Daily Edition: Feb. 1, 2006

February 1, 2006

TCC Drives: 2007 Jaguar XK Coupe/Convertible

2001 Dodge Intrepid R/T

2001 Dodge Intrepid R/T

In the rarified sphere of luxury cars, brands stay relevant as long as buyers believe they stand for one or two simple things. Lexus' hallmark is impeccable reliability, while BMW's is sporting attitude. Audi has sleek design and all-wheel drive to its credit, while Mercedes-Benz still carries the purple aura of Teutonic engineering despite what we in the South would call "the recent unpleasantness."

At Jaguar, the keyword of the day, as you might know from some fluffy high-gloss ads, is "gorgeous." But underlying that airy, accurate notion is something more substantial, and nearly as light: aluminum. Aluminum construction has changed the XJ sedan from a slight, ponderous sedan into a strong, sleek animal. And this year the already gorgeous XK undergoes an aluminum-based transformation that effects the same kind of change, making it quicker, roomier, and lighter than the former XK8.

2007 Jaguar XK Coupe/Convertible by Marty Padgett (2/1/2006)
Gorgeous, yes - but technically tight, too.


Ten Questions: Ian Callum and the New XK

The new XK is sensuous, glamorous, and sleek. But how did it get that way? Jaguar chief designer sat down with TheCarConnection at the global launch of the new XK coupe and convertible inSouth Africa to share exclusive details of the car's development:

Ten Questions: Ian Callum and the XK by Marty Padgett (1/30/2006)
It's all about the stance, Jaguar designer says of new sportscar.


New Volvo S80 Gets V-8, Six-Cylinder Versions

2007 Volvo S80

2007 Volvo S80

Next month's Geneva Motor Show will host the world debut of the new Volvo S80 full-size sedan, which will go on sale by the end of 2006 in the U.S. The new S80 sports smoother styling, particularly inside where it shares the slimline center console design of the compact S40 sedan. The second-generation sedan will be available with the same V-8 engine found in the XC90, with 311 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. A new in-line six-cylinder engine bows in the S80 as well; its compact design makes it nearly as small as the company's five-cylinder engines and it can be mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It displaces 3.2 liters and makes 232 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive will be available on V-8 models at launch; stability control and tire pressure monitors are standard equipment, while an electronically controlled suspension and adaptive cruise control are options. Volvo expects to sell 50,000 copies a year; prices have not been announced.

2006 Volvo C70 by Marty Padgett (1/30/2006)
Two in one for four. Don't worry - there's no math quiz afterward.


New Avalanche Falling on Chicago

2007 Chevrolet Avalanche

2007 Chevrolet Avalanche

GM continues the rollout of its new full-size trucks and SUVs at the Chicago auto show next week with the launch of the Avalanche.  Chevrolet says that the new vehicle will have more power, segment-leading fuel economy and flex-fuel capability, and a better interior. The new 'Lanche goes on sale in the second quarter of this year. GM also will celebrate the 10th anniversary of OnStar at the Chicago show, which opens to the media next Wednesday, Feb. 8.



Bush Boosts Ethanol, Hydrogen in State of the Union

President Bush called on the nation to begin a transition away from oil in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, an address which he delivered as the price of a barrel of oil hovered near $70 a barrel. "America is addicted to oil which is often imported from unstable parts of the world," the President told a joint session of Congress in which he laid out plans to diversify the nation's energy platform. "The best way to break this addiction is through technology." In the speech, President Bush called for increased federal research into alternative fuels such as ethanol made from weeds or wood chips instead of corn, a new fuel that would be competitive with corn-based ethanol in six years. Other aspects of his proposed $10 billion Advanced Energy Initiative were increased funding for clean coal, nuclear, and wind technology to "change how we power our homes and offices." To "change how we power our automobiles," Bush prescribed increased research on batteries for hybrids and on hydrogen as vehicle fuel, of ethanol competitive in six years. The goal, Bush said, would be to "replace 75 percent of oil imports from the Middle East by 2025…This country can make our dependence on Middle East oil a thing of the past."

Study Boosts Ethanol As Fuel by Joseph Szczesny (1/30/2006)
Emissions study finds it's not "negative" on energy.


Harris In, Kowaleski Out at GM PR

Steve Harris, former head of General Motors' public relations department, is returning to the company as the replacement for Tom Kowaleski, who was Harris' replacement as vice president of global communications. GM said in a release today that the changes are effective tomorrow.

Harris returns to GM after a stint with a communications firm in metro Detroit.

Kowaleski will stay on through the month to assist in the transition, according to the company. "I've been doing a lot of thinking over the last months about what gives me the most satisfaction, and provides the highest value to those I work for and with," Kowaleski wrote in the official release. "I've also been presented with some excellent opportunities, and I've concluded that now is the best time to take advantage of them, to get closer to the kind of work I most enjoy."

Kowaleski came to GM from Chrysler's European operations and prior to that, the company's headquarters in Auburn Hills. Harris, 60, was a GM PR person before leaving for American Motors in 1979 and continuing with Chrysler until joining GM in the late 1990s.

