GM-Nissan/Renault? No, No, No

GM-Nissan/Renault? No, No, No

General Motors has bluntly ruled out any kind of a deal with Carlos Ghosn and the Renault/Nissan alliance. GM CEO Rick Wagoner told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that GM's board had voted unanimously to halt the discussions with Renault/Nissan after what he described as complete review of all the facts.

Wagoner also disclosed for the first time that two investment banks, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, also served as advisers. Wagoner also said that all of GM's board members were present and voted to scuttle the alliance talks, including Jerry York, the representative from Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp., which had first pushed to have the negotiations opened back in June.

"As it turned out, we all agreed that the synergy levels were significantly in favor of Renault and Nissan," said Wagoner, who said he and the members of GM's board were satisfied the study had been fair and thorough. "The parties mutually recognized that significant aggregate synergies might result from the alliance. However the parties did not agree on either the total amount of aggregate synergies or the distribution of those benefits," said the rather stiff formal statement that concluded the talks.

GM also confirmed publicly for the first time that it had demanded compensation up front to join the grand alliance contemplated by Ghosn, who balked at the idea. GM had sought more than $5 billion upfront to proceed with the restructuring, sources said. The restrictive alliance sought by Renault/Nissan also was further than GM wanted to go, Wagoner said.

"I really don't think it's a loss for GM," said Laurie Harbour-Felax, a Detroit-based consultant who has studied automakers all over the world for 18 years.

Sean McAlinden of the Center for Automotive Study inAnn Arbor, Mich., said there was a clear sense inside GM that an alliance with Ghosn and Renault/Nissan would have distracted from GM's turnaround effort. Wagoner cited the measured success of the turnaround plan as one of the principal reasons GM felt comfortable turning down the alliance. In addition, payments for cross-ownership in Renault would have come from GM's cash reserves, Wagoner said.-Joseph Szczesny

Catch the briefest of press releases on GM-Renault/Nissan

But Will Ford Take GM's Place Sur La Table?

Now that talks between General Motors and Renault-Nissan are over, Ford Motor finds itself in the odd position and rare position of catbird seat. That's because Renault/Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has already made it clear that he wants to extend his two-company alliance to a third North American company. That can only mean Ford. But it won't be slam dunk Here's why.

Nissan Altima Hybrid Bows at OC Auto Show

Nissan's Altima Hybrid has broken cover at the Orange County auto show in Anaheim, Calif. And Nissan says the hybrid four-cylinder-powered sedan will get close to 41 miles per gallon in city driving by EPA rating methods. The new sedan uses Nissan's 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and Xtronic CVT coupled to battery and motor technology licensed from Toyota for a combined output of 198 hp.

The Altima Hybrid will be marketed from early next year in the eight states that have the most potential for sales, Nissan says, including California, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine and New Jersey. Non-hybrid versions of the new Altima go on sale this month.

Sept. Sales: Toyota Hits a Grand Slam

Ford Motor Co. sales showed life in September as gasoline prices began to stabilize, but the big news was the strong showing by Toyota Motor Corp., which reported a 20-percent sales gain last month. Toyota has claimed the number-three spot in the U.S. this year and now has outpaced DaimlerChrysler AG in sales for six consecutive months. If Chrysler loses its hold, it will mark the first time that a non-American company has claimed the third spot in sales.

Hyundai Bringing Veracruz to Detroit

NAIAS_TBIRD_1The new mid-size crossover from Hyundai will arrive in production form at the Detroit auto show in January. The Veracruz-which TheCarConnection showed you first last year, and confirmed as the Veracruz this summer-will be the ninth vehicle to join Hyundai's 2007 lineup, the company said in a release. Standard stuff on the Honda Pilot-sized vehicle will be a stowaway third-row seat, a 3.8-liter V-6 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission, as well as staility control and side curtain airbags. Hyundai promises official photos of the new Veracruz will be released this month.

See spy photos of the new Veracruz

Rolls Going Smaller; Maybach, Too?

