Daily Edition: Dec. 5, 2005

December 5, 2005

WSJ: Ford Closing  Atlanta, St. Paul and St. Louis Plants

Three Ford Motor Company production facilities could be shuttered in a turnaround plan due from the automaker in January, according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ reports today in its online edition that Ford is still formulating its plan to cut jobs and factories, with a final plan due after the first of the year. The plan, the “Way Forward,” is said to include the closure of Ford plants in Atlanta, Ga.; St. Paul, Minn.; and St. Louis, Mo. The products affected by these closures — Taurus, trucks, and the Explorer — have already been discontinued or seen production cuts. Ford’s Atlanta plant, for example, has no new approved products beyond the Taurus, which is built there, though Ford had contemplated building a pair of new Five Hundred-derived Lincoln vehicles at the facility. Both Atlanta and St. Paul are reported to have prepared incentive packages to keep the plants open, but some analysts say Ford is best served by not only closing those plants, but its Wixom, Mich., facility as well. Also on the block are an engine-parts plant in Windsor, Ont., and a truck assembly plant in Cuautitlan, Mexico, the Journal reports. All told the plants employ about 7500 workers.

DC Builds as GM, Ford Shutter by Joseph Szczesny (11/28/2005)
Chrysler Group needs more production space - and it's getting it.

Jeep Previewing Wrangler At Detroit - Outside?

2007 Jeep Wrangler

2007 Jeep Wrangler

Detroit’s inhospitable weather in January has never prevented the auto show from going on — even in the blizzard year of 1999. But few automakers dare to take their displays out of the show hall — much less outside — due to the city’s subfreezing temperatures during the media days. But Jeep is bucking that trend: the brand that crashed its Grand Cherokee through a plate-glass window in a Detroit debut will build a mountain across the street from Cobo Hall and stage the debut of the new Wrangler two-door and the Jeep Compass on the man-made creation outside of Cobo, the Detroit News reports. The display dodges the creative limitations of Cobo Hall while bringing the display in line with the Camp Jeep displays set up at other auto shows on the circuit, including Chicago and New York. The News reports that the hill will rise opposite Cobo Hall in the forecourt of the Hotel Pontchartrain, and will be created by Mars Advertising of Pontiac, Mich.

2006 Detroit Auto Show Preview (12/4/2005)
More sheetmetal than your average showroom.

DuPont Says Silver Still Reigns

From Beijing to Berlin, there's at least one thing that motorists all seem to have in common.

Yet again, silver remains far and away the most popular color for car buyers around the world, accounting for nearly one in four passenger cars, trucks, and crossover vehicles sold during the last year. According to the latest color popularity survey by DuPont Automotive systems, white, gray, blue, and black round out the Top Five list.

Manufacturers - and their suppliers - invest a sizable fortune in trying to stay on top of fashion trends, hoping to pick the right colors each year. It's a challenging proposition considering the long lead-times at work in the auto industry. Complicating matters, suppliers like DuPont may spend several years testing new paints to make sure they can survive the wide and varied conditions owners will expose their cars to.

Making the right pick can be critical for a carmaker, says Karen Surcina, DuPont's color marketing manager, noting that "91 percent of consumers consider color in their selection" of a new car. According to the paint supplier's latest research, 39 percent of American motorists said they'd choose a different vehicle if their top pick wasn't available in the right hue.

DuPont Says Silver Still Reigns (12/4/2005)
Hot or not, motorists getting plenty of other choices, too.

UAW Prepares for Leadership Change

The United Auto Workers is starting a transition that will put a new face on the union's leadership by next summer - just as the union grapples with a harsher environment created by the onrush of globalization.

Ron Gettelfinger, the UAW's incumbent president, is expected to be nominated this week as the presidential candidate of the administration caucus, which has held the union's top offices for more than half a century. Elizabeth Bunn, the UAW's secretary-treasurer and second in the union hierarchy, also is certain to get win support for another four-year term.

With no challengers on the horizon, the nomination by the administration caucus is tantamount to re-election for both Gettelfinger and Bunn. The actual election will come next June at the union's constitutional convention in Las Vegas when delegates will actually vote.

The next part of the transition is a little more delicate. Three of the union's most experienced officers - Gerald Bantom, Nate Gooden, and Richard Shoemaker - will retire next June. All are past 65 and thus ineligible to stand for re-election. All three, however, hold positions critical to the union's relations with GM, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Mitsubishi, and NUMMI, and have been instrumental in maintaining steady relations with the automakers during recent crises.

UAW Prepares for Leadership Change (12/4/2005)
New faces mean new relationships in Detroit.

