TODAY’S TOP STORIES
VW UNVEILS D1 LUXURY FOUR-DOOR
Can the company that made its name selling cheap and basic transportation find a niche in the luxury car market? Volkswagen is clearly set to give it a try. The company is showing just what its D1 upmarket sedan is going to look like when it rolls into dealer showrooms next spring. They’re keeping a few details up the corporate sleeve—like the name of the production car — but yesterday they released pictures, engine specs and some other data. The D1 will be bigger than any other passenger car Volkswagen has ever built, measuring 199.2 inches long by 74.8 inches wide; and there will be two engines offered at launch, a 3.2-liter, 241-horsepower V-6 and a 6.0-liter 420-horsepower W-12. Other engines, including a 313-hp 5.0-liter, V-10 direct-injection turbodiesel, will be added later. There’ll be a new, six-speed automatic for the V-10 TDI, too.
VW Unveils D1 Luxury 4-Door by TCC Team (10/15/2001)
S&P DROPS GM, FORD CREDIT RATINGS
Standard&Poors is giving a litany of woes — including competition, excess capacity and sagging profits — as the reason for cutting the credit ratings of both Ford and General Motors. The agency, which assesses the credit-worthiness of corporations, dropped the companies’ ratings by a couple of pegs, which will make it more expensive for both to borrow money in the short and long term. A General Motors spokesman told Reuters his company is disappointed in the decision: "The timing and the degree of the downgrade was surprising and unfortunate," Mark Tanner told the news service. Scott Sprinzen, the agency’s managing director, also told Reuters that profitability was a big concern especially in the third-best sales year ever. "While volume has been great, pricing, of course, has been terrible," he explained.
Ford Rating Cut Again? by Joseph Szczesny (10/1/2001)
Ford Troubles Dragging GM? by Joseph Szczesny (8/27/2001)
GAS PRICES UNDER A BUCK?
Earlier this year, America’s drivers were warned that gas prices might be headed for $3 a gallon. This week, a few stations across the nation are reporting prices for a gallon of regular unleaded at less than $1. What gives? Various sources cite the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and a steep decline in travel as one reason for the price drop. The Oil Information Service, a source cited by Reuters, says that the average price of unleaded is $1.358 a gallon across the country, versus $1.529 before Sept. 11. Drivers in the West are paying the most as usual, with those in the southeast paying the least, but overall, the Department of Energy says that prices are at their lowest since January of 2000.
Gas Prices Spike, Then Fall by Marty Padgett (9/17/2001)
FORD SAYS HYDRAULICS CAN MAKE HYBRIDS
In a cooperative deal, the Environmental Protection Agency and Ford Motor Company will be working together to build a new kind of hybrid powerplant that uses hydraulics rather than batteries to store and distribute extra energy. Ford announced on Monday that it would take the lead in developing the technology, which emerged from the EPA’s fuel-emissions lab in Ann Arbor, Mich. In the new hybrid system, a conventional gas-powered engine would be teamed with a set of hydraulic pumps and motors that would store energy and release it under heavy engine loads; regenerative braking would provide additional energy for the hydraulic part of the system. Ford says the new system could be cheaper to produce than the battery/engine hybrids such as Toyota’s Prius and Honda’s Insight. Ford itself has promised to put an electric/hybrid Escape on the road in 2003.
Experts Say Raise CAFE by TCC Team (8/6/2001)
RENAULT, NISSAN TO DEEPEN TIES
In a move that will cement their Franco-Japanese alliance, Renault and Nissan will create a new company charged with outlining how the companies will share parts, various news services reported on Monday. The companies, which have been cooperating since March 1999 when Renault took a 36.8-percent stake in Nissan, will also trade more equity as a result of the deal. The Japanese daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun says that Nissan will purchase a 15-percent stake in Renault early next year, while Renault will raise its Nissan stake to 44.4 percent.
Ghosn Extends Nissan Stay by Joseph Szczesny (3/26/2001)
BENZ STABILITY TO CHRYSLER
The parts sharing between Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler is becoming more defined. Future Chryslers will share the Benz vehicle-stability systems, said Richard Schaum, the Chrysler Group’s executive vice president of vehicle development. Chrysler has already said its next large LX sedans will share Benz transmissions, axles, steering columns and seat frames. Though Schaum didn’t specify which vehicles would use the stability system, logical candidates would include top Jeep Grand Cherokees and Chrysler’s import-oriented 300M sedan. Analysts say DaimlerChrysler is being forced to share more Mercedes parts since the situation at Chrysler is direr than the company ever predicted when it merged in 1998.
