DAILY EDITION: Feb. 10, 2003

February 9, 2004

TCC'S DAILY EDITION: Feb. 10, 2004

MINI Cooper Convertible Bows at Geneva

2005 MINI Cooper Convertible

2005 MINI Cooper Convertible

It took some time, but next month, the MINI Convertible will debut at the Geneva Auto Show and will hit the road this summer. The Convertible will be one of the eye catchers at the Geneva show that opens for the public on March 4.

With the soft top closed and its exposed hinges of the rear lid, the MINI Convertible looks even more retro than the version with the steel roof.

The Convertible has a fully automatic Z-mechanism soft roof, that has a so-called sliding roof mode, where the soft top can be opened up to 15 ¾ inch while driving up to a speed of 75 mph. The soft roof folds behind the rear seats with the push on the button in 15 seconds and has no need for a tonneau cover.

Unlike the other versions of the MINI, the Convertible comes with power side windows at the rear. To protect the occupants in case of a rollover, there are two small aluminum roll bars directly behind the head rests of the rear passengers. Also, the A-pillars are made of ultra-strong steel. They form part of the improvements to ensure a high standard of torsional stiffness.

The Convertible can carry a maximum of 882 lb, while the content of the luggage compartment is 5.8 cubic feet and with the soft top folded down, 4.2 cubic feet. The topless MINI has new bumpers with integrated fog lights, new headlights and a new grille. Also the rear bumper is restyled and the indicators are moved up in the lamp housing. The new MINI Convertible will be entering the market as the MINI One with 90 hp and as the MINI Cooper with 115 hp. The 163-hp Cooper S Convertible will follow later.

The MINI One Convertible comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, the Cooper with light alloy ones with 175/65 R15 run flat tires; 16- and 17-inch aluminum wheels will be an option. Except for the existing colors, there are two colors exclusively for the Convertible: Hot Orange and Cool Blue. The One will be delivered with a black soft top and customers have a choice of three colors for the soft top of the Cooper: black, blue or green.

The MINI Convertible will have standard four-wheel disc brakes, ABS, EBD electronic brake force distribution and CBC cornering brake control. ASC+T automatic stability and traction control as well as DSC dynamic stability control will be available as an option. —Henny Hemmes

Small Cars Making a Comeback? by TCC Team (2/2/2004)
Against all odds, small cars seem to be in the midst of a revival.

Schrempp Back On The Stand

DaimlerChrysler chairman Juergen Schrempp testified Monday in a resumption of the trial that will decide whether the chairman misled investors in the 1998 "merger of equals" between Daimler-Benz and Chrysler. Schrempp was questioned extensively about the fact that DaimlerChrysler was incorporated in Germany rather than the U.S. The decision was based on tax benefits from registering in Germany, but also for "political reasons," said Schrempp. Billionaire financier Kirk Kerkorian is suing DCX for more than $1 billion, plus $2 billion in punitive damages, for selling the merger as a merger when in fact, charges Kerkorian, it was a takeover. Painting the deal as a merger deprived Kerkorian, he says, of an extra premium for his shares. The trial was halted by U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Farnan in mid-December after DaimlerChrysler's attorneys said they had discovered a set of notes about the merger taken by Gary Valade, Chrysler's former chief financial officer, that were never shared with Kerkorian's lawyers. Schrempp said he was "a bit puzzled" when asked about a line in one of Valade's notes referring to the proposed merger as "structurally 'almost' a takeover." Valade's notes indicate the U.S. side was concerned about its ability to present the transaction to shareholders as "a merger of equals." "We have come to realize that internally it would be very difficult to become a German company and sell this as a merger of equals," Valade's notes said. —Jim Burt

Next Kerkorian-DCX Slugfest Due by TCC Team (2/2/2004)
DCX awaits its next court round with battlin’ Kirk Kerkorian.

