Paccar to modernize Quebec plant Thanks to an agreement signed with the governments of Canada and Quebec, Paccar Inc. plans to reopen its Kenworth plant in Ste. Therese, Quebec, as a "world-class facility" in 1999, according to chairman & CEO Mark Pigott. The agreement creates a private/public financing package that includes a loan of $24 million (Canadian) from the federal and provincial governments. In addition, Quebec will contribute to employee-training costs associated with the reopening. The terms call for Paccar to invest $100 million (Canadian) to modernize and expand the plant. Improvements will include new equipment and tooling for the assembly line, state-of-the-art painting facilities, expanded training center, and major enhancements to the working environment. The plant will go up in size by about 100,000 sq. ft. and its site will increase by some three acres. Only a year and a half ago, the OEM had announced it would close Ste. Therese, due to declining heavy-truck orders and the age and inefficiency of the plant. However, the agreement cast its fate in a different light. "The partnership we've entered into," says Pigott, "will allow us to take one of our older facilities and turn it into a modern and efficient plant large enough to employ the latest in manufacturing technology. These investments should allow the plant to remain economically viable into the future." Paccar acquired Ste. Therese back in 1967 from Sicard Inc., a firm which had produced Kenworth-Dart off-highway mining vehicles at the plant under license starting in 1959. Since 1970, Paccar has built both Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks there.

Allison in Japan General Motors Corp.'s Allison Transmission unit has entered into a joint venture with a Japanese firm, Aisin Seiki, to market automatic transmissions in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. The j.v. company, Aisin GM Allison Co. Ltd., will be based in Japan and is forecast to reach annual sales of $43 million by the year 2000.

DAF trucks get Jake Brake Bloomfield, Conn.-based Jacobs Vehicle Systems says it will supply DAF Trucks N.V. of The Netherlands with Jacobs Engine Brake retarders for DAF's new line of 95XF trucks. According to Mike Spencer, technical marketing manager, the D.E.B. (DAF Engine Brake) retarder Jacobs will supply was designed and developed in-house and is being manufactured at its Bloomfield plant. The firm expects to supply some 4,000 D.E.B.s this year for the 12.6-liter diesel that powers the 95XF line. The DAF retarder is the second major agreement Jacobs has inked with a European truck maker. Jacobs also supplies France's Renault V.I. with engine retarders for its 11- and 12-liter engines. "Jacobs is very committed to expanding its international presence," notes vice president Scott Fowler. "The DAF agreement is another step in that direction."

New China hand An axle factory will be constructed in the Fujian province of the People's Republic of China by Dana Corp. The company's Fujian Spicer Drivetrain Systems Corp. Ltd. will build a 40,000-sq.-ft. plant in Fuzhou. Scheduled for completion next summer, the plant's first products will be axle components for full-size and small vans on the Chinese market. Eventually, it will also produce front- and rear-driving and non-driving axles for various light-duty vehicles. The facility will be Dana's fourth plant on the Chinese mainland and its thirteenth in the Asia-Pacific region.

Mas o menos More or less, President Clinton's state visit to Venezuela last month was a wash as far as strengthening trade with the U.S.'s chief gasoline supplier goes. According to the Motor Equipment Manufacturers Assn. (MEMA), Clinton Administration officials had predicted the signing of investment- protection and double-taxation accords would be the focal point of the President's trip. Afterwards, their positive spin rested on a set of minor agreements reached. Venezuela also emphasized the upside. "The possibility of signing almost a dozen accords on different subjects shows that it is a relationship of considerable content and strength," Asdrubal Aguilar, Venezuela's presidential secretariat minister, dutifully noted.

Canadian truck groups federate The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is the newly formed federation of seven provincial trucking associations that will represent trucking interests in Canada. The 2,000-member group will replace the existing Canadian Trucking Assn. David Bradley, currently president of the Ontario Trucking Assn., will serve as CTA's first CEO.

Ford's Mexico moves Over $10 million has been invested by Ford Motor de Mexico to export some 70% of the light-truck F-Series output of its Cuautitlan plant to the U.S. and Canada. Meanwhile, its parent firm, Ford Motor Co., reportedly will shift production of its Contour/Mystique cars from Kansas City to Hermosillo, Mexico, to make room for a new sport/utility vehicle set to arrive in 1999. In turn, the car maker will transfer its Escort wagon and ZX2 coupe production from Hermosillo to Wayne, Mich., where it builds Escort/Tracer sedans and wagons.

