GM has forgotten Cadillac's role
I'm writing about your Page 1 story on Cadillac and its new sport-utility (Sept. 13).
It seems to me that General Motors has forgotten who Cadillac's competition really is. GM is cannibalizing Chevrolet and GMC to prop up Cadillac.
I always thought that Cadillac was a luxury car division, but since it cannot compete with BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Infiniti in upscale sedans, it must steal other GM business.
Top-level GM executives should drive the 2000 Mercedes S class and get busy building a car like that. People would be standing in line to buy them.
Frank Parra ChevroletJeep-Mitsubishi
Different roads to a common goal
Two items from your Sept. 20 issue motivate me to write because both demonstrate how far away from the retail mindset factory and advertising people necessarily are.
Large corporate managers and advertising people tend to think in big-picture terms - planning strategies for consistency in business image and expansion over time. Retail people are interested only in the here and now: Did that ad pull?
Trying to have Ford's Ross Roberts make the crossover into heading a retail operation (Auto Collection) was like throwing him into a lion's den.
The dealer consolidation program makes sense in the boardroom, but it is not an easy sell to dealers and their families. Roberts has taken the honorable step of retiring.
Jean Halliday's proposal (Page 16) to add Mazda to Mercury dealerships where possible makes sense because, even though there is some price overlap, most customers of one brand probably are not interested in the other.
The thought of taking Lincoln away from Mercury stores indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of the retail environment. Mercury dealers want and need the opportunity to move the customer up from Mercury to Lincoln. For the foreseeable future, Lincoln cannot stand on its own; Mercury is its natural partner.
The fundamental difference between manufacturer and dealer concepts of product distribution is this: The manufacturer wants the narrowest availability in a particular location (exclusivity); the dealer wants the widest spectrum from both product and price perspectives.
Compromise is in order.
P.T. HASKELL JR.
The writer has worked for auto manufacturers and has operated dealerships.
Chrysler deserves some respect
I was amused by your Sept. 13 story on Mercedes' claim that its ML55 is the world's fastest sport-utility with a claimed 0-to-60-mph time of 6.9 seconds.
It may be the fastest now, but I would like to remind Mercedes that the record of 6.8 seconds is held by my 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 LTD. In fact, the only reason I have not traded it for a new Jeep is that the new one is slower.
By the way, Mercedes should not be so condescending to the Jeep side of the house. Mercedes says the new Jeep's 0-60 time is 'just under 8 seconds.' According to Motor Trend magazine, it's 7.2, substantially less than 8 seconds and not much slower than the ML55 - and for $30,000 less.
At 8.2, the Mercedes ML430 is a full second slower than the Jeep, not 'a fraction of a second' as Mercedes claims.
I will keep my old Jeep a while longer and take on all ML55s at any light in town. And when I need real speed, I'll just pull my Viper GTS out of the garage.
And when Mercedes-Benz finally realizes who's earning the money is this merger and who's just staying afloat, maybe Mercedes will have a bit more respect for the Pentastar side of the house.
North Potomac, Md.
The writer plans to open a business services store.
A punchier name for running lights
The letters you have printed on daytime running lights overlook the safety angle - your vehicle can be seen by other drivers under certain conditions.
Lighting conditions change because of weather or time of day. Without daytime running lights, the driver must decide when - or whether - to turn on the headlights.
At twilight or during a thunderstorm, some vehicles are lit; others are not. Who hasn't tried to overtake a vehicle on a two-lane road at dusk, with the stream of oncoming lit vehicles obscuring the unlit vehicle at the end of the stream? That is the type of situation the running lights are designed to address.
Perhaps they should be called 'twilight running lights' or 'safety running lights.' That would put the focus on when they are really needed instead of focusing on broad daylight, which is the connection most people make.
Staff Development Engineer
General Motors Powertrain
Dealer loses in lease damage
I am writing about your Aug. 23 article on Ford Motor Credit Co.'s wear-and-tear program. The article quotes Tim Gates, Ford Credit Red Carpet Lease manager, as saying 'The dealer has no motivation for charging the customer' for damages.
I disagree. Ford Credit holds its dealers responsible for reporting and estimating lease-end charges on leased vehicles returned to the dealership. If our assessment of the condition of the vehicle differs from that of Ford Credit, we are responsible for the difference.
Ford Credit is billing me for items my staff said were within guidelines for a returned vehicle. As Gates said, 'I don't think I would like having (a $500-$600) charge tacked on at the end.' Try collecting those or any fees while the customer is negotiating a lease renewal of a $30,000-$40,000-plus vehicle from you.
I also have a Dodge dealership, and I deal with many outside banks and lending institutions. I have never had chargebacks from any of them. As it stands now, the dealer is in a no-win situation. If he charges the customer for the damages, he loses the sale. If he doesn't, Ford Credit will bill him for the damages.
The ultimate winners are Ford Credit and the customer. The loser, once again, is the dealer.
DENNIS F. ADAMS III
Woodbridge Lincoln Mercury Inc.
Woodbridge Dodge Inc.
Of prototypes and prototypes
I read your Aug. 2 article, 'Suppliers: Prototypes are taking too long,' with amusement and curiosity.
The article cites a survey of automotive suppliers conducted by Raftery Consulting of Pinehurst, N.C. The results indicated that it takes two to four weeks to produce 'prototypes' and that almost all suppliers said they could be made quicker and cheaper.
The article does not indicate Raftery's definition of 'prototypes,' but I suspect that it is considerably different from ours. In our parlance, a 'prototype' refers to a part that is production-intent, fully worthy of test and evaluation but made from soft (usually aluminum) tools.
Those parts typically take 12-16 weeks to obtain; some take as long as 20-24 weeks. If Raftery's observation were correct, what a beautiful world it would be.
Prototype Production and Procurement
Toyota Technical Center
Ann Arbor, Mich.