Daily Edition: Mar. 8, 2006

March 8, 2006

GM Shifting Pension Plans

General Motors will be changing the way it allocates money to employee retirement benefits, away from defined-benefit plans to plans that depend on bigger employee contributions. The AP reports that GM's new plan will freeze accrued pension benefits for about 40,000 current employees on January 1, leaving currently retired employee benefits intact. After Jan. 1, employees hired before 2001 will retain pension plans that will pay out a reduced amount from today's levels. Those hired after Jan. 1, 2001, will be moved to a defined contribution plan that will allow employees to cash out when they reach retirement age. GM also will change its matching plan to half of employee contributions up to four percent. The changes could reduce GM's pension liabilities at the end of the year by about $1.6 billion.

Wagoner Rumors Start to Swirl by Joseph Szczesny (3/6/2006)
Will GM lose its CEO to financial churn?



DC Has New Latin Region HQ

DaimlerChrysler AG has created a new regional headquarters inMexico City that will take over responsibility for marketing vehicles built by both the Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz groups throughout Latin American and the Caribbean.

The new headquarters will have responsibility for 30 countries including Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Venezuela. Until now the management of DaimlerChrysler operations in Latin America and Caribbean region was divided between Auburn Hills and Stuttgart and smaller offices in Chile, DaimlerChrysler officials said.

Chrysler Group sales in Latin America increased 48 percent in 2005, and new small and mid-size vehicles will reach the markets during 2006 and 2007 as part of the DaimlerChrysler's ongoing effort to increase the group's sales outside the U.S. "Latin America is a critical region for our operations, and the new organization in Mexico will allow us to capitalize on existing synergies, increase efficiency, and improve our reach and service to our customers," said Thomas Hausch, Executive Director for International Sales and Marketing, Chrysler Group.

Klaus Maier, executive vice president Mercedes Car Group sales and marketing, also said the new structure of DaimlerChrysler Latina demonstrates the increasing collaboration between Mercedes Car Group and Chrysler Group. "It will help us to further enhance the presence of Mercedes-Benz, Maybach, and smart in the region," he added. -Joe Szczesny

Spy Shots: '08 Chrysler Minivans by KGP Photography (3/6/2006)
More upright and more international, by design.


Volkswagen AG Posts Upbeat Earnings

Volkswagen posted year-end 2005 earnings of $1.3 billion, a 61-percent gain from the year before, while revenues were up 7.1 percent to $114 billion.

But behind that rosy news was calamity at the German automaker. CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder, who is under pressure from supervisory board chairman Ferdinand Piech and the labor unions, said this about the union's opposition to his plan to cut 20,000 jobs from VW's rolls and move some production to Eastern Europe: "There is no alternative for our group," Pischetsrieder told a press conference in the northern German city of Wolfsburg where the group is based. "Volkswagen has to build cars more cheaply."

Volkswagen AG Posts Upbeat Earnings by Jim Burt (3/7/2006)


WJR Auto Report: GM Alliances Fade Away

General Motors will sell off most of its shares in its longtime Japanese partner, Suzuki. It's quite a surprise, since Suzuki's the most successful part of GM's global alliance strategy. Most automakers have international partnerships, usually formed by merging or buying their competitors. There's DaimlerChrysler, and Ford owns Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston, and a chunk of Mazda. But, with few exceptions, GM's approach has been to simply swap shares. It'd take more than this short report to discuss the logic behind the strategy, but it's had, at best, mixed results. Isuzu is all but bankrupt. GM sold off its stakes in Subaru last year. And it had to pay several billion dollars to back out of its relationship with Italian automaker Fiat. Suzuki seemed the one bright light, with the Japanese automaker assisting with GM products like the Korean-built Chevy Aveo. The sell-off will provide GM cash to cover the buy-out of workers at its former parts subsidiary, Delphi. GM says it will continue working with Suzuki. But we'll have to wait and see.


From TCConfidential

NYT: Ambien A Growing Drugged-Driving Problem

Drunk driving's an acknowledged problem on the country's highways, and drugged driving is a growing concern that TheCarConnection.com has reported on in the past year. Now, the New York Times says one drug in particular, the sleeping pill Ambien, is being cited as a factor in an increasing number of accidents. "Ambien drivers," the Times say, sometimes have no memory of driving under the influence of the drug, and are distinct from other drugged drivers in that the accidents include an element of oblivion, from driving into light poles to failing to recognize the presence of police officers after the accident. Wisconsin, the paper says, linked Ambien to 187 arrested drivers in the five years from 1999 to 2004; Washington State has seen a rise in Ambien-linked arrests in the past year. The maker of the drug, Sanofi-Aventis, told the paper it notifies the FDA when reports of sleepwalking are taken.

READ the full story at the New York Times


FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases


Chrysler Group reported that its Five Star dealers posted a new Certified Pre-owned Vehicle (CPOV) February sales record of 9319 units, up two percent from February 2005 totals and advancing ten percent from January 2006 results. Year-to-date sales totaled a record 17,764 units, three percent above year-to-date sales last year. Chrysler Group CPOV sales grew in several key areas in February. Large vehicles made a turnaround with notable sales increases for both the Dodge Ram Truck in the large pickup segment and the Dodge Durango in the full-size SUV segment. The Jeep(R) Liberty showed growth in the mid-size SUV segment while sales of the Chrysler Town & Country increased its share of the Minivan segment, compared to February 2005 CPOV results.


Name Symbol Last Change
Autobytel, Inc. ABTL 4.17 -0.15 (-3.47%)
Autoliv Inc. ALV 52.20 -0.74 (-1.40%)
AutoNation Inc. AN 22.26 +1.37 (+6.56%)
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 14.36 -0.25 (-1.71%)
American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 15.34 -0.30 (-1.92%)
Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 6.16 -0.33 (-5.08%)
BorgWarner Inc. BWA 54.92 +0.05 (+0.09%)
Cummins Inc. CMI 105.40 -0.40 (-0.38%)
Dana Corporation DCN 0.66 0.00 (0.00%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 54.40 -0.41 (-0.75%)
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 2.10 -0.02 (-0.94%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 69.41 +0.06 (+0.09%)
Ford Motor Company F 7.65 -0.04 (-0.52%)
General Motors Corporation GM 20.29 +0.48 (+2.42%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 16.30 -0.05 (-0.31%)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 12.94 -0.47 (-3.50%)
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) HMC 29.18 +0.44 (+1.53%)
Johnson Controls Inc. JCI 72.68 +1.42 (+1.99%)
Lear Corporation LEA 18.11 -0.18 (-0.98%)
Magna International Inc. MGA 73.46 -0.29 (-0.39%)
Motorola Inc. MOT 21.69 -0.29 (-1.32%)
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) NSANY 23.00 +0.05 (+0.22%)
Sonic Automotive Inc. SAH 26.52 -0.10 (-0.38%)
Siemens AG SI 89.29 -1.20 (-1.33%)
Sirius Satellite Radio SIRI 4.92 +0.01 (+0.20%)
Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) TM 105.21 0.00 (0.00%)
TRW Automotive Holdings TRW 23.38 -0.68 (-2.83%)
Tower Automotive Inc. TWRAQ.PK 0.047 -0.014 (-22.95%)
United Auto Group Inc. UAG 43.34 +0.02 (+0.05%)
Visteon Corporation VC 4.56 +0.16 (+3.64%)
XM Satellite Radio Hold. XMSR 21.35 -0.01 (-0.05%)
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