Delphi, Unions Struggle to Bargain

Delphi Corp. Corp., under prodding from General Motors Corp., is attempting to restart negotiations with its unions in an effort to reach an accord that will defuse a potentially disastrous confrontation between labor and the supplier's management team.

The United Auto Workers said that they were willing to negotiate, but they also staged demonstrations and pickets at several Delphi plants last week, underscoring the gulf between the bankrupt automotive supplier and the unions. Unions are still smarting from the verbal broadsides of Delphi CEO Robert "Steve" Miller, who has said workers are overpaid by global standards.

The protests were originally planned to coincide with a hearing in bankruptcy court in New York on compensation for Delphi executives. The hearing was postponed but the union went ahead with the protest anyway to show their opposition to broad cuts in wages and benefits demanded by Delphi's top management.

Delphi, Unions Struggle to Bargain (12/4/2005)
No common ground apparent as death match continues.


Citroën Shows New Concept Off the Beaten Auto Show Track

Citroen Air Play

Citroen Air Play

Citroën has chosen one of the lesser-known European auto shows, the Bologna Motor Show, which opens in the Italian city on December 3, to announce the C-Air Play, a new concept car that concentrates on the fun and sensation of driving without emphasizing sheer speed. The C-Air Play, a two-seater with space for luggage or one or two detachable child seats in the rear, aims to let its occupants enjoy driving as an outdoor pursuit. It has a removable roof panel, an opening rear window and extended ‘portholes’ in the lower half of the door that provide a close-up of the road intended to add to the enjoyment of driving.

The car is very compact, measuring just 129.9 inches overall with a wheelbase of 87.8 inches. It is 66.1 inches wide and 54.7 inches high, and underlining the “enjoyment without speed” message, it’s powered by a 110-hp gasoline engine that drives through an automatically actuated conventional gearbox. The combination is straight out of Citroën’s small sedans.

There are shift paddles behind the steering wheel to select gears in the gearbox’s manual mode, but when it is in automatic, Park, Drive and Neutral are selected by ‘soft-touch’ buttons incorporated into the material trimming the one-piece unit that forms the driver and passenger’s seats. Grouped together with the selector buttons are controls for the power windows and rear-view mirrors. Along with the shift paddles, the steering-wheel area also houses the speedometer, rev counter, and gas gauge, together with an airbag.

The C-Air Play’s design features soft shapes inside and out, with sloping, rounded contours front and rear, the former being broken up by large air intakes. Together with the big, wheel-arch-filling wheels, the air-intakes give the car a ‘power’ look that is more a style statement than a sign of actual performance.

The interior is cool, clean, and minimalist, with unusual ‘clamshell’ front seats that swing up and toward the center of the car to give access to the rear. There is no conventional trunklid; instead, two panels that take the place of the rear parcel shelf are accessed through the opening rear window to allow soft bags to be put in the luggage compartment.

Aimed squarely at the youth market, the C-Air Play bows to environmental trends by including Citroën’s ‘Stop & Start’ technology, which stops the engine when the car is halted in traffic and re-starts it automatically when the gas-pedal is pushed. This is already available on some of the company’s production cars.

The Bologna event traditionally brings the European auto show year to a close. It started thirty years ago as an enthusiast-oriented motor sport show, but over the past decade or so it has become more mainstream, with major European manufacturers, who were denied an Italian showcase with the death of the Turin Show in the Nineties, putting on expansive displays. It still maintains its motor sport roots, however, with displays of two and four-wheeled competition machinery and races in an arena that forms part of the show site. —Ian Norris

Renault Looking at Jaguar?

According to a report in L'Expansion, a leading French business magazine, Renault is looking at the possibility of buying Jaguar. The French company has never seen satisfactory sales for its top-of-the-range models, and new boss Carlos Ghosn is said to be keen to reverse that trend, knowing that luxury cars are more profitable than the small models that are Renault’s specialty.

The report says Renault has been rebuffed by Volvo but Jaguar is seen as a possible target. Both Volvo and Jaguar are owned by Ford, and while it is reasonable that Volvo, the most profitable of the Premier Automotive Group brands, would not be available, Jaguar has contributed little but red ink to the Ford balance sheet since it was bought in 1989. In view of Ford’s current business situation, shifting the British manufacturer for a cash injection could be more acceptable.

The interest in the luxury sector is caused by a need to bolster Renault’s profits. In the first ten months of this year, Renault has seen its share of the European market slip from 11.3 percent to less than ten percent, with sales of its best-seller, the Megane, dropping by eight percent and its large family sedan, the Laguna, losing 20 percent despite a recent facelift.

