Sales: A matter of perspective

Although U.S. auto sales are expected to soften in the next few months as the pull-ahead effect of 0 percent financing runs its course, the market is still healthy compared with Japan, says Mazda Motor Corp. President Mark Fields. "If you look at Japan," he said, "the only way the country looks good is if you turn all the charts upside down."

ROLL ON, LIBERTY - Last month, a 2wd Jeep Liberty became the first vehicle to roll over during a slalom test conducted by AutoWeek, a sister publication to Automotive News. Jeep's newest model rolled over twice at about 40 mph toward the end of AutoWeek's unique hard-braking, hard-steering handling test. An accident investigator hired by Chrysler attributed the rollover to a combination of a variation in the friction of the pavement and the aggressive driving. Chrysler says such conditions don't happen in the real world. Concluded AutoWeek in this week's edition: "The incident demonstrates yet again that SUVs handle differently than do cars at the limits. It makes us nervous to see such SUVs driven as they typically are, like normal compact cars."

PROMISES, PROMISES - Critics have come out of the woodwork since brand management guru Ron Zarrella quit as president of GM North America. But former Jaguar boss Mike Dale disdained the term "brand management" for years. "All a brand is is a promise. And your product better deliver on that promise," Dale told the Madison Avenue Sports Car Driving and Chowder Society Nov. 13 in New York. "Brand management stinks of manipulation, of making something into something it's not," he said. "You wouldn't see Enzo Ferrari do that. He made a Ferrari that looked great, drove great and made you feel good when you drove it." Dale retired as president of Jaguar Cars North America in May 2000.

SECRETS AND LIES - Here are the eight great myths of Internet auto sales, says Bob Brisco, CEO of CarsDirect.com in Culver City, Calif. The list, presented in remarks to the International Motor Press Association in New York, is sure to be a controversial one: "1. People aren't buying cars online. 2. People are not saving money online. 3. Online information is inaccurate. 4. Online business models are doomed. 5. Independent, online sites will lose to original-equipment manufacturer sites. 6. Locate-to-order is the future. 7. Build-to-order is the future. 8. Dealers, manufacturers and third-party sites must compete against each other."

HOW MANY PARTS PER MILLIONAIRE? ArvinMeritor Inc.'s quality boss Debra Shumar hosted a game of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" at the company's Troy, Mich., headquarters. The purpose was to find out how much staff members knew about quality. One of the questions: What is PPM? One of the possible answers: Peter, Paul and Mary. The game was part of the supplier's Quality Day, which the company observes at its plants worldwide.

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