1st Gear: CBS Marketwatch is reporting that Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo Tuesday denied persistent local reports that its Italian parent company, Fiat, is considering a market listing of the luxury sports car brand. His comment, reported by the local press, was confirmed by a Ferrari spokesman. Last week, Italian business tabloid MF said a number of investment banks—both domestic and foreign—had visited Fiat head offices to propose a listing. Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne has left open the possibility of an eventual listing, but hasn't given any timeline. Listing Ferrari would not only generate proceeds for Fiat but also unlock the value of the premium brand, according to analysts. But, knowing Ferrari, they'll add an extra 25% value to their brand when they let analysts take a look at their market cap in relation to other automakers.
2nd Gear: Autocar reports that after being stung by criticism from the car's press launch, the first McLaren MP4-12Cs to reach customers this week will come with a raft of changes designed to bolster the "emotional appeal" of the new supercar. Almost all the world's major automotive press rank the MP4-12C below the Ferrari 458 Italia in tests because it lacked the aural drama and sense of occasion to match its pace and dynamic ability. Chief among the changes are an improved throttle response and a "fruitier" exhaust note. A McLaren spokesman said these were changes that had been planned anyway, but the press criticism - and McLaren's "Formula 1 mentality" - had "upped the pace" of development. "We want drivers to enjoy the car a bit more," he said. "The changes don't lead to any performance increase, but they do lead to an emotional increase when you drive the car."
3rd Gear: The 2012 Scion iQ (pictured, actual size, on the right) will be priced starting at $15,995 (including destination charges) when it hits U.S. showrooms this fall. The iQ's U.S. launch, postponed on numerous occasions thanks to the disastrous March 11th earthquake and tsunami in Japan, will start appearing in dealer showrooms this fall and winter. The little bugger will first be seen on the West Coast in October, then in southern states in January, the East Coast shortly thereafter and, finally, if there are any left, in the Midwest. I even think some folks have actually driven it — although we don't know why they would.
4th Gear: U.S. gasoline demand rose 0.3% from a year earlier even as average pump prices gained 37%, according to MasterCard. Motorists bought 9.37 million barrels a day in the week ending July 15th, MasterCard said in its SpendingPulse report. Averaged over four weeks, demand fell 1.1% from the same period a year earlier, John Gamel, director of economic analysis for SpendingPulse, said in the company's report. It was the 17th consecutive week that the four-week average fell below a year earlier, Gamel said. "We are now halfway through the U.S. summer driving season and drivers have pumped 466.9 million barrels of gasoline, 0.6% less when compared to a similar period a year ago," Gamel said in the report. Consumption rose 3.7% from the previous week when demand slid 5.5% in the seven days that included the July 4th holiday, the second-biggest payments network company said. So we're using 0.3% more gas, but prices are up 37%. Sure, that makes sense.
5th Gear: The auto industry is pressing the Obama administration for a promise to reevaluate rules that may more than double U.S. fuel economy standards by 2025 before they become final. The White House agrees that a review during the transition period is needed, said Ellen Gleberman, a vice president of trade group Global Automakers who has participated in talks between the government and industry on the proposed rule, which will set new mileage standards starting in 2017. The administration in June floated a fuel-economy target of 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025, up from 27.3 mpg now. Automakers are seeking to slow mileage-standard increases, saying the necessary technology isn't yet in place and may slow sales by making vehicles more expensive. Of course, automakers said that last time too as a stalling technique. I don't even know why they're trying — it's inevitable that policy-makers will try to legislate top-down choices rather than bottom-up incentives like a gas tax. And who ends up getting screwed? Enthusiasts like us.
6th Gear: Bloomberg reports that Harley-Davidson Inc., the biggest U.S. motorcycle maker, said profit rose after it boosted sales in the home market for the first time in almost five years. The company said it will ship more bikes than previously planned. Shares jumped the most in nine months. Profit from continuing operations jumped 37% to $190.6 million, or 81 cents a share, from $139.3 million, or 59 cents, a year earlier, Harley said today in a statement. The average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was 72 cents. Retail sales rose 7.5% in the U.S. and 5.6% worldwide, the company said. Sales increased 18% to $1.34 billion. When will people ever learn?
⏎ Horns, Harps, and Hubcaps [Slate]
⏎ For an Owner of a Shelby Cobra, a Bittersweet Return on Investment. [New York Times]
⏎ U.S. Energy Secretary Chu tours A123 Systems' Michigan battery plant. [Detroit News]
⏎ UAW could sign deal with foreign automaker by end of 2011, King says. [Automotive News]
⏎ GM restarts Volt production. [Detroit News]
⏎ No new concessions, UAW President Bob King warns. [Detroit Free Press]
⏎ Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG gets a new V8 engine. [Auto Week]
⏎ Lotus Cars plans up to 1,200 new jobs in five years. [BBC]
Today in Automotive History:
On this day in 1972, the results of a two-year study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation are released; the study concludes that 1960-63 Chevrolet Corvair models are at least as safe as comparable models of other cars sold in the same period, directly contradicting charges made by the leading consumer advocate Ralph Nader. [History]
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