BUICK CITY CLOSING
FLINT, Mich. - As expected, General Motors said it will close its Buick City assembly plant. The automaker will eliminate one shift on March 15 and the other on July 2. The plant here employs 2,500 hourly workers. Permanent employees will have an opportunity to transfer to other plants. Buick LeSabre production will be transferred to two assembly plants, in Lake Orion, Mich., and Hamtramck, Mich. The Lake Orion plant also will produce the Pontiac Bonneville.
WASHINGTON - Publicly held dealership groups still represent just 2 percent of all dealerships and account for just under 4 percent of total sales, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. NADA reports there are 2,900 dealership chains, 100 more than at the start of 1997. Chains now represent 40 percent of all dealerships. Although the number of new-car dealerships in the United States fell by 200 in 1998 to 22,400, the number of large dealerships selling more than 750 vehicles per year rose 2 percent in 1998 and is up 30 percent since 1994. The number of dealerships selling fewer than 150 new vehicles declined 3 percent in 1998 and dropped by 22 percent over the past four years.
MORE GM TRUCKS
DETROIT - General Motors expects to produce 1.4 million pickups and sport-utilities this year, up 20 percent from 1998. According to Bloomberg News Service, the added production could boost GM's earnings this year by
$400 million. The automaker is benefiting from higher-than-expected profit margins on its new pickups, lower warranty costs and declining rebates. In the last three months of 1998, rebates averaged $1,350 per vehicle, down from $1,700 in the third quarter.
CHARGES FOR FORD
DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. plans to take one-time pretax charges totaling
$950 million for the fourth quarter of 1998. The charges will be for: retirement and separation expenses, $730 million; selling Kia Motors Co. shares, $110 million; and transferring the Batavia, Ohio, transmission plant to a new joint venture with ZF Friedrichshafen AG, $110 million. Ford will release its full 1998 financial statement on Thursday, Jan. 21.