Daily Edition: Nov. 23, 2005

November 22, 2005
Hyundai Shows '07 Santa Fe, Prices Azera

Hyundai HQ in South Korea has released the first photos of the new Santa Fe online at its Korean-language Web site. The new Santa Fe hasn't yet been shown for U.S. journalists or shoppers, and as such, there's precious little information about the new SUV available. Based on information from our spy-shot photographers, the Santa Fe will be outfitted with the 263-hp V-6 from the Azera as well as a five-speed automatic transmission; a third-row seat will be available, as will all-wheel drive, when the Santa Fe enters production early next year at the new Hyundai plant in Montgomery, Ala.

2007 Hyundai Santa Fe

2007 Hyundai Santa Fe

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In more Hyundai news, the company announced pricing on the new Azera luxury sedan on Tuesday. The Azera SE, with standard 263-hp 3.8-liter V-6, eight airbags, stability control and a five-speed automatic, will retail from $24,995. The Limited model will be priced from $27,495 with added equipment like a CD changer and fog lamps. The Ultimate Package on the Azera Limited brings the price of that model to $29,995.

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Ford Won't Rush CutsFord Motor Co. won't move up the announcement of its next turnaround plan, the automaker's CEO Bill Ford said Tuesday, despite this week's announcement by General Motors that it will slash jobs at assembly, powertrain, and stamping plants across its network, closing three assembly plants completely. The family heir and chief executive said he doesn't want to rush Mark Fields, who took over Ford's core Americas unit only last month. "The worst thing we could do is roll out a plan 30 days after (Fields) got there and have to come back 60 days later," with yet another plan. Nonetheless, observers expect Ford to follow GM's lead, with plant closings and job cuts. It is also seeking healthcare concessions from the United Auto Workers union similar to those the UAW granted GM last month. -TCC Team

Big Three Have to Woo Back Consumers, Ford Says

"It's up to us (the Big Three U.S. carmakers) to prove to the American buying public…that our products are attractive and represent good value and also feature cutting-edge technology," Bill Ford, CEO of his namesake company, said Tuesday. Ford faced a polite but tough audience during an appearance in Washington, at the National Press Club, fielding a number of questions about how the Big Three can reverse declining share and profits. In a speech laden with references to America, Americans, and American automakers, Ford took pains to separate the Big Three from foreign-owned manufacturers simply assembling cars in the U.S.

In his speech, the CEO suggested that his strategy for Ford is to focus on more fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly vehicles. "We're transitioning to a more fuel-efficient fleet and a smaller fleet," he asserted in response to a follow-up question. The automaker is also shifting emphasis to hybrids and other alternative forms of power. But Ford stressed his belief that the government needs to participate in the transition. Among other things, he called for tax credits to help develop future powertrain technologies, as well as the infrastructure to produce and distribute alternative fuels. The CEO noted that right now, there are only 500 service stations providing ethanol in the entire U.S. Federal support is needed, he said, "so we can go from hundreds of stations, to thousands." Following his speech, Ford headed over to the White House to outline his plan to government leaders. The proposals were "non-partisan," he insisted, stressing that, "If we don't adapt" to a world without cheap and plentiful gasoline, "we deserve the consequences." -TCC Team

TCConfidential: The End of the UAW?

Is there still room for the United Auto Workers union?

Just writing that headline makes me wonder how many angry calls, letters, and e-mails I will receive in the days to come. But even if the answer is, "yes," it's critical we ask that question. Actually, it's a question the UAW must ask of itself.

The union was born of confrontation. The sit-down strikes in Flint, the "Battle of the Overpass" at Ford's Rouge plant, these were the decisive moments that not only gave the union a seat at the bargaining table, but set the tone for talks to follow for decades to come. There's no question the UAW has won tremendous gains for its members in the auto industry: great wages, good retirement packages, a platinum healthcare package. But the cost of these deals simply won't be borne by the customer anymore. It's no longer 1970, when the Big Three swallowed hard and simply raised sticker prices. Every time they do, more customers migrate over to the imports.

Okay, so here's the case one can make against the UAW: The fact that workers at the various "transplants" keep rejecting union organizing bids cannot and should not be ignored. No question, management at companies like Toyota and Honda have done their best to keep UAW drives at bay. But if the union had a positive story to sell, it's hard to imagine it would fail so utterly and completely. Meanwhile, the various restrictions on plant closings, the job banks, restrictive work rules, and so on, make it increasingly difficult for the Big Three to be competitive. In the long run, that simply results in still more lost sales. And as GM demonstrated Monday, that ultimately means fewer plants and fewer jobs.

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