DAILY EDITION: Mar. 15, 2004

March 14, 2004

TCC'S DAILY EDITION: Mar. 15, 2004

Lundberg Says Gas Hits Record High

The biannual Lundberg Survey of gas prices nationwide reports that the current price of $1.77 a gallon is a new record. Prices have risen about 26 cents per gallon this year, the survey reports. The previous high price was set in May 2001 when a gallon of regular unleaded reached $1.76 a gallon. While numerically the highest, the average price for gasoline is still far off the inflation-adjusted prices per gallon reached in the early 1980s. The Lundberg survey doesn’t expect big prices jumps in the next few weeks, but most analysts are expecting more record prices as demand cranks up for the summer driving season.

Gas Prices Still on the Rise by Joseph Szczesny (3/8/2004)
Could $3 a gallon be the new reality?

Ford Putting ESP on Big Vans

Ford’s largest vans will receive stability control beginning in the 2006 model year, various wire sources report. Ford will equip 15-passenger versions of its large vans with the technology to increase their stability in the hands of inexperienced drivers. The vans are popular with churches, airport shuttle services and the like, but several high-profile accidents in the past year have led to calls to improve the safety of the vehicles. In 2002 the NHTSA issued a warning for drivers of the largest vans, advising special precaution when driving the vans because of the higher likelihood that the vans would roll over in an accident. GM has also said it will add similar technology to its own line of passenger vans.

Bluewater Casts Ford as Pinocchio by Joseph Szczesny (3/8/2004)
Bill Ford’s telling lies, a green group says — and his nose is growing.

Hassan Retiring from Nissan

Emil Hassan, the manufacturing executive who led Nissan North America through its biggest expansion in U.S. production capacity in the past year, will retire on April 1 after 23 years with the company. Hassan joined Nissan in 1981 as the paint shop manager for the massive Nissan complex in Smyrna, Tenn. Last year, the company brought on line its new assembly plant in Canton, Miss., a billion-dollar investment that produces its Titan full-size truck, Armada SUV, and Altima sedan. Dan Gaudette, the point man at the Canton plant for construction and startup, will take Hassan’s place as the head of Nissan manufacturing and quality.

Nissan Sets Blistering Feb. Sales Pace by Joseph Szczesny (3/8/2004)
Toyota hot too, GM good, Ford faltering.

LaSorda Gears Up for Chrysler COO

Tom LaSorda, the factory whiz kid who devised production systems at both General Motors and Chrysler, says he is looking forward to his new role as Chrysler Group's chief operating officer. LaSorda is scheduled to replace Wolfgang Bernhard as COO May 1 and he is turning over his duties as executive vice president in charge of manufacturing to Frank Ewasyshyn, who is moving up from the post of senior vice president for advanced manufacturing. "I plan to keep responsibility for the launches," said LaSorda, who was in charge of the preparation for the assembly of the new vehicles Chrysler is bringing out in the next several months. LaSorda, however, also said during a tour of DaimlerChrysler's Windsor assembly plant, that he was looking forward to the challenges of serving as COO. "I consider myself a car guy," said LaSorda. "I just come at from a different direction," LaSorda.

LaSorda Gears Up for Chrysler COO (3/13/2004)
Manufacturing exec looks to revving up Chrysler vehicles, cutting costs.

Cost Cuts Squeeze SAE Show Again

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) meeting in Detroit last week reflected the continuing effort across the automobile industry to trim costs. Indeed, an annual survey by DuPont showed that cost cutting was the number-one issue on the minds of engineers as they gathered at Cobo Hall and the annual SAE exposition. The floor space occupied by the show continued to shrink and was significantly smaller than in 2003 - and most of the companies that did bother to display opted for small, simple booths. Even the big participants that did stick with the show, such as Yazaki and the U.S. Department of Defense Tank and Automotive Command, which displayed its latest variant of military-oriented hybrids, put their displays on the fiscal equivalent of the Atkins diet. Dana Corp. was the largest supplier with a major display but Dana came to the show with a special mission - to celebrate the company's 100th anniversary and to try and rehabilitate the company's image in the wake of the failed ArvinMeritor takeover. Dana survived the bid but its reputation suffered.

Cost Cuts Squeeze SAE Show Again (3/13/2004)
Engineers have their day in Cobo, though fewer are attending.

Panke: No Apologies from BMW

It doesn't take much to get a debate going in automotive circles these days. Just mention the name BMW. The German manufacturer's radical design direction, along with its high-tech iDrive system, are certain to kick off a storm - if you can find anyone willing to argue on the automaker's behalf. Then again, BMW CEO Helmut Panke, a former nuclear scientist and McKinsey & Co. consultant, is more than capable of standing up in his own defense. And as far as he's concerned, no apologies are necessary. The debate was set off, two years ago, by the introduction of a new 7-Series sedan, with its tall tail and hooded headlamps. Critics and many long-time owners shrieked in horror - there once was even a Web site collecting signatures on a petition calling for the ouster of BMW design chief Chris Bangle. Yet to Panke, "It was a necessary step. We had to move away from designs…that were essentially the same, just in different sizes, what (you might) call different slices from the same sausage."

Panke: No Apologies from BMW (3/13/2004)
Automaker may tweak technology, but there's no going back on design.

