Who says U.S. auto companies can't make money? The Chrysler group's agreement last week to sell its Arizona proving grounds is the biggest land deal in the state's history, according to The Arizona Republic. The paper said developers are paying more than $400 million for the 5,500-acre site near Phoenix -- about $75,000 an acre, because the area around the track is growing so quickly. A Chrysler spokeswoman wouldn't confirm the price. But she conceded that as the area is developed, "our ability to test vehicles becomes more difficult." The paper said Chrysler will lease back the land and operate the proving grounds until late 2007.
SAVOR THE SMELL -- There's nothing like the smell of a new car. But enjoy it now; the Associated Press reported last week that Toyota and other Japanese automakers are working to reduce cabin concentrations of chemicals that emerge from fresh plastic, paint and upholstery because of reports that link the chemicals to health problems such as headaches. "The industry in Japan as a whole has recognized the need for this and is coordinating efforts," Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco said. "Cutting down on the things that lead to these smells is only something that can be better for you."
TIGHT RACE FOR A SPACE -- Three hundred Japanese drivers have a shot at winning a month's free use of a Smart ForFour, but there's an unusual catch. DaimlerChrysler Japan says registrants in the online lottery must be at least 21 years old and agree to submit a report on their test drive -- and be able to prove they have a parking space for the car for 30 days. While that might be unusual elsewhere, car buyers in densely populated Japan must prove they have a parking space before they are issued a license plate for their vehicles.
HEY, WHAT'S GOING ON IN THERE? German auto companies have at times begrudged U.S. consumers their fondness for cupholders. But as Audi of America previews its Q7 for journalists, brand chief Johan de Nysschen is making sure the buying public knows the seven-seat sport wagon will be well equipped for beverage containers when it goes on sale next spring. "There are 10 cupholders and beverage holders in the Q7 -- a record for Audi," de Nysschen said in Detroit last week. "I can tell you that our engineers back in Germany wonder what it is we do in our vehicles."