It was a week full of surprises in the global auto business, none bigger than Thursday's bombshell announcement of a new CEO for General Motors, its fourth leader in less than two years. But there was much more going on -- here are a few of the stories you might have missed.
Maybe those Toyota drivers really were at fault
These findings were preliminary and come with some caveats -- among them, that Toyota's cars have only had black-box sensors since 2007 (many of the problem vehicles are older), and that the black boxes are built into the cars' airbag systems and don't typically begin recording until the airbag is deployed.
To its credit, Toyota didn't rush out and declare victory, instead calling for independent corroboration of the government's findings via other methods, like examination of the wrecked cars. But the government's early findings have to be gratifying for the automaker (and its shareholders), which has recalled a total of 9.4 million vehicles worldwide for issues related to unintended acceleration.
Tata hits new highs
Shares of India's Tata Motors
Jaguar Land Rover was a big part of the story for Tata, with the unit's worldwide sales up a whopping 59% over the second quarter of 2009. Jaguar's sales have been so solid, in fact, that one of the key issues facing the luxury automaker is a shortage of engines. Jaguar's engines are produced by Ford
Tesla's trash talk
According to Musk, the air-cooling method used by Nissan's battery pack design is "primitive" compared to Tesla's liquid-cooled battery packs. Air-cooled systems use fans to dissipate heat, and can be challenged in excessively hot (or cold) weather. Musk predicted that the Leaf would experience "huge degradation" in the cold and essentially shut itself down in hot weather.
I hear what Musk is saying, but I have to say I'm skeptical of his trash talk here. Like all major automakers, Nissan does extensive and harsh testing of every vehicle it develops, and a hugely important car like the Leaf was surely not an exception. And -- easy potshot here -- it's entertaining to hear a start-up CEO whose cars are powered by commodity cells from laptop batteries call a purpose-built power train from a major automaker "primitive."
Also, dude, your sedan is two years away from market. Nissan's will be out before the end of the year. If you think you know what Nissan (not to mention Ford, Toyota, GM, Honda
Long story short, Musk has seemed prone to underestimating his competition in the past, and this outburst might be more of the same. But it's not impossible that Musk will have the last laugh, at least on this front. General Motors has done extensive real-world testing of prototypes in both hot deserts and Arctic conditions for years (as a GM engineer I once met put it, "Our cars have to work in both Alaska and Arizona"), and its engineers chose a liquid-cooling system for the battery pack in the Chevy Volt.
Still thinking about buying Ford? Dave Mock says the Dearborn giant just got a big upgrade.