Daily Edition: Mar. 1, 2006

February 28, 2006

TCC's Ian Norris Dies

TheCarConnection is saddened to note the passing of our European colleague and friend, Ian Norris. Norris had traveled to Geneva to cover the motor show from his home in Le Mans and died at the train station in the Swiss city.

The news of Ian’s death swept quickly through the Geneva show and among his colleagues. Steve Cropley, editor of Autocar, said Norris was “genuinely unique” and “deserved his place in the (French) sun,” alluding to Norris’ move to Le Mans late in life. “He had gotten his world in order…and had the courage to set himself up in a place as emotive and automotive as Le Mans.”

Norris had recently celebrated forty-five years covering the car industry. Back in 1958 he joined Austin as an apprentice, and at the end of his training went into the company’s PR department. It was during the great days of the Mini, and London was swinging. Norris moved from Austin to Dunlop, then to Lucas before becoming a journalist in 1978.

He reported for UPI and Cycle Weekly in the U.S. during that time, briefly returning to PR with Jaguar and resuming his writing career in 1990, taking on TheCarConnection in 1998.

Articles written by Ian Norris


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2006 Geneva Motor Show

2006 Geneva Motor Show

GM Streamlining for Profit

General Motors arguably "hasn't been the world's largest car company in 10 to 15 years," suggested the automaker's "car czar," Bob Lutz, during a Tuesday night dinner. "We were a conglomerate of four to five regional companies with relatively little to do with each other. No wonder Honda and Toyota have been cleaning our clocks." The tough-talking veteran said there may be a positive side to the threat of losing sales supremacy. It is a wake-up call for the GM team that it can no longer expect to win without putting up a real fight, Lutz said.

A number of steps are underway to improve the odds of a comeback, he added, starting with the switch to a global product development system this year. Among the goals, GM expects to halve the number of global architectures it now relies on for its varied vehicles. That could have saved $200 million just by having products like the Opel Signum and Malibu Maxx share more of their underlying components, said Lutz. The critical thing is to make sure that there is no badge engineering, he emphasized. The new GM system will reduce the number of prototypes it needs by 40 percent, said Lutz, saving up to $200,000 for each of the advanced vehicles. And GM expects the new development system to help it shave 20 percent in materials costs through the better use of economies of scale. Overall, GM is gunning for a 25-percent reduction in engineering costs and overall product development expenditures.

Under new global system, specific types of vehicles will be assigned to various regional development centers, no matter where the products will ultimately be marketed. Saturns, for example, will largely be developed in Europe, along with Opel vehicles, according to Lutz. Europe, he noted, does a better job on medium-size passenger cars than the U.S. Large trucks will be the purview of American engineers and designers. Small pickups will be handled by Brazil, while "very small cars" will go to Asia, primarily what used to be the Daewoo operation in South Korea. But Lutz stressed that while development might be focused in one country, "members of the team will look like the United Nations."

2006 Geneva Motor Show, Part I by TCC Team (2/28/2006)
DaimlerChrysler shows Brabus Smart, AMGs, and Hornet.


Honda Backing Away from Hybrids?

Recent reports have suggested that Honda is having second thoughts about hybrid powertrains. It's fair to say that CEO Takeo Fukui isn't rushing to fill the automaker's lineup with the high-mileage technology - at least not yet. While he told TheCarConnection.com hybrids have great potential, he stressed that it will be hard to push the technology into the mainstream "unless (production) costs come down." The outspoken executive said that while they represent an ecologically-friendly alternative, "there has to also exist a good business equation," and that is hard to justify right now, Fukui said. "We'll probably have more" than the current Insight, Accord, and Civic hybrids, he suggested, but when remains a question. Besides, he added, the hybrid "is not the only solution." Honda, Fukui said, is looking at a variety of other options, including ethanol and diesel powertrains, as well as hydrogen power.

2006 Geneva Motor Show, Part II by TCC Team (2/28/2006)
Land Rover Land_e, Rolls coupe concept, and BMW's Z4 M Coupe.


Lexus Gaining Traction in Europe

While Honda officials may be questioning the role of hybrids, Lexus, the luxury arm of Toyota, has no such qualms. Gasoline-electric technology could soon account for a quarter of Lexus sales in Europe, suggested the automaker's vice president, Karl Schicht, during a Geneva preview. Lexus sales have been steadily growing in recent years, he noted, though they fell slightly short of the maker's 30,000 target last year. The RX sport-utility vehicle has been the biggest seller for Lexus in Europe, and the RX400h hybrid racked up 4612 sales in 2005, about 30 percent of total RX volume. That number, noted Schicht, "was constrained by volume," and should see a significant increase in 2006, "further proving that hybrids are a brand-shaping technology" for Lexus. A second HEV, the GS450h, will be launched in 2006, noted Schicht, so for the year as a while, hybrids "could become 25 percent of our total sales," said the Lexus VP.

