Saab 9-7X Coming to New York

December 18, 2003

TCC'S DAILY EDITION: Dec. 18, 2003

Saab 9-7X Coming to New York

Saab will introduce its first SUV at next year’s New York auto show. The 2005 Saab 9-7X will offer standard all-wheel-drive and two engine choices, neither of which were specified in a release issued Tuesday. The mid-size SUV will show its official face at the 2004 New York show in April, and according to Saab, will go on sale about one year later. The 9-7X will be built at GM’s Moraine Assembly plant in Ohio, beginning in the first quarter of 2005.

Saab Sales Up — Prospects Too by Joseph Szczesny (9/29/2003)
A boost in the numbers bodes well for two new upcoming vehicles.

Mercedes Readies GST II for Detroit

2004 Mercedes-Benz Vision GST II concept

2004 Mercedes-Benz Vision GST II concept

Mercedes-Benz USA officials said Thursday that it will unveil a second-generation concept of its Vision Grand Sport Tourer at the North American International Auto Show next month in Detroit.

The first-generation concept was shown in 2002 and Mercedes said soon thereafter that it planned to start building a vehicle similar to it by the fall of 2004 based on a newly-developed platform. The next GST concept is similar to the 2002 version and is close to what will be seen in Mercedes’ forthcoming new subdivision of vehicles, rumored to be called R-Class, slated to launch in the beginning of 2005, instead of the initially-projected 2004. The GST will be the first vehicle to populate the R-Class and the first car to be built alongside M-Class sport-utility vehicles at Mercedes’ Tuscaloosa, Ala., assembly plant.

“We believe that the concept offers enormous potential for the launch of a new Mercedes model family", says Jürgen Hubbert, head of the Mercedes Car Group, based in Stuttgart, Germany. The Alabama plant is undergoing $600 million worth of expansion work in order to build the vehicle and potential derivatives. If the concept is any indication of where Mercedes is headed with the R-Class, the company’s new vehicle segment will look drastically different from what is available in the U.S. market today from a powertrain standpoint.

The concept is driven by a diesel-electric hybrid engine that is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The new diesel-electric hybrid mill, according to Mercedes-Benz spokesman Rob Moran, is a combination of the company’s diesel 4.0-liter V-8, available with S-Class models sold in Europe, and a 50-kilowatt electric motor installed to assist propulsion. The combination allows the powertrain to turn out 313 hp and 621 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes claims its diesel-electric hybrid engine will consume about 20 percent less fuel under standard driving than a conventional diesel, and if the engine is included in production plans it would be the only full-fledged hybrid in the United States with eight cylinders and diesel technology. The seven-speed is already fitted on E, S, CL, and SL models. The GST has a steering wheel-mounted shifter, and allows drivers to shift manually via paddle-like buttons on the wheel. Mercedes claims that the transmission improves fuel efficiency and off-the-line acceleration.

The original GST concept carried a 5.5-liter V-8 mated to a five-speed auto-manual.

While powertrain and drivetrain are forward looking, the 2004 GST is toned down slightly from the 2002 concept, which had no B-pillar, featured suicide-style doors and 22-inch wheels. The new concept has conventional doors thanks to the installation of a B-pillar, and 21-inch wheels, but carries over other innovations from 2002, such as a massive sliding panoramic roof and television monitors installed in the backs of first and second row headrests. It has three rows of bucket-style seats rather than at least one row of bench seating, like minivans and sport-utes conventionally do. If the past is any indication of how Mercedes will try to sell this concept to the public, much will be said about how this vehicle strays from convention to define a new segment, much like what has been said about Chrysler Group’s Pacifica, which, when casually observed, looks strikingly similar to the GST.

In fact, Hubbert’s vision for the GST to be “a touring car, station wagon, large-capacity vehicle and sport-utility vehicle rolled into one,” sounds very similar to Chrysler vice president of design Trevor Creed’s vision for the Pacifica sports tourer, which is “a vehicle that didn't conform to the traditional proportions of a car, sport-utility vehicle or minivan, yet featured their best attributes."

As was the case with the 2002 GST, expect Mercedes officials to spend a lot of energy at the Detroit show discrediting the suggestion that the Pacifica and GST share anything more than a few minor components. —John D. Stoll

2004 Detroit Auto Show Preview by TCC Team (12/15/2003)
Your omnibus guide to Los Angeles and Detroit show introductions.

