News from GM’s Hospital Ward

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With Toyota’s report today that it will close its Japanese factories for 11 days (beyond the traditional 3-day closing), U.S. auto industry fans—if there are any left—still don’t have much to cheer about. Chrysler’s December sales dropped 53% from last year; GM’s, 31%; Ford’s, 32%. Toyota’s U.S. deliveries were down 37%.

It’s a 16-year low for the industry, with GM’s share the smallest in its home market since 1959. And this year looks to be worse, according to one analyst: “It’s a consumer confidence problem, and it’s worldwide.”

There was sporadic cheering, however, as the government granted aid to the company’s financing arm, GMAC. Hopes for loosening of credit for GM vehicles were somewhat undercut by the terms of the deal. GMAC loses its exclusive right to finance all of GM’s cars and trucks and must conclude all lease financing, too. So the cozy relationship ends, and both companies will have to find some of their business elsewhere. That may be a good thing.

Meanwhile, labor negotiations with the UAW got underway, with the union claiming President Bush was “demanding steeper and faster concessions from the UAW than from any other part of the industry.” Maybe so, but analysts think there is still more blood to be gotten from that stone.
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Okay, now some good news: The new Cadillac SRX crossover was announced before the opening of the Detroit Auto Show, January 17. We think it looks pretty good, if a bit fussy on the exterior and a little too bezel-ish in the cockpit. Along with all kinds of electronic goodies, the SRX will be powered by a 3.0-liter V6 (260 hp/221 lb-ft, 6-speed), or a 2.8-liter turbo V6 (300 hp/295 lb-ft, 6-speed automatic). You’ll also find when you open the door that it has illuminating sill plates. It’s nice to know that GM never gives up on this kind of stuff.

What do you think about the new Cadillac SRX?

—jgoods

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