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?

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.

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