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Auto Industry News


Full Member
May 11, 2002
Royal Oak, Michigan

Ford Motor Company's new Lincoln Aviator sport-utility vehicle, to be sold in the U.S., will have a sticker price of $39,995 for the base model with rear-wheel drive, reports Global Auto Headlines. The highest base price will be on the Premium all-wheel-drive model, at $45,865. Lincoln expects 85 percent of Aviator buyers to be Lincoln converts. The Aviator, for sale in October, will compete with the Toyota RX300, priced in the mid-$30s to mid-$40s.

Automotive supplier Visteon has formed a partnership with BMW to make wireless and hands-free electronic technology. According to Global Auto Headlines, Visteon said it has developed a wireless interface module for BMW that will be on the market next month as options on 3-series, 5-series, and X5 models. In addition to the BMW agreement, Visteon will provide Chrysler with lightweight compressors for use in future models. The auto supplier did not disclose details about the deal with the American automaker.

Dingell Pushes Diesel Power-
Many roadblocks lie ahead as lawmaker tries to break fuel economy logjam in D.C

The Detroit News
August 27, 2002
By Daniel Howes

FRANKFURT, Germany--Michigan Rep. John Dingell is so impressed by the fact a diesel-powered Audi A2 gets close to 70 miles a gallon that he's preparing legislation to make it easier for Americans to drive diesels.

But first, oil refiners selling diesel fuel in the United States would need to do what many European refiners already are -- offer diesel fuel with a fraction of the sulfur now fouling American diesel engines.

The Michigan Democrat, long an ally of Detroit's automakers, is considering a bill that would offer refiners tax breaks to retrofit operations and jump-start production of low-sulfur diesel fuel before new federal regulations go into effect in 2006. He would also aim to eliminate obstacles "to the dieselization of the auto fleet," a move sure to spark a titanic lobbying battle.

"We have to have some kind of catalyst to start this debate and break this logjam," Dingell said in an interview with The Detroit News. "If you can get 70 or 50 miles a gallon, it will eliminate a lot of warfare over (Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE) and gas-guzzling and whatever. You can get your CAFE practically up and your fuel use down."

That doesn't mean, however, that myriad interest groups won't line up to torpedo Dingell's efforts before he and Rep. Billy Tauzin, a Louisiana Republican who supports Dingell's idea, can get some sort of legislation out of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

State-of-the-art diesels are "unbelievably clean and unbelievably efficient. I can get you bipartisan support," Dingell said, ticking through possible political roadblocks to getting a bill signed into law. "But I can get you bipartisan opposition, too. That's the problem."

Big Green won't like it because environmentalists generally hate diesel engines, whose exhaust fumes carry dirty particulate matter, or soot, and nitrogen oxides, or "NOx." In California, diesel exhaust is considered a carcinogen -- a conclusion echoed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- meaning any push to encourage use of diesel engines in passenger vehicles is likely to encounter resistance.

Yet the EPA says low-sulfur diesel fuel and new exhaust emissions technologies, such as one debuting next year on Toyota Motor Corp. cars in Japan, would provide a "major advancement" in diesel emissions "comparable to the catalytic converter in the 1970s."

New diesel emissions technology and more like it being developed by other automakers can reduce soot and NOx emissions to those of the cleanest gasoline engines, although you don't see that in the Sierra Club's discussion of diesel engines.

Many roadblocks

Big Oil probably wouldn't like Dingell's bill because legislation offering tax incentives to retrofit refineries for low-sulfur diesel fuel removes an important excuse for not doing so. Oil companies do it in Europe, thanks to incentives, European Union mandates and tax policy that makes diesel fuel about 20 percent cheaper per liter than gasoline in most of Western Europe.

Any oil executive with half a brain knows rushing to invest in refining a fuel whose exhaust has the word "cancer" tied to it is, by definition, a risky thing. Dingell's incentives would need to be attractive to be effective, but that might prove difficult as the federal budget deficit is expected to grow.

State highway authorities might try to scuttle Dingell's legislative push because wider usage of diesel fuel in cars, pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles means drivers would buy less fuel because their vehicles would run longer on a tank of fuel.

That's less tax revenue coming into state highway funds.

Big Auto could have trouble with the timing of Dingell's legislation, too, because European competitors are primed to pump diesels into the U.S. market should they be welcome.

Still, General Motors Corp. has been urging federal policymakers to reconsider their hostility to diesel engines. And Ford Motor Co. is developing its own line of six-cylinder diesels for European models that could be deployed in the United States, but that would take time and more money.

GM and Ford want federal regulators to revisit diesel engines because both are spending heavily to develop a full line of state-of-the-art diesel engines for European customers. Offering diesel engines to American consumers would help GM and Ford spread their investment across more cars and trucks with the hope of delivering a positive return sooner.

Another benefit: Adding diesel cars and trucks to GM's and Ford's U.S. model range would help them -- and others -- meet their federal fuel-economy targets, or CAFE, while still offering customers familiar gasoline engines in their pickups and sport-utes.

Head start for rivals

As much as GM and Ford say they want to sell diesel-powered vehicles to Americans and Canadians, there's the little issue of competition and the fact that many rivals have a head start on engineering diesel engines into most of their existing models.

Both GM and Ford missed the growing diesel trend in Europe and have spent the past five or so years trying to catch up to the Germans and the French. One driver behind GM's grab for 20 percent of Italy's Fiat Auto SpA was to secure its expertise in small-engine diesel technology.

Volkswagen AG has a 10-cylinder diesel engine, to be offered in its new Touareg sport-ute, that could pull stumps. BMW AG already offers a four-liter diesel in its X5, and DaimlerChrysler AG is dropping Mercedes-Benz diesels into Chrysler PT Cruisers, Jeep Grand Cherokees and Libertys sold in Europe.

German auto execs, frustrated that U.S. policies seem hopelessly biased against diesel engines, privately consider the regulatory hostility a form of unofficial protectionism designed to protect Detroit's automakers.

Conspiratorial, yes. But not likely. Europeans benefit from a fuel tax structure across Europe that favors diesel fuel (they can thank the farm lobby for that). There's also the EU's regulatory push to crank down on soot and NOx emissions by requiring oil companies to produce diesel fuel with 50 parts-per-million of sulfur by 2005, compared to 500 ppm in the United States today.

In Germany, where the environmentalist Green Party is a member of the coalition government, regulators are planning to cap diesel fuel sulfur at 10 ppm by next year. The Swedes moved to 10 ppm in the early 1990s by reducing the tax on diesel fuel, something the British did at the end of the decade with great success.

As of June 2006, U.S. refiners would be required to produce diesel fuel with 15 ppm of sulfur.

Dingell's legislation, still under study, effectively would get diesel fuel cleaner and sooner, but he doesn't foresee monkeying with the fuel-tax structure to get there. Someone else can fight that fight because this one would be big enough.

Way to go Zimm Now that was alot to say in a couple of posts:)
Good read...nothing like staying abreast on current events... :B:
U.S. Auto Sales Accelerated 13%, Driven by Deals

August Results Put Big 3 On Track for Strong Year; A Bright Spot in Economy

September 5, 2002

DETROIT -- U.S. auto sales surged 13% in August to the highest level this year as consumers, shrugging off economic worries and stock-market woes, thronged car dealerships to take advantage of sweeping no-interest-financing offers.