2004 Maybach 62Less than 24 hours after Rolls-Royce revealed it would develop a new small model, Maybach was saying it might do something very similar.

The new Rolls will be launched "within the next four years" according to chairman and chief executive Ian Robertson, and sit below the flagship Phantom. The company says it will cost between $250,000 and $380,000 before tax, depending on spec.

However, there's speculation it won't just be one car, as it was described as a "new model series" rather than a new model.

Planning permission has been granted to expand operations at Goodwood, U.K.

The Maybach news was revealed by Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the board of management for DaimlerChrysler. Asked to comment on the new Rolls, and whether Maybach might do something similar, he said: "Obviously there's some space between the price range of the current Maybach and the top Mercedes. We're looking at that and if there's a chance of filling it we have to decide if we want to. And also if it is with the Mercedes brand or the Maybach brand. However, we feel under no pressure to make that decision soon." -Richard Yarrow

MINI Traveller Next Year?

2006 MINI Traveller Detroit conceptA production version of the MINI Traveller concept, shown last January in Detroit, could come as soon as next year. MINI execs on hand at last week's Paris auto show say the production version of the Traveller will arrive in showrooms before the next version of the Cooper Convertible. The Convertible, introduced in 2004, is about halfway through its life cycle, execs indicate, which could mean a 2008 model-year introduction for a revamped ragtop. Until then, the existing Convertible will share a production line with the new MINI Cooper being introduced in Europe shortly and in the U.S., just after the new year.

MINI has sold 875,000 vehicles since the 2000 reintroduction of the brand under the BMW aegis. Out of 1500 dealers, 76 are located in the U.S. The new version, incidentally, is being built because sales volumes dictated a larger plant output, which dictated some manufacturing changes; because of pending European pedestrian-safety regulations that made front-end changes inevitable; and because, execs add, a new engine needed to meet tougher emissions regulations was slightly larger than could be wedged under the hood of the first-gen MINI.

Spied! MINI Traveller and more

GM Says Corsa Coming to States

General Motors' Opel brand will send the Corsa compact to the U.S. market after the vehicle's next redesign, likely to come in the next few years. Automotive News reports that GM vice chairman Bob Lutz says the Corsa will be badged as a Saturn. It could be as many as five years before the Corsa is replaced, since a new version has just arrived in Europe. And despite its design origins, the car likely will be built in North America - leaving open the possibility that it might be built in Spring Hill, Tenn., the original Saturn plant that is losing Vue production to a GM plant in Mexico soon, or potentially in Mexico. The Corsa's competition will be subcompacts like the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, and MINI Cooper.

Nissan Eyes Production Shifts

2005 Infiniti QX56 - frontA Japanese newspaper, Nihon Keizai, is reporting that Nissan Motor Co. is preparing to shift production of two vehicles, the Quest minivan and QX56 luxury sport utility vehicle, from its assembly plant in Canton, Miss., to Japan in an effort to reduce costs. The Japanese plants are better equipped to build multiple products, the report said. The Canton plant would then concentrate on pickup trucks. The paper, however, did not succeed in obtaining any comment from Nissan. However, a shift to pickup truck production could leave Nissan's Canton assembly plant, which has been tagged as a troubled plant over the years, as vulnerable in the coming pickup truck wars that will get underway in earnest next February when Toyota is scheduled to begin marketing its new Tundra. The consensus among observers is that while the new Tundra is targeted against trucks from General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler, Toyota's launch is certain to put intense pressure on Nissan's Titan pickup in the relatively small "Japanese" portion of the full-size truck segment. Nissan officials also have complained of late that a key reason the Titan has never reached its 100,000-unit sales target was the inability to overcome the heavy ad spending by competitors such as Ford and GM. The promotional spending in the truck business will ramp up dramatically over the next six months as GM, Ford, Chrysler and Toyota have mapped new, expensive campaign to push their trucks.-Joseph Szczesny

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