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Weekly Roundup: 09.02.2009 – 13.02.2009

With the sales forecasts out of way, the auto industry is slowly coming back to life. Some credit for this should go to the 2009 Chicago Auto Show and the 2009 Geneva Auto Show, as most new launches concerned these two major auto events. So, without further ado, let’s take a peek at the most important events of the 9.02 – 13.02 week. Monday
The week debuted with Ford announcing the 2010 Ford Transit Connect, which will be showcased at the 2009 Chicago Auto Show. Even more interesting is the battery electric-powered version of the Transit, which Ford said would unveil in 2010.

Good news for Petter Solberg fans as he decided to start his own team, mostly composed of ex-Subaru employees. The Petter Solberg World Rally Team, sponsored by boat charter company Johs Lunde yachting, will provide sponsorship for the remaining 11 rounds of the WRC.

Scheduled to take place on May 17, 2009 in Ferrari's backyard, Maranello at RM Auctions' “Ferrari Leggenda e Passione” event, the auction hopes to shatter the record for the world’s most expensive car with a legendary 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa (TR). More info here.

Red Bull Racing revealed on Monday their 2009 challenger in the form of the newly developed RB5. As Mr. Panzariu said, team manager Christian Horner expressed his hopes that the new car will finally bring Red Bull Racing its first win in the series, as it will be driven by two of the fastest drivers in F1, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.

The French Government decided the same day to help the native automakers in distress, Renault and PSA Citroen, and provide a 3 billion euro aid package to get them through the crisis. Unfortunately, French president Sarkozy couldn’t refrain from making some remarks regarding the distribution of the funds that prompted criticism from the Czech Prime Minister, Mirek Topolane.

The Italian government followed Germany’s example and announced it plans to offer incentives of up to 5,000 euros to encourage people to migrate towards green cars.

Hyundai joined the list of automakers to showcase prototypes at the 2009 Geneva Auto Show, as it announced the new SUV concept, the QarmaQ. Daniel Patrascu has more info here.

Sad news for General Motors as GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner announced on Monday that Robert A. Lutz, GM Vice Chairman – Global Product Development, would transition to a new role prior to his retirement at the end of 2009.

We ended first day of the week with a special version of the E-Klasse, called E-Guard. Let’s just say that evil doers will have a hard time attacking you if you’re riding in one of these. Click here for more data on the E-Guard.

Tuesday

In other Geneva related news, General Motor is preparing to launch the production version of the 2010 Chevrolet Spark, a model that is said to share a lot of parts with the Beat concept. Mr. Bogdan Popa has more info on the subject.

The following news is not exactly a major topic, but we do need some R&R time once in a while. So, here’s Danica Patrick posing next to a Shelby Cobra 427 for the blood pressure raising Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Check out Madalina Iancu’s report for more curvaceous info.

Tuesday was also the day when BMW’s Mini announced the open top Mini Cooper John Cooper Works Convertible, which will be unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show next month.



Wednesday

Bogdan Popa announced on Wednesday that the 2010 Taurus SHO, which by the way stands for Super High Output, will go on sale this summer with pricing starting at $37,995. Don’t forget, this Taurus packs a whopping, not tree-hugging friendly 365 hp horsepower engine.

The impossible happened on Wednesday, as reports announced that China scored higher vehicle sales than the US. Car sales in China totaled 735,000 last month, a decline by 14.5 percent compared to January 2008, as opposed to a 37 percent plunge to 656,693 in the U.S.

Despite the ubiquitous economic crisis, Ferrari managed to score record sales figures, the Italian manufacturer ending the 2008 financial year with revenues of 1,921 million euro, an increase of 15.2% on the 1,668 million euro recorded in 2007.

In an effort to help the ailing auto industry, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced that the federal government would provide up to $1 trillion under the TALF (Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility) program in order to boost consumer credit. Read more on the subject here.

Alex Oagana reported the same day that the legendary Maybach Zeppelin nameplate is to make a comeback in the form of a special version built on the technical basis of the 57 S and the long-wheelbase 62 S. The new limited edition will be manufactured in only 100 units and is expected to be officially launched at the Geneva Auto Show.

We went to sleep with Geneva in our minds as one of the last reports on Wednesday talked about the new Saab 9-3X, an upgraded model particularly focused on fuel efficiency and functional storage, that will be officially rolled out at the aforementioned auto show. Thursday
We began Thursday with Toyota announcing that the 2010 Toyota Tundra 4.6l V8 will show up at the 2009 Chicago auto show. The new powerplant produces 310 horsepower and 327 lb-ft, while averaging a fuel consumption of 15 mpg (15 l/100 km) in the city and 20 mpg (11l/100 km) on the highway.

General Motors will not come empty handed at this year’s Geneva show as we will witness the European debut of the new Cadillac SRX, the official launch of Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon as well as the introduction of several other models, including Cadillac CST-V, BLS4 and Escalade Hybrid. More info here.
 
Tesla Motors promised on Thursday it will raise the curtain on the long awaited, long promised drivable prototype of the Model S four door sedan on March 26. The car will go into production if the company manages to escape financial difficulties and raises the money to do so.

Unlike most manufacturers, Mazda is not so keen on auto shows as it announced the 2010 Mazda CX-7 in Canada. Click here to find out more about this model.

Two years after the tragic accident, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch issued a report admitting they were not able to determine the exact cause of the helicopter crash that killed World Rally Champion Colin McRae and 3 others in September 2007. Mr. Panzariu has more info on the matter.

Thursday was also the day the Porsche Panamera interior was fully revealed. Due to be released on the market on 12 September 2009, the Panamera GT will sport a centre console that leads back all the way from the dashboard to the rear seats, splitting the interior in two very luxurious halves.

Michael Schumacher cheated death once more as he survived a bike crash at over 135 mph. The German ace was handed a 1000cc Honda Fireblade to test drive on the Cartagena race track by the German outfit, but the testing session ended at the hospital with Schumacher suffering several neck and wrist injuries and breaking his ribs.

Sad news for the Laguna and Espace fans as the French automaker Renault decided to terminate production of the two models produced at the Sandouvile plant. The decision is part of the larger plan Renault has developed in order to get over the economic distress it finds itself in.

Friday

Friday came with fairly bad news for car enthusiasts who hoped to see some new models at the upcoming auto shows as Mitsubishi announced it won’t show up at the upcoming Frankfurt exhibition, citing the economic recession as the reason. The automaker struggles to cut costs in every single area
so withdrawing from such a popular event pretty much makes sense. Instead of going to Frankfurt, Mitsubishi says it will concentrate all forces on Geneva, set to open its doors in March, as well as on its authorized dealerships. The company wants to set up “our own auto shows in car dealerships,” a representative was quoted as saying.

And even if the recession continues to number its victims all around the world, some companies go further with their initial plans and launch new models that continue their tradition. The best example comes from BMW who unveiled on Friday the new BMW 5 Series GT. Chris Bangle, who recently announced his departure, also attended the official launch event.

WRC fans had their own piece of news on Friday as Petter Solberg, the Norwegian driver who recently founded his own team, took the leadership of Rally Norway after SS1. Solberg drove an eight-year-old Citroen Xsara and, despite the difficult road conditions, he managed to set the fastest time during the night-time 1.92 kilometer Super Special.

Other Friday highlights include the 4 billion loan offered by Spain to ailing automakers, the Fiat 500 Convertible teaser rolled out by the Italian automaker, the official debut of Chevy autobots at the Chicago Auto Show and the Valeo-Michelin agreement aimed at hybrid systems development.

 
 
 
 
 

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