Sierra Club lauds a car - huh?
Perhaps pigs are flying and maybe hell is freezing over. The environmental group Sierra Club has given the first product award in its 108-year history - and it went to a motor vehicle. No, not the Ford Excursion. (Pigs can't fly that high.) It was the two-seat, hybrid-powered Honda Insight, EPA-rated at more than 60 mpg. Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said the Insight deserved the first Sierra Award for Excellence in Environmental Engineering because it is the first car on the market with 21st century automotive technology. He said that while other companies tout environmentally friendly prototypes, American Honda Motor Co. is selling 'a real car that real people can buy and use.'
SILVER LINING - General Motors has so much value tied up in high-tech business, could it be a candidate for a hostile takeover? No way, said Stephen Girsky, auto industry analyst for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, at the Automotive News World Congress last week: 'GM's got the ultimate poison pill - its car business.' Later, sharing a panel discussion with GM CFO Mike Losh, Girsky said that what he meant to say was GM's car business would scare off a raider because a raider would know how difficult it is to run a car operation. OK, Mike?
JUST BUSINESS AS USUAL - For Richard E. Dauch, the automotive industry serves up little that is truly new. Competition? Nope. Not long ago, there were 'more automakers within a half-day's drive of Detroit than there are in the whole world today,' the CEO of American Axle & Manufacturing Inc. told the Automotive News World Congress last week. Consolidation? Nope. 'DaimlerChrysler is really just short for Daimler-Benz-Maxwell-Chalmers-Chrysler-Dodge-Nash-Willys-Overland-Jeep-American Motors.' Globalization? No again, he said. 'From 1928 until Pearl Harbor, GM had a bigger market share in Japan than it did in the U.S.'
FOSTERING SAFETY - People who work for the General Motors-supported National SAFE KIDS Campaign get an obvious reward - a chance to save children from injury or death. But, it turns out, there are fringe benefits. Jim Savage, coordinator of the Wisconsin SAFE KIDS Coalition, recalled one last week. He told a Washington gathering of SAFE KIDS leaders from across the country that he got to teach actress Jodie Foster how to use the top tether on a child safety seat. Savage later explained: He was helping out at a child safety booth at the Los Angeles auto show when a young woman - casually dressed, with a small boy but without a crowd of hangers-on - walked up. She began posing questions about tether attachments. Savage, who calls himself a Foster fan, said he thought she looked familiar, but it took another booth staffer to ask her name. Savage said he offered to go to her place and personally inspect her child's seat for proper installation, but no deal.
Meanwhile, GM announced it is giving each SAFE KIDS state coalition a specially equipped Chevrolet Venture minivan to use in safety seat check-up events. Keith Wilson, general manager of Bob Sellers Pontiac-GMC of Farmington Hills, Mich., reminded the leaders not to let dealers have salespeople at the events. They are contributions to the community, 'not a sales opportunity,' he said.