GM's fire sale; Alfa confusion; Mclaren and Merc split up; R8 V10 vs 911 Turbo vs GT-R; Polo is COTY
24 December 2009

December is usually a quiet time in the motor industry, but the continuing strife affecting some of the big names is no respecter of forthcoming festivities. Twenty years ago Saab wasn’t so dissimilar to Audi, yet look at where the two are now. Koenigsegg’s ambitious takeover of GM’s Swedish arm stalled on the approach to December and, earlier in the year, GM had said it would close Saab down if a new buyer hadn’t been found by Christmas.

December 2009 in pictures

Still, as we learned from its handling of the deal to sell Opel/Vauxhall to Magna, GM isn’t shy about changing its mind and, as we write, there’s a strong chance Saab will be given a stay of execution while a buyer is sought. It wouldn’t be without precedent if the new 9-5, due to be launched next spring, turned out to be a decent car: the Rover 75 never had the chance to run its course, while Jaguar and Land Rover have both changed hands just after launching great cars within the past decade.

Elsewhere,PSA Peugeot Citroën is eyeing up a big stake in Japanese car maker Mitsubishi – in part to get its hands on electric car technology, and in part to get better access to Asian and Russian markets. A tie-up between Renault and Nissan has worked to mutual benefit, although Mitsubishi isn’t quite so desperate as Nissan was at the time.

A tie-up would provide Mitsubishi with support in developing its next C-segment car. It shared some costs with Chrysler last time, but (Lordy, this business is incestuous) it can’t do that again because Fiat now controls Chrysler, so European Chryslers will share platforms and tech with the Italian company.

Fiat isn’t without problems of its own. For ages we’ve been calling the forthcoming Alfa 147 replacement the Milano, because that’s what Alfa Romeo has been calling it, too. Until, pretty much on the eve of its launch, Alfa’s few remaining Milanese employees suggested that, given that so many of them had been given the boot and been relocated to Turin, it might be rather bad form to call it the Milano. It’s now going to be known as the Giulietta.

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Mercedes-Benz and McLaren’s long tie-up finished earlier this month, too, when the last SLR rolled down the line in Woking. McLaren will still source F1 engines from Mercedes for a while but, with Merc buying Brawn and launching the SLS, the two are going to make intriguing rivals over the next decade.

We reported on the 2010 European Car of the Year verdict earlier this month. Volkswagen’s Polo walked off with the gong, which goes to show that sensibleness still rules in this competition. Being premium doesn’t do you any favours, either; we’d consider the Mercedes E-class to be a greater success in its class than the Polo is in its class, but it managed no better than fifth. Still, the Toyota iQ’s second placing at least acknowledged that clever cars can do well.

Among all this, we did actually drive some cars, too. And how: the new Porsche 911 Turbo met the Nissan GT-R and Audi R8 V10. It was unbelievably close, but the 911 couldn’t reclaim its crown from the giant-killing GT-R. Better luck next year…

Matt Prior

Autocar's review of 2009: JanuaryAutocar's review of 2009: FebruaryAutocar's review of 2009: MarchAutocar's review of 2009: AprilAutocar's review of 2009: MayAutocar's review of 2009: JulyAutocar's review of 2009: AugustAutocar's review of 2009: SeptemberAutocar's review of 2009: OctoberAutocar's review of 2009: November

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