No more Lotus Elise or Exige for America, China car sales suck, and the Saab story continues

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1st Gear: Lotus said it will end production in August of Elise and Exige for North America. The news was confirmed by Lotus spokesman Kevin Smith in response to an e-mail query from Edmunds' Inside Line. Lotus in the U.S. introduced the 2011 Elise and Exige in late 2010. While the Exige was carried over virtually unchanged, the 2011 Elise received an exterior freshening and new wheels. For 2011, the Elise is offered in the U.S. in two versions - the base sports car, powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 189 horsepower and 133 pound-feet of torque, and the Elise SC with a 1.8-liter supercharged four-cylinder producing 218 hp and 156 lb-ft. So, if you want a new Elise in the United States, you'll now have to wait until 2014 when Joy Behar Dany Bahar builds the next one. First he just needs to finish building the lifestyle side of the Lotus brand.


2nd Gear: China's passenger-car sales fell for the first time in more than two years in May as Honda Motor Co. and other Japanese automakers cut production due to supply shortages caused by Japan's record earthquake. Deliveries of cars including multipurpose and sport-utility vehicles to dealerships fell 0.1% from a year earlier to 1.04 million units last month, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said today in a statement. The last time sales declined was in January 2009, when car purchases dropped 7.8%.


3rd Gear: The radical DeltaWing concept first looked at as a potential IndyCar chassis will race at Le Mans in 2012, built and run by an American consortium involving Le Mans legend Dan Gurney and multiple ALMS champions Highcroft Racing. With the blessing of the Automobile Club de L'Ouest, the ultra-light car will run in a class of its own, taking the 56th slot on the grid, and be powered by a 300bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine.


4th Gear: Ford Motor Co., the second-largest U.S. automaker, plans to pay down more than half of one of its term loans by the end of June as part of its push to become investment grade. The Dearborn, Michigan-based company said in a statement and an investor presentation yesterday that it will retire $2.3 billion of its term loan B in the second quarter and that it has repaid the $800 million outstanding under its revolving credit line. Ford has been paring debt from its balance sheet as part of an effort to win an investment-grade credit rating. The company, rated Ba2 by Moody's and BB- by Standard & Poor's, said yesterday that it plans to reduce its automotive debt to about $10 billion by middle of this decade, compared with $16.6 billion at the end of the first quarter.


5th Gear: Spyker Cars NV's Saab Automobile division said it's unlikely to resume production for "a few days" after carmaking was halted yesterday due to a parts shortage. The manufacturer is in talks with suppliers and is considering property sales to raise cash, Gunilla Gustavs, a spokeswoman, said today in a phone interview.


6th Gear: It turns out SUVs are now actually safer than other vehicular form factors — according to a new report out from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Drivers of Nissan Motor Co.'s 350Z sports car and Titan pickup, and General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Aveo mini and compact Cobalt are more likely to die in accidents than those of other vehicles, an insurance group said. Drivers of sport-utility vehicles, who used to be the most likely to die in crashes because of rollovers, are now among those with the highest probability of survival, the IIHS said in the report released today. "The rollover risk in SUVs used to outweigh their size/weight advantage, but that's no longer the case," Anne McCartt, the Arlington, Virginia-based group's senior vice president for research, said in the report on driver death rates for passenger vehicles from model years 2005 to 2008.


⏎ 1,500 Maruti Suzuki employees are striking in India over longer tea breaks. Seriously. [Business Standard]


⏎ Why Citigroup is bullish on Ford. [Business Insider]

⏎ Bluebird electric car guns for new EV speed record. [Car Magazine]

⏎ 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist starts at $30,820. [Automotive News]

⏎ Software updates are now important for cars too. [Detroit News]

⏎ Ford wants to increase global sales 50% by 2015. [GoAuto]

⏎ Volvo recalls S60s to improve fuel pumps. [Wall Street Journal]

Today in Automotive History:

On this day in 2006, the animated feature film "Cars," produced by Pixar Animation Studios, roars into theaters across the United States. If you don't have it on your top ten best car movie list then you're simply crazy. [History]


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