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COMBINING C-P AND JEEP IS A SMART MOVE

Chrysler Corp. played it smart in combining its Chrysler-Plymouth and Jeep-Eagle divisions. There are plenty of pluses.

It makes Jeep part of the C-P family, giving those dealers the sport-utility they sorely need.

It will accelerate the formation of quad and six-pack dealerships. Quads are Chrysler-Plymouth-Jeep-Eagle; six-packs are those four, plus Dodge car and truck. Last Jan. 1, 30 percent of the corporation's dealerships were in those categories. The total will grow.

It greases the rails for the elimination of the comatose Eagle brand.

But a combination of divisions or brands hasn't always been successful. In January 1958, Ford formed the Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln Division. Edsel died 22 months later. And in June 1959, Chrysler gave birth to the Plymouth-DeSoto-Valiant Division. DeSoto bit the dust in November 1960.

A good first step

General Motors' electric car, the GM EV1, will have only hard-core me-firsters signing lease agreements. The price - about $35,000 - is too high, and the range - 90 miles - is too limited.

The future, however, is anything but limited. GM Chairman Jack Smith says the EV1 will be the first of various advanced vehicles from GM. On the horizon, for example, are hybrids that use a small gasoline engine to charge a main battery.

We hope Smith keeps that promise. The 21st century will demand innovation. The company that subjects electric vehicles to the real world now stands to reach the marketing and technical high ground first.

The EV1 is a good first step.

Yokich: Flexible?

It takes a confident - even daring - chief executive to reverse decades of tradition. But UAW President Stephen Yokich appears willing to do just that.

Recently, Yokich suggested that the union might soften his once-inflexible insistence on a 'pattern' labor contract with the Big 3.

On big-ticket issues like wages, benefits and pensions, the UAW will demand the same deal from Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. But on disputes such as outsourcing, Yokich hinted that he may be willing to tailor an agreement to each company's needs.

If so, GM executives can breathe a huge sigh of relief. Despite major cost-cutting, GM's labor costs, including its parts-making operations, still are the highest of the Big 3. Let's hope the UAW finds a way to help.

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