Drivers’ News: Aug. 27, 2001

August 27, 2001

THUNDERBIRD PRODUCTION HALTED DUE TO COOLING GLITCHES
Ford Motor Co. has temporarily halted production of the new and eagerly awaited Thunderbird retro roadster. Company officials confirmed to TheCarConnection that the snag is due to an engine-cooling problem that has cropped up on some, though not all of the T-birds produced so far. The problem also affects the Lincoln LS sedan, with which the T-bird shares its V-8 engine, and assembly of both vehicles was halted on Wednesday, August 15th. It’s unclear how soon the overheating issue will be resolved and assembly will resume, though. “We’ll probably be able to tell more in the next week,” said Ford Vice President Chris Theodore. He stressed that the shutdown will have a minor impact on T-bird output this year, since the vehicle is still in its launch phase, with only six to eight being built a day.
Ford Cuts Jobs, Delays T-Bird by TCC Team (8/20/2001)


LINCOLN LS VICTIM OF SAME COOLING PROBLEMS AFFECTING T-BIRD
Ford Motor Co. says it has also halted production of the Lincoln LS due to the same cooling problem that has affected (and similarly halted production of) the 2002 Thunderbird. Both cars are made in Ford’s Wixom, Mich., plant. A Ford spokesman said the company expected to resume production in a few days. The vehicle’s hydraulic cooling-fan module is being suggested as a culprit for the problem, causing a small percentage of the engines to overheat. Production halted last Wednesday.

FORD STEPS FORWARD … INTO THE PAST WITH ‘LIVING LEGENDS’
Barely able to keep up with demand for its Thunderbird roadster, Ford will look to the past for a series of “living legends” retro-mobiles. “There’s room in those 40-plus cars (Ford currently offers) for four or five cars that are retrospective,” the automaker’s head of design, J Mays, told TheCarConnection. Like the T-bird, some of the “living legends” series will target low-volume niches, Mays noted. But he added that others could go after more mainstream segments. One possible example was the 49 concept car Ford introduced earlier this year.
Ford To Build "Living Legends" by TCC Team (8/20/2001)

HOW LOW CAN CADDY GO? LOW ENOUGH TO BE ‘TAKEN SERIOUSLY’ While the automaker is still waiting to finalize prices on its new CTS sedan, inside sources hint to TheCarConnection that they may launch the new luxury model at a price around $32,000, well under initial industry expectations. Aggressive pricing, said a senior executive, is critical to get the new Caddy taken seriously in the increasingly crowded “entry-luxury” segment. At the same time, numerous sources have confirmed that Cadillac is studying several plans for an even smaller and lower-priced model, which could hit market in mid-decade. One of the most likely designs would offer up what a source calls an “innovative and very flexible” seating system, not unlike the one that’s been a big draw for Chrysler’s PT Cruiser.
Preview: 2003 Cadillac CTS by TCC Team (8/20/2001)

IT’S OFFICIAL: LUTZ SIGNS AS GM’S PRODUCT CZAR
The accompanying picture makes it clear there’s no turning back for Bob Lutz. While the man who has the term “car guy” permanently attached to his name will officially report to work as General Motors’ new product czar on September 1st, he’s already putting in time, attending board meetings, and touring the design studios. He also accompanied other senior GM officials to California (where this picture was taken) for a series of media previews over the past weekend. Expected to make significant changes in GM’s future product programs, Lutz may also target GM’s habit of launching the day with 7 a.m. meetings. “I haven’t attended a meeting earlier than 9 a.m. in a decade,” he complained to one new colleague.
Lutz Bombshell: Headed to GM by TCC Team (8/6/2001)
Lutz: GM "Heading Up" by TCC Team (8/6/2001)


COULD MORE CUTS FOLLOW AT FORD? MOST LIKELY, NASSER SAYS Friday’s announcement of some 5,000 white- collar jobs disappearing at Ford Motor Company may be just the beginning, CEO Jac Nasser is warning. “This is an initial action,” the Australian executive said of the job cuts. “There will be other actions we need to take in other areas of the company,” he added in a conversation with Reuters. Nasser said he expects to take another three to four months before making any additional moves. Separately, TheCarConnection has learned at least one assembly plant could be closed, while Ford may delay or cancel some non-core product programs. Or as Martin Ingles, Ford’s new chief financial officer, said: “Nothing is off-limits.”
Ford Cuts Jobs, Delays T-Bird by TCC Team (8/20/2001)

