DAILY EDITION: July 15, 2003

July 14, 2003

TCC'S DAILY EDITION: July 15, 2003

NHTSA Releases Rollover, Side-Impact Ratings

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released the results from its latest round of rollover and side-impact testing — and Toyota’s Tacoma, BMW’s 3-Series and the new Mazda6 are on the losing end of the tests. The agency reports on its Web site (www.nhtsa.dot.gov) that in side-impact ratings of ten new sedans and SUVs, the Kia Sorento, Mercedes-Benz C240, and Volvo XC90 scored five-star ratings at all positions, while the Honda Element scored all fives save for the left rear seat position, where occupants could be at slightly higher risk for head injuries. The BMW 3-Series and Mazda6 were given three starts, which reflects an 11- to 20-percent chance of serious injury in a crash, according to the agency. In the mathematical tests used to predict rollover potential, the NHTSA found that only 17 of the 52 vehicles it rated were worthy of a five-star rating; they include the Audi TT, Buick LeSabre, Chrysler Concorde, Dodge Intrepid, Ford Mustang, and Mercedes-Benz E320. The ’03 Toyota Tacoma extended-cab pickup got just two stars in the rollover ratings.

SUV Wars Roll into Court by Joseph Szczesny (6/2/2003)
Groups sue the NHTSA to keep new fuel-economy rules from taking effect.

Toyota Adding Hybrid Technology to Trucks

2004 Toyota Prius

2004 Toyota Prius

Enlarge Photo
Toyota, just weeks away from selling the new second-generation Prius hybrid sedan, will add three more hybrids to its lineup, according to the Associated Press. The company will add hybrid versions of the Highlander crossover wagon and Sienna minivan to its range in the 2005 model year, and would join the coming Lexus RX 330 hybrid on the showroom floor. Toyota also is said to be working on a hybrid V-8 powertrain that could be marketed through its Lexus channel. Toyota president Fujio Cho has said the company would have six hybrid vehicles in its lineup by 2006.

Hybrids Growing, Diesels Too? by Joseph Szczesny (6/23/2003)
Uncertainty reigns in Detroit over which higher-mileage option will win the day.

Hyundai May Build R&D Center

Automotive News reports that Hyundai is looking for a home for a new research and development center for its Hyundai and Kia vehicles — and the home could be in Michigan or Alabama. The weekly says the Korean automaker is studying sites near Pittsfield Township, Mich., and in Alabama, where the company has broken ground on a new assembly plant on the south side of the state capital of Montgomery. The new R&D center would represent an investment of $240 million and could be as large as 200,000 square feet.

2004 Hyundai XG350 by Robert Ahl (6/30/2003)
The Koreans build a Japanese luxury car.

Mitsu Hires SpongeBob to Sell the Endeavor

2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor

2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor

Enlarge Photo
Mitsubishi Motors North America is turning to SpongeBob Squarepants to move its Endeavor SUV off dealer lots and attract families to the new model. In phase two of the ad campaign, which began last spring, the same hip music (“Horndog” by British band Overseer) and atmosphere of the ads is kept, but the animated character is added to emphasize the family features of the vehicle including an available DVD option. Mitsubishi sales are hurting this year as it has had to pare back on incentives and low-quality lending that drove sales in the last two years. The company’s sales were off 20 percent through June versus last year despite two new models — the Endeavor and Outlander SUVs. Later this year, the company launches an all new Galant and Lancer sportback. The commercial also shows off Endeavor’s car-like handling qualities by opening with shots of the vehicle crossing a rough bridge grate with zero noticeable effect on the smooth ride. Describing the vehicle, the narrator observes: “Loaded from front to back, it’s perfect for families.” Mitsubishi has the youngest average age buyer in the industry at under 36 years old. But its penetration of families is less than the company would like, especially with its new SUVs. —Jim Burt

2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor by Robert Ahl (5/12/2003)
Just how goofy can SUVs get?

GM Very Unlikely to Bow to Fiat Put

While Wall Street has been long speculating on whether GM will have to absorb struggling automaker Fiat into GM Europe, GM insiders say it probably will never happen. Fiat has an option, based on the deal that gave GM’s control of 20 percent of Fiat in 2000, to make GM buy the rest between 2004 and 2009. But one GM executive said that the deal would likely not happen because Fiat would not accept a third-party assessment that the company was worth less than zero dollars and because GM could drag the validity of the option through courts for many years.

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