June 2009 will go down as a watershed month for the car industry. The biggest of the Detroit Three, General Motors, entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the largest failure of an industrial company in US history. The leaner GM that emerged under US government ownership focused on just four brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC. Pontiac and Saturn were discontinued.
As part of its restructuring process, GM looked to sell off its two European arms. In what have since turned into long-running, on-off deals, Canadian parts supplier Magna looked set to buy Opel/Vauxhall, while Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg agreed to buy Saab.
As GM went into bankruptcy, Chrysler came out the other side and Fiat took a 20 per cent stake in the newly formed Chrysler Group.
Meanwhile, in Germany, Mercedes’ S-class Experimental Safety Vehicle previewed a novel external airbag. It inflated when a collision was imminent and helped the car decelerate by creating friction and lifted the front of the car to compensate for dive.
Closer to home, it proved to be a sad month with the passing of former TVR boss Peter Wheeler. The maverick was the Colin Chapman or Enzo Ferrari of his day and he is still sorely missed.
At a time when the global car industry was focused on downsizing and cost cutting, Aston Martin and Bugatti were left wondering what the fuss was all about. Steve Sutcliffe got up close and personal with all £1.2m worth of Aston’s One-77. Its 750bhp sounded a lot, but it was nothing compared with June’s other £1.2m supercar, the 987bhp Bugatti Veyron Gran Sport. Even without a roof, the Veyron was still good for 200mph.