Daily Edition: Feb. 24, 2006

February 23, 2006

Benz SL Goes to 550 and 382

2006 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

2006 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

You don't want to mess with a good thing, so Mercedes didn't change too much about its 2007 Mercedes Benz SL550 roadster. Underneath the hood, a new 5.5-liter V-8 engine matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission compelled the name change from SL500 to SL550, although outsideNorth America, the name will remain SL500.

The new engine produces 382 hp from those 5.5 liters, up 80 hp from the previous engine. Torque also gets a boost, moving up 52 lb-ft to 391. As you'd expect, this is a thoroughly modern and sophisticated chain-driven, double-overhead-cam engine with variable-valve timing to get the best balance between performance and efficiency.

Hooked to this engine is a new adaptive seven-speed automatic transmission called the 7G-Tronic, which comes with a sports system that includes paddle shifting on the steering wheel. It shifts smoother, but engineers say the shifts are also 30 percent faster.

The second generation of Mercedes' Active Body Control is installed to the SL550. It allows 60 percent more control of the suspension, to keep the car flat when the driving gets strenuous. The entire active suspension system and various brake assists work together to - well, they can't change the laws of physics, but they do extend the time until they take effect. The result is to make every driver better and safer without their even realizing it.

The appearance changes are subtle. A new front air dam, front grille, revised taillamps and redesigned door-entry sills, and a new 18-inch ten-spoke wheel are the extent of outside updates. Inside, the upgrades are the materials - new high-quality leather and some new colors, including black and red, and some new toys-and-trinkets like Sirius Satellite radio and hands-free telephone capability (you have to buy the Bluetooth or Multi Handset Interface separately).

To honor the 50th anniversary of the most famous of this line, the 300SL, the North American market will get an SL Roadster 50th Anniversary Edition. Just 550 of them will be sold, and they'll feature exclusive double five-spoke wheels, a brown leather and black ash trim interior, and a pewter-colored exterior.

Prices won't be released until closer to the April sale date, but expect the new SL550 it to go up about a percent or so. -David Schmidt

2006 Geneva Motor Show Preview, Part I by Ian Norris (2/20/2006)
Geneva gets into gear with Aston, Bentley, Ford, and Lotus.


Enzo Wrecker Details Emerge

Earlier this week, TCConfidential told you about the smashing crash-up of a Ferrari Enzo on the streets of Malibu. The Los Angeles Times has more details on the driver, who claimed to be a passenger in the car, a story discarded by police. The man, Stefan Eriksson, had worked for a European company, Gizmondo, that was trying to market a handheld game like Sony's PSP. Last fall, Eriksson - who had driven at Le Mans in a Ferrari logoed by Gizmondo, left the company in a cloud of allegations that he had been convicted of counterfeiting in Sweden in the early 1990s. The company collapsed, but Eriksson left with enough money to live in a Bel-Air mansion, where the Times unsuccessfully sought an interview with him on Wednesday. Eriksson had told police at the Enzo crash scene that a German man named Dietrich was the real driver of the car and had run away on foot, but police took other accounts from witnesses who said Eriksson had been racing a Benz SLR. Eriksson later tested at 0.09 percent BAC.


Group 1 Megadealership Posts Record Revenues

Group 1 Automotive, publicly-owned 95-store megadealer, overcame the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, plus reduced sales of domestic brands, and reported a fourth-quarter net income spurt of 44 percent as revenues for the full year 2005 rose to a record $5.96 billion. Houston-based Group 1 finished a year marked by a corporate reorganization plan with "meaningful improvements in our overall profit performance," said President and CEO Earl J. Hesterberg. As gross revenues advanced 9.8 percent for the year, a fourth-quarter net income of $16.2 million led to a yearly net of $70.3 million, or $2.90 a share.

The upbeat results prompted Group 1's board to declare its first-ever quarterly dividend, 13 cents a share, and Hesterberg to forecast a further guidance advance this year to $3.15-$3.45 a share if new-vehicle sales remain at the 17 million annualized level. Hesterberg said in an analyst and media conference call that luxury and import brands accounted for a company peak of 62.4 percent of new-vehicle sales in 2005, rising in the fourth quarter to 65.7 percent. Group 1 sales by brands were as follows for the year: Toyota/Lexus/Scion, 29.2 percent; Ford Motor Company brands, 18.5 percent; DaimlerChrysler, 14.8 percent; Nissan/Infiniti, 10.9 percent; GM brands, 9.8 percent; Honda/Acura, 9.6 percents; and others, 7.2 percent.

