1st Gear: The Mercedes-Benz A-Class Concept will make its debut at both the 2011 New York and Shanghai Auto Shows later this month. The front-wheel drive A-Class concept is the production-intent preview of Mercedes-Benz's new compact class. Technical highlights include a new turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine, a dual clutch transmission and a radar-based collision warning system with adaptive Brake Assist. Just like Dr. Z. likes it... we're nonplussed until we see an AMG 63 version. Then we'll get excited.
2nd Gear: Saab Automobile, the Swedish carmaker owned by Spyker Cars NV, said it has told factory workers to stay home today and tomorrow as production continues to be halted amid discussions with suppliers over payment and delivery terms. "We're very optimistic production will resume early next week," Saab spokesman Eric Geers said today to Bloomberg's Ola Kinnander by telephone. According to Geers, Saab's looking for short-term funding to boost its cash reserves so it can pay suppliers and is in talks with "several" potential investors (i.e., Vladimir Antonov) about more long-term funding solutions. Does anyone else think that this is just Vladimir Antonov playing chicken with the Swedish-based European Investment Bank so he can take over Saab? I think so. By the way, this comes the same day that Spyker Cars NV is about to submit a proposal to its board to change its name to Swedish Automobile NV.
3rd Gear: Speaking of Sweden, Arjeplog, Sweden has become the winter Death Valley for auto engineers looking to test new models in this remote location 60 kilometers (38 miles) south of the Arctic Circle. BMW (this is where Chris Harris drove the new BMW M5 for us), Daimler, Audi, Toyota, Ford, Fiat, Saab and Hyundai all test there. But while Arjeplog is increasingly important to carmakers eager to optimize their vehicles for driving in extreme weather, the auto industry is even more important as a life saver for Arjeplog's 3,161 residents, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its April 11 issue. The area struggled after the lumber industry dwindled in the 1980s and local lead mine closed in 2001. Wow, the region went from lumber to lead and now to autos? What's next on Arjeplog's saved-by-a-limping-along industry list? Are U.S. magazines and the rest of the paper media industry moving there?
4th Gear: And now for some good enthusiast news. And by "enthusiasts," I mean people who like to drive fast, legally. Yesterday, Texas took its first step in leading the nation when it comes to goin' fast like Ricky Bobby. The Texas House has approved a bill authorizing an 85-mph speed limit on some highways. The proposal would give the Texas Department of Transportation power to raise the speed limit on designated lanes or entire stretches of roadway after doing engineering and traffic studies. Yeah, sure, traffic studies. I want to read some of those traffic studies.
5th Gear: Bloomberg's Ehren Goossens tells us this morning that General Motors is claiming drivers of the Chevy Volt have been traveling 1,000 miles before they need to visit a filling station (yeah, if you can find a plug). GM sold 1,210 of them in the U.S. in the first quarter, according to Autodata Corp. of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. "A sample of our early Volt customers suggest that they drive 1,000 miles before they fill up the gas tank," Tony Posawatz, vehicle line director for the Chevrolet Volt, said at a conference in New York today. Yeah, so, that's like, what? Twenty of them seeing that? Thirty? Give us averages or at least some more complete data, Tony.
6th Gear: While we'll see the 2012 Nissan Versa unveiled later this month in person (stop, I'm getting so excited that I might not be able to contain myself) at the New York Auto Show, here's the first shots of the hatchback version of the 2012 Nissan Tiida — what the car's called in places other than the good ol' U.S. of A (or China, where it's called the "Sunny") ahead Tiida hatchback's ahead of its unveiling at the Shanghai Auto Show. Now that color's not beige, but it's gold — which we hear might be the Chinese version of "beige."
⏎ The last new piece by David E. Davis is about... Chrysler/Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne. [Car and Driver]
⏎ Don't save the manuals! [Car and Driver]
⏎ Best headline so far today: Ferrari's $300,000 Meat Eater Rips Asphalt, Churns Guts [Bloomberg]
⏎ The 2012 Chrysler 300C SRT8 looks like the 2012 Chrysler 300C with a different grille. [Edmunds InsideLine]
⏎ The Nissan Quest is a family room on wheels. Which probably explains why we don't like it. [Detroit News]
⏎ Here's the first sketch of Audi's official entry into the beige small crossover space occupied by the BMW X1. [Indian Autos Blog]
⏎ Ford resisting larger F-150 recall. [Detroit News]
⏎ Hyundai USA names former GM exec Steve Shannon to run marketing. What, are they playing ad-man swap between the two automakers? [Automotive News]
Today in Automotive History:
On this day in 1947, Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, which developed the first affordable, mass-produced car—the Model T—and also helped pioneer assembly-line manufacturing, dies at his estate in Dearborn, Michigan, at the age of 83. [History ]
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