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2004 Ford CrossTrainer
2004 Ford CrossTrainerEnlarge Photo
CHICAGO GETS FORD CROSSTRAINER IN 2004
Ford’s upcoming product offensive of 20 new vehicles before 2005 will include the CrossTrainer, a new crossover vehicle to be built at the company’s Chicago Assembly Plant beginning early in 2004. The CrossTrainer will be a seven-passenger, three-row vehicle with either front- or all-wheel drive, and with the unibody construction and handling of a car. The powertrain will be a V-6 engine mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) made in cooperation with ZF. While Ford is replacing the Taurus/Sable at the Chicago plant, the company’s Atlanta plant will continue to build the Taurus, according to a release.
TELEMATIC COSTS HIGH, PROFITS UNCERTAIN
It will take significant investments and plenty of patience to make telematics pay off, industry leaders cautioned during a roundtable session in Detroit Tuesday. The cost of equipping the typical car with telematics hardware—such as General Motors’ OnStar system—can run anywhere from $200 to $500 per vehicle. But it is an investment that must be made in order to build up a viable user base, cautioned Harel Kodesh, CEO of Wingcast, which will begin providing in-car systems for Ford Motor Co. in the ’03 model year. Kodesh noted that margins can average 30 percent for telematics services, such as roadside assistance or traffic alerts, but he stressed that for at least “the next few years,” manufacturers will have to reinvest that money. “It’s going to take time before we can build a business case around it,” echoed Steven Buytaert, CEO of the Belgian-based telematics service provider, Acunia.
GM STUDIES IMPORTING COMMODORE
General Motors is looking at the Australian-made Holden Commodore as a possible way to expand its performance-oriented, rear-wheel-drive lineup, according to the automaker’s product czar Bob Lutz. “We’re studying, and I stress we’re studying, us bringing (the Commodore) from Australia and federalizing it,” a reference to U.S. safety and emissions standards. “But we’re a long way from making a decision,” Lutz quickly added. “We’re looking at anything that would conceivably get us back into the rear-wheel-drive market and cut the lead time to do it.” A critical question is whether GM could turn a profit bringing vehicles up from down under. Ford failed miserably when it tried to import an Australian-made ragtop and sell it as the Mercury Capri in the early 1990s. But observers say that was more the result of poor product design than the Capri’s country of origin.
2002 Saturn Sky concept
2002 Saturn Sky conceptEnlarge Photo
THE SKY’S NO LIMIT FOR SATURN
Declaring, “Saturn has a brilliant future,” Lutz also revealed that Saturn would be getting a number of new vehicles over the next few years in an attempt to kick-start sales. That’s not likely to include the Saturn Sky concept vehicle, a multi-function ragtop taking its debut at this week’s Chicago Auto Show. The unusual two- or four-seater has been significantly redesigned since last fall, when Lutz joined GM, and company officials say it clearly hints at the design direction the division will take, though Sky is not on the production schedule. But a second crossover vehicle may soon be part of the Saturn lineup, according to Lutz. He hinted it would be even more multi-functional than the new Saturn VUE. With three new products due to market, Saturn will enter the 2003 model year with an essentially all-new lineup. In the future, the division will move a bit away from its long-time policy of building only plastic-bodied vehicles, officials told TheCarConnection. Those products assembled at the original Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., will continue to use a plastic-on-space frame construction, but those built elsewhere will have more conventional metal bodies.