Daily Edition: Feb. 20, 2006

February 20, 2006

TCC Previews the  Geneva Motor Show

With a little more than a week to the press preview days, the whispers of Geneva introductions are being confirmed - or in a couple of cases, denied. TCC details those yeas and nays this week with twin Geneva previews that give you the latest on the new Porsche 911 Turbo, VW Concept A, Dodge Hornet Concept, and Aston Martin Rapide:

2006 Geneva Motor Show Preview, Part I (2/19/2006)
Geneva gets into gear with Aston, Bentley, Ford, and Lotus.

2006 Geneva Show Preview, Part II (2/19/2006)
New VW Concept A, Porsche 911 Turbo, BMW WRC car.


Can GM Turn Itself Around?

Workers at General Motors' Pontiac Assembly Plant, a half-hour's drive north of Detroit, got a rare bit of good news last week. The increasingly troubled automaker will not only invest $545 million to upgrade some of its Michigan factories, but it will also add an estimated 280 jobs at the Pontiac plant later this year.

The announcement comes in sharp contrast to others the automaker has made in recent months. Just weeks ago, GM revealed plans to sharply cut back on salaried pension and healthcare, while also "sharing the pain" with stockholders, who'll lose half their dividends, and senior executives, who'll lose up to half their pay. Last autumn, CEO Rick Wagoner announced plans to close five assembly plants and trim around 30,000 jobs.

Even the latest, upbeat announcement has fueled skepticism. The Pontiac plant is being readied for a new line of full-size pickups GM will start producing in October. They share their underlying platform with a generation of new sport-utility vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Tahoe, which went on sale in January.

When the giant automaker began work on those SUVs, it envisioned a market segment of at least one million vehicles annually. Now, however, it's more likely to run in the range of 750,000, according to vice chairman Bob Lutz. Even if GM can maintain its current share, an eye-popping 60 percent, that's a significant shortfall.

Can GM Turn Itself Around? (2/19/2006)
Is there enough time, analysts ask?


Delphi Sets Final UAW Deadline

The bankrupt Delphi Corp. has once again delayed confrontation over the company's expensive labor contracts. However, Delphi has imposed what officials described as a hard deadline at the end of March on contract talks with the United Auto Workers and other unions.

Delphi officials said they were hopeful the three-way discussions, involving General Motors and the UAW will produce an accord by March 30. However, without an agreement, Delphi will have no choice but to seek help from bankruptcy court in canceling the contracts, the company said.

Robert "Steve" Miller, Delphi Chairman and chief executive, said he wanted to reach an agreement with the unions and without court intervention. But Miller also has said Delphi, which is GM's largest supplier, is not competitive paying the kind of wages and benefits mandated by its current labor pacts.

Delphi Sets Final UAW Deadline (2/19/2006)
Will there be a strike on March 30?


Ghosn Puts His Stamp on Renault

Just as he did at Nissan, Carlos Ghosn is planning to use a new product offensive to boost the fortunes of Renault with a combination of judicious cost-cutting and a move upmarket.
At the same time, Ghosn also is ordering Nissan to move deeper into the commercial vehicle market and to maintain a close watch on costs, including those in North America, where the company has moved to limit its future liabilities for retiree healthcare.

At Renault's annual press conference in Paris, Ghosn unveiled his plans for the French automaker, including a bold plan to raise sales volumes by almost one-third within four years. The plan includes bringing 26 new Renault models to market including a number of upscale models. "That's not a forecast, it's a commitment," said Ghosn, who used the same approach to launch the Nissan turnaround in 1999.

The new product offensive also is designed to reduce Renault's dependence on the Mégane compact. "This heavy dependence on a single product is a source of vulnerability for the company," Ghosn said. Ghosn also ruled out any attempt by Renault to enter the North American market before 2009.

Ghosn Puts His Stamp on Renault (2/19/2006)
New plan includes major move upmarket.


Schrembri Out at Mitsubishi

In a surprise move, Mitsubishi Motors North America announced the resignations of Dave Schembri, executive vice president of sales and marketing, and Wayne Killen, vice president of marketing. Mitsubishi said they left to pursue other opportunities. However, Schrembri had joined only about a year ago and had succeeded in halting the slide in Mitsubishi sales and also in getting buzz going around the company's advertising and products. Schrembri could not be reached for comment. No replacements were named. For the present, the sales and marketing operations will be directed by president and CEO Hiroshi Harunari, Mitsubishi's official statement said. -Joe Szczesny

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