FORD FIVE HUNDRED COMING IN ‘04
A tall-roof sedan based on the Ford CrossTrainer crossover will go on sale in 2004, Ford will announce at the New York auto show on Thursday. The Five Hundred puts an emphasis on interior room — larger than the current Taurus, the Five Hundred purports to offer much more leg and head room, and a high seating position like that of Ford’s SUVs. The five-seater will be motivated by a new version of the 3.0-liter Duratec V-6 and either a six-speed automatic or a CVT. Dual front and side airbags, side curtains, AdvanceTrac stability control and anti-lock brakes will be standard on all versions. While the Taurus soldiers on in Atlanta, the Five Hundred begins production in Chicago alongside the CrossTrainer early in 2004.
2002 Maserati CoupeEnlarge Photo
TCC DRIVES: MASERATI COUPE
It’s been said that all roads lead to Rome — but for the moment, we’re headed in the opposite direction, racing up the autostrade in the general direction of Modena. You could call that part of Italy “Speed Central,” because it’s the home of more high-performance automotive marques than any other city in the world. Ferrari and Lamborghini are the two most likely to come to mind, but not long ago, you’d have also mentioned Maserati. And you may again soon. This week publisher TCC Team motors through Modena in the new Maserati Coupe:
2002 Maserati Coupe (3/25/2002)
ECKRODT IS MITSU CEO
As expected, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. on Wednesday named COO Rolf Eckrodt its new chief executive. Eckrodt, 59, will take over the business from Takashi Sonobe on June 25; Sonobe will be elevated to chairman of the company, of which DaimlerChrysler owns 37 percent. Mitsubishi is Japan’s fourth-biggest automaker and is now the third of Japan’s car companies to appoint a non-Japanese manager to its helm.
TCC SPECIAL REPORT: 2002 NEW YORK AUTO SHOW
Don’t miss our first edition of NY coverage: 2002 New York Show, Part I
2002 Holden Monaro
LUTZ: MONARO WILL BE NEW GTO
One of the most memorable musclecar nameplates will soon be back spinning its tires. The Pontiac GTO will return to the market in time for the 2004 – with a concept version likely debuting at the next Detroit auto show – revealed General Motors product chief Bob Lutz, but the next-generation of this classic tire smoker will be coming from “down under.” Confirming earlier reports in TheCarConnection, Lutz announced that GM would do a GTO version of the Holden Monaro, a rear-drive coupe being sold in Australia. The decision to turn to Holden, he added, “gets a high-performance rear-wheel-drive vehicle back into our system far faster than if we started from scratch,” designing an all-new GTO in the U.S. Few details are being offered other than the fact that the next GTO will be V-8-powered.
Lutz says he also has his eye on several other Holden products, including one that could serve as a 21st-century Chevrolet El Camino. But there are two difficult problems to overcome. For one thing, demand is so strong, Holden has little excess capacity, and with so much excess capacity in the U.S., Lutz admitted, it would cause political problems with the United Autoworkers Union to begin bringing in serious numbers of products from overseas.
BIG THREE BEATING UP EACH OTHER?
It’s a war out there, or so says Jim Schroer, head of marketing for DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group. The Big Three domestic automakers are lobbing high-cost incentives, rather than hand grenades, with GM most recently firing another shot by re-launching zero-interest financing. “None of the Big Three wants to blink,” says industry Joe Phillippi. The problem is that the battle is seriously draining balance sheets, especially at Ford and DaimlerChrysler, which are struggling to make their turnaround plans work. GM has so far been the only domestic maker to gain market share as a result of the stepped-up incentives. But import carmakers are quietly rooting for the war to continue. “They stirred up the pot” and got the public interested in buying cars again, despite the recession, noted Toyota marketing chief Don Esmund. And that’s helped the entire industry, including European and Asian marques that have generally avoided offering big-buck incentives of their own. As a result Schroer fears that the incentive wars have made Big Three products look like a fire sale, “and that’s only telling the consumer that the Japanese make better cars.”
2003 Honda ElementEnlarge Photo
HONDA SUV IS ELEMENTAL
In New York Honda took the wraps off the production version of its boxy Model X, which will be renamed the Element when it hits dealer showrooms late in the year. The production car “is amazingly similar” to the show truck, says designer Eric Schumaker. “We got 98 percent of what we wanted on the product,” just about everything but Model X’s big electric sunroof. Instead, the Element will get a removable glass panel. The box on wheels is being aimed at emerging Gen-Y consumers, who are expected to become the largest-ever buying group by the end of the decade. What these buyers are looking for, declared Honda EVP Tom Elliott, is a vehicle “that can serve as a mobile dorm room or base camp.” The Element will feature a flexible interior that, with the rear seats folded down, can hold a pair of mountain bikes with wheels still attached. It will be powered by a 160-hp 2.4-liter V-6 (though a larger engine is under consideration). It will be offered with stick or manual and in front- or all-wheel-drive configurations. The Element will be built in Honda’s East Liberty, Ohio, plant and export options are under study. Look for prices to range between $16,000 and $21,000