1st Gear: Former General Motors CEO Robert Stempel, who led the automaker from 1990 to 1992 after the tumultuous tenure of Roger Smith, has died at the age of 77. Stempel started his GM career in 1958 as a senior detailer in the chassis design department at Oldsmobile, being promoted to president and COO in 1987, then serving as chairman and CEO from 1990 until his retirement in 1992. Then, in 1993, Stempel came out of retirement to join Energy Conversion Devices Inc., as an adviser. He was named chairman in 1995. Shortly after Stempel became chairman, ECD partnered with GM and the company's nickel-metal hydride batteries powered the EV-1. So I guess he sort of built the electric car that his former company later killed.
2nd Gear: Meet the Golf GTI Edition 35. As the name suggests, it is a special edition marking 35 years of the loved-by-many hot hatch's existence. Details are slim, but the new hatch has sprouted an extra 25 horses from its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-banger, putting peak power at 232 bhp. No word on torque or the little guy's 0-to-60 time, but expect the GTI 35 to be a few fractions faster than the standard GTI (6.9 secs to 62mph), and slightly slower than the 266 bhp Golf R. The interior also gets a few tweaks, with a golf-ball gear-lever and ‘35' stitched into each of the part-leather sports seats. The new model will be unveiled at the Worthersee tuning festival in June and will go on sale in the UK towards the end of the year. Nein, we're probably not getting it — ze Germans don't believe we deserve it.
3rd Gear: Lamborghini has given its clearest indication yet that its Paris Show-stealing Sesto Elemento concept car will make it into low-volume production - and with the price tag of around $3 million we first told you about in December. Although Lamborghini boss Stephan Winkelmann still refuses officially to place the car's chances of making production at more than 50/50, company insiders say the Sesto Elemento is actually in the advanced stages of its development. What Winkelmann did confirm to Autocar is that the Sesto Elemento will have a 0-to-62 mph time of no more than 2.5 sec, less time than it takes for the 1183 bhp Bugatti Veyron Super Sport to get to 60 mph.
4th Gear: The turnaround at Chrysler is apparently going so fast that Fiat will only reach — or exceed — its 2011 profit targets if Fiat's results and Chrysler's results are consolidated, something likely to happen as soon as the second half of this year, after Fiat boosts its Chrysler stake to 46% from 30%, possibly at the end of this month. That's because Chrysler's first quarter 2011 profit and projected annual profits are larger than Fiat Auto's. How's that for turnabout?
5th Gear: Despite some still calling it the 3 Series GT, Auto Express is now saying definitively something we first heard in March — the 3 with a big ass will actually be called the BMW 4 Series. Based on the next-generation 3 Series, due in 2012 in saloon and Touring form, we're now told BMW plans to further set the model apart —sticking it between the new 3-Series and the 5-Series. Their sources say the firm will wait until after the 3-Series to launch the 4-Series, so expect it to go on sale in 2014 — no matter what it's called.
6th Gear: I sat down yesterday with Saab CEO Victor Muller to talk about the future of Saab and Saab-ophiles. The good news is he feels very strongly that every vehicle should get a Hirsch Performance version. The bad news is that, yes, that will also include a tuned version of the 9-4X crossover. More to come from my discussions with Muller, as well as new Chief Operating Officer of Saab North America, Timothy Colbeck, and Jason Castriota, Saab's lead designer.
⏎ The BMW M1 painted by Frank Stella heads to auction. [New York Times]
⏎ Hertz Makes $2.24 Billion Offer for Dollar Thrifty to Foil Avis [Bloomberg]
⏎ Penske Automotive names David Jones as its new CFO. Wait, not the guy from Pirates of the Caribbean? [AP via Bloomberg Businessweek]
⏎ Ariel Atom 3 Mugen reviewed. [Autocar]
⏎ 12-volt battery gets a makeover as automakers shift to more electric parts [Automotive News]
⏎ Where the hell is the compact Jag? [Car]
⏎ Yes, I'm fooling with the headline and splash image. I'm trying to get more info into the headline. Have any thoughts? Leave them in the comments below.
On this day in 1980, United States Secretary of the Treasury G. William Miller announces the approval of nearly $1.5 billion dollars in federal loan guarantees for the nearly bankrupt Chrysler Corporation. At the time, it was the largest rescue package ever granted by the U.S. government to an American corporation. [History]
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