More stories related to 2005 NAIAS No Hemi Envy at Ford, GM

Chrysler Group just keeps making more Hemi V-8s. But even though Detroit rivals Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. acknowledge the Hemi’s smashing success, neither are ready to admit to any Hemi envy.

Dave Szczupak, vice president-Ford Powertrain Operations, says Ford is happy with its Triton lineup of 5.4L SOHC V-8s and 6.8L V-10s, and laughingly eludes questions about the so-called “Hurricane” V-8 Ford is rumored to be developing specifically as a Hemi-fighter.

He does say, however, that Ford soon will offer news on “what we’ll do next for big truck engines.”

Tom Stephens, group vice president-GM Powertrain, a man who never met horsepower he didn’t like, knows the original Hemi well. “Heck, I own two of them,” he laughs.

But Stephens isn’t ready to concede the all-time muscle-engine crown – either to Hemis past or present. His group builds a modestly successful engine, too. No less than the seminal “small-block” V-8, which marks 50 years of continuous production in 2005.

“How many Hemis have they made?” Stephens asks. “We’ve made 90 million small-blocks. Our volume compared to the Hemi is about 10,000 to 1.”

Mitsu Eyes Modest Share

Mitsubishi Motors North America is being cautious regarding details of its “business revitalization action plan” in advance of releasing specifics after the plan is finalized later this month. But new President and CEO Richard Gilligan tells Ward’s one goal is a 1% to 2% share of the market after the 3-year turnaround period.

Gilligan says the U.S. is the linchpin for Mitsubishi’s comeback because it is the world’s largest single market, and 70% of Mitsubishi’s sales come from outside Japan.

Gilligan says the auto maker also is encouraged by improving sales in Europe, Russia and South America.

“I’m comfortable this brand is going to succeed,” says Gilligan, who denies speculative reports the auto maker will abandon the U.S. Mitsubishi, he says, “has the stamina and financial resources” to remain in North America.

Stop Me Before I Accelerate

Hemis with 425 hp. Small-block V-8s with 400 hp and soon 500. All manner of V-6s making 280 or 300 hp.

When will the horsepower race end? Who will be the first to put on the brakes?

Not Tom Stephens, General Motors Corp.’s vice president-GM Powertrain.

“I satisfy customers,” Stephens asserts, saying GM makes engines of all kind, but is not about to be left behind in the performance arena. With a 500-hp 7L small-block V-8 for the Corvette Z06 just around the corner, is that enough?

“I satisfy customers,” Stephens repeats. “The ones who want more power are going to get more power.”

M-Class a Yawner?

General Motors Europe President Carl-Peter Forster says he is impressed by the products presented by the Japanese makers, although he has a special place in his heart for a number of GM products, of course.

He says he is disappointed with the design of the new Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV, however.

“I told the Mercedes guy I thought they could have done better with the M-Class to make it a little more new and exciting,” he tells Ward’s.

More impressive is the brand differentiation on display at the Ferrari-Maserati stand.

“The one thing that catches my eye is the extremely well-executed positioning of the Maserati and Ferrari brands next to each other. I think that’s an excellent example of product differentiation, creating different brand attitudes, targeting vehicles for different people, yet using a lot of technical synergies. I think that’s an excellent and very well-executed brand strategy.”

What Price Hatchback?

The crucible is being readied, and Audi of America Inc. soon will prove whether U.S. customers will accept the hatchback body style. More specifically, premium-priced hatchbacks.

Coming to the U.S. by mid-summer is the A3, an upscale hatchback Audi believes will resonate with customers who want a premium-brand vehicle at a mid-market price.

Johan de Nyssthen, executive vice president, says to expect a typical transaction price of about $27,000 (the standard engine at launch is Audi’s 2L DOHC I-4 that features its FSI direct gasoline injection system). He says Audi hopes to sell 7,000-8,000 units in roughly a half-year of availability in 2005.