TOYOTA CONFIRMS ALABAMA V-8 PLANT Toyota has confirmed that it will invest $220 million in a new V-8 engine plant in Huntsville, Alabama. The plant will assemble the company's first V-8 engines to be built outside of Japan. The engines will be supplied for the Toyota Tundra pickup, and potentially the Sequoia SUV. The plant, to employ 350 new workers, will begin producing the engines in summer of 2003 with an expected capacity of 120,000.
FEDS ADD 26 MORE DEATHS TO FIRESTONE INVESTIGATION Federal investigators have reported an additional 26 deaths involving Firestone tires, bringing the total National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) figures up to 174 fatalities and 700 injuries. An Associated Press report attributed at least 11 of the fatalities to involve tires not included in the recall effort. Firestone recalled 6.5 million ATX, ATX II, and Wilderness AT tires last summer due to tread separation problems. Neither Firestone nor federal investigators have found a single cause of the tire-failure problems, although the defective tires were produced at Firestone's Decatur, Illinois, facility.
RESSLER RETIRES Neil Ressler, the head of Ford's Advanced Vehicle Technology Division, has stepped down from his position. Ressler will also resign from his position of chairman at Ford's Jaguar and Cosworth Racing division. Ressler's retirement announcement follows the departure of Helen Petrauskas, the company's former vice president for environmental issues and safety engineering. Ressler had been with Ford for 34 years.
TOP MAZDA EXECS TAKE CUT Mazda's board members in Japan will take a ten-percent pay cut to do their part to help the company cut costs. The automaker had announced last year that 1800 workers will be asked to take early retirement, although the company will likely not force layoffs. Mazda is 33.4-percent owned by Ford Motor Company.
CAFE DEBATE RESUMES A panel reviewing the status of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards has strong opposing views on what to do with the rules. Automakers, boosted by the powerful Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, want to altogether abolish the 25-year-old rules and go to a new emphasis on research and tax credits to buyers of alternate-fuel vehicles. Environmentalists and auto experts dismiss the idea, saying that the standards are needed due to growing concerns about global warming issues.
GM U.K. JOBS SAVED England has saved production of the Vauxhall Vectra from going to mainland Europe. General Motors will move next-generation production of the Vectra to its Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, plant in the U.K. GM announced in December that production of the model at its Luton plant would end. Since then, British labor unions have contested the decisions, staged walkouts, and threatened strikes. Vectra production at the Ellesmere plant will be boosted to 14,000 units per year.
STUDY: SEATBELT USE DOUBLED IN TEN YEARS Seatbelt use has nearly doubled in the past ten years, according to a new study by the Insurance Research Council. The study found that 87 percent of drivers reported using restraints in 1997, versus only 43 percent in 1987. Pickup truck drivers and teenagers were reportedly the worst groups about buckling up.
MAZDA TO USE PEUGEOT ENGINES IN EUROPE Mazda has announced plans to use Peugeot engines in an upcoming small car for the European market. The Demio will use a diminutive 1.0-to-1.3-liter Peugeot engine. The Demio will be launched in 2002.