1st Gear: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has declined to post on its Web site reports from automakers about problems with their cars and about specialized warranty extensions that could save consumers large sums on repairs. The reason: the agency says automakers have warned it that the reports, called technical service bulletins, are copyrighted. However, several leading automakers said that either they did not copyright their bulletins or that they would not object to publication by the agency. Those automakers are BMW, Chrysler, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Subaru and Volvo. A Toyota spokesman, however, would not respond directly to a question from the New York Times about whether Toyota objected to publication of the service bulletins. A Ford spokesman, Wesley Sherwood, said his company's position was the full bulletins should not be published because they showed how to make repairs that "should not be performed by do-it-yourselfers."' That's Ford, always looking to envelop the consumer in a warm, nanny state-like blanket.
2nd Gear: "The production problems that hit Saab last week were a small glitch that the company will survive," Saab owner Spyker Cars NV said today. "Saab is still producing and it is not on the verge of collapse," Spyker CEO and Saab Chairman Victor Muller told a news conference where Saab was presenting new vehicles. Saab CEO Jan Ake Jonsson, who unexpectedly announced his retirement two weeks ago, said the company had faced a tightening in liquidity in the second half of the quarter but was working to solve the problem. That's two words Saab did not need to hear right now — tightening and liquidity. Also, the word "collapse" probably isn't a word they want to be hearing either. Wait, I know. How about if we make it: "cöllapse." There, that's better.
3rd Gear: This is apparently turning into the quickest model year ever for Chrysler dealerships. As soon as Mopar's dealers stock up on vehicles of the shortened 2011 model year, they'll have to start getting ready for the 2012 models. The truncated 2011 model year is a result of Chrysler's efforts to reinvigorate its lineup after its 2009 bankruptcy. The company introduced 16 new or revamped models for 2011 after a frantic 18-month engineering push. Most didn't arrive in dealerships until the first quarter, almost half a year later than normal. Some dealers report they still haven't received their first 2011 Chrysler 300s, the last of the 16 models to go into production. But fear not — they'll be able to start ordering 2012 models in late May or early June. Who needed 2011 anyway?
4th Gear: Do you think governments here in the United States spend without a care? You ain't seen nothing. New York City, our nation's most populous city, has 6,800 non-emergency vehicles. But how does that compare with, say, Beijing? It ain't even close. According to Bloomberg, China's capitol city has 62,000 city-owned vehicles. This explains a lot.
5th Gear: Ford is developing a digital child crash test dummy with lifelike internals, claiming it is one of the first research projects to build a digital human model of a child with more lifelike recreations of the skeletal structure, internal organs and brain. Their other option? Crash-testing child cadavers. Wait, no, I'm being told they can't do that. They can only crash-test adult cadavers. Because obviously the dead body of a 12-year-old is more sacrosanct that that of a 32-year-old. In my mind it's gross either way.
6th Gear: According to analysis by Bloomberg, Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz topped Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus in the U.S. in March, marking a third straight month the Japanese brand has failed to come out on top after winning the annual luxury race for 11 years. March's results combined with January and February make Mercedes the leader for the year so far by 729 sales over BMW and 5,990 over Lexus. Mercedes in the first quarter sold 53,346 vehicles. BMW, which is based in Munich, sold 52,617 and Lexus 47,356.
⏎ Conor McNicholas, ex-Top Gear magazine editor, will be writing Reader's Digest UK's first ever motoring column... in the world! [Newspress (login required)]
⏎ I know what Michigan needs to turn its ailing economy around — killing motorcycle helmet laws. Yeah, that'll do the trick. [Detroit News]
⏎ Fiat to launch two sedans based on the Dodge Caliber replacement in China, Russia. [Automotive News]
⏎ OK, raise your hands if you're a car journalist who has not had a problem with a press fleet Jaguar. Yeah, that's what I thought. [Detroit News]
⏎ Lotus Engineering claims to have had "significant" interest in its range-extender engine from three major car manufacturers. [Autocar]
⏎ 2012 McLaren MP4-12C vs. 1995 McLaren F1 [Edmunds Inside Line]
⏎ Gas prices are up eight cents over last week. Wouldn't you like to punch someone? [AAA]
Today in Automotive History:
Bill France Jr., the leading force behind the transformation of the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) from a regional sport into a multibillion-dollar industry with fans worldwide, is born on this day in 1933 in Washington, D.C. France's father, William France Sr. (1909-92), founded NASCAR in 1948. [History ]
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