PR Survey Puts Chrysler, Volvo Top by Gary Witzenburg (10/3/2005)
Which automakers are most, and least, adept players in the media relations game?

Witz: How GM Should Fix Itself by Gary Witzenburg (11/21/2005)
There's no quick and easy solution, but perceptions could help greatly.


Camaro and Camry Top Buzz Meter at Detroit/LA Shows

According to analysis of online "buzz" about new cars introduced at January's Detroit and Los Angeles auto shows, consumers were most chatty about muscle-car concepts Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger last month. And when it comes to production cars, the Toyota Camry was the buzz leader.

Intelliseek, which is about to join firms BuzzMetrics and Nielsen to offer the Nielsen BuzzMetrics solution, analyzed thousands of online discussions (Dec. 1, 2005 to Jan. 23, 2006) that originated on auto forums and blogs, including "buzz" about production vehicles and concept cars introduced at the auto shows. Among the top ten concept vehicles, the Chevrolet Camaro captured 26 percent of consumer "buzz," followed by the Dodge Challenger (24 percent), Buick Enclave (16 percent), Chrysler Imperial (10 percent), Nissan Urge (7 percent), Infiniti coupe concept (5 percent), Mazda Kabura (4 percent), Lincoln MKS (4 percent), Ford Super Chief (4 percent), and Ford Reflex (3 percent).

And among the top ten production vehicles, the Toyota Camry captured 17 percent of buzz, followed by the Honda Fit (13 percent), Lexus LS 460 (10 percent), Ford Edge (8 percent), Chevrolet Tahoe (8 percent), Nissan Sentra (8 percent), Jeep Compass (8 percent), Chrysler Aspen (7 percent), Dodge Caliber (6 percent), and Jeep Wrangler (4 percent).
Carmakers more and more are tracking online buzz to find out what consumers and influential bloggers and online communities are spreading about their brands. And in the case of greenlighting auto show concepts, online buzz has become as valuable to companies as show floor interviews and chatter. -Jim Burt


Tower Says It Wants Out Of Court Settlement

Tower Automotive Corp. said the company is looking for a way to settle its differences with the United Auto Workers and other unions outside of court - despite the company's motion in court to have a judge set aside its labor contracts.

The company's preference is to reach a negotiated settlement with the UAW, United Steel Workers of America, and the CWA-IUE, said Tower spokeswoman Sharon Wenzl. "We're ready to meet with them at any time," she said.

The judge presiding over the Tower bankruptcy has set a hearing on Feb. 27 to hear arguments on whether to set aside the company's current labor agreements.

Wenzl added Tower's goal is to emerge from bankruptcy as soon as next summer as a profitable and competitive enterprise without using the court to set aside the labor contracts. However, the successful reorganization of the company requires sacrifice from all key parties, she said. "Salaried and non-union colleagues have already made concessions totaling $32 million annually. We need our union colleagues to participate in a fair and equitable manner or many jobs will be jeopardized," she said.

Tower has already cut the wages and benefits of non-union employees. The concessions being sought by the company would roll back union wages to the regional averages for manufacturing employees that are calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor, she added.
The three unions, representing more than 3000 workers at nine Tower plants in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio, earlier this week said that they will strike if the bankruptcy judge sets aside their current labor contracts. Any strike would have an immediate impact on Ford, Chrysler, and Nissan, union officials said.

Bob King, who directs the UAW's Parts and Suppliers Department, said workers have been asked to accept wage cuts ranging from $1.50 to $3 per hour. "Unfortunately, Tower's reorganization plan is a recipe for failure. It takes money from workers, enriches executives, and does nothing to really fix the company," said King, who noted Tower was demanding wage cuts with no commitments whatsoever to retain jobs or make new investments. -Joe Szczesny


Polk: First-Time Buyers Shun Traditional Media

Dead-tree publications, broadcast TV, and daily newspapers are a thing of the past when it comes to wooing first-time car buyers, according to a new study compiled by the Polk Center for Automotive Studies. The analysts looked at the shopping habits of first-time new-vehicle buyers and found that 35 percent of them went to the Internet as their first stop for car information. Television ranked second at 8.2 percent, with 4.4 reading magazines and 3.6 percent reading newspapers for their background research, and only 1.1 percent turning to radio. Lonnie Miller, managing director for the Polk Center for Automotive Studies, put it bluntly: "The Internet's relevance in the 18-30 year age group has reached critical mass and is completely reconfiguring how car companies need to reach out to first-time buyers." Miller said podcasts and video on demand would create new marketing opportunities for advertisers, as will mobile technology like PDAs and cell phones. "Generation Y is tuning out traditional advertising, and watching what they want, when they want. Creating breakthrough content and developing relationships with customers through emerging media technologies will separate the winners from the losers in the next five years," he added. The study also found that 65 percent of first-time buyers made their choices without any input from friends or family, and only seven percent went back to the showrooms their parents bought vehicles from. Full results are available at http://www.polk.com.