WILL FORD’S COST CUTTING PUT IT UP AGAINST UNION?
Too many plants. Too many workers. And an ironclad contract not to close plants. That’s the dilemma faced by Ford Motor Co. as it seeks to cut costs by reducing capacity as it faces more competition from its mainstay profit centers such as pickups and SUVs and the $3-billion effort to replace Firestone tires. While the belt-tightening announced by Ford last week includes saying goodbye to some 5,000 white collar workers and likely other moves to be announced (speculation has included shedding some models such as the Lincoln Continental and Mercury Villager), it is the United Auto Workers who may help or hurt the automaker in its efforts to reinvent itself. While Ford’s chief financial officer Martin Inglis hasn’t outlined specifics, others have predicted (at the very least) lower profit-sharing checks.

OR MAYBE IT’S FORD’S SUPPLIERS WHO WILL FACE THE HEAT
Ford is already pushing its parts suppliers to trim prices even further than mandated in a three-year plan. Martin Inglis, Ford’s chief financial officer, acknowledged the need to trim its $90 billion in annual material costs. “We clearly need to get further reductions,” Inglis said. Wall Street’s reaction to the stepping up of the pricing pressure included a 12.5 percent drop in the share price of Visteon, Ford’s spin-off parts division, and a 12.2 percent drop in Lear, one of the largest makers of car seats. Suppliers and supplier consultants have said Ford has been as aggressive as Chrysler, just without the press coverage.

NEW LINCOLN SUV TAKES WINGS AS ‘AVIATOR’
Ford has announced the name of the newest member of the Lincoln family. Still a year away from introduction, the luxury brand’s second SUV will be branded the Aviator. It will arrive about the same time as an all-new version of the bigger Lincoln Navigator sport-ute and will be based on the same platform as the Ford Explorer and the Mercury Mountaineer—which some observers fear may pose problems for the latter SUV, since it will share the same showroom with Aviator.

CHRYSLER FIRED UP OVER CROSSFIRE AS AN ‘EMOTIONAL’ SURE BET

Insisting it is simply responding to consumer demand, DaimlerChrysler has announced plans to put the Chrysler Crossfire concept vehicle into production. The sleek sports car prototype was one of the hits of the North American International Auto Show, and Chief Operating Officer Wolfgang Bernhard says the automaker saw a chance to produce a vehicle that inspired “pure emotion” among consumers. While the company wouldn’t set a hard date for production to begin, marketing director Jim Schroer suggested, “It will be out sooner than you think.” He also noted production volumes would be in the same range as the Ford Thunderbird—about 20,000 a year.
Driving Chrysler’s ’01 Concepts by Henny Hemmes (6/18/2001)


VISTEON PUTTING AUTO SYSTEMS EXPERTISE INTO MOTORCYCLES
Visteon Corporation has announced that it has co-developed a high-tech touring concept motorcycle with the Victory Motorcycle Division of Polaris Industries, Inc. The "Vision" is the result of Victory's expertise in design and engineering combined with Visteon's long-history of automotive leadership in technology and systems integration. The Vision concept touring cruiser leverages the strengths of both Victory and Visteon -- providing important benefits for both companies. Under terms of the agreement, Visteon will be able to feature innovative products and technologies on a non-automotive platform. Victory Motorcycles will gain access to system solutions that can significantly enhance the overall riding experience previously not found in motorcycles.


ANOTHER GENERATION OF DODGE VIPER TO HIT THE RACETRACK

In August 1995, Dodge unveiled an extraordinary racing coupe that would ultimately make an historic mark on the world's motorsports stage. The Dodge Viper GTS-R was the answer to enthusiasts and competitors who asked if a racing version of the amazing Viper RT/10 was in the works. In a repeat of history, Dodge today unveiled the next chapter in the Dodge Viper racing legacy, the new Viper Competition Coupe. "We knew when we introduced the GTS-R race car that it was ambitious, yet extremely logical," said Jim Julow, Vice President, Dodge Global Brand Center. "We set out to develop a history and tradition for our brand's performance icon that would cast a halo over every racing endeavor, and every car and truck we built. "The Dodge Viper has exceeded our highest goals for what an American sports car should be. But as we turn the page and herald the arrival of the third chapter in the car's history -- the 2003 Dodge Viper RT-10 Convertible -- we can't lose sight of the heritage this car has built. And with that, we introduce a new generation of Dodge Viper racing car, the Competition Coupe."  

