TCC Daily Edition: 8/15/01

August 15, 2001

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NISSAN PLANNING TO SHIFT MAXIMA PRODUCTION STATESIDENissan is planning to move production of its Maxima sedan from Japan to Tennessee next year, according to a report published in Japan. A Nissan spokesman based in Smyrna, Tenn., would not comment on the report. The report said Maxima production would shift from Japan by the end of next year, the result of a push to cut delivery times in half. Last year, the Smyrna plant produced 377,275 vehicles last year; it has a capacity for 500,000. At the same time, the plant is in the middle of a three-year expansion program and expects to hire 2,000 people over the next three years. The plant also produces the Altima, Xterra sport utility vehicle and Frontier pickup.
UAW WANTS ANOTHER TRY AT UNIONIZING NISSAN WORKERS

And speaking of Smyrna, the United Auto Workers is asking the National Labor Relations Board for a union election at the Nissan assembly plant there. The plant is one of six non-U.S. auto companies the union has been unable to organize. Nissan is the only transplant operation targeted by the UAW for unionization. The UAW said workers last voted on unionization in 1989, turning it down. Since then, two failed attempts to organize have occurred, the most recent in August 2000. At the same time, the Smyrna plant is a top performer, rating as the most efficient in North America for the seventh consecutive year in 2000, according to the Harbour Report, an industry gauge of plant efficiency.

RARE SAAB CONCEPT CAR TO BE UNVEILED AT FRANKFURT

A Saab concept car. Not likely, when you consider the Swedish automaker has only done it twice before. But that’s what the unit of General Motors intends to do, whetting the motoring appetite with a high-performance vehicle that might (the very idea behind the term “concept”) go into production. Saab’s 9X concept, to be shown in Frankfurt in September, combines features normally associated with four different vehicle types: a roadster, sedan, coupe and pickup truck. Saab chief executive Peter Augustsson called the vehicle “a statement of intent,” making the comments in a news release apparently sent out earlier than initially intended. The vehicle, which has a small rear seat, all-glass top and wraparound windshield (to the B- or center-pillar of the car above the door line), is the first visible work of chief designer Michael Mauer, who joined Saab after 14 years with DaimlerChrysler. Saab plans to double its product lineup over the next five years, thanks largely to the deep pockets of GM. The last time Saab unveiled a concept at an auto show? The EV-1 sport coupe in 1985.
GM’S DEAL FOR DAEWOO? NOT YET

Sale of Daewoo may be delayed as the ailing Korean automaker and General Motors hammer out details of the takeover, according to reports published in the Financial Times. Still to be settled is the final price GM will pay for the company and whether the main plant at Pupyong, west of Seoul, will be part of the deal. A successful deal is a test for South Korea’s ability to attract investment and international rescue packages for hurting manufacturers. GM continues to have reservations about taking over the Pupyong factory, especially given its past labor troubles and inefficiencies. If it were to be included, sources reported to the newspaper that the deal would “reflect the risks and investment cost required to rescue a bankrupt carmaker at a time when domestic and overseas demand is shrinking and overcapacity is on the increase.”

THE FOCUS? FORD CAN’T MAKE ENOUGH OF THEM, TO ADD SHIFTS

It’s not all bad news for Ford these days. In Germany, Ford is adding extra shifts to meet European demand for its Focus car, adding 12 extra shifts to make an additional 7,200 cars per day. Ford expects to make a profit in Europe this year, spurred by demand for the Focus and Mondeo models. It expects to hire another 110 workers at the Saarlouis, Germany plant. Ford also builds the Focus in the U.S., Spain, Mexico and Argentina. Last year, the Focus was the world’s best-selling car with 941,938 sold.
COLLINS & AIKMAN USE JUNK BOND MARKET TO PAY FOR TEXTRON UNIT

Collins & Aikman will use up to $400 million in a junk bond issue to finance its recently announced acquisition of Textron Inc.’s car-trim unit, bankers say. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Credit Suisse First Boston, Deutsche Banc Alex Brown Inc., and Merrill Lynch & Co. have also committed to provide about $600 million in loans to fund the $1.34 billion purchase. Collins & Aikman said last week it would pay $1 billion in cash and debt, 18 million common shares priced at about $90 million, and $245 million in preferred stock for the Textron unit.

