Ford Motor Co. COO Jim Padilla just can't seem to say enough about the roominess of the 2005 Ford Five Hundred. Last month, you may recall, he said the car's trunk is so large that it could hold eight sets of golf clubs - or, if you're in New Jersey, four or five bodies. Last week he told a gathering of Automotive News staffers that the car has more interior space than the Crown Victoria, even though it's a foot shorter. Padilla said that during one ride-and-drive event he and a journalist rode comfortably in the back seat while sitting with their legs crossed. And, he added, "You know these guys who go on these press ride-and-drives. They eat a lot."
HAIL TO THE CHIEF'S REPLACEMENT -- It's not all that unusual for a speaker to cancel, forcing event organizers to scramble for a replacement. But pinch hitter Doug Duchardt has earned a lifetime of bragging rights. Duchardt, director of General Motors' racing program, got the call to be a luncheon speaker last week at Auto-Tech 2004, a supplier technology trade show in Detroit. For whom was he the stand-in? President George Bush.
BUT HOW DO YOU DEFINE 'DEFINE'? General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner has weighed in on the speculation that former Chrysler group executive Wolfgang Bernhard is heading to GM. "Speculation. Just that," Wagoner said last week at the Auto-Tech conference in Detroit. When asked if he had talked with Bernhard recently, Wagoner paused about five seconds before answering: "I could get into how you define 'recently,' but I don't think it's constructive to talk about stuff like that." Volkswagen, meanwhile, denied published reports that it was close to making a deal with Bernhard.
ESCAPE PLANS ARE BREWING -- As faltering Mitsubishi formulates a plan to cut its work force in Normal, Ill., managers have noticed a help-wanted ad in their local community paper, The Pantagraph. Competitor Toyota is looking for managers for its new plant in San Antonio. Relocation distance: about 1,000 miles. "Automotive experience is desirable," the ad says.
RUNNING OUT OF ROOM -- The first Nissan Pathfinder to be built in North America rolled off the line last week in Smyrna, Tenn., and the ceremony was a bit cramped. Dave Boyer, head of Nissan's Canton, Miss., plant noted the predicament while standing shoulder to shoulder as the redesigned 2005 model made its debut. The Pathfinder is Smyrna's fifth nameplate, and there's no room for the more elaborately staged events of the past. "We're running out of room for these events," said Boyer, adding that it's the same at the Mississippi plant: "We've got five models now, too. We don't have any more space either."