Daily Edition: Dec. 1, 2005

November 30, 2005

Suzuki's New SX4 Takes on Sportage Et Al

2007 Suzuki SX4

2007 Suzuki SX4

The new compact Suzuki SUV headed for these shores will be dubbed the SX4, the Japanese automaker announced on Wednesday. In a brief release, Suzuki confirmed that the new global ute will be adapted to be sold in the U.S. alongside Suzuki’s existing Grand Vitara. The new ute will offer a five-door body style with all-wheel drive and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, as well as a choice of either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. While European versions of the vehicle will be built in Eastern Europe, the U.S. version likely will be built in Asia. Dimensions include a wheelbase of 98.4 inches and an overall length of 162.8 inches. The 2007 model-year vehicle will be shown in Geneva and at the New York Auto Show next April.

Spy Shots: 2007 Suzuki SUV by Brenda Priddy (11/14/2005)
Theta's the next letter in the Suzuki alphabet.

Gas Prices Down, Counter-Intuitively

The U.S. Department of Energy, which tracks gas prices nationally and reports each week, on Monday (11/28) reported for the second week in a row that retail prices have fallen sharply nationwide in November.  The DOE reported the national average had dropped from

$2.376 November 7 to $2.154 by the 28th, with the lowest prices on average in the Midwest, led by Ohio at $1.999. Highest prices were on the West Coast, still upwards of $2.40.

Indeed, by midweek of the Thanksgiving holiday with millions of motorists hitting the road, gas prices fell below $2 per gallon in some, if not many, communities. For example, pump prices in West Florida had dropped from $2.039 the weekend before to as low as $1.969 at the beginning of the week following the holiday.

This trend in lower prices is counter to the experience of most motorists, who long have gnashed their teeth at elevated gas pump prices for holiday periods.

As if you had a choice, prices in the Gulf Coast region, as calculated by the DOE, were second lowest after the Midwest. Among

states, Minnesota was next most economical to fill up in after Ohio.

The lowest-price regular grade, 87-octane gasoline in cities was to be found in Cleveland ($2.03), followed by Boston and Houston, virtually tied at $2.052 and $2.05.

Happy Motoring Days may be here again — unless you drive a diesel, where prices per gallon averaged nationally 32 cents per gallon higher than gasoline. Indeed one Pensacola station was spotted last week with diesel at over $3 per. Mike Davis




Will BlackBerry Suit Shut Down Detroit?


The popular BlackBerry device has become the business e-mail tool of choice for millions — including a large chunk of the auto industry. And this week, companies like General Motors and Toyota are faced with a possible service disruption for the critical devices as the maker of the BlackBerry devices has lost another ruling in a patent-infringement case that could shut down e-mail service through the devices. Research In Motion Ltd., the company that markets the BlackBerry, had its petition to an appeals court turned down on Wednesday in a patent case in which it says a settlement of $450 million was reached. Not so, says NTP Inc., the holder of patents of which RIM is accused of infringing upon. In court, U.S. District Judge James Spencer said that he would not enforce the terms of the $450 million settlement that RIM says it in force, leaving open the strong possibility that more than four million users of the handheld devices will see their e-mail service shut down soon. A hearing is to be scheduled to determine if the BlackBerry service can be marketed and devices can be sold pending any new agreement between the companies. At one point, RIM could have settled the suit for about $23 million. NTP has asked the courts to make sure BlackBerry service isn’t shut down to government agencies or emergency personnel, a distinction that RIM says will be hard to make versus corporate clients like General Motors. An analyst quoted by CNN says that a new settlement could cost RIM up to $1 billion.

Jaguar Selling Coventry Plant?

Another hallmark of Jaguar history could be on the auction block as the money-losing brand is pressured to cut its losses. The Wall Street Journal reports that Jaguar won’t be losing any more jobs, but the company may be interested in selling the Browns Lane plant in Coventry where it makes some interior trim pieces for its vehicles. The plant is the historic home of the marque and while losing it would help Jaguar cut its production base further. The brand is seeking to cut production by another seven percent for a total of about 80,000 vehicles worldwide. Jaguar sales are off 30 percent this year, despite the presence of the new XJ full-size sedan. The 100-acre Browns Lane site employs about 500 workers in administrative jobs and skilled craftsmen positions; Jaguar would not cut those jobs but would instead transfer the workers to other plants in the UK, where the brand employs nearly all its 8500 employees.

