Headlight News Weekly for November 6, 2000

November 6, 2000

GM TO INVEST IN SMALL-CAR PLATFORMS
FORD INVESTS IN RIVER ROUGE
BABY JAG GETS A NAME
DC AND GM GIVE WORKERS AOL ACCESS
DAIMLERCHRYSLER TO IDLE PLANTS
NISSAN PROFITS FROM RESTRUCTURING
GM SALES UP, FORD DOWN
FORD-FIRESTONE RELATIONSHIP NOT FINISHED
U.S. TO GET BRITISH HONDAS
MITSUBISHI CONSOLIDATION DONE
J.D. POWER RATES NAV. SYSTEMS
FUEL CELL PARTNERSHIP OPENS
NHTSA TESTING MOST CARS EVER
FORD RECALLS ESCAPE AGAIN
LAND ROVER SETTLES WITH WORKERS

 

GM TO INVEST IN SMALL-CAR PLATFORMS With an announcement by GM North America president Ron Zarrella, General Motors Corporation confirmed plans to spend significant development money on small-car platforms over the next four years. Two new platforms will be developed, providing updates for the Saturn S-series cars, the Chevrolet Cavalier and S-10 pickup, Saturn's upcoming sport-utility vehicle, corresponding vehicles from GM’s Opel and Vauxhall divisions in Europe and the U.K., and two new future crossover vehicles from Chevrolet and Pontiac. Zarrella confessed that in recent years the automaker had shunned away from spending on small cars in favor of more profitable pickups and SUVs. GM will save some money with the projects by sharing platforms and development costs with several other automakers, including Isuzu and Toyota.

For more information about GM’s upcoming small-car platforms, click here.

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FORD INVESTS IN RIVER ROUGE Ford Motor Company is planning to invest $2 billion into cleaning up its aged River Rouge assembly plant. The facility, Ford’s largest, dates back to 1917. Ford plans to give the complex a new look incorporating landscaping and a new assembly plant as part of the facility. Decontamination of some of the plant's surroundings is also included in the plan.

For more information on Ford’s plans to turn Rouge green, click here.

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BABY JAG GETS A NAME Jaguar has revealed that its upcoming compact luxury sport sedan previously referred to as X400 will be sold as the X-Type. The car is expected to compete with the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3-Series when it goes on sale summer 2001. Jaguar plans to more than double its annual worldwide sales, currently at about 85,000 cars per year, with the mass-production X-Type.

