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

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.

I find it hard to believe I'm actually making these points, having grown up in a decidedly union household. I'd prefer to remain pro-UAW. But it's becoming harder and harder to argue labor's case.

Now let me be clear, I think GM has a lot of 'splaining to do, too. In reality, it seems like virtually everyone in Detroit is part of the problem. And if you can't find a way to become part of the solution, maybe you don't belong. -TCC Team

WJR Auto Report: GM's Big Cuts

The big cuts announced at General Motors this week are "tough medicine," in the words of CEO Rick Wagoner. The question is whether GM has taken a large enough dose to cure what ails it. Sadly, it's not the first bitter pill GM has had to swallow over the years. It ordered a procession of cut backs in the wake of the 1979 oil crisis. And in 1984, the company completely reorganized, in an ill-conceived plan that virtually paralyzed operations for two years. That prompted a series of follow-up cuts and reorganizations that started to feel like the plan-of-the-month club. Yet in 1992, it was obvious that things weren't working, as GM came within an inch of bankruptcy. Since then, the company has continued to cut and reorganize. But as Wagoner pointed out, the pace of change in the auto industry has been startling, and so, still more cuts are now needed. Yet there's one constant in the business, and that's the need for good product. And that's where GM has routinely fallen short. If it doesn't deliver soon, there'll be more tough medicine needed later.

VW's 4x4s - Ersatz and Extreme

2006 Volkswagen Polo Dune

2006 Volkswagen Polo Dune

VW has released pictures and details of two vehicles that represent the opposite ends of the 4x4 spectrum. The Polo Dune, a derivative of one of VW's smaller European sedans, isn't actually a 4x4, but has been designed to look like one to attract urban off-road wannabees. The Race Touareg 2 is designed to win an international classic rally that runs through some of the most inhospitable terrain in Africa.

The Dune has 17-inch wheels as standard, plus body-cladding and unique front and rear bumpers for the tough look, along with roof rails to cater for bringing home that extra-large order of sushi. To complete the pseudo SUV look, the five-door HUMMERette has raised suspension as standard. This is not for better ground clearance, but for "better visibility and easier access." This could be the weirdest suspension modification since British Leyland lifted the classic MGB off the ground back in 1975 to meet U.S. bumper-height legislation.

Volkswagen Race Touareg 2

Volkswagen Race Touareg 2

The second 4x4 from Wolfsburg is, however, a true off-roader. It's built for the ultimate off-road challenge on the east side of the Atlantic, the Dakar Rally. Based (loosely, as you will see from the picture) on the Touareg SUV, there will be five of them in the field when the rally starts from Lisbon in Portugal on December 31.

The name Race Touareg 2 reflects the fact that this is the second version of VW's ultimate rally weapon. The new machine is just under eight inches shorter than its predecessor yet has an increased wheelbase to help improve rough-terrain handling and allow the crew greater cockpit space. The machine's centre of gravity has also been lowered and visibility from the cockpit enhanced.

Power comes from a five-cylinder turbocharged diesel that produces around 270 hp and over 400 lb-ft of torque. The engine features dry-sump lubrication and a new two-stage turbocharging system. VW has its eyes set on an outright win in the Dakar, which would make the Touareg the first diesel-engined vehicle to take victory in the rally.

VW has put together a top-class team of drivers and navigators for the event, drawing together such drivers as rally veteran Carlos Sainz of Spain, FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup Champion Bruno Saby of France, and the first and only woman to win the Dakar Rally, Jutta Kleinschmidt of Germany. There are another two women among the co-drivers: Fabrizia Pons of Italy and Tina Thorner of Sweden.

The exact route of the Dakar Rally for 2006 is due to be revealed later this month. It is expected to cover a total distance in excess of 5600 miles and will lead competitors from Portugal through Spain to Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, and Guinea before the finish in Senegal on January 15. -Ian Norris

Ferrari Picks the Winners

Ferrari winners 2005

Ferrari winners 2005

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo and Sergio Pininfarina, head of the famous design studio, have announced the winners of the "New Concepts of the Myth" design competition featured recently at TCC. The contest was open to car design students across the world, and the winners reflected its international scope, with teams of students from colleges from Italy, Britain, and Japan producing the winning design proposals. The students responsible for the designs came from even farther afield - Spain, Germany, Great Britain, the USA, Japan, Korea, and Italy.

Four designs were chosen from twenty finalists, and the students who created them will be offered work experience at the concept design departments of either Ferrari or Pininfarina.

The competition, organized by Ferrari in partnership with Pininfarina and with the support of Alcoa (the company that produces aluminium space frames for Ferrari) attracted works from the most talented students of each college, who challenged themselves to produce 1:4 scale Ferrari models, proposing stimulating alternatives to the shapes of the current and previous mid-engined eight-cylinder cars and the front-engined twelve-cylinder cars. The students had total creative freedom, although their designs had to retain the recognizable features and values of the Ferrari marque.

The winning models were:

Millechilli

Millechilli

- "Millechili" - by Luis Agullo Spottorno (Spain) and Felix Hiller (Germany) - Istituto Europeo di Design, Turin

Fiorano

Fiorano

- "Fiorano" - by Rob Battams (UK), Tom Hardman (UK) and David Imai (USA), Coventry University - School of Art & Design

Tre Diviso

Tre Diviso

- "Tre Diviso" - by Daisuke Nagasato (Japan), Kim Teakyung (Korea) and Hiroaki Yakubo (Japan) - Tokyo Communication Arts

- "Ascari" - by Manuele Amprimo (Italy), Werner Gruber (Italy), and Yu Jae-Cheul (Korea) - Istituto Europeo di Design, Turin.

F-Zero

F-Zero

Showing the power of the Web, no fewer than 22,000 votes were cast on the contest website, resulting in a special prize for Ferrari F Zero, which was the design best-rated by site visitors. The F Zero stretched the international links even further, with a team representing two more countries. It was the work of Jean-Michel Raad (France), Shen Jiang (China), and Leon Dang (China) of the CoventryUniversitySchool of Art & Design. -Ian Norris

FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases

PRNewswire

Ken Okuyama, design director for Turin, Italy-based Pininfarina, the world's oldest established automotive styling house, will provide a first-hand look into reinterpreting an automotive icon - the Maserati Birdcage - as a guest speaker at the Design Los Angeles automobile designers' conference. The conference is held concurrently with the LA Auto Show's second media day on January 5, 2006. All conference participants and media days' attendees - including journalists and automobile industry personnel - are welcome to attend Ken Okuyama's presentation, as well as BMW Group AG's Chief of Design Chris Bangle's opening address in the morning.


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American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 21.45 +0.05 (+0.23%)
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Ford Motor Company F 8.34 +0.02 (+0.24%)
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