The sun never sets... On Volvo Truck Corp., that is. The Swedish OEM has formed a joint-venture marketing company in Hong Kong. Volvo will hold 40% of Taikoo Truck Ltd., while its partner, Swire Pacific Trading, will own 60%. Taikoo Truck will market and distribute Volvo trucks in Hong Kong itself and will also support Volvo Truck Corp. activities elsewhere in China. Volvo has been selling trucks in Hong Kong since 1974, and its sales there last year totaled 64 units. Swire Pacific Trading is part of the Swire group, which has business operations in both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan).

Mexico truck sales jump According to an industry group, domestic sales of 1,790 heavy trucks and buses in Mexico during September represented a whopping 200.3% increase over the total for that month a year ago. And from January to September, domestic sales hit 12,132 units -- for a big 142.8% increase compared to the same period in 1996. Exports of heavy vehicles are also up. With September sales of 584 units, a 163% gain was recorded over the year before. From January to September, exports totaled 3,645 units, up 76% compared to the same period in '96. Of heavy-truck sales, Mercedes-Benz de Mexico captured 32% of the market; Ford Motor de Mexico, 17%; GM de Mexico, 15%, Navistar International Mexico, 14%; and Grupo Dina, 13%, with another five companies dividing the remainder.

Seoul searching The government of the Republic of Korea says it would take control of debt-ridden Kia Motors Corp. to avert a financial crisis. The OEM, the third-biggest car maker in South Korea, also produces commercial vehicles. In July, the company, which is staggering under $10 billion in debt, was designated for bankruptcy protection. The government now plans to make loans to Kia from a state bank that would be converted into an equity stake once the firm is placed in court receivership. In addition, Kia's top management will be dismissed and its commercial-vehicle business, Asia Motors, will be sold to a third party, perhaps South Korea's Daewoo Motors. Kia is not the only Korean industrial giant whose debts are dragging down the nation's financial markets. However, until now, government policy was not to intervene directly to rescue companies in peril. Recently, Kia began selling its small cars and sport-utility vehicles in the U.S.

EV batteries Pacific-bound New York City-based Electric Fuel Corp. has reached an agreement with the Japanese trading company Tomen Corp. to jointly promote the commercial introduction of Electric Fuel's zinc-air battery system for electric vehicles (EV) throughout the Far East. First port of call will be Japan, where the two firms will determine the feasibility of advancing zinc-air technology in that market. Tomen will act as Electric Fuel's exclusive marketing representative to industry and government there. The partners also plan to form strategic partnerships with Japanese public and private groups to support a phased program for commercializing the zinc-air battery. "The Far East is fertile ground for using our zinc-air technology," says Electric Fuel president & CEO Yehuda Harats. "We are hopeful that with our new partner, we will be able to develop significant fleet EV programs." The agreement marks Electric Fuel's first push into Asia. The company's battery technology is already undergoing field-testing with the German postal authority, Deutsche Post. Electric Fuel has a license agreement with Italy's largest private energy supplier, Edison SpA, to commercialize its zinc-air system in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France. It has also signed with Sweden's Vattenfall AB to build and operate its infrastructure in Scandinavia. In addition to its headquarters in the U.S., Electric Fuel Corp. operates manufacturing and research and development facilities in Israel.

Strike called on Mexican OEM Some 400 workers have struck a plastic-parts factory operated by Mexican truck maker Grupo Dina SA over a wage disagreement. It has been reported that employees of Dina Composites were offered a 23% salary hike but were left unsatisfied. Both sides are talking and Dina contends its sales won't be affected in the short term, thanks to strong inventories.

Daimler-Benz workers share profits The first-ever profit-sharing plan for non-management workers has been uncorked by Germany's Daimler-Benz AG. Over 135,000 employees at the OEM's Stuttgart headquarters and Mercedes-Benz plants in Germany will receive bonuses once annual operating profits hit $867 million. If '97 profits equal last year's, these workers each stand to gain $445 in recognition of their contributions to Daimler-Benz's success.

International aftermarket leaders The Overseas Automotive Council (OAC), the international aftermarket division of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Assn. (MEMA), has announced the election of five new board members. Each will serve a term ending in the year 2000. Elected were Carlos A. Baez, vp-sales and marketing for Echlin International; Rafaat N. Kureshi, director of export sales and marketing for Gabriel Ride Control Products; Thomas R. McElroy, director of sales and marketing-South America and South Africa for Dana Corp.; Jose R. Sera, vp-sales for AE Latinoamérica; and Timothy C. Walker, vp-sales and marketing for North America for Truck-Lite Co. and president of Truck-Lite International.

See the Datsuns on the Nile Old trucks never die, they just move to new markets. This fall Japanese automaker Nissan will start assembling its old Datsun-design pickup trucks in Egypt. Some 5,000 of the diesel-powered pickups will be built yearly for Egyptian buyers.