GM makes $2.5 billion, Letterman loves Ford, and Tesla continues to lose money

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1st Gear: General Motors said today it earned $2.5 billion in the second quarter, an 89% increase over its results in the same period a year ago. The nation's largest automaker reported that revenue for the period increased 19% to $39.4 billion. The results were driven by strong sales in G.M.'s core North American market, where the company earned $2.2 billion compared to $1.6 billion during the second quarter of 2010. "G.M.'s investments in fuel economy, design and quality are paying off around the world as our global market share growth and financial results bear out," Daniel Akerson, G.M.'s chief executive, said in a statement.

2nd Gear: As we told you yesterday, Ford CEO Alan Mulally was in the passenger seat of a prototype Ford Focus electric vehicle as David Letterman took it for a drive on Wednesday's "Late Show with David Letterman." The comedian, a proponent of electric cars, told Mulally he has two - but neither is a domestic brand. The Focus electric vehicle does not go on sale until next year so Mulally could not give Letterman a price, but there could be a future sale in the works based on Letterman's grin when he exited the vehicle. Mulally and Letterman also compared notes about early jobs bagging groceries, and Letterman surprised Mulally, who was president of Boeing before joining Ford, with his knowledge of airplanes. And Mulally received a large round of applause when he explained how Ford turned itself around without a government bailout.


3rd Gear: Electric car maker Tesla Motors reported a deeper second-quarter loss on Wednesday as sharply higher spending on research and development for upcoming vehicles more than offset revenue gains. Tesla reported a net loss of $58.9 million compared with a loss of $38.5 million a year earlier. Revenue more than doubled to $58.2 million from $28.4 million a year earlier. Tesla, which makes the battery-powered Roadster sports car, has not yet produced a profit. But, on the conference call Musk apparently said Tesla was working on a new deal w/Toyota that was an "order of magnitude" larger than the $100 mil one. One billion dollars? Huh. Well, like we've said in the past, the only way this company was going to succeed is if it can become a vendor for other automakers. And that's looking like it will continue to be the case for a long time to come.


4th Gear: Owners looking to make their Ferrari a little more exclusive will soon be catered for by a ‘Tailor Made' program. The new service will be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, and will offer buyers almost unlimited customization. A statement from Ferrari said: "This innovative programme enables clients to create an individual car, using exclusive and unique materials, color and trim with the support of a dedicated team, as if it were a bespoke suit." At an internal dealer meeting, Ferrari showcased examples of what was possible, including a matt blue California complete with matching alloy wheels and a denim and leather interior. This one-off example belongs to Lapo Elkann, manager of brand promotion at Fiat. And yes, we did just say denim and leather. Eew.


5th Gear: Toyota has told its suppliers in Japan to prepare for ramped up production in 2012 and following years, signaling that the automaker is confident it's back on a growth track after being hit by massive recalls and the tsunami disaster. Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Paul Nolasco said Wednesday that there was a meeting with suppliers earlier this week so they could be ready to increase production. He said the numbers were guidelines, not targets. Citing unidentified Toyota officials, Kyodo News reported that the plan for 2012 calls for production of 8.9 million vehicles - a record for Toyota - with 3.5 million vehicles produced in Japan and 5.4 million units overseas. Nolasco declined to confirm the numbers.


6th Gear: The owner of ailing Saab brand Swedish Automobile has announced that it will issue new shares to raise funds to pay its workers. Last week the firm was unable to pay its white-collar workers because funds due to come from investors were not paid in time. They still haven't restarted production.


⏎ Fiat-Chrysler CEO says 'plain-vanilla' technology will be key to meet fuel economy standards. [Detroit News]


⏎ Audi Signs On As Sponsor For 63rd Annual Emmy Awards. [Motor Authority]

⏎ Getting those car gadgets to work right. [Detroit News]

⏎ Snap and Send, and Learn More About Toyota. [New York Times]

⏎ You Shouldn't Trust Your Car to the Men Who Wore the Star. [Car Talk]

⏎ MSU legend Bubba Smith dies at 66. [Detroit Free Press]

Today in Automotive History:

"Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," an irreverent comedy based in the outlandish (fictionalized) world of American stock car racing, premieres in movie theaters around the United States on this day in 2006. [History]


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