Desparate makers race to the altar
The speculation over which automakers will merge next has taken on a personal-ad tone, says Bob Lutz, CEO of battery maker Exide Corp. 'The creation of DaimlerChrysler has led to an almost frenzied level of courtship,' Lutz, the former Chrysler Corp. vice chairman, told fellow executives at an SAE breakfast meeting last week. 'At the rate things are going, I can see it now: SAA - or 'single Asian automaker,' seeks SADP, 'some automaker with deep pockets' for mutually gratifying S and M, or 'sales and marketing,' with possible long-term relationship.'
MORE GOLD FROM LUTZ ... 'I had suggested to some of my colleagues at DaimlerChrysler,' Bob Lutz said, 'that if they really feel compelled to spend considerable amounts of money on Nissan, perhaps the best way to do it is to put $5 billion or $6 billion of gold bullion into a huge container, spray paint the word Nissan on the side, tow it out into the middle of the Pacific and dump it overboard. That way only $5 billion will have gone down the tubes with the name Nissan written on the side.'
50 FOR EIGHTY EIGHT - The Oldsmobile Eighty Eight is alive and well - in a museum. The last of 50 years' worth of Eighty Eights was donated to the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum in Lansing, Mich., last week. The car was produced Jan. 6 in General Motors' Orion (Mich.) Assembly Center. The Eighty Eight's best year was 1955, when 464,553 were sold.
'BALLARD INSIDE' - Few people outside the auto industry have ever heard of fuel-cell maker Ballard Power Systems, but CEO Firoz Rasul wants to change that. The company, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, is negotiating with customers to affix to their fuel cell concept cars a badge reading something like 'Powered by Ballard.' Says Rasul: 'We're developing our own branding strategy. We see it being like (microchip maker) Intel's 'Intel Inside' logo.' At least one major client says he is willing. 'I have no problem with it,' said Neil Ressler, Ford Motor Co. vice president of advanced vehicle technology.