no reports of accidents or injuries. Owners of affected vehicles will be notified by mail. Honda and Acura dealers will replace the ball joint free of charge.

 

 

GMC SUBURBAN BECOMES YUKON XL Get out your erasers -- GMC says it's renaming the Suburban sport-utility vehicle that shares its name with the nearly identical Chevrolet Suburban, will get a new name for the 2000 model year. The GMC version of GM's largest SUV will be called the Yukon XL – "XL" for "extra length" as well as for its extra-large sizing over the standard Yukon. GMC began using the Yukon name in 1992 on its shorter full-size SUV. A new Yukon and Yukon XL based on GM's revised pickup trucks go into production later this year.

 

 

 

 

 

NISSAN MULLS PLANT CLOSINGS Nissan said on Friday its group would close

one or two production lines in Japan by 2003, according to the Associated Press.

Nissan has said it aims to trim its annual output capacity to 1.7 million units from two million by 2003. A Nissan spokesman also said Japan's second-largest automaker intends to share its assembly plant in Spain with new partner Renault SA . In March, Nissan and Renault agreed to an alliance under which the French automaker will take a 36.8 percent stake in heavily indebted Nissan and invest 643 billion yen in the Nissan group. They are still discussing how to share the Barcelona plant, the spokesman said. As part of joint cost-cutting efforts, Nissan and Renault aim to reduce their total number of platforms,referring to the bases of vehicle models, to 10 by sharing some of them. Nissan currently has 26 platforms, the spokesman said.

 

 

DC ENDS TRUCK PLANS WITH NISSAN DaimlerChrysler AG, the world's fifth-largest automaker, said it has ended a truck development alliance with Nissan Motor Co., Japan's No. 2 automaker, following Renault SA's acquisition of a 37 percent stake in Nissan, Bloomberg reports. DaimlerChrysler and Nissan Diesel Motor Co. began working together in July to jointly develop 3- to 9-ton trucks. The break was expected following Renault's March 27 announcement that it would invest $5.4 billion in Nissan to expand outside of western Europe. DaimlerChrysler was considering taking a stake Nissan to broaden its reach in the region, but abandoned the plan in early March to focus on the integration of the former Daimler-Benz AG and Chrysler Corp.

 

 

 

SMART DAYS NUMBERED? DaimlerChrysler's Smart vehicle may be cancelled in the coming months if incoming orders do not increase sharply, DC chairman Juergen Schrempp told German magazine Der Spiegel last week. Schrempp told Der Spiegel that he would "turn off the money faucet" if Smart's orders situation did not improve, adding that at least 80,000 units needed to be sold this year. Schrempp said DaimlerChrysler had done all it could to solve Smart's problems, including changing management, improving the car itself, lowering its price and launching a massive advertising campaign.

 

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