Ramblings for June 26, 2000

June 26, 2000

Prowler’s final days

The 2000 Woodward Edition Prowler
(Click image for larger view)

Chrysler is changing their image with the departure of Plymouth, and the Pentastar logo is getting replaced by the old winged badge. But the Prowler is doing quite well, thank you, as it approaches the end of the line. In April Plymouth sold 364 Prowlers, the most in one month since the two-seater went on sale in 1997. Chrysler is looking at the sudden surge in Prowler sales to see if it’s because people have taken a new interest in it, or if collectors snapping them up as an investment prompted the surge.

There may be a reprieve, but at any rate, the final batch will include an orange color that is bound to be collectible. Of the 5000+ that have been sold, about 80 percent were evenly split between black, red and purple, with a few hundred each of silver and yellow. The rare ones are the two-tone red and black versions, with only 80 built. The last series will be mixed so expect orange to be rare.

While you are sending them your letter of support, also mention the Chrysler 300 Hemi C convertible, which is getting close to a decision to move it from concept to production as a 2002 model. The new Mustang is moving to Ford's Flat Rock, Mich., plant — currently the Mercury Cougar and Mazda 626 plant jointly owned with Mazda. Ford is expected to discontinue Cougar to make room for Mustang, which will be built off the same rear-wheel drive platform as the Lincoln LS and Jaguar E-Type luxury sedans.

Racing stumbles on the Web

First we need to congratulate several car companies on achieving their racing goals: Audi for a dominating win at Le Mans; Ford, GM and Chrysler for respectable finishes in the same race in the first year of multi-year efforts; and last but not least, Infiniti and Toyota, each of which achieved their first wins in their respective Indy-car series.

In recent columns I mentioned the wonderful job that Infiniti had done with their marketing partner and sponsor Excite to provide Indy 500 on-board telemetry to Web users. GM went about 37 steps further at Le Mans, and offered Internet live feeds from the race from FOUR cars, complete with video. And their Web site was replete with a radio broadcast, text updates, simulation visuals, background information for everyone on the team including the tire man's dog, and corporate marketing information. Well, it was a classic case of too much, too soon. They were largely undone by their enthusiasm and success. Everyone who I queried that tried to link in got frustrated by slow loading, bad video feeds, and frequent system crashes. Somehow our browsers didn't like the overload and kept choking. The most valuable part was the feed of the English-language radio from the track, especially since GM's 'updates' were usually three to four hours behind time.

I commend GM for a noble effort and mark my words, before long our computers and our TVs will become inseparable and broadcasts like this will be the norm. Then, I'm old enough to remember when TV in the home was a project for a trained technician, and AM radio was a real chancy and static-ridden proposition. I hope they continue and get it right.

Behemoths becoming endangered?

I've long predicted that the American public would have an intense but brief love affair with the behemoth SUVs, and shift to vehicles with truck looks rather than real truck behavior. The National Automobile Dealers Association agrees. With the sales of small sport-utility vehicles on the rise, automakers are preparing a new generation of SUVs that are more carlike and as fuel efficient as cars. "New SUVs coming to market are more carlike, and will likely get more carlike mileage of 21 to 26 miles per gallon on the highway," said NADA Chief Economist Paul Taylor. New, smaller or midsize SUVs soon to hit the market include offerings from Pontiac, Mazda, Ford and Hyundai; Taylor says "the fastest growing sales of SUVs is in the midsize category, with highway gas mileage ratings of 20 or more miles per gallon." At the same time, the largest SUVs have seen only modest, single-digit sales growth.


Bob welcomes comments or questions at bstorck@sprynet.com.

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