Ford Escape Carpet Pad's Blocking, French President's Peugeot Snarking, And Nissan Leaf Isn't Sparking

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1st Gear: Big Meeting At Opel As Girsky Takes Charge
The German newspaper Bild quotes from an email that new Opel boss Steve Girsky sent to employees last week, vowing that the company has to work urgently and differently. (You can read an English translation here.) The Opel Supervisory Board is planning to hold an extraordinary meeting tomorrow, according to Bild. An Opel spokesman told the paper that the company's previously announced turnaround plan remains valid.

That plan, however, was written before Europe's downturn began to accelerate, and the deteriorating situation most likely will give some impetus to GM's cost-cutting plan. According to Bild, Girsky told employees, "Our successful revitalization demands from all of us the willingness to do business differently than before and to act fast." German officials in Hesse, where Opel's operations are based, are worried that GM might renege from a deal that keeps all four German plants running until the middle of the decade.


2nd Gear: GE Charger Is Zapping Some Leafs
The New York Times says GE Energy has confirmed its WattStation charger is damaging the electrical systems of some Nissan Leafs (our inner grammarian wants to type Leaves). GE Energy said it's actively working with Nissan to figure out the source of the problem, and says it hasn't occurred with other electric vehicles. According to, a Nissan dealer in the San Francisco area sent an urgent email to its customers late last week, warning them to stop using the charger. The WattStation is supposed to be more attractive and easier to use than other chargers, although we typically try to pick our chargers based on personality. (Rim shot!) Nissan says there isn't an official policy discouraging the use of the chargers, and GE Energy says thousands of units have been shipped. It said it knew of complaints from 11 Leaf owners.


3rd Gear: Toyota That Was Never Built Comes Back To Life
The Japan Times reports on a group of former Toyota employees who recreated a car that Toyota never built. In today's winner for "most adorable story," the men got together to make a replica of the Toyota Publica Sports, a concept car that was unveiled at the 1962 Tokyo Motor Show. The Sports concept car was based on the Publica, an economy car which was introduced in 1961, and had a 700 cc engine. It's a truly Jetsons looking car, with a sliding canopy, fitting in exactly with Japan's futuristic focus back then. That was an era that led to the Tokyo Olympics, a world's fair and the debut of the shinkansen. It took the former employees seven years to research the car, and a year to build it. The replica now resides at Toyota headquarters.

Although the Sports never made it to the market, Toyota did build the Toyota Sports 800 starting in 1965. It became Toyota's first mass-produced sports car, which competed with the Datsun Fairlady, and it actually may have introduced the targa top before Porsche. I'm enthralled by the little Japanese sports cars of the 1960s, many of which are on display at Toyota's automotive museum near its headquarters in Toyota City. (Check out the tab called "Main Building 3F and click on the circles).



4th Gear: Padding Prompts Ford Escape Recall
The Associated Press reports Ford is recalling more than 10,000 of its new Escape model because errant carpet padding could interfere with the brakes. The company said it discovered the problem in internal evaluations, and doesn't know of any accidents or injuries. Of the recalled Escapes, 8,266 are in the U.S., 2,000 are in Canada and several hundred in Mexico. The vehicles were built between March 8 and June 7 in Louisville, KY. This version of the Escape is an important vehicle for Ford, which faces stiff competition in the small crossover market. Escape sales last month were up 28 percent from June 2011.


5th Gear: Fighting Words In France Over Peugeot
The Financial Times (sub. required) reports that France's new president is livid over the situation at Peugeot. How mad? Well, imagine if Barack Obama called Dan Akerson a liar. That's how hot things are getting in France. Francois Hollande says Peugeot is guilty of poor management in putting off cost cuts and then trying to blame new socialist government policies. "There were bad strategic choices," Hollande told the paper. There were delays in taking difficult decisions and shareholders who were too hungry for dividends when investment should have been the priority." Hollande says Peugeot engaged in "a lie" by putting off last week's plant closing announcement and job cuts until after the French elections.

The French government is hauling in Peugeot CEO Philippe Varin on Wednesday, a day after government officials speak with France's unions. Varin has already said he's willing to renegotiate some parts of the cutback plan, but insists the company has to take significant job reductions in the face of an $857 million first-half loss. You have to think this isn't great for General Motors, which is itching to get going on its alliance with Peugeot, and now has to watch the mess going on with its new partner.


6th Gear: Tommy Kendall Feels The Power Of Viper
Matt here. I'm taking over this gear to talk about something I'm particularly excited about: Tommy Kendall driving the SRT Viper GTS-R in ALMS later this year. Kendall announced the news on SPEED last night. I remember vividly watching Kendall race that All Sport Roush Mustang Cobra in the awesome SCCA Trans AM series when I was a kid. He was incredibly dominant and fun to watch and, even though they're sponsored posts, it's been great to see Kendall's name on the site. We're all looking forward to seeing how the Vipers do at the end of this year's season.



Spy Shots Of The New Mercedes E-Class Coupe [Motor Trend]

Man Backs His Friend's BMW Off A Bayonne Pier Into Newark Bay [Jersey Journal]

Dave Willwock Wins The Gold Cup Again [Detroit News]

Gas Prices Down But Slide May Be Over [Reuters]

Toyota Raises Prices On Seven Vehicles [USA Today]

Kyushu Men - And Women - Facing Record Floods [CBC]

In keeping with our new discussion system, here's a place for you to own the floor. We're asking each day what you think about an issue that comes up in TMS.


Today, we'd like to know which concept car you'd spend your time rebuilding if you got the chance. Back when I worked for USA Today, I got to follow the creation of the Copperhead and knowing how much work went into it made me appreciate the concept car process. This also might be the time to talk about whether concept cars are still worth the effort. Remember there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.


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