Although not much is known about the new Hummer H3, Roy Andreas of Brenda Priddy and Co. managed to get a few shots of an H3, sans most of its camouflage body cladding, as it was undergoing hot-weather testing in California's Mojave Desert. The downsized H3, which will be built, we believe, on the GMT 800 chassis, which is the Silverado frame, will be powered by a Vortec inline-six engine, is slated to be built in Shreveport, Louisiana, and will likely be priced in the $35,000 range. Look for the Hummer H3 to arrive in GM dealerships in late 2004.
Uncovered! '05 Dodge Durango
While Brenda Priddy & Co. was busy shooting the Hummer H3, along came a Durango - but not just any Durango. These photos show what the '05 Dodge Durango will look like. They're also a harbinger of how the '05 Dakota will be styled. This much we can tell you: The new Durango rides on a modified '04-spec chassis, although the chassis has been stretched approximately 15 percent, which means that the new Durango is 15 percent longer than the previous-generation Durango. The new Dodge SUV also appears to be slightly wider and taller. The Dakota version has also been seen in the Southwest deserts undergoing testing, but in heavily camouflaged dress. The '05 Dakota may well receive a new name, and it will be built in Club Cab (extended cab) and Quad Cab (four full size doors) models. Expect the nose of the new Dakota to be styled very much like the new Durango.
Ford's '04 F-150: Where Did the Profit Go?
Ford has announced that the highly anticipated '04 F-150 will have an average price increase of $245 to $635 more than the '03 F-150. If those figures are true, Ford is spending more money to produce the new F-Series than it is selling the trucks for. Ford claims that the profits on the redesigned truck will be realized by limiting sales incentives and selling a large proportion of the new trucks with mid- and high-level trim.
The base price for an '04 F-150 with 2WD in XL trim and with a standard cab will be $22,010 (including freight). The top-of-the-line Lariat SuperCrew model will list at $36,365; equipped with options, that price could jump past $40,000.
The bargain in all of this could well be the current F-150, which will be sold as the F-150 Heritage. The Heritage will have a base price of $19,920 for 2WD regular cab XL models equipped with a V-6 engine. Ford has held the price of the Heritage in check; the '03 F-150 is priced the same as the '04 Heritage F-150.
Ford Motor Company plans to produce the Heritage F-150 at its Oakville, Ontario, Canada, plant until mid-2004. It's predicted that the Canadian plant will produce approximately 100,000 Heritage trucks during the '04 limited run.
What Would Jesus Drive?
It was bound to happen. A group headed by a former Ford Motor Company Public Relations chief is behind the recent "What would Jess drive?" series of tongue-in-cheek advertisements, which poke fun at the recent "What would Jesus drive?" ad campaigns.
The man behind the ads, Jason Vines, believes he got a lot of bang for an investment of 25,000 bucks. Vines, a former Ford Motor Co. executive, is president of the Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America. Vines' group spent $25K to run advertisements in three regional editions of USA Today, asking, "What would Jess drive?"
The resemblance to the recent What would Jesus drive? campaign, which encouraged the use of fuel-efficient vehicles, is intentional. Vines' group was able to track down an SUV owner whose first name is Jess and then used that concept to poke fun at the WWJD?/anti-SUV campaign. Vines, functioning very much like a press agent, drew significant attention to his nonprofit organization, which, so far, signed up about 3,500 supporters and 50 dues-paying members before the ad ran.
Articles about the ad ran in the New York Times, on the front page of the Financial Times, and in many other newspapers. "We're thrilled with the coverage," Vines said. "People got a chuckle, and it also drove people to our Web site to learn the facts. There's been a fact void out there."
Vines is a veteran automotive PR specialist and a part-time stand-up comedian who held several executive positions at Chrysler Corp. in the '80s and early '90s, spent 1993 working for the American Automobile Manufacturers' Association in Washington, and was vice president for external affairs at Nissan North America in Gardena, California. Vines joined Ford in 2000 and spent much of his time defending the company in the Ford Explorer/Firestone tire rollover crisis.
On the flip side of the coin, a spokesperson for the Evangelical Environmental Network, which initiated the What would Jesus drive? campaign, declined to comment on the new ads. The group ran TV commercials last December using the slogan and urging consumers to avoid vehicles, such as large SUVs, that pollute.
The pro-SUV organization's Web site, www.suvoa.com, also points out that SUVs are among the safest vehicles to be riding in during a crash and that emissions and fuel economy have improved. The site acknowledges that the vehicle's high center of gravity poses an increased rollover risk but says rollovers represent only a small percentage of accidents.
The What would Jesus drive? campaign responds that SUVs are more likely to injure occupants of other vehicles in accidents. A spokesperson for the religious group said they were not targeting SUVs specifically but wanted "to raise the moral questions, particularly about fuel economy," involved in vehicle choices.
Vines says his organization signed up 1,000 members the day the ads ran, showing an eagerness to challenge SUV critics. Vines blames the What would Jesus drive? group and other SUV critics, such as Arianna Huffington and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., for encouraging extremist groups that have vandalized SUVs.
Toyota to Double Engine Production at Its Alabama Manufacturing Plant
The world's third-largest automaker, Toyota Motor Company, recently announced plans to more than double its annual engine-output capacity. Toyota's Alabama engine plant will receive nearly $20 million in upgrades to produce as many as 250,000 engines in 2005.
Toyota will build V-6 engines at the refreshed plant and install those engines in the U.S.-built fullsize Tundra and the Mexico-built Tacoma compact truck. Currently, the Alabama plant produces 120,000 4.7L V-8 Tundra engines annually.
Alan Pflueger to Campaign Porter-Built Trophy Truck
Race fans have been treated to Honolulu, Hawaii's Alan Pflueger's foot-through-the-floor driving in the Pro Truck ranks for a few seasons now. "Fearless" Pflueger has taken his blue Chevy Pro Truck across the finish line ahead of some Trophy Trucks on several occasions. Pflueger's Pro Truck success has served as a springboard into off-road racing's premier-class Trophy Truck. With his aggressive driving style and new machinery, Pflueger will be a force to be reckoned with in the Trophy Truck wars.
Pflueger's TT is under construction in Riverside, California, at Porter Race Cars. The TT is based on the same design that first debuted in 2000 in Ford clothing, built for Herman Motorsports, and piloted by Damen Jeffries. The Porter design is unique in that it uses a rearward-facing engine and transmission that feed horsepower into a Casale V-Drive. The V-Drive is a mainstay in high-horsepower boats and turns the power around 180 degrees toward the rear. Instead of turning an aggressive propeller, this Casale will spin the ring-and-pinion in an off-center rear differential. The four-link rear suspension allows 35 inches of bump-swallowing travel. Up front, a center-mounted A-arm front suspension cycles through 24 inches of travel. Another notable PRC-built Trophy Truck is the Corona-emblazoned ride of "Beerman" Steve Sourapas.
To complete his off-road stable, Pflueger has also commissioned Porter Race Cars to construct a prerunner. Look for these machines to hit the southwestern deserts and Baja peninsula in late 2003.
For more information, check out www.porterracecars.com.