Ford's Financial Position Worsens by Joseph Szczesny (10/24/2005)
Turnaround can't come too soon for number two.

Chinese Market a Land of Uncertainty


It will soon become the world’s largest car market. Or maybe not so soon. It will put an emphasis on domestic sales. Or maybe start focusing on exports. If nothing else comes through from a new study of the Chinese automotive market it’s that there is tremendous uncertainty about what the future holds.

There’s no question that manufacturers from around the world have been rushing to invest in China, according to researchers from IBM and the University of Michigan, who jointly conducted the new study. A “conservative” estimate shows that carmakers have pumped at least $20 billion into manufacturing facilities across China since just 1994, according to IBM’s Linda Bain, and that another $15 billion is committed in planned through 2008.

Researchers focused on Chinese industry, government, and educational sources for the project, since they have a clear interest in the long-term growth of the country’s fast-growing car market. But forecasts for the future varied significantly, in part reflecting the events shaping this fast-changing market. Most of those surveyed, according to the University of Michigan’s Bruce Belzowski, “feel consolidation is coming,” in a market that currently consists of at least 100 separate manufacturers — most of them small, indigenous producers struggling to survive. What the future market will look like is uncertain, though one strong scenario projects a number of foreign joint ventures will compete with a handful of surviving Chinese carmakers.

While Chinese industry insiders acknowledge foreign concerns about intellectual property rights, they also complain that manufacturers such as General Motors, Volkswagen, and Toyota are not providing their Chinese partners with the technology they need to become truly competitive. As a result, the participants in the study felt it could take anywhere from 10 to 30 years before China’s auto industry is truly world class. And that, along with booming domestic demand, is likely to limit the export of Chinese-made cars and car parts.

The study uncovers an interest in developing an auto industry — everything from design to production to distribution — distinct to China. But the IBM/Michigan project also shows that China faces many of the same problems troubling automakers, consumers, and regulators all over the world. The primary issues can be described as the “three Ps,” pollution, petroleum, and parking. —TCC Team

FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases


Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TMMNA) today announced at Opportunity Exchange, the company's annual minority business conference and trade fair, that it exceeded its target of spending $1 billion with minority Tier I businesses in 2004, one year ahead of schedule. This target, originally announced in 2002, set a goal of 7.5 percent annual minority purchases by 2005.

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Name Symbol Last Change
Autobytel, Inc. ABTL 5.22 -0.03 (-0.57%)
Autoliv Inc. ALV 43.76 -0.92 (-2.06%)
AutoNation Inc. AN 20.72 -0.22 (-1.05%)
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 13.30 +0.31 (+2.39%)
American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 21.26 -0.25 (-1.16%)
Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 4.47 -0.07 (-1.54%)
BorgWarner Inc. BWA 60.00 -0.28 (-0.46%)
Cummins Inc. CMI 89.00 +0.70 (+0.79%)
Dana Corporation DCN 6.97 +0.01 (+0.14%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 50.29 -0.36 (-0.71%)
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 2.57 -0.03 (-1.15%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 63.72 -0.10 (-0.16%)
Ford Motor Company F 8.13 -0.40 (-4.69%)
General Motors Corporation GM 21.90 -1.10 (-4.78%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 18.85 +0.32 (+1.73%)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 17.13 +0.02 (+0.12%)
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) HMC 27.96 -0.16 (-0.57%)
Johnson Controls Inc. JCI 69.45 -0.20 (-0.29%)
Lear Corporation LEA 27.84 -0.15 (-0.54%)
Magna International Inc. MGA 68.90 -1.13 (-1.61%)
Motorola Inc. MOT 24.09 -0.06 (-0.25%)
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) NSANY 20.51 -0.43 (-2.05%)
Sonic Automotive Inc. SAH 20.80 +0.24 (+1.17%)
Siemens AG SI 75.57 -0.84 (-1.10%)
Sirius Satellite Radio SIRI 7.15 +0.03 (+0.42%)
Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) TM 96.75 -3.05 (-3.06%)
TRW Automotive Holdings TRW 25.20 +0.05 (+0.20%)
Tower Automotive Inc. TWRAQ.PK 0.1025 +0.0025 (+2.50%)
United Auto Group Inc. UAG 35.62 -0.06 (-0.17%)
Visteon Corporation VC 6.76 +0.04 (+0.60%)
XM Satellite Radio Hold. XMSR 29.26 -0.25 (-0.85%)

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