Saab to halt 9000
Saab will halt production of the 9000 this summer to free up capacity for its replacement, the 9-5, said Saab Cars USA President Joel Manby. Saab had planned to keep the 9000 in production until 2000, but strong demand for the 9-5 has filled plant capacity in Trollhattan, Sweden. Since the 9-5 was launched last summer, Manby said, Saab has added more than 1,000 assembly workers.
Europe to get GM Alero
General Motors will sell the 1999 Oldsmobile Alero in Europe as a Chevrolet. The Alero will compete with upper-medium cars in Europe.
Production begins this summer. Alero engines are a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 3.4-liter V-6. US price will be $18,000-$21,000.
'A' platform: 2.25 million cars
Volkswagen AG's 'A' platform, used for the Golf and Beetle, will be the basis of about 2.25 million cars by 2000. VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech said an all-new Seat, based on the A platform, will be launched in October. He gave no details about the car.
The Audi A3, Skoda Octavia and Seat Toledo also use the A platform. 'By the year 2000 I expect us to sell more than 5.5 million cars worldwide,' said Piech. 'About 50 percent of these will be built on the A platform.'
Castaing will stay in USA
Francois Castaing, the Chrysler vice president who led the engineering revolution there over the past decade, is not leaving Chrysler to return to France or Renault. He said he is retiring early to enjoy life, and he will stay in the USA. Castaing is in good health. 1/8'I play tennis three times a week,' he said. Castaing was a Renault engineer. When his company bought American Motors he came to the USA. He stayed with American Motors when Renault sold it to Chrysler. He retired 1 January, although he remains on Chrysler's payroll for several more years.
Europe will get Cougar
Ford expects to export about 25,000 units of the 1999 Cougar sports coupe to western Europe, starting in the autumn. The Cougar shares 70 percent of its parts with the Ford Mondeo. It goes on sale in the USA in May.
Daimler open to partnerships
DETROIT - Daimler-Benz AG is open to establishing partnerships that would make small cars in emerging markets, said Juergen Hubbert, head of passenger cars.
'If we want to participate in the global growth, especially in Asia, Latin America and India, where cars costing $5,000-$10,000 are in demand, then we would do this with a partner,' he said. Daimler is not actively searching for a partner, Hubbert said, but 'partnership of this kind could bring opportunities to Daimler-Benz that we do not get with Mercedes-Benz.'
French send product execs
French carmakers sell no cars in the USA, but their product planners came to look around. Peugeot sent product planning manager Pascal Henault, chief designer Murat Gunak and advanced project manager Michel Rouge. Citroen sent product planning manager Vincent Besson and chief designer Art Blakeslee.
Renault was represented by Yves Dubreil, who ran the Twingo minicar project and is now in charge of top-of-the-range vehicles.
Rouge and Dubreil looked closely at the Honda MV99 minivan and Lexus RX300 sport-utility. Rouge also was interested in Ford's one-box Alpe concept car. He said, 'I'm expecting a minivan concept based on the European Escort.'
Maybach is likely
Mercedes-Benz will probably build the Maybach super-luxury car. A final decision will be made by 31 March, said Juergen Hubbert, head of passenger cars.
He said reaction was positive in Detroit and at the Tokyo show in October. 'The more we look at the car,' he said, 'the more likely it will be a positive decision.
'We see a chance to sell 800 to 1,000 Maybachs per year.' The price will be about $275,000.
M-class for Europe in March
European deliveries of the six-cylinder Mercedes-Benz M-class will begin in March, and the four-cylinder version arrives in June. The US-built sport-utility went on sale in North America last autumn.
A version with Mercedes' new V-8 engine will be launched in September in the USA and will come to Europe in March 1999, said Andreas Renschler, president of Mercedes-Benz International Inc. in Alabama, USA.
A supercharged version of the M-class is also possible, said Renschler.
A 2.7-liter diesel engine for Europe with new direct-injection common-rail technology will debut at the end of 1999, he said.
Diana T. Kurylko
GM not interested in Rolls
General Motors is not very interested in acquiring Rolls-Royce.
'As a prestige vehicle it has a great badge but there is not a lot of volume there, and that new Mercedes at Tokyo is aimed straight at Rolls,' said GM Chairman Jack Smith.
He said the company's priority is 'to push the Cadillac Seville very hard. We have made the car to meet international standards.'
Smith said that he investigated Rolls-Royce while he was in charge of GM's international operations from 1987 to 1992. He ticked off the minuses of the company then:
The engine was old.
The body was made by Rover.
'It was a very small operation.'
A-Class scaled back
Dieter Zetsche, head of sales and marketing at Daimler-Benz, said A-class production in 1998 will reach only 150,000 units rather than the 190,000 initially planned. Mercedes ceased production of the small car in December because of stability problems.
Diana T. Kurylko
Rover has name debate
Rover is debating what to call its future cars, starting with the R40 successor to the Rover 600 and Rover 800, said Bernard Carey, Rover board member for communications.
Employees are debating three options: a number series like the 200, 400, 600, 800; an alphanumeric series like Mercedes-Benz uses (E320, C430), or a series of names, like the Rover Oxford or Rover Cambridge.
Using numbers or alphanumerics leaves more emphasis on the brand name, said Carey. Using characteristic British names will help give the brand the British identity it seeks, but other companies control some of the names Rover might like to use.
Rover will make its recommendation to BMW's board by the end of March. Said Carey: 'Everybody wants to be the one that comes up with the answer.'
Volkswagen and BMW could form a partnership to run Rolls-Royce, according to Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech. 'I have lived in Bavaria for 21 years,' said Piech, 'and I know how to get along with Bavarians.'
But BMW spokesman Richard Gaul said there are 'no discussions and no negotiations between BMW and VW.'
VW looks forward
VW is ready if it wins the bidding war for Rolls or Scania. It has reserved rooms for Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Scania at the Expo 2000 in Hanover. It also has rooms for its own four brands and for a new product being developed with Porsche.
VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech said the Expo 2000 plans are not significant. 'It doesn't change anything if we buy a company or a share of it or don't buy it at all,' he said. 'The configuration in Hanover still suits.'
VOLVO TO EXPORT S40/V40 TO USA
Volvo will begin exporting its smallest cars, the S40 sedan and V40 wagon, to the USA in late 1999 as 2000 models. Volvo sold 101,139 cars in North America last year.
Who will be first for W12?
Product planners for the Volkswagen brand and Audi are competing to produce the first super-luxury car using Volkswagen Group's new W-12 engine, said VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech. VW Group showed the W-12 in a sports car at the Tokyo auto show in October, but it is intended for a vehicle that would compete with the Mercedes-Benz S-class. Both Audi and Volkswagen are likely to use the engine eventually. Piech said the luxury car would be understated, not flashy.