Alfa Romeo:

Silverstone: The Beginning and End of Formula One

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silverstone-F1.jpgOn May 13, 1950, the first ever (modern era) Formula One Championship Grand Prix was won by Giuseppe Farina in an Alfa Romeo-dominated event in which the Italian manufacturer cruised to a 1-2-3 finish. Luigi Fagioli and British driver Reg Parnell filled the remaining podium positions. The circuit was a WWII bomber airfield called Silverstone. The circuit has been a part of Formula One since that time, although races have, on occasion been run at other Britich tracks. This weekend, Silverstone hosted its last Grand Prix, and in addition to the race, manufacturers and the governing body announced they are going their separate ways as well. And so, Silverstone may go down in history marking the beginning and in some respects, the end of an era in modern motorsport.


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Exhaust Note #20: BMW and Fiat Consider Working Together

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Does Alfa Finally See Their U.S. Dreams Come True?
In another example of automakers looking to partner and share synergies rather than swallow one another whole, Fiat and BMW entered into a memorandum of understanding to evaluation cooperative opportunities. They’ve formally agreed to talk about how, and if, they can help one another.
Alfa Romeo may have the most ego wrapped up into the outcome. Desperate to get back into the U.S. car market, Alfa wants the next-generation of the 147 be the lead volume product. They’ve further announced the intent to start building cars in the States in 2011CY, and have started looking for partners to make that happen as well. Technically they do return this summer with the low-volume 8C Competzione and next year with the convertible 8C, but Alfa’s only building 1000 8Cs, including both bodystyles, for worldwide consumption. With only about 100 8C coupes being offered here, the image-building 8C doesn’t make much of an impact on the market.

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Rumor of the Week – BMW Considering Volvo Take-Over From Ford!

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There have been rumors circulating recently about BMW buying Volvo Cars from Ford. Ford Motor Company stated on May 29, 2007 it is not in discussions with BMW or any other company regarding the sale of Volvo Cars.

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But sometimes where there is smoke, there is fire. This rumor has been circulating for a few weeks now. The rumor goes like this… BMW has been conducting due diligence about the possibility of acquiring another brand. Volvo Cars and Alfa Romeo have both been included in the rumor, but Volvo appears to be the strongest candidate.
Why Would BMW Need a Second Car Company?
From 1994 through 2000 BMW owned Rover – including Rover, MG, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Mini, Land Rover and the defunct names Austin, Morris, Riley, Triumph, Wolesley. Whoa, what a lineup!? BMW practically owned the British motor industry with the exception of Jaguar. Termed “The English Patient”, Rover and BMW never gelled. In 2000, BMW sold Rover Cars (MG Rover) to Phoenix Holding Group for £10. They sold Land Rover to Ford for a hefty chunk of change. They got snookered out of the Bentley name and somehow Volkswagen ended up with it. They kept Mini and have made it a great success. They kept Rolls Royce and are presently building modest numbers in Goodwood in sourthern England.
But, BMW needs additional volumes to help its economies of scale. A second company would help BMW in negotiations with components suppliers. Volvo has the heft to help handsomely.
BMW Fiercely Proud of its Independence
BMW is advertising the advantages of its independence. They look down their nose at Lexus – part of Toyota, Infiniti – part of Nissan, Acura – part of Honda, Audi – part of Volkswagen, Mercedes – part of DaimlerChrysler. So, the idea of BMW acquiring some other premium brand has to be considered from the position of strength.
European media reports have speculated that BMW wants to expand its product portfolio, and would like to add a premium brand with front-wheel-drive models to help spread out development costs for its Mini range. (BMW has been spreading some costs already co-developing the new Mini engine with Peugeot).
Volvo could be a good candidate to fill that objective. One of the reasons Ford acquired Volvo was because of its excellent front-wheel-drive large car platform that underpins the S80, XC90, S60, V70, XC70. Ford uses this platform for its Taurus (Five Hundred), Sable (Montego) and Taurus X (Freestyle) vehicle lines. The lower Volvo models have platforms shared between Ford, Mazda and Volvo. How a BMW acquisition of Volvo could untie these relationships must be a central part of any acquisition strategy. (Remember, BMW V8s powered the Range Rover until the 2006 model year – a hang over from BMW’s ownership).

Volvo Part of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group

Ford acquired Volvo in 1999 for $6.5 billion and made it a cornerstone of its Premier Automotive Group which also includes Jaguar and Land Rover (purchased for $2.7 billion in 2000). Ford has sold the fourth PAG brand – Aston Martin – to investors for slightly less than $1 billion. PAG lost $327 million in 2006.
Reports say that Merrill Lynch estimates Ford could raise over $9 billion by selling the remaining PAG brands.
Nobody’s admitting anything yet, but lets see if the denials hold up over time.


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My Automotive Holiday Wish List

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One of the interesting things about working in the automotive industry is the exposure you get to all kinds of different vehicles and technology. And the folks at AutoPacific and VehicleVoice get to sample all kinds of cool, not so cool, and plain awful cars, trucks, SUVs, and tech gadgets. So, at this festive time of year, I thought it might be fun to organize my own “holiday automotive wish list” for your reading enjoyment. It’s not scientific, per se, but it does perhaps relate to our own “top ten” cool car bits and pieces.

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1. 2007 Saleen/Parnelli Jones Boss 302 Mustang
This is big. There are all kinds of mustangs out there, but this is the one you want to grab and hang on to. It’s officially called the Saleen/Parnelli Jones, but it’s unofficially the best 302 Boss Mustang on the planet (and it is different from the upcoming Ford Boss 302).
There are so many Mustang variants out there, one might wonder about long-term resale and value. Well, there’s no need to worry about resale with this bad boy. It is very similar in design (including awsome shaker hood scoop) to the 1970 Boss 302 Mustang that Parnelli Jones won the Trans Am Championship in. But, it has all of today’s creature-features, plus tire smokin’ power. A 302 CID (5 Liter) SOHC V8 putting out 400HP at 6000rpm – and this car is essentially blueprinted. So, while it doesn’t have Shelby horses, it does have purebred power – and a unique “look” that will keep this car’s value in the black for the rest of your life. (Watch for our podcast on the new Saleen/Parnelli Jones Mustang next week – I get Parnelli to share the history of this car and why it really is a Parnelli/Saleen, not the other way around!)


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