Daily Edition: Mar. 2, 2006

March 2, 2006

Feb. Sales: Chrysler, Japanese Strong

Japanese manufacturers continued to gain ground in February auto sales, despite a relatively strong showing by the Chrysler Group, which saw sales increase in what was basically a flat market.

General Motors and Ford reported another decline for February whileToyota, Honda and Nissan posted modest sales increases. GM said its sales dropped 2.5 percent, while Ford's fell four percent. Toyota, the largest Japanese automaker, reported a 2.4-percent sales increase. Nissan boosted its sales by 2.2 percent and Honda's sales rose by 8.7 percent as they continue to gain market share.

"First quarter economic growth is proving quite robust," said Jim Press, Toyota Motor Sales president. "With showrooms awash in new products and the spring selling season upon us, the industry should be going strong in March."

Even smaller Japanese brands such as Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Mazda, and Subaru watched sales rise in February. Korean automakers, however, reported essentially flat sales while European brands such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche all posted modest increases.

Feb. Sales: Chrysler, Japanese Strong by Joseph Szczesny (3/2/2006)
GM and Ford slip slightly as sales stay flat.


Consumer Reports Nixes Domestics

Consumer Reports released its 2006 rankings of top vehicles and domestic products didn’t fare very well. For the first time in nine years, no product from GM, Ford, or Chrysler showed up on CR’s recommended list. The ratings are based on a series of tests as well as crash performance data and reliability surveys. The winners this year included the Honda Civic in the small car category; the Honda Accord in the family-car category; and the Acura TL in the upscale car category; the Infiniti M35 in the luxury sedan category; the Subaru Forester in the small sport-utility vehicle category; and the Toyota   Highlander in the mid-size SUV category. The Honda Odyssey was the top vehicle in the minivan category, and the Toyota Prius was named the best in the Green Car category, while the Subaru Impreza was dubbed the winner in the fun to drive category and the Honda Ridgeline was named the best pickup truck. —Joe Szczesny

Dana Edges Closer to Bankruptcy 

Dana Corp. of Toledo, Ohio, one of the largest independent auto suppliers in the U.S., has announced that it failed to make interest payments totaling $21 million due Mar. 1 on its long- and medium-term bonds. The failure to make the critical payments appeared to move Dana Corp. one step closer to filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 in what has become a surprisingly steep fall. Up until last fall, Dana was considered one of the stronger American-based suppliers of automotive components. Consequences for failing to make the payments are potentially catastrophic for Dana. There is a 30-day grace period with respect to these interest payments, but to not make the interest payments by March 31, 2006 would constitute an event of default under the indenture for the notes that would permit the indenture trustee, or holders of 25 percent or more of the bonds to accelerate the maturity of the notes, demanding repayment.  The acceleration of maturity would result in action by other creditors, looking for payment. -Joe Szczesny

Delphi Sets Final UAW Deadline by Joseph Szczesny (2/20/2006)
Will there be a strike on March 30?


NASCAR Hall of Fame to Charlotte?

Numerous media outlets are reporting that Charlotte, N.C., has won the bidding war to land the NASCAR Hall of Fame. According to speedtv.com, a press conference will be held at the Charlotte Convention Center next Monday at 4:00 p.m. to make the official announcement.

For the past year, Charlotte competed against Atlanta, Daytona Beach, Richmond, and Kansas City for the right to build a shrine to NASCAR. Richmond and Kansas City were eliminated from the competition two months ago.

Charlotte mounted a formidable challenge, putting together a coalition of sports, business and political power brokers to front the effort. The city enlisted the renowned architectural firm of Pei, Cobb & Freed Partners, which also designed the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the John Hancock Tower in Boston, the modernization and expansion of The Louvre in Paris, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The building's interior has been designed by Morris Architects, which was also responsible for designing interiors at Daytona USA, the Apollo/Saturn V Visitors Center at the Kennedy Space Center and a number of attractions at Orlando's Universal Studios.

The package proposed by Charlotte totals $137.5 million, more than $120 million of which is public money. Most of the funding will come from a two-percent increase in the Mecklenburg County hotel tax. Other contributions will come from state government and local companies. All but $15 million would be public money.

The Charlotte group's campaign was centered around a widespread advertising program featuring the slogan, "Racing was built here. Racing belongs here."

"The Charlotte-based NASCAR Hall of Fame is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this region to become the preeminent destination for racing fans," Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory said last year. "This region already is a major hub for the sport of stock-car racing, and we can provide race fans an experience no one else can come close to replicating. A NASCAR Hall of Fame that highlights the legends and legacy as well as past, present and future of this truly American sport will be a premier destination attraction."

Atlanta was considered the most formidable challenger, considering its larger regional population base and numerous locally-based corporations that have strong ties to NASCAR. Daytona Beach was, for some, a sentimental favorite since the sport was born in the beach town's Streamline Hotel in 1947, but lacked the necessary financial and political horsepower.

The choice of Charlotte makes a lot of sense, because 90 percent of the teams are based within a 50-mile radius and it is considered the de facto home of the sport. Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to visit the facility annually, and the building is expected to contribute to the economic redevelopment of Charlotte's downtown district.

