2003 Detroit Auto Show, Part VI

January 7, 2003

 

Related Articles:
2003 L.A. Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (1/1/2003)
2003 Detroit Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (1/2/2003)

2004 Nissan Titan

2004 Nissan Titan

NISSAN TITAN UNVEILED
Nissan is putting Ford, GM and Dodge on notice with the Titan, the company's first full-size pickup. Nissan says its full-sizer won't be a 7/8ths rendition like Toyota's Tundra, but a true full-sizer with the best power, towing and handling in the segment. The Titan comes only in King Cab and Crew Cab configurations; a 5.6-liter, 300+-hp V-8 is standard, as is a five-speed automatic transmission. Two bed lengths can be ordered, and a four-wheel-drive system activated by a pushbutton is available as well. Nissan is paying special attention to the aftermarket, and has made the Titan's bed similar in size to the competition to facilitate the development of aftermarket parts. The Titan will go on sale Dec. 1, a couple of months after Nissan introduces its first full-size SUV built off the same platform. But though they share the same platform, the Titan has a live rear axle, while the unnamed SUV features an all-independent suspension.

2003 Mercury Messenger concept

2003 Mercury Messenger concept

SHOOT THE MESSENGER
There were plenty of snapshots taken when Ford rolled out the stylish Mercury Messenger on Monday. "This vehicle carries the message that Mercury is back," declared Ford Motor Co.'s design chief, J Mays. Only a few years ago, former Ford CEO Jac Nasser gave serious thought to killing the brand, and while he ultimately decided to keep it in the family, Mercury was left seriously short of product. A crash program is underway, aimed at filling out the lineup. A new version of the Villager, is in the works, as is a crossover and two small cars, Mays hinted. Could the Messenger, a stylishly aggressive coupe be part of the plans? For his part, Mays would only say it "might" have a place in the Mercury fold. But a top-level Ford executive told TheCarConnection.com there is serious interest in the Messenger. While no final decision has been made, a production version could be based on either the new Mazda RX-8 platform, or the 2005 Mustang chassis. "We probably don't want to take the crown jewels from Mazda," said the executive, so the Mustang seems the more likely option.

REPORTS OF HIS DEPARTURE GREATLY EXAGGERATED
Don't count Alan Gilmour out - of Ford Motor Co., that is. Recent news reports have indicated that the Ford Chief Financial Officer, who recently returned to the company after years in retirement, was ready to call it quits again. But he's not going anywhere, at least not if Ford heir and CEO Bill Ford has his way. "Alan has a free pass to stay as long as he wants," the Ford Chairman told TheCarConnection.com Monday. In fact, Bill Ford said he'd actively try to dissuade his prized CFO from leaving, though he added that reports of Gilmour's plans to leave are simply wrong. In a wide-ranging discussion, Bill Ford acknowledged that in recent years, the automaker's diversity drive has had a negative consequence, the loss of "institutional knowledge" as seasoned employees have left Ford. But Gilmour is just one of several former employees to return, or at least offer their help as the automaker struggles to overcome its current crisis. "We're talking to a number of retirees," hinted Ford, though he declined to say if others will rejoin the company any time soon.

BUICK TOUGHS IT OUT
"Buick will have to limp along for awhile," said General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz. That's because the GM "car czar" had ordered the cancellation of two of the automaker's product programs - which were destined to become the next-generation versions of the troubled division's Regal and LeSabre models. They were "totally off the marque and totally wrong," Lutz explained during an interview at the North American International Auto Show. Since arriving at the automaker in late 2001, the former Marine pilot has pulled the plug on a variety of vehicle programs he felt were not up to snuff. But Buick is especially vulnerable due to its weak market position. The division's two well-known brand names will be back, but only after all-new variants are developed, and that won't happen until at least the middle of 2004, Lutz said. Meanwhile, Buick General Manager Roger Adams acknowledged he has ordered a sharp cutback in fleet sales this year, which could mean a sharp dip in overall sales and share. But he insisted that was necessary to help rebuild the brand's image. As sibling division Cadillac moves up-market, said Lutz, "It pulls Buick along with it." As part of the auto show, Buick showed the new Centieme crossover concept, which Lutz said is a clear indication of the future styling direction for the division. It featured soft, flowing lines, an elegantly outfitted interior, noted Lutz, adding that "The codeword I use is 'American Lexus,' but with better styling."

2003 North American International Auto Show banner

2003 North American International Auto Show banner

 

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