Weekly News: July 16, 2001

July 16, 2001

ASC’S PRECHTER DEAD AT 59 Heinz Prechter, German-born industrialist and a high-profile figure in the Motor City, died last week at his home in Grosse Ile, Mich., outside Detroit. "Mr. Prechter, after suffering from depression for many years, apparently took his own life," a brief statement from Prechter's privately held company, ASC Inc., said. Behind him, ASC evolved from a small company into a company well versed in building specialty vehicles and prototypes as well as producing the trademark sunroofs, which it helped make an attractive and popular option on vehicles sold in the U.S. Prechter was 59.  His funeral was held July 11.  More than 300 people packed   the Grosse Ile Presbyterian Church, while another 400 mourners outside the church watched proceedings on television.  Nearby at Southgate’s Crystal Gardens Banquet Hall, another 800 people watched a satellite broadcast of the funeral.
ASC's Prechter Takes Own Life by Joseph Szczesny (7/9/2001)   

EARNHARDT JR. WINS AT DAYTONA REDUX Just five months after his father Dale Sr., “The Intimidator,” died after sustaining injuries in a crash at the Daytona speedway, his son Dale Jr. took the Pepsi 400 in what some called a fitting tribute to his father. Earnhardt overcame a late yellow flag to retake the lead with only four laps remaining and win his third race by just 0.12 seconds.

FORD TAPS SCHEELE FOR TURNAROUND The man responsible for the turnaround at Jaguar is coming to Dearborn to perform some more magic. Nick Scheele, currently chairman of Ford of Europe, is headed back to Ford headquarters to assume a second-in-command role to CEO Jac Nasser. Scheele, 57, will replace Martin Inglis, who will become the company’s CFO; current CFO Henry Wallace will return to Asia to run Ford’s operations in the Far East. While Scheele’s appointment came as little surprise, most observers were expecting more movement within the ranks as Ford tries to right itself in the face of shrinking profits, falling market share and, according to some reports, decreasing quality control.
Ford Shakes Up White Collars by TCC Team (7/16/2001)

CHRYSLER BAGS PLATFORM TEAMS   Doing away with the last vestiges of the independently run Chrysler Corporation, CEO Dieter Zetsche says the company will adopt a product-development process closer to that used by Mercedes-Benz. In the past, cross-functional teams of designers, engineers and marketers worked in teams to produce a vehicle line; the new plan reorganizes product development into five vehicle groups and emphasizes sharing components between Benz, Chrysler and Mitsubishi. Separately, Chrysler announced that Jan Bertsch, a Visteon veteran, will join the company as global vice president of its sales and marketing finance operations.
DC Dumps Platform Teams by Joseph Szczesny (7/16/2001)

LEXUS GETS J.D. POWER NOD Does it get boring being named J.D. Power’s best brand for dealers five years in a row? Ask the folks at Lexus, which just received the honors for its customer service based on some 56,000 new vehicle owners. Also ranking highly: Saturn, a repeat at number two, and Cadillac, a surprise number three from last year’s seventh-place finish. Five of GM’s brands were in the top ten, including Saab. "Combined with GM's improvements in quality and productivity, these improvements send a strong message that GM is headed in the right direction," said Michael Grimaldi, GM vice president of vehicle sales, service and parts.
2001 J.D. Power CSI by TCC Team (7/16/2001)
Power Shows Slower Gains by Jim Burt (7/16/2001)
Power Gives GM Boost by Joseph Szczesny (7/16/2001)

BMW SHOWS OFF H2 No, it’s not a challenger to the next Hummer. BMW’s H2 means hydrogen, and yesterday the company used smoggy L.A. as the backdrop to unveil a fleet of hydrogen-powered cars that it hopes to develop and sell worldwide. The fleet of 7-Series sedans use liquid hydrogen stored in a pressurized tank as an energy source; a 200-mile range is estimated, along with a conventional-sounding 141 mph top speed. BMW hopes to join Ford, DaimlerChrysler, GM, Honda and Toyota in introducing a hydrogen-powered vehicle to the market by the end of the decade.
BMW's Hydrogen Biggie by TCC Team (7/16/2001)
Auto Tech Talk: BMW and H2 by TCC Team (7/16/2001)

TOUGHER SUV MILEAGE COMING? Energy proposals headed to the House of Representatives in August may include an increase in the CAFE fuel-economy requirements for light trucks, Republican leaders said yesterday. To clear the way for an increase in the standard – now set at 20.7 mpg for light trucks and SUVs --  Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta late Tuesday asked lawmakers to immediately lift a ban that prevented his department from studying an increase. Although no provision for a higher fuel economy average for light trucks is in the current bill, negotiations are said to be underway to include a raise in the final bill. Light-truck CAFE requirements have not been increased since the 20.7-mpg was first set in 1975.
CAFE Stays Put Until October by Joseph Szczesny (7/16/2001)
CAFE: Fuel Economy by Law? by Eric Peters (7/16/2001)

FORD DITCHES PROMOTION RATINGS As expected, Ford announced an end to the controversial letter-grade rating system that some older employees called discriminatory. The system, which CEO Jac Nasser implemented to improve performance in its white-collar ranks, drew angry lawsuits from workers that claimed the company used the ratings to force out older workers in favor of younger ones. A move by the AARP – the former America Association of Retired Persons – to join the side of plaintiffs may have forced Ford to adjust the system, which Ford says will become less stringent. Currently, a worker given a C grade would not be eligible for a bonus; two C ratings in a row was grounds for dismissal. 

GM-HUGHES DEAL NEAR? Once again, GM officials are saying a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. for control of Hughes Electronics is near. "I do think we're going to come up with something sometime soon," said GM spokesperson Toni Simonetti. While GM has not set a timeline for such a deal, the company is said to be eager to complete a deal with News Corp. so that the estimated $4 to $7 billion in cash from selling part of Hughes – parent of DirecTV – could be used to help fund a new generation of GM vehicles.

GM RECALLS BIG TRUCKS FOR BELTS GM says it is recalling about 10,000 of its 2001 model year Silverado, Sierra, Yukon, Yukon Denali, Yukon XL, and Yukon XL Denali so that it can inspect second- and third-row safety belt retractors for a possible flaw. The defect could result in the fracture of the retractor assembly, the company says, which could lead to an unsafe child-seat installation, for example. The retractor assemblies are to be replaced under warranty, at no cost to customers. Chevrolet owners can find out more at 800/222-1020; GMC owners should call 800-GMCTRUCK for more information.

GM SAYS GO TIGER While Tiger Woods isn’t making much noise on the golf course, General Motors is attempting to put a little teeth in the Buick lineup by producing the Bengal concept convertible. According to Automotive News, GM’s strategy board has approved production of a Bengal-like roadster for the brand’s lineup, possibly as early as the 2004 model year. The Bengal made its debut at last January’s Detroit auto show and was widely hailed as one of GM’s more successful concepts of the year.
First Drive: GM '01 Concepts by TCC Team (6/11/2001)

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