What is perhaps most remarkable is how NASCAR enticed five cities to battle against each other to build its Hall of Fame. For the price of a few plane tickets and a couple of press conferences, the Daytona Beach-based sanctioning powerhouse, which has transformed itself from a ragtag bunch of oval-tracking country boys into America's number-one spectator sport, gets a $137.5-million shrine to itself. It will even get to charge for the use of its logo and get a percentage of NASCAR-logo merchandise sold onsite. As for what will be inside the building, NASCAR doesn't have a collection of cars to put on display, or much in the way of physical memorabilia. All of the building's contents will have to be built from scratch of donated by collectors. Say what you will about NASCAR, but you can't accuse them of being dumb. -John F. Gardner

Racing News and Notes, Feb. 27, 2006 by John F. Gardner (2/27/2006)

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SPECIAL REPORT: Geneva Motor Show

SEE: Porsche 911 Turbo, Alfa Spider, Volvo S80, Ford Focus Convertible, Dodge Hornet and more

READ MORE Geneva Motor Show Coverage

Find the Magnifying Glass

"We really need a magnifying glass to tell the difference between a good and bad year" in the European market, said Carl-Peter Forster, who heads European operations for General Motors. The stubbornly stagnant market has not moved much in either direction in recent years, and according to Forster, annual growth of just three percent should be seen as a great year, one percent as good. He noted that the Russian market is helping nudge Europe ahead, while Germany "has been showing some life" after several troubled years.

GM has been shifting corporate gears as it tries to entrench its nascent European recovery. The key, said Forster, is "maximizing the potential of our multi-brand approach." For years, the automaker put most of its eggs in its Opel basket, but it has begun to break the market up. While Opel remains GM's dominant European brand, it is letting Cadillac focus on the upper segments, along with Swedish brand Saab. Caddy sales hit 2500 last year, just short of the 3000 sales goal. But hopes are high for 2006, what with the upcoming launch of the brand's new BLS model. The small sedan will be marketed outside the U.S., where downsized luxury cars can still command a price premium. With the addition of the BLS, Cadillac expects sales to tip 10,000 this year.

Meanwhile, at the lowest end, Opel is stepping aside in favor of the recently launched Chevrolet brand. One of three new '06 models, the Epica is the latest offering from a brand that might have an American name, but which is really GM Europe's outlet for products developed by the automaker's Korean subsidiary, previously known as Daewoo. Last year, Chevy's European sales shot up 50,000 units, or 26 percent, noted Wayne Brannon, head of Chevrolet Europe. That's especially significant, he asserted, since Chevrolet had no diesel powertrains available, even though those high-mileage engines currently account for half the overall European market. Chevy's first European diesels are just rolling out, and the GM division is forecasting faster growth in 2006. -TCC Team

<[email protected]@[email protected]@>


FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases


In testimony today, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) called on insurance companies and state titling agencies to provide consumers access to VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)-based data before they buy used cars. “Armed with total-loss data and a better understanding of vehicle histories, both consumers and dealers will be able to steer clear of rebuilt wrecks and stolen vehicles,” said David W. Regan, NADA’s vice president of legislative affairs. “For too long fraudulent resellers have relied upon a confusing 51-state titling regime to market rebuilt or stolen vehicles with clean titles,” said Regan, appearing before the Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Avis Rent A Car System, LLC today announced a new and exclusive program that rewards customers with free song downloads on iTunes(R) with every rental booked on avis.com. Through the long-term arrangement with iTunes, which begins March 1, customers can receive at least five free song downloads on iTunes every time they rent with Avis. The more rentals, the more free song downloads.

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Name Symbol Last Change
Autobytel, Inc. ABTL 4.71 +0.04 (+0.86%)
Autoliv Inc. ALV 53.95 +0.40 (+0.75%)
AutoNation Inc. AN 21.27 +0.36 (+1.72%)
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 15.54 -1.20 (-7.17%)
American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 16.21 -0.01 (-0.06%)
Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 6.37 +0.27 (+4.43%)
BorgWarner Inc. BWA 57.20 +1.43 (+2.56%)
Cummins Inc. CMI 109.32 +1.04 (+0.96%)
Dana Corporation DCN 1.85 +0.09 (+5.11%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 56.61 +1.14 (+2.06%)
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 2.29 0.00 (0.00%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 71.00 +1.33 (+1.91%)
Ford Motor Company F 7.95 -0.02 (-0.25%)
General Motors Corporation GM 19.90 -0.41 (-2.02%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 16.65 -0.01 (-0.06%)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 14.52 +0.19 (+1.33%)
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) HMC 29.74 +0.36 (+1.23%)
Johnson Controls Inc. JCI 71.28 +0.01 (+0.01%)
Lear Corporation LEA 20.77 -0.09 (-0.43%)
Magna International Inc. MGA 76.54 +2.12 (+2.85%)
Motorola Inc. MOT 22.09 +0.69 (+3.22%)
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) NSANY 23.14 +0.13 (+0.56%)
Sonic Automotive Inc. SAH 26.64 +0.15 (+0.57%)
Siemens AG SI 93.00 +1.02 (+1.11%)
Sirius Satellite Radio SIRI 5.04 -0.07 (-1.37%)
Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) TM 107.04 +0.17 (+0.16%)
TRW Automotive Holdings TRW 25.38 -0.22 (-0.86%)
Tower Automotive Inc. TWRAQ.PK 0.066 -0.003 (-4.35%)
United Auto Group Inc. UAG 44.01 +0.77 (+1.78%)
Visteon Corporation VC 4.74 +0.08 (+1.72%)
XM Satellite Radio Hold. XMSR 21.95 -0.14 (-0.63%)
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