Given the ongoing seismic changes in the global automotive business, we've decided to inaugurate a new feature -- a weekly roundup of auto news you might have missed, appearing every Friday afternoon from now on.
So what's been going on this week? Plenty.
Toyota: The saga continues
The drama of congressional hearings might have passed for the moment, but Toyota's
That's nearly double the number that was being reported just two months ago, though it's important to note that "blamed on unintended acceleration" and "conclusively established as due to unintended acceleration" are two very different things, and so far nobody has been able to say the latter.
Meanwhile, the company continued to press forward, announcing the formation of the Quality Task Force previously promised by CEO Akio Toyoda, and pushing an aggressive incentives-and-marketing campaign that appears to be drawing rival Honda
But will it work? At least one source thinks it's already working: Industry observers at Edmunds.com are predicting that March will turn out to be a good month for most automakers, but that Toyota's rebound will be especially impressive. I won't be surprised if they're right, but we'll know for sure when March sales are announced late next week.
Ford pays the man
Is the sky blue?
Let's put it this way: Much of that compensation was due to the fact that Ford's share price has skyrocketed over the past 12 months, thanks to great new products, impressive market share gains, surprisingly solid profits ... You already know the story; it's a good one. Speaking as a Ford shareholder ... just keep paying the man, y'all.
General Motors to pay The Man
Different kind of payment, different kind of car company (more different than they'd like, but that's another story). The Detroit Free Press reported this week that General Motors would, as promised, make another round of $1.19 billion loan repayments to the U.S. and Canadian government by the end of March. I can't say I'm a fan of its drive to repay these loans so quickly, but it's good that it's following through on the payment schedule it announced late last year.
Separately (sort of), while GM isn't a public company at the moment, it is expected to do a public-company-style release of fourth-quarter 2009 numbers any day now. Given the company's recent hints that it may launch an IPO later this year, expect those numbers to draw a lot of interest.
Daimler goes a-courtin'... again
About a dozen years ago, Daimler
Schrempp has moved on, and Dieter "Dr. Z" Zetsche is at Daimler's helm now, but apparently the old idea of Daimler joining a global tie-up hasn't quite died. Several sources reported on Friday that Daimler is actively seeking to join Renault and Nissan in a three-way tie-up. It doesn't sound like a merger, exactly. Renault already owns 44.3% of Nissan, and although details aren't clear as I write this, apparently the deal would lead to Renault and Daimler each owning 3%-5% of the other's shares.
Why would they do this? Simple: None of these companies separately have the global scale to go investment-for-investment with giants like Toyota and Ford. Massive investments in safety and green technology are looming for all car companies -- even Ferrari is contemplating a hybrid! -- and technology-sharing and platform-sharing agreements among the second-tier automakers are probably essential for their continued relevance, if not survival.
Coming next week
Next Thursday and Friday will bring us the automakers' U.S. sales results for March. Will Ford hold its newly acquired ground? Will Toyota come roaring back, as Edmunds.com has predicted? Who's losing ground? Is Chrysler selling anything at all?
Tune in right here to find out.
Read more about the ongoing auto industry shakeout:
Fool contributor John Rosevear is a happy Ford shareholder and a sad Cornell alum. Ford Motor is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy has never been recalled.