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1st Gear:Hey, it's auto sales reporting day, and since dealers still had cars for most of April, analysts expect good numbers, mostly. Total sales will likely top an annual rate of 13 million β€” which will be pretty much the high mark for the next few months as the ripples from the Japan quake continue to spread. The flip side? If you were looking for a deal on a new car, you'll likely be steered to the purple Dodge Nitros.


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2nd Gear:In today's Japan disaster update: Thanks to losing an estimated 500,000 vehicles of output from the quake/tsunami, Toyota will inevitably yield the crown of world's largest automaker back to General Motors. Meanwhile, Honda warned dealers Monday that it would run short of several models over the next few months β€” including the 2012 Civic β€” and push back the launch of the new CR-V by a month.


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3rd Gear:Speaking of GM, even as U.S. gas prices play footsie with $4 a gallon on average, Chevrolet says sales of the Chevy Volt fell in April to less than 500 vehicles. The reason? GM shipped another 300 Volts to dealers as demo vehicles, which don't count in sales, but do show those Chevy shoppers from Poughkeepsie to Pahrump that this here plug-'em-in hybrid thingamajig's for reals.


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4th Gear:Volkswagen's blitzkrieg toward world domination (hmm, that doesn't sound right) requires more customers for everything, including the nΓΌ Beetle. To help chase away what VW execs consider a "feminine image" of the previous model, VW is now considering a "R" version that might sport 250 hp. Don't tell Jezebel that VW thinks performance and femininity are mutually exclusive.


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5th Gear:From the good news/bad news department: Based on its applications for state incentives, GM plans to spend $131 million upgrading the Bowling Green, Ky., factory where it builds the Corvette. That means a new Corvette is on its way...by no earlier than 2013 or so. Vette enthusiasts will just have to crank up the Celine Dion and let their hearts go on one more year. (See, VW?)


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6th Gear:BMW's upcoming 6-Series coupe will have some distinct Audi-ish flavor β€” thanks to all-LED headlights and all-wheel drive in both coupe and convertible formats. Because nothing says luxury like a two-ton convertible that can be driven through a Bavarian blizzard. If you're well-off enough to afford a 6-Series, wouldn't it be easier to just buy a summer-only car?


Reverse:

⏎ Honda's never-ending air bag recall scoops up another 833,000 vehicles. [Detroit News]

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⏎ Top shot courtesy of tuner Novitec's 600-hp rework of the Alfa 8C Spider, the fastest Alfa ever. This. [Autoblog.nl]

⏎ Saab gets its lifeline from Saab-like Chinese automaker Hawtai. [Marketwatch]

⏎ Polaris brings Indians back to Spirit Lake, Iowa. [Hemmings]

⏎ Ohio workers sue GM, UAW for back pay [The Vindicator]


Today in Automotive History:

On this day in 1980, 13-year-old Cari Lightner of Fair Oaks, Calif., was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Cari's death compelled her mother, Candy Lightner, to found the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), one of the nation's most influential auto safety groups. [History]

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