1st Gear: Toyota may be in danger of losing its title as the world's biggest automaker this year, but it doesn't care, telling the world it's sworn off the pursuit of being No. 1. Executive Vice President Satoshi Ozawa said last week that quality and customer satisfaction is more imporant than volume. "There is no meaning in us being the global No. 1," he said. Toyota never said it wanted to be No. 1, only that it wanted 15% of the global market — which would all but guarantee the top spot. But now there's a sales leader vacuum. Who will fill it? Will it be General Motors? Will it be Volkswagen? Ford? Tune in next month as the automotive sales world turns.
2nd Gear: Nissan, which wants to become the top seller of electric cars, repeatedly delayed deliveries to some U.S. buyers who reserved the first 20,000 Leaf plug-in hatchbacks, according to interviews with customers. They said Nissan unexpectedly dropped some from the waiting list temporarily, asking that they reapply if they couldn't prove they'd arranged installation of home- charging units that can cost more than $2,000. "My delivery date kept jumping around, from April to 'pending' to May to June to July," said Marc Fishman, a 42- year-old movie sound editor from Burbank, California tells Bloomberg. He said Nissan without explanation canceled the first order he placed, in September 2010, and gave him conflicting information after he re-ordered the next month. For Nissan, the hitches show that the first mass-market electric car for the U.S. is a long way from being sold and delivered as smoothly as the company's Altima sedans.
3rd Gear: Chinese-owned Volvo may form a captive finance arm in the United States as part of a push to expand U.S. sales, Volvo CEO Stefan Jacoby said last week. The company also said it may scale back its product line and concentrate on its top sellers. First China took 'r debt, then they took 'r Swedish automakers. Now, they want to take 'r loans. This might be a bridge too far!
4th Gear: Prices of used vehicles hit an all-time high last month as softer new-car sales brought fewer trade-ins that dealers could sell into a strong used market. Wholesale used vehicle prices (on a mix-, mileage-, and seasonally adjusted basis) increased again in May and pushed the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index, which gauges used-vehicle prices, to another record high. The May Index reading of 127.8 represented a 5.6% increase from the year-ago level.
5th Gear: According to Automotive News group of 120 Lincoln dealers were invited to a meeting last week, chaired by Ford CEO Alan Mulally, to hear Ford's plans to rebuild its remaining luxury brand, say dealers who attended. Ford expects stand-alone Lincoln dealers to spend an average of $1 million on renovations, dealers say. Owners of Ford-Lincoln duals are expected to spend about $1.9 million to remodel, dealers who went to the meeting say. You know what might make them more likely to shell out the cash? Maybe some new models, the hope of new models, or, you know, really anything to make them believe the brand's still got a pulse.
6th Gear: Wait, wait, stop me if you've heard this one. Saab Automobile AB said Monday it has signed a nonbinding agreement with two Chinese companies, which will inject a total of $351 million into Saab-owner Spyker Cars NV. Oh, you have heard this one before, haven't you?
⏎ Mark Phelan: Dream Cruise could serve as Cuban-American exchange. Ray Wert: No it can't. [Detroit Free Press]
⏎ The Renaultsport Megane 265 Trophy is the fastest road-going Renault ever. [Car Magazine]
⏎ Battle for the soul of the Honda Civic Si. [Edmunds Inside Line]
⏎ What's wrong with the Challenger? [Automotive News]
⏎ Not quite twelve Cadillacs turn out for Warhol. [Wall Street Journal]
⏎ Toyota says quake's toll on company to top $4 billion. [Detroit News]
⏎ Is $4 per gallon the new "normal" for gas? [Wall Street Journal]
Today in Automotive History:
On this day in 1895, Emile Levassor drives a Panhard et Levassor car with a two-cylinder, 750-rpm, four-horsepower Daimler Phoenix engine over the finish line in the world's first real automobile race. Levassor completed the 732-mile course, from Paris to Bordeaux and back, in just under 49 hours, at a then-impressive speed of about 15 miles per hour. [History]
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