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Making Maybach exclusive

The Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star is not exclusive enough for the Maybach, DaimlerChrysler's new ultra-luxury car.

Instead, the Maybach, due in 2003, will feature its own, distinctive hood ornament - a 'double M' logo inside a triangle.

'We are using the Maybach name to emphasize the unique nature of our future premium-quality product,' said Jurgen Hubbert, board member in charge of Mercedes-Benz and Smart.

The double-M Maybach logo originally stood for Maybach Motorenbau, a small manufacturer founded by Wilhelm Maybach. Maybach was a former technical director for Daimler Motor Co., which became Daimler-Benz AG. Under DaimlerChrysler AG, the double-M badge stands for Maybach Manufaktur.

Wilhelm Maybach's son, Karl, began to produce luxury cars in 1921. The company's flagship model was the Maybach Zeppelin DS 8, the largest German luxury car of the 1930s.

Surprise choice at Jaguar

The choice of former journalist Sue Callaway as vice president and general manager of Jaguar Cars North America is a shocker.

The appointment makes her the top Jaguar executive in the USA.

Callaway reports to Mike O'Driscoll, who is now president of the newly combined Aston Martin-Jaguar-Land Rover division of Ford's Premier Automotive Group in Irvine, California.

By all accounts Callaway, 37, is passionate about high-performance cars and driving fast, on and off the track.

But the former journalist of the US business magazine Fortune had no experience inside the auto industry before she joined Premier Automotive Group in December 2000, as director of marketing.

Callaway said Ford CEO Jacques Nasser personally approached her last year about joining the company.

'When he first approached me, I wasn't at all sure what he was talking about - that he was offering me a job. He finally looked at me and said, 'We want to get you in here because you really love cars. Help us get them right. We don't want you to keep critiquing them at the end of the [development] process; we want you in on the beginning,' she said.

'So I thought, I've got to do it - change my entire life.'

Callaway said she is up to the challenge of her new job: 'There's nothing I love more than great cars.'

GM close to China deal

General Motors is close to an agreement to take a stake in China's Liuzhou Wuling Motors Co., the country's seventh largest vehicle producer and a leader in low-price, basic transportation.

GM China Chairman Philip Murtaugh said he expected to announce a deal soon.

GM has been in talks with Wuling for at least two years. An agreement would give it a direct presence in China's largest and fastest growing segment, ultra-basic transportation, where vehicle prices are typically under E5,000.

Sales in the segment are expected to top 600,000 units this year, and Wuling's sales have risen 21 percent through June to 76,000 units.

Murtaugh declined to reveal the size or price of the equity stake GM is considering. Shanghai Auto Industry Corp., GM's partner in China, already holds a 75.9 percent stake in Wuling.

Murtaugh said: 'Our stake would be significant enough that GM will expect to contribute in a significant way.'

The Volvo dilemma

As chief designer of Volvo cars, Peter Horbury has a delicate task. He must inject some excitement into a brand that was widely viewed as boring and stodgy - without jeopardizing the Swedish carmaker's reputation for safety.

'In the past, when our engineers developed safe cars, they did not know when to stop,' said Horbury. 'By adding material you add weight. We have to be able to afford to drive the car, so fuel consumption is important. Therefore, a Volvo must also be light. That's where the cleverness is -in the structure.'

Being asked to design a new Volvo station wagon 'is like being asked to look after Sweden's crown jewels,' he said. 'But while it is important to create this Swedish image, you can't sit in an ivory tower in Gothenburg and think you know what's happening around the world.'

But 'safety is still No. 1 at Volvo,' Horbury added. 'Unfortunately for us, the only time people remember why they paid extra for a Volvo is when they had the worst experience of their life - a near-fatal crash. But 99 percent of the time, it all remains hidden. It's nice to know it's there, but you can't show it off to the neighbors.'

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