Industry vets will share highs, lows of launches

Key facts
  • What: Automotive News World Congress

  • When: Jan. 14-17, 2002

  • Where: Hyatt Regency Dearborn, Dearborn, Mich.

  • Extras: Gala dinner Wednesday, Jan 16. Tour of the North American International Auto Show Thursday, Jan. 17

  • Cost: $1,195 early-bird registration before Dec. 1; daily fee, $695

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  • DETROIT - Launching a vehicle has never been tougher. Two industry veterans will speak about the challenges at the Automotive News World Congress in January.

    Mark LaNeve, general manager of the Cadillac Division, faces a tough sell with Cadillac's next rollouts.

    The Euro-fighter CTS arrives in January. The entry-level sedan is Cadillac's first serious foray into a segment led by the BMW 3 Series and crowded by Audi, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. Domestic competition includes the Lincoln LS.

    The CTS also is Cadillac's first product based on the rear-wheel-drive-Sigma platform and features what Cadillac calls its "art and science" edge design. So far, the CTS has met with lukewarm reviews. The styling has had a polarizing effect on the news media.

    LaNeve also is leading Cadillac into new territory with the coming launch of the Escalade EXT - the first Cadillac pickup - and the XLR, a high-performance roadster.

    With Cadillac falling behind import rivals from Germany and Japan, LaNeve acknowledges Cadillac cannot rely on past success - even with fresh products.

    LaNeve, who returned to Cadillac in May after four years as marketing director with Volvo Cars of North America Inc., will speak on the morning of Jan. 15.

    For Anne Stevens, Ford Motor Co.'s vice president of North America Vehicle operations, launch quality issues have plagued otherwise desirable products.

    Stevens commands the hub of Ford Motor's post-Nasser, back-to-basics approach, North American manufacturing. Her marching orders include boosting Ford's slipping quality and eliminating launch problems.

    A number of recalls on the Ford Focus as well as manufacturing mistakes and launch delays with the Explorer and Thunderbird illustrate the difficulty of the task.

    Stevens will speak on the morning of Jan. 16.

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