Daily Edition: Apr. 5, 2006

April 5, 2006

Mazda CX-9 Is No Stretch

2007 Mazda CX-9

2007 Mazda CX-9

Mazda will bring its new CX-9 crossover to the New York auto show next week, but Ford’s Japanese affiliate is careful to announce that the new seven-seater isn’t mechanically related to the five-seat CX-7 it showed at this January’s Los Angeles auto show. The CX-9 has specs that sound much like Ford’s new Canadian-built Edge crossover; the Mazda will be built in Japan, but it too has a 3.5-liter V-6 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission, which a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Mazda is holding more details for New York but confirms the CX-9’s standard equipment will include stability control, anti-lock brakes, and six airbags.

How is the CX-7 related to the CX-9?

Audi TT World Debut Coming Tomorrow

2007 Audi TT

2007 Audi TT

It’s not quite a world debut at the New York auto show, but Audi’s TT is sure to be the talk of next week’s car expo. Audi will stage a world debut by satellite for the second generation of the TT on Thursday, April 6, from Berlin. The new TT is expected to grow somewhat, adding extra rear seat and trunk room. A 200-hp turbo four and a 250-hp V-6 engine are expected to be included in the lineup as well as quattro and convertible models, though they likely will not be shown on Thursday. Stay with TheCarConnection this week as we bring you more from Audi’s TT unveiling.

See more shots of the next Audi TT

Jeep Prices Compass from $15,985

2005 Jeep Compass concept

2005 Jeep Compass concept

The second vehicle in the family that includes the Dodge Caliber will come to the New York show with a pricetag just under $16,000. Jeep says that the Compass hatchback will be priced from $15,985 when it goes on sale later this year as a 2007 model. While promising Jeep 4x4 capability, the company also says the new vehicle will have great fuel economy and a flexible interior. The base version will come with the 172-hp, 2.4-liter four also found in the Caliber, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. With four-wheel drive the price increases to $17,585. An “E” package adds air conditioning and power windows/locks/mirrors. The Limited edition starts at $20,140, or $21,740 with four-wheel drive.


Eberhardt Says Compass Gives Jeep New Foothold

Joe Eberhardt, Chrysler Group executive vice president in charge of sales and marketing, said Tuesday that the new Compass will give Jeep a strong entry in the small sport-utility vehicle segment, which is expected to expand rapidly in next few years. Sales in the segment passed 300,000 units in 2005 and could easily triple to 900,000 by the end of the decade, added Eberhardt.

“The segment is going to grow exponentially,” noted Eberhardt, adding that the Compass also is expected to attract younger consumers looking for an affordable vehicle, and women. The Compass, while it represents a departure from Jeep’s traditional emphasis on off-road prowess, also takes the Jeep line into new territory, Eberhardt added.

“I think if we had changed the traditional Jeep, there would have been a problem,” because it would have compromised Jeep’s traditional appeal, he said. The Compass, which is built on the same assembly line in Belvidere, Ill. as the Dodge Caliber passenger car, takes Jeep into an entirely new segment, Eberhardt said. 

Chrysler representatives also pointed out that the Compass will still be the most off-road capable vehicle in is competitive set, which includes vehicles such as the RAV4, Kia Sportage, Saturn Vue, and Honda CR-V. To make sure the Compass could go off-road, the underbody sits a full inch higher than that of the Caliber, said Michael Berube, senior manager for Jeep Marketing. The fuel line also has been tucked up in the body and the seating position in the Compass is two inches higher than in the Caliber, he added.