2006 Geneva Motor Show, Part III by TCC Team (2/28/2006)
Lexus gaining traction, Lambo LP 640, and Opel GT.


Stern, Sirius Sued by CBS

Satellite radio’s battles over talent heated up this week as CBS Radio announced that it has filed suit against Howard Stern, his company One Twelve, Inc., his agent Don Buchwald, his agent’s firm Don Buchwald & Associates, Inc., and Sirius Satellite Radio, Inc. CBS says it wants compensatory and punitive damages to cover Stern’s multiple breaches of contract, fraud, unjust enrichment, and misappropriation of CBS Radio’s broadcast time. It further seeks damages from Sirius Satellite Radio, Inc. for unfair competition and tortious interference with Stern’s CBS contract. CBS’ complaint argues that Stern improperly used his old morning show on the CBS network to tout the fact he was planning to defect to Sirius. What apparently really incensed CBS is that Sirius actually paid Stern a bonus in the form of 34 million shares of stock valued at approximately $220 million, according to the complaint, after Sirius exceeded certain subscription targets set initially when they signed Stern. “All of Stern’s actions for which he received this expedited compensation occurred during the time that Stern was under exclusive contract with CBS Radio, when the Sirius payment terms to Stern were kept secret,” the complaint said. Didn’t CBS brass notice that Stern was promoting his move to Sirius during his old morning show? —Joe Szczesny



Chinese Eye Tritec


The Tritec engine factory, in the State of Paraná, has attracted the interest of the Chinese, according to the New York Times. Lifan, a Tritec client, wants to purchase the plant — and move the factory to Chongqing, in China. DaimlerChrysler and BMW, present owners of the company, deny the story; Bernd Gottschalk, president of the VDA, a German auto industry ruling body, adds that they would be cautious in selling advanced technology to the Chinese. Tritec supplies all the engines for the MINI, which accounted for 85 percent of the Brazilian plant’s production in 2005. However, BMW has chosen to develop another engine for the next MINI with Peugeot; that vehicle is scheduled to debut in 2007. The switch is forcing Tritec to look for other customers, or to be shut down or sold. A $500 million BMW-Chrysler joint venture, Tritec was founded in 1999. Capacity today is for 400,000 engines a year. —Fernando Calmon



Gulf Widens


The common market of South America, Mercosul in Portuguese, has had its biggest momentum from the automotive industry, the sector that has accelerated regional integration. But now, the integration is coming to a halt thanks to a decision by the government of Argentina, where some automakers such as GM and especially Ford have made their biggest production bets. Beginning January 1st, an entirely free market, with no quotas or other restrictions, was to have been enjoined — but the Argentines said no. The impasse, which will not be broken before June, will as a result slow negotiations within the auto industry, both with the European Union and the U.S. via the nascent AFTA (Americas Free Trade Area) Treaty. —Fernando Calmon


FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases


The 2007 Lexus GS450h, the world’s first luxury performance hybrid sedan, goes on sale in early May with a base Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $54,900. Beyond its advanced gas/electric hybrid powertrain and Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) stability control system, the base price includes a wide array of premium standard features typically offered as popular options on the GS300 and GS430.


Name Symbol Last Change
Autobytel, Inc. ABTL 4.67 -0.06 (-1.27%)
Autoliv Inc. ALV 53.55 -0.51 (-0.94%)
AutoNation Inc. AN 20.91 -0.48 (-2.24%)
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 16.74 +0.21 (+1.27%)
American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 16.22 -0.69 (-4.08%)
Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 6.10 -0.37 (-5.72%)
BorgWarner Inc. BWA 55.77 -0.68 (-1.20%)
Cummins Inc. CMI 108.28 -0.62 (-0.57%)
Dana Corporation DCN 1.76 -0.02 (-1.12%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 55.47 -1.21 (-2.13%)
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 2.29 -0.06 (-2.55%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 69.67 -0.80 (-1.14%)
Ford Motor Company F 7.97 -0.11 (-1.36%)
General Motors Corporation GM 20.31 +0.20 (+0.99%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 16.66 -0.36 (-2.12%)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 14.33 -0.07 (-0.49%)
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) HMC 29.38 -0.83 (-2.75%)
Johnson Controls Inc. JCI 71.27 +0.75 (+1.06%)
Lear Corporation LEA 20.86 -0.39 (-1.84%)
Magna International Inc. MGA 74.42 -0.12 (-0.16%)
Motorola Inc. MOT 21.40 -0.35 (-1.61%)
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) NSANY 23.01 -0.18 (-0.78%)
Sonic Automotive Inc. SAH 26.49 -0.21 (-0.79%)
Siemens AG SI 91.98 -2.07 (-2.20%)
Sirius Satellite Radio SIRI 5.11 -0.12 (-2.29%)
Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) TM 106.87 -1.08 (-1.00%)
TRW Automotive Holdings TRW 25.60 -0.88 (-3.32%)
Tower Automotive Inc. TWRAQ.PK 0.069 -0.002 (-2.82%)
United Auto Group Inc. UAG 43.24 -0.93 (-2.11%)
Visteon Corporation VC 4.66 -0.08 (-1.69%)
XM Satellite Radio Hold. XMSR 22.09 +0.40 (+1.84%)
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