Headlight News Weekly for October 30, 2000

October 29, 2000

NISSAN TO BUILD MISSISSIPPI PLANT
DEVILLES RECALLED FOR AIRBAGS
SATURN GOING TO DETROIT
CVT INSIGHT
CHRYSLER SCALES BACK
FIRESTONE: NO SINGLE PROBLEM WITH TIRES
GM, NISSAN FINANCING ACCUSED OF DISCRIMINATION
HYBRID DURANGO
SAFETY GROUP SAYS WRONG TIRES RECALLED
DAEWOO RUNNING ON EMPTY
REPORT: GOODYEAR HAD SIMILAR PROBLEM
J.D. POWER AND COBALT ALLY
FIRESTONE CASES CONSOLIDATED
DC PROFIT DROPS
PRODUCTION GLITCHES SLOW VOLVO

 

NISSAN TO BUILD MISSISSIPPI PLANT Nissan has decided to build a new assembly plant in central Mississippi. Although a formal announcement has not yet been made, the automaker reportedly plans to assemble light trucks at the $1 billion plant, which might open by 2004 and employ as many as 4000 workers.
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DEVILLES RECALLED FOR AIRBAGS General Motors has announced a recall of about 224,000 Cadillac DeVilles, due to a potential problem with the airbag's side-impact sensing module. The airbags can allegedly sometimes deploy without warning. GM will be notifying owners to fix the problem soon, but the automaker advises that, until then, owners should not lean on the doors while driving and should not drive the vehicle if the airbag warning light stays on.
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SATURN GOING TO DETROIT General Motors plans to merge its Saturn division's marketing, advertising, and research operations with those of other GM divisions, according to Bloomberg News and Advertising Age. The change, which aims to save money and take advantage of GM resources, will include moving Saturn's main operations to Detroit.
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CVT INSIGHT Honda plans to begin offering its Insight gasoline-electric hybrid car with an automatic transmission beginning next year. The transmission offered will be a version of Honda's CVT (continuously variable transmission) already offered on the Civic. Gas-mileage figures for the new vehicle have not yet been released, although the manual-transmission Insight is the highest-mileage vehicle for sale in the U.S., with EPA ratings of 61 city and 70 highway.
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CHRYSLER SCALES BACK DaimlerChrysler's U.S. Chrysler arm has completely cancelled some product plans and delayed others in order to improve its financial shape. Projects that have been cancelled reportedly include the full-size Dodge SUV, a larger Grand Cherokee, and a larger Chrysler convertible. The next redesign of the Grand Cherokee has been delayed until 2004. Chrysler is making the cuts in order to help improve DC's financial condition. The company's stock performance has been poor in past months.
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FIRESTONE: NO SINGLE PROBLEM WITH TIRES According to Bridgestone President Yoichiro Kaizaki, Bridgestone Firestone still has not found a single reason for the tire failures that lead to hundreds of accidents, injuries, deaths, and the recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires. Bridgestone Firestone has now replaced about 4.2 million of the tires, which have now been linked to 119 deaths. The recall has, until now, cost the company about $350 million. The investigation, rather, will likely find that various factors such as underinflation and the way the tires performed on the Explorer will be to blame, said Kaizaki in a Wall Street Journal report. The company has hired an independent tire expert to help with the investigation.
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GM, NISSAN FINANCING ACCUSED OF DISCRIMINATION Two class-action lawsuits allege that the financial arms of General Motors and Nissan Motors have consistently charged black consumers more than white customers for financing. The suits claim that the financial units were charging black consumers more than the objective lending rate, and more than white customers with otherwise similar qualifications.
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HYBRID DURANGO DaimlerChrysler says that it will offer a hybrid gas-electric version of its Dodge Durango beginning in 2003. The vehicle uses a 3.9-liter V-6 to power the rear wheels and an electric motor to power the front wheels. DC claims that the vehicle is faster to 60 mph than the 5.9-liter gasoline version. While the hybrid drivetrain achieves about 20 percent better fuel efficiency than a V-8 Durango, the hybrid's combined city-highway combined rating amounts to less than 18.6 mpg. The combined figure for the V-6 was 17.3 mpg when the engine was last offered on the Durango in 1999.
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SAFETY GROUP SAYS WRONG TIRES RECALLED According to an analysis by consumer safety group The Safety Forum (www.safetyforum.com), Firestone Wilderness tires not recalled have nearly five times as many complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) than those tires recalled. The site's claim is based on its independent analysis of actual NHTSA data. Only 62 of the 3700 tire complaints in the NHTSA's database involved tires produced at its Decatur, Illinois, plant, but more than 20 percent involved larger, 16-inch tires that were not recalled.
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DAEWOO RUNNING ON EMPTY Korea's Daewoo Motor remains unable to pay many of its regular assembly line workers and office workers. Office workers have not received pay for almost two months. Daewoo's creditors are in talks with prospective buyer General Motors, although a deal with GM may not be finalized until sometime next year. Until then, the Korean government may kick in to help offer an aid package that would keep the automaker running until such a deal goes through.
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REPORT: GOODYEAR HAD SIMILAR PROBLEM According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, a tire-failure problem similar to that of the recalled Firestone tires affected Goodyear truck tires several years ago. Goodyear made a design change to avoid the problem but never recalled the bad tires, says the report. The tires alleged to have the problem are 16-inch Goodyear Wrangler AT and HT models with load range E from more than five years ago. Although most of these tires, used mainly for commercial vans and large SUVs, are off the road now, some could be affected. At least eight people have been killed due to failure of the tires. Starting in 1996, Goodyear switched to a more durable construction for the tire due to reports of failure.
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J.D. POWER AND COBALT ALLY Industry research giant J.D. Power and Associates has teamed up with Cobalt, an e-business company based in Seattle. Through the alliance, the two companies plan to offer training programs and expertise to the automotive industry. Programs will specialize in the maximization of automakers' and dealers' e-commerce sales potential. Nearly half of U.S. car dealers use Cobalt technology products for conducting e-business.
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FIRESTONE CASES CONSOLIDATED According to a Wall Street Journal report, a judge panel has ruled to consolidate more than 60 class-action lawsuits against Bridgestone Firestone and Ford. Pre-trial procedures will be overseen by a federal judge in Indiana. Both companies had spoken out for the consolidation, as it would minimize the time that top executives would have to spend in court, away from company operations.
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DC PROFIT DROPS DaimlerChrysler has reported a nearly 80-percent drop in operating profit, down to about $449 million, mainly attributed to losses by U.S. Chrysler operations. The company said that tough market conditions in the U.S. are expected to intensify. Chrysler has launched several cost-cutting programs to compensate for the division's losses.
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PRODUCTION GLITCHES SLOW VOLVO The waiting period for delivery of most new Volvo models is about twice as long as normal, due to production problems at plants in Sweden and Belgium, according to AutoWeek. The plants have been forced to shut down intermittently due to supply problems with suspension parts. Company officials said that the production problems will likely reduce the total number of vehicles made this year.
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