DAILY EDITION: Jan. 5, 2004

January 5, 2004

TCC'S DAILY EDITION: Jan. 5, 2004


Don’t miss our special reports from Detroit:

Preview: 2005 Chevrolet Corvette by Henny Hemmes (1/1/2004)
The C6 takes its first bow at Detroit.

Preview: 2005 Ford Mustang by Marty Padgett (1/3/2004)
No more warmed-up leftovers for America's pony car.

Pontiac Solstice Heading to Production by TCC Team (1/4/2004)
Pontiac's little roadster could spawn a new family.

Preview: 2005 Ford Five Hundred/Mercury Montego by TCC Team (1/4/2004)
Do the numbers add up?

Preview: 2005 Ford Freestyle (1/4/2004)
Crossing over without compromise.

Lincoln Gets Pickup, Aviator Concept (1/4/2004)
Mark X concept could peek at future Lincoln style, too.

2004 Detroit Show, Part I (1/4/2004)
Chrysler's supercar shocker.

2004 Detroit Show, Part II (1/4/2004)
Toyota's FTX truck concept, Honda's SUT, a 450-hp Audi and a new pair from PAG.

2004 Detroit Show, Part III (1/5/2004)
Shelby Mustang returns, cloudy crystal balls studied.

Shelby Strikes Back

2004 Ford Shelby Cobra GT concept

2004 Ford Shelby Cobra GT concept

Don't head for the showroom yet, but odds are looking good that the Shelby Cobra will be back in all new form in the not too distant future. Forty years after he first teamed up with Ford Motor Co., Shelby has renewed his relationship with the number two automaker, and the first product of that partnership took a bow during an auto show dinner Sunday night. Think of it as a "minimalist" muscle car, said Ford's director of design, J Mays, "No roof, no side glass, no radio and, thank God, not a single cupholder." But the reborn roadster does boast a 6.4-liter V-10 that, in normally-aspirated trim, puts out 605 horsepower and 501 lb-feet of torque through the car's 19-inch rear wheels. That's enough to launch it from 0-60 in under 10 seconds and deliver an ungoverned top speed of 190 mph. If that's not enough, a supercharger could "easily hit 700" hp, according to advanced product chief Chris Theodore. Like its crosstown competitors, Ford officials insisted that their new supercar is "just a concept," but they didn't work very hard to convince the crowd. "We built the Ford GT a year after we showed the concept," conceded Mays, and we built the Mustang a year after we showed you that concept. You do the math. How much would a product Cobra add up to? Definitely less than the $139,000 Ford GT, and more likely in line with the Dodge Viper, in the $80,000 to $90,000 range, it appears. In production, Ford would likely add roll-up windows and a very basic, removable soft-top.

Chrysler Drops Bombshell with ME4-12

2004 Chrysler ME4-12 concept

2004 Chrysler ME4-12 concept

2004 Chrysler ME4-12 concept

2004 Chrysler ME4-12 concept

2004 Chrysler ME4-12 conceptChrysler Group executives wowed an audience of hard-to-please journalists with a completely new supercar, the last and grandest concept car to be presented on the stand. The Chrysler ME Four-Twelve - which stands for mid-engine, four turbos, twelve-cylinder - will claim to be the new reigning king of supercar performance. The Four-Twelve's 6.0-liter V-12 is force-fed by four turbochargers with dual-core intercoolers and a very free-breathing exhaust (if the sound of the show car was any evidence) to make an incredible 850 hp at 5750 rpm (a new benchmark at 142 hp per liter). Power is delivered through a seven-speed Ricardo sequential, double-clutch transmission with quick 200-millisecond shift times. This translates to some numbers that left hard-to-please members of the press momentarily breathless: 0-60 acceleration in 2.9 seconds, 0-100 in 6.2 seconds, and the quarter mile in about 10.6 seconds at 142 mph. Top speed is an equally awing 148 mph (400 km/h!).

Toyota Goes Huge with FTX

2004 Toyota FTX concept

2004 Toyota FTX concept

The purpose of Toyota's new FTX concept is simple and to the point: "To show that Toyota is serious about full-size trucks." The FTX, we were openly told, gives a preview of how the next-generation full-size pickups from Toyota will look. Designed with "the power of the fist," the FTX is intended to look much more macho than the Tundra or any of the trucks currently in the lineup.

