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Ford recalls 3.6 million vehicles

August 04, 2007|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Ford Motor Co. is recalling 3.6 million vehicles, some manufactured as long as 16 years ago, in the sixth round of repairs to fix a cruise-control switch that can overheat and cause a fire.

The announcement brought the total number of vehicles recalled for the same problem to 10.5 million since 1999. The callback was needed "to address customer concerns" stemming from previous recalls involving the switch, Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford said.

The latest recall covers 16 brands of cars, sport utility vehicles and trucks from model years 1992 to 2004, Ford told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The models include the Ford Ranger, Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, Lincoln Town Car, Lincoln Mark VIII, Ford Taurus SHO, Mercury Capri, Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer, Ford Explorer Sport and Explorer Sport Trac, Ford E-150-350, Ford E-450, Ford Bronco, Ford F-150 Lightning, some models of F-Series trucks and Ford F53 Motor Home chassis.

Chrysler loses German parent

Chrysler, once home to Lee Iacocca and the popularizer of the minivan, is an American company again.

Cerberus Capital Management on Friday closed its $7.4-billion deal to buy a controlling share in the 82-year-old automaker from DaimlerChrysler, the German parent of Mercedes-Benz.

With the closing, Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler becomes the first U.S. automaker in private hands since Ford went public in 1956. Chrysler, which plans a companywide celebration Monday when it will revive its five-sided star logo, will be free of the quarterly earnings pressures that public firms face.

The sale ends the stormy nine-year marriage of Daimler and Chrysler, which merged in a $33-billion deal that was hailed as creating a global giant. Instead, Daimler found itself battered by rising pension and retiree health costs in the U.S. while its Mercedes brand faltered with quality problems at home.

Chrysler lost $618 million in 2006, a sharp reversal from its $1.8 billion in profit in 2005. The losses brought on the sale and forced Chrysler to announce a plan to shed 13,000 hourly and salaried jobs in the U.S. and Canada by 2009.

Jim McTevia, a Detroit restructuring consultant, said Chrysler was in a precarious position before the deal.

"I really believe that had this not taken place, Chrysler would have ultimately been sold off in pieces," he said. "I do think now that Chrysler has a very bright future."

McTevia said Cerberus could bankroll Chrysler's restructuring and help the automaker find new business overseas, where it has struggled. He said the market was closely watching Cerberus' ambitious gamble.

"They've got a lot of money on the line, but even more important than money, they've got their reputation on the line," he said. "You can rest assured they'll leave no stone unturned."

Cerberus Chairman John Snow said the firm planned to keep Chrysler's management team in place and give it the freedom to implement its restructuring plan. Part of that plan is the introduction this month of the redesigned 2008 Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans, which are crucial products for Chrysler.

"We are excited about realizing this monumental opportunity to help bring an American automotive icon back to a path for profitability and long-term success," Snow said Friday.

Toyota profit surges 32.3%

Toyota Motor Co., on track to overtake General Motors Corp. as the world's biggest automaker this year, said Friday that its April-to-June profit jumped 32.3% to a record high for a quarter, lifted by strong overseas sales and a weaker yen.

Surging gasoline prices have proved a big plus for the Japanese automaker as drivers flock to Toyota's fuel-efficient models, including the Camry, the bestselling model in the U.S., and the Prius gas-electric hybrid.

Foreign sales are going strong, and the weak yen, which raises the value of overseas sales, is making rosy earnings even rosier, analysts said.

Profit at Toyota, which also makes the Lexus luxury line, totaled 491.54 billion yen ($4.1 billion). Sales rose 15.7% to 6.52 trillion yen ($54.7 billion).

Toyota has already surpassed General Motors in global vehicle sales for the first half of the calendar year, selling 4.72 million vehicle to GM's 4.67 million.

Many analysts believe Toyota will beat GM for the full year in sales and production. The title of world's biggest automaker -- which GM has held for 76 years -- usually is determined by annual global production numbers.

For the first six months of the year, Toyota and its group of companies built 4.71 million vehicles worldwide. GM estimates that it made 4.75 million vehicles during that period.

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