Daily Edition: Nov. 22, 2004

November 22, 2004

Theodore Retires at Ford

Ford Motor Co. said Friday that its head of advanced product development Chris Theodore will retire December 1, to be succeeded in the job by Hua Thai-Tang who led the development of the 2005 Mustang.

Theodore, 54, has worked at Ford since 1999, having previously worked at GM, Chrysler, and American Motors. Theodore began his career thirty years ago at Ford. Theodore, known as an especially congenial executive around the auto press, most recently led development of the Ford GT. Prior to that project, he led development of the 2004 Ford F-Series pickup. At Chrysler, where he was before returning to Ford, he played major roles in the engineering of the PT Cruiser and two generations of Ram pickup.

Theodore in the past year has experienced some health problems. At the same time, his influence at Ford has diminished as group vice president of product creation Phil Martens has ascended the power ladder under chairman and CEO Bill Ford. Theodore had been a recruit of former CEO Jacques Nasser.

Hau Thai-Tang, 38, consolidates Theodore's job with that of the Special Vehicle Team (SVT). Thai-Tang will report to Martens. John Coletti continues as director of the Special Vehicle Team and will report to Thai-Tang. Besides the new Mustang, Thai-Tang developed the special edition Bullitt Mustang off the previous vehicle, and he was the engineering manager for the Lincoln LS, a car widely praised for its performance, but which has suffered under the dowdy image of theLincoln brand. — Jim Burt

Shelby Cobra: Worst-Kept Secret by TCC Team (1/12/2004)
It couldn't be long before the new Mustang spawned a superpony. In fact, it only took about a day.

Outlook for '05 Mixed, Say Analysts

Analysts and executives from the automakers have been inordinately cautious about making predictions about what will happen to sales of new vehicles in 2005. Economic forecasters from the University of Michigan and Morgan Stanley offered mixed signals during the U-M's annual pre-Thanksgiving conference on the outlook for the U.S. market. Saul Hymans, U-M's top forecaster, whose predictions are studied carefully around Detroit , said sales of light vehicles should edge up from about 16.7 million units this year to 16.9 million units in 2005 and to 17.1 million units in 2006. Hymans also said the U.S. economy will expand at 3.5 percent next year. However, Richard Berner, chief U.S. economist at Morgan Stanley in New York, presented a separate forecast that suggested the sales of new cars and light trucks could fall to 16.5 million units in 2005 as interest rates rise even as the economy continues to expand.

Outlook for '05 Mixed, Say Analysts (11/19/2004)
Gas prices are the big unknown in the equation.

GM Insists Goals Intact

General Motors officials are not backing away from their objective of making $10 per share by the middle of the decade. To do so, GM is pressing ahead with a series of cuts aimed at keeping the goal within reach. Jerry Dubrowski, GM spokesman, said that, contrary to some reports that surfaced recently, GM executives believe it can produce the $10 per share in earnings for a full calendar year. "We have said it's going to be more difficult," said Dubrowski. "But we haven't changed it," said Dubrowski, who declined to define mid-decade. The new scrutiny comes after GM's earnings fell short of analysts' estimates during the third quarter and after the company revised its earnings estimate for the full year. GM only missed the estimate by a penny but the loss included a surprising operating loss by its critical North American unit and continuing losses by GM Europe. Meanwhile, GM's healthcare costs for both active employees and its army of retirees continue to increase at a rate faster than expected. GM's unfunded healthcare liability is now around $58 billion, according to the company's own figure.

GM Insists Goals Intact (11/19/2004)
Is $10 a share too much to ask? GM says no.

Dollar Falls, Autos Feel Pain

The value of the U.S. dollar has dropped this fall — and the decline isn't finished yet. The drop has put real pressure on many of the world's automakers. Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz have already reported that the combination of an appreciating euro and a declining dollar has done serious damage to their balance sheets. The rise of the value in the euro also is behind the wave of cost-cutting and the demand for labor concessions that have swept across Germany and much of Western Europe. It's also given rise to speculation that Ford might soon move production of Jaguar and Volvo vehicles to the United States. The possibility of building Volvos in the U.S. also was raised by Victor Doolan, the soon-to-retire chief of Volvo, who noted in a recent interview with the Chicago Tribune that Ford has a lot of spare capacity in the U.S. Meanwhile, the Japanese yen also has started to appreciate in value, gaining almost five percent in value in recent weeks. The appreciation is also putting more pressure on Japanese automakers, which will be faced with the choice of either raising the price of vehicles exported to the U.S. or watching profits dwindle, which Honda already indicated is a distinct possibility.

Dollar Falls, Autos Feel Pain (11/19/2004)
The rising euro could cause some drastic moves to the States. Jaguar and Volvo, anyone?

MG Rover, SAIC to Combine?

