This Java isn't about cupholders
If anyone's excited about General Motors stepping up its Internet efforts, it's Scott McNealy. 'I often refer to the automobile as nothing more than a Java browser with tires,' McNealy, chairman of Sun Microsystems Inc., said during a GM press conference Tuesday, Aug. 10, launching the new e-GM business group. Sun is working with GM on a 'Web car' due next year with voice-activated Internet access. McNealy said vehicle occupants provide GM with the perfect captive audience for Internet-based services. 'The kinds of eyeball hours per day that General Motors captures would make NBC or Fox quite jealous,' he said.
THE LONG HELLO - Board meetings at Japanese companies typically are short and tightly scripted. But what happens when the company is in trouble and an outsider steps in to help? Just ask the folks at Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. 'Our first board meeting was 12 hours long,' notes Thierry Moulonguet, Nissan board member and deputy CFO on loan from Renault's finance department. 'And that was just to get acquainted with each other.'
THE CAMOUFLAGE WORKED - You wouldn't have known it by looking around town, but Dodge was the official truck sponsor of last week's 59th Annual Black Hills Motorcycle Rally & Races in Sturgis, S.D. Ford Motor Co. and Harley-Davidson Motor Co. had a prime location just off Main Street to display a special-edition Ford F-150 pickup. (See stories on Page 43.) Dodge, which until last year had a marketing relationship with Harley, was in an out-of-the-way spot near the media center. Dodge showed off a Ram pickup with interior and exterior done in forest camouflage. Maybe that's why it was so hard to find.
FUME WARS - Environmental activists asking for a crackdown on light-truck emissions and fuel consumption have been making the rounds with a giant inflatable sport-utility. (A good backdrop for TV, you see.) But Diane Steed, president of the industry-backed Coalition for Vehicle Choice, believes she spotted some hypocrisy. For a recent rally near the White House, the environmentalists unloaded sections of the prop from a Dodge Caravan and a Subaru Outback (combined fuel economy of about 10 mpg in the city). That proves, Steed said, that sometimes 'you need something bigger and stronger than a passenger car.' Activist Rebecca Stanfield said the groups don't want to ban trucks, but believe 'the auto industry could make them cleaner.' (Not to take sides, but we were wondering how much pollution came from the gasoline-powered pump that inflated the 24-by-20-foot balloon.)
LIKE A GO-CART - The MCC Smart roadster will rival the Lotus Elise's driving experience, 'with handling like a go-cart,' says a Smart manager. This rear-drive addition to the Micro Compact Car family will carry a 0.6-liter three-cylinder engine just ahead of the rear axle. New design chief Michael Mauer also has incorporated design elements of another of his creations, the Mercedes-Benz SLK. Look for an unveiling at next month's Frankfurt show and production in France beginning in 2001.