Daily Edition: Mar. 22, 2006

March 20, 2006

Smart Sale Sidelined

2004 Smart city coupe

2004 Smart city coupe

Shareholders are pressing DaimlerChrysler AG's top management about the company's plans for its money-losing small-car unit Smart, and its Maybach superluxury brand. A resolution calling for a full accounting of the company's spending on smart and Maybach could be presented at company's annual shareholders' meeting in Berlin. Meanwhile, the German press is reporting that DaimlerChrysler has terminated its contract with the investment banking firm of Goldman Sachs, which was supposed to screen proposals for smart's assets from outside bidders. Earlier this month, Dieter Zetsche, DaimlerChrysler chief executive officer, said a number of potential bidders had emerged. The Financial Times of London also reported that DaimlerChrysler's plans for selling smart have been put on hold, probably indefinitely. Bodo Uebber, DaimlerChrysler's chief financial officer, said during one appearance this week that as long as smart meets its interim objectives, which include narrowing its losses this year and reaching break-even in 2007, the German automaker will remain committed to restructuring the brand. The restructuring launched last spring has eliminated about 40 percent of smart's employees and delayed indefinitely any plans to bring the smart minicar to the U.S. -Joe Szczesny


WJR Auto Report: Isuzu's Changing Fortunes

Following up on my recent report about General Motors' global alliance strategy, Isuzu Motors took exception to comments I made about their financial outlook. Isuzu officials note the Japanese maker posted operating profits in each of the last four fiscal years, including an 87-billion yen operating profit in 2005, and was profitable in the U.S. for the first time since 2000. Now I admit that saying "Isuzu is all but bankrupt" was going too far. Even so, we must also add, Isuzu's model lineup has been shrinking, along with U.S. sales, which fell from over 100,000 at the beginning of the decade to about 12,000 last year. So while Isuzu argues it is in robust health, there have been recent news reports speculating that it may pull out of the U.S. auto market entirely. The company denies that. Meanwhile, other reports speculate that GM will sell off its remaining stake in its long-time Japanese partner. -TCC Team


TCC Drives: 2006 Cadillac XLR-V

Bentley LeMans

Bentley LeMans

If there's been any bright spot for troubled General Motors in recent years, it's the nascent revival of the automaker's once-formidable Cadillac division. There was a time, not that many decades ago, when Caddy called the shots in the luxury market, but in recent years, the "Standard to the World" has had to take a back seat to more posh import contenders, like Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW.

Yet with the introduction of its edgy "Art & Science" styling theme, Cadillac showed that it might be down, but it certainly wasn't out. Though it's by no means a world-beater, the first production model, the CTS sedan, is one of the luxury segment's most distinctive designs. Then there's the angular XLR, the production version of the GM brand's striking Evoq concept roadster.

Cadillac's first hardtop convertible, the XLR was unabashedly aimed at the likes of that roadster benchmark, the Mercedes SL. Now the two-seater is being served up in a more sporting trim. Boasting a big boost in power, along with some exterior and interior refinements, it becomes the most expensive Cadillac in history, planting the flag at precisely $100,000.

2006 Cadillac XLR-v (3/19/2006)
Pushing the limits?



: Does Detroit Hate America?

The current Detroit enthusiasm for global engineering and design is amazing considering how often it fails to score with American buyers.

My impression is that Americans just don't think much of European design. You might say Mercedes and BMW are successful. They are: But their 530,000 combined sales for cars and trucks, out of a market of almost 17 million, is a limited success.

Care to look at the failures? Start with Volkswagen and its Golf, popular in Europe but a flop here.

Go to Ford. The Contour and Mystique were American versions of the European Mondeo. They failed. There is the Ford Focus, a European-designed small car that started moderately well in the U.S. but is seriously slumping.

Go to GM. Remember the Cadillac Catera, an Opel with Cadillac badges, imported here? A flop. How about the Saturn LS, a European platform with a plastic skin, a flop and now gone like Cateras and Contour/Mystique. The Saturn Ion was another of those Euro platforms used here. The most successful of the Global/European platform cars sold here is the Chevy Malibu, the fleet special, which even GM executives say is a design bore.

But this doesn't stop executives from thinking the answer to their problems, particularly at GM, is at the global approach. Whenever you bring up the failures, they just brush them aside or say they weren't done well enough. The idea that Americans really don't care for the European approach is beyond their radar.

Flint: Does Detroit Hate America? (3/19/2006)
Why don't GM and Ford like American cars?

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


FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases


Today Bluewater Network, Global Exchange, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, and USPIRG placed an ad in the NY Times bashing Ford Motor Company's CEO Bill Ford for (among other transgressions) not being committed enough, in their view, to the issue of global warming. For the record, the Free Enterprise Action Fund receives no funding from Ford or any auto manufacturer. It is the mission of the Fund to advocate the rights of shareholders, demanding that anti-corporate and irresponsible "corporate social responsibility" be put to shareholder votes.

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


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Autobytel, Inc. ABTL 4.61 -0.07 (-1.50%)
Autoliv Inc. ALV 55.59 -0.46 (-0.82%)
AutoNation Inc. AN 21.85 -0.06 (-0.27%)
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 14.96 -0.12 (-0.80%)
American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 17.50 +0.84 (+5.04%)
Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 6.34 +0.08 (+1.28%)
BorgWarner Inc. BWA 59.44 +0.04 (+0.07%)
Cummins Inc. CMI 105.32 -2.85 (-2.63%)
Dana Corporation DCN 0.66 0.00 (0.00%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 55.31 -0.84 (-1.50%)
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 2.26 -0.06 (-2.59%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 71.01 -0.68 (-0.95%)
Ford Motor Company F 8.05 +0.12 (+1.51%)
General Motors Corporation GM 22.00 +1.15 (+5.52%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 17.01 +0.05 (+0.29%)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 13.65 -0.05 (-0.36%)
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) HMC 30.72 -0.18 (-0.58%)
Johnson Controls Inc. JCI 76.85 +0.57 (+0.75%)
Lear Corporation LEA 17.31 +0.64 (+3.84%)
Magna International Inc. MGA 75.52 -0.38 (-0.50%)
Motorola Inc. MOT 21.68 -0.30 (-1.36%)
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) NSANY 23.25 -0.32 (-1.35%)
Sonic Automotive Inc. SAH 27.83 -0.37 (-1.31%)
Siemens AG SI 91.63 -1.52 (-1.63%)
Sirius Satellite Radio SIRI 5.12 +0.01 (+0.20%)
Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) TM 109.10 -0.01 (-0.01%)
TRW Automotive Holdings TRW 23.78 -0.43 (-1.78%)
Tower Automotive Inc. TWRAQ.PK 0.079 +0.005 (+6.76%)
United Auto Group Inc. UAG 44.10 -0.90 (-2.00%)
Visteon Corporation VC 4.38 +0.02 (+0.46%)
XM Satellite Radio Hold. XMSR 21.36 -0.11 (-0.51%)
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