1st Gear: Bloomberg's reporting this morning how Audi plans to introduce its top-of-the line sports cars in the U.S. to enhance the brand's image and charge higher prices as it bids to narrow the gap with luxury-car leader BMW. Audi's 340-horsepower TT RS will go on sale in the U.S. next month, while the 78,000-euro ($111,000) RS 5 coupe, which competes with BMW's two-door M3, will hit showrooms next year, sales chief Peter Schwarzenbauer said in an interview. Audi has a goal of doubling U.S. sales of high-performance cars to about 16,000 by 2015. And as we've always said — bringing in high horsepower, enthusiast-friendly vehicles — is precisely how you do it. Kudos to Audi for doing the right thing.
2nd Gear: Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne claims he seized an opportunity in the U.S. after Renault/Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn concluded there was too much risk. Ghosn turned down the chance to buy Chrysler in 2008 at the height of the recession, opening the door for Marchionne to swoop in and receive 20% of the American carmaker without paying any cash in exchange for technology and management. "We pulled out because we were seeing a very dramatic crisis happening," Ghosn said in an interview last month with Automotive News. "I still think we made the reasonable decision." Marchionne since then has done everything to prove his rival wrong, pursuing a rapid integration of Fiat and Chrysler that includes using the basic architecture for vehicles across brands, combining top management and sharing factories. Earlier this month, Fiat raised its Chrysler stake to 53.5%, reaching a majority two years earlier than originally planned.
3rd Gear: Jim Farley, Ford's head of global marketing, is trying to smooth things over with the folks at General Motors. In a pre-publication excerpt from the book Once Upon a Car by New York Times reporter Bill Vlasic, Farley did some trash-talking about his crosstown rivals. "We're going to beat on them, and it's going to be fun," the book quotes Farley as saying. "F*** GM," he said. "I hate them and their company and what they stand for. And I hate the way they're succeeding." And he added: "I'm going to beat Chevrolet on the head with a bat. And I'm going to enjoy it." But in a meeting with reporters Tuesday, Farley said he had called GM marketing chief Joel Ewanick to a apologize.
4th Gear: The Detroit News reports this morning that Ford CEO Alan Mulally will talk about electric cars and maybe bag a few groceries today when he appears for the first time on CBS' "Late Night with David Letterman" show. Mulally joins a guest list that includes actress Emma Stone, who will be promoting her movie "The Help," and pop-punk band Blink-182. The show begins at 11:35 p.m. Letterman's interest in electric cars led to Mulally's appearance after years of discussions, said Ford spokeswoman Karen Hampton. All the small things Mulally is expected to talk about include plans to expand the automaker's electric vehicle lineup with three more vehicles by the end of next year.
5th Gear: General Motors stock hit another new low Tuesday, closing at $27.05, down 3.6%. The automaker's stock fell $1.02 a share on the New York Stock Exchange after hitting a new intraday low of $27.02. GM stock has fallen 27% this year. Its high since shares went public in November was $39.48. GM's market capitalization is $40.6 billion - about the value of the cash on its balance sheet. Last week, GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson told CNN the company was well positioned to deal with problems. "We have about $35 billion to $40 billion of cash on our balance sheet," Akerson said. GM spokesman Jim Cain said the company is focused on the business. "The market is a pretty efficient mechanism over time," Cain said. "All we can do is focus on the things we can control, which is how we run the business." GM will report second-quarter earnings on Thursday and is expected to report another quarterly profit.
6th Gear: First there was the Maserati GranTurismo, then the GranTurismo S, and mostly recently the track-hardened MC Stradale. But if your ideal big Italian GT sits somewhere between the GranTurismo S and MC Stradale, and you live in the UK, then Maserati now has the car for you. Well, it's not so much a model as a new option for the UK's best-selling Maserati model, the GranTurismo S Automatic. For £3840 you can spec the new Sport Pack, which ups to total cost of your new Maser to £92,480. Above and beyond the existing 433bhp 4.7-litre V8 and six-speed ZF automatic gearbox from the GranTurismo S Automatic, the Sport Pack adds a tweaked exhaust system which keeps the trick bypass valves fully open when you select the Sport mode — all the better to hear that V8 bellow.
⏎ TTAC Grades The Analysts: Edmunds Receives First A+ [The Truth About Cars]
⏎ MPG goal spurs brainstorming. [Detroit News]
⏎ Four new cars for Ford at Frankurt. [Autocar]
⏎ Despite Rising U.S. Sales, Automakers Are Struggling. [New York Times]
⏎ Chery J1 recalled in response to ANCAP result. [GoAuto]
⏎ Autoblog's John Neff Kinda Clears Carroll Shelby Of Rape Charges. [The Truth About Cars]
⏎ Economist links fuel rules to 'Looney Tunes' [Detroit News]
⏎ Stephen Fry: I'm not James May [Belfast Telegraph]
Today in Automotive History:
On this day in 1977, "The Spy Who Loved Me," starring Roger Moore as the suave superspy James Bond, known for his love of fast cars and dangerous women, is released in theaters across America. The film features one of the most memorable Bond cars of all time—a sleek, powerful Lotus Esprit sports car that does double duty as a submarine. [History]
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