Don't panic - SAE isn't leaving Cobo It's understandable - but laughable in the eyes of the Society of Automotive Engineers - how such rumors get started. As recently as late January, the buzz among certain auto scribes was that last year's fire at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit has forced SAE to move the entire 2000 World Congress 30 miles north to the Pontiac Silverdome, home of the hapless Detroit Lions. SAE spokesman David Schwartz reassures us that Cobo has been reserved for World Congress until at least 2005. This year's event runs March 6-9. The likely source of the confusion is a ride-and-drive event that SAE is hosting, as part of the Congress, in the Silverdome parking lot to demonstrate traction control and other technologies. Last year's fire continues to smolder, however, as SAE and the city of Detroit are at odds over replacing the massive shipping crates that went up in smoke on Cobo's loading dock.
to depart: And then there was one In case any doubt remained, DaimlerChrysler AG Co-Chairman Robert J. Eaton made it official in late January - Juergen Schrempp is the man in charge at the Stuttgart-based automaker. Mr. Eaton, who for months maintained he had no plans to depart early from DC, says he will retire after all, effective March 31. Mr. Eaton, who turns 60 on Feb. 13, says he made the decision a couple of weeks before informing the board on Jan. 26. "We're under no delusions, there is still a lot of work to do," Mr. Eaton says. "I feel extremely positive about the leadership in Auburn Hills. ... The company is in terrific shape, and the time to leave is now." His departure is adding more fuel to the rumors that DC is on the verge of a tie-up with Italy's SpA. The latest speculation has the two swapping equity stakes, with DC taking over control of the Fiat Auto operations.
GM's '99 take: $6 billionCorp.'s fourth-quarter net income declined 35.4% compared to like-1998 results, but that wasn't enough to stop the world's largest automaker from posting a calendar-year record of $176.6 billion in net sales and revenues. GM also had record earnings of $9.36 per share of common stock. Overall earnings leaped from $3 billion in 1998 to a whopping $6 billion in '99. Cash reserves are up from $13.1 billion at the end of '98 to $14.4 billion. Even GM's much-maligned worldwide market share inched upward (15.8% vs. 15.6% in '98). In North America, GM reported net income of $1.1 billion and a 3.4% net profit margin. In Europe, income fell from $146 million to $30 million, but the automaker managed to slightly increase its market share there. Losses continued to mount in Asia/Pacific, but GM's Latin America/Africa/Mid-East region returned to profitability after a loss of $161 million during October-December 1998. Profit sharing checks for 154,000 hourly workers will average $1,775, up from $200 last year.
earns record $7.2 billion; Visteon price cuts "expected" Not to be outdone by GM, Ford Motor Co. announces $7.2 billion in net earnings ($5.86 per share) for 1999 - a record for the auto industry that generates all-time high hourly average profit sharing checks of $8,000. President and Chief Executive Officer Jac Nasser says several moves are responsible for the stellar year: the acquisition of Volvo Car, the recently announced e-business initiatives, cutting costs by $1 billion and successful launches of products including Ford Focus and Lincoln LS. While North America is humming, Mr. Nasser says "results in Europe and South America are unacceptable." Full-year earnings in Europe were down to $28 million from $193 million in '98. In South America, Ford lost $452 million, after losing $226 million the year before. Visteon Automotive Systems, the partsmaking operation that Ford soon will spin off, earned $735 million, up from $703 million in '98. But Visteon employees were fuming to see Ford's press release disclosing that a new pricing structure is in the works in which Visteon is "expected" to "reduce prices to Ford." It's bad enough to be flogged by your customer in private - even worse in public.
Roberts to retire; insists it's voluntary Denying he is the fall guy for GM's slipping market share in the U.S., Roy S. Roberts, GM's group vice president-Vehicle Sales Service and Marketing, announces that he will retire April 1. William J. Lovejoy, general manager of GM's Service Parts Operation (SPO) since 1992, will replace Mr. Roberts, who is 60 and had the difficult job of consolidating the independent functions of GM's five divisions when he was promoted to his current position in October 1998. The transition was anything but smooth, and it cost GM during the hottest sales year in industry history. GM also scrapped with some dealers over advertising dollars and angered others with plans to buy dealerships. Mr. Roberts insists he's not being forced out. With Mr. Roberts' departure, GM, which at one point had four African-American officers, now is left with one - Roderick D. Gillum, vice president-Public Policy and Diversity Initiatives.
GM combines car and truck engineering, manufacturing Reflecting the changing marketplace for cars and trucks,Corp. is merging its big car and truck operations into single teams focused on engineering and manufacturing rather than vehicle type. Beginning in first-quarter 2000, car and truck engineering will be handled by one team and manufacturing by the other. GM's car and truck groups currently employ 105,500 people (including hourly workers) at 26 assembly plants. GM officials say the move is aimed at addressing the continued blurring of the lines between cars and trucks and the growing popularity of so-called "crossover" vehicles, not reducing headcount. Meanwhile, GM's big Powertrain and Metal Fabricating Div. operations will operate as they do today. GM Senior Vice President Donald E. Hackworth will continue to serve as global process leader for manufacturing while maintaining responsibility for the Car Group through the transition, and Thomas J. Davis, GM group vice president, will continue as global process leader for engineering, maintaining responsibility for the Truck Group through the transition.