January Deals Climb, But Fail To Ignite Sales

The average auto incentive per unit increased 35.9 percent year-over-year in January to $2,751 per vehicle, said Autodata. That number looked big considering that auto sales clocked in at a seasonally adjusted selling rate of 16.1 million, down from 16.2 million a year earlier. The incentive levels, noted Merrill Lynch John Casesa, shows price cutting is not only intense, but getting worse, despite Detroit's now often-repeated expectation that incentive spending will moderate in 2004. With end of January inventories heavy, more incentives are coming online for February, such as a generous lease deal initiated over the weekend by GM. GM has been trying to limit its leasing on non-luxury vehicles, but is having to pull out the stops to save the first quarter sales after a sluggish January start to the New Year. Casesa noted, too, that 72-month loans are now between 10 and 20 percent of current loan business and climbing. —Jim Burt

Jan. Sales Disappoint GM, Ford by Joseph Szczesny (2/9/2004)
Asian makes continue to erode U.S. market share.

Werner, Former MBAG Head, Dead at 67

The man who brought new life to the Mercedes-Benz brand has died in Germany. Helmut Werner, 67, led Mercedes-Benz AG from 1993 to 1997, expanding the brand’s lineup with new vehicles like the M-Class and SLK. Werner left MBAG in 1997 when Juergen Schrempp took over as chairman of the company, and then merged it with DaimlerChrysler. Werner also served as chairman of Continental AG prior to his tenure at Benz, and head of the supervisory board of Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany, after his departure from Mercedes-Benz.

Yost Stepping Down from ArvinMeritor

Larry Yost will step down as CEO of ArvinMeritor, the supplier that aimed last year to take over the much larger Dana Corp. Yost, 65, has been CEO of the company since Arvin Inc. and Meritor Automotive Inc. merged in July 2000, and prior to that, CEO of Meritor. The company has not settled on a successor yet, and Yost has not set an official last day.

GM Recalling Mid-Size SUVs

2002 GMC Envoy

2002 GMC Envoy

General Motors’ mid-size utes are the most recent vehicles to appear on NHTSA recall lists. The company said on Monday that it would recall 636,000 utes, including the 2002-2003 Chevrolet TrailBlazer and TrailBlazer EXT, GMC Envoy and Envoy XL, and Oldsmobile Bravada SUVs, along with some Isuzu Ascenders, which it also builds. GM says short-circuited windshield wipers have been linked to two accidents, but no injuries or fatalities. Last week GM was forced to recall more than 1.8 million passenger cars for problems with overheating ignition modules.

Flint: Detroit’s Losing Markets by Jerry Flint (1/26/2004)
Minivans and small pickups aren’t going the way of the dinosaur — unless you work for the Big 2.5.

Siemens Buying Chrysler Plants

A pair of DaimlerChrysler parts plants in Alabama will be bought by Siemens VDO Automotive, the companies announced on Monday. The plants, which produce electronic parts, will be sold for an undisclosed amount. The companies employ about 2400 workers who make parts worth about $1 billion in sales each year, according to Automotive News.

XM, Sirius Stocks Skittish

Sirius Satellite Radio Monday announced that 2004 and 2005 Mazda vehicles will offer factory installed Sirius on a rolling basis throughout the year with the Tribute SUV, MPV and Miata getting it in the spring and the Mazda3, RX-8 and Mazda6 getting it in the fall.

It wasn't a surprise since Mazda's master, Ford, has chosen to line up with Sirius instead of XM Satellite Radio.

Even as Sirius and XM line up as many exclusive relationships, each is also launching products that will convert the factory-installed version of each other's hardware to play the programming of the other.

Wall Street, meanwhile, is treating both stocks like Internet stocks circa 1999, citing the services' high costs and debt-load and uncertain future popularity.

