1st Gear: Yesterday we ran an exclusive quote by Ford marketing chief Jim Farley plucked from Bill Vlasic's new book. The quote garnered some attention and mudslinging back-and-forth for the very — ahem — foul language he used when talking about cross-town rival General Motors. Because, you know, he, umm... well... he... how do I put this delicately? Oh, right, he fucking swore at GM. The best part of the story wasn't the actual F-bomb drop itself. No. It was the predictably bored reaction columns from certain insider's insiders in the press corps like Danny Howes at the Detroit News. Danny mockingly writes today "Oooo. If you've spent any time at all on the phone or over coffee with Ford execs, their PR staffers or just about anyone else associated with the only Detroit automaker free from the taint of an Obama Treasury department bailout, trash talking like that - and worse - is common because it's been happening, industrywide, forever." Maybe so. But if that's true, then why the hell isn't he — and others — reporting on it? Oh, that's right, because it's "off the record." Like every other actually relevant conversation. Maybe if these "insiders" had the balls to report on those conversations when they actually happened rather than obliquely claim their cool insider status after their own paper scoops them with a front-page story, then maybe they'd be putting out a book that's relevant, like Vlasic. Or writing for an outlet that's still relevant for doing things other than trying to sell its own soul.
2nd Gear: Bloomberg reminds us this morning that although Ford's the most profitable U.S. carmaker, that means it's heading into contract talks with the United Auto Workers next week in the worst position among the companies. Because Ford didn't take a government bailout, it lacks two weapons rivals have: binding arbitration and a ban on strikes. As part of U.S.-backed bankruptcies in 2009, workers at General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC agreed not to strike over wages and benefits during these contract talks and to take unsettled disputes from the bargaining table to arbitration. Workers at Ford went against the wishes of union leaders and rejected the strike ban and arbitration, so Ford is the only U.S. automaker that faces the threat of a strike.
3rd Gear: Luc Donckerwolke has been appointed Head of Advanced Design at the Volkswagen Group effective August 1st, 2011; in this new function, he reports directly to Design Chief Walter de Silva. Donckerwolke's successor as Director of Design at the SEAT brand is Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos. I bet Donckerwolke would be all over my man-vase idea in the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle.
4th Gear: Fiat has finished its acquisition today the 1.5% fully diluted ownership interest held in Chrysler Group LLC by Canada. The consideration for such interest was $125 million. Fiat and the United States Department of the Treasury also today completed Fiat's purchase of the 6% fully diluted ownership interest held in Chrysler for a price of $500 million, as contemplated by the agreements entered into in early June. Fiat is now Chrysler's major shareholder having increased its holding from 46% to 53.5%, and is on track to hold 58.5% by the end of the year. World domination, here we go!
5th Gear: Cassette tapes that once revolutionized in-car audio entertainment were driven out of the dashboard by compact discs. Now in-car CD players are poised to follow a similar path as Ford and other automakers embrace all-digital systems with increased connectivity. A good example? The new Ford Focus has scrapped once-popular multi-disc CD changers, while a USB connection and Bluetooth are standard equipment — both of which cater to the increasing popularity of iPods and other digital music players.
6th Gear: William Allen Kroh, who owned and operated marine automobile terminals that handled thousands of autos in the port of Baltimore, died Saturday of congestive heart failure at his Brooklandville home. Just to give you an idea of why that's relevant — one fifth of all BMW's sold in the U.S. came through that terminal. One quarter of all Mercedes-Benzs come through there each year. Overall, 400,000 cars come through that terminal each year. Kroh was 80.
⏎ GM makes it official, confirms U.S. gets a diesel-powered Cruze in 2013. [GM]
⏎ Lexus will unveil the new GS 350 sedan at Pebble Beach in August. Totes magotes! [Lexus]
⏎ Saab extends production halt due to lack of parts. [Automotive News]
⏎ Renault plans to build a third production plant in Russia. [Financial Times]
⏎ NADA: Used Small Car Prices Past Peak, But Still Strong. [Wall Street Journal]
⏎ Nissan, Mitsubishi, Toyota Turn Electric Cars Into Backup Batteries. [All Cars Electric]
⏎ Scion iQ may lead new microcar revolution. [USA Today]
⏎ BMW DesignWorks Styling Next Generation BART Subway Trains. [Automobile]
Today in Automotive History:
On July 22, 2002, over the strenuous opposition of the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the auto industry, Governor Gray Davis of California signs a stringent law regulating emissions from automobiles. [History]
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