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1st Gear: Developing the redesigned 2013 Dodge Viper SRT hasn't been easy. Ralph Gilles, who heads Chrysler Group's design organization and SRT, the automaker's performance group, says many suppliers said "thanks, but no thanks" when the automaker knocked on their doors. "It has been tough to get low-volume suppliers," Gilles says. "We have had a few hiccups here and there as we get suppliers. That type of fringe business has really dwindled. A lot of people are looking for big accounts now, but now that is behind us." During an interview last week at a Chrysler event, Gilles said the new Viper is on track, going well. The plan for the redesigned car is to continue Viper's niche role in the performance market.


2nd Gear: Bloomberg reports this morning that Japan's May domestic vehicle production fell 30.9% to 489,723 units, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said on its web site today. Exports fell 40.5% to 202,833 vehicles, it said.


3rd Gear: Aston Martin has finally secured the funds to start designing an all-new generation of sports cars for sale in 2015/16. Engineers are understood to have conceptualised the new family, which will replace the VH-platform Aston Martin DB9, Vantage and Rapide models that Aston first started selling in 2003. The detailed design and production engineering will get under way in early 2012. Funding for these vital new models was put in place last week when Aston announced that a £304 million bond was fully subscribed by global investors. "This will provide long-term financial stability for the next seven years and support Aston Martin's continued development," the firm said.


4th Gear: During an exclusive gathering at Lotus's HQ in Hethel, Norfolk, chief technical officer Wolf Zimmermann told Auto Express and other outlets of his plans to build a flagship Superleggera version 
of the next-generation Esprit — and here's a first look at it. Bosses held the meeting to face critics of the New Era plan, which in June 2010 revealed five new cars would be launched in five years. As well as confirming the flagship Esprit, Lotus unveiled plans for a city car called Ethos — to rival the Aston Martin Cygnet 
— plus the 2+2 Elite, four-door Eterne and the Elise Evolution. There was also news on the 
next Elan, which Lotus says it will put on hold until 2017, when it will replace the Evora. The range-topping Superleggera features an upgraded version of the firm's 562bhp 4.8-litre V8 engine. This generates maximum power of 612bhp at 9,000rpm. It will also get a special 
aluminium body that promises to be even stronger and lighter than the one in standard models. According to Zimmerman, the car will not simply be a stripped-out racer for the road, but a 
carefully designed evolution of the standard Esprit. In fact, the Superleggera will be the fourth model in the range, alongside 
the coupé, convertible and a glass-roofed Targa edition.


5th Gear: A 28-metre high Jaguar E-type sculpture has been unveiled as the centrepiece of this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed. The 150-ton sculpture is made of steel tubes, totaling half a kilometre in length. Much of the steel was donated by Tata Steel, which, like Jaguar, is a subsidiary of Tata. The 12mm thick steel tubes had originally been intended for use as gas pipelines.


6th Gear: Industry experts today said Michigan has the opportunity of a lifetime to regain its throne as the automotive capital of the world through the electric vehicle industry.
Dan Galves, a member of Deutsche Bank's Global Auto/Auto Parts equity research team, expects Michigan to account for 20 percent of all lithium-ion batteries made for the automotive industry by 2015.
"The U.S. has about 30 percent of that capacity and Michigan represents about two-thirds of that, so 20 percent of the world's capacity of lithium ion batteries we think will be in Michigan," he said today at a Detroit Economic Club meeting at the Renaissance Center in Detroit.


⏎ Carlos Ghosn makes $11.5 million as Nissan posts record share. [Automotive News]


⏎ Mario Theissen Retires From Chief Role At BMW Motorsport. [Motor Authority]

⏎ Toyota planning heavy media campaign to promote new Camry. [Wall Street Journal]

⏎ Toyota to give U.S. managers more autonomy. [Detroit News]

⏎ Analysts: Sales rebound slowed by missing inventory. [Automotive News]

⏎ Hyundai Talks About Its Move Into the Luxury Market. [Wall Street Journal]

⏎ "Check Engine" light often means writing a big check. [Detroit News]

Today in Automotive History:

On this day in 1953, the first production Corvette is built at General Motors' facility in Flint, Michigan. Tony Kleiber, a worker on the assembly line, is given the privilege of driving the now-historic car off the line. [History]


Photo Credit: Allpar

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