It's a question most shoppers have asked sometime in their lives: Why is it impossible for some supermarkets to produce a shopping trolley that travels in a straight line, and goes round corners when you want it to? Now a team from Lotus, under the leadership of Steve Swift, head of vehicle systems, has developed a 'super-trolley' which it claims handles perfectly.
'To optimize the handling of the trolley an extra wheel was added and the positions of the wheels were rearranged,' said a Lotus spokesman. 'When the super-trolley is pushed forward the center wheel castors lock in the center position and give stability, but when a sharp movement is made or the trolley is pushed sideways, the special castors unlock and give agility - ideal for those 1/8chicane' maneuvers near the cheese counter.'
Whenever surveys or studies about European dealer groups are published, there always seems to be an emphasis on the UK, where, we are always told, the most sophisticated dealer groups are based.
But no UK car retailer can compete with Porsche Holding, the Salzburg, Austria-based, dealer arm of the Porsche-Pi'ch families. Recent results show Porsche Holding sold more than 265,000 cars in the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2000. That makes it the largest car dealer in Europe.
But Porsche Holding is also growing fast in countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania and Croatia. The company sold 53,000 cars in those countries during the past fiscal year. Its sales in the Czech Republic climbed 86 percent.
No matter how ambitious or acquisitive the British dealer groups are, there's not much chance of them getting their hands on Porsche Holding: It is 100 percent owned by the members of the Porsche-Pi'ch family.
Around the world
We all know that car industry executives are among the most frequent of air travelers as the industry becomes increasingly global. But the travel program facing the two chiefs of newly-formed ArvinMeritor takes some beating.
Larry Yost, chairman and CEO, and his deputy Bill Hunt, president and vice chairman, plan to visit 100 of the company's 120 plants in 100 days to try and show their commitment to the 36,500 employees.
And for those employees who just can't wait for Yost and Hunt to visit to ask them about the implications of the ArvinMeritor merger, a toll-free telephone number has been set up to provide them with information on the recently struck deal.
Honda's faultless supplier
The poor, beleaguered UK supplier base has had a difficult time recently, what with Rover's uncertainty and Japanese automakers threatening to start buying parts abroad (see Toyota story, Page 1). But a new survey by the UK's Institute of Management has unearthed proof that at least one auto supplier has a positive future.
Yutaka Systems, part of the Unipart Group, which makes exhaust systems for Honda's UK plant, has been described as a totally faultless supplier - not a single problem in its products was traced by compilers of the survey.
Mercury rising at Premier?
With six brands under his management, Premier Automotive Group boss Wolfgang Reitzle is one of the busiest people in the auto industry. But industry observers may be forgiven for only counting five Premier brands: Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln and Volvo. What's the sixth? The North American brand Mercury, of course.
When he spoke at the Automotive News Europe Congress in Montreux in June, Reitzle was asked if Mercury was indeed part of Premier Automotive Group, a source of some confusion in auto industry circles.
He jokingly replied: 'No, because then we would have to call it the Almost Premier Automotive Group.'
Interviewed last week in Stockholm, Reitzle took a more serious approach to Mercury.
'Mercury will not fade away, but it will step-by-step have a mission. Mercury will in a certain way be the entry brand into the Lincoln world,' he said.
And no, Mercury will not be appearing in Europe. Lincoln, Reitzle still claims, will eventually be sold on this side of the Atlantic, but only when the product mix is right.