Industry officials said sales are on track to make 2002 nearly as strong a year for the auto market as last year, which was the second-best in U.S. history. And there are few signs auto buyers are likely to grow skittish, despite the sluggish economic recovery.

General Motors Corp.'s sales jumped 18% to 490,150 vehicles, including a record number of sport-utilities. Ford Motor Co.'s results were up 8.2% at 364,776, while DaimlerChrysler AG saw its sales jump 21% from a weak month the year before. All the results, which helped spark a late-day rally in the stock market, are adjusted for 28 selling days in August this year, compared with 27 the year before.

"Consumer fundamentals remain favorable," said Jim O'Connor, head of North American sales at Ford, which reported its best August sales ever, including an all-time record for its Explorer SUV. "Low interest rates and inflation, and affordable vehicle prices and terms continue to support strong demand for new cars and trucks."

Auto sales have been one of the few bright spots in the economy since GM kicked off the no-interest-financing deals to breathe life into the market in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. August's sales result, an annual rate of 18.7 million vehicles, on a seasonally adjusted basis, was the highest since the original no-interest deals drove sales to a record of 21.3 million in October 2000

Even as the country has shaken off the initial shock and horror of the attacks, auto makers have stuck with similarly generous offers, sustaining demand. In the first eight months of this year, sales are up 0.8%, defying forecasts of a double-digit decline.

Much like strong home sales, which also have been driven by low interest rates, the auto makers' results are becoming an unexpectedly important factor in any economic recovery. Comerica Bank economist David Littman calculates that auto demand has added between a quarter and a half a percentage point to GDP growth over the past year.

The latest performance offers a significant contrast to the way the U.S. auto industry has fared in past economic downturns. In the early 1990s, U.S. auto makers sustained sharp sales declines, slashed production and shuttered factories, much as they had done in decades before. High interest rates and unemployment dried up demand.

But this time is different. Consumers have continued to spend, and auto makers have stronger reasons than ever to fight for those dollars. Under withering attack from foreign competitors and faced with high costs for unionized workers and retirees, U.S. auto makers see little choice but to use discounts to sustain sales and market share, despite worries about the economy.

The classic boom-and-bust cycles that defined the auto business since its inception appear to be giving way to a dynamic in which overall sales volumes remain relatively stable, because car makers have an enormous imperative to discount their wares and keep the factories churning. The biggest impact of the business cycle thus falls on manufacturers' profits and pricing.

"People say, `Aren't incentives hurting you?' " says GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner. "I say, `Relative to what?' . . . We do better when we run our plants."

Yesterday, GM raised its 2002 earnings forecast for the fourth time this year -- by 50 cents to $6.10 a share -- as it boosted production plans to help rebuild inventories depleted by the torrid sales pace of recent months. But GM didn't back off much on discounts, either, offering cash rebates and no-interest financing on nearly all of its 2003 models. Though the terms of many offers weren't as generous as GM had offered last month on the outgoing 2002s, the new deals spread to some of GM's hottest new models, including the Cadillac CTS sedan and the Pontiac Vibe hatchback.

"We're going to put our foot on the accelerator," said Paul Ballew, GM's chief market analyst. After two decades of losing market share, GM is gaining ground this year, thanks to a popular lineup of pickups and sport-utility vehicles. GM sold 132,826 SUVs in August, which it said was a record for any auto maker.

Ford, meanwhile, said sales of its Explorer also set a record of 51,021 in August, the most ever for an individual SUV. That performance, powered by no-interest financing for terms as long as five years, was particularly striking in the wake of the controversy surrounding recalls of Firestone tires mounted on Explorers that began two years ago.

The continued popularity of SUVs, despite concerns about their increased risk of rollover highlighted by the Firestone recalls, also reflects a major shift in the U.S. auto market over the 1990s.

Middle-class buyers who once dominated the new-car market have increasingly shifted to late-model used cars, which often deliver more value for the dollar. Wealthier buyers, meanwhile, have stepped up their new-car and truck buying. In 1995, the richest quarter of households, those with annual incomes of roughly $75,000 or more, accounted for 30% of new-car sales, according to GM. Last year, that figure was 46%.

An increasing number of middle-class buyers still in the new-car market are buying upscale, fueling sales of so-called entry-level luxury vehicles, such as the Mercedes C-Class, which starts at about $30,000 and the BMW 3-Series, which can be had for even less.

Sarah Riker, a 25-year-old Appleton, Wis., nurse earning in the mid-$30,000 range, just bought a house, got married and picked up a black $29,000 BMW 325i she ordered weeks ago. She doesn't balk at the $450 monthly payment on the three-year lease, figuring, "If you're making money you should enjoy it."

BMW sales, including the new Mini subcompact, were up 13% in August, marking the company's strongest first eight months ever.

The strength of sales this year has extended beyond brands offering deep discounts. Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., which haven't matched the broad no-interest offers from the Big Three, both reported sales records in August. Toyota sales were up 13%, powered by gains for Camry sedans and Highlander SUVs, as well as a big jump in sales for the Lexus ES300 luxury car. Honda's sales also rose 13%, thanks to strong sales of its SUVs and minivans.

Mike Jackson, chief executive of AutoNation Inc., the country's largest auto retailer, predicts strong demand will continue as auto makers launch new products and keep discounts coming on older ones. AutoNation's biggest problem, he says, is getting enough vehicles to sell. "Availability is going to be a challenge through year end," he says.

Auto makers and dealers warned that sales could slow somewhat in the next few months because many popular models are in short supply after the blowout sales of the last few months. The car companies also are trying to avoid further escalation in the discounting war, as consumers increasingly come to demand deals. Unlike GM, Ford has so far avoided offering no-interest financing broadly across its 2003 models. The auto maker expects to post a modest profit this year after a $5.45 billion loss last year. DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler group said it would add no-interest financing on its 2003s. While DaimlerChrysler's sales, including its Mercedes luxury brand, were up in August, the German-American auto maker's sales are down 0.5% so far this year. While it doesn't provide per-share earnings forecasts, it said in July that it expects operating profits of at least 4.05 billion euros ($4 billion) this year.

GM's Mr. Ballew said he doesn't expect much easing of the discounting pressure until the economy picks up steam. "We expect no backing off," he said. "We're seeing a moderate recovery."

American Cash Is Still The King Among World's Top Automakers

September 10, 2002

FRANKFURT, Germany--Toyota Motor Corp. President Fujio Cho says he's mulling another assembly plant for the United States, as if Detroit doesn't have enough problems.

This is bad for Detroit, because it means Toyota figures it will continue to grow its share of the U.S. market -- up 4.1 percent this year. Second, it suggests the expansion is likely to be aimed where General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group make what little money they do -- trucks and sport-utility vehicles.

America is where the money is. For all the bellyaching foreign governments do about the U.S. role in the world, its plans for ousting Iraq's Saddam Hussein and its attitude towards global warming, the International Criminal Court and globalization, their automakers love our money.

