Consumer Car News: 1/14/02

January 14, 2002

The Detroit show opens to the public on Saturday, and before you brave the crowds at Cobo, get the first look at what you’ll see at the 2002 North American International Auto Show today at Click into our five galleries of news and photos and see the latest concepts and production cars, including the Chrysler Pacifica, BMW 760Li, Chevrolet Bel Air and Ford GT40. And if you missed last week’s reports, hop over to the Los Angeles show index for our trio of reports from the West Coast’s year opener:
2002 Detroit Auto Show by TCC Team (1/7/2002)
2002 Los Angeles Auto Show by TCC Team (1/7/2002)


In a long-anticipated announcement, Ford says it will cut 22,000 jobs in North America and 13,000 in the rest of the world in the next few years. Ford estimates that the total savings could reach $9 billion by the mid-decade, with $2 billion to come this fiscal year. The plant closures include the Ranger's Edison, N.J. plant, and Oakville, Ont., which builds F-150 trucks. Both are to be closed by 2004. Others are a Cleveland, Ohio, engine plant around the same time; The St. Louis sport-ute plant at an undetermined date; and a Wayne, Mich., forging plant. The plant cuts will mean the death of four cars: the Ford Escort, the Mercury Cougar, the Mercury Villager and the Lincoln Continental.
Special Report: Ford Cuts by TCC Team (1/10/2002)


It was the ultimate automobile for the Leave It To Beaver generation. Forty years ago, the station wagon dominated U.S. roads and defined the American suburb. But as Boomers grew to driving age in an era of protest, they asserted their opposition to the vehicles their parents drove. And with the advent of the minivan in the mid-1980s, the wagon was all but written off for dead. But anyone attending the North American International Auto Show in Detroit—or the Los Angeles Auto Show the week prior out west—is likely to experience a sense of automotive déjà vu. Check in with Publisher TCC Team as he assays the renewed impact of the wagon and looks at the newest offerings including the Chrysler Pacifica, Subaru Baja and Volvo XC90:
Wagons: Comeback Confirmed? by TCC Team (1/10/2002)



The Nissan Altima proved something of a dark-horse winner as it was named top choice in the annual North American Car of the Year voting Sunday. The Altima bested the retro-styled Ford Thunderbird and Cadillac's new and edgy CTS sedan. The Chevrolet TrailBlazer, meanwhile, took top honors as the North American Truck of the Year, outpolling Jeep's new Liberty and another Chevy product, the multi-purpose Avalanche. The Altima, declared Nissan Senior Vice President Jed Connelly, "is the first big step" in the automaker's turnaround program. Meanwhile, Gary Cowger, president of GM North America, said the award for TrailBlazer is especially well-received, since it was the result of voting by 49 of North America's top automotive journalists, including Publisher TCC Team.
’02 Detroit Auto Show, Part I by TCC Team (1/7/2002)


A new federal braintrust charged with helping fuel-cell development is to be announced today by the Bush Administration. The new Freedom Cooperative Automotive Research will replace the Clinton Administration’s Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV), which sought to push automakers to build an 80-mpg vehicle. The new research panel will assist in the development of an infrastructure that can deliver hydrogen fuel for fuel cells, which produce electricity that can then be used to power vehicles instead of internal-combustion engines. The committee will also target sport-utility vehicles for fuel-cell development.
Autonomy: GM Asks "What If?" by TCC Team (1/7/2002)


Hoping to catch consumers—and competitors—by surprise, Nissan announced plans to position its own reborn 350Z as an affordable sports car. The base model, which hits showrooms next summer, will start at $26,269. The high-performance Track edition will come in at $34,079. “On an ongoing basis,” declared executive vice president Jed Connelly, “we expect half our volume will be priced under $30,000. The two-seater, with its standard 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed manual transmission will “offer $50,000-performance for under $30,000 — just as promised,” Connelly declared during a preview at the North American International Motor Show.


When it goes on sale in March, the MINI Cooper and Cooper S will sport appropriately small pricetags. The base 115-hp MINI Cooper is set to retail for $16,850 including destination charges, while the supercharged 163-hp MINI Cooper S will sticker at $19,850. Atop those prices, MINI will offer three packages: the Premium and Sport each cost $1250, while the Cold Weather package goes for $500. A CD player is standard on all models, the company says.


Federal and state governments, according to the AP, are studying a technically advanced driver’s license that could contain driving record and fingerprint information. The news service reports that the combined effort has the government setting standards for the kind of information that could be encoded on licenses and for the delivery of the information, which could allow states to more easily share information during traffic stops. Many states such as Georgia already put some information such as digitally encoded fingerprints on licenses.


In another ripple of consequence from the Firestone recall of 2000, an audit of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says the agency relies too heavily on auto and tire manufacturers in reporting product defects. In a report filed by the Department of Transportation’s inspector general, the NHTSA process doesn’t use its own accident databases and other sources of information when determining if a recall is necessary. The agency’s reputation came under fire during the Firestone recall, when it was revealed that questions over the safety of Firestone tires on Ford Explorers had been raised as early as the mid-1990s.
Firestone Forced into Recall by Marty Padgett (10/8/2001)


The hastily written law that prevented newspapers and independent sources from viewing autopsy photos of Dale Earnhardt is hindering medical examiners and could hamper criminal investigations, according to a group filing affidavits challenging the law. A handful of newspapers, including the Orlando Sentinel, are fighting to overturn the law, which makes seeing or copying autopsy pictures punishable by five years in prison and a $5000 fine, if done without a court order. The law was passed after the death of Dale Earnhardt nearly a year ago, at the request of his widow Teresa. The case will be argued Feb. 5 in front of a Broward County Circuit Judge.


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that motorcyclists over 40 years old are dying in higher numbers. In a marked change from decades past, when younger riders were killed in accidents more frequently, the IIHS says the number of older riders in fatal accidents has risen 150 percent in the past decade, while deaths of those under 40 has dropped 30 percent in the same time. Fatalities are dropping overall — the IIHS says 2789 riders died in 2000, while 3128 died in 1990 — while registrations continue to rise.


General Motors has begun rolling out a new Internet service that will let consumers get up-close-and-personal, and learn a lot more about their individual cars in the process. will provide more than 80 pages of personalized information, some so precise it responds to the vehicle's specific VIN number. Among other things, owners will be able to check service manuals, locate service centers and get e-mail recall notices. They'll also be able to post some information of their own, including pictures and any nicknames for their cars. The program is already in place for many Pontiac and Chevrolet models, and should cover all U.S. GM brands shortly. By year's end, a range of additional countries will get access to the service, including Japan and Australia. "We're trying to build a one-to-one-to-one relationship" between factory, dealer and customer, said the project's director, Stu Dressler. He admits the automaker has some ulterior motives: MyGMLink could help drive business to GM dealers and parts distributors, and increase loyalty rates, which translates into repeat buyers.


Meanwhile, GM's OnStar unit will launch its own customized service, [email protected] Users with the right services and equipment will be able to check and set their home alarms, monitor video cameras linked to the Web, even close their garage doors or adjust thermostats by remote control. Asked about the potential for outsiders to breach the new system, Mark Hogan, director of the eGM unit operating OnStar, asserted "It is a concern you are raising, but we have put security systems into place to protect our customers.”

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