Pischetsrieder heads to VW, could succeed CEO Piech Former BMW AG chief executive Bernd Pischetsrieder, who was ousted in a board shakeup last February, could be the next chief executive of Volkswagen AG. Mr. Pischetsrieder, 51, will join Volkswagen in July as chief executive of the SEAT subsidiary in Spain and the management board member for a new quality division. He will have a contract at VW from July 1, 2000, to June 30, 2005. Volkswagen chief executive Ferdinand Piech is scheduled to retire in 2002. Analysts say Mr. Pischetsrieder could succeed Piech, who has not designated a successor. Mr. Pischetsrieder was BMW's chief executive for six years and had been a major supporter of BMW's acquisition of Rover and the subsequent hands-off management policy that resulted in huge losses. At SEAT, he will replace Alain Pierre de Smedt, who joined Renault this year.

Auto industry prosperity: No end in sight, DCC says U.S. car and truck sales will decline this year, but there's no real end in sight to prosperity for the automotive industry, according to DaimlerChrysler Corp.'s top economist. New vehicle sales will dip to 16.6 million units in 2000, DCC's W. Van Bussmann predicts. But that still represents the second best tally in history after the record 17.4 million units in 1999 (including medium and heavy-duty truck sales of about 500,000). A further decline to 15.8 million units is forecast for 2001. Longer range, Mr. Bussmann's charts and graphs show no recession on the horizon for the industry out through 2005. Volume in Canada and Mexico should remain stable. In the U.S., inflation is low and personal disposable income remains up, contributing to consumer willingness to buy new cars, although consumer debt is at an all-time high, Mr. Bussmann points out. For 2000, Mr. Bussmann sees U.S. sales ranging from 15.9 million to 16.7 million, depending on incentives.

Mitsubishi to build SUV in U.S., had a solid '99 Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will invest $1.4 billion in its Normal, IL, assembly plant over the next three years to add production of the next-generation Montero sport/utility vehicle, says Pierre Gagnon, executive vice president of Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America Inc. Overall, Mr. Gagnon says Mitsubishi enjoyed a strong 1999, with sales up 33% to 250,000 units. Much of that growth is due to the Galant, which is enjoying a 70% gain on 1998, and the new Eclipse, up 78.5%. Still, the company has a long road ahead, having cut back sharply on ad agencies in crafting a new advertising strategy. That's because Mitsubishi spent $1 billion on advertising over a 17-year period, and 56% of Americans still didn't know the company sells motor vehicles in the U.S., Mr. Gagnon says.

The 'M' word makes a comeback at GM Wasn't it a year ago at the Detroit auto show that General Motors' Mark Hogan fired the shot heard 'round the union halls by talking so eagerly about modularity and its potential for small car assembly? With lessons learned from that affair, neither GM nor the United Auto Workers union are talking much about the $700 million light-truck plant GM announced recently, partly because it has some features of modularity. The Shreveport, LA, facility, which is scheduled for completion in 2002, will be slightly smaller than the existing GM S-10/Sonoma/Isuzu Hombre factory it will be built next to. And there's reportedly a buzz at the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce over the recent increase in suppliers inquiring about property in the area. In 1999, UAW opposition to GM's proposal to use modular production methods for small cars killed that program.

GM May Want Honda V-6 for Cadillac General Motors Corp. and Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s announcement that they would provide each other with engines in the near future might have implications for Cadillac's upcoming U.S.-built Catera for 2002. GM has yet to say whichmodel or models might use the engines, but sources tell WAW sister publication Ward's Engine and Vehicle Technology Update it may be considering the Honda V-6 for the next generation Cadillac Catera. The current Catera's 3L V-6, also used in Saab Automobile and Adam Opel AG models, has not been highly regarded. Although the two companies say the engine-swapping deal (Honda gets diesel engines from GM affiliate Isuzu Motors Ltd.) also includes future technology sharing, Honda reiterates that it intends to remain independent. Not yet known is whether the deal will have labor-relations ramifications for GM. The automaker says the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) was notified of the deal.

Safety pioneer Allen Breed dies of cancer Capping what has been a year of struggle for Breed Technologies Inc., the Lakeland, FL, supplier of safety restraints loses its founder and chairman emeritus, Allen K. Breed, after a long battle with cancer. Mr. Breed, who pioneered the mechanical crash sensor that enabled the rise of air bags, founded Breed Technologies in 1987 before taking the company public in 1992. He first founded Breed Corp. in 1961 to develop and manufacture safety and arming devices for the military. He is survived by his wife and business partner, Chairman and CEO Johnnie Cordell Breed, as well as four children, two stepchildren and eight grandchildren.

Give it to me straight, doc - just don't tell me the cost DaimlerChrysler Corp.'s Supplier Cost Reduction Effort (SCORE) is well known as a cooperative attempt to cut costs throughout the entire supply chain. Now the German-American automaker is attempting to apply the successful program to better managing out-of-control health care costs. In a recent pilot program, DCC helped negotiate a better health care package between electricity supplier Detroit Edison and its insurer, and the automaker is exploring initiatives with another 25 of its suppliers. The company also is attempting to use its buying power to save its Five Star dealers a combined $1 billion in health care and other costs. DCC says it spent $1.4 billion on health care for its 409,000 employees in 1999, double what it paid in 1986. The figure will jump 9%, or $126 million, in 2000, DCC says.

Alliance: EPA should have banned sulfur The Environmental Protection Agency's Tier 2 emissions rules adopted recently are "headed in the right direction," but don't go far enough when it comes to requiring cleaner fuels, says the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. The Tier 2 rules will cut emissions from passenger cars in half and require light trucks to meet identical standards as cars for the first time by 2009. Once cleaner fuel rules fully kick in in 2030, the EPA says oxides of nitrogen emissions will be reduced 74% from today's levels and soot will be 84% eliminated. That's the equivalent of removing 164 million cars from U.S. roads. But automakers are critical of the policy's move to cut sulfur content in gasoline from 300 parts per million to 30 ppm by 2030. Manufacturers say they need cleaner fuel in order to achieve the emissions reduction targets.

Model T, Mini take car of the century honors The votes have been counted and the Car of the Century is - drumroll please - the Yugo. Just kidding. The Ford Model T (no surprises here) earned the award bestowed by a panel of 126 automotive experts representing 32 countries. Ward's own editor-at-large, David C. Smith, was among the panel of international judges. Henry Ford's car for the masses received 742 points, followed by the British Mini (617 points), Citroen DS (567 points), Volkswagen Beetle (521 points) and Porsche 911 (303 points). Mr. Ford also was named automotive entrepreneur of the century, Volkswagen's Ferdinand Piech was named car executive of the century, and Ferdinand Porsche was named the century's most significant auto engineer.