Hippie icon bites the dust

Production of Volkswagen vans - the rear-engine, air-cooled versions that found favor with hippies in the 1960s - will cease in Mexico City at year end. The van, called the Combi in Latin America, was introduced in 1950. It last was offered in the United States in 1982 as the Transporter. VW will continue to produce the Combi in Brazil, though union officials say they suspect VW will end production to cut costs. To observe the van's passing in Mexico, VW has been running ads in Mexican newspapers. They read "Adios, Combi" above a picture of a teary-eyed, aging flower child in a tie-dyed shirt.

LOST, FOUND AND SOLD - Roy Johnson, a salesman at Greenway Ford in Orlando, Fla., has helped bury the notion that car salesmen can't be trusted. Johnson found a wad of $100 bills on the showroom floor that had fallen from a shopper's pocket. Johnson gave the $9,900 to his sales manager, who turned it in to police. Ed Doyle, customer relations manager for the dealership, said the customer flashed the money to convince a salesman he was serious about buying a new truck. The man left the dealership without making a deal but called about 30 minutes later, when he realized his money was missing, Doyle said. The customer was so happy to have his money back that he ended up buying a 2002 Explorer.

IT'S ALL HOT AIR - As he was giving a speech on turbochargers to auto journalists in Detroit last month, S.M. Shahed of Garrett Engine Boosting Systems kept emphasizing that air, not fuel, is the driving force behind engine power. As a matter of fact, he said, "My specialty is blowing hot air." The crowd laughed. "When I used that with a congressman," Shahed continued, "he was offended." Shahed, vice president of advanced technology at Garrett, is the incoming president of the Society of Automotive Engineers.

KEYS AND A CHECK - Praising the "global vision" of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, BMW presented the Nobel Peace Prize laureate with the keys to a BMW 750iL at United Nations headquarters in New York last week. Along with the car keys came a pledge of $10,000 for the U.N. Children's Fund. "As part of an international company we are committed to social responsibility, and with this donation we feel we can continue this commitment and help some of the neediest members of the society," said Tom Purves, CEO of BMW (U.S.) Holding Corp.

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