TODAY’S TOP STORIES
CAUGHT IN THE WEB: 2004 GRAND PRIX
It’s still hot in the Southwest and the next Pontiac Grand Prix was recently photographed while undergoing hot weather testing. Buyers can expect to see the revised Grand Prix midway through the 2004 model year. Originally it was thought that the next Grand Prix would be built on GM’s new Epsilon platform, which will spawn a variety of large cars including big Buicks and Saabs. However, sources now confirm that the next Grand Prix will actually be built on a modified version of the current GP’s W-body platform.
Spy Shots: ‘04 Pontiac Grand Prix by Brenda Priddy (10/8/2001)
THURSDAY SURPRISE: FORD DUMPS 6 EXECS
Six senior executives will resign or retire from Ford in the company’s latest management shakeup. Among those leaving is James Donaldson, the group vice president for business strategy and a 37-year-veteran of the company. Also on the way out at World Headquarters: Vaughn Koshkarian, vice president of the company’s Asia Pacific region; Mark Hutchins, the vice president of Lincoln Mercury; Michael Jordan, head of automotive consumer services; James Yost, VP of corporate strategy; and Elliott Hall, VP of dealer development. All resignations take effect in January, except for Hutchins’ retirement, which hasn’t been firmed up. Yesterday Ford announced that it would slash its dividend in half to 15 cents a share in the wake of a dramatic drop in profitability, related to slumping truck sales and the aftereffect of the Firestone tire recall.
Sept. Sales Slump, Recover by Joseph Szczesny (10/8/2001)
CLASS-ACTION FOR FIRESTONE DELAYED
A ruling on the possible pooling of Firestone lawsuits into a class action has been delayed. U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker on Thursday moved to postpone a hearing on amassing hundreds of claims against Firestone tires and Ford Explorers until Nov. 16, which will give her more time to consider information submitted by the attorneys gunning for class-action status. The case, which those attorneys are trying to have heard in Indianapolis, would group more than 250 individual lawsuits against Ford and Firestone and apply the resulting verdict to all. Earlier this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in a preliminary ruling, found that the fault in more than 271 deaths and 800 injuries lie within a faulty Firestone design and build process, and not with the Explorer’s suspension design or recommended tire-inflation pressures.
Audio: Firestone Ends, Finally? by TCC Team (10/10/2001)
MITSU STILL ON TO TURN PROFIT
Rolf Eckrodt, the chief operating officer of Mitsubishi, says his company will be hurt by the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S., but maintains that the Japanese carmaker will at least break even this year. The attacks may drop Mitsubishi’s worldwide car sales by six percent, the Associated Press quotes Eckrodt, but the company has unspecified plans to try to boost that number to a three-percent drop. Mitsubishi sales in the U.S. fell nine percent in September.
2002 Mitsubishi Lancer by Marc Stengel (9/24/2001)
TOYOTA GOES SOUTH OF THE BORDER
One of Toyota’s hometown newspapers says the company will build a parts plant in Mexico and will begin supplying its car plants from Mexico in 2003, Reuters reports. The newspaper, Nagoya’s Chunichi Shimbun, says the plant will produce pickup truck beds to be used in U.S.-built Tacoma trucks. The news agency quotes Toyota officials as saying, “We have not decided any concrete plans on manufacturing in Mexico.” In May, Toyota established Toyota Motor Sales de Mexico and announced plans to begin selling vehicles in the country in 2002. Toyota operates assembly plants across the U.S. and Canada; if true, these reports would have it establishing its first plant in Mexico.
NEWS CORP: HUGHES DEAL “50-50”
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. is still in the running to acquire part or all of Hughes Electronics and its lucrative DirecTV unit, but the frequently ballistic Aussie chairman puts his company’s shot at the GM subsidiary now at “50-50.” Speaking to reporters after an annual meeting the Australian city of Adelaide, Murdoch said his company remained in talks for Hughes and cast aspersion on rival Echostar’s $30 billion bid for the same company, saying it would have trouble clearing regulatory hurdles. Echostar is the distributor of Dish Network services in the U.S. Meanwhile, GM officials recently were quoted as saying that any Hughes deal would be more difficult now that Hughes’ shares are trading substantially lower — thus reducing the cash they were hoping to extract from any deal.
