More stories related to 2005 NAIASEmbrace of the Titans

General Motors Corp. product guru Bob Lutz was spotted leading an entourage of reporters through the auto maker’s display at the Detroit show this week.

As the journalists hung onto his every word, a much larger contingent approached from the right flank, led by Japanese idol Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.

Ghosn ran over to Lutz and the two titans embraced in an Oprah-like moment beside a Pontiac G6 sedan, before going their separate ways.

Blue-Light Special

Not many think of a $68,000 Porsche 911 as a value-oriented purchase. But that’s how Porsche Cars North America Inc. bills it.

PCNA head Peter Schwarzenbauer says if you took a 911 of 10 years ago and factored in inflation, it would cost $80,000. But the recently launched new 911 starts at only $69,300 in the U.S. “That’s the kind of value we’re putting in today,” he says.

Similarly, the ’05 Boxster is $2,570 cheaper, comparably equipped, than the ’04 model, Schwarzenbauer says. Customers know a good buy when they see it, he says.

PCNA’s allotment of ’05 911s is 75% sold out already, Schwarzenbauer says. That compares to a more typical advanced-sale rate of 40%, he says. Buyers also are scooping up used models. In its first year of offering certified used vehicles, Porsche dealers delivered 4,629 units.

Gotta Getta Jetta

As Volkswagen AG Chairman Bernd Pischetrieder relays it to journalists at the auto maker’s annual board dinner in Detroit, an interesting thing happened at the star-studded Jetta introduction party at Warner Bros. Studios in Hollywood last week.

Fifteen-year-old rap star Clio jumped on top of the all-new Jetta on display and demanded to get his own version of the car for his sweet 16 birthday next month. Problem is the vehicle does not arrive on U.S. shores until March.

“It was definitely the highlight of the event at midnight,” Pischetrieder says. “I left Len (Hunt, vice president of Volkswagen of America, Inc.) with this problem.”

No word on whether Clio will get the car before consumers.

Fusion Profusion

Ford may have a high-performance, supercharged or turbocharged Fusion SVT in the near future.

"With a bubbled or scooped hood?” teases Peter Horbury, Ford Motor Co. executive director of design-North America, though declining to talk about such a venture.

Product chief Phil Martens suggests it might be unveiled at the New York auto show this spring. Martens has been pressing for a European rally-tuned sedan for some time and says that dream is “more alive than it has ever been.

“It fits in with what we want from the Fusion brand,” he says. “We want performance-based products off Fusion.”

Martens envisions a Rally-based all-wheel-drive Fusion with the SVT moniker.

Meanwhile, based on the growing popularity of hybrids, it would seem Ford might move up the Fusion hybrid’s intro date. Nope, Steve Lyons, president of Ford division, says.

"Based on hybrid demand, we're not going to change the date we introduce the Fusion hybrid. But we're taking another look at the volume we planned."

Supercar Formula

Denny Clements, Lexus general manager, thinks Toyota Motor Corp.’s luxury division will build a version of the LF-A supercar concept. He says Toyota can leverage its Formula 1 efforts to help make the business case. He also says Lexus continues to pursue a 2-flagship strategy: a sports car capable of 200 mph (322 km/h) and a $100,000 flagship sedan.

Hoping the Check is in the Mail

Chrysler Group Chief Operating Officer Tom LaSorda says he expects a decision from the Ontario government by month’s end on funding to help pay for the training involved in adding a third shift for the Brampton, Ont., Canada, plant that builds the Chrysler 300 Series, Dodge Magnum and will add the Dodge Charger. The third shift is slated to be added in February.

I’d Like to Thank the DOE

Bernie Robertson, the retired Chrysler Group technology executive who is part of the FreedomCar initiative to promote hydrogen-fuel technology, applauds GM’s latest fuel-cell concept, the Sequel, but cringes at Larry Burns’ omission to credit the Dept. of Energy for its role in the initiative.

Currency Crunch

“We’re lucky Spartanburg (SC plant) gives us a natural hedge and an opportunity to export,” says Tom Purves, chairman and CEO of BMW North America LLC, of the tough financial sledding created by a strong euro against the dollar.

“Every one we export helps us. If the dollar doesn’t buff up, the long view remains build where you sell, “which is what we did the first time we had a currency problem – we built a plant in South Carolina.”