For details about Jaguars upcoming compact sedan, click here.
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DC AND GM GIVE WORKERS AOL ACCESS DaimlerChrysler and General Motors have chosen to give their employees reduced-rate America Online Internet access, available early next year. The offer is currently only to be offered to U.S. employees, although Canadian workers will soon also get the benefit. The auto-industry employees would get unlimited AOL access for three dollars per month, or options for a television-based service. The move by the two automakers is in response to an earlier decision by Ford to supply all of its workers worldwide with free computers and five-dollar-per-month Internet access.
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DAIMLERCHRYSLER TO IDLE PLANTS DaimlerChrysler plans to idle seven U.S. and Canada assembly plants for a week in order to cut excess vehicle inventories. Chrysler division sales for many models have posted a decline in recent months. The 20,000 combined workers at the plants will receive 95 percent of their normal pay during the shutdown under a union labor agreement.
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NISSAN PROFITS FROM RESTRUCTURING Nissan Motor Co. has already been rewarded by its restructuring plan: The recently struggling automaker, now a unit of France's Renault, will post a profit in the six months ending September 30. The Nissan group's expected operating profit of $1.2 billion is more than triple that of last year, and the strongest since 1990. In 1999, Renault acquired a 37-percent stake in Nissan, then close to bankruptcy. Since, through the restructuring plan, 16,500 jobs have been cut worldwide.
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GM SALES UP, FORD DOWN General Motors is expected to post an 8.9-percent rise in October sales, versus October 1999, due to aggressive incentive programs, while Ford and DaimlerChrysler are expected to post a decrease in sales. Overall sales may be up slightly, with imports up about four percent. Ford Motor Company has announced that its U.S. vehicle sales fell 5.5 percent in October, due partly to a 16-percent drop in Ford Explorer sales. Production of the Explorer was halted for three weeks in August and September, causing a supply shortage of the sport-utility vehicles at times. Hesitation due to the Ford's involvement in the Firestone tire recall may have contributed slightly to the drop. According to reports, prices paid for used Explorers have dropped by up to ten percent in recent months.
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FORD-FIRESTONE RELATIONSHIP NOT FINISHED Bridgestone Firestone CEO John Lampe and Ford CEO Jac Nasser met last week to decide the future relationship between the two companies, reports Automotive News. The two companies have said that they would like to continue the relationship, although Ford is going to let customers decide by giving them a choice of tires on future vehicles. Most of the 6.5 million Firestone tires recalled in August were installed as original equipment on Ford Explorers.
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U.S. TO GET BRITISH HONDAS Honda has said that it plans to export most of its British-made vehicles to the United States rather than Europe, due to the Euro's continued weak performance against the British pound. The vehicles exported to the States will be mostly Honda CR-V compact sport-utility vehicles. Until now, all 135,000 CR-Vs that are sold in the U.S. per year have been imported from Japan, but now several thousand per year will be imported from England. Honda makes only 10,000 per year at the Swindon, England, plant. Also due to the exchange rate, Honda has chosen to scrap plans to build a new small car at the Swindon plant.
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MITSUBISHI CONSOLIDATION DONE Mitsubishi Motors reports that it has completed a consolidation of its North American operations into a single entity, called Mitsubishi Motors America. The consolidation has been underway since this past June. Prior to the consolidation, there were four separate subsidiaries that have now been merged: Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America, Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America, and Mitsubishi R&D of America. Executives say that the consolidation will yield more efficient company operations with better communication. Mitsubishi intends to reach a sales rate of 400,000 vehicles per year by 2005.
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J.D. POWER RATES NAV SYSTEMS The latest findings from market-research firm J.D. Power and Associates finds that more than half of drivers with navigation systems installed in their cars use them at least once a week. The survey on navigation systems found that younger drivers are far more likely to use the systems than older drivers. For the 2000 model year, about 135,000 navigation systems were installed as factory equipment. Systems by Alpine Electronics topped the firm's survey for customer satisfaction. Alpine systems are offered on the Acura RL.
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FUEL-CELL PARTNERSHIP OPENS The California Fuel Cell Partnership, a cooperative effort between automakers, government, and technology companies, has opened its new facility in Sacramento, California. The facility will be the base for testing a fleet of prototype fuel-cell cars and buses on real highways. At the grand opening, Volkswagen and Hyundai introduced new fuel-cell vehicles. The VW Bora HyMotion uses liquid hydrogen stored in a tank, with a 75 KW electric motor powered by the fuel cell. The car is based on the Jetta (known as Bora in Europe). Hyundai also showcased a fuel-cell-powered version of its new Santa Fe SUV. The fuel-cell drivetrain was developed for Hyundai by Enova Systems of Torrance, California. Several other automakers in the Partnership displayed fuel-cell vehicles at the grand opening event.
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NHTSA TESTING MOST CARS EVER The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced that it plans to crash-test the highest number of vehicles ever this year. The agency plans to test 113 different 2001-model-year vehicles, including 72 passenger cars, 19 SUVs, 11 vans, and 11 pickups. Fifty-two of the tests will include side crash testing. Once the testing of the 2001 models is complete, the NHTSA says that crash-test information will be available for more than 80 percent of cars for sale.
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FORD RECALLS ESCAPE AGAIN Ford has issued the fourth recall of its Escape compact SUV, and also a massive recall of 1997 Ford F-150 pickup trucks. 709,245 F-150s are covered by the recall, which was called because improperly installed mounting brackets could rub a hole in the fuel line, potentially causing a fire due to the leakage. The Escape recall only affects 800 vehicles with potentially defective speed-control cables that could lead to the throttle sticking. 606 Mazda Tributes with the same problem have also been recalled.
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LAND ROVER SETTLES WITH WORKERS Land Rover has agreed with union leaders on a new labor deal for its 13,000 employees. Last month, at Land Rover's Solihull, U.K., plant, workers protested to new policies that had been enacted. Land Rover has previously adopted the work policies of former owner BMW, although now new owner Ford Motor Company is imposing some of its policies on the company. The dispute between labor and management mainly involved expected flexibility of workers and the working of extra hours during time of peak production.
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