The United States, expected to sop up between 17 million and 18 million new vehicles this year, is the single largest auto market in the world -- no one else comes close. Europeans would, of course, dispute such "arrogance" and marshal figures showing Europe to be bigger. But "Europe" isn't a single market, as any Italian banker or German automaker would attest.

American cash is, quite simply, king. There's more of it. There are more people willing to part with it more often, be it through three-year leases, buying a second or third car or just getting something new. And Americans, for all the guff they take from people abroad who don't really understand them, are a pretty open-minded bunch.

This, of course, sometimes gives Detroit's auto execs fits. But deep down they know such freedom of choice is what defines the American-style free market more countries want and -- gasp! -- their consumers do, too.

Simply put, the Japanese and German automakers successfully wooing U.S. consumers are increasingly adept at playing an American game: First, they're offering Americans something they don't think they can get from Detroit, be it quality or brand-image or both. Second, the best foreign automakers are using the openness of American consumers, their free-spending culture and a general aversion to trade barriers to grow their U.S. business.

Like I said, America is where the money is. Toyota and Honda Motor Co. continue to struggle in Europe, and have virtually no presence in Latin America. Nissan Motor Co. is turning up the heat on plans for the U.S. market and leaving partner Renault SA for Latin America. BMW AG, too, is a bit player outside Western Europe and the United States.

GM and Ford each have huge global footprints. Yet it's their performance back home -- in California, Atlanta, Houston and Topeka, Kan. -- that will determine whether foreign rivals beat them at their own game, despite home-field advantage.

It doesn't have to happen. GM, long ago given up for dead by most of the "experts," is showing unmistakable signs of doing the right things. It is developing cars and trucks people want, not ones they feel they need to settle for. It is boosting net profit margins, despite the highest incentives in the industry. And it is gaining precious market share most thought was lost forever.

The game is far from won for GM, but it's starting to prove it can play. So can its cross-town rivals. American cash will be king for years to come, so why shouldn't more of it stay right where it's minted?

Zero Percent a 9/11 Hero?

GM's response to plunging consumer confidence is getting credit for keeping America rolling.

September 11, 2002

In the hours and days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the American economy seemed ready to grind to a halt. Detroit car dealer Joe Lunghammer, Jr. recalls sitting in his showroom during the wet and gloomy days that followed, listening to the sound of rain on the windows. There wasn’t much else to do. No one was shopping. Not at his Chevrolet dealership, nor at Wal-Mart or Saks.

With the U.S. economy already slipping into recession, “There were plenty of folks predicting we’d have the worst holiday season since the Great Depression,” says Ken Goldstein, an economist with the New York-based financial think tank, The Conference Board. And while Goldstein was a bit more bullish, it was clear the nation needed a nudge.

The dust and debris hadn’t even settled in lower Manhattan when a delegation including the U.S. Labor and Commerce Secretaries rushed to Detroit to meet with top-ranking officials from the U.S. auto industry. The well-covered session couldn’t help but bring to mind another meeting on Capitol Hill 48 years before, when former General Motors President Charles “Engine Charley” Wilson told a Congressional committee, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country. And vice versa.”


There was no question that a slowdown in the economy would bring to an end three record years of U.S. car sales. And so, if Washington was seeking help, GM was ready to react. On September 20th, the automaker rolled out one of the most lavish incentive programs in automotive history.

Festooned in patriotic bunting, the “Keep America Rolling” program offered zero-interest financing on a wide range of GM products. Within days, most of the automaker’s main competitors weighed in with lucrative incentives of their own.

GM expected to maintain its costly program for no more than 45 days. But a year later, zero-interest has become the norm rather than the exception.
It’s not difficult to understand why. Certainly, no one was prepared for how car buyers would respond to the first wave of zero-interest loans. But when the numbers were tallied at the end of October 2001, sales came in at an annualized rate of 21.6 million, by far the best month in U.S. automotive history. Since then, auto sales have been running at a strong 17.6-million annual pace, which would put 2002 on a track to be one of the industry’s best years ever.

The trend continued in August. U.S. auto sales jumped a hefty 13.5 percent, with the annualized rate soaring to 18.7 million.


But it hasn’t been a boon for just the auto industry, insists George Peterson, director of the consulting firm, AutoPacific, Inc. “Single-handedly, GM stimulated the economy and forced other manufacturers to go along with it.”

Despite continuing terrorist threats, boardroom corruption and a stock market in near free-fall, consumers have yet to rein in their spending as they would have at this point in past recessions. And while there are certainly weak sectors among various retail goods, the overall economy has grown a reasonably healthy three percent since last September.

With cars accountable for five percent of the total U.S. economy, there’s no question the auto industry is the nation’s 800-pound gorilla, though the Commerce Board’s Goldstein is less willing to give GM sole billing for keeping the economy rolling. He insists the “Keep America Rolling” campaign “couldn’t have played well, but for the fact that consumer optimism (was, and) even today remains, reasonably strong.” But Goldstein also acknowledges the role that automotive incentives, department store sales and other come-ons played in shoring up that confidence.

“There was a happy confluence of economic forces,” agrees David Littman, chief economist for Detroit’s Comerica Bank.


The auto industry’s incentives might not have been possible nor worked nearly as well, he suggests, had not two other events occurred. For one thing, the Federal Reserve Board reduced its own loan rates, and then there was the federal tax cut, which put money into the pockets of consumers, who could use the cash for a down payment.

As former GM President Wilson pointed out, what’s good for the economy is also good for General Motors. And the world’s largest industrial manufacturer has fared quite well over the past 12 months, reversing a decade-long decline in market share. Last month, GM’s share surged to 28.7 percent, up more than a full point compared with August 2001.

Of course, the incentives haven’t come cheap, despite the cuts by the Federal Reserve. In recent months, auto analyst John Casesa, of Merrill Lynch, has estimated GM is spending close to $3000 a vehicle in subsidies. That’s on top of the fact that new car prices have, on average, declined by roughly one percent over the last year in the face of withering competition.

But the cost of sitting back and waiting last September might have been far greater, cautions GM economist Paul Ballew. “We had very mixed emotions” about launching the zero-interest campaign, he recalls. “But the question was whether we wanted to sit on our hands and wait or take the bull by the horns.”

The cost of doing nothing might have been measured in terms of plant closings and layoffs, and the Big Three wouldn’t have simply been able to shut off the cash flow spigot. For one thing, workers would have continued to collect 95 percent of their pay and benefits under their current labor contract. So Detroit might have saved relatively little while watching sales collapse.

“If we had to do it all over again, we’d do the same thing,” Ballew contends.

Should the low-interest loan programs continue, some analysts question whether the Big Three U.S. automakers might run into a problem raising the capital they need to keep themselves funded.

Comerica Bank economist Littman says that’s beside the point. The loan programs have to continue. They are keeping the auto industry rolling, he believes, and helping to keep

America rolling through the current economic downturn.
Ford Pushes Price War, Offers Deferred Payments

September 12, 2002

DETROIT - Taking Detroit's price wars to new heights, Ford Motor Co. announced on Thursday that it will allow customers to buy its 2002 model year Ford vehicles and make no payments until January.

