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.

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