Mercedes trucks are too sophisticated
FREIGHTLINER is likely to be the world brand for Daimler-Benz's heavy trucks, while Mercedes will be a Europe-only premium product.
Juergen Hubbert, Daimler's top car executive, said Daimler's North American truck subsidiary is in talks in China and South Africa. 'They have a chance with their cost levels to grow into world markets,' said Hubbert at the Automotive News Europe Congress. 'Mercedes-Benz trucks are too sophisticated for the Third World.'
Global Motors by bike
LEE IACOCCA, the auto executive who twice saved Chrysler Corp., is forming a new company to sell electric bicycles. Iacocca, 72, will form EV Global Motors to sell electric scooters and other light vehicles in Asia and elsewhere. Iacocca retired from Chrysler in 1993.
Reuter News Service
Chrysler's new No. 1
The UK became Chrysler's top export market in May, taking the place of Germany, which is usually the carmaker's best market. UK sales this year are 52 percent up on 1996. In Europe, Chrysler is ahead by 1.7 percent.
Fuel cells will win out
FUEL CELLS are the best option to replace the internal combustion engine, says Juergen Hubbert, Daimler-Benz executive in charge of Mercedes passenger cars, speaking at the Automotive News Europe Congress in Brussels this month. But costs must come down. A lot.
A typical car engine costs DM20-DM30 per kilowatt of power, against DM10,000 per kilowatt for a fuel cell. So a 130ps gasoline engine costs DM2,000-DM3,000 to build, and an equivalent fuel cell costs DM1,000,000.
US out of this world
THE US may be part of the globe, but it is not necessarily a part of 'global' strategies.
'You can absolutely be global without being' in the US market, said Fiat Auto President Roberto Testore at the Automotive News Europe Congress.
'We can be global without the US, because we have so many markets,' agreed Christian Peugeot, director of marketing at Automobiles Peugeot.
Peugeot said it would be easier to enter the US market in the future because safety and emissions rules in the US and Europe are increasingly similar.
GM heads to the rear
GENERAL MOTORS' global platform strategy means rear-wheel drive cars may make a comeback in the US. For luxury cars, 'rear drive appears to be superior in the world market,' said Cadillac General Manager John Smith. GM's rear-drive luxury models now are the Opel Omega and its US derivative, the Cadillac Catera. GM may switch other Cadillac models to rear drive and put the Pontiac and Camaro muscle cars on the same platform.
Early Smart orders
JOHANN TOMFORDE, the managing director of Micro Compact Car AG, told the German newspaper Handelsblatt he has thousands of orders in hand for the Smart car already, a year before it goes on sale. To handle other early sales, the company is setting up a call center. Tomforde said the Smart will sell 200,000 vehicles in three years.
US sales slow but OK
CAR SALES in the US appear to be stagnating. But carmakers are pleased. 'What we are going to see over the next couple of years is not the downturn that we have seen in prior business cycles,' suggests John Devine, chief financial officer of Ford Motor Co. 'We could see a couple of years of 15 million sales as opposed to a big dip,' he predicted.