More MBS Coverage How Fast Can HHR Go?

Chevrolet plans to be busy with its upcoming new retro-sleek HHR wagon/van.

Mark Reuss, executive director-GM Performance Div., says General Motors Corp. will attempt to set a land speed record with a modified HHR as part of the company's continuing initiative to hike the performance credentials of its specialty and low-volume cars.

Reuss also says Chevy expects the HHR to be popular with the tuner crowd. “We think they will be one of the most customized vehicles in the market,” he says.

Meanwhile, GM is finding OEM customization still has legs - and profitable legs at that. Reuss says the ultra-blinged $72,000 Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum currently accounts for half of all sales of the Escalade SUV. Caddy moved 52,612 Escalade SUVs last year.

Oh Say Can You See…

Freshly arrived from Tokyo, U.S. Toyota chief Jim Press stepped outside the Management Briefing Seminars Tuesday evening to enjoy the view of the Traverse City area.

When asked what would happen if Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm's greatest wish came true and Michigan did get a Toyota plant, Press said, “Sales would go up (in the state).”

Then, scanning the guest parking lot at the Grand Traverse Resort, where the seminars are being held, he said, “We need something. There aren't many Toyotas (out there). I'm worried. I've got to go to work.”

On Wednesday, after Granholm gave a rousing presentation on the state's assets, Press stepped to the podium and said, “I suddenly have an urge to buy some land in Michigan.”

After a split second when Press no doubt envisioned headlines the next day, he quickly caught himself and said, “That's not an announcement,” and made it clear he was just speaking personally.

Kind Words for UAW

It may be popular for some to diss the United Auto Workers union for its purported connection to high health-care and legacy costs.

But Lawrence Drake, president and CEO of Kuka USA, praises the UAW for cooperating on a flexible, unique work environment at DaimlerChrysler's under-construction new Jeep manufacturing plant in Toledo, OH.

Kuka is one of four suppliers that will independently operate several key areas of the plant.

Drake says labor laws do not permit the body shop that Kuka will run to be unionized before it becomes operational.

But asked here if the shop will become a UAW workplace, he replies, “I sure hope so. It's the only way it (the Toledo plant's innovative operating structure) will work.”