Toyota marks a milestone
Toyota Motor Corp. built its 100 millionth vehicle in Japan: a two-tone, frosty-white Crown Royal Saloon G, at Toyota's Motomachi plant in Toyota City on Monday, Oct. 4. The milestone came 64 years and one month after Toyota's first Model G1 truck was built at Toyoda Automatic Loom Works in August 1935. Worldwide, Toyota has built about 112 million vehicles.
REASSURING, SORT OF - Given poor scores for the Mercedes M class on the J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Survey and the painful initial start-up for the Mercedes Smart car, what did it mean when DaimlerChrysler recently made 42-year-old Andreas Renschler senior vice president in charge of the Smart division? Renschler is the former president of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, the M-class plant outside Tuscaloosa, Ala. Most recently, he was the head of management development within human resources. Was giving Smart to Renschler rewarding him, or exiling him to Siberia? 'It's a reward, absolutely,' said Juergen Hubbert, DaimlerChrysler board of management member responsible for Mercedes-Benz and Smart passenger cars. 'Andreas is one of our brightest young executives. We would never give him a job that would kill him.'
A SAAB FROM SEINFELD - Autobytel.com, an Internet buying service in Irvine, Calif., used a celebrity car auction to publicize its new online auction service last week. Autobytel.com's consumer-to-consumer and dealer-to-consumer auction can be used to hawk both cars and auto parts. The first car to be auctioned is the 1996 black Saab 900 SE convertible that starred in the popular NBC sitcom 'Seinfeld.' Bids will be considered through Oct. 21 with net proceeds going to Citymeals-On-Wheels USA, a nonprofit organization that provides food to invalids. With Jerry Seinfeld's reputation for neatness, at least the buyer is getting a really clean used car.
IS PHOENIX NEXT? When General Motors tried to sell off-lease vehicles direct to consumers in Texas, the state said no. Now it appears the company has put some feelers out in Arizona, which does not have clear-cut restrictions on factory-owned dealerships. The state's dealer licensing department said GM recently asked what it would take to get a used-car dealer license in Arizona. The company has not applied for a license, however. GM denies any interest in opening a used-car dealership in Arizona.
BUT WHAT'S THE MPG? Watchmaker Tourneau last week introduced a collection of Mercedes watches with a full-page ad in The New York Times. There's an 'S class' watch for $695 and an 'SL class' for $170. Tourneau has adopted several other conventions of the luxury-car business: a 'certified pre-owned' program; trade-ins on old models; and even an incentive program - zero-percent financing, no money down. What's next? Maybe the tables will turn and Mercedes will build a car modeled on a watch - oops, that's already been done with the Smart car, which was pioneered by Swatch.