1st Gear: In today's Japan automaker recovery update, Toyota announced that all of its factories would be running at half capacity from April 18 through April 28 — but would then shutter for a traditional spring holiday through May 10. Nissan will also restart all factories on the same day at half speed. Meanwhile, Honda's CEO told reporters that he hoped the company's factories could be restored to normal output in two to three months. And production at several plants was interrupted on Thursday following power outages due to a 7.4-magnitude aftershock.
2nd Gear: Frank Weber, the General Motors exec whose reward for helping to overseeing the early engineering of the Chevrolet Volt was a job rebuilding Opel's European lineup, quit GM Thursday for an undisclosed job with another automaker. He's the second vehicle development exec to leave GM's Opel unit, which has been struggling for the better part of a decade. GM did not immediately announce a successor.
3rd Gear:So let's check in with Saab, where production in Sweden isn't expected to begin again until next week. How bad could it really be? According to the head of the Swedish association of auto parts makers, Saab has "tens of millions of crowns" in unpaid bills. And the headline in a local newspaper about Saab's plight translates as "Desperate hunt for money." Børk?
4th Gear:A Hyundai fan blog reports that the 2012 Veloster turbocharged version will sport a 1.6-liter direct-injected engine making 208 hp, an engine that will also find its way into other models of the bustling Hyundai empire, including the Kia Cee'D. In unrelated news, a Honda powertrain engineer with a long history in motorsports and turbocharged engines set a new personal best in Minesweeper.
5th Gear:As part of its all-out push for environmental motoring, BMW will unveil a plug-in hybrid concept based on the China-only long-wheelbase edition of the 5 series sedan at the Shanghai auto show. Developed with Chinese "partner" Brilliance China Automotive Holdings, power comes from a 215-horsepower turbocharged engine and a 70 kilowatt (94 horsepower) electric motor. BMW says the car will go 46 miles on electricity alone, assuming it never travels more than 37 mph during that stretch. Given how Chinese drivers can behave, 37 mph seems plenty fast.
6th Gear:While Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" push for the 200 sedan has started to pay some returns, it's worth remembering that Chrysler's previous management had decided to kill the Sebring/Dodge Avenger twins and shutter the Sterling Heights, Mich., plant where its built — leaving Chrysler with no midsize sedans. To make a case for keeping the plant open, engineers came up with a rework on the fly, getting a redesign approved before an interior had even been drawn.
⏎ Mark Webber leads the pack in practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix. [PitPass]
⏎ Elon Musk yada yada ultracapacitors surpassing batteries yada yada overhyped. [Bnet]
⏎ A privateer Mini Countryman wins its first WRC rally. [BMWBlog]
⏎ Want to drive the awesome BAC Mono? Book a ticket for the RS Academy. [Eurosport]
⏎ Maserati will enter India in 2011. Because trident car. [India Infoonline]
Today in Automotive History:
On this day in 2005, the MG Rover Group collapses in England under the financial weight of $1.7 billion in debt, with a loss of more than 5,000 jobs, ending the last wholly British-owned automaker. Tata Motors now owns the Rover name, while China's SAIC builds MGs at the company's old Longbridge plant. [Team BHP ]
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