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1st Gear: Parts shortages caused by Japan's record earthquake may reduce global automobile production by about 30 percent, research firm IHS Automotive said today. If parts plants affected by the quake don't return to operation within six weeks, global auto output may drop as much as 100,000 vehicles a day, said Michael Robinet, vice president of Lexington, Massachusetts-based IHS. The industry produces 280,000 to 300,000 vehicles daily, he said. "Most vehicle manufacturers will be affected by this," Robinet said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg's David Welch. "It will be very difficult for any major automaker to escape this disaster."


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2nd Gear: Spyker Cars NV, the Dutch supercar manufacturer and owner of Saab Automobile, had a full-year loss before interest and taxes of 140 million euros, the Zeewolde, Netherlands-based company said today in a statementon its website. Probably explains why, as Bloomberg reports this morning, Saab's Chief Executive Officer Jan Aake Jonsson will retire from his position in May of this year. Saab owner Victor Muller will act as interim CEO. Simultaneously with this news, Vladimir Antonov, the Russian investor who helped finance Spyker Cars NV's purchase of Saab Automobile, said he is in talks with Sweden's National Debt Office about acquiring a stake in Saab Automobile AB. That's a lot of Swedish news all at once.


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3rd Gear: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this week released a report (PDF) saying taxing people based on how many miles they drive is a possible option for raising new revenues and that these taxes could be used to offset the costs of highway maintenance at a time when federal funds are short. Or, you know, they could just increase the gas tax like rational people. Ridiculous.


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4th Gear: Autocar reports this morning that Porsche has plans for a new mid-engined supercar that, if approved by bosses at parent company Volkswagen, will take it into direct competition with Ferrari, McLaren and sister firm Lamborghini. Conceived as a regular model rather than a high-priced, limited-edition production special, the new two-seater is intended to be positioned above the 911 but below the the 918 Spyder. Both roadster and coupé versions are being discussed.


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5th Gear: Ford has updated its Australian website with new photos of the upcoming 2011 Ford Ranger "T6" pickup, giving truck buyers Down Under a preview of the Super Cab model. The Ford Ranger Super Cab pictured here is the two-wheel drive XLT Hi-Rider. Ford says the T6 Ranger is the most capable small pickup it has ever built. It will go on sale next year in 188 countries but not the U.S. and Canada.


6th Gear: Dutch paper De Telegraaf and World Car Fans is reporting that Audi is readying the next-generation RS6 for a 2012 debut (as a 2013 model), well ahead of the usual schedule for the introduction of RS variants. Sounds like somebody wants to compete with the new BMW M5, eh? Here's a video rendering from a year or so ago of what we might expect the new Audi RS6 will look like, thanks to the folks over at EDL Design.

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Reverse:

⏎ Mercedes-Benz to launch teen driving school in the U.S. [Motor Trend]

⏎ Kia's planning a Kee concept-like two-seater roadster to take on the Mazda MX-5 (and whatever the hell Renault's got up its sleeve). We love competition, especially in the small, inexpensive, compact roadster segment. [AutoExpress via Motor Authority]

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⏎ Germans love flirting with classic American muscle. [New York Times]

⏎ Tesla CEO Elon Musk is betting on capacitors over batteries. [GigaOm]

⏎ GM disclosed that its new chief financial officer will receive $4.2 million in annual compensation. [Detroit News]

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⏎ Will the Chinese and Europeans fog up the windows of the Chevy Camaro (or "Ke Mai Luo")? [Automotive News]

⏎ Here's some video of the Roush Stage 3 at Laguna Seca. [Mustang Evolution]

⏎ New Porsche commercial shows sports cars doing ordinary activities in style. [CarScoop]

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⏎ What happens when you leave a Chevy Volt on in the garage for 24 hours? You'll drain the battery and a few gallons of gas. [duPont Registry via AutoblogGreen]


Today in Automotive History:

On this day in 1982, Danica Patrick, the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race, America's top level of open-wheel racing, is born in Beloit, Wisconsin. [History]

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