Say goodbye to Cirrus, Breeze DaimlerChrysler Corp. plans to eliminate the Cirrus nameplate when it brings out its revamped lineup of JA midsize cars for '01, DCC President James Holden tells WAW. It also will add 2-door coupe versions of the cars for the first time. DCC, which already effectively eliminated the Breeze from the midsize car lineup when it announced an end to the Plymouth brand, will drop the Cirrus badge in favor of Sebring, the name currently used on the JA-based convertible built in Toluca, Mexico, and the Galant-based 2-door coupe made forby Motor Mfg. of America Inc. in Normal, IL. The '01 build plan calls for the Sterling Heights, MI, plant to produce 2- and 4-door Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus sedans, plus the Sebring convertible. Toluca has been converted for the upcoming PT Cruiser. DCC likely will change the name of the Mitsubishi supplied cars, or possibly drop the Chrysler version of those models altogether. The Galant-based coupes are slated for a restyling for '01, and Normal is under contract to continue supplying the cars to DCC through the '04 model year.
Intellichoice picks best vehicle values, Mercedes-Benz, , Chevrolet and Infiniti grabbed top honors from California-based IntelliChoice's 14th annual BOVY (Best Overall Value of the Year) awards. The Honda Civic CX Hatchback was deemed the best car value under $20,000, The Mercedes-Benz E320 AWD sedan best car value over $20,000. Ford's Ranger XL Supercab 4WD extended cab was the selection for the best truck value for less than $18,000. The best truck value over $18,000: the Chevrolet Silverado K1500 2-door extended cab. In the SUV vehicle segment, Honda's CR-V LX 2WD wins in the under-$25,000 category. The Infinity QX4 4WD was tops on the over $25,000 list. "Our analysts annually pore over millions of automotive stats and facts. We evaluated more than 800 car and trucks from the class of 2000," says IntelliChoice President John Hammond.
Ford Focus hip? Boost in production says it's so Ford Motor Co.'s quirky looking Focus appears to be hitting the right buttons with the vehicle's target audience. About 26% of Focus sales so far have been to buyers 18 to 25 years old and a full 48% to people 35 and younger. Ford's decision to keep the Escort in its lineup for the first year certainly hasn't hurt Focus sales, as many buyers view their purchase as a step above Escort. Focus is especially hot in California, a small car market that remains tough to crack. "In December, California was leading the nation in Focus sales," a Ford spokesman says. Ford boosted Focus output in January at Wayne Assembly in Wayne, MI, by nine units an hour to 74, the same rate the plant ran when it was producing the Escort.
Japan new-car sales slide to 15-year low Japan's auto sales round out a flat year on a weak note, but analysts predict demand to rebound in 2000. Auto sales posted a decline for December 1999, down 1.8% from year-ago. The drop follows a 0.2% rise in November, which, though modest, broke a 32-month sales slide. Sales of new motor vehicles totaled 294,397 in December, compared with 299,846 in December '98. Among Japan's five leading automakers,Motor Corp., Motor Co. Ltd. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. suffered sales losses, while Mazda Motor Corp. and Motor Co. Ltd. saw increases. Mazda sales leaped 18% to 19,962. Overall for 1999, new vehicle sales fell 8% to 3.9 million units, the lowest level since 1984, reports the Japan Automobile Dealers Assn.
Strong quarter for, Meritor, Buoyed by record automotive production in 1999, three top suppliers report solid earnings for the quarter ending Dec. 31. Delphi Automotive Systems exceeded analyst expectations by posting net income of $269 million on sales of $7.2 billion. For Delphi's first year as an independent company, net income was $1.1 billion on total sales of $29.2 billion. Meritor Automotive has recorded nine consecutive quarters with double-digit earnings growth since the company's initial public offering in 1997. It finished the quarter with net income of $46 million, or $0.69 per share, an earnings-per-share increase of 19% over like-'98. Johnson Controls Inc. reports net income of $99 million for the first quarter of fiscal 2000, up 24% from like-1999.
DCC minivans go for AWD, not disappearing seats Don't look for disappearing seats in DaimlerChrysler Corp.'s trio of new minivans, Dodge Caravan,Voyager and Town and Country, when production begins this June or July at DCC's Windsor, Ont. plant, followed by St. Louis in the fall and then Graz, Austria, in early 2000. DCC says the $2.8 billion spent to revamp the vans didn't include adding a feature now famous in the Honda Odyssey minivan: a third row of seats that folds into the floor. DCC says adding such a feature wouldn't have allowed it to continue offering all-wheel-drive, which will go into production shortly after launch. DCC expects the take rate for AWD to hover near 10%. The take rate for a new power rear hatch on the minivans is expected to be high, and DCC says the pipeline is in place to meet nearly 100% penetration. DCC expects to take about 40% of the minivan market, which it sees as remaining about level with 1999's 1.1 million units.