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 CharlotteConvention 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 JacobK.JavitsConvention 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 KennedySpaceCenter and a number of attractions at Orlando's Universal Studios.

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