Faced with congressional proposals for sharp increases in corporate average fuel economy requirements, the Detroit 3 resorted to their traditional tactic: moaning about dire consequences. It didn't work. Congress passed a bill mandating a 35 mpg fleetwide national average by 2020 — about 40 percent higher than today. After the dust settled, automakers tried to put a good face on things by saying the new rules were just fine by them.
2. Toyota, too
Toyota's role in the CAFE debate merits its own mention. The Japanese automaker joined the Detroit 3 to object to the proposed regs. In return, Toyota faced the wrath of environmentalists scorned. The green crowd seemed suddenly to notice that Toyota is — gasp! — a full-line automaker that sells not just hybrids but also big pickups and SUVs.
3. Not-so-sweet deal
In July, shareholders of Lear Corp. nixed an offer by investor Carl Icahn to buy the supplier for about $2.9 billion. Shareholders thought Icahn's bid was low and objected to the role of Lear management in structuring the deal — which, if approved, would have given execs lucrative payouts. Doug DelGrosso, the 45-year-old heir apparent to CEO Bob Rossiter, left Lear shortly after the vote. But Rossiter got a raise and a contract extension.
4. Yes, that's $39 billion
In the third quarter, General Motors set a record that it would have liked to avoid, posting its largest-ever quarterly net loss of $39 billion (that's $68.85 per share). True, it was a paper loss. But it came about when GM had to write off deferred tax credits — an admission that GM doesn't envision profits any time soon.
5. Brilliance? Maybe not
Chinese automaker Brilliance learned the perils of pushing substandard cars into developed markets when its BS6 midrange sedan more or less disassembled itself during independent European crash testing. Video of the test spread rapidly on the Internet, trashing the image of Brilliance — and Chinese automakers in general.
6. Hyundai toppling on top
Steve Wilhite quit as COO of Hyundai Motor America on Sept. 21 — just 13 months after taking the job in the wake of Hyundai's firing of Bob Cosmai. Wilhite had been under pressure to push Hyundai's U.S. sales over 500,000 units this year. Hyundai's Korean parent company apparently misses the soaring growth of a few years back. But while Hyundai dealers may like the idea of higher sales, lately they've been more worried about instability at the top.
7. See you in court
After negotiating a cozy deal for all Saturn dealers to use Reynolds and Reynolds' management system, GM began asking for software revisions. That might be standard procedure with most suppliers, but it didn't fly with new Reynolds owner Bob Brockman, who sued GM for breach of contract. GM countersued. The winners? Saturn dealers, who didn't really want to change information systems anyway.
8. Good ol' Toyota
What could be better than NASCAR in the further Americanization of Toyota? Perhaps nothing, in the long run. But in its first year of stock car racing, Toyota looked like the rookie it was. At the season-starting Daytona 500, one racing Camry was found to be using an illegal substance in an intake manifold. Since then, Toyota's seven drivers struggled to qualify for races. Toyota did take third place at Talladega in October, though.
9. Taurus interruptus
After bringing back the Taurus name, Ford stumbled out of the gates. Ford rolled out the renamed Five Hundred this summer, but launch advertising ran for only a few weeks. Ford halted Taurus ads for about a month before resuming them on Labor Day. Marketers feared the ads would get lost in the 2007 clearance sales frenzy.
10. Two out of three ain't bad
Chrysler's plan to field three versions of its Sebring convertible ran into a snag this summer. By July, the canvas- and vinyl-top versions were on dealership lots. But the hardtop had a delayed, um, opening as Chrysler and supplier Karman GmbH worked to fix glitches in the mechanism. That was the right thing to do, but the delay meant Chrysler's priciest version missed prime time for convertibles sales.