The FTX is huge. Significantly larger than the Tundra, it's nearly 19 feet long, over 77 inches high, and rides on humungous 22-inch tires. The concept is powered by a V-8 gasoline-electric hybrid system, although the production vehicle will initially offer only gasoline engines. Press said that they feel the hybrid system, which will offer V-6 fuel economy with V-8 power, is an option that many customers will want, and that the company is considering it for the pickups but it won't be offered at the debut of the next generation.

Designers opted for a crew-cab design with suicide doors for more convenient access to people who will work with the truck, and virtually all elements of the design are catered to brawny work or play. Senior designer Craig Kember added in a release, "The FTX interior is a work station a sports locker, or just a sanctuary from the elements." Electrical hookups are offered on the outside, and in the bed cargo tie-downs take the form of camping caribiners and there's also a built-in metal job box. The interior has an emphasis on luxury but still with a tough look, with big, comfy seats that are suspended for comfort in rough terrain. Perhaps the most novel interior piece is the 3D gauge cluster that gives separate readouts on different layers of the same round gauge. -Bengt Halvorson

Honda Gets Into Truck Game with SUT

2004 Honda SUT concept

2004 Honda SUT concept

2004 Honda SUT concept

2004 Honda SUT concept

2004 Honda SUT conceptDescribed as the dream vehicle for "cool dads" who still play hard and do extreme sports and other outdoor activities, the SUT is not intended to appeal to the typical pickup or SUV buyer, but rather the type of buyer that values carlike attributes first but also wants truck utility. Sounds familiar, right?

The SUT, a concept that closely resembles the production vehicle that will go on sale in calendar year 2005, is based on the same unibody platform as the Honda Pilot and Acura MDX SUVs and the Honda Odyssey minivan. It will be powered by an all-aluminum V-6 engine (assumed to be the same as that used in the Pilot, MDX, and Odyssey). Four-wheel drive will be offered, as well as Vehicle Stability Assist. Seating for five adults is accessible through the four full-size doors. The production version will be built in Ontario, while all Odyssey production moves to Lincoln, Ala.

The SUT synergizes all of Honda, officials said in a presentation, because the SUT is geared toward the people who live the lifestyle encouraged by Honda's line of outdoor equipment, motorbikes, and ATVs, among other things that the five-foot bed is able to hold. Tom Elliot, executive VP of American Honda, went on to call the SUT, "a next-generation truck for a new wave of truck buyers." Whether it's cool dads or other uncool folks, this one's destined to be a success. -Bengt Halvorson

Cloudy Crystal Balls

Things weren't quite as bad as everyone expected in 2003, but industry leaders seem to fear sounding too optimistic about 2004. The general consensus appears to be that sales for the new year should top 17 million. "The only question," according to Joe Eberhardt, Chrysler Group executive vice president-global sales, marketing and service, "is by how much?" The traditional industry forecasting tools just don't seem to work anymore, added Ford Chairman Bill Ford. That's likely the result of what he dubbed a "hellaciously competitive" market where incentives seem unbound by gravity. And unlike past years, where rebate-fed sales booms were followed by sharp downturns, there seems to be little "pull-forward" effect these days. The presidential elections could play a factor in the economic recovery, industry officials noted, but so could the fear of terrorism, said another insider, pointing to the recent string of international air flights canceled because of security concerns. Not surprisingly, the carmakers most bullish, also have strong new line-ups for the coming year. "With all our products," said Eberhardt, "we're confident about 2004."

Extremes Claim Car and Truck of the Year

It'd be difficult to find two products at more extreme ends of the automotive spectrum than those claiming accolades as the North American Car and Truck of the Year. There was no real surprise when the envelope was opened and Ford's newly redesigned F-150 took top truck honors. The full-sized pickup has won widespread media praise while consumers echoed that sentiment with orders for a record 912,000 F-Series trucks last year. "We're very proud," declared Ford Division General Manager Steve Lyons, who added that the award should help Ford achieve its 2004 goal of pushing pickup sales past the 1 million mark. If big is better on the truck side, NACTOY judges opted for small and friendly with the car-of-the-year choice, the Toyota Prius. Toyota division's Don Esmond said the victory validated the hybrid as a mainstream, rather than fringe technology. Consumers seem to agree, with soaring sales forcing Toyota to increase production of the high-mileage gasoline-electric vehicle. A total of 50 North American journalists serve as jurors for the NACTOY awards, which are not affiliated with the Detroit auto show. -TCC Team

GM Giving Away 1000 Vehicles in Two Months

In what many believe is the biggest sales promotion ever of its kind for a car company, General Motors will give away 1000 new vehicles in January and February to consumers who visit a GM dealership.