Burns Ready for Dana Challenge

In the wake of last year's takeover bid by ArvinMeritor and sudden death of its top executive, Dana Corp. still faces major challenges in remaining competitive in a industry that continues to change. Mike Burns, the former General Motors Corp. executive who was recruited by Dana's board of directors to serve as the company's new CEO, told reporters last week he's still learning the ropes at Dana, one of the world's largest automotive suppliers. The job opened up last fall upon the sudden death of Joe Magliochetti, the Dana CEO who had succeeding in blunting ArvinMeritor's surprise takeover bid during the summer of 2003. Dana had put in place a solid strategic plan before he took the post as CEO, Burns said. "Getting rid of the aftermarket, I think, was the right thing to do," Burns told reporters after a Dana press conference at the annual Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) World Congress. "It's easy to get de-focused," said Burns, who was serving as head of GM's operations in Europe when the headhunters approached him about taking the Dana job. Dana Corp. is celebrating its centennial this year and honored its early inventors at SAE. "Kicking off our centennial celebration at SAE was a perfect fit for us," said Burns.

Burns Ready for Dana Challenge (3/13/2004)
Cost cutting and lost business fail to dismay former GM exec.

Kubang Killed?

2003 Maserati Kubang concept

2003 Maserati Kubang concept

Rumors swirling around the Geneva motor show indicate Maserati may kill its Kubang SUV before the vehicle ever sees production. The vehicle, which employ’s Audi all-wheel-drive technology, was unveiled in 2003 at the Detroit auto show and was slated to go on sale sometime this year and possibly be built with much assistance by Audi. The Italian automaker is reportedly concerned that SUV costs and production volumes may be out of its league at this point, but an SUV is probably in Maserati’s future plans when the company is ready to as much as double its current sales volume and make a bigger impact in the U.S. market. In the meantime, the company will focus on reaching its goal of selling 10,000 units annually, starting this year with the new Quattroporte and the Spider/Coupe. Ferrari/Maserati Chief Luca di Montezemolo is expected to officially announce the decision in weeks to come. —Jack Gilbert

Maserati Facing Moment of Truth by TCC Team (3/8/2004)
Italian automaker’s success – or failure – also will impact Ferrari’s future.

FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases

PRNewswire

Chrysler Group reported Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle (CPOV) sales of 8,407 units in February 2004, an increase of 30 percent over February 2003 when 6,453 units were sold. "These strong February results confirm consumers' desire to own vehicles that manufacturers stand behind," said Ray Fisher, Chrysler Group Vice President - Fleet and Remarketing. "Our Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle Program, along with our Five Star dealers that sell them are recognized as being one of the best in the business and our growth in this segment proves it."

Coming off a record sales month for Crossfire, Chrysler announced pricing today for its expanded new lineup of 2005 Crossfires. The Crossfire lineup now includes Coupe, Roadster, and the race-inspired, performance-enhanced SRT-6 Coupe and Roadster. New Crossfire models start to arrive this spring. six-speed manual Crossfire Roadster is $34,960, which includes $875 for destination. Limited with a six-speed manual is $38,920, which includes $875 for destination. five-speed automatic and AutoStick® is $39,995, which includes $875 for destination. Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6 Coupe is $45,695, which includes $875 for destination. The MSRP for the Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6 Roadster is $49,995, which also includes $875 for destination. Chrysler will further expand the Crossfire lineup to include Crossfire coupe with an MSRP of $29,920, which includes $875 for destination.


THE TICKER

Name Symbol Last Chg
AUTOBYTEL INC ABTL 12.95 +0.64
AUTOLIV ALV 40.89 -0.10
AUTONATION INC AN 16.40 +0.27
ARVINMERITOR ARM 20.85 -0.25
AMER AXLE & MANU AXL 35.78 -0.07
BALLARD PWR SYS BLDP 9.69 +0.21
BORG WARNER BWA 86.83 +0.83
COLLINS AIKMAN CKC 5.89 +0.16
CUMMINS INC CMI 53.92 +3.65
DANA CORP DCN 20.16 +0.11
DAIMLERCHRYSLER DCX 42.28 +0.48
DELPHI CORP DPH 10.30 +0.14
DURA AUTO SYS DRRA 12.65 -0.15
EATON ETN 56.05 +1.23
FORD MOTOR CO F 13.29 +0.27
GENERAL MOTORS GM 45.39 +0.49
GENTEX CORP GNTX 40.98 +0.91
GOODYEAR TIRE GT 7.90 +0.22
HONDA MOTOR CO HMC 21.81 +0.27
JOHNSON CONTROLS JCI 58.23 +1.40
LEAR CORP LEA 59.80 +0.89
MAGNA INTNL MGA 75.50 +0.60
MOTOROLA INC MOT 17.09 +0.44
NISSAN MOTORS NSANY 21.58 +0.25
SONIC AUTOMOTIVE SAH 24.25 +0.43
SIRIUS SAT RADI SIRI 3.05 +0.18
TRW AUTOMOTIVE TRW 22.85 -0.29
TOWER AUTO TWR 5.34 +0.29
TOYOTA MOTOR TM 70.06 +1.28
UNIT AUTO GRP UAG 28.40 +0.59
VISTEON CORP VC 9.30 +0.01
XM SATELLITE XMSR 25.92 +0.92

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