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Ford Focuses on Quality With Longer Warranty


Hoping to reignite interest in its recall-plagued Focus, Ford Motor Co. says it will offer a five-year, 100,000-mile extended powertrain warranty on 2003 models.

Since the compact was introduced in 2000, there have been 11 safety-related recalls: seven for 2000 models, three for 2001 models and one for 2002 models. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also is investigating reports of engine compartment fires in Focus models of all three years.

Ford executives say the extended warranty is part of a $100-million marketing and advertising campaign aimed at reestablishing the Focus as an agile, fun-to-drive, economical car.

Providing a longer warranty period is Ford's way of telling buyers they don't have to be afraid of investing in the vehicle. Additionally, Ford is making the extended warranty transferable if the original owner sells the car before the five years are up. That, Ford hopes, will increase consumer confidence and prop up prices of used models.

The extended powertrain warranty augments Ford's standard three-year, 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty on the car. Through August, Ford sold 164,036 Focus models (it comes as a sedan, a wagon or a three-or five-door hatchback) in the United States. The company would like to see sales rise to about 275,000 units a year.

Online Support

American Honda Motor Co. says the four-and five-speed automatic transmission woes reported in last week's Highway 1 have occurred in just 1.6% of the 1 million Hondas and Acuras sold with those transmissions.

The day after the story ran, it seemed as if the owners of most of those cars with transmission problems were online, e-mailing more tales of woe and seeking more assistance. One thing consistently asked for that wasn't provided in the original article were the addresses of the online forums dedicated to Acura and Honda transmission problems.

So here they are.

The only one with a specific transmission problem discussion is: Go to "Frequent Topics" and the transmission problems forum is the first one listed.

Eric Lear, the Webmaster, says he welcomes input from fans as well as foes. An ongoing poll, for instance, shows that most respondents have not had any problem with their Acura transmissions--a result in line with Honda's figures.

Lear's forum is dedicated to the Acura CL coupe. There is another forum,, for owners of the Acura sedan. Go to the "forums" header, then "TL discussion," where a number of topics, including transmission problems, are kicked around.

And for Honda owners (the four-speed automatics on V-6 equipped Accords and Odyssey minivans are the ones that can have problems) there's, which has a continuing transmission discussion under the "performance parts" heading.

Cars Rule in California

It is common knowledge these days that light trucks--defined as pickups, minivans and sport utility vehicles--are outselling standard passenger cars in the U.S. It first happened in 1999, and the truck share of the market has grown each year since.

But that's a national average.

Surprising as it may seem, especially to passenger-car drivers surrounded by pickups and SUVs, trucks still are No. 2 in California.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says the annual Ward's Motor Vehicles Facts and Figures shows that last year consumers in 36 states bought more trucks than cars.

But in California and 13 other states, including neighboring Nevada, trucks accounted for slightly less than 50% of all new passenger vehicle registrations in 2001.

Jed Connelly, senior vice president of Gardena-based Nissan North America, says that although the balance is close in California, the scales still tip toward cars because of the climate.

"Sports cars and convertibles do it," says Connelly, whose company doesn't offer convertibles but has just re-launched one of the country's most recognizable sports car lines, the Nissan Z, with a convertible version coming next year.

The list of states where cars are preferred by a slight margin includes a couple of other sunny climes--Florida and Hawaii--as well as Eastern seaboard states with major urban centers, where smaller, more fuel-efficient cars make more sense than trucks.

Still, it is only a matter of time before trucks rule everywhere. The imbalance is growing steadily. The Ward's data show that registrations of new trucks last year totaled 9.1 million, or 52% of all new non-commercial vehicles. That represented 570,000 more trucks than cars nationally. In 2000, the margin was trucks 51%, cars 49%, with 250,000 more trucks.

New Ferrari Chief

Former Ferrari of Germany Managing Director Maurizio Parlato has been appointed president and chief executive of Ferrari and Maserati North America. He replaces Stuart Robinson, who has left the company.

Historically, North America has been Ferrari's leading market, and with the return of Maserati to the U.S. and Canada, Parlato's New Jersey-based unit also is expected to become the top Maserati marketer.


Times wire services were used in compiling this report.

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