Dubbed "Free Ride," the deferred payment plan can be used in conjunction with other incentives on Ford's 2002 vehicles, including no-interest loans and cash rebates of up to $3,500, Ford said.

Ford said the plan would become effective Thursday and run through Sept. 30.

Under the plan, customers with five-year or 60-month payment plans will be required to make their payments in 57 months beginning in January, a Ford spokeswoman said.

Offers of deferred payments are common from appliance and home electronics dealers, and department store furniture departments are rife with such deals. But they are rare in the U.S. auto industry where only Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp., a unit of Ford, are thought to have offered them in recent memory.

General Motors Corp., the world's largest automaker, has taken the lead on popular sales incentives ever since it introduced zero-percent loans after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

But analysts said Ford, the No. 2 automaker, is tired of playing second fiddle to its cross-town rival.

"It's interesting they're doing this because GM has been the leader and I think Ford is feeling kind of left behind," said analyst David Bradley of JP Morgan Chase.

"Every incentives program that comes out it's GM leading and Ford matching. I think Ford is trying to get aggressive and show they can be first once in a while too," he said.

Ford followed in the footsteps of GM and the Chrysler side of DaimlerChrysler AG last week by offering zero-percent loans on some of its 2003 model Ford brand vehicles.

But Ford, whose sales have lagged behind its rivals this year, has the largest stockpile of 2002 models among Detroit's Big Three automakers and needs to clear them out quickly.

"They need to get rid of '02 inventories," Bradley said.

Incentives have bolstered U.S. auto sales to near-record levels this year, despite widespread fears about the economy and America's "jobless" economic recovery.

But the deals, and Detroit's cash war, have have been expensive to support, forcing automakers to slash costs elsewhere to protect already thin profit margins.

Ford's shares closed up 26 cents at $11.16 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Ford said it did not announce the program on Wednesday out of respect for the Sept. 11 anniversary. It also said a national advertising campaign for the program will begin Thursday.
Here in Australia ford is really taking a hammering from Holden (local GM product). ?They have just released their new model to try and take back market share as holden have been in the lead for several years now. ?Local talk is that if this model doesn't do it for them, then they may pull out of Australia all together.
Ford says Barra Falcon's all-new interior is among the best in the world

By MARTON PETTENDY 9 September 2002
FALCON buyers will be treated to a comprehensively overhauled, stylish and ergonomically superior new interior when the BA Falcon is rolled into dealer showrooms in October.

Replacing the unloved, oval-themed AU Falcon interior with a crisp, clean, cockpit-style driving environment that's reminiscent of Audi, the all-new interior features tactile push-buttons, a number of new features and equipment, and a fully revised driving position.

Revealed to the motoring media last week as the final instalment in Ford's controlled release of BA Falcon information, the new interior is said to set new standards for the Australian automotive industry.

Having openly stated the new Falcon interior aspired to BMW-like levels of design and refinement, senior Ford officials now say the Barra interior is among the best in the world.

"The exterior always takes the limelight and it's got to in some ways because it's the thing that draws you to the vehicle in the first place, but it's really the interior which cements the purchase choice because it's the thing that you live with every single day. It's such an undervalued element of the car," said Ford Australia design director Simon Butterworth.

"What we tried to do is really enforce what the exterior's already telling you. With the interior we want to capture the exterior's dynamic qualities but with elegance and with a contemporary and aspirational feel. The car in terms of design was set around the driver. For example the window controls are on the door where you need them ...

"In terms of the design, the contemporary surface language, I think that this is a real step for the Australian marketplace. This design, I really do believe, sets new standards. This design is probably the best design of an interior to come out of Australia - and I actually put it, amongst the studios of the world, as one of the best out of any studio in the world.

"I'm talking about the basic intent, the fact the designers considered the way this was going to be built, so craftsmanship levels were the best we could achieve. That's done at an early stage by a team working together with all of the functions and designs taking that on board at a very early stage in the program."

The new BA Falcon interior, development of which was led by interior design manager Marcus Hotblack, is dominated by the metallic-look central Interior Command Centre. ICC features a large LCD screen (high series Falcon gets a laptop-quality, full-colour TFT display) operated by a row of tactile, multi-function piano-style keys, the functions of which vary according to the mode selected.

There's also newly designed, more tactile window switches, door pockets big enough to accommodate a street directory, a multi-function steering wheel with brialle, rubberised air vent controls and new instrument background colours, including green for XT and Futura models, white for premium models and blue for XR.

The entry level Falcon XT will come standard with a four-way power driver's seat adjustment plus lumbar, twin front airbags, variable intermittent wipers, a 100-watt single-CD audio, more efficient air-conditioning, trip computer, tissue box holder, knitted velour seat fabric, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, front power windows, steering wheel audio controls, illuminated glovebox, anti-lock brakes and remote central locking.

"The XT, although an entry level model, we wanted to be a vehicle that was true to the Falcon brand," said Mr Butterworth.

"The XT is a no-excuses premium level vehicle that is going to set new standards most definitely in this segment."

For models further upstream there's side airbags, a new electronic twin-zone climate control system with pollen filter and 14-speed fan, an analogue clock, six-way power driver's seat adjustment with memory, power adjustable pedals, illuminated vanity mirrors, front door courtesy lights and reverse parking sensors.

But the BA Falcon comprises much more than a revised, Euro-look dashboard - it also features all-new proportions. The entire centre console is now angled six degrees toward the driver to perpetuate the cockpit-style theme, and it's also 40mm closer to the driver than before.

The instrument binnacle is more open and the steering column stalks are longer, higher and closer to the driver. The Euro-style headlight switch has been replaced by a Japanese-style indicator stalk-mounted item.

Reach to the gearshift - a problem for short drivers with AU Falcon - has been reduced by 30mm, while the front seats have been moved inboard by 12mm to accommodate side airbag deployment, provide greater shoulder room, allow access to the power seat switches and improve vision around the A-pillar. Front seat travel has also increased by 12mm in both directions, while driver's seat height adjustment range is up 10mm to 50mm.

It is believed Holden's facelifted VY Commodore will also feature a revised interior with new features when it goes on sale later this month, but whether The General goes to the same lengths as Ford has with its $500 million Barra Falcon upgrade remains to be seen.

Ford president Geoff Polites said the clean-slate approach allowed Ford to set clear interior design targets very early in Barra's development phase.

"We've adopted a very different strategy with the interior of BA. Basically we set out to create a truly aspirational XT and then build up from there," Mr Polites said.

"In terms of showroom appeal, I think that our customers are going to be blown away by the absolute quality levels of this interior.

"We've made craftsmanship one of our major priorities with this new model and that's meant paying a lot of attention to the look and feel of the interior. We've also spent a lot of time making sure all the controls are intuitive and fall easily to hand - and the results are truly outstanding."