Britain's MG Rover could be angling to sell a 70-percent stake in itself to China's SAIC for about $1.9 billion, a report from Reuters indicates. The companies declined to comment on reports that MG Rover is looking to Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. to invest in its company and to combine car-development efforts for both companies, allowing each to sell vehicles in their strongest markets. The plan could be sent to the Chinese government for approval by the end of the year, an MG spokesperson told the news agency. The deal would leave MG Rover an independent company, the spokesman added. MG Rover is the company left behind by BMW in 2000, when the German car company sold off the remnants to a group of British investors for £10. SAIC recently agreed to purchase South Korea's Ssangyong, and is one of the group of investors including GM and Suzuki that also owns the GM Daewoo joint venture in South Korea.

World Report: November 2004 by TCC Team (11/1/2004)
Chinese moves, VW ties up with Proton, and Tony Blair meets Ford over Jaguar.

ION Recalled for Headlights

GM says it's recalling about 200,000 Saturn IONs in the U.S. and Canada due to problems with the headlights and turn signals. GM says the cars' daytime running lights and front turn signals could have bulbs that lose contact and fail to light. The recall involves 178,798 IONs sold in the United States and 18,513 sold in Canada . The Saturns will be repaired free of charge.

HUMMER Firebomber Could Get Five Years

A 24-year-old doctoral candidate at the California Institute of Technology could be headed to prison for five years or more, after being convicted on Friday of firebombing vehicles at a HUMMER dealership on Aug. 22, 2003. William Cottrell, a physics student at CalTech, was found guilty of seven counts of arson and one count of conspiracy, the Los Angeles Times reported. Cottrell testified during his trial that SUV dealers were "evil," the paper says. Cottrell's two accomplices, Tyler Johnson, a Caltech graduate, and his girlfriend, Michie Oe, have not been indicted and are believed to have fled the U.S. On the night of the incident, four SUV dealers across southern California were targeted and vandalized, with about $5 million in damage being claimed and 125 vehicles lost to the terrorist acts. Cottrell's lawyers are already planning on asking for a new trial, based on their claim that the convicted man suffers from a form of autism called Asperger's syndrome, which is characterized often by high functioning in school situations but stunted social capability.

Weekly Car Guide: Oct. 30, 2004 by TCC Team (11/1/2004)
New Accord Hybrid, HUMMER H3, Pontiac Torrent, and 3-Series.

FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases


Just two weeks into its five-week run, Mercury's interactive website experience with an independent film flair, "Meet The Lucky Ones," has attracted more than 825,000 unique visitors to the brand's website, mercuryvehicles.com. This is more than three times the average number of monthly visitors to the site and demonstrates the outstanding success of the initiative as a new way for the Mercury brand to connect with consumers.

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Name Symbol Last Change
Autobytel, Inc. ABTL 6.92 unch (unch)
Autoliv Inc. ALV 46.30 +0.20 (+0.43%)
AutoNation Inc. AN 18.50 -0.31 (-1.65%)
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 21.58 -0.19 (-0.87%)
American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 29.38 -0.32 (-1.08%)
Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 6.85 -0.18 (-2.56%)
BorgWarner Inc. BWA 49.51 -1.33 (-2.62%)
Collins & Aikman Corporation CKC 3.40 +0.05 (+1.49%)
Cummins Inc. CMI 76.95 -1.26 (-1.61%)
Dana Corporation DCN 16.33 -0.30 (-1.80%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 44.17 -0.68 (-1.52%)
Delphi Corporation DPH 8.92 -0.17 (-1.87%)
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 9.16 -0.12 (-1.29%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 67.33 -0.63 (-0.93%)
Ford Motor Company F 14.15 -0.19 (-1.32%)
General Motors Corporation GM 38.90 -0.98 (-2.46%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 32.24 -0.76 (-2.30%)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 12.21 -0.39 (-3.10%)
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) HMC 24.25 -0.29 (-1.18%)
Johnson Controls Inc. JCI 61.24 -0.75 (-1.21%)
Lear Corporation LEA 58.15 -0.54 (-0.92%)
Magna International Inc. MGA 77.11 -1.28 (-1.63%)
Motorola Inc. MOT 17.94 -0.36 (-1.97%)
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) NSANY 21.00 -0.20 (-0.94%)
Sonic Automotive Inc. SAH 22.23 -0.52 (-2.29%)
Siemens AG SI 78.95 -0.92 (-1.15%)
Sirius Satellite Radio SIRI 5.17 +0.45 (+9.53%)
Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) TM 77.11 -0.49 (-0.63%)
TRW Automotive Holdings TRW 20.36 -0.07 (-0.34%)
Tower Automotive Inc. TWR 2.37 -0.03 (-1.25%)
United Auto Group Inc. UAG 29.02 -0.25 (-0.85%)
Visteon Corporation VC 8.49 -0.31 (-3.52%)
XM Satellite Radio Hold. XMSR 35.01 +0.36 (+1.04%)

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