Weekly News: July 9, 2001

July 9, 2001

JUNE SALES: DOMESTICS TAKE THE FALL Domestic automakers once again posted the biggest declines in sales for June, while imports surged. Overall, car sales for the month posted down three percent from June of last year, while truck sales were up three percent from last June, figuring for a total one-percent decline in vehicle sales. Ford and Chrysler took eight-percent drops in overall vehicle sales for the month, and GM took a more modest three-percent drop in sales. Again, imports such as Toyota, Honda, and Volkswagen showed strong sales and an increasing market share.

FORD SETS EXPLORER SALES RECORD Ford can at least claim the bragging rights for setting an all time sales record for Ford Explorer sales in June. Ford had reportedly been pressuring dealers to sell as many as possible during the month, as sales numbers were close to an existing record. The sales mark, of 42,833 sold in the month, is especially important for Ford's public image, in light of a year of bad publicity due to the Firestone tire recall, product recalls, and ongoing quality questions.
Firestone Recalls Millions of Tires by TCC Team (1/14/2001)

TOYOTA/LEXUS ON TOP IN STRATEGIC VISION REPORT Market research firm Strategic Vision has released the results of its 2001 Total Quality Index report (TQI). Toyota and Lexus models emerged victorious, with three models of each brand as segment leaders. The Toyota Tundra and Sequoia SUV models came out as winners in the segments where domestics usually get top rankings. The TQI asks owners a series of questions about the total ownership experience. BMW was the highest scoring brand overall, and Chrysler was the most improved.

RENTAL-CAR SNOOPING ILLEGAL Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection has charged a New Haven, Connecticut-based rental-car company of violating state law by using a GPS system to track customers and their speed. The state agency's decision is in regard to a civil lawsuit filed last fall after a renter from Acme Rent-a-Car was fined $150 for several instances of speeding with the rental. The rental car company says that they only record the information when a renter violates the law, but both the consumer and the state agency agree that the rental car company doesn't have any business in charging people with a speeding fine.

MOTORCYCLE DEATHS ON THE RISE Transportation Secretary Mineta has announced a disconcerting 16.8-percent rise in motorcycle fatalities from 1997 to 1999. In light of the statistics, the agency also unveiled a new motorcycle safety plan. Registrations increased by 8.5 percent, to 4.2 million in 1999. Prior to 1997, motorcycle fatalities per mileage had shown a long downward trend. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration still is not sure of the reason for the increase in fatalities. The only other trend that the agency has noticed is that the average age of motorcycle riders is now higher than ever.

LOAN PRACTICES DISCRIMINATING A new study of 300,000 car loans from 1993 to 2000 arranged by Nissan's finance unit shows that black customers consistently paid more than white customers, reports the New York Times. The statistical study analyzed data from 33 different states, and found the differences to be highest in Maryland and Wisconsin, where black borrowers would typically pay $800 more in finance charges than white customers. The finance unit was not aware of the race of the applicants, so it is not a case of racial bias, but rather a case of credit policies that for some reason favor white customers. The Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation does allow dealerships to modify the lending rate for customers on an individual basis, and in this case the dealers are for some reason also marking up more for blacks. The credit units say that the markup system allows them to compete with other lenders. Experts advised that the markup policies be eliminated for fairness.

SEARS GOING AFTER FIRESTONE Tire retailer Sears, Roebuck and Co. is filing a suit against Bridgestone Firestone, asking for the tiremaker to pay for damages and legal costs due to tread separation problems and related liability suits against the retailer. Firestone had appointed lawyers to assist Sears after last year's tire recall, but the company withdrew them in April, according to a Bloomberg report. Sears says that an agreement was made between the companies, and Firestone has not stood up to it. Sears is named in several injury lawsuits related to the tires.
Firestone Recalls Millions of Tires by TCC Team (1/14/2001)

MITSU WILL BRING EVO TO AMERICA According to AutoWeek, Rhys Millen, a Mitsubishi-sponsored driver, has confirmed that the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII will be sold in the U.S. starting next year, although Mitsubishi denies any definite decision. Prior generations of the 'Evo' have reportedly not been sold in the States due to a combination of emissions compliance and crash-test regulations.
2002 Mitsubishi Lancer by Marty Padgett (5/20/2001)

EXEC SHUFFLE ON THE WAY AT VW The Financial Times has reported that Volkswagen AG is facing a major executive shakeup, with company chairman Ferdinand Piech stepping down from his position. The report is yet another in a series of rumors and reports from the past few weeks that indicate an impending management upheaval at the German automaker. Analysts have considered that the company has too many redundant, parallel positions among its eight car brands and nine total brands, and that they might be reorganized by type of vehicle, such as premium, volume, and commercial.

NHTSA INVESTIGATING GRAND CHEROKEE The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is opening an investigation into a potential problem with 1995 to 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokees, according to the Los Angeles Times, citing a NHTSA source. The NHTSA has received 48 complaints claiming that the gearshift can slip into reverse and run away. The phenomenon has caused 32 crashes and 14 injuries so far, according to the report.

FORD, DC RECALL VEHICLES The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced a new series of product recalls. Ford Motor Company will recall more than 150,000 E150, E250, and E350 1996 to 2001 model year vans for a potential problem with the fuel tank. Ford is also recalling Ford Mustang Cobra models to replace rear suspension pieces that might fracture under stress. DaimlerChrysler is also recalling 161,682 vehicles from the 1999 model year to replace the front seatbelt retractors, which don't comply with federal standards.

SAAB RECALLS 900 FOR AIRBAG ISSUE Saab will independently issue a recall of Saab 900s made in 1998, for a potential problem with the front passenger airbags. The company is aware of eleven cases in the U.S. in cold, dry conditions where the passenger airbag was triggered accidentally by static electricity.

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