Eberhardt also emphasized that the 13-percent increase in the Chrysler Group’s passenger-car sales was no fluke, with the entry of the Caliber into the passenger-car segment in a big way. Moreover, the group's passenger cars now sell with few incentives and have strong residuals, he noted. However, all manufacturers are offering substantial incentives in the pickup truck and SUV segments. Honda, for example, usually offers nominal incentives, roughly $200, on its vehicles but it has been forced to offer hundreds of dollars in incentives on the Ridgeline pickup truck, Eberhardt noted. —Joe Szczesny

Armstrong To Pace Indy 500

Chevrolet will return as usual to the pace position at the Indy 500. But this year's pace-car drive is more accustomed to cruising circuits on two wheels instead of four. Cycling champion Lance Armstrong will be the pilot of the pace car at this year's Brickyard run on May 28. Armstrong will be driving a new Corvette Z06; it's the 17th time a Chevrolet will pace the event and the eighth time that the Chevrolet in question will be a Corvette. Armstrong recently retired from cycling after a seventh consecutive victory in the Tour de France.



Congress To Debate $100 Million "H" Prize

Later this week, Congress will get its first look at the “H Prize,” a proposed $100 million competition designed to spur the development of a so-called hydrogen economy. The project is being spearheaded by Rep. Bob Inglis, (S.C.), who heads the House Hydrogen Caucus. Inglis provided a brief outline during an appearance at the SAE World Congress on Tuesday morning. “We must move away from petroleum,” he declared.

The goal is to use prize money to spur development of hydrogen technology, much as the X Prize helped launch the first private, manned rocket trips into outer space. The ten-year program would award a $1 million payout every other year for a leader in the development of advanced hydrogen production, storage, or distribution technology. A $4 million prize would be given out in alternating years for those developing advanced hydrogen-powered vehicle prototypes. And there would be a grand prize of $100 million for leading development in “wells-to-wheels” hydrogen technology, covering everything from production to vehicle manufacturing.

In a subsequent discussion, Rep. Inglis told TheCarConnection that winning approval for a $100 million program will be “a challenge unless the President makes it one of his key priorities.” The South Carolina lawmaker noted that the proposal is in line with President Bush’s call for energy independence during his recent State of the Union message. The caucus chairman has already begun discussions with the White House, and adding heft to the proposal, he expects at least 20 House members to sign on as original sponsors. An identical proposal will be introduced in the Senate by Sen. Lindsay Graham, who heads that body’s Hydrogen Caucus. —TCC Team


"No Silver Bullet," But Plenty of Options

“There is no silver bullet” — no single, advanced powertrain technology that will solve the country’s need to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency, said Jeff Alson, director of the EPA’s office for Transportation and Air Quality. Alson was one of six speakers to outline what is likely to be a complex mix of advanced powertrains and alternate fuels that will dominate the automotive landscape in the decades to come.

Find out more about predictions for powertrain futures


WJR Auto Report: The Next Generation of Hybrids

One size doesn’t fit all. Yet there are those who’d like to believe hybrid-electric vehicles are the answer to America’s automotive needs. But hybrids are largely limited to urban commuters who spend most of their time in stop-and-go traffic. Could new versions come along? Probably, but if we want to reduce emissions — and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, the real answer is what you might call an “integrated powertrain solution.” That means hybrids, ethanol, advanced technology, like hydrogen and fuel cells, next-generation gasoline engines and, of course, the diesel. In Europe, diesels now dominate, thanks to new technology that’s clean, quiet, and fast. Yet here in the U.S., regulators have all but banned diesels, even though they could have an almost instant impact on our oil imports. If we see oil as an issue of national security, we’ve got to rethink our strategy and accept that the answer is a mix of options. Waiting for future tech that’s years off is no more effective than relying on technology, like hybrids, that won’t work for everyone. —TCC Team


Behr Building New Plant in Mexico

Behr America plans to build a new plant in Mexico, to expand its existing plant in Dayton, Ohio, and to add on to its technical center in Troy, Mich. Frank Mueller, president and CEO of Behr America, which is an offshoot of a German company based in Stuttgart , said expansion will lay the foundation for more business in the North American market. Part of the new business is coming from General Motors, which has shifted a portion of the air-conditioning business that used to belong to Delphi to Behr, which acquired the unionized Dayton factory from DaimlerChrysler in 2004.