Ghosn is due to reveal his strategic plan for Renault’s future on February 6, 2006, and it will need to address the problems that have surfaced this year to spoil what was a bright sales performance. The Mégane continues to sell well, as does the newly redesigned Clio, recently elected European Car of the Year. The Twingo citycar, mainly sold in France, holds its own in the sales charts but it is old and nearing the end of its lifespan. However, Ghosn has put back the launch of a replacement, due next year, which he did not consider good enough.

The Modus, positioned between the Twingo and the Clio, is a result of Renault’s alliance with Nissan, and has much of the Micra in its gene pool. It has not, however, been a good seller in its first year of life, and sales forecasts have been revised downward drastically. In the family sedan category, the Laguna has not been a great performer since early examples were blighted by electronics problems. Even the Espace, the pioneer of the minivan revolution, is losing sales as the niche it once had to itself becomes overcrowded.

2002 Renault Vel Satis

2002 Renault Vel Satis

2002 Renault Vel Satis

2002 Renault Vel Satis

The major problem is the top of the range, where the radically styled — and strangely named — Vel Satis, which was meant to establish Renault as a force in the luxury market, has bombed. Thanks to a tax system that historically punished large-engined cars, France has had no success in the top class since the end of the Second World War. It has left Renault, Peugeot, and Citroen with no heritage to build upon and no worthwhile engines of over 3.0 liters capacity to compete. Hence Renault’s interest in buying luxury-car expertise and heritage. The company also lacks an SUV, but that is being addressed by taking one that will be built in Korea by Renault’s Samsung division, due to go on sale in 2007. —Ian Norris

FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases


The striking evolution of Italian car design will be presented in "Five Decades of Lamborghini," a one-day-only exhibition of sports cars that bridged the gap between racers and station cars and defined luxury and performance for two generations of automotive aficionados. The exhibition is being presented by the non-profit Columbus Citizens Foundation of New York City in partnership with Fortunoff.  It coincides with Fortunoff's "The Secrets of Italy" pre-holiday VIP event, which celebrates the unsurpassed artistry of Italian designers, craftsmen, artisans and culinary masters. Starting with Lamborghini's first production model and ending with the latest 2005 Gallardo, which has a top speed of 192 miles per hour, "Five Decades of Lamborghini" presents cars that illustrate advances in materials, technology and design. The developments range from an elegant 1965 350 GT to the sensually curvilinear 1972 Miura SV and the aggressively geometric Countach, which has been likened to a speeding, slippery wedge.

Click Here

Name Symbol Last Change
Autobytel, Inc. ABTL 5.35 +0.03 (+0.56%)
Autoliv Inc. ALV 43.97 +0.38 (+0.87%)
AutoNation Inc. AN 21.13 +0.03 (+0.14%)
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 12.90 -0.15 (-1.15%)
American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 19.29 -1.81 (-8.58%)
Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 4.27 -0.08 (-1.84%)
BorgWarner Inc. BWA 59.58 -1.17 (-1.93%)
Cummins Inc. CMI 90.06 -1.26 (-1.38%)
Dana Corporation DCN 6.80 -0.15 (-2.16%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 50.82 -0.16 (-0.31%)
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 2.48 +0.03 (+1.22%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 64.13 -0.85 (-1.31%)
Ford Motor Company F 8.15 +0.05 (+0.62%)
General Motors Corporation GM 22.08 -0.53 (-2.34%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 18.32 -0.36 (-1.93%)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 17.09 -0.11 (-0.64%)
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) HMC 28.80 +0.35 (+1.23%)
Johnson Controls Inc. JCI 70.46 +0.46 (+0.66%)
Lear Corporation LEA 27.09 -0.76 (-2.73%)
Magna International Inc. MGA 68.14 -0.90 (-1.30%)
Motorola Inc. MOT 23.59 -0.61 (-2.52%)
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) NSANY 20.28 -0.37 (-1.79%)
Sonic Automotive Inc. SAH 21.47 +0.07 (+0.33%)
Siemens AG SI 76.81 -0.21 (-0.27%)
Sirius Satellite Radio SIRI 7.12 +0.01 (+0.14%)
Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) TM 97.82 -0.94 (-0.95%)
TRW Automotive Holdings TRW 25.26 -0.13 (-0.51%)
Tower Automotive Inc. TWRAQ.PK 0.10 -0.00 (-2.44%)
United Auto Group Inc. UAG 37.19 +0.53 (+1.45%)
Visteon Corporation VC 6.69 -0.01 (-0.15%)
XM Satellite Radio Hold. XMSR 29.56 -0.51 (-1.70%)

The Car Connection
See the winners »
The Car Connection
Commenting is closed for this article
Ratings and Reviews
Rate and review your car for The Car Connection
Review your car
The Car Connection Daily Headlines
I agree to receive emails from The Car Connection. I understand that I can unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy.
Thank you! Please check your email for confirmation.