FORD TO USE REMOTE STARTING TECHNOLOGY
Code-Alarm Inc. says a deal to supply its PowerCode key-fob remote starting and security system in Ford vehicles goes a step further: CodeAlarm is also granting Ford an option to buy into the company over a five-year period. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Code-Alarm introduced the PowerCode system to let drivers start cars from their homes or offices, open sliding minivan doors or defrost rear windows by touching a key fob.

FORD SIMULATOR TO TEST DRIVER DISTRACTIONS
Ford Motor Company's advanced, moving-base driving simulator is now busily gathering information to help address one of the most talked about issues today -- the use of cell phones and other electronic devices in cars and trucks. The new VIRTTEX simulator -- for VIRtual Test Track EXperiment -- is one of the most advanced laboratories of its kind in the world. Using the controlled laboratory setting, Ford Motor Company engineers are studying everyday driving tasks, such as changing the radio or inserting an audio CD, and how they affect driver performance during a variety of simulated driving experiences. The goal is to ensure that all new technologies on Ford Motor Company vehicles are developed with safety as the first priority. While seated in the 24-foot domed laboratory, drivers are asked to perform such tasks as retrieving voice mail, accessing an electronic address book, making a phone call or settling a fictional business matter. Throughout the experiment, virtual traffic is competing for the driver's attention. For example, the laboratory can simulate the ”car'' in front with flashing brake lights or the vehicle behind suddenly surging forward.

FORD BRINGING OUT PROTOTYPE HYDROGEN ENGINE
Ford Motor Co. is introducing a hydrogen-powered prototype car, using a modified engine now found in its Ford Focus compact car. The company said it would take more than 300 of the cars to emit the same amount of carbon dioxide as a gasoline-powered vehicle. The vehicle would be powered by hydrogen stored in the trunk, the storage system being expanded to extend the 62-mile range of the prototype to 160 miles. The company said the vehicle can be refueled with a device that takes water and breaks it down into hydrogen and oxygen, with the hydrogen being placed in the storage tanks. Separately, the company is developing a hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle, which combines hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity from a chemical reaction.

BMW TO INSTALL SATELLITE RADIOS IN SELECT MODELS
BMW of North America, LLC and Sirius Satellite Radio, the satellite radio broadcaster, announced Thursday that BMW will offer Sirius satellite radio service to new car buyers beginning in the second quarter of 2002. Sirius radios will be available in select BMW 3 Series, 5 Series and X5 vehicles. BMW owners will be among the first with access to Sirius audio entertainment service with up to 100 channels. BMW will offer Sirius radios as an accessory in its most popular models through BMW centers across the country. BMW centers will also offer subscription activation services for its customers who purchase Sirius receivers. A recent JD Power survey showed BMW owners as among the most likely early adopters of satellite radio. The JD Power 2000 Automotive Emerging Technologies Study revealed that, of all car owners surveyed, BMW owners expressed the strongest desire to include satellite radio in their next new car.

MOST AMERICANS LEAVE CARS UNPROTECTED: INSURANCE STUDY
In the US, more than one million vehicles were stolen in 2000; that's 2,740 a day, 114 an hour and more than one vehicle stolen every minute. Yet, when it comes to protecting ourselves from car thieves, Americans appear to be throwing caution out the window, according to a survey released by Progressive.com, the Web site of Progressive Insurance. In the survey, 55 percent of respondents said they leave their car doors unlocked and 34 percent leave the windows open when leaving their vehicle unattended. Six percent of respondents said they leave the keys in their vehicle when it is unattended. If this behavior seems surprising, then know that 33 percent of respondents said they are not concerned at all about their car being stolen. For those drivers who are concerned enough to install and activate an alarm system, consider this: The survey found that when a vehicle alarm is activated, 22 percent of respondents said they notice the alarm but do nothing, and fewer than one percent of respondents notice the alarm and alert the police.

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