"We've outgrown our Troy campus in less than four years. Our Michigan-based headquarters-and-technical staff has grown from less than 100 employees in 2002 to nearly 550 today. We expect even further growth to around 600 people within the next several years," Mueller noted. The expansion, the second in three years, will increase the overall size of its four-year-old North American headquarters and technical center by more than 75 percent, Behr officials said. Behr America has nearly 3000 employees across the U.S. -Joe Szczesny



Korean Sales Rise Strongly in March

South Korea's five automakers including top maker Hyundai Motor posted a combined 24-percent rise in March sales from a year ago, thanks to strong exports and new models.

Although general demand in global markets for Korean cars is still steady, the profitability of Korean automakers isn't that positive because of a stronger won against the U.S. dollar.

Total automobile sales in March by South Korea's five automakers rose 24.3 percent from a year ago to 553,083 units. Hyundai Motor said it sold 246,126 vehicles in March, up 13.2 percent from a year ago. The automaker exported 194,664 vehicles in March, up 13.4 percent from a year ago. In the domestic market, the sales of passenger cars, SUVs and commercial vehicles were up 13 percent to 51,462 vehicles.

Hyundai's affiliate Kia Motors said it posted an 11-percent rise in March sales to 132,858 cars, led by a 12.4-percent increase in exports.

GM Daewoo posted a 48.6-percent jump to 129,023 units in overall sales last month, helped by a 52.4-percent surge in exports and the launch of its Tosca sedan in late January.

Renault Samsung Motors, the local unit of French automaker Renault SA , reported a 29.5 percent rise in March sales to 13,422 cars.

Ssangyong Motor, a South Korean sport utility vehicle maker owned by China's Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., saw its total sales rise 7.5 percent to 11,654 vehicles. -Peter Chang

Hyundai Chairman Ducks Investigation

Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Mong-koo left for the U.S. late Sunday in an unexpected move amid an expanding investigation into illegal political lobbying and sluggish funds.

Chung's sudden departure also came amid mounting speculation that he and his son Chung Eui-sun might be banned from leaving the country.

Several days ago, prosecution investigators had seized about 100 boxes of documents during a 15-hour raid on the headquarters of the Hyundai Kia Motor Group.

During the U.S. visit, the 67-year-old Chung will visit Hyundai Motor's plant in Alabama and other facilities, Hyundai officials said.

But, local media speculate Chung may not return to South Korea anytime soon.

Chung's only son Chung Eui-sun is president of both Kia Motors and auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis.

High-ranking Hyundai and Kia officials are reportedly suspected of providing billions of won in company funds to a lobbyist, who was arrested on a separate bribery charge, in return for helping Hyundai receive business favors from the government and financial institutions. -Peter Chang


FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases


Mazda CX-9 Architecture Explained

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Autoliv Inc. ALV 56.81 +0.68 (+1.21%)
AutoNation Inc. AN 21.77 +0.13 (+0.60%)
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 15.34 +0.01 (+0.07%)
American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 16.89 0.00 (0.00%)
Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 6.91 +0.09 (+1.32%)
BorgWarner Inc. BWA 59.66 +0.03 (+0.05%)
Cummins Inc. CMI 105.71 +0.91 (+0.87%)
Dana Corporation DCN 0.66 0.00 (0.00%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 59.09 +0.97 (+1.67%)
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 2.31 +0.03 (+1.32%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 74.20 +0.43 (+0.58%)
Ford Motor Company F 7.68 -0.09 (-1.16%)
General Motors Corporation GM 19.53 -0.60 (-2.98%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 16.69 +0.08 (+0.48%)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 14.27 -0.01 (-0.07%)
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) HMC 31.35 +0.06 (+0.19%)
Johnson Controls Inc. JCI 76.90 +1.12 (+1.48%)
Lear Corporation LEA 17.61 0.00 (0.00%)
Magna International Inc. MGA 75.83 +0.08 (+0.11%)
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Sirius Satellite Radio SIRI 5.06 0.00 (0.00%)
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Tower Automotive Inc. TWRAQ.PK 0.075 -0.003 (-3.85%)
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