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Opel, Vauxhall and GM Europe lose their CEO, the brains behind the failed De Tomaso relaunch gets arrested, TVR gives up on making sportscars and Jeep runs into some trouble with a moose in Sweden.
The summer's typically a slow news season in the automotive industry, but this week saw two of our favorite British exotic automakers debut new convertible supercars: the McLaren MP4-12C Spider and the Aston Martin V12 Vantage Roadster. Mercedes-Benz also unveiled the AMG version of its new CLS Shooting Brake. The rest of the week was made up principally of rumors and conjecture, spy shots and tuning jobs. Here's what happened in the industry at large.
Friday saw General Motors announce one of its most senior executives was stepping down from his position as head of the industrial giant's European operations. Karl-Friedrich Stracke presided not only over GM Europe, but also over both Opel and Vauxhall - the company's German and British brands, respectively. GM said only that Stracke was gearing up to take on "special assignments", but offered no further details. We wouldn't be surprised to see him take the helm of another European automaker in the near future, however. In his place, meanwhile, GM's vice-president Steve Girsky, who chairs Opel's supervisory board, will fill in for Stracke until a permanent replacement can be found.
We reported earlier on De Tomaso declaring bankruptcy. The relaunch of the stoic Italian marque was spearheaded by former Fiat executive Gian Mario Rossignolo, but collapsed when a deal with Chinese investors fell through. Now Rossignolo has been arrested by Italian authorities for squandering public funds. Government authorities subsidized Rossignolo's plans to the tune of 7.5 million euros in order to begin production at Pininfarina's old factory in Grugliasco - an initiative that would have employed some 1,000 workers. The charges laid by the Turin prosecutor's office allege that Rossignolo, alongside his head of human resources and a financial advisor, pocketed a significant portion of the funds.
Another niche supercar manufacturer has also fallen on hard times, but this one is in the UK. The company in question is TVR, a small operation that started production in 1947 (the same year as Ferrari, incidentally) and closed up shop in 2006. In between it made such notable models as the Griffith, the Tuscan, the Sagaris and the Cerbera. The company was taken over in recent years by one Nikolai Smolenski, who pledged to restart production and bring TVR back onto the scene, but Smolenski now says those prospects are simply infeasible. Instead, the young Russian investor plans to rededicate the company towards building wind turbines. (Yeah, we're as confused as you are.)
Finally, some controversy has erupted over safety issues with the new Jeep Grand Cherokee. Swedish magazine "Teknikens Varld" performed the dreaded Moose Test that is common practice in Scandinavian countries, and deemed the Jeep unsafe. The test involves having to evade an obstruction in the road at speed, simulating the maneuver a Nordic driver might have to undertake to avoid a moose in the road by performing a sudden left-right swerve at 63.5 km/h or 39.5 mph. Teknikens Varld says the Jeep failed the test and nearly toppled over.
Chrysler debates the outcome, pointing out that the test - performed on the off-road-spec Overland edition, was performed with the stability control system switched off and with 200 lbs over the vehicle's specified rating placed on board. Subsequent tests performed in the presence of Chrysler engineers and without the overload resulted in the Grand Cherokee passing the test just fine. So as long as you're not driving the Overland edition with more weight than is allowed with the ESP turned off while driving through moose-infested woods, you should be fine.