BA Falcon XT
Barra 182 engine
Control Blade IRS
Five-speed manual transmission
16-inch steel wheels
On-glass antenna
Side skirts
Roadside assistance

BA Futura
As per XT plus:
Sequential Sports Shift auto
16-inch alloy wheels
Body coloured rub strips
Body coloured mirrors
Cruise control
Front and rear power windows
Front passenger lumbar adjustment
Rear grab handles
Rear reading lights
Centre rear armrest
Rear cupholders

BA Fairmont
As per Futura plus:
Full chrome and grey mesh grille
Prestige Interior Command Centre
Prestige six-CD in-dash audio
Dual-zone climate control
Woodgrain inserts
Overhead console
Velour seat fabric
Leather steering wheel
Footwell illumination
Auto headlights on/off
Dual horns
Traction control

BA Fairmont Ghia
As per Fairmont plus:
Premium Interior Command Centre
Premium six-CD in-dash audio
Leather park brake handle
Memory power driver's seat and mirrors
Six-way driver's seat adjustment
Power adjustable pedals
Leather gear lever
Illuminated vanity mirrors
Luggage net
Front door courtesy lights
17-inch alloy wheels
Sports Control Blade IRS
Reverse parking sensors
Side airbags
Driving lights

Falcon XR6
As per XT plus:
17-inch alloy wheels
Body coloured rub strips
Body coloured mirrors
XR bodykit
XR driving lights
Sports instruments
Cruise control
XR leather steering wheel
Cloth trimmed sports seats
Passenger lumbar adjustment
Sports Control Blade IRS

Falcon XR6 Turbo
As per XR6 plus:
Barra 240T turbo engine
Rear power windows
Rear grab handles
Limited slip differential
Traction control

A very good read

Incentives Delight Dealers As GM Pushes To Increase Market Share
SOUTHFIELD -- One of General Motors Corp.'s newest and most promising cars has been selling briskly and is in short supply. No matter. Last week, the automaker lowered its price.

On Sept. 4 GM offered its latest round of zero percent discounts and cash rebates. For the first time, the no-interest and low-interest financing incentives apply to the Cadillac CTS sedan, which starts at about $30,000 and has been selling briskly at full retail price.

If chopping the price of a best-seller is out of synch with Detroit's usual practice of maximizing revenue on models drivers are lining up to buy, the move is consistent with GM's strategy since Sept. 11: Deals, deals, and more deals.

Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler group -- GM's main competition -- are offering similar discounts. They must do so or lose customers. Within the past week both have offered 0 percent on many models.

"We were ready on Sept. 4 with two or three alternatives, depending on what GM did," said Gary Dilts, senior vice president of sales for DaimlerChrysler AG. "We were ready because we knew they were going to do something."

The No. 1 automaker has won praise, and rightly so, for leading the industry to maintain production and sales with broad discounts. Had it decided instead to slow assembly lines and lay off workers in anticipation of a weak 2002 after the Sept. 11 attacks, the result might well have been higher unemployment than the current 5.7 percent rate and an even weaker economic growth than the 1.1 percent rate posted in the second quarter.

Retail car dealers are thrilled. With every automaker striving to match GM's discounts, retail franchisees are enjoying prodigious volume and healthy profit margins. The National Association of Automobile Dealers says dealers earned 2.1 percent net income on sales through June of this year, up from 2 percent in the first half of 2001.

Some automotive suppliers also have gained from discounting. "In the current environment, the dealers, customers and suppliers all are benefiting," said Mel Stephens, vice president of investor relations for Lear Corp. of Southfield, Mich., which makes auto seats and other interior parts. Its stock price is up 29 percent since Jan. 1.

GM's shares, by contrast, are off about 6 percent during the same period. For the past five quarters its net income has averaged 0.8 percent of sales.

Not the best time to be cutting prices, it would seem. "Our strategy is to be simple and compelling," said Jeff Roegner, a spokesman. "We want to be a leader, not a follower."

What began as a patriotic initiative "to keep America rolling," as GM's advertisements proclaimed, has evolved into a push to seize market share -- mainly from Ford and Chrysler.

The Japanese and European automakers have been more wary of rebates and low-interest financing because they don't feel the same pressure on their U.S. market-share as the Detroit-based industry. Through August, GM's market share rose 0.8 percent to 28.5 percent; overall, the domestic industry's share fell to 61.9 percent from 63.1 percent.

Price-cutting has been depressing the profits of GM and its competitors. Not cutting prices, though, could spark a sales collapse, which would damage more than profit margins or investment in future models.

GM needs the cash generated by strong sales to pay the pensions and health care benefits of 452,000 retirees and spouses in the U.S. -- more than twice the company's 195,000 active employees. At the end of 2001, its $67 billion pension fund was under funded by $9 billion.

It's easy, therefore, to understand why the automaker two months ago decided to increase production of Cadillac CTS at its Lansing, Michigan, factory to 40,000 cars annually from the current 30,000. Earlier in the year Cadillac executives said they hoped to avoid flooding the market with CTSs in order to preserve the model's exclusive image.

The current 0 percent financing will lower the cost of buying a $35,000 CTS, which includes several popular options, to about $972 a month over three years from $1,057 a month, assuming a loan for the full amount at a 6 percent rate. Many CTS buyers are choosing to lease, which now costs less than $500 a month on a 36- month contract.

Unless demand for autos somehow greatly strengthens, the industry can expect a continuation of discounts and rebates and the weak profits they bring.

Another possibility for increased profits, though unlikely, would be that 80 million units of worldwide automating capacity somehow shrinks toward the current 60 million units of worldwide demand.

Not a bad situation at all if you fancy driving a new Cadillac CTS.
I never understood the buy now, pay later mentality. ?I pay for things on my credit card and then pay off the balance every month. ?I'll be damned if they get a dime of interest from me.

With an automobile, it depreciates from the moment you sign the paperwork. ?Why would you want to wait months before starting to pay it off? ?You would just become more negative in equity.
Skidd said:
Here in Australia ford is really taking a hammering from Holden (local GM product). ?They have just released their new model to try and take back market share as holden have been in the lead for several years now. ?Local talk is that if this model doesn't do it for them, then they may pull out of Australia all together.
If GM North America would release cars and trucks like Holden and especially Holden Special Vehicles does, Ford would exit here also. ;D
gandolphxx said:
If GM North America would release cars and trucks like Holden and especially Holden Special Vehicles does, Ford would exit here also. ;D
G-xx, you bring a smile to my dial.. a fellow HSV enthusist. ?They sure do put out some arse kicking vehicles. ?:D

You should have a look at their 300KW (402 HP) models. (y)
World's Auto Giants Eye Russia's Ripe Car Market

MOSCOW - The world's auto giants are coming up with different strategies to tackle Russia's car market, but all agree that its growth potential is huge.

So far their forays into the country, where luxury vehicles and ageing Soviet era rustbuckets vie for roadspace, range from opening a brand new factory to linking up with local manufacturers.

Ford Motor Co. kicked off production of its Focus model at a new $150 million plant just outside St Petersburg in July and General Motors Corp will begin to make an off-road vehicle with Russia's AvtoVAZ this month.

France's Renault will be assembling the Symbol, a booted variant of its successful Clio hatchback, at a plant in Moscow by the end of the year. Germany's Volkswagen is carefully investigating the market.

