GM offers early retirement to thousands
In other news, GM has been looking for a strategic partner to assume control of its internal financing arm, General Motors Acceptance Corporation – or GMAC. This week, the beleaguered automaker successfully unloaded 78 percent of GMAC’s Commercial Holding Corporation, its real estate finance unit, to a group of investors, raising 1.5 billion dollars in cash. After the Commercial Holding Corporation repays billions in inter-company loans at the close of the deal, the total windfall to GM from the sale is estimated to be greater than 9 billion dollars. That oughta get it through the next year or so.
Selling assets to raise cash is catching on. Jaguar, which has been bleeding Ford Motor Company dry for a decade, sold Browns Lane, where the iconic British automaker has operated manufacturing and business facilities since 1951. Currently, Browns Lane serves as Jaguar’s headquarters, the site of its heritage car museum, and employs about 500 workers who craft metal trim and wood veneers for Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin models. Browns Lane car manufacturing ceased in 2005, when production of the XJ sedan and XK sports car were moved to a different facility. It is not known how much money that cash-strapped Jaguar netted from the sale of the 117-acre site.
New CAFÉ Standards
Regardless, Ford isn’t as worried about fuel economy as it used to be. According to the Detroit News, a high-horsepower V8 engine program dubbed “Hurricane” is back on track after it was canceled during last year’s run-up at the pump. The Hurricane V8 would be used in full-size SUVs and pickup trucks, such as the Lincoln Navigator and Ford F-150. Ford needs to do something: GM’s got a 403-horsepower V8 under the hood of the Cadillac Escalade and Jeep is stuffing a 425-horsepower motor into the Grand Cherokee SRT-8, but the Navigator musters just 300 ponies from Ford’s most powerful engine in today’s arsenal.
Toyota isn’t letting this most recent spike in gas prices keep it from juicing the popular Highlander SUV’s lineup, either. The new Highlander Sport model includes a 215-horsepower V6 engine, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power driver’s seat, and 17-inch alloy wheels. A third-row seat and four-wheel drive are optional. Prices for the new model will range from just over $28,000 to just under $31,000.
Honda Prices Fit
In other Honda news, the automaker is suing the Chinese property rights authority over the cancellation of patent protection for the design of the current CR-V sports utility vehicle. Honda has been manufacturing the CR-V in cooperation with the Dongfeng Motor Group since 2004, but is now concerned that if the SUV’s design is not protected by the Chinese government, it could be easily copied. According to Honda, China’s State Intellectual Property Office thinks the current CR-V’s design is too similar to the first-generation model, which debuted in 1995, and canceled patent protection earlier this month. But really, Honda needn’t worry. It’s not like Chinese manufacturers are known for copying successful products or anything.
Finally, Audi celebrated a racing milestone at the 12 hours of Sebring in Florida last weekend. Its new R10 racing car won the event, the first time a diesel-powered racer has taken the checkered flag, trouncing the second-place finisher by a full four laps. Next, the R10 goes to the 24 hours of LeMans where its twin-turbo V-12 motor could once again make mincemeat of the competition, and where another strong finish could finally awaken a consumer populace to the benefits of diesel as a credible alternative to hybrid technology.
Photos courtesy of Ron Perry, General Motors, Honda