Driver's News: 10/29/01

October 28, 2001


As the crowds plied Makuhari Messe, the world's automakers unveiled concepts and production vehicles at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show yesterday. Get the word (and pictures) of all the new sheetmetal parading around the Tokyo show in TCC's complete show coverage:
2001 Tokyo Motor Show Index by TCC Team (10/22/2001)


In yet another major settlement of a product-related class-action lawsuit, Ford has agreed to replace ignitions in some 22 million Ford, Mercury and Lincoln vehicles with less than 100,000 miles. The class action, fought in California, could end up costing Ford $2.5 billion in replacement costs, according to the class-action plaintiff lawyers. "This settlement is the product of literally years of negotiation, and it provides real remedies for millions of consumers and businesses who have owned the affected vehicles all over the United States," Reuters quotes plaintiff lawyer Jeff Fazio. The affected vehicles experienced stalling problems, and affected vehicles equipped with V-6 engines.
Ford Sets New Quality Goals by Michael Strong (10/15/2001)


Deciding that the technology better suited small cars, Ford has abandoned a stop-start system for its Explorer sport-ute, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. The technology, found in the U.S. on the hybrid Honda Insight, for example, turns off a car’s engine when it is stopped for a certain period of time, and restarts it when a gear is selected or the accelerator is pressed. Ford had planned on adapting such a system to the Explorer to boost its fuel-economy ratings. Ford has said that it will increase the fuel efficiency of its sport-utility vehicles by 25 percent by the year 2005.
Ford Plots Safer, Greener SUVs by Joseph Szczesny (11/13/2000)


GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler will work together to stop the production of counterfeit replacement parts, which they say are unsafe and which cost the companies $12 billion a year, they announced on Friday. The Big Three also say the overseas counterfeit production, done mostly in China, costs them and their suppliers some 210,000 jobs. The parts are becoming more sophisticated — including pieces for safety systems, like replacement brake pads — and could cause injury or death since they’re not tested to rigorous standards. Reuters quotes a GM spokesman who estimates three out of five ACDelco parts sold in the Middle East are counterfeit.


The last of the Big Three to announce such a system, Chrysler says it will offer a wireless voice-activated telephone for some of its vehicles. The system uses the new Bluetooth wireless technology to allow up to five Bluetooth-enabled phones to be used in the vehicle. Chrysler’s system will not at outset have the frills of GM’s OnStar, which couples its in-car cell service with operator-based information on directions, hotel reservations and such. Chrysler’s system also will not have a monthly premium attached; the company will charge a flat rate for hardware installed in the vehicle, including a rearview mirror mounted microphone.
Telematics Gathering Speed by TCC Team (5/20/2001)


More than eight out of ten (81 percent) vehicle owners of one, two, and three-year-old vehicles have manufacturer-sponsored roadside coverage on their vehicle. However, only 56 percent of customers are aware they have this coverage through the manufacturer. Awareness of these programs declines over time. Owners in the first year of ownership indicate they have roadside assistance 64 percent of the time. In the second year, this falls to 57 percent awareness. By the time the third year rolls around, only 43 percent of owners are aware of their manufacturer-sponsored roadside assistance program.
Source: J.D. Power and Associates 2001 Emergency Roadside Assistance Study (ERA)


At midyear, GM is still leading the loyalty rankings among carmakers, says R. L. Polk & Co. GM's consumer loyalty average is more than 12 percentage points higher than the industry average, and the company leads in four categories: in large cars with the Buick LeSabre, in luxury cars with the DeVille, in full-size SUVs with the Suburban, and in full-size trucks with the Silverado. More from the Polk study:


Category                Leader                              Loyalty %    Avg.

Overall Categories:

Mfr. Loyalty            General Motors*                 66.5%           54.2%

Make Loyalty          Ford Division*                    55.3%           43.1%

Model Categories:

Small Car                 Ford Focus*                      20.8%           14.4%

Midsize Car              Mercury Sable                   34.9%           18.9%

Large Car                 Buick LeSabre*                 43.4%           27.5%

Luxury Car               Cadillac DeVille*                43.3%           21.1%

Prestige Luxury Car  Lexus LS 430                     37.6%           22.2%

Sports Car               Porsche 911                        22.8%           10.9%

Minivan                   Chrysler T&C                      33.2%           15.6%

Compact Truck        Toyota Tacoma                   19.7%           15.8%

Full-size Truck          Chevrolet C/K Pickup         37.4%           33.7%

Compact SUV           Toyota RAV4                      21.9%           14.3%

Regular SUV             Jeep Grand Cherokee*         26.8%           19.9%

Full-size SUV            Chevrolet Suburban*           30.3%           20.4%

*2000 Polk Automotive Loyalty Award Winner
The Lexus LS 430 replaced the previous generation Lexus LS 400 for model year 2001


GM’s Chevrolet Venture, Olds Silhouette and Pontiac Montana minivans are the subject of a 314,000-vehicle recall from General Motors Corp. GM said on Wednesday that it would recall the vans for a possible problem with power sliding side doors; when in motion, the doors could open. The vans were manufactured between 1997 and 2001. The company says no injuries have been reported as a result of the door problem, and said that vehicles would be repaired for free at GM dealerships.


The 1999 Kia Sportage is being recalled for cracks in the manifold catalytic converter, the company announced on Friday. The 36,510 vehicles in question can suffer a crack in a weld on the emissions equipment, causing an exhaust leak and a possible emissions-test failure, but no safety problems, a company statement said. A mailing to Kia owners informs them that local dealerships will replace the part free of charge.


A wrongful-death verdict against DaimlerChrysler in South Carolina has been thrown out, the company said on Friday. The $259 million verdict, levied when a jury found DC responsible for the death of a six-year-old boy not wearing a seatbelt when he was thrown from a 1985 Dodge Caravan, was overturned by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. The higher court found that in the juried trial, the plaintiff's lawyer had been allowed to “misleadingly state” that the boy had been wearing his seatbelt. A new trial for compensatory damages only has been ordered in South Carolina.


Add Ford Motor Co. to the ranks of ex-CART sponsors. On Friday, Ford said it would no longer sponsor teams in the Championship Auto Racing Teams beyond next year’s season unless the series makes its new engine rules more friendly to manufacturers. The Troy, Mich.-based racing series recently revised its engine rules for 2003, making them closer to the rival Indy Racing League configuration but radically different from the series’ current format. Ford said it would be expensive and manpower-intensive to respond to the new regs. Earlier last week, Honda, one of CART’s most successful manufacturer/sponsors, said it would also leave the racing series in 2003.

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