"The board of Ford decided to go ahead with the project because this is one of the world's growth markets -- car ownership per thousand in Russia is 144 compared to 580 in Germany," said Henrik Nenzen, President of Ford Russia.

The plant will produce 3,500 cars this year, rising to 10,500 in 2003 and by 2005 Ford hopes sales of its Russian and foreign made cars in the country will hit 25,000.

Nenzen said the plant will not hurt Ford's other factories, because the vehicle is for domestic sale. Sales of the company's foreign-produced Sport Utilty Vehicles, at the higher end of the market, are increasing.

The plant, which has a full capacity of 100,000, would eventually make another model, but for the moment it would concentrate on the Focus, he added.


GM's joint venture in Togliatti, a town in the Volga area named after an Italian communist party leader, will make 30,000 Chevrolet Niva off-road vehicles in 2003 rising to 75,000 a year by 2005.

"We would eventually like to look at a second or third vehicle for the plant," said Heidi McCormack, General Director of GM CIS.

She said car imports into Russia, currently running at 100,000 a year, had the potential to grow by 12-18 percent a year. The nation's one million a year unit domestic market had growth potential of around 10 percent a year.

"There are no internal competition issues within GM (with regard to production at the Niva plant)," McCormack said.

GM's off-road vehicle will sell for $8,000 in Russia while the Ford Focus starts at $10,900.

Russia's tiny proportion of super-rich can afford to drive imported Mercedes cars, but the companies looking to produce in the country are targeting an emerging middle class with money to spend after recovering from a 1998 financial crisis.

Renault has been gearing up to produce cars in Russia since 1998 but has still to take a final decision on when to go ahead.

"Experience shows that if you want to take a significant place in a specific market you have to produce locally," said Yann Dorison, Communications Director for Avtoframos, a company jointly owned by Renault and the City of Moscow.

"Any car we manufacture will be cheap and robust, costing under $10,000," he said.

Volkswagen currently operates only a network of dealerships in Russia.

"For the time being we are not saying we do not have interest in future projects in Russia ... we are investigating and it is not decided yet," said Andrej Gordasevich, a spokesman for Volkswagen Russia.

"You have to wait for the right time, the right model and the right purchasing power of the population," he said adding that any Russian-produced VW would sell for under $10,000.

After its departure from Rolls-Royce, British marque Bentley is assuming a new name. As of Tuesday, September 16, the company -- now based in Crewe, England and owned by Volkswagen -- will be known as Bentley Motors Limited, reports Global Auto Headlines. The name change became official on the 114th anniversary of the birth of company founder W.O. Bentley and just before the unveiling of the Bentley GT coupe at the Paris Motor Show. According to Global Auto Headlines, the original name was used since the company's founding in 1919 through 1931
Holden is on the verge of winning the contract to supply a low-cost rear-drive platform for GM

By BRUCE NEWTON 26 August 2002

HOLDEN is close to securing the rights to develop the low-cost rear-wheel drive platform that would underpin a forthcoming General Motors attack on the large and sporting car end of the US passenger car market.

While a US media report indicated last week that Holden already had the business, the local arm of General Motors was less inclined to confirm the deal, saying there was still competition from within GM's North American headquarters to contend with.

Leading US website, thecarconnection.com, reported that GM group vice-president in charge of advanced vehicle development Mark Hogan said GM would launch a line-up of new rear-wheel drive vehicles later this decade.

Mr Hogan said GM's sophisticated Sigma platform would be used to underpin luxury Cadillac models like the CTS and forthcoming STS.

But he said other divisions would get the platform being developed to replace the current V-car architecture, which will underpin the VE Commodore and other Holden model variants due around 2005.

Mr Hogan said the plans were a "work in progress" and that cars should begin rolling out of North American plants in three or four years in both rear and all-wheel drive configurations.

But Holden design chief Mike Simcoe, who was at the GM product seminar in Santa Barbara, California, where Mr Hogan made his comments, would not confirm the deal was done.

"There's a lot of talk about it, but to my knowledge it is not confirmed," Mr Simcoe said.

"The situation is we are being considered as the supplier of low-cost rear-wheel drive expertise to the world.

"My judgment on it is that we are one of a few players and we are newsworthy at the moment."

The use of Holden's rear-wheel drive platform expertise makes sense because the company has already developed all-wheel drive capability and has long shown the ability to deliver on a budget North America cannot match.

Of course Holden already has infiltrated the US with its rear-wheel drive technology as the Monaro is slated to go there from late next year as a 2004 model Pontiac GTO. Other new rear-drive models are set to be introduced from late 2004.

Backing up Mr Hogan's rear-wheel drive revelations was the first details last week of the next generation of GM concept cars that will be unveiled at auto shows during 2003.

Among them were a small-block rear-wheel drive V8 sedan called the Chevrolet SS and the Pontiac G6, a supercharged V6 all-wheel drive sedan.

While there would be no opportunity for local manufacture, the component export dollars of such a deal would be enormous for Holden. The US passenger car market is worth 8 million units per annum, despite the inroads SUVs have made in recent years.

Falcon fuel tank increases export hopes

WITH the fuel tank of the BA Falcon moved ahead of the car's new Control Blade rear suspension, does that mean potential export to markets like the US are now more likely?

In theory yes, because the repositioned fuel tank means US compliance is now easier, but in reality no because there just does not seem to be a lot of interest in BA exports beyond the accepted export markets of New Zealand and South Africa.

That's the somewhat downbeat assessment of Ford Australia director of product and business planning, Don Pearce.

"It (the repositioning of the fuel tank) opens up (export) possibilities - that's about as positive as I could say it," Mr Pearce said. "It increases our chances of feeding it that way.

"What we will be doing is shipping two or three production BAs of different varieties to the US to make sure people understand and can drive the vehicles and all that sort of stuff.

"It's all part of selling what we have got and what our expertise is.

"Whether you hit paydirt or not is another question."

According to a GoAuto source in the US, a potential opportunity for the BA platform could be the next generation Mustang.

"The word coming out of Dearborn is that Ford had cancelled the DEW-Lite based Mustang platform, leaving it without a suitable rear-wheel drive platform. The DEW-Lite was a stripped down version of the DEW platform that was planned to be used for a new RWD Ford Fairlane sedan, Mustang, entry Lincoln sedan and coupe/convertible, and a Lincoln SUV.

"It has come under extreme financial pressure from Ford and has all but been cancelled outright. Many still have the Mustang being built on this platform, but it doesn't make sense to me. Why keep this expensive and overweight platform around for only the Mustang, which would be the least profitable vehicle of the bunch?

"Recent rumours have the Mustang riding on a version of next generation Focus platform converted to RWD, though this sounds expensive and like a major compromise.

"It is also said that the BA Falcon's rear suspension will be used on the next Mustang and even the Focus. With the Chrysler Group preparing its new large RWD entrants and GM moving closer by the day, maybe Ford North America doesn't want to be left behind."

It doesn't take a mastermind to predict tomorrow's cars will be better than today's. Automotive systems developer Delphi shows us just how much better

By TIM BRITTEN 28 June 2000
FREED of its General Motors dependence in 1999, US-based Delphi Automotive Systems is making a big splash on the international front with a host of systems destined to change the way we relate to the business of owning and using an automobile.

