Group just keeps making more Hemi V-8s. But even though Detroit rivals Motor Co. and Corp. acknowledge the Hemiâ€™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 â€śHurricaneâ€ť V-8 Ford is rumored to be developing specifically as a Hemi-fighter.
He does say, however, that Ford soon will offer news on â€śwhat weâ€™ll do next for big truck engines.â€ť
Tom Stephens, group vice president-GM Powertrain, a man who never met horsepower he didnâ€™t like, knows the original Hemi well. â€śHeck, I own two of them,â€ť he laughs.
But Stephens isnâ€™t ready to concede the all-time muscle-engine crown â€“ either to Hemis past or present. His group builds a modestly successful engine, too. No less than the seminal â€śsmall-blockâ€ť V-8, which marks 50 years of continuous production in 2005.
â€śHow many Hemis have they made?â€ť Stephens asks. â€śWeâ€™ve made 90 million small-blocks. Our volume compared to the Hemi is about 10,000 to 1.â€ť
Mitsu Eyes Modest Share
Motors North America is being cautious regarding details of its â€śbusiness revitalization action planâ€ť in advance of releasing specifics after the plan is finalized later this month. But new President and CEO Richard Gilligan tells Wardâ€™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 forâ€™s comeback because it is the worldâ€™s largest single market, and 70% of Mitsubishiâ€™s sales come from outside Japan.
Gilligan says the auto maker also is encouraged by improving sales in Europe, Russia and South America.
â€śIâ€™m comfortable this brand is going to succeed,â€ť says Gilligan, who denies speculative reports the auto maker will abandon the U.S. Mitsubishi, he says, â€śhas the stamina and financial resourcesâ€ť 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,Corp.â€™s vice president-GM Powertrain.
â€śI satisfy customers,â€ť 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?
â€śI satisfy customers,â€ť Stephens repeats. â€śThe ones who want more power are going to get more power.â€ť
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.
â€śI told the Mercedes guy I thought they could have done better with the M-Class to make it a little more new and exciting,â€ť he tells Wardâ€™s.
More impressive is the brand differentiation on display at the Ferrari-Maserati stand.
â€śThe one thing that catches my eye is the extremely well-executed positioning of the Maserati and Ferrari brands next to each other. I think thatâ€™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 thatâ€™s an excellent and very well-executed brand strategy.â€ť
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 Audiâ€™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.