DAILY EDITION: Mar. 2, 2004

March 2, 2004

TCC'S DAILY EDITION: Mar. 2, 2004

NHTSA Tests Slam Mid-Size Sedans

The latest round of crash tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) finds midsize sedans lacking in bumper strength. The insurance industry-funded group reports that the last test of six midsizers left each with bumper damage of more than $500 each. The Mitsu Galant suffered the least damage, with an average of $525 in bumper repairs needed after the 5-mph test. The ’04 Chevy Malibu and ’04 Acura TSX got the agency’s worst rating, averaging nearly $1000 in damage, while the Suzuki Verona, Nissan Maxima, and Acura TL got the second-worst rating with roughly $700 in damage each.

Sierra Club, UAW United Against NHTSA by Joseph Szczesny (2/23/2004)
New fuel-economy proposal draws the ire of some unlikely allies.

Pontiac Getting Equinox-Alike

Pontiac is getting a version of the Equinox crossover wagon coming to Chevy dealers for 2005, Automotive News reports. The Equinox will be built at GM’s joint-venture with Suzuki in Ingersoll, Ontario, and has been running far below its capacity with its most recent products, the Vitara/Chevy Tracker. The weekly reports a Suzuki version will also be spun from the same architecture for the 2007 model year. Each of the vehicles will share some componentry with the Saturn VUE crossover, already on sale.

Nomad Gets Prelim. Green Light by TCC Team (2/16/2004)
Family of rear-drivers grows as Solstice closes in.

Buick Concept Slated for New York

Auto Week Magazine reports that Buick will show a rear-drive, four-seat convertible concept at April’s New York Auto Show. Dubbed the Velite, the concept will share some underpinnings with GM’s Opel Insignia concept show at last year’s Frankfurt auto show. The new rear-drive architecture for both will be a global architecture that could also be used for new Holdens for Australia. The magazine expects a V-6 engine to appear in the concept.

A Visit with GM's Ed Welburn by William L. Sharfman, Ph.D (3/1/2004)
GM's new design chief lays out the principles of style.

WJR Auto Report: Ferrari Scaglietti

Good automotive salespeople know there’s a basic rule for success: always fall one car short of demand. Nowhere is that practiced more perfectly than at Ferrari, where there’s actually a waiting list of up to two years on some products, such as the 575 Maranello. The Italian supercar company is introducing the all-new 612 Scaglietti, but even with the new model, it plans to hold sales flat at 4000 cars a year. But that doesn’t mean Ferrari isn’t interested in growing. It’s just taking an alternative approach. The automaker acquired its long-time rival, Maserati, a few years back, a company once known for exotic design and high-performance. But quality problems drove Maserati out of the U.S. and almost killed it off entirely. With Ferrari’s financial help, Maserati is back, and will soon roll out its most important new car in decades, the exotic, four-door Quattroporte. Should it succeed, it will not only bring Maserati back to life, but help Ferrari grow — even while its buyers remained queued up. —TCC Team

Hyundai Betting on Slovakia

Hyundai is expected to name Slovakia as the site of its new European assembly plant today at the Geneva Motor Show. A site in Slovakia apparently has won out over a location in Poland near Krakow for the $1.4 billion project, Reuters reports. The announcement may be made by Hyundai subsidiary Kia, the report indicates, because the new plant would begin production by building Kia models. The 300,000-unit plant could open for business by the end of 2006.

VW Chief Under the Gun — Again

Volkswagen CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder is on the hot seat for the second time within ten years. As chief of BMW ten years ago, he purchased Britain’s Rover group, a move which cost the Munich-based company millions and wound up costing Pischetsrieder his job. The Rover group was broken up and sold off to Ford and VW, whose then-CEO Ferdinand Piech hired Pischetsrieder to become his successor. When Pischetsrieder joined the VW team in Wolfsburg, it was riding high in the profits and sales arenas. Well on their way to market were entries into two new segments — SUVs with the Touareg and ultra-luxury sedans with the Phaeton. The top-selling Golf entered a long-overdue redesign mode, under Pischetsrieder, and stepped-up production of VW’s core small cars was on tap for major developing markets like China and Brazil.

