Mercedes-Benz finally pulled the official wraps off of its next generation supercar this week with the unveiling of the 2011 SLS AMG Gullwing. The vehicle borrows heavily from the past glory of the original 300SL Gullwing that has become one of the most sought after collector cars in the industry. The short roof, protruding front end and long hood all harken back to an earlier time in automotive design. The coupe also features gullwing doors that open vertically, last seen on a production car wearing the Delorean badge. Interestingly, the vehicle moves away from the controversial protruding nose of the previous generation Mercedes-Benz halo vehicle, the SLR.
Of course, underneath the skin there is nothing old-fashion about the Gullwing. Powering the sports coupe is a 6.3-liter V-8 that provides a scalding 563 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque, channeled through a 7-speed automatic transmission that offers manual controls in the form of paddle shifters. The vehicle is blazingly fast, hitting 60 miles per hour in just 3.7 seconds on its way to a 197 mile per hour maximum speed.
Mercedes-Benz has indicated that it will produce both topless and electric versions of the SLS AMG Gullwing, with the latter still boasting over 500 horsepower from its zero-emissions generators. The electric supercar is still 5 years away from being ready for prime time, according to the company's engineers.
Although the Frankfurt Motor Show isn't scheduled to open its doors until the following week, as usual a number of automotive companies were unable - or unwilling - to keep some of the their product debuts to themselves. Numerous leaks and pre-show unveilings have revealed the details behind some of the more anticipated vehicles scheduled to meet the public for the first time in Germany.
Lexus fell victim to the 'accidental' release of an Asian market brochure that contained pictures and ordering information regarding the next generation 2010 LS sedan. The top of the line model featured no radical changes, but did offer a revised look and an available sport model dubbed the SZ. A vehicle customization program called L-Select that enables buyers to add a more personal touch to their LS was also described. In addition to the LS slip, Lexus decided to provide a wealth of information concerning its new LF-Ch premium hatchback, a vehicle designed to compete in a brand new area of the entry-level segment.
Volkswagen, for its part, has made it clear that its plan in Frankfurt is to showcase its BlueMotion diesel drivetrain, with oil-burning versions of the Polo, Golf and Passat all set to roll out. The Polo is rated at an astonishing 73 miles per gallon, and each of the other models follows up with impressive fuel efficiency of its own. On the alternative fuel front, Lotus intends to display new engine technology that is meant to mesh with electric generators and provide a more effective charging solution for alternatively-powered vehicles.
Progress was made over the past week with regards to two festering takeover bids that could change the face of the industry. Geely Automotive, a Chinese car company, has persuaded its parent organization to actively pursue the purchase of Volvo Car from the Ford Motor Company. Geely Holdings Group has entered into talks with the Dearborn-based giant in order to come to terms financially over the acquisition of the Swedish brand. According to media reports, it may in fact be the only suitor actually interested in Volvo, whose attractiveness to investors has faded somewhat due to the global recession. Geely's offer has been revealed to be in the $2 billion range, which is $4.5 billion short of what Ford originally paid for Volvo in 1998.
Separately, General Motors confirmed that it would be offloading 55 percent of its holdings in Opel to Magna, a major player in the automotive parts world. The Canadian corporation has teamed up with Russian bank Sberbank in order to finance the acquisition. The move had been an open secret for months, but backpedaling on the part of GM had caused some insiders to speculate that the deal would fall through and lead to the bankruptcy of Opel. The German government, where Opel is based, had used every pressure tactic available to it to ensure that the brand avoided insolvency.
General Motors, in an effort to maintain the momentum generated by the Cash for Clunkers incentive, has decided to offer a new guarantee on all car and truck purchases that will see buyers have their money handed back to them in the form of a full refund should they not be satisfied with their vehicle. Called the Satisfaction Guaranteed program, the incentive will go into effect Monday and last until the end of November.
According to executives at the company, the idea for the plan was hatched months ago in an effort to restore consumer confidence post-bankruptcy. However, the implementation of the CARS program enabled GM to delay the launch of the guarantee until the Fall. The brand has seen its sales drop by 35 percent over the past year, but its CEO feels that the vehicles that it now has to offer are of a high enough quality to avoid the money-back pledge blow up in its face. The only real restrictions on the program, which covers cars manufactured by Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC, is that actual and timely payments have to be made on the vehicles prior to their return, in order to prevent anyone from using it as a sort of free extended test drive.