1st Gear: The estate of the "old" General Motors Corp. — The company that got stuck with GM's debts and bad assets — began selling stock and warrants in the new GM on Tuesday, as part of a plan to liquidate the company's remnants by the year's end. They're not the only ones selling. GM, one of the 10 most popular stocks for hedge funds at the end of last year, fell out of favor in the first quarter as slower growth in China and discounts in the U.S. dimmed the automaker's prospects. Now, like a pop star fallen out of favor with the newsstand glossies, GM isn't even listed in the top 50 of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s Hedge Fund Trend Monitor report, which analyzes holdings of 700 hedge funds with $812 billion of assets, as of March 31st.
2nd Gear: Tesla Motors Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said he expects the maker of electric Roadster sports cars to remain independent and isn't planning to sell his stake in the company. "I don't think it's a good idea to plan to sell a company," Musk said today in an interview with Bloomberg. "I don't personally have any interest in selling. I think there's a lot of innovation we can bring to the car business."
3rd Gear: Bloomberg reports that Toyota Motor Corp. is denying media reports in Japan that its auto production will recover to 90% in June and repeated that output will be restored to 70% next month. Potato, potato. The Toyota-city based automaker is running at about 50% of normal production levels after the March 11th earthquake in Japan disrupted its output.
4th Gear: Speaking of the earthquake-and-tsunami-ravaged country — as the Japanese auto giants rebuild destroyed plants damaged in the tsunami, hampered further by the country's electricity problems, the auto manufacturers and suppliers are struggling just to meet domestic demand. Ford sees this as a perfect opportunity to grab market share in Japan. Ford Japan chief executive Tim Tucker said it probably won't get another chance like this in a lifetime. And by "chance in a lifetime," I think Tucker means that they'll go from selling 2,400 cars a year to 4,800 cars a year.
5th Gear: According to the Freep, General Motors plans to bring production of the redesigned Chevrolet Impala to its Detroit-Hamtramck plant in a couple of years. GM intends to say today that the full-sized sedan will join the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric and the upcoming Chevrolet Malibu at the factory, adding or preserving up to 2,500 jobs, two people familiar with the plan said.
6th Gear: Joe White over at the Wall Street Journal argues this morning that the cheap-looking, cramped, "econobox" car is dead. With automakers reinventing small, fuel-efficient cars for American drivers, the new crop of small cars aim for 40 miles per gallon on the highway, while borrowing technology, styling ideas and creature comforts from luxury cars. But, all those toys come with a price — a new econobox can see its price reach into the $20K range. And this is precisely why we argue you should buy a used car. Except for right this instant, of course. Still, what's more important than the toys is good design. As Hyundai's John Krafcik has always said: "Gorgeous design costs no more than boring design." Couldn't agree more. Just look at that Civic up top. Hot.
⏎ More details on Jag's upcoming... gag... crossover SUV. [Top Gear]
⏎ VW may expand newly opened Tennessee plant. [Detroit News]
⏎ Five stars for the Nissan Leaf. [Autocar]
⏎ Nissan's Tavares is favorite for No. 2 job at Renault. [Wall Street Journal]
⏎ Obama orders federal government to buy smaller, high-mpg cars. [Detroit News]
⏎ "Socially savvy" marketers dance around the fundamental realities of auto business. [Autoextremist]
⏎ How Renault got its va va voom back. [Irish Times]
Today in Automotive History:
On this day in 1994, the ashes of 71-year-old George Swanson are buried (according to Swanson's request) in the driver's seat of his 1984 white Corvette in Hempfield County, Pennsylvania. [History]
Photo Credit: Wally Santana / AP; Wrecked Magazine
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