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THE NEW HOT CAR COLOR: BROWN? BETTER BELIEVE IT

Once synonymous with grit and grime, brown has come to embody something entirely different for a generation of Starbucks-obsessed consumers. Something luxurious, tasty even. A little like a latte. At least that's the thinking behind General Motors Corp.'s decision to launch one of its most critical new vehicles - the Buick Enclave crossover - in a brunette hue called cocoa metallic. Brown rides haven't been hip since the 1970s. But GM is banking on a brown renaissance, under way in the worlds of fashion and interior design, to take hold in the auto industry. "It used to be that when you asked people what they associated brown with, it was mud and dirt," said Chris Webb, GM's creative designer for interior-exterior color. "Now, it's luxury. We call it the Starbucks effect."

These dealerships treat shoppers best

In an innovative study that evaluates how well car shoppers - not buyers - are treated in showrooms, Acura, Land Rover and Saturn dealers came out on top. Brands such as Volkswagen, BMW, Dodge and Lexus also did well. Toyota and Honda ranked about average for the auto industry, while Ford, Chevrolet, Mazda and Scion were below average. Evaluating the experiences of car shoppers is important, the study's founder said, because 75 to 90 percent of car shoppers don't buy a new car or truck the same day they visit a dealership. Most surveys of customer satisfaction, including the J.D. Power & Associates studies, focus on car buyers, said Fran O'Hagan, whose Pied Piper Management in Pacific Grove, Calif., released its first auto industry Prospect Satisfaction Index. "Very few industries or businesses devote much time to tomorrow's buyers," said O'Hagan, a former executive with Indian Motorcycle and a 15-year veteran of BMW, Land Rover and others.

Now you can get a Mercedes fix 24/7

DaimlerChrysler AG, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, has launched Internet-based video channels with the latest on new products and details on the company's history. Mercedes-Benz TV (www.mercedes-benz.tv) features a weekly 20-minute news magazine and five channels each running an hour's material 24 hours a day with topics on lifestyles, cars, engines and sports, history and automotive legends. It also showcases Mercedes events at world auto shows and the premieres of new models.

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