1st Gear: Hyundai, South Korea's largest carmaker, boosted quarterly profit 46% as it won sales from Japanese rivals, outpacing Honda, whose production was cut by last month's devastating earthquake in Japan, for the first time. More importantly, Hyundai boosted vehicle sales in the January-March period to 919,000, outselling Honda, whose global deliveries fell 1.6 percent to 860,000, according to the companies. A year earlier, Honda outsold Hyundai 874,000 to 842,000. And I thought 'mericans already had enough of a problem distinguishing between the two similar-sounding brands. Toyota, they're a-comin' for ya!
2nd Gear: Rumors of the front-wheel-drive (and possibly all-wheel drive) BMW Z2 roadster appear to be strengthening. Here's the details we have so far: We're told now that the Z2 is expected to effectively be a reinvention of the Z3 Roadster. Supposedly lighter, smaller and less expensive than the Z4, it's expected to be based on the UKL platform that will underpin everything from the next generation MINIs to other front-wheel-drive BMWs. Powertrain options will include a two-liter four-cylinder engine with an output of 163-272 HP. We're also told it could come as early as 2014.
3rd Gear: The Saab story continues as Spyker Cars says this morning that the Saab brand will miss this year's sales target of 80,000 cars because of a production halt amid a pay dispute with suppliers. Spyker reported a first-quarter net loss of 79.4 million euros ($118 million) compared with profit of 6.96 million euros a year earlier.
4th Gear: But speaking of targets not being met, one company that is on target is the Chinese automaker BYD. Build Your Dreams has started testing its F3DM hybrid vehicle in the U.S., according to a an e-mailed statement received today by Bloomberg. That puts BYD right on track for its plans to sell F3DM in the U.S. by the first quarter of 2013 — a goal it set forth in January. We've already driven it, for what it's worth.
5th Gear: When the super-luxury ‘Mini Inspired by Goodwood' was unveiled at the recent Shanghai show, it caused some to wonder whether there were grander aspirations for the branding. Those "some" were right. According to Autocar's sources at Mini, the Goodwood name looks set to become Mini's flagship brand for high-end, customer-specified luxury versions. The badge will be used on other luxurious Minis in the same way that the John Cooper Works badge represents its high-performance models.
6th Gear: So we already knew the Toyota FT-86 would be called the Scion FR-S here in the United States. We also knew it was getting the 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated Subaru boxer engine. Now we know that Toyota will add to the horizontally-opposed engine its D-4S technology, which features a direct injection system combined with port injection. More importantly, the FR-S/FT-86 will be sold with a choice of six-speed manual transmission (with a short-throw shifter) or a slushbox (with wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Also, the car's equipped with a limited-slip diff.
⏎ "Art in the Street" imagines cars and ice cream trucks as canvases. [New York Times]
⏎ Marchionne is "itchin' to go" with new Chrysler. [Detroit News]
⏎ Mazda revamps North American operations to focus more on... the U.S.? Wait, there's other countries here? [Automotive News]
⏎ Kia Motors profit surges 91%. [CNBC]
⏎ Any thoughts on why Proton just ordered 500 ATG Sprintex superchargers? [Paul Tan]
⏎ For automotive fans keeping score: William rode to Westminster Abbey for the royal wedding in a Bentley, while Kate was in a Rolls-Royce. But the carriage carrying Prince William and Kate Middleton from their wedding? It's called the 1902 State Landau. It has no engine and is powered by some horses. And that's really all we care to know about it. [CNN]
On this day in 2004, the last Oldsmobile comes off the assembly line at the Lansing Car Assembly plant in Michigan, signaling the end of the 106-year-old automotive brand, America's oldest. Factory workers signed the last Oldsmobile, an Alero sedan, before the vehicle was moved to Lansing's R.E. Olds Transportation Museum, where it went on display. The last 500 Aleros ever manufactured featured "Final 500" emblems and were painted dark metallic cherry red. [History]
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