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Auto News Digest

Honda's profit soars

TOKYO - Honda Motor Co. said its first-quarter consolidated, or worldwide, net profit soared 40 percent from a year earlier on a sharp rise in sales and the yen's depreciation against other currencies.

The Japanese carmaker said net income in the three months that ended June 30 rose to a record 89.4 billion, or about $717 million at prevailing exchange rates, from 63.8 billion, or $510.4 million, a year earlier. Worldwide revenue rose 13.6 percent to the equivalent of $14.1 billion, Honda said. A weaker yen helps boost the profits of Japanese companies because each dollar or euro earned abroad converts into a greater number of yen.

Honda said unit sales edged up 0.3 percent in the quarter to 638,000, as strong demand for new models at home offset weakness in North America and Europe.

Mitsubishi recalls Monteros

TOKYO - Mitsubishi Motors Corp. is recalling about 148,000 Pajeros, or Monteros, in Japan and overseas because of a brake-system defect. The company is checking about 39,000 of the vehicles in the United States, 52,000 in Europe and 33,000 in Japan. The rest are in other countries. The company said some rubber components used in the brake system's hydraulics can wear out prematurely, causing potential brake failure. The vehicles were produced in Japan between August 1999 and July 2001.

Dodge Ram down $120

DETROIT - The 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup will start at $17,670, including a $715 freight charge. The 2001 model had a $17,790 sticker. The new Ram has air conditioning ($805), four-wheel disc brakes ($495) and larger wheels and tires as standard equipment.

Other Ram 1500 prices: regular cab, 4x4, $21,930, (up $130); Quad Cab, 4x2, $22,865 (up $1,105); Quad Cab, 4x4, $26,065 (up $1,105).

Asbury discloses earnings gain

STAMFORD, Conn. - Asbury Automotive Group Inc. earned $5.6 million in the first quarter, 42.8 percent ahead of the year-ago quarter. The privately held dealer group disclosed its financial results in Securities and Exchange Commission documents filed July 27, in preparation for an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. Asbury expects to raise $150 million when the stock goes public, probably in the next 90 days. That amount represents about 18 percent of the company's total capitalization. Ripplewood Holdings LLC will retain control of the company after it goes public.

M-B welcomes owners online

MONTVALE, N.J. - Mercedes-Benz USA Inc. has created Owners Online, an owners-only area of its corporate Web site, mbusa.com, that gives customers access to news about their vehicles and tips on vehicle care.

You can reach Mark Rechtin at mrechtin@crain.com

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