Car Clips: Sept. 4, 2000

September 4, 2000

Chevy SSR is cruisin’ at GM

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With the runaway success of Chrysler’s PT Cruiser, based largely on its catchy looks and versatility, the inevitable me-toos are ready and waiting in the wings. GM CEO Rick Wagoner has announced that Chevrolet has been given the nod to build the SSR, perhaps to beat the Daimler gang from beating them to the market with their own sport-model pickup truck. Just to show they are still in the game, the newly renamed Chrysler Prowler will come as a special two-tone Black Tie edition in time for the summer hot rod cruises. While GM of the past probably would not have led with a model in this genre, it's likely that the popularity of the PT Cruiser influenced the company's decision to go ahead and build the SSR.  Wagoner said the car will go into production in the 2002 model year. These limited-production vehicles are good news for the plastics industry as the use of an extensive amount of plastics makes low production runs not only possible but also profitable.

Tire failure warnings

With all the concern about tire failures, one of the biggest problems may be the tendency for folks to drive around with under-inflated tires. With the long service intervals and the demise of full service gas stations, Goodyear has made a timely investment in Cycloid, which produces on-board vehicle tire inflation systems. Cycloid initially developed the technology for heavy-duty trucks, and the two companies will commercialize continuous tire-pressure monitoring and maintenance systems for passenger cars, light trucks, vans and sport-utility vehicles. An electronically enhanced version will provide wireless information sensing and transmission for future automotive platforms.

Toyota keeps it in the family

While labor and investment issues somewhat unique to our culture have urged U.S. auto companies to divest themselves of Visteon (Ford), Delphi/Delco (GM) and Mopar (Chrysler) parts operations, the Japanese have found keeping control of their operations enables them to monitor costs and quality better. Ironically, just as Firestone and Ford are fighting their mutual concerns, Toyota is adding instead of splitting off accessory companies. The company is tired (pun intended) of tire problems and it is planning to begin making its own. Toyota has announced that it has jointly developed proprietary tire-making technology working with Fuji Seiko K.K. and the two aim to provide this tire-making technology to certain tire makers.  These manufacturers would then make tires for Toyota using the new technology, which according to Toyota, results in a high quality tire at a reduced cost to conventional tires. Toyota expects to begin using the tires on 2001 models.

Bob welcomes comments or questions at

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