Some of the systems are under development, some close to production-ready and some already in use with car-makers as diverse as Ferrari and Toyota.

The machinations behind Delphi's move to independence are no doubt convoluted and imponderable to those outside the industry, but the simple fact is that years of existence under the protective GM umbrella were not helping the competitive driving force within the company.

Delphi was originally known as the Automotive Components Group of General Motors, starting off in Australia as AC Sparkplugs.

It then merged with Rochester Products and became AC Rochester; then the two companies merged with AC Delco Systems.

At this point it underwent a name change where all of the component divisions of General Motors became known as Delphi Energy & Engine Management Systems Division.

Delphi's fully independent launch into the competitive world last year was a massive boost to the company's potential and a shot in the arm for those wishing to stretch their creative muscles.

Perhaps the main beneficiaries were the back-room boys, the boffins working on ideas and systems that will contribute to a safer, friendlier environment for road-users in the future.

As Delphi explains it, the fundamental principle behind most of what Delphi is doing is to create a protective "electronic cocoon" for each road-user that will make for a safer, more comfortable and economical driving experience.

Embracing many of the elements that are part of today's society - the Internet, satellite communication, environmental concerns - Delphi has a multitude of systems under development that ensure tomorrow's driving experience will be a lot different to what we know today.

Much of the developmental focus, according to Delphi, focuses on electronic communication systems including hands-off Internet use and e-mail functionality. Full hands-off Internet browsing is still not quiet at the production-ready stage but it is a certainty that before too long car drivers will have virtually every facility of a desktop computer at their disposal while on the move.

Advanced climate control systems that are cheaper and more efficient, largely through "smart" control systems that circulate air accurately through the interior and allow smaller, less power-absorbing compressors to be used.

Delphi already builds heating-ventilation-air-conditioning units, supplying to brands such as Ferrari (in the Modena) and Lamborghini.

Delphi is also engaged in developing systems aimed at making the interaction between driver and road, and from vehicle to vehicle, a more integrated process resulting in safer, more efficient and more comfortable road travel.

Without delving into every single one of the galaxy of projects Delphi is working on right now, here are some of the major areas in which the company is involved:

"COMMUNIPORT" - an integrated in-car communication and entertainment "infotainment" system spanning satellite navigation, e-mail, Internet, hands-free operation of telephone and address book, and an ability to connect with hand-held digital "palm-top" mini-computers. This enables the reading and downloading of e-mail messages, and downloading and reading of simple Internet text such as news or stock exchange information. A component of the Communiport scheduled for introduction around 2002 is MP3, a system developed from motion-picture CD-ROM compression standards, that enables the playing of music via massively compressed CD-ROMs containing up to 12 times the music data stored on a regular CD. Communiport also has the capability of supporting a telematics system that works via a module comprising mobile phone and a satellite receiver to allow connection with a call centre that can locate the position of the vehicle and provide assistance in the form of navigation, remote diagnostics or advise on the location of the nearest service centre. In-car entertainment including DVD films or computer games is also part of the Communiport grand plan. Delphi is also advanced on satellite digital radio reception and will be bringing it to market in 2001.

"QUADRASTEER" four-wheel steering is intended for larger, American-style pickup trucks. Four-wheel steering in regular car applications is far from being a new technology, but seemed headed down a blind alley. However it is undoubtedly of enormous benefit in big pickups. The system will be seen in 2002 on General Motors product and literally makes a large, Ford F250-style truck as manoeuvrable as a Corolla-size car. Not unlike the system employed by Japanese car-makers in the 1980s, Quadrasteer has low and high speed strategies enabling tight manoeuvrability at parking speeds and enhanced stability at higher speeds, particularly in towing applications. At low speeds the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels, resulting in a dramatic reduction in turning circle - in a typical case from 13.6 metres to 10.3 metres. At medium speeds, the rear wheels are fixed but move to a positive phase at higher speeds to assist stability. Delphi says the benefits when towing include better manoeuvrability at lower speeds and improved stability at higher speeds.

UNIFIED CHASSIS CONTROL (TRAXXAR) uses all the suspension systems developed by Delphi, including braking, steering, suspension and even engine, to deliver a comprehensive package that detects and corrects unwanted directional behaviour by the vehicle in extreme situations. Not unlike the stability control systems employed by the Germans, it uses differential wheel braking to cancel out the effects of under or oversteer, and adds damping control to help minimise the effects of weight transfer. Unlike the German systems, Traxxar allows vestigial traces of the under or oversteer attitude that car may find itself in, to telegraph to the driver that something untoward is going on. This is a philosophical programming difference that varies from the German tendency to have the vehicle actuating its systems yet conveying nothing to the driver. The system is already on use on various GM products including Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Chevrolet Corvette. Delphi also provided the technology used in Land Rover's "ACE" active suspension control - a damping control system - as fitted to the Discovery model.

STEER-BY-WIRE is, according to Delphi, still some way down the track but its application in the car industry has the potential to yield benefits in terms of economy of manufacture, steering characteristics and, strange though it may seem, safety. The thought of a steering system with no mechanical links between steering wheel and road, entirely dependent on electronics, might seem horrendous but Delphi has a system under development that addresses all safety issues. The approach is basically the same as in the aerospace industry; duplication of systems that allows another to step in if one fails, and exacting quality standards, are the means by which such a system could become the standard in future models. The safety aspects come through the elimination of a steering column - a recognised problem area in frontal impact protection - while manufacturing economy comes from the simplification of building for right or left-hand drive vehicles. Clearly some worthwhile weight advantages would result due to the elimination of many heavy mechanical parts, while steering characteristics could be programmed to suit any type of vehicle. Delphi already has electric steering systems (similar to that used in Honda's S2000) in production, notably in the Fiat Punto in Europe. In addition to flexibility and simplicity of design (there is no power steering pump for example), electric power steering also produces economy advantages of around three per cent.

Delphi has also developed a BRAKE-BY-WIRE system. Under the name Galileo and embracing various intelligent brake control systems, this combines things like anti-lock, traction control, stability control and tunable pedal-feel for fully integrated braking. Galileo brake control systems are already a commercial reality and are being used by many cars on the road today.

SUPPLEMENTAL BRAKE ASSIST, essentially aimed at enabling trucks to meet federal standards governing braking capabilities in the event of a system failure, and intended for production in 2003, relieves the problems of dealing with a fully-laden truck without braking assistance. Using an auxiliary pump that maintains pressure independently of the normal brake booster, the system gives a 50 per cert improvement on stopping distances with no power boost whatsoever. An automotive system, for larger cars unable to meet federal standards for the year 2002, is also under development and will be available to car-makers in two years.

Engine management also comes under the Delphi umbrella and the company is working on numerous projects including variable valve control (the next step on from Honda's VTEC system), economical direct injection petrol engines (and diesel), as well as engine management systems that maximise efficiency while improving fuel economy.

Delphi is also well advanced on the development of next-generation safety systems able to warn of events such as collisions further up the road, or that step in with corrective measures if the vehicle is in dander of rolling over.

