Japanese automakers get back on their feet, a limited run for Porsche's 918 Hybrid Spyder, and more news in motoring this week.
Melbourne may bow out of Grand Prix circuit
Japanese get back on feet
Japanese automobile manufacturers were slowly resuming production this week after extensive damage caused by a devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami halted output.
The maker of Subaru autos, Fuji Heavy Industries, said it was scheduled to start making parts for foreign production and spare parts earlier this week.
Japanese automakers are expected to rebound once they restart production following the earthquake and tsunami, which killed at least 9,000 people in the country's north-east. But industry analysts say they would be hampered by power shortages and damage to roads.
Toyota Motor Corp, the world's biggest automobile manufacturer, was deciding on Tuesday when it could restart auto production at 11 factories in Japan, said a company spokeswoman, Shiori Hashimoto. Toyota produces the Prius hybrid and Lexus luxury models.
Toyota resumed some parts production last week, Hashimoto said.
Honda had not decided whether to resume production at its two auto factories and one motorcycle plant.
Porsche will be taking just 918 orders for the 918 Hybrid Spyder
Porsche began taking orders for production versions of its 918 Hybrid Spyder concept this week.
The 918 made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show last year. Production of the car, which will start in September 2013 at the company's Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen plant, will be limited to just 918 units.
The 918 has an electric-hybrid powertrain, with a V8 capable of more than 500hp coupled with two electric motors that deliver a total of 218hp. Instead of the flywheel the concept uses to store energy, the production version will have a lithium-ion battery pack that can be plugged in for charging. The combination gives a zero-to-100kph acceleration time of 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 320kph, while fuel consumption is estimated to be about 3L/100km, according to Porsche.
This type of performance doesn't come cheap, though; prices for the track-only 918 will start at US$897,550 (Dh3.3 million) in the GCC. But to make the wait for the car bearable, Porsche is offering 918 customers the chance to purchase a special-edition 911 Turbo S "Edition 918 Spyder" in the meantime. In a colour to match your upcoming 918, naturally.
IndyCar boss baits the hook
The IndyCar chief executive says drivers from four rival circuits - Nascar, Formula One, Supercross and Rally - have expressed interest in his offer of US$5million (Dh18m) if one of them can win his series' season-ending race in Las Vegas.
"Some of the names are fantastic," Randy Bernard said, without revealing the names. "I think people will be surprised on who wants to drive it."
The October 16 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be open to as many as five outside drivers, who must be picked by a selection committee and then qualify at the track on race weekend.
Bernard hopes to increase the esteem in which open-wheel racing is held.
"Our drivers have not been able to create the credibility they need," he said. "It's not because they don't have the talent; it's because there's been no emotional attachment to our fan base. What we have to do is bring that back."
The reigning IndyCar champion, Scottish-born Dario Franchitti, has also raced in the Nascar and British F3 series.
The IndyCar organisation is owned by Hulman & Co, which also owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Tomorrow's Honda Grand Prix in Florida is the first of 17 races in this year's IndyCar season.
German heavy truck maker Man roars back into profitability
The German heavy truck maker Man said this week that its difficulties were behind it, as it roared back into profit in 2010 and predicted a clear road ahead.
Net profit rose by 722 million euros (Dh3.77bn) last year, the fi258 million in 2009.
"Man regained its strength in 2010. Profit in the operating business doubled," said Georg Pachta-Reyhofen, the chief executive.
The group's chief financial officer, Frank Lutz, added: "Following a good few months, we expect revenue growth of between seven and 10 percent for 2011."
Operating profit in 2010 rose to 1.035bn euros, the firm said.
Man is paying €84m in dividends to shareholders, about 40 per cent higher than had been expected.
Volkswagen owns 30 per cent of Man and wants to merge it with Sweden's Scania, which VW controls, to create Europe's leading truck manufacturer.
Australians and Ecclestone sound alarm over Melbourne
The chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corp has said this year's race in Melbourne could be the last.
Ron Walker told The Sydney Morning Herald that heavy licensing fees paid to the Formula One organisation could "break the camel's back" and prompt the government of Victoria state to let the race's contract lapse in 2015.
The Formula One chief, Bernie Ecclestone, went one better and said the Melbourne race might not even make it to 2015.
"We are probably going to have to drop two races" to fit in new events in Texas and Russia, Mr Ecclestone observed.
"Australia are saying they don't want a race," he added. "If Australia want to go, they can go and the next one is maybe one of the two races in Spain."
The Melbourne Grand Prix opens the Formula One season tomorrow. Austin, Texas, joins the circuit next year while Sochi, Russia, is aboard in 2014. Sochi is also the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.