Daily Edition: Mar. 3, 2006

March 3, 2006

GM, Toyota Extend Partnership

The research consortium between GM and Toyota that was written off as dead in some reports last month is still very much alive. The world's two leading automakers have agreed to extend their cooperation on research and development projects in key areas for another two years, both companies said Thursday. The research, however, will no longer focus on fuel-cell technology. Instead, the two auto giants plan to focus on what was described as safety and congestion-related technologies.

Scott Fosgard, GM spokesman, said the change indicates that both companies are satisfied they can move from research into proprietary development of fuel cells that could be used in automobiles. One of the major advantages of fuel cells, which create electricity from a chemical reaction, is that they could help eliminate pollution from private automobiles, advocates of the technology suggest. GM is not backing away from its objective of producing by 2010 a commercially viable fuel cell that could be used in future vehicles, Fosgard added.  GM's fuel-cell projects continue to make substantial progress on critical issues such as durability, energy density, and cost, he added.

GM and Toyota have collaborated on basic research since 1999 and the new agreement now extends until 2008. Neither company has ever disclosed how much they spend on the joint research program. -Joe Szczesny

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


TH!NK Files for Bankruptcy

TH!NK Nordic AS, which was literally wheeled onto the world stage by former Ford boss Jac Nasser, has now filed for bankruptcy and under the tough bankruptcy laws that prevail in Western Europe faces almost certain dissolution. Ford brought almost 300 TH!NK-built electric cars to the U.S. but the experiment, which never made much sense, soon foundered. Ford ultimately sold the company in late 2002 and about 300 TH!NKs that Ford had leased to consumers were returned to Norway in 2004 for refurbishing. In all, TH!NK produced about 1000 vehicles during its relatively short life as an environmentally friendly car company. -Joe Szczesny

For Rethinks TH!NK Scrapping by Joseph Szczesny (9/20/2004)
Vehicles will return to Norway rather than be crushed.

Ford Expects More Losses

Ford expects its basic automotive business to lose money again in 2006 as it struggles to trim costs. Ford disclosed the anticipated loss in a 10K report it filed with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission. Ford also said the losses in the automotive business would not extend beyond 2008. In another passage of the report, Ford cautioned that the bankruptcy of a major competitor could create problems for Ford. Bankruptcy would give the unnamed competitor an unfair cost advantage if its labor contracts were wiped out by the bankruptcy judge. The cryptic comments were dropped into the middle of the report and indicated Ford executives are concerned about the possible consequences of a bankruptcy filing by General Motors Corp.  However, Rick Wagoner, GM's chief executive, has said several times that bankruptcy is not an option for GM.
Ford also disclosed that it is considering a $1 billion charge in connection with "The Way Forward" restructuring plan, which calls for eliminating 30,000 jobs and closing 14 facilities by 2012 under the plan outlined in January. As part of the restructuring, Ford plans to close assembly three assembly plants in Atlanta, St. Louis, and Wixom, Mich., by the end of 2007. -Joe Szczesny

Special Report: Ford's Way Forward by TCC Team (1/30/2006)


Volkswagen's Mess Could Eat Pischetsrieder

Volkswagen AG chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder told the Financial Times that his job could be at risk if labor representatives on the company's supervisory board make good on opposing a contract renewal for the 58-year-old Bavarian. Meanwhile, supervisory board chairman Ferdinand Piech, who recruited Pischetsrieder as his replacement, has not exactly been backing up his protégé. 

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