Sirius, for example, recently reported fourth quarter revenue of just $5 million, a net loss of $148 million, and market capitalization of a whopping $3 billion. Shares of Sirius are off 30 percent since January 5, closing at $2.90 per share Monday, but up 50 percent from November 25. Sirius added 111,449 subscribers in the fourth quarter, a 75-percent bump from the third quarter, but at a high cost in the form of rebates. Analysts say the radio stocks have been the target of speculative investing. Anyone recall eToys. com?

XM has 1.36 million subscribers and projects doubling that in 2004. Of the 140 million shares of XM that float, 40 million are short. That's large enough to make it so that the stock overreacts to the upside on any good news. It's a similar picture for Sirius.

XM shares are up 14 percent since early November, off 11 percent from two weeks ago, but up about 500 percent from its one-year low.

Wall Street expects XM this year to post a loss before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization of $250 million on revenue of $259 million; at Sirius, analysts see negative earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortization of $313 million on $72 million in revenue. —Jim Burt

FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases

PRNewswire

Vehicle scrappage rates declined 9.1 percent in 2003, according to R. L. Polk & Co. The number of passenger cars scrapped in 2003 was down 6.1 percent while light trucks experienced a 12.7 percent decrease. Both numbers were factors in driving the scrappage rate down for all vehicles, a trend since 1970. "Cars and light trucks are becoming more durable," said Mike Gingell, vice president of Polk's aftermarket team. "Although the scrappage rate for all trucks increased, the scrappage rate for light trucks stands at 6.0 percent, which is the lowest scrappage rate since Polk's light truck report was introduced in 2000. While we saw a significant increase in scrappage rates for the heavier trucks, the overall percentage was driven down by cars and light trucks."

The bright, open atmosphere that greets visitors of the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, Mich. now welcomes virtual visitors through the Museum's newly redesigned web site at http://www.chryslerheritage.com/homepage.do;jsessionid=1418170DD1F537F1ECAAE5CB520164AF. The site greets visitors with continuously revolving panoramic views of the Museum's first and second levels highlighting concept and production vehicles from the 1900s - 1990s. The home page also features graphic links to the Museum's special exhibits and events, current and past issues of its award-winning four-color Forward magazine and its popular gift shop, brimming with exclusive and hard-to-find collectibles and souvenirs.

THE TICKER

Name Symbol Last Chg
AUTOLIV ALV 42.96 +0.04
AUTONATION INC AN 17.21 +0.07
ARVINMERITOR ARM 22.48 -0.05
AMER AXLE & MANU AXL 40.84 -0.06
BALLARD PWR SYS BLDP 11.50 +0.01
BORG WARNER BWA 94.80 +0.87
COLLINS AIKMAN CKC 5.62 +0.07
CUMMINS INC CMI 50.19 -0.32
DANA CORP DCN 22.43 +0.80
DAIMLERCHRYSLER DCX 46.84 -0.02
DELPHI CORP DPH 10.79 -0.04
DURA AUTO SYS DRRA 14.09 -0.28
EATON ETN 119.20 +0.82
FORD MOTOR CO F 14.16 -0.12
GENERAL MOTORS GM 49.11 +0.47
GENTEX CORP GNTX 44.42 -0.17
GOODYEAR TIRE GT 9.69 -0.28
HONDA MOTOR CO HMC 20.98 -0.32
JOHNSON CONTROLS JCI 59.40 -0.66
LEAR CORP LEA 64.51 -0.48
MAGNA INTNL MGA 80.83 -0.10
MOTOROLA INC MOT 16.80 -0.14
NISSAN MOTORS NSANY 20.63 -0.25
SONIC AUTOMOTIVE SAH 24.16 +1.86
SIRIUS SAT RADI SIRI 2.90 +0.10
TOWER AUTO TWR 5.96 -0.02
TOYOTA MOTOR TM 66.74 -1.96
UNIT AUTO GRP UAG 30.60 +1.51
VISTEON CORP VC 11.04 +0.04
XM SATELLITE XMSR 23.30 +0.44

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