Group 1 acquired a Toyota/Lexus store in Manchester, New Hampshire, in the fourth quarter, in line with acquisition trends among other publicly owned megadealers. "The Toyota, Honda, and BMW brands are a fast-growing part of our business," said Hesterberg." - Mac Gordon


McNabb Ditches Nissan for Benz

Add Mark McNabb to the list of Nissan executives choosing other climes rather than moving with the Japanese company to Nashville, Tenn. Mercedes-Benz USA said on Thursday that McNabb would become its vice-president of marketing, effective Monday morning. McNabb, 44, will report to Paul Halata, the CEO of MBUSA.


GM Names Newman as CFO

General Motors says that Mary Boland's replacement as CFO will be Mark Newman. Newman has served as the company's assistant treasurer since 2004, and has held posts in the company's Chinese operations as well. Boland left the CFO position two weeks ago, and had served as the brand manager for the Pontiac Bonneville.


Finalists Named in World Car of the Year

2006 Mazda Miata

2006 Mazda Miata

A panel of 46 automotive journalists from around the world has come up with a final list of ten vehicles that will compete to become the 2006 World Car of the Year. The initial list of 27 vehicles has been narrowed to these finalists:

* BMW 3-Series

* Honda Civic / Civic Hybrid

* Land Rover Range Rover Sport

* Lexus IS

* Mazda MX-5

* Mercedes-Benz M-Class

* Mercedes-Benz S-Class

* Porsche Cayman S

* Suzuki Swift

* Volkswagen Passat

The winner will be chosen by secret ballots in late March. The winner will be announced at the New York Auto Show on April 13 during the show's press days. The panel of journalists also will choose a performance car, green car, and car design of the year.


FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases


Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., announced manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) today for the all-new 2007 Camry sedan…All this standard equipment adds up to excellent value with a base MSRP of $18,270, a decrease of $175 or 0.9 percent, for four-cylinder manual models, while the four-cylinder automatic models will carry an MSRP of $19,320, an increase of $45 or 0.2 percent. The Camry LE adds to this package a long list of additional features, including a remote keyless entry, eight-way-adjustable power driver's seat, and for V-6 models dual exhaust with chrome tips. Four-cylinder models will carry a base MSRP of $19,450, a decrease of $95 or 0.5 percent, for models with manual transmission. Models with automatic transmissions will be positioned at $20,500, or an increase of $125 or 0.6 percent. LE V-6 models will have a base MSRP of $23,040, or an increase of $260 or 1.1 percent. SE four-cylinder models with a manual transmission will have an MSRP of $20,790, an increase of $415 or 2.0 percent. The MSRP for automatic transmission models will be $21,790, an increase of $585 or 2.8 percent. SE models with a V-6 will start at $24,315, an increase of $290 or 1.2 percent.


Name Symbol Last Change
Autobytel, Inc. ABTL 4.75 +0.10 (+2.15%)
Autoliv Inc. ALV 53.20 -0.50 (-0.93%)
AutoNation Inc. AN 21.40 -0.11 (-0.51%)
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 16.25 -0.26 (-1.57%)
American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 17.01 -0.02 (-0.12%)
Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 6.10 +0.19 (+3.21%)
BorgWarner Inc. BWA 57.19 +0.21 (+0.37%)
Cummins Inc. CMI 106.76 -0.77 (-0.72%)
Dana Corporation DCN 3.15 -0.74 (-19.02%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 55.77 -0.69 (-1.22%)
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 2.37 -0.08 (-3.27%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 70.35 +0.49 (+0.70%)
Ford Motor Company F 8.17 -0.13 (-1.57%)
General Motors Corporation GM 20.59 -0.60 (-2.83%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 16.81 +0.02 (+0.12%)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 14.59 -0.13 (-0.88%)
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) HMC 29.82 +0.38 (+1.29%)
Johnson Controls Inc. JCI 69.15 -1.05 (-1.50%)
Lear Corporation LEA 21.92 -0.23 (-1.04%)
Magna International Inc. MGA 73.61 -0.08 (-0.11%)
Motorola Inc. MOT 21.82 +0.05 (+0.23%)
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) NSANY 23.42 -0.27 (-1.14%)
Sonic Automotive Inc. SAH 26.48 +0.13 (+0.49%)
Siemens AG SI 93.60 +0.78 (+0.84%)
Sirius Satellite Radio SIRI 5.22 -0.07 (-1.32%)
Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) TM 107.76 +1.03 (+0.97%)
TRW Automotive Holdings TRW 27.80 +0.57 (+2.09%)
Tower Automotive Inc. TWRAQ.PK 0.069 -0.002 (-2.82%)
United Auto Group Inc. UAG 43.83 +0.36 (+0.83%)
Visteon Corporation VC 4.99 -0.01 (-0.20%)
XM Satellite Radio Hold. XMSR 22.24 +0.29 (+1.32%)
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