Daily Edition: Dec. 7, 2005

December 6, 2005

GM Brings Back  Henderson; Devine Retiring

A shake-up in senior management has been approved by a shaken General Motors board of directors, but the move leaves some observers wondering if there could be more to follow soon after the New Year.

The most significant - and unexpected - change comes with Frederick "Fritz" Henderson's appointment as GM's new Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer. Henderson had been serving as CEO of GM Europe, which has begun showing signs of recovery after years in the red. Henderson will replace the highly-regarded John Devine. Devine's five-year contract is now expiring, but there'd been no sense he planned to step aside until recently, when GM was forced to restate earnings for 2001, taking a hit of up to $400 million. Company officials insist the embarrassing move was not involved in Devine's planned retirement. He will become a vice chairman and spend up to a year assisting Henderson in the transition.

The new CFO is "an exceptionally strong fit," declared GM Chairman Rick Wagoner, in a prepared statement. Indeed, some observers believe Henderson may be the emperor-in-waiting as GM's board, and key investors such as Las Vegas billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, watch to see if Wagoner can succeed with the turnaround plan he announced last month.

With General Motors struggling to reverse mounting losses and fast-declining market share, and particularly in the wake of the decision to close five assembly plants, an executive shake-up comes as no surprise. A number of other senior executives were moved to new assignments or announced plans to depart in the coming months, including North American manufacturing chief Guy Briggs.

But at least one name was notably absent from the list. Frequent rumors in Detroit automotive circles had predicted Gary Cowger would step aside by year's end. In a previous management realignment, he'd been shifted from president of North American operations to group vice president of global manufacturing and labor relations. Many considered that a demotion, and suggested Cowger's career was winding down. But the GM veteran played a critical role in the recent, successful effort to negotiate a multi-billion-dollar healthcare deal with the United Auto Workers. One of many well-placed sources told TheCarConnection that Cowger "has no plans to retire any time soon." -TCC Team

GM Cutting 30,000 Jobs, Eight Plants by TCC Team (11/28/2005)
"Tough medicine," but no guarantees, says Wagoner.



Spy Shots: '07 Chrysler Aspen

Here's one more NAIAS scoop: Chrysler's upscale version of the Dodge Durango, to be sold as the Aspen. We expect to see the production version of this luxury SUV in January at the Detroit Auto Show, and in dealer showrooms sometime next fall.

Subaru to Build Toyotas in Indiana

Toyota's recent investment in Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries will pay off for the bigger company almost immediately, as the two companies have agreed to build Toyotas in the underused Subaru plant in West Lafayette, Ind. Wire reports indicate that the companies could begin building Camry sedans in the plant by the end of next year. Subaru will also send a technical team to Toyota for the development of a new vehicle, the Dow Jones Newswires adds. In addition Toyota is said to be in a search for locations for a new engine plant and a new assembly plant. The states of Michigan and Arkansas are said to be in the running for the new facilities, but no timeline has been confirmed.

Toyota Chips Away at GM by Joseph Szczesny (11/28/2005)
Sales lead is slipping; 2006 could be a momentous year in auto history.


  

WJR Auto Report: Jaguar, Land Rover Drop GLBT Ads

Ford Motor Co. has announced plans to pull Jaguar and Land Rover advertising from 17 different gay and lesbian publications. The automaker insists this is a purely business decision, but it also could resolve a threatened boycott by the extremely conservative group, American Family Association. The AFA has long used the boycott stick to beat businesses into submission on issues like this, though it notably failed to force Disney to back down when the entertainment company began offering benefits to partners of its gay and lesbian employees.  Even if Ford wasn't buckling, the fact is, Detroit automakers have traditionally been reluctant to associate themselves with controversy. They've long avoided advertising in popular but risqué magazines, such as Playboy, and after a big media splash last year, Chrysler decided to back out of its sponsorship of the controversial Lingerie Bowl. Smart or spineless? It's hard to say. Mainstream manufacturers have reason to fear a backlash. On the other hand, they're clearly missing the opportunity to speak to potential buyers that ignore conventional media.

