DAILY EDITION: Nov. 13, 2003

November 13, 2003

TCC'S DAILY EDITION: Nov. 13, 2003

Ford Credit Rating Cut; ’04 Profits Improving?

Standard & Poor’s on Wednesday cut Ford’s debt ratings to the lowest level above junk bonds — to which the company responded by promising better profits in 2004. S&P cast $180 billion of Ford’s credit to BBB — with a stable outlook, adding that Ford’s potential to improve profits and cash flow would be limited over the next several years. Ford’s Chief Financial Officer, Don Leclair, says the company doesn’t agree with the S&P’s downgrade and reiterated that Ford expects to achieve its financial goals for the year, which includes reporting a profit. In the first three quarters of the year, Ford reported a net income of $1.29 billion, after chalking up more than $6 billion in losses over the past two fiscal years.

October Sales Cool Off by Jim Burt (11/4/2003)
But some unexpected strength gives good news at Chrysler.

GM Exporting $1.3 Billion in Goods to China

General Motors will export parts and complete vehicles worth $1.3 billion to China in the next two years, the company said on Wednesday. China agreed to allow GM to import the goods a year ahead of schedules negotiated as the country comes into compliance with World Trade Organization regulations. GM’s exports will include 4500 complete vehicles, including CTS, SRX, XLR, and 2005-model-year STS vehicles; CKDs for 13,000 additional vehicles to be assembled at Shanghai GM; and 1000 additional vehicles through other channels.

GM Drops, Swaps And Delays Hybrids by TCC Team (11/10/2003)
Automaker puts positive spin on changes in green car program.

Mechanic’s Tale: Family Court

An incident at the shop today reminded me that we not only fix cars, we also sometimes enter the family therapy arena. On Friday I got a message that Mr. Di Franco was having his Caravan towed in and I should call him. When we spoke, he explained that the van would click but not crank or start. It had been sitting since May when the problem first occurred. He had changed the battery and the starter to no avail. The van didn’t arrive until Friday afternoon, so I warned him not to expect anything until Monday. What happens when spouses don’t agree on repairs — and how does the mechanic get caught in the middle? Read more inside TCC:

Mechanic’s Tale: Family Court by Douglas Flint (11/10/2003)
Torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool.

DAILY IN DEPTH

DC Trek Stars 2005s as 2004 Season Starts

The 2004 model year has barely begun, but a nationwide tour showcasing Chrysler Group’s 2005 models is under way to U.S. cities as an attention-getting initiative. The barnstorming will be done by none other than DaimlerChrysler’s top executive, CEO Dieter Zetsche. Calling attention to an automaker’s current lineup might be standard operating procedure, but uncorking the next model run’s jewels so far in advance — even if only for the media — could pose problems for dealers battling to sell not only 2004 models but leftover 2003s. According to Automotive News, (November 10), Zetsche is at a crossroads that leaves him little choice but to go out drum-beating in eight U.S. regions, like the now retired Chrysler legend, Lee A. Iacocca, did 20 years ago when he traveled constantly to whip up enthusiasm among dealers, auto reporters, and consumers.

Right now, Zetsche and his team are frantic to light marketing and selling fires that will hopefully generate volume, profits, and repeat sales. Several new and restyled models are being highlighted during the eight-city swing, including a November 17 media presentation at Detroit’s Cobo Center. Featured products include a Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible, Dodge Magnum wagon, Chrysler 300C sedan, Dakota pickup truck, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge and Chrysler minivans, Chrysler Crossfire convertible, Wrangler Unlimited, and the only mid-2004 model, a Dodge Ram SRT-10 with the Dodge Viper V-10 engine.

Three years ago, Zetsche kicked off a rejuvenation plan calling for Chrysler Group to cut costs by $6 billion, raise revenues to $2.1 billion and post a modest operating profit this year. Only the cost cuts have been attained, up to $7 billion, through supplier price slashes and reductions in work hours for vehicle assembly. Group revenues in the first nine months of 2003 fell 20 percent from 2002 to $43.1 billion. The new spike in incentives has all but wiped out chances for a meaningful profit, if any. Zetsche is hitting the road in hopes of rallying the troops with a “suddenly it’s 2005” display of Chrysler’s future, and possibly his own. —Mac Gordon

Jeep Goes Urban with Treo by TCC Team (10/27/2003)
Jeep’s urban mobility vehicle presages big changes at DaimlerChrysler’s off-road brand.

FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases

PRNewswire

AutoVIBES, the new monthly automotive omnibus study from Harris Interactive(R) and Kelley Blue Book tracking new vehicle nameplates, today reveals the models generating the most ‘buzz’ during October 2003. Among 26 new nameplates, four out of the top five are crossover vehicles.


THE TICKER

Name Symbol Last Chg
AUTOLIV ALV 33.37 +0.45
AUTONATION INC AN 18.20 -0.03
ARVINMERITOR ARM 17.49 +0.87
AMER AXLE & MANU AXL 37.14 +1.63
BALLARD PWR SYS BLDP 12.70 +0.20
BORG WARNER BWA 79.30 +0.75
COLLINS AIKMAN CKC 2.98 +0.16
CUMMINS INC CUM 46.15 +1.73
DANA CORP DCN 16.70 +0.55
DAIMLERCHRYSLER DCX 37.89 +1.28
DELPHI CORP DPH 8.51 -0.09
EATON CORP ETN 101.02 +1.00
FORD MOTOR CO F 13.06 +0.75
GENERAL MOTORS GM 42.72 +0.66
GENTEX CORP GNTX 41.99 +1.80
GOODYEAR TIRE GT 6.77 +0.15
HONDA MOTOR CO HMC 20.38 +0.38
JOHNSON CONTROLS JCI 108.01 +2.30
LEAR CORP LEA 57.97 +0.76
MAGNA INTNL MGA 78.10 +0.58
MOTOROLA INC MOT 13.65 +0.33
NISSAN MOTORS NSANY 23.69 +0.94
SONIC AUTOMOTIVE SAH 22.40 +0.22
TOWER AUTO TWR 4.25 +0.29
TOYOTA MOTOR TM 63.02 +1.52
UNIT AUTO GRP UAG 25.85 +0.84
VISTEON CORP VC 6.54 +0.17

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