GM, AutoVAZ to build SUVs
GENEVA - General Motors said it will team up with Russia's largest automaker, AutoVAZ, and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development to build sport-utilities at a new plant in Togliatti, Russia. Speaking at the auto show here, GM Europe President Michael Burns said the $332-million joint venture will build a successor to the Lada Niva, a sturdy, bare-bones subcompact now more than 25 years old. The new models will be marketed in Russia under the Chevrolet brand. Production is expected to start in 2002, ramping up to about 75,000 units a year in 2004, Burns said. GM's contribution is about $100 million for a 41.5 percent stake in the venture.
Meridian to close plant
DETROIT - Meridian Automotive Systems Inc. of Dearborn, Mich., will close its Lapeer, Mich., plastic trim plant by June 30. The supplier, in a statement issued Thursday, Feb. 28, said the plant 'has suffered financial losses for several years.' It also attributed the closure to 'quality and customer concerns.'
Meridian acquired the plant as part of its buyout of Cambridge Industries Inc. in 2000. It has about 390 hourly workers, all of whom will be laid off. The supplier did not disclose plans for the plant's 60 salaried employees.
General Motors is the plant's only customer. Meridian will transfer the GM business to other plants.
Sonic's 4th quarter profits down
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - After reporting a drop in fourth quarter profits, Sonic Automotive Inc. last week said it expects a softer new-vehicle market to continue at least into the second quarter.
Profits declined to $12.3 million vs. $15.3 million in the same quarter of 1999 as floorplan costs increased dramatically. Revenues rose for the same period, from $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion. For the year, revenues grew from $3.4 billion in 1999 to $6.1 billion in 2000 while profits increased from $446.5 million in 1999 to $741.7 million last year.
Sonic has 167 franchises and 113 dealerships.
Tokyo importer cuts work force
TOKYO - Yanase & Co., the importer of Mercedes-Benz, Opel, Saab and Cadillac in Japan, is offering early retirement packages in an effort to trim its work force by 300 jobs, or 4.3 percent. The company hopes to save ¥2.1 billion, or $19.2 million, a year. Its sales slid 13.2 percent to 60,778 units in its latest fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, 2000.
Yanase cited a lack of new Mercedes models for the drop; last year it also lost import rights for Chevrolet and Renault vehicles.
Center will ship GM parts
CHICAGO - General Motors Service Parts Operations will build a parts distribution center this year in Bolingbrook, Ill., to replace a center in Broadview , Ill.
The center will handle automotive replacement parts shipments to more than 570 GM dealerships in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.
Construction will begin this month.