With Lexus sales disappointing, except for the RX300 sport/ute,Motor Corp.'s luxury division has shuffled top management.
Dennis Clements, who has been chief operating officer of Central AtlanticDistributors Inc. since 1991, becomes group vice president and general manager, replacing Bryan Bergsteinsson as Lexus' top executive.
During Mr. Bergsteinsson's tenure, Lexus reported record sales and profits. But recently the division has struggled as the U.S. luxury segment has become more competitive. Mr. Bergsteinsson becomes group vice president-University of Toyota. He will oversee Toyota's dealer and associate education organization.
David E. Cole, who founded the University of Michigan's annual automotive management briefing seminars in Traverse City, MI, in 1972 and has presided over each session since then, may be leaving the U-M. He's expected to announce his future plans at this year's meeting, which runs Aug.7-11. WAW sources in mid-July confirmed that Mr. Cole, who is director of the U-M Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation (OSAT), will team up with the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM). Both are based in Ann Arbor, the U-M's hometown. OSAT sponsors the Traverse City briefings. ERIM is a technical research firm tipped toward hush-hush contracts for government agencies. Its sensors aboard aircraft or satellites provide detailed on-ground information that, among other things, can be helpful in analyzing brushfires and floods. Lately ERIM has moved into information technology research. In late1998 it acquired the Ann Arbor-based Center for Electronic Commerce to support this effort. Only a small part of ERIM's contracts are automotive related. It's understood Mr. Cole would combine some of OSAT's organization with ERIM to expand its capabilities. OSAT, for example, conducts major automotive research but doesn't take the next step: Implementing strategies to act on the results. In theory, the OSAT-ERIM collaboration would make a neat fit. One source close to the nego-tiations emphasizes that Mr. Cole wouldn't simply walk out with OSAT in his briefcase. "It's a collaboration - a win-win," he says. If Mr. Cole does take a whack in the media, he can always call on experts at Fleish-man-Hillard of St.Louis, which bills itself as the nation's largest PR agency and boasts expertise in "reputation man-agement counsel and services." Mr. Cole joined the firm in a "strategic partnership" in early July.