1st Gear: Ford this morning announced its best first quarter earnings since 1998: $2.6 billion, or 61 cents per share. The results, an increase of $466 million over the first quarter of 2010, far exceeded analysts' expectations of about 50 cents per share. Revenues totaled $33.1 billion, up $5 billion from a year ago. The year-earlier revenues exclude those from Volvo, which Ford subsequently sold. Mulally remains optimistic about 2011 and expects the automaker's profits and cash flow to improve as additional new models — like the new Focus — come on line. At the Ford brand, which has captured some previous Mercury owners, 2011 sales are up 25% through March. In the first quarter, demand for the Ford Fusion jumped 27% and sales of the new Ford Fiesta subcompact totaled more than 20,000. But all is not peaches and cream in Dearborn. — the Lincoln brand is skidding, with sales off 11% this year. We can't imagine why. Oh, wait, yes we can.
2nd Gear: Things are looking more dire for Toyota, the super number one best automaker from the land of the rising sun, who may slip to third place in world automaker sales rankings behind General Motors and Volkswagen due to Japan's earthquake and nuclear crisis, which slashed local output by almost two-thirds in March alone. A shortage of parts in the wake of the March 11th earthquake and tsunami has has continued to savage Japan's auto sector supply chain, while damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant has disrupted power supplies.
3rd Gear: Total brake failure during regular performance testing is a very rare occurrence. Which is why it's so odd that the pin connecting the brake pedal to the master cylinder clevis rod end sheared on Motor Trend's Boss 302 Mustang. It's such a rarity I don't think I've even heard of it happening on a production vehicle being tested by a buff book at any time this century. Ford, despite taking the step of shutting down the production line to look for problems, was unable to find any. Given the problem Ford's had as of late with vehicles delivered to Motor Trend, we'd strongly suggest to FoMoCo that they give Editor-in-Chief Angus Mackenzie a wide berth the next time they see him.
4th Gear: Vauxhall's new Astra GTC has kept the sharp styling of the GTC Paris concept, judging by the just-released official renderings of the final production car. Order books for the three-door model will open on June 7th, when Vauxhall will also confirm full pricing and technical details of the GTC line-up.
5th Gear: On April 17th Michael Sarrazin, who starred in the 1976 car movie classic, The Gumball Rally as Michael Bannon, passed away in Montreal after a brief battle with cancer. Born May 22, 1940 in Quebec City, Sarrazin gave soulful and well-crafted performances in dozens of films including 1969's heartbreaking They Shoot Horses, Don't They? opposite Jane Fonda and in Paul Newman's 1970 adaption of Ken Kesey's novel Sometimes A Great Notion. He was 70 years old.
6th Gear: Subaru says it might one day return to making its own itty-bitty cars instead of re-badging the Toyota Yaris to create vehicles such as the Japan-only Trezia, but not for the foreseeable future. A one-time baby car specialist – before the days of all-wheel drive and WRX turbos — Subaru has not designed, developed or built its own light car since the demise of the R1/R2 Kei cars from 2003 to 2010. Subaru senior engineer Akihide Takeuchi told Go Auto this week that B-segment vehicles just are not profitable. "If B-segment sales globally rise dramatically, then maybe we will reconsider the situation," he said. "But we now concentrate on the more profitable C-segment (Impreza) and above."
⏎ Remember how Toyota was spinning itself as an "American" manufacturer? Yeah, not so much. [Detroit News]
⏎ Renault's leadership vacuum is hurting it. A lot. [Bloomberg]
⏎ Jaguar's planned UK expansion could create 1,000 jobs. [The Telegraph]
⏎ Yeah, and speaking of the pretty kitty, the new Jaguar XFR looks pretty hot in press photos, doesn't it? Just look up top.
On this day in 2009, Chrysler and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union reach a tentative deal that meets government requirements for the struggling auto manufacturer to receive more federal funding and, you know, survive. [History]
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