Daily Edition: Mar. 29, 2006

March 27, 2006

GM Axes Engineers in Latest Cuts

GM's "Black Tuesday" ended with the departure of several hundred salaried employees, most of them engineers, from the company's workforce across the country. GM says it axed fewer than 500 jobs at 30 of its outposts across the country in the latest round of cuts. The company plans to lay off seven percent of its white-collar employees this year. Last week, the company announced a major deal with the UAW to offer buyouts to more than 100,000 hourly employees at its manufacturing sites. GM also confirmed that its first-quarter market share for 2006 stood at 24 percent.

Dunne: Who's Afraid of the Chinese Wolf?

So much din comes out ofChina, it's tough to separate fact from fiction - or to distinguish the crucially important from the "so what?"

When China announced that vehicle exports had surpassed imports for the first time in 2005, the world wasn't sure whether to panic or yawn. Lazy exhales are safe for now. But do brace for some shocks by 2009.

Made-in-China vehicle exports grew 121 percent to 172,639 units in 2005. Within this total, passenger cars galloped to 31,124 units - up from 10,114 the year before. That is spectacular growth, to be sure. But it is expansion from a small base. In fact, exports accounted for less than three percent of China's total vehicle production. And the vast majority of those car and truck exports were shipped to poor countries.

Sixty percent of exports were light trucks produced by four Chinese state-owned companies - Dongfeng Motors, Jiangling Motors, the Jianghuai Automotive Company, and Foton, part of the Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation. If you have never heard of these truck companies, it's probably because you do not live in their primary overseas markets - Syria, Algeria, and Vietnam.

Dunne: Who's Afraid of the Chinese Wolf? (3/25/2006)
Make no mistakes - the Chinese are coming on four wheels.

TCC Drives: 2007 Cadillac Escalade

Climbing into the new 2007 Cadillac Escalade, I get the feeling that I am seriously underdressed. No gold chains, no diamond stud in my ear. And my raggy jeans definitely would not pass muster on MTV.

Ever since the first 'Slade hit the streets, back in 1999, this massive SUV has proven the product of choice among rappers and rock stars. And if the looks we got tooling around San Diego during Caddy's recent preview were any indication, the new '07 model is likely to maintain its image as the king of all bling.

To be honest, I never quite understood the appeal of the original Escalade. It was a quick fix, little more than bolting a Cadillac wreath-and-crest onto a GMC Yukon Denali, and didn't really come together. The second and third-generation models were progressively better. The new version is, without question, the best yet. Though it does suffer from a few notable flaws, the 2007 Escalade is arguably the best full-size domestic ute on the market.

2007 Cadillac Escalade (3/26/2006)
Bigger, better, and blingier.

WJR Auto Report: Getting Traction at GM

I recall a sci-fi show, when I was a kid, where an astronaut stood on the moon, half in sunlight, half in shadow, freezing and burning at the same time. That's likely the way GM Chairman Rick Wagoner feels these days. There's certainly been some good news for troubled General Motors, but it's consistently offset by the bad. Retail sales are up, for example, but overall sales - and market share - are down, again. A buyout for workers at Delphi generated some big headlines, but now it looks like the equally-troubled supplier is still pushing for a confrontation with its union workforce, and could face a strike at the end of the week. GM's newest models are getting great reviews, but not one is in the Top 10 list of the oft-quoted Consumer Reports magazine. Somehow, the automaker just can't gain the necessary traction, and that's a problem for Wagoner, who has an increasingly worried board, and its newest, activist member, Jerry York, heating things up. Right now, Wagoner might be thinking about a nice vacation. Perhaps some spot on the dark side of the moon? -TCC Team

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