Unfortunately, a blitz of setbacks engulfed the Pischetsrieder regime in the late 1990s and early years of the 21st century. First, an economic recession hurt the Brazilian economy (1999), plus VW sales retreated as it became Europe’s turn to suffer economic problems amid a raft of appealing small-car entries. Renault rebounded with its Megane Scenic, and inroads were made by Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Hyundai. Then VW pioneered in China, garnering 50 percent of the swiftly growing market — until all the new competition from the U.S., Japan, and Europe took its toll there, too. Finally, the redesigned Golf drew unaccustomed critical knocks as “overpriced” and “too techie.” For the first time in its 30-year run, Golf lost its lead as Europe’s number-one seller. The pride and joy of Chairman Piech, the $90,000 Phaeton, also proved a slow mover in showrooms after its 2003 debut. Even for VW, challenging BMW and Mercedes on their home turf was no easy assignment. The widely-read Economist Magazine (February 28) calls the situation “the curse of Pischetsrieder” and cautions the seasoned German auto exec to “lift that curse, fast.”

For his part, Pischetsrieder has instituted a $2.5 billion global cost-cutting program this year, to be followed by a $1 billion cut, according to German media. Workers may be asked to work longer hours, and some production reductions could be implemented. VW is also shuffling its production executives. Corporate production chief Folker Weissgerber is being transferred to China as top executive there. His successor in Wolfsburg is Reinhard Jung, now chief of VW in Mexico. New overseer of VW’s vast New Beetle and Jetta plant in Puebla, Mexico is Werner Neubauer, now head of the Wolfsburg plant. —Mac Gordon

FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases

PRNewswire

XM Satellite Radio, the country's first satellite radio service, today introduced radio's first advanced instant traffic and weather service for major markets nationwide. The XM Instant Traffic and Weather service exclusively provides:

-- 21 channels of traffic and weather information for the nation's most traffic-congested metropolitan areas

-- 24/7 continuously updated reporting for each market

-- A dedicated channel for each major metro market

-- Travel times for major roadways, provided by Traffic Pulse(R) technology on the ground in the local markets

-- Average speeds for major roadways, provided by Traffic Pulse(R) technology on the ground in the local markets

-- Amber Alerts and other important public safety and homeland security notifications on air and printed on the radio display

-- Dedicated staff of more than 40 traffic and weather experts supported by a nationwide network of traffic data collection professionals

-- Most comprehensive traffic information available utilizing advanced in-road sensors, aircraft, traffic, and local eyewitness reports.

THE TICKER

Name Symbol Last Chg
AUTOBYTEL INC ABTL 13.97 +0.07
AUTOLIV ALV 44.69 +0.31
AUTONATION INC AN 16.86 +0.18
ARVINMERITOR ARM 23.16 +0.60
AMER AXLE & MANU AXL 38.05 +0.04
BALLARD PWR SYS BLDP 10.29 -0.22
BORG WARNER BWA 92.54 +2.34
COLLINS AIKMAN CKC 5.50 +0.19
CUMMINS INC CMI 51.37 +1.97
DANA CORP DCN 22.15 +0.76
DAIMLERCHRYSLER DCX 45.05 +0.12
DELPHI CORP DPH 10.27 +0.07
DURA AUTO SYS DRRA 13.00 +0.20
EATON ETN 59.89 +1.35
FORD MOTOR CO F 13.99 +0.24
GENERAL MOTORS GM 48.65 +0.53
GENTEX CORP GNTX 40.80 +0.02
GOODYEAR TIRE GT 8.50 +0.08
HONDA MOTOR CO HMC 21.98 +0.17
JOHNSON CONTROLS JCI 58.69 +0.37
LEAR CORP LEA 61.73 +0.10
MAGNA INTNL MGA 80.23 +0.83
MOTOROLA INC MOT 18.86 +0.41
NISSAN MOTORS NSANY 22.35 +0.26
SONIC AUTOMOTIVE SAH 24.76 +0.16
SIRIUS SAT RADI SIRI 3.00 +0.06
TRW AUTOMOTIVE TRW 25.15 +0.15
TOWER AUTO TWR 6.06 -0.01
TOYOTA MOTOR TM 70.70 +1.57
UNIT AUTO GRP UAG 29.00 +0.62
VISTEON CORP VC 10.28 +0.18
XM SATELLITE XMSR 25.76 +1.24

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