GM Cuts Pontiac G6 Production

The Oprah touch apparently hasn't lifted the Pontiac G6 to the stellar sales heights reached by, say, A Million Little Pieces. Pontiac will cut production of the mid-size sedan and coupe range by ten percent, the Detroit News reports, and will lay off some 250 to 400 workers as a result. The G6 went on sale last year after a stunning publicity coup on the Oprah show, in which 276 studio audience members were given a new G6. The News cites competition in the mid-size segment, which includes the Honda Accord and the upcoming new Toyota Camry, both offered in hybrid models. Pontiac is set to launch a new hardtop convertible version of the G6 priced at less than $29,000 this spring. A GM spokesman told the paper that G6 sales were up in the fourth quarter, and that the cuts would bring production to sustainable levels.


New Yukon Denali Priced from $47,990

GMC's zooty Yukon Denali has a new look for the 2007 model year - and now it has a new price tag, too. GMC says the Yukon Denali will go on sale with a base price of $47,990, including $875 destination, which would be $3070 less than the last edition of the vehicle. Standard gear on the Denali version includes chrome trim and special head and taillamps, wood trim, 18-inch wheels, power-folding second-row seats, and a 380-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 with a six-speed automatic transmission. Options that can be ordered include a navigation system, a DVD entertainment system, and 20-inch wheels. Sales begin in late spring.


WJR Auto Report: Hardtop Convertibles Take Off

Hawaii isn't the sort of place you normally wind up while testing cars, yet the quiet town of Hana proved appropriate for our drive in the new Volvo C70. This is the rainy side of Maui, where even the sunniest day can be disrupted by sudden, tropical storms. That gave us the perfect opportunity to try Volvo's new hardtop convertible roof. Within 30 seconds, the C70 converts from open-air to closed coupe, the three-piece roof sliding out of sight like cards in a magician's hands. No wonder the Swedish automaker expects to double sales of the old C70, with its conventional, canvas top. Of course, Volvo isn't the only automaker using this slick technology. Mercedes offers it on several models, including the lavish SL sports car. But the price of a hardtop convertible is dropping, and Pontiac will soon bring the concept to the mainstream with its G6 convertible. That's good news for those who like driving al fresco but want the added security of a hardtop, especially in winter. As more of these foldaway hardtops hit market, expect to see convertible sales soar.


FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases


While some companies are waiting until Sunday to debut their Super Bowl ads, Toyota is offering consumers a sneak peak of its entire Super Bowl commercial on Toyota.com and Toyota.com/espanol. The ad also is available as an iPod download. Toyota's Super Bowl ad features a "hybrid" approach with English and Spanish to demonstrate the Camry Hybrid's use of gas and electricity. The ad features a Hispanic father and son driving in their new Camry Hybrid. The father explains that he bought a hybrid for the same reason he speaks two languages - for the boy's future.


Name Symbol Last Change
Autobytel, Inc. ABTL 4.80 -0.06 (-1.23%)
Autoliv Inc. ALV 49.40 +0.89 (+1.83%)
AutoNation Inc. AN 22.31 -0.08 (-0.36%)
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 16.89 +0.91 (+5.69%)
American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 18.80 +0.13 (+0.70%)
Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 5.45 +0.39 (+7.71%)
BorgWarner Inc. BWA 55.21 +0.33 (+0.60%)
Cummins Inc. CMI 98.44 -1.47 (-1.47%)
Dana Corporation DCN 4.85 +0.46 (+10.48%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 57.31 +0.46 (+0.81%)
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 2.28 +0.06 (+2.70%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 66.42 -0.43 (-0.64%)
Ford Motor Company F 8.68 +0.03 (+0.35%)
General Motors Corporation GM 24.34 +0.54 (+2.27%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 16.94 -0.04 (-0.24%)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 18.76 -0.11 (-0.58%)
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) HMC 28.24 +0.06 (+0.21%)
Johnson Controls Inc. JCI 70.52 +0.53 (+0.76%)
Lear Corporation LEA 25.96 +0.66 (+2.61%)
Magna International Inc. MGA 74.00 +0.66 (+0.90%)
Motorola Inc. MOT 22.61 +0.11 (+0.49%)
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) NSANY 22.55 +0.08 (+0.36%)
Sonic Automotive Inc. SAH 23.55 -0.01 (-0.04%)
Siemens AG SI 91.40 -0.87 (-0.94%)
Sirius Satellite Radio SIRI 5.86 -0.01 (-0.17%)
Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) TM 103.00 +0.56 (+0.55%)
TRW Automotive Holdings TRW 25.70 +0.20 (+0.78%)
Tower Automotive Inc. TWRAQ.PK 0.06 -0.01 (-10.45%)
United Auto Group Inc. UAG 38.39 +0.30 (+0.79%)
Visteon Corporation VC 5.34 +0.21 (+4.09%)
XM Satellite Radio Hold. XMSR 26.43 -1.04 (-3.79%)
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.