Consumer Car News: 2/11/02

February 11, 2002

TCC DOES CHICAGO AUTO SHOW

The 2002 Chicago Auto Show is over for the media -- but if you missed the big news from last week you can find it here today at TheCarConnection.com. We have the complete story from the show floor, including the new wave of products for Pontiac and the 390-hp Mustang to end all Mustangs, plus a Mercury Marauder ragtop that could have you rethinking rear-drive, V-8 power. Click into our Chicago galleries below for more:
2002 Chicago Show, Part I by TCC Team (2/5/2002)
2002 Chicago Show, Part II by TCC Team (2/6/2002)
2002 Chicago Show, Part III by TCC Team (2/7/2002)

 

CHICAGO GETS FORD CROSSTRAINER IN 2004

2004 Ford CrossTrainer

2004 Ford CrossTrainer

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.

 

LUTZ SCRAPS BUICK DESIGNS
The latest victims of Bob Lutz’s product-planning ax are the replacements for the Buick Regal and LeSabre. The vehicles will be produced — just not in the design that had been locked in prior to his arrival at GM. Reuters reports that scrapping the planned redesigns will push new versions of the vehicles back by 10 to 12 months; Lutz called the two vehicles “by far the most disappointing vehicles I have encountered” since his arrival at the Renaissance Center. "There was nothing favorable you could say about them except they were on time," the new service quotes Lutz. Lutz also indicated that Buick would add another truck-like vehicle to its lineup, but declined further elaboration.
GM Gets Bullish on Design by Joseph Szczesny (1/14/2002)

 

HONDA INSIGHT TOPS GREEN LIST

2001 Honda Insight

2001 Honda Insight

The gas-electric hybrid Honda Insight continued its reign at the top of the Green Book’s list of environmentally friendly cars for 2002. The book, a guide to cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles published by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, names the CNG Honda Civic, electric Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Prius hybrid as the next most environmentally friendly vehicles. Among the worst, according to the guide: the Dodge Ram 2500 full-size truck, the Chevrolet Suburban K2500 full-sizer, and the GMC Yukon XL K2500 sport-ute.

 

‘VETTE PACING 2002 INDY 500
This year’s 86th running of the Indianapolis 500 will feature the Chevrolet Corvette as the pace car. The race, scheduled for May 26, 2002, will feature the Corvette as the pace car for the fifth time since 1978. The Chevrolet brand has scored the pace car 13 times, and this year, it will compete for the first time since 1993 behind its new Indy V-8 racing engine.

 

TOYOTA TO UNVEIL THIRD DIVISION IN NY
Toyota is preparing to unveil its new sales channel, which is aimed specifically at youthful buyers, at the New York Auto Show in March. Toyota officials around the Chicago Auto Show said a lot of the effort required to set the new campaign in motion is now complete. The dealers involved in the effort will be self-selected: "Think of what we did with the Prius," said one Toyota official. Another part of the effort will be aimed at making the buying process simpler and easier to navigate. "The current process isn't attractive to younger buyers," added another Toyota official. In preparing the new channel, Toyota officials also have taken a good look at the fact many of the younger buyers belong to minority groups. Thus, the new channel will also take advantage of the new diversity-oriented marketing campaigns that the company has been putting in place.

 

GOODYEAR REPLACING 200,000 TIRES
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is recalling some 200,000 tires made for 15-passenger vans and ambulances, the company said on Friday. The Akron, Ohio-based company has been sued 31 times for such accidents, according to the Reuters news service, but insists that the tires are not defective. The company attributes the tread separation found in the suspect tires to other factors, such as underinflation and running under severe loads. The recall is voluntary; NHTSA last week declined to mandate a recall and closed its investigation into a wider range of Goodyear tires.