GM KEEPS LID ON PRICE FOR EXTENDED ESCALADE VEHICLE

Got $50K? You might want to look at an Escalade EXT. GM says it will cost $49,990, the same price as a regular Escalade for the longer version of its premium sport utility vehicle, meant to compete with Lincoln’s truck offering, the $52,500 Blackwood, which is to hit showrooms this month. Look for the EXT to debut in January. Both the EXT and Blackwood have a pickup bed behind a row of seats, but the EXT also has a passenger cabin cargo door, a “midgate” in GM’s description. The GM vehicle will come with a 6.0-liter V-8 pushing out 345 horsepower. The Blackwood’s 5.4-liter has just 300 horsepower. The EXT is seven inches longer, with the bed extending to 97 inches when the cabin cargo door is converted.
TAX CREDITS LIKELY FOR AMERICAN AXLE HEADQUARTERS BUILDING

Look for the Michigan Economic Growth Authority to approve major tax credits for the building of American Axle & Manufacturing Inc. corporate headquarters at the corner of I-75 and Holbrook in Detroit. The seven-story, 180,000-square foot facility would be the workplace for 500 employees and open its doors in 2003.

FACTOID:

LOWER CAR SALES AFFECTS TOTAL JULY RETAIL SALES

Blame it on the cars. Or rather the lack of sales of the cars. And trucks. The U.S. Commerce Department said retail sales apart from cars and trucks rose slightly in July, climbing 0.2 percent; but a 0.5 percent drop in that sector evened out—with U.S. retail sales flat for the second straight month. Economists had expected retail sales to dip 0.2 percent and excluding the auto sector, to edge up a tenth of a percent. Also impacting the overall picture was a fall in gasoline prices, with purchases falling 4.2 percent, the largest one-month drop since data collection started in 1992. Because retail sales aren’t adjusted for changes in price, the effect was to depress the total sales figures. Without gasoline included, sales actually rose 0.3 percent.

FROM THE SOURCE:

MERCEDES TO OFFER ‘PREVENTIVE’ COLLISION PROTECTION

Mercedes-Benz will next month unveil at the 59th International Automobile Fair in Frankfurt, Germany the concept for a vehicle that can detect an imminent collision and engage occupant protection systems before it occurs. Known as PRE-SAFE (for “Preventive Occupant Safety”) the experimental Mercedes-Benz safety concept combines hazard-detection technology currently in use in Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles with new types of seatbelt tensioners and automatically adjusting seats. Future versions of the concept would include active body structure and interior components, as well.

--PR Newswire

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BMW SELECTS FIRMS FOR TELEMATICS BUSINESS

BMW of North America, LLC, has selected ATX Technologies of Dallas, Tx., and Cross Country Automotive Services of Boston, Ma., to develop enhanced integrated telematics services for its model year 2003 vehicles. Services such as automatic collision notification and one-press-of-the-button emergency call response will provide BMW drivers with the latest advances in summoning assistance and emergency medical help. Location-based roadside assistance will be delivered by Cross Country Automotive Services in concert with ATX Technologies. This telematics solution will be able to accurately locate motorists who require roadside assistance in the United States and Puerto Rico, in turn allowing prompt dispatching of the nearest available service provider.

--PR Newswire

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THE TICKER

Autoliv (ALV), Closed 21.11, down 0.29

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ArvinMeritor (ARM), Closed 20.12, up 0.44

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American Axle (AXL), Closed 19.74, up 0.63

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Dana (DCN), Closed 23.55, down 0.33

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DaimlerChrysler (DCX), Closed 47.90, up 0.75

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Donnelly (DON), Closed 15.85, down 0.15

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Delphi Automotive (DPH), Closed 15.78, down 0.22

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Eaton (ETN), Closed 75.25, down 0.25

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Ford (F), Closed 22.99, down 0.75

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General Motors (GM), Closed 63.51, up 0.19

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Gentex (GNTX), Closed 31.19, up 0.20

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Goodyear (GT), Closed 27.15, down 0.51

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Johnson Controls (JCI), Closed 79.61, up 0.40

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Lear (LEA), Closed 40.99, up 0.33

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Magna International (MGA), Closed 68.15, down 0.15

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Nissan (NSANY), Closed 13.27, up 0.10

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SDRC (SDRC), Closed 24.81, unchanged

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Toyota (TM), Closed 65.64, up 0.34

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TRW (TRW), Closed 42.55, down 0.10

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Visteon (VC), Closed 20.25, down 0.10

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