Auto News Digest

M-B loses bid to end suit

NEWARK, N.J. - A group of Mercedes owners has won a round in an antitrust lawsuit accusing Mercedes-Benz USA Inc., accounting firm Sheft Kahn & Co., and all 27 New York City-area Mercedes dealers of price fixing. U.S. District Judge Alfred Wolin denied a motion to dismiss the case in a 51-page order filed Aug. 9. The order cites legal precedents and even quotes Shakespeare to conclude that the plaintiffs raised valid legal issues in the suit. A trial date has not been set. The plaintiffs are six Mercedes-Benz customers.

Caddy roadster is the XLR

DETROIT - Cadillac's Corvette-derived luxury roadster will be called XLR. The name surfaced in a speech given by General Motors Vice President Gary Cowger Aug. 9 in Traverse City, Mich. Cadillac spokesman Jeff Kuhlman confirmed Cadillac will use the name. He said the division held off on a formal announcement while GM's legal staff confirmed that the name was theirs. XLR will be based on the 1999 Evoq concept car, and production will start late next year in the Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Ky.

Bank ends auto leasing

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Bank of America Corp., one of the biggest banks in auto finance, quit auto leasing Wednesday, Aug. 15. Several lenders have quit or cut leasing in the past year. Bank of America will take one-time charges totaling $854 million for the auto lease business in the third quarter, including $400 million for expected pre-tax losses on residual values. Bank of America earned $2 billion in the second quarter. Chairman Kenneth Lewis said. Bank of America will continue to make auto loans, and it plans to administer its existing $9.7 billion worth of auto leases while they last.

Autoliv moves output to Mexico

OGDEN, Utah - Autoliv Inc. will close an airbag manufacturing operation in Ogden, Utah, and move production to a plant in Queretaro, Mexico. Switching labor-intensive airbag cushion cut-and-sew operations to low-cost markets is part of the Swedish safety systems supplier's ongoing cost-cutting plan, Autoliv CEO Lars Westerberg said. Autoliv will cut employment by up to 450 positions, though the company aims to relocate as many as possible to five other Autoliv production facilities in northern Utah. About 40 people in areas such as research and development, marketing and purchasing also will stay on.

Autobytel completes buy

IRVINE, Calif. - Autobytel Inc. of Irvine, Calif., last week completed its acquisition of Santa Clara, Calif., rival Autoweb.com in a stock transaction worth about $14 million. The acquisition adds about 1,200 subscribers to its dealer network, bringing the total to 6,000. Autobytel added 1,500 dealers to its network last year by acquiring another rival, CarSmart.com. The majority of Autobytel's revenues come from dealer subscriptions.

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