 

BUSH PROPOSES HYBRID CREDIT
The Bush administration’s plan to cut fuel consumption includes tax credits for the purchase of hybrid gas-electric and fuel-cell vehicles. As Congress debates whether to increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards — currently at 20.7 mpg for trucks, 27.5 for cars — the White House is proposing a credit of up to $4000 for buyers of hybrids and $8000 for buyers of fuel-cell vehicles who purchase before January 1, 2008. The credits are part of the $2.1 trillion budget for 2003 just sent to Congress by the administration. Current hybrids on the market include the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight; the Honda Civic hybrid goes on sale in March, and Ford and GM are both promising hybrid trucks in the near term.
Honda Bets on Hybrids by Frank Bohanan (1/28/2002)

 

GMC GETTING NEW MID-SIZE UTE
The word from inside General Motors is that GMC will be getting a new Avalanche-like vehicle next year. Lynn Myers, Pontiac/GMC general manager, confirmed this week that GM is developing a sport-utility vehicle/pickup truck derivative that will be built off the same basic architecture now being used for the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy. The new Avalanche-like derivative will be added to the GMC lineup after the rollout and ramp-up for the new extended-wheelbase version of the Envoy, the Envoy XL. GM hasn't said yet where the new GMC sport-utility truck will be built but a good bet is the GM assembly plant in Oklahoma City where GM is now preparing to build the extended-wheelbase versions of the TrailBlazer and Envoy. In addition, GMC isn't forgetting its roots as it pursues professional-grade customers. GM also announced it is bringing out a couple of additional medium-duty models for commercial customers under the GMC nameplate. The GMC TopKick will come in C4500 and C5500 models, which will be well suited for use as shuttle buses, wreckers and snowplows, according to David Hansen, general manager of GM's Fleet and commercial operations. For even heavier jobs, the new C6500, C7500 and C8500 versions of the 2003 TopKick will be available. The new versions of the TopKick should be available by the mid-summer, GM officials said.

 

PORSCHE TO HELP SAVE OLD ROADS
Porsche has enlisted the help of actor James Brolin in an innovative effort to save old trails and roads across the United States. The Cayenne Crossing Initiative will be chaired by Brolin and will work with governmental, environmental and preservation groups across the U.S. to restore and maintain unique roads. "Nearly two years ago, Porsche invited me to join a small group of journalists to cross the Mojave Road," Brolin told audiences at the Chicago show. “One of the impressions I took away is that historic trails like the Mojave Road wouldn't exist without the efforts of the dedicated groups to maintain the trails. Maintaining the trails means protecting the environment, which we’re losing little by little," Brolin added. Bob Carlson, Porsche spokesman, said Tread Lightly!, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public on having fun outdoors with minimal impact on the environment, will also help coordinate the off-road portion of the Cayenne Crossing Initiative. Carlson added Porsche envisions the commitment to the Cayenne Crossing Initiative extending for a number of years. The first projects will include the restoration of Clark's Grade, a trail in Southern California's San Bernardino National Forest that leads up to Big Bear Lake. Porsche also will help pay for the construction of a bridge over Peter's Mill Creek, a trout stream in Virginia's George Washington National Forest, which is threatened by off-road vehicle traffic. Another project will involve the construction of three information kiosks that will identify and communicate the history of Route 66. The project has been endorsed by the non-profit California Route 66 Preservation Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving the history of Route 66.

 

MOTORWEEK NAMES DRIVERS’ CHOICE
PBS' automotive show MotorWeek named its 2002 Drivers' Choice Awards at the Chicago Auto Show on Wednesday. The TV show named the following 12 category winners:

1. Best Small Car - Nissan Sentra(1)

2. Best Family Sedan - Nissan Altima

3. Best Minivan - Dodge Caravan(1), Chrysler Voyager(1), Chrysler Town & Country(1)

4. Best Convertible - Ford Thunderbird

5. Best Luxury Sedan - Cadillac CTS

6. Best Sport Sedan - Subaru Impreza WRX

7. Best Performance Car - Chevrolet Corvette Z06

8. Best Small Sport-Utility Vehicle - Saturn VUE

9. Best Family Sport-Utility Vehicle - Ford Explorer/Mercury Mountaineer

10. Best Pickup Truck - Dodge Ram

11. Best Crossover Vehicle - Chevrolet Avalanche/Cadillac Escalade EXT

12. Best Dream Machine - Ferrari 360 Spider/Mercedes-Benz S55 AMG/Porsche 911 GT2

 

(1) Repeat winner from 2001

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