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From the Chicago Tribune

Who Says Auto Industry Always Makes Sense?
January 8, 2005
By JIM MATEJA, Chicago Tribune​

Now that it has drawn to a close, a review of 2004 proves how wacky the auto industry really is.


The much-maligned Pontiac Aztek sport utility vehicle outsells the high-performance Pontiac GTO. So General Motors adds a higher output V-8 to the GTO for 2005 - and discontinues Aztek.

Consumer Reports magazine's annual Reliability Study finds the Buick Regal is more reliable than the Toyota Camry, the industry's top-selling car in 2003. After celebrating for an hour and a half, Buick drops Regal for an all-new LaCrosse for 2005.

A national consumer survey finds that 64 percent of motorists demand that their vehicle have a cupholder - to hold the cellphone.

Jim Farley, head of Toyota's youth-oriented Scion division, says the boxy xB wagon that's uglier than Aztek is his top seller despite almost being vetoed when Toyota executives shown the prototype asked: "When do the clowns come out of it?"

Rather than offer rebates or discount financing, luxury automaker Bentley attracts buyers by making the optional umbrellas standard equipment.

Legendary Oldsmobile halts production, but not before raising prices one last time.

Influential J.D. Power and Associates releases its annual Dependability Study of owner satisfaction after three years. It rates the Chevrolet Prizm, Cadillac Eldorado, Buick Century and Chrysler Concorde among the most dependable in the industry - but fails to note each has been discontinued.

Based on worldwide production figures, demand for Japanese cars is highest in the United States and Europe, lowest in Japan.

Chrysler Group Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche says he knew the 2005 Hemi V-8-powered Chrysler 300C was a hit after rapper Snoop Dogg called his office insisting he had to have one - and then calling his son to learn who Snoop Dogg was.

Humiliated after having to rename its exotic GT40 sports car the GT when it found another company owned the original name, Ford tries to save face by calling its 2006 mid-size sedan Futura. It switches to Fusion after finding Pep Boys owns Futura for its tires.

Ford Chairman Bill Ford, who hasn't taken a salary since he stepped in after the ouster of Jacques Nasser in 2001, is awarded a $1.5 million bonus. He turns that down, too, so the money can fund the education of employees' kids.

Wolfgang Bernhard, chief operating officer of Chrysler Group, is promoted to head the prestigious Mercedes-Benz operations. But rather than being handed the keys to the executive latrine, he instead gets a pink slip for reportedly irritating DaimlerChrysler board members. Bernhard then joins Volkswagen.

Oprah gives away 276 cars to audience members, who break into tears when they learn the vehicles are new Pontiac G6 sedans, not leftover Azteks.

Ford says that, besides the Ford Five Hundred/Mercury Montego sedan and Ford Freestyle crossover vehicles it builds in its Chicago plant, it will add a fourth model. But the Mercury version of the Freestyle won't join the lineup until 2007 to give employees' educated kids enough time to come up a name someone else doesn't own.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety comes up with a whiplash rating for cars, not because whiplash is life-threatening, but because whiplash claims cost the insurance industry about $7 billion annually.

To win new subscribers, Sirius, the satellite radio folks, sign Barry Williams, eldest brother on the "Brady Bunch" TV series, to do an oldies show. When no one subscribes, it signs shock jock Howard Stern a week later. Listeners sign up in droves.
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