Hybridizing Avalon, VW Anxious To Party With Porsche, And Mitt Doesn't Scare Musk

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1st Gear: A Mixed Bag For June Auto Sales?
TrueCar is out ahead of June auto sales with some projections. In a press release, it forecasts that sales for the month will be up 18 percent from June a year ago, but down from May 2012, and it also thinks the seasonally adjusted selling rate (or SAAR to you and me) will be up from last year, and also down from last month. It predicts the SAAR for the first half of the year was the strongest since 2008. But here are a couple of things to think about. Last year, June was pretty awful for the Japanese carmakers, who were crippled by the earthquake and tsunami, so you ought to have a bump in June sales.

And, I'm intrigued by the idea that June this year might not be as strong as last month. At this point in the year, you want a smooth upward trajectory in sales and SAAR until August, which has usually been a blow out month, thanks to end of summer clearance sales. Many of the car companies have been predicting that the second half will be stronger than the first. A mixed bag for June might make them go looking for some new forecasts.


2nd Gear: The Japanese Buick Gets A Hybrid
Automotive News reports that Toyota will offer a hybrid powertrain on the 2013 Avalon, the big sedan that some of us have always thought of as a Japanese Buick. The newest version of Avalon is set to be in showrooms in November, after disappearing from the market for a big. The first Avalon went on sale in the U.S. in 1994.

With the hybrid, the Avalon will get 40 mpg city, 39 mpg highway, and 40 mpg in combined driving. Toyota showed the new version of the Avalon at the New York auto show in April. The Avalon is built in Georgetown, KY, and this car was designed in Ann Arbor, MI, and Newport Beach, CA, and the engineering work was done in Ann Arbor. It also will be available with a V6.



3rd Gear: Toyota, BMW May Get Even More Cosy
Jiji Press brings more news about Toyota hybrids, this time involving BMW. It says the two automakers will talk about expanding their partnership on fuel-efficient vehicles. Toyota wants technical support from BMW to reduce vehicles' weight, and is willing to provide BMW with hybrid and fuel cell vehicle technologies, the news service says. In December, the two companies agreed to conduct joint research for a next-generation lithium-ion storage cell, the core technology for gasoline-electric hybrid and electric vehicles, and Toyota's procurement of fuel-efficient diesel engines from BMW. Word of the closer partnership comes as BMW is reexamining its ties with France's Peugeot, which is linking up with Opel.


4th Gear: Let's Get This Porsche Party Started
Reuters says from Stuttgart that Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn was pressing yesterday to get all of Porsche folded into VW as quickly as possible. Here's his best case: the sooner they can integrate, the better it will be for the German government, because higher profit at VW and Porsche might mean additional tax receipts. The companies estimate they're wasting 700 million Euros a year in synergies (one of our favorite words) that they can't achieve because VW only owns half of Porsche. They've been trying to figure out ways for VW to buy the rest.

Meanwhile, Winterkorn is warning that the European financial crisis could be bad news for the auto industry. "Darker clouds are gathering around us," he said, according to Reuters. The second half of 2012 is certain to become more difficult and challenging."



5th Gear: Analyst Says Ford Could Get Bruised By Europe
The Associated Press, meanwhile, reports that those darker Euro clouds might rain hard on Ford. Analyst Michael Ward at Sterne Agee on Monday cut his 2012 earnings estimate for Ford by five cents a share. He thinks Ford will earn $1.65 for the year. He still has a buy rating on the stock, but he's concerned by falling sales in Europe, especially Germany, and by weaker conditions in South America. Those of you who own Ford stock know that it's been bouncing up and down for the past year. It's currently trading around $10 a share.


6th Gear: Mitt In The White House? No Problem, Says Musk
Bloomberg reports that Tesla CEO Elon Musk isn't worried about what a Mitt Romney victory might mean for electric cars. "Romney would have a minor impact," Musk told reporters in Fremont, following the delivery of the first Model S cars to customers. "There's such momentum behind electric vehicles, and Model S is going to ensure that that happens." Romney, of course, is no fan of the incentives like the loan that Musk got to retool the old GM-Toyota plant in Fremont, Calif., where the Model S is built. In a March 19 speech at the University of Chicago, Romney called both Tesla and Fisker examples of "crony capitalism." Musk says he's not convinced Romney is "really against" electric cars. He just "may not be as for them as, say, President Obama is."


GM's Early Attempt At GPS [The Atlantic]

Chicago Finally Gets Moving on Food Trucks [Crain's Chicago Business]

Feds Looking into 2011 Ford Explorer and Chrysler 200 [Consumer Reports]

Scorsese's Rolls-Royce Movie [Vanity Fair]

Anybody Want To Be A Trucker? [USA Today]

GM Sends Employees Home Before Fireworks [Detroit Free Press]

Today in Automotive History

On this day in history in 1956, Congress approved the Federal Highway Act. which allocated $30 billion for 41,000 miles of highways. It was the largest public construction project in American history. The Federal Highway Act created thousands of jobs, and led to a surge in interstate trucking, which pushed aside the railroads as the primary way freight is shipped across the country. But I'd be interested in hearing from you: now that we've had 50-plus years to think about it, should we have built this many highways? Has it been a transformation of the way we live or a threat to our lifestyles? How have highways affected the way we drive, and the automobiles that we've been getting ever since?


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