Echostar Wants Hughes, Too by Joseph Szczesny (8/13/2001)
MOTOR TREND EDITOR RESIGNS
C. Van Tune, the editor of enthusiast magazine Motor Trend, resigned yesterday, reportedly during the magazine’s press conference announcing that the GMC Envoy was its 2002 Truck of the Year. Van Tune, in a private e-mail, later announced that he would be going to work for High Impact TV, a television production company in Southern California, and would continue his appearances on other shows such as NBC’s Today. In his wake, Primedia has announced that David E. Davis Jr., former Car and Driver editor and founder of Automobile magazine, would preside as acting editor-in-chief until a replacement could be named.
HYUNDAI’S NEW ADS: DESIRE BEFORE WARRANTY by Jim Burt
Hyundai Motor America this week is launching a new raft of ads for its 2002 models — ads that the company says reflects growing consumer affection for the brand, and rapidly increasing credibility.
In one ad for the redesigned 2002 Sonata, a young girl presents her father with an "honor roll" bumper sticker for his car. Not wanting to sully his Hyundai, he suggests to his daughter that it go on Mom's car. Another spot, this one for the XG350, shows a man telling his therapist about the great price he paid for such a well-equipped car. "So why are you telling me?" she asks, assuming he fells guilty.
"I'm telling everyone," he responds.
"We have reached a point with the brand where we're not just trying to get on radar screens anymore. We are on the radar screen. Now, we are trying to reflect the pride in ownership that our owners tell us they have," says Bates Worldwide executive creative director Mike Robertson. Bates is Hyundai's long-time ad agency.
"In the past, we were a brand of last resort," admits Hyundai vice president of marketing. "People used to have to make excuses for why they bought a Hyundai. We are getting past that."
Not only is Hyundai holding its own, it is setting monthly sales records and causing the Big Three to accelerate small-car programs. Hyundai is attracting a better class of buyer, too, with its average income buyer climbing $16,000 in the last two years. That means they are selling more Sonatas, Santa Fe SUVs and now XG300s and XG350s, which means more profit.
Ads still scream the 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty, which Weber says is still the number-one reason for considering a Hyundai purchase. Hyundai is keeping its "Driving Is Believing" slogan and marketing theme.
One spot for the new Sonata features a group of Masai tribal warriors from Kenya. The ad was actually shot in Kenya and uses real tribesmen. Though it could be taken as racist or exploitive, Weber and Robertson say the ad was screened and cleared by Hyundai's Oakland, Calif. minority agency, Carol. H. Williams.
Most of the ads in the coming months will be of Sonata and Santa Fe, especially on network, with some cable support for XG350.
TODAY’S AUTO FACT
It appears that domestic automakers still have a strong grip on the North American truck market. According to the Experian® Automotive’s National Vehicle Database, the top four producers of light trucks currently on the road are Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, and GMC. The following is a breakdown by percentage of top four manufacturers of light trucks in operation.
1. Ford 29.4 percent
2. Chevrolet 25.2 percent
3. Dodge 11.8 percent
4. GMC 7.7 percent
FROM THE SOURCE
The Board of Directors of Visteon Corporation has declared a quarterly dividend of $0.06 per share on the company's common stock. The dividend is payable on December 3, 2001, to shareholders of record as of November 2, 2001…Recently DaimlerChrysler was named as one of the 100 best companies for working mothers by Working Mother Magazine. This marks the fifth consecutive year that the company has been listed among the magazine's "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers."…Audi of America, Inc. is proud to announce its involvement as an associate sponsor for the Head Of The Charles Regatta, the world's largest two-day rowing event. More than 6,000 athletes will compete in 21 events along a three-mile course on the Charles River. The 37th annual Regatta will take place October 20-21, 2001, in Cambridge, Mass.
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