DaimlerChrysler to Build New Factory for '06 Wrangler
Under a new eight-year contract with United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 12, DaimlerChrylser agreed to invest $2.1 billion to build a new supplier-operated factory where a redesigned '06 Jeep Wrangler will be manufactured. The new complex will be constructed next to Jeep's 3-year-old Toledo assembly plant and will have vehicle body and paint shops. A redesigned Liberty will also be made at the new factory, as well as two yet-to-be-identified Jeep models.
The contract is a pioneering move in the U.S. auto industry in that it allows suppliers to do some of the assembly work. The new body and paint shops will begin production of the vehicles, with the shells undergoing final assembly and testing at Toledo Jeep next door. The supplier-operated shops will replace what is left of the old Jeep Parkway factory, the nation's longest-running auto assembly plant. According to the new contract, union jobs will be transferred to the new plant, although no additional jobs are initially expected unless sales of the new vehicles take off. More than 90 percent of the 4,700 eligible Jeep workers cast ballots in the vote. The contract also pays each worker a $3,000 signing bonus.
Honda SUT Concept Makes Debut
Honda threw its hat into the sport utility truck (SUT) arena this past January with the debut of its Honda SUT concept vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The new truck concept offered the world its first glimpse at the direction Honda plans to take with a future-production sport-utility truck model.
With body lines similar to the Cadillac Escalade, another popular SUT-type vehicle, the new Honda SUT Concept is said to be a next-generation vehicle designed to meet the changing tastes of consumers purchasing trucks to accommodate their active, outdoor-oriented lifestyles. The unibody SUT Concept combines the interior space and functionality of an SUV with the utility of an open-cargo bed. In maintaining its commitment to environmental and safety leadership, Honda also cited that the new SUT Concept sets new standards for fuel efficiency, low emissions, and safety performance in the light-duty truck segment.
Judge Bans Snowmobile Use at YellowstoneIn a decision handed down on the eve of the official winter season in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, D.C. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled to outlaw snowmobile access to the parks after 2004. The ruling stated that the Bush administration should not have set aside a previous ban on snowmobiles in favor of a new proposal to allow a limited number of "cleaner and quieter" machines in to the parks, and ordered the Park Service to reinstate the plan to phase out snowmobiles entirely. The decision will implement a 50 percent reduction in the number of snowmobiles this year and a complete ban on the machines starting in the winter of 2004-2005.
Such a ruling marks a dangerous precedent for vehicular access to America's park system, which is already limited to paved roads for both autos and snowmobiles. Those affected the most by Judge Sullivan's decision will be the gateway communities surrounding park entrances whose economic vitality relies on park visitation and winter access to the area. The state of Wyoming, the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, and the Blue Ribbon Coalition have already filed motions asking for Judge Sullivan to stay his decision. For more information, contact: Blue Ribbon Coalition, (208) 237-1008, www.sharetrails.org.
4 Wheel Parts Hosts 2nd Annual Truckfest
With more than 70 top manufacturers in attendance, the 2nd Annual 4 Wheel Parts Truckfest will get underway in early March at the San Mateo Convention Center in Northern California. More than 10,000 spectators are expected to attend each of the four events, which will feature the latest and greatest suspension, tire, wheel, performance, and drivetrain products for Jeeps, trucks, and SUVs. Entry into the shows is free, and products will be available for sale at discounted prices. After the first stop in San Mateo, the 4 Wheel Parts Truckfest tour will continue through the spring and summer months, making stops in Dallas, Los Angeles, and Denver. Official sponsors for the events include Fabtech Motorsports, Performance Accessories, Pro Comp Tires, Warn, and Weld Racing Wheels. In addition to the latest and greatest in four-wheel drive products and accessories, custom trucks will be on-site, as will the 4 Wheel Parts calendar girls, who will be signing autographs. Truckfest will also offer hourly drawings and product demonstrations. For more information, contact: 4 Wheel Parts Wholesalers, (800) 284-9840, www.4wheelparts.com/events.
|Northern California||March 6-7|
|Southern California||June 5-6|
|Denver||July 31-August 1|
Ford F-150 Named Motor Trend Truck of the Year
Available in 46 different cab/chassis/bed configurations as well as five distinctive interior designs, the '04 Ford F-150 was selected as the Motor Trend 2004 Truck of the Year. The Motor Trend staff thoroughly tested seven new vehicles, searching for the pickup truck that best represented exceptional value, superiority in its class, and the most significant development on the new-truck scene for 2004. All truly new or substantially revised trucks were considered with the condition that they be available for public sale by January 1, 2004. Among the vehicles tested were the Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet SSR, Dodge Ram SRT-10, Ford F-150, GMC Canyon, Nissan Titan, and Toyota Tundra Double Cab. Steve Lyons, president of Ford Division, stated, "We are pleased that the Ford F-150 has been named Motor Trend's Truck of the Year because this honor is the one most recognized by consumers. In fact, Motor Trend's award is a lot like the new F-150 - it carries a lot of weight. We look forward to adding it to our trophy case."
Motor Trend editors spent several weeks with the contending vehicles, exploring their performance, features, and functionality. Specific focus was put on the following: engineering and technology; performance; ride and handling; styling and design; interior fit; finish; materials; and utility and value. The editors also paid special attention to the "pickup" aspects of loading and securing cargo, performance with a payload, and towing. Kevin Smith, editor-in-chief of Motor Trend, remarked, "We live with these trucks for weeks to truly test them in every way a buying consumer will. We take very seriously our responsibility to identify the most worthy contender. Our readers and the general public have grown to trust in the significance and meaning of the Golden Calipers."