Cadillac, Saab dealers will get Alfa Romeo
Alfa Romeo's return to the US market will begin in the 2005 model year at selected Cadillac and Saab dealerships. Taking full advantage of parent Fiat Auto's alliance with General Motors, Alfas could also be sold at Chevrolet, Pontiac and Buick stores, a senior Fiat Auto executive disclosed.
The executive confirmed that the next-generation Spider roadster will be the first Alfa to arrive in the USA. He said it will be followed a few years later by the replacements for the lower-luxury Alfa 156 and the range-topping 166 sedan.
What Ford found when it took over Land Rover
Matthew Taylor, Land Rover's marketing director, says the management team put together by Ford may have to create an entirely new business. Here are some of the challenges the team faces:
Land Rover carried out no market research under former owners BMW. 'We didn't measure customer satisfaction,' says Taylor. 'The last customer research that was done was in early 1998.'
Taylor had no way of knowing how much Land Rover spent on advertising last year because it was all rolled into BMW. So Land Rover did a zero-base budget to get an estimate of its potential cost.
Land Rover had no separate product development department. Product development chief Steve Ross is assembling a 2,300-strong team of engineers in Gaydon, England. Some of them worked with BMW before in the Land Rover business. Others came from Ford and others are being hired from outside.
The new Range Rover will be powered by BMW engines, an arrangement that is unlikely to continue now that Land Rover is owned by Ford. But if Land Rover uses engines from fellow brands in Ford's Premier Automotive Group such as Jaguar, Lincoln or Volvo, the engines must be adapted to operate at a 45-degree angle to meet Land Rover standards.
Land Rover product development engineers in Gaydon work with BMW's CATIA computer system. Ross says CATIA will be used for a time before Ford's C3P system is phased in.
But what does Lutz really think about car design?
Former Chrysler Vice Chairman Robert Lutz - now chairman and CEO of battery maker Exide Corp. - always says what's on his mind. Here are some of his views on concept cars shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last month. He made the comments at the Automotive News World Congress.
'Ugly cars, no matter what the market, don't sell. As a sort of elder statesman in this business, I feel almost an obligation to the industry to say that I'm concerned about a lot of the concept cars we're seeing lately. Many of them are all-out weird. It's as if the designers are no longer designing for the public, but rather for each other, trying to be evermore off-the-wall than the competition.
'It reminds me of the height of the abstract-art boom in the '60s and '70s, when you viewed one blue circle and one line on a canvas, and then had to read a two-page description of what all the artist meant.
'There are concepts over across the street that look like a whole family of angry kitchen appliances: demented toasters, furious bread machines, and vengeful trash compactors. Then there are the assemblages of mere steel tubes, leather, and plastic - they look like exercise machines. And worse yet, a lot of these concepts all seem to be drowning in a sea of sameness: high belt-lines, tiny windows, flat fronts, rhomboidal headlights, and slab sides.
'Auto companies that fall in love with this stuff do so, I submit, at their peril: Jack-o'-lantern styling may get photographed at show time, but if it sells, it'd be a miracle.
'By the same token, I'd suggest that designers should never forget that cars, like birds or fish, are bodies that move through a fluid. And the fact is, you don't see many birds or fish with flat, snowplow front ends, faceted eyes, and jagged protuberances.'