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by Jay Traugott
Chrysler reports a healthy profit while GM and Ford struggle in Europe, GM fires two top execs, and NASCAR driver Allmendinger is dropped for the season.
With the Paris Motor Show opening its doors next month, automakers have slowly been releasing more details as to what we can expect from the bi-yearly event. If anyone recalls from two years ago, Lotus was perhaps the biggest shock of the show when they displayed five concept cars they fully intended to build. Jump ahead to today and we only hope the reborn Esprit will arrive sometime before 2015. In the meantime, here are some of this past week's industry news highlights.
GM Gives the Pink Slip to Two Top Execs. The industry was shocked to hear earlier this week that General Motors fired two top executives for unspecified reasons. Joel Ewanick was hired almost two years ago as GM's marketing chief with the specific task to redo the company's global branding. His previous experience at Hyundai as well as a brief stint at Nissan in similar roles was a key factor for GM brass. Word has it he was fired partly due to financial details of the recent Chevrolet sponsorship deal of Manchester United. Top GM designer Dave Lyon was also fired days before he was to move to Germany to become Opel's design chief.
Chrysler Reports Profit; GM, Ford Down. The good news: Chrysler Group has just announced a second quarter profit of $436 million. Compared to last year at this time, they lost $370 million after repaying their government loans, but it's clear they're making fantastic progress and are still on track to meet profit targets for 2012.
Now for the bad news: both GM and Ford reported losses for the same time period despite US sales going well. The problem for both automakers is Europe, where their operations have taken significant hits due to the ongoing financial crisis plaguing the continent.
Mercedes Planning SLS AMG E-Cell Roadster? Rumor has it that Mercedes-Benz is planning a roadster version of their upcoming SLS AMG E-Cell EV supercar. Nothing is official just yet because the automaker wants to wait and see how sales of the gullwing E-Cell pan out before a final decision is made.
A roadster version would have the same powertrain as the gullwing: four electric motors that produce a total of 526 horsepower and 649lb-ft of torque and a 0 to 60 mph time of four seconds. The SLS AMG E-Cell gullwing is set to go on sale later this year or early 2013.
Australian Ford Falcon to End Production? All good things must come to an end right? That could be the case for Ford's entire Australian manufacturing division by 2016. The reasons are obviously financial because Ford's commitment period to the Australian government in regards to accepting taxpayer money expires at that time. If the Australian manufacturing arm is shut down that means the beloved Ford Falcon (as well as the Territory SUV) are finished. Both are built solely for Australia and there's little to zero chance Ford will continue building them elsewhere.
AJ Allmendinger out at Penske Racing. It has just been announced that Penske Racing Team has officially fired NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger after he reportedly failed a drug test. This comes in the wake of the NASCAR sanctioning body suspending Allmendinger for the same reason. As of this time in the season he ranked 25th in the point count. No other details were announced, but ESPN is reporting that nonprescription amphetamines were found in his system. He will now take part in NASCAR's Road to Recovery rehab program and could be back in the driver's seat once he successfully completes the program.