Chrysler Rides Out Storm by Joseph Szczesny (10/1/2001)
HYUNDAI GETS NEW DESIGN DIGS
Korea’s biggest automaker is building a new design studio for Hyundai Motor America’s styling crew, the company said on Monday. The American artists, who penned the company’s Santa Fe SUV and the HCD-6 concept, will move to a $25 million facility big enough for 150 employees at the end of next year. The new Irvine, Calif., facility will have full capability, from computer sketches to clay modeling. "This new design facility is an important milestone for Hyundai in the United States," said Finbarr O'Neill. "With the additional resources available at the new design facility, Hyundai will continue to raise the bar, developing exciting new models for consumers." Moving from Fountain Valley, Calif., along with the designers, will be the company’s Technical Center.
HIGHLANDER IN TOYOTA RECALL
Some 41,169 copies of Toyota’s crossover Highlander wagon are being recalled to fix a brake problem, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said on Monday. A possible air leak in the Highlander’s brake system could lead to longer stopping distances, and thus increase the risk for an accident, NHTSA said. All the recalled Highlanders are 2001 models.
TODAY’S AUTO FACT
Fewer younger buyers? During the past 14 years, the under-35 year old age group has gone from a 37.3-percent share of the light vehicle market (1988) to 24.4 percent in 2001, according to J.D. Power and Associates Power Car and Truck Media Reports. The drop is even more extreme for the under-25 year old age group, which went from 11.2 percent of the market (1988) to 6.0 percent (2001), a reduction of 48 percent. This change in demographics could have major implications for new-vehicle marketing, advertising and promotional programs.
FROM THE SOURCE
For the third consecutive year, Honda has the best certified used car program of any non-luxury company, according to the third annual ranking of certified pre-owned vehicle programs by IntelliChoice…Jaguar Select Edition has been named Intellichoice’s Best Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle Program and Best Warranty in the luxury class…Valeo Switches and Detection Systems, a branch of the Valeo Group, has been selected a Decoma International "Supplier of the Year." Decoma is a full-service supplier of exterior appearance systems to the world's automotive industry…Dana Corporation announced today that it will not renew its co-sponsorship of a team participating in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series upon the completion of the 2001 racing season. Dana has co-sponsored its Dana Dodge truck in the Craftsman Truck Series since 1996…Cellport Systems, Inc. says it will equip the flagship Infiniti Q45 sedan with Cellport's patented universal hands-free system for wireless phones.
Autoliv (ALV), Closed 16.21, down 0.38
ArvinMeritor (ARM), Closed 16.20, up 0.50
American Axel (AXL), Closed 15.25, up 0.06
Ballard Power Systems (BLDP), Closed 24.00, down 0.60
Borg-Warner (BWA), Closed 44.27, up 0.15
Collins & Aikman (CKC), 7.50, up 0.36
Cummins (CUM), Closed 33.77, down 0.14
Dana (DCN) Closed 14.90, down 0.33
DaimlerChrysler (DCX) Closed 34.40, down 0.41
Donnelly (DON) Closed 13.05, up 0.15
Delphi Automotive (DPH), Closed 13.17, up 0.18
Eaton (ETN), Closed 68.60, up 0.09
Ford Motor Co. (F), Closed 17.73, unchanged
General Motors (GM), Closed 44.90, up 0.72
Gentex (GNTX), Closed 27.21, down 0.76
Goodyear (GT), Closed 19.15, up 0.01
Johnson Controls (JCI), Closed 72.92, up 1.17
Lear (LEA), Closed 31.35, up 0.11
Magna International (MGA), Closed 55.04, up 0.53
Motorola (MOT), Closed 17.58, down 0.06
Nissan (NSANY), Closed 9.56, down 0.24
Tower Automotive (TWR), Closed 6.50, down 0.25
Toyota (TM), Closed 52.23, down 0.72
TRW (TRW), Closed 33.56, up 0.18
Visteon (VC), Closed 14.06, down 0.05