NEW DELHI - Local manufacturers may dominate India's car market, but they get no respect by consumers.
In a recent satisfaction study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, foreign-designed cars gained top ratings.
The Mitsubishi Lancer was rated India's best mid-sized car, followed by the Honda City, Opel Astra, Maruti Esteem, Ford Escort and Fiat Siena.
The Lancer is produced by Hindustan Motors in collaboration with Mitsubishi Motors of Japan.
In the small-car segment, the Daewoo Matiz won top honors. Other high-scoring models were the Hyundai Santro, Maruti 800, Maruti Zen and Fiat Uno. India's only indigenous car, Tata Indica, fared poorly.
The study rated ride and handling, the instrument panel, seats, heating and cooling, the sound system, vehicle styling, comfort, transmission and engine.
JAKARTA, Indonesia - For sale: One minivan ... oh, and a factory to build it in. One careful owner, a bargain at $15 million or best offer.
It sounds bizarre, but it's true. A British design company, Creative Automotive Design Ltd., has been left holding the baby following the collapse of a second Indonesian national car project.
CAD, based in Birmingham, England, won the contract for a turnkey operation to design, engineer and assemble a new minivan. The company was to design, construct and equip a new plant near Jakarta, then train the staff.
Project Beta was the dream of Indonesian industrialist Aburizal Bakrie, chairman of Bakrie Corp.,
a company that dabbles in timber, paper and oil. Everything was on course until the Indonesian economy went into a tailspin along with the rest of Asia in 1998.
Then, days before a lavish launch planned in Jakarta, Bakrie pulled the plug. CAD laid off 30 engineers and took a $15 million loss.
'It was a great shock,' said company spokesman Martin Hayes. 'With the launch planned and the dancing girls booked, it all went belly-up.'
The prototypes, factory and equipment have been mothballed. All a buyer needs is $15 million.
TOKYO - For years, skeptical investors have believed that Toyota Motor Corp. should rethink its pet telecommunications projects. Toyota finally did just that, and the market cheered - wildly.
The stock market was greeting news that a telecommunications company that Toyota controls, IDO, will merge with two others. That might give the new entity enough bulk to compete with market leader NTT.
Toyota's IDO has been a steady money loser over the years, but the automaker insisted that it had potential in the field of intelligent transportation systems.
The name game
ANN ARBOR, Michigan - What is the value of a vehicle brand discarded by an automaker because of poor sales?
Tom Kinnear, a professor at the University of Michigan, said even a brand beyond hope is an asset worth $100 million to $500 million. Kinnear figures that Acura threw away $2.5 billion when it discarded the Legend name.
Although brands don't appear on financial balance sheets, a strong vehicle brand is worth $1 billion to $4 billion, and salvageable brands are worth $500 million to $2 billion, he said. Regarding DaimlerChrysler's decision to pull the plug on Plymouth, Kinnear quipped that he had offered to buy the brand name.
Dr. Winfried Burgert, Seat's executive vice president of development, compares the race to develop fuel cells 'to a bicycle race in which everyone is trying to see how slowly they can pedal without falling off.' Why? Because nobody wants to bear the cost of being first to make the breakthrough. Perhaps more legislative leverage could be applied to the problem.