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Weekly Roundup: 05.01.2009 – 10.01.2009

If you have a busy schedule and don’t have time to get your much needed quota of automotive industry news, here’s your chance to catch up. This is the first episode of a long series of weekly roundups, covering the most important events of the previous week. So, without further ado, let’s review the most important events in the industry for the 05.01.2009 – 10.01.2009 period. Monday
The week kicked off great for GM and Chrysler as they received the first $4 billion in emergency loans from the United States government from a total of $17.4 billion the Bush administration approved before Christmas.

Far away from the economic turmoil in the US, Carlos Sainz became the leader of the 2009 Dakar Rally. The Spaniard made little mistakes in Santa Rosa to Puerto Madryn stage on Sunday and clinched the overall lead after first day leader Nassar Al-Attiyah lost more than 6 minutes after the first checkpoint.

We stay in the motorsports area, albeit we return to the US where IndyCar driver Danica Patrick announces her return to the famous Daytona 24 Hours race with Childress-Howard Motorsports.

Pininfarina made a shocking announcement on Monday when it said that is going to put an end to contract manufacturing when the current agreements expire in 2011 and that it will start focusing on building electric cars.

Undeterred by crisis and the push for small cars with insanely low fuel consumption, Ford's Special Vehicle Team, known as SVT, unveils the 2010 Shelby GT500 which now develops an ear pounding 540 hp combined with a torque of 510 lb-ft.

We travel from the US to the UK to see Lewis Hamilton being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his enormous contribution to the British motor racing world.

In other F1 news, Sir Jackie Stewart slammed Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley for bringing the sport on the brink of collapse and Fernando Alonso was involved in a plane accident, but fortunately nobody was hurt.

Going back to the US, we found out that the 2010 Cadillac SRX made its official debut, the model promising a 25-percent reduction in hydrocarbon emissions, with fuel economy standing somewhere “in the mid-20s”.

Porsche made a very interesting, if not shocking, announcement on Monday revealing that the Panamera four-door Gran Turismo will make its debut at the Auto Shanghai 2009 show instead of the more reputed Geneva one.
Al-Attiyah won Stage 3 of the Dakar rally, but Carlos Sainz increased his lead in the overall classification to more than 3 and a half minute.

Daimler denied any rumors related to the Volvo acquisition and said it had no interest in the Swedish manufacturer.


The economic crisis made another victim on Tuesday when Toyota decided to cease the construction of its Russian and Thai factories.

The same day, the CCFA (car manufacturers' association) announced a major drop of 15.8% for the French passenger cars, while Mercedes Benz USA reported a whopping 32.1 percent drop. BMW also recorded appalling sales in the US, MINI being the only one able to improve the figures.

Increasing its stake to 50.76%, up 8.16 points since the initial 42.6, Porsche became Volkswagen’s majority owner, giving the German sports car manufacturer indirect control over VW's properties. The Germans, however, did not escape the financial crisis and, almost like everybody else in the industry, reported poor sales in December.

Despite the famous Massa-hose incident, Ferrari decided to switch back to the traffic-light system for their 2009 pit stops. The Scuderia made the necessary adjustments on their 2008 system and revealed that they came up with an electric programme aimed to prevent the car from leaving the pit box unless the fuel hose is detached.

Although initially scheduled for the Geneva Auto Show, Mercedes announced that the new E-Class would be unveiled a bit sooner, sometime this week.


China gave GM a reason to celebrate as the Asian division set a new sales record with 1,094,561 units sold in 2008, our Wednesday said. Suzuki dismissed rumors that the Kizashi-based sedan would be postponed and stressed that the 2010 mid-size sedan would be launched in United States as initially planned.

German billionaire Adolf Merckle, with an estimated fortune of $9.2 billion, committed suicide after having lost 500 million euros betting that the Volkswagen’s stock would fall.

Bentley is another luxury car manufacturer not heavily affected by the ubiquitous crisis as we found out on Wednesday that they’ve come up with their most powerful convertible ever, the Continental GTC Speed.

The 2009 Dakar rally claimed its first victim as motorcyclist Pascal Terry lost his life in rather strange circumstances.

Mercedes Benz fans rejoiced as the brochure for the W212 E-Klasse leaked onto the Internet, giving a full insight on what to expect from the Germans’ latest creation.

De Villiers won the Wednesday Dakar stage and Al-Attiyah became the overall leader following Sainz’s accident when the Spaniard's Volkswagen hit a rock that completely damaged its power steering.


We reported on Thursday that Larry McClure pleaded guilty to tax fraud. McClure reached a plea deal with the prosecutors earlier this week, admitting filing false tax returns from 2002 through 2004 and lying to the Internal Revenue Service investigators.

Toyota announced the launch of its own telematics system that is currently set to arrive on models included in the 2009 product lineup. The first vehicles equipped with Safety Connect are scheduled to arrive as soon as summer 2009, Toyota said.

The first details emerge on Barack Obama’s presidential limo, nicknamed The Beast. Check out more info in our report here.  Buick confirmed that its latest 2010 LaCrosse luxury sedan would be displayed at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 12 and issued a statement providing more details about the upcoming model.

Cristiano Ronaldo gave his fans a startle on Thursday as he managed to crash his Ferrari in the tunnel which takes traffic under the airport runways between Wilmslow and Hale, Cheshire. Check out more details here.

Anxious Nissan fans found out that the Japanese company officially announced its plans to produce a limited-series GT-R SpecV model that will only go on sale at a few authorized dealerships across Japan starting February 2, 2009.

Some beans were spilled the same day about a new Jaguar sedan to be introduced later in 2009. Find out more about the aforementioned beans here.


We heard Friday that Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah won the 6th stage of the Dakar Rally more than 5 minutes ahead of the competition, but was likely to face disqualification for missing several waypoints.

Friday was also an historic moment for Kawasaki who announced their withdrawal from the MotoGP class of the FIM Road Racing World Championship. The Japanese manufacturer argued their decision to quit the sport with the difficult economic climate and did not mention if they are to return in the series any time soon.

In the tuning industry, Switzer Performance Innovations announced a new tuning package called Sledgehammer that can increase the overall power of the 911 Porsche to over 1000 hp. Click here if you want to find out how you can spend $50,000 on an upgrade.

In the F1 world, the executive committee of FOTA decided to ban aerodynamic testing from as early as the upcoming season, while also accepting to take under consideration several changes in the technical compartment pointed out by FIA president Max Mosley earlier this week.

While most manufacturers face declining sales, Audi triumphantly reported an increase of 4.1 percent over the previous year.

Going back to motorsports, albeit in a different area, Gillett Evernham Motorsports and Petty Enterprises finally came to an agreement and announced the merger ahead of their 2009 Sprint Cup campaign. The new team will function under the GEM name, setting up three full-time drives for next year's series, while a 4th car will start at least 8 events.

Things didn’t go to well for Nissan UK as they announced on Friday a massive 1,200 worker cutback. The new cost-cutting measure only concerns workforce at the Sunderland plant, but that still doesn’t improve things.

Despite disappointing sales, Volvo Trucks announced the most powerful series-manufactured truck, the 700 hp FH16. The week ended badly for Mercedes Benz who had to pay the second largest CAFE fine in NHTSA history. Find out more details here.

Sebastien Buemi probably had a great weekend as Toro Rosso named him as their official driver for the 2009 Formula 1 campaign, thus ending the rumors claiming that he had already secured a driving spot with Red Bull's sister team.


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