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OK, so the timing could have been a little better ...

Just days after an Aug. 3 car bombing near a London railway station injured 11 people, direct-mail pieces marked 'suspicious package' started showing up in consumers' mailboxes in England, Scotland and Wales. According to press reports, the pieces were part of a Volkswagen publicity campaign for the VW Sharan minivan. VW, which apologized for the stunt, admitted the timing was 'appalling.' Nearly 175,000 pieces were mailed.

THE NAME GAME - Chevrolet's brand strategists are pondering what to call the Cavalier replacement, due in the 2004 model year, a General Motors source says. The car will be nearly identical to the next-generation Opel Astra, so one candidate under consideration is a no-brainer: the Chevrolet Astra, says the source.

MASSAGING THE CRUISER - Trying to maintain interest in its PT Cruiser, the Chrysler group unveiled two offshoots for 2002: a limited-edition Dream Cruiser Series 1 and a Woodie edition with genuine imitation wood paneling. Chrysler says the Series 1, which will be available in February, has a special shade of gold paint, chrome badges and snazzy 16-inch wheels with chrome-and-gold accents. The Woodie harkens back to the Chrysler wagons of the 1940s, when the wood was wood, not plastic. The Series 1 is the first in a string of yearly Dream Cruiser models. Vice President of Chrysler/Jeep Global Brand Center Tom Marinelli said new PT Cruiser models or features will come off the line every six months or so to maintain passion for the brand. 'Some truly will be breakthrough - could be a convertible, could be a coupe. Some will be just paint and special packages,' he said. 'The goal is: `Let's keep the car very innovative, very emotional and very fresh.' '

LATIN QUARTER - Six years ago, On Wheels Inc. created African Americans on Wheels, a quarterly magazine aimed at African Americans interested in cars and the industry. Next up: Latinos on Wheels. The first issue will debut at the Miami Auto Show, which begins Oct. 26. The quarterly will be distributed along with 35 Latino publications to 500,000 U.S. addresses.

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