Passive safety developments include adaptive restraint technologies that adjust to the specific dynamics (size of restrained seat occupant, severity of impact) of an accident, airbags to protect against lower-leg injury, anticipatory crash sensing using laser and radar to prepare for a potential impact and crash data recording for analysing various aspects of an accident.

Systems such as an emergency power-disconnect that can be easily actuated by emergency services are also being developed to prevent the outbreak of fire, while another system automatically communicates that there has been an accident to emergency services.

Delphi also offers airbag technology to the industry and already supplies a seat-mounted side airbag to Toyota in the United States.

Of course that's only skimming the surface of what we can expect to see in passenger cars in the near future.

Companies like Delphi are looking even further down the track where that magic cocoon will wrap ever more protectively around car and passengers in a way that will make today's ultra-safe vehicles seem positively archaic.

The challenge will be to retain that all-important sense of driver independence that is vital to the continuing health of the industry.

Just in case you wondered what Ford were doing down under.


New look, new price: The BA is significantly updated from AU, but price rises are not dramatic.

Prices are up for Ford's family of sales-leading workhorse and sports utes

By BRUCE NEWTON 2 October 2002

FORD has continued its BA Falcon sedan and wagon trend by raising prices for its Ute range that goes on sale October 16.

Prices are up as much as $1260 and as little as $180 for the range which has had the 240kW XR6 turbo added to it - reflecting the sedan line-up - but predictably had a whole range of value pack editions chopped with the changeover from AUIII.

The base model XL cab chassis has the steepest price rise, from $24,330 to $25,590 - or 5.2 per cent - while the XLS Styleside goes up only $180 from $29,200 to $29,380 - or 0.6 per cent.

Overall, the price rise is a modest 2.5 per cent. This compares with Holden's price changes on its VY ute range, which rose two per cent for the base model, seven per cent for the S which added air-conditioning and ABS anti-lock braking, and 1.5 per cent for the SS.

The XL Styleside is now $1000 more expensive than the Commodore Ute, although the XLS still undercuts the Holden S 3.8-litre V6, while the XR6 is more than $2000 under S 5.7-litre V8, although the new Turbo is $335 more expensive than the Holden's Ute hero-car, the SS V8.

The missing piece of the jigsaw is the XR8 utility, which will not appear along with the sedan until early 2003. Pricing is tipped to start somewhere between $41,000 and $43,000.

Of course, the Falcon ute is in a different position to its sedan counterpart because it is actually a bigger seller than its Holden counterpart.

But all that might change once Holden launches it cab-chassis range - tipped for the Sydney show this month - and its two-wheel and four-wheel drive range of crew cab Cross8s next year.

The BA Falcon ute inherits many - but not all - of the improvements the BA sedan accrued from Ford's massive $500 million investment program.

The exterior forward of the windscreen and the interior have been thoroughly restyled and all five new or updated engines flow across, along with the optional sports shift auto. The standard powerplant is the Barra 182 4.0-litre I6, with the Boss 220 three-valve 5.4-litre V8 a $5000 option.

But from the A-pillar back much of the BA ute is carry-over from AU, including the old live rear axle rather than the new Control Blade rear suspension.

That's no problem for the workhorse models but with up to 260kW and 500Nm pumping through the rear wheels of the sports versions, things could get interesting.

In terms of equipment, air-conditioning is still a $2250 option on XL and XLS, matching the base Holden Ute, while ABS will set you back $930 and a passenger airbag $470.

AUIII UteBA UteHolden Ute
XL Chassis Cab $24,330XL Chassis Cab $25,590NA
XL Styleside $25,230XL Styleside $26,190Ute V6 $25,190
XLS Chassis Cab $28,180XLS Chassis Cab $28,580NA
XLS Styleside $29,200XLS Styleside $29,380S V6 $31,950
XR6 VCT Styleside $33,870XR6 Styleside $34,205S V8 $36,650
XR8 Styleside $38,560XR6 Turbo $39,675SS V8 $39,340

V8 engine$4227$5000$4700 (m) $4230 (a)
Sports shift Auton/a$920n/a
4-spd Auto$662$770 (column) $770
Leather trim$798$1015$1015
Air-conditioning$2250$2250 (XL, XLS) $2250 (Ute)
1600kg towpack$258$345$346.50
Passenger airbag$479$495$495495
Who would have thought? Over a full month after that last post and then this....

6 November 2002
FORD is on-track to scoop both major annual new car gongs after the new BA Falcon Futura was named Best Family Car in Australia's Best Car Awards in Melbourne today.

And to make it a sweeter day for Ford Australia, the storming XR6 Turbo was named by the judges as Best Sports Car under $57,000.

The Futura defeated the new Holden VY Commodore and Toyota Camry V6, while the XR6T knocked over the Commodore SS and Subaru Imprexa WRX STi among other rivals.

The next step for Ford is to claim the Wheels Car of the Year, which is named on November 26. The new $500 million BA Falcon is one of the favourites for that prize, along with the Mazda6 mid-sizer and the new Mercedes-Benz E-class.

In fact, both the Mazda and Benz were winners under the ABC format today, the former collecting best mid-size car over $25,000 and the latter picking up best luxury car over $57,000.

However, while the ABCs are handed out over 12 categories and are open to all vehicles on-sale in Australia up, while only cars launched in the last 12 months are eligible for the Wheels COTY.

Falcon hasn't won the Wheels award since 1966 with the XR, and Ford hasn't won at all since 1992 with the AX Telstar.

Ford was one of four manufacturers to collect dual ABC gongs today, with Renault (Clio Expression and Laguna Privilege), BMW (M3 and X5 3.0) and Toyota (Avensis Verso and LandCruiser GXL-D) the others.

Holden (Astra City), Mazda (6 Classic), Mercedes-Benz (E320 Elegance) and Subaru (Forester 2.5 X) were the single winners.

"Ford needed to claw back the ground it has lost against Holden and a win in Australia's Best Cars will give them a major marketing edge," said Australia's Best Cars chief judge, Ernest Litera of the Futura's win.

"It's a great car in a category with very little between the final contenders, which included Commodore and the new Toyota Camry V6."

The ABCs are run and judged by the various Australian state motoring organisations.

2002 Australia's Best Cars Awards
Best Small Car Renault - Clio Expression (new release)
Best Mid-size Car under $25,000 - Holden Astra City
Best Mid-size Car over $25,000 - Mazda 6 Classic (new release)
Best Family Car - Ford Falcon Futura BA (new release)
Best People Mover - Toyota Avensis Verso GLX (new release)
Best Sports Car under $57,000 - Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo (new release)
Best Sports Car over $57,000 - BMW M3
Best Luxury Car under $57,000 - Renault Laguna Privilege (new release)
Best Luxury Car over $57,000 - Mercedes Benz E320 Elegance (new release)
Best Recreational 4WD - Subaru Forester 2.5 X (new release)
Best Luxury 4WD - BMW X5 3.0
Best All Terrain 4WD - Toyota LandCruiser GXL-D

Thank You Mate...for that abundance of information...always beneficial to see what goes on, on the other side of the world.....keeps us on our toes... :B: