Opel Frogster Concept Frankfurt 2001
FROGSTER: A BIG LEAP. It takes a leap of faith to imagine the Opel Frogster transformed into a production car. But it’s clear the automaker is looking to stretch some boundaries with this virtual concept vehicle. “When we started the project we set ourselves three targets: small, open and affordable,” said designer Stefan Arndt. Unusual was clearly another goal. An electrically operated roller cover can convert Frogster into a two-seater, a four-seater, even an open-air pickup. Or it can close like a shutter, when the quirky vehicle is parked. Aimed at the Internet generation, many of Frogster’s functions would be controlled by a PDA that plugs right into the dashboard. The handheld computer would display and operate everything from Frogster’s climate control to its MP3 music system.
PIECH SAYS FORD WANTS VW
Auto shows are always terrific storehouses of grist for the rumor mill, and the Frankfurt Motor Show now taking place in Germany should prove no exception. And a recent interview in this week’s Der Spiegel newsmagazine might add some extra fuel. In the interview, Volkswagen AG chairman Ferdinand Piech expressed his worry that Ford Motor Company wants to take over VW. Saying that he had received "concrete indications" of Ford’s interest a year ago, Piech warned German readers that the European Union (EU) might open the door to a hostile takeover of Europe’s biggest carmaker, saying that "we must prepare ourselves so that no one even has the idea."
SAAB SETS AGGRESSIVE PLANS
Saab is setting out plans to nearly double current global sales "in the next five-to-six-year timeframe" declared the automaker’s chief executive, Peter Augustsson, during a preview of the Frankfurt Motor Show Monday night. To hit the target of 250,000 vehicles a year will require some aggressive steps, he conceded, noting the Swedish automaker plans to roll out an average one new product a year during that period. That includes a car-based SUV due to market in about 18 months. Augustsson wouldn’t comment on whether the quirky sedan/wagon/pickup show car crossover, the 9X, is in the list of products under development. Among other steps, the automaker intends to set up a series of "Saab Unlimited" dealerships that will emphasize brand-related products and activities. About 100 of the Unlimited dealers outside the U.S. will also carry Cadillac products, as part of the campaign to re-launch Caddy’s global presence.
2001 Saab 9-5 Wagon by Eric Peters (8/27/2001)
FORD'S TH!NK AND DAIMLERCHRYSLER'S SMART COMING TO U.S.
North America’s tepid response to electric vehicles has left carmakers scratching their heads and wringing their hands, especially as government regulations keep calling for less pollution and better fuel economy. Ford Motor Company and DaimlerChrysler AG think that they might have an answer to the problem in the old adage "Small is Beautiful." Ford plans on bringing its Th!nk Neighbor electric city car to the U.S. later this year. With a top speed of 25 miles per hour and a 30-mile range, the little Neighbor—coming in two- and four-door versions—truly exists only as an errand and urban commute vehicle. DaimlerChrysler’s two-seat Smart, on the other hand, is a bit more ambitious, coming as it does out of the Mercedes-Benz philosophy of carmaking. Already a hit with the youth of Europe, tiny Smarts powered by gasoline and diesel engines dot the city streets in many German cities. EMotion Mobility of Atlanta, Ga., is buying 15,000 Smarts from DaimlerChrysler in Germany and will convert them to electric for use as short-trip rentals in high-traffic urban areas and transportation centers.
The NEV Next Door? by Frank Bohanan (4/2/2001)
Panoz, DC in Electric-Car Deal? by Marty Padgett (8/20/2001)
MICHELIN TO CUT 2,000 JOBS IN NORTH AMERICA
The North American subsidiary of the world’s second largest tiremaker has announced that it will do away with 2,000 jobs—approximately seven percent of its work force—as part of a $200 million cost-cutting program. Michelin North America, Inc. says that it expects the cuts to be felt at each of the company’s 23 North American plants. The company blamed recent downturns in the transportation industry for the changes, reflecting a worldwide slowdown that is forcing Michelin’s parent company in France to pare down its personnel in Europe as well.
GM-FIAT JOINT VENTURE PAYING OFF
"We’re a little ahead of where we need to be," said Robert Socia, chairman of GM-Fiat Worldwide Purchasing. That’s one of two joint ventures the manufacturers launched last year. Socia’s operation is aimed at cutting the cost of purchasing parts and components, and the target was a $500 million reduction this year compared to what Fiat and GM would have needed to spend on their own. After five years, Socia noted, the two automakers believe their savings will rise to $2 billion. But he warned that if Fiat and GM don’t step up plans to share components—and possibly to share platforms—"it will be extremely difficult to get to the projected savings."