The appropriately named Plymouth, Mich., once again played host to the wonderful Concours d’Elegance of America a few days ago, and the event … eh, you know what? Let’s just skip to checking out a random assortment of the many amazing vehicles that were on display.
By James Wong
Perhaps in unfortunate coincidence, while writing this article, news spread like wildfire across London over Westminster council’s new plan to scrap free parking on single yellow lines on weekday evenings and weekends. Yet another knot has been tied around the driver’s neck, reducing what is essentially the only reason for driving in London to a potentially profitable venture of the authorities to, as they say, reduce congestion.
By Chris Haak
Frankly, I’m surprised it has taken this long – but Daimler AG’s ultra-luxury, ultra-slow-selling Maybach brand will again return to the dustbin of history. According to Automotive News, Daimler has decided instead to push the next-generation S-Class upmarket, and an ultra-luxury S600 Pullman will fill the void left by Maybach’s departure. It’s remarkable that the brand held onto its second life even as long as it did – with me predicting its demise four years ago (and again three and a half years ago). The conclusion was all but certain then, but the timeline was a surprise.
By Chris Haak
Hot off this morning’s newswire is news that smart USA has signed a memorandum of understanding with Nissan for the collaboration of a new B-segment (subcompact) five-passenger vehicle to be sold in the US under the smart brand. The new vehicle is expected to go on sale in about a year, in the fourth quarter of 2011. Full terms of the non-binding MOU were not disclosed, and all actions are dependent upon coming to definitive agreements on the transaction.
Daimler and Renault had previously entered into a fairly wide-ranging technology-sharing collaboration earlier this year, and this move is likely related to those efforts. The companies even exchanged equity stakes in one another to put some skin in the game, though this alliance is certainly more limited in scope than the Renault-Nissan alliance that shares CEO Carlos Ghosn. Roger Penske must have forgiven Mr. Ghosn for the latter’s inability to convince Renault’s board to sell rebadged Renaults through Penske’s dealer network as Saturns, since this deal is between the Penske-owned smart USA Distributor LLC and Nissan – not technically between Daimler and Nissan.
By Brendan Moore
The Nikkei business newspaper of Japan is reporting that Nissan Motor Co. is in discussions with Daimler AG to get large V8 and diesel engines from the German vehicle manufacturer. The quid pro quo in the deal would be electric cars and batteries from Nissan, says the Japanese daily.
Daimler could make good use of the EV technology concerning EV versions of their A-Class cars and the Smart car.
Renault, Nissan’s partner in their automotive alliance, is already engaged in talks with Daimler over an equity exchange, so it appears that those discussions regarding cooperation may become three-way talks now. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, who is also the CEO of Renault, has commented that he is open to the discussions regarding an equity swap , but has not made any public statements regarding sharing of product.
Ghosn will brief Nissan executives this week on the status of Renault’s comprehensive talks with Daimler, the Nikkei said.
High Tide and Green Grass—Apogee
By J. S. Smith
Mini sets the scene
As discussed in a previous installment, the Mini was not only a revolutionary design, it was also phenomenally successful as a race and rally car, probably more so than any other car of the 1960s. In addition to that role, the Mini was an international style icon. All four of The Beatles owned one in the mid-60s. Other stars did as well—Lulu, Peter Sellers and Brit Eklund, and others I cannot recall.
Even royalty owned Minis: Princess Margaret—the randy royal—and Lord Snowden drove a Cooper S, and Princess Grace owned a Mini too. Government bigwigs drove them too– Labour Minister Ernest Marples had a Mini with a customized hatchback. Alec Issigonis personally delivered a Mini to fellow automotive icon Enzo Ferrari.
Steve McQueen owned a tuned Cooper S. McQueen is well known as a screen legend, but he was also a very serious motor sport enthusiast. McQueen raced cars and motorcycles, and he loved his Mini. Mary Quant, inventor of the mini-skirt, liked the Mini, even designing a limited edition Mini in the 1980s. Countless other cultural icons of the 1960s drove Minis. One 1970’s music legend—glam rock king Marc Bolan of T. Rex—died when his wife veered off the road and struck a tree with his Mini in 1977. Continue Reading →
By Chris Haak
When Daimler (then called DaimlerChrysler) sold 81.1% of its stake in Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management in mid-2007, it held onto the remaining 19.9% of Chrysler. At the time, Daimler made all kinds of noise about how they believed in Chrysler and wanted to hold onto about a fifth of the company to reap the rewards of its success, and so forth.
Subsequently, Daimler was forced to belly up to two massive write-downs in its Chrysler stake based on the decline in the book value of its investment in Chrysler, according to international accounting rules. The size of these write-downs, easily extrapolated (by multiplying them by five) led many industry analysts to speculate that Chrysler was losing huge amounts of money. These rumors caused tight-lipped Cerberus, as well as Chrysler, to release public statements concerning its cash position, operating cash flow, and operating profits – in spite of there being no statutory requirement for doing so. Even if the accounting rules that Daimler must abide by are different (more strict in this case) than US accounting rules, the fact remains that Chrysler is still an albatross on Daimler’s neck – albeit only 19.9% of an albatross relative to what it would otherwise have been). (A brief editorial note: I’m not here to say that Daimler didn’t have an awful lot – if not nearly everything – to do with the situation Chrysler finds itself in today. After all, Daimler did own Chrysler for nine years, and oversaw the approval and development of every model in Chrysler’s current portfolio.) Continue Reading →
Odds and ends about cars and car business
By Brendan Moore
DAIMLER and RWE (Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk AG, until 1990), a German utility company, have revealed plans to offer charging stations for electric vehicles in Germany by the end of 2009. RWE is quick to point out that this development is only a market test, and will only be offered in Berlin initially. “This is a pilot market and more will follow. Then we will see how this does in practice,” RWE CEO Juergen Grossmann told reporters. The reason Daimler was involved is because the company intends to produce a limited run of lithium-ion battery powered Smart minicars in 2009. There will be other production EVs or PHEVs for sale in Germany by 2010, though, most notably the Honda Insight, the Toyota Prius, the Bollore-Pininfarina EV and Nissan’s as-yet-unnamed EV.
GM plans to show a production version of the Volt this month (speaking of electric vehicles). Speculation was rampant that GM would debut the production version of the Volt at the Paris Auto Show, but GM says the first showing will be at an internal GM event for employees at which some media will be present. September 16 is the 100-year anniversary of General Motors and the Volt is expected to be shown at that event. Bob Lutz, Vice-Chairman of GM worldwide, told reporters at Automotive News Europe that pre-production models of the Volt will be built next year and 2010 ahead of the final production version in 2010. A European version will follow in 2011. “Everything is looking good,” Lutz said. “We have quite a few running around now in old Chevy Malibu bodies, so we can modify the engine and battery configuration.” It’s not an overstatement that the Volt EV is highly anticipated by the public, industry analysts, and GM itself. Lutz himself has referred to the Volt as GM’s most important model launch in the history of the company, and he views the Volt as one of the crowning achievements of his career. Continue Reading →
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