Read more in our blog, TCConfidential

Nissan Paint Repairs Itself

Nissan has developed a clear paint that repairs itself when it's scratched. The Scratch Guard Coat contains a highly elastic resin that helps prevent scratches from reaching the inner layers of the painted surface. When the paint is scratched - for instance by fingernails or a car wash machine - the surface will blend together to get back to its original state within a day to a week, depending on the depth of a scratch and the outside temperature. Scratch Guard Coat is also water repellent and effective for about three years. It will provide better protection against scratches from car wash machines, which account for the majority of paint damage. Nissan says it will be applied in the near future to an SUV. -Henny Hemmes

WORLD REPORT

Ford Adding Automatic EcoSport

Ford will add an automatic transmission EcoSport 4x4 to its portfolio by the end of the year from its Brazilian factory. The new version wil be particularly important to Mexico, where the EcoSport is exported. The Brazil-Mexico accord allows bilateral trade without import duties. The EcoSport is built at the Camaçari, State of Bahia, plant Ford opened four years ago. The plant is now operating at full capacity, two years ahead of schedule.-Fernando Calmon

Ethanol Captures 90 Percent of Brazil

Having the cheapest ethanol in the world has helped the country of Brazil become the world's leader in ethanol-powered vehicles. Some 90 percent of sales of new vehicles in 2006 are expected to be gasoline/ethanol flex-fuel vehicles. While seasonal price advantages occasionally make gas less expensive to use, the prevalence of ethanol and its ability to be used in gas engines is expected to make it the main fuel in the country for the future. -Fernando Calmon

Hyundai Motor America (HMA) President and CEO, Robert F. Cosmai, today announced that Don Dees has been named Vice President of Service for the company. Dees will be responsible for all service operations, technical training, technical support, warranty, service contracts, customer surveys, and consumer affairs functions. He will report directly to the President and CEO.


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Name Symbol Last Change
Autobytel, Inc. ABTL 5.27 +0.04 (+0.76%)
Autoliv Inc. ALV 44.45 +0.45 (+1.02%)
AutoNation Inc. AN 21.46 +0.12 (+0.56%)
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 12.90 -0.03 (-0.23%)
American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 18.77 -0.06 (-0.32%)
Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 4.51 +0.09 (+2.04%)
BorgWarner Inc. BWA 59.42 -0.22 (-0.37%)
Cummins Inc. CMI 89.75 -1.08 (-1.19%)
Dana Corporation DCN 6.99 +0.06 (+0.87%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 50.98 +0.19 (+0.37%)
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 2.43 +0.03 (+1.25%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 64.64 +0.14 (+0.22%)
Ford Motor Company F 8.11 +0.05 (+0.62%)
General Motors Corporation GM 22.39 +0.26 (+1.17%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 18.03
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 17.15
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) HMC 29.15 -0.13 (-0.44%)
Johnson Controls Inc. JCI 71.17 +0.27 (+0.38%)
Lear Corporation LEA 27.36 +0.18 (+0.66%)
Magna International Inc. MGA 66.75 -0.72 (-1.07%)
Motorola Inc. MOT 23.45 +0.16 (+0.69%)
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) NSANY 20.10 -0.08 (-0.40%)
Sonic Automotive Inc. SAH 21.40 -0.10 (-0.47%)
Siemens AG SI 77.45 +0.70 (+0.91%)
Sirius Satellite Radio SIRI 7.21 +0.07 (+0.98%)
Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) TM 97.41 -0.41 (-0.42%)
TRW Automotive Holdings TRW 25.19 -0.41 (-1.60%)
Tower Automotive Inc. TWRAQ.PK 0.09 -0.00 (-2.17%)
United Auto Group Inc. UAG 38.63 +1.19 (+3.18%)
Visteon Corporation VC 6.46 -0.08 (-1.22%)
XM Satellite Radio Hold. XMSR 28.35 -0.55 (-1.90%)

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