Seeking an offbeat vehicle option? Consider the latest creation of Japanese artist Kazuhiko Hachiya. His "Thanks Tail" is mounted on a vehicle's trunk lid or roof, and a joystick allows a grateful driver to wag the tail back and forth in a gesture of appreciation - perhaps to the person behind who has allowed a lane change during a rush-hour traffic jam. Another option: The tail can be made to droop sheepishly in contrition if the operator wants to apologize for a boneheaded maneuver.
HEY, I'M ON YOUR SIDE -- Larry Denton, CEO of supplier Dura Automotive Systems, took automakers to task last week for their lack of progress in corporate average fuel economy. Chrysler group COO Tom LaSorda, another participant in the Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich., retorted: "It's nice that the suppliers are setting new CAFE limits for automakers." Denton explained later that he wasn't merely castigating the auto industry for its fixation on gargantuan high-profit SUVs. "If we don't demonstrate continuous improvement in CAFE, someone's going to set an unrealistic target for us that hurts this industry," he said. "So my point was why not push the continuous improvement rather than having someone set a target by throwing a dart at a dartboard?"
RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME -- New auto plant sites require 1,000 to 2,000 acres of undeveloped flat land with rail and interstate access, and that's hard to find. Tana Trichel of Ferriday, La., has just started marketing a 5,000-acre parcel with all the right stuff. Standing in a crowd at the recent Southern Economic Development Council conference in Nashville, Tenn., Trichel asked someone, "Do you think an automaker might be interested?" Standing next to her happened to be Buzz Canup Jr., who helped the state of Mississippi land the Nissan Motor Co. plant in Canton. "I'll take one of those," Canup said, quickly reaching for one of her business cards.
YOU MEAN STUFFED AND DECAPITATED? At the same conference, Denso International America exec John Voorhorst was making the point that landing a big auto project is a huge deal for any state. Last year, he recalled, when the Japanese supplier broke ground for a plant in Osceola, Ark., Arkansas Gov. and avid hunter-fisherman Mike Huckabee proudly referred to Denso as "a wall mount." Says Voorhorst, "It took us about six weeks of working with the translators to explain to our Japanese executives what he meant."
SPECIAL DELIVERY -- The first - and most expensive - Ford GT was delivered to its owner last week. Retired Microsoft exec Jon Shirley bought the car for $557,500, or about four times the sticker price, at a charity auction. Talk show host Jay Leno takes delivery this week of the second GT sold to the public. Regular folks need not rush to Ford dealerships: Only about 1,500 of the $140,000-plus cars are planned for 2005.