The world's biggest automaker and more than 7,000 dealers expect the offer to bring some 5.5 million prospective customers to showrooms, 40 percent-50 percent more than usual for two traditionally slow sales months.

Consumers need only visit a Chevrolet, Pontiac, Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Saturn, Saab or HUMMER dealership, sit in a car and push the OnStar button in the vehicle to find out if they are a winner. GM says the chances of winning a new vehicle in its "Hot Button" promotion are about one in 5500. No test drive of a vehicle is necessary.

OnStar, owned by GM, is a satellite-based service offered in GM vehicles, as well as in some other automakers' products, that puts drivers in touch with operators who can summon emergency help and other services.

A winning customer may not win the vehicle they are sitting in. Someone sitting in a Chevrolet Corvette, for example, may win a Chevrolet Cavalier. If a winner doesn't want the vehicle they win, say GM officials, the price of the vehicle will be applied to a vehicle they do want.

Besides pumping showroom traffic at a slow time of year, GM officials say they are hoping to drive awareness of General Motors' new 2004 models, the company's size and the increasing quality of its products.

GM research shows, for example, that while 70 percent of consumers associate Chevrolet and Buick with being GM brands, just 25 percent know that Saturn is part of GM and just 17 percent associate HUMMER with GM.

"We want to showcase the depth of GM's lineup to customers and get as many seats in our seats as possible," says Steve Hill, director of GM Retail planning.

In the 1990s GM specifically did not want its brands, especially Saturn, overtly associated with the GM brand because of negative feelings consumers had toward the big automaker for poor quality and dowdy designs.

It's different today, says Hill. "The launch of HUMMER, and now Saab and Saturn benefit from customers knowing they are backed by GM dealers and a GM warranty," he says.

GM says the promotion will cost $50 million to cover the cost of vehicles and advertising. Former NFL quarterback and CBS broadcaster Boomer Esiason stars in ads kicking off the promotion Jan. 4 during CBS's pre-game show of the NFL's wildcard games. -Jim Burt

TCC/AUTOLINE DETROIT RADIO: Tom Tjaarda

Tom Tjaarda is an American who spent his 45-year career in automotive design primarily in Italy. He has worked for some of the most famous design studios of Europe and produced an amazing portfolio of cars, perhaps most famously the DeTomaso Pantera. Now approaching his 70th birthday he has a keen eye for what makes design work, and as you’re about to hear, he has a very interesting background. Click here to listen in as AutoLine’s John McElroy presents: //www.motorauthority.com

FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases

PRNewswire

R. L. Polk & Co., the automotive industry's premier tracker of consumer loyalty among owners of new vehicles, today presented the eighth annual Polk Automotive Loyalty Awards at the 2004 North American International Auto Show. Capturing loyalty honors for the 2003 model year, which ended September 30, 2003, are BMW of North America, DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Subaru of America and Volkswagen of America.

THE TICKER

Name Symbol Last Chg
AUTOLIV ALV 37.88 +0.23
AUTONATION INC AN 18.00 -0.37
ARVINMERITOR ARM 23.80 -0.32
AMER AXLE & MANU AXL 40.64 +0.22
BALLARD PWR SYS BLDP 12.00 +0.17
BORG WARNER BWA 85.39 +0.32
COLLINS AIKMAN CKC 4.20 -0.13
CUMMINS INC CMI 48.77 -0.17
DANA CORP DCN 18.05 -0.30
DAIMLERCHRYSLER DCX 46.74 +0.52
DELPHI CORP DPH 10.21 0.00
EATON CORP ETN 106.48 -1.50
FORD MOTOR CO F 16.08 +0.08
GENERAL MOTORS GM 53.64 +0.24
GENTEX CORP GNTX 43.18 -0.98
GOODYEAR TIRE GT 7.86 0.00
HONDA MOTOR CO HMC 22.64 +0.14
JOHNSON CONTROLS JCI 115.60 -0.52
LEAR CORP LEA 61.36 +0.03
MAGNA INTNL MGA 81.15 +1.10
MOTOROLA INC MOT 14.50 +0.50
NISSAN MOTORS NSANY 22.90 +0.44
SONIC AUTOMOTIVE SAH 22.57 -0.35
TOWER AUTO TWR 6.89 +0.06
TOYOTA MOTOR TM 68.96 +0.21
UNIT AUTO GRP UAG 30.70 -0.60
VISTEON CORP VC 10.41 0.00

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