Ford Boosted by F-150 Launch

Ford Motor Co. has rolled out some more numbers to show how well the new F-150 is selling and performing financially for the company. Don Leclair, Ford’s chief financial officer, said strong demand for the more expensive 4X4 and SuperCrew models has helped boost the transaction price on the F-150 to $27,590 after incentives are taken out, or by $2800 over year-ago levels and by $3200 above the average transaction price in August as the incentive wars raged. Steve Lyons, president of the Ford Division, noted Ford is only offering incentives of roughly $1000 on the new F-150, while GM’s incentives on the Chevrolet Silverado are about $3000. In addition, GM is now offering incentives of more than $5000 in Texas where Ford is the top truck brand. None of the incentives apply to the SuperCrew models, noted Leclair, who also said Ford expects to reduce the price of building the new F-150 by as much as $1000 per vehicle by the end of 2004. “The cost of vehicles we’re producing now is less than the vehicles we were building in July and August,” Leclair said. —Joe Szczesny

DAILY EDITION: Dec. 16, 2003 by TCC Team (12/15/2003)
NACTOY finalists announced, 6-Series Cabrio aired out.

Chrysler Shedding Lingerie Bowl

DaimlerChrysler has decided to throw in the hanky and is withdrawing Dodge's sponsorship for the first annual Lingerie Bowl, which feature lingerie-clad models playing flag football on pay-per-view television during halftime of the Super Bowl on February 1. The inventor of the mom-friendly minivan had come under withering attack in the media for teaming up with the Lingerie Bowl's sponsors who vowed the show will go on. Even Mercedes-Benz officials had complained about the event. “Dodge brand's sponsorship of the Lingerie Bowl has become a distraction,” said a DaimlerChrysler senior vice president. Only last week, as the talk about the Lingerie Bowl continued to escalate, the Chrysler Group said it planned to hang on, according to Mitch Mortaza, creator and executive producer of Lingerie Bowl 2004. In turn, Mortaza had tried to reassure Chrysler officials the game would be a genuine athletic contest. —Joe Szczesny

Man Not Meant to Fly?

wright flight

wright flight

It’s lucky the weather was more cooperative for the Wright Brothers. An effort to recreate their historic, Dec. 17, 1903 flight — with a replica largely funded by Ford Motor Co. — failed to get off the ground Wednesday afternoon. Sponsors put the blame on heavy rains and shifting winds after the reproduction Wright Flyer began lifting off from a Kitty Hawk, N.C. field, then dropped a wing into a mud puddle, coming to a quick halt. A second attempt also failed, though the Flyer has actually been flown several times in recent weeks as preparation for the centennial celebration, which drew an array of celebrities ranging from moonwalker Neil Armstrong to Pres. George W. Bush. Though there are several Wright Flyer replicas, the goal was to make an absolute reproduction, detailed “down to the thread count” of the canvas wing fabric, noted Edsel Ford. The great-grandson of aero-enthusiast Henry Ford, Edsel took formal title of the historic craft, which will now find permanent home at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. The centennial served up another disappointment to those who’d come expecting a major news announcement from the president. In recent weeks, the White House had been leaking details of a proposed new space mission, including a return to the moon and possibly a trip to Mars. But concerns about what that would do to an already-mounting budget deficit left the president with little to say beyond a promise that the U.S. would “continue to lead the world in flight.” —TCC Team

100 Years of Flight - in Detroit, Too by TCC Team (12/16/2003)
Detroit helped put the world on wings, as well as wheels.

FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases

PRNewswire

Motor Trend magazine, the world's #1 automotive authority and part of the PRIMEDIA Consumer Automotive Group, today announced the selection of the Ford F-150 as the 2004 Truck of the Year. Each year Motor Trend evaluates all the new vehicles, and selects the pickup truck that most clearly raises the bar in the category, specifically in terms of significance, superiority, and value.

THE TICKER

Name Symbol Last Chg
AUTOLIV ALV 36.38 -0.14
AUTONATION INC AN 17.84 +0.21
ARVINMERITOR ARM 22.45 +0.65
AMER AXLE & MANU AXL 38.04 +0.33
BALLARD PWR SYS BLDP 10.97 -0.02
BORG WARNER BWA 83.33 +0.69
COLLINS AIKMAN CKC 4.01 -0.05
CUMMINS INC CMI 48.04 +0.79
DANA CORP DCN 17.15 +0.10
DAIMLERCHRYSLER DCX 44.05 +0.25
DELPHI CORP DPH 9.39 +0.13
EATON CORP ETN 104.98 -0.86
FORD MOTOR CO F 14.67 +0.32
GENERAL MOTORS GM 49.86 +0.26
GENTEX CORP GNTX 41.30 -0.35
GOODYEAR TIRE GT 6.92 +0.07
HONDA MOTOR CO HMC 20.96 +0.11
JOHNSON CONTROLS JCI 111.55 +1.45
LEAR CORP LEA 59.32 +0.50
MAGNA INTNL MGA 78.76 +2.06
MOTOROLA INC MOT 13.17 -0.16
NISSAN MOTORS NSANY 22.15 -0.39
SONIC AUTOMOTIVE SAH 21.54 +0.39
TOWER AUTO TWR 6.15 +0.62
TOYOTA MOTOR TM 64.95 -1.41
UNIT AUTO GRP UAG 27.22 +0.32
VISTEON CORP VC 9.36 +0.38

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