Daily News Briefs: April 17, 2012

Here's what we have our eye on today:

  • An eight-month investigation on transmission issues in the prior-generation BMW 7 Series has revealed 16 crashes and five injuries, prompting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to launch an engineering analysis. NHTSA stopped short of a recall, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The analysis covers BMW's flagship sedan from 2002 to 2008, which includes some 122,000 cars with an electronic column shifter. NHTSA says the electronic shifter had some drivers confusing Neutral and Park, allowing their cars to roll away.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports the next Ford Mustang will ditch retro cues in favor of a futuristic design that follows Ford's Evos concept. Citing sources who have seen the car, the Journal says the Mustang will embrace a futuristic look when Ford redesigns it for the 2014 model year, the pony car's 50th anniversary. Reporter Mike Ramsey said a source who's seen the 2014 Mustang described it as "the body double" of the Evos, which shares design cues with the redesigned Fusion sedan. "You're going to see a car that's much more European in look, [but] it'll still have some Mustang cues in it," Ramsey said.
  • With a sovereign debt crisis stalling the economy, March auto sales in Europe fell 6.6% to the lowest March figure since 1998, Bloomberg News reports. Fiat, Renault and Peugeot Citroën posted the largest drops, while German carmakers like Volkswagen posted gains.
  • USA Today reports a resin shortage could force automakers to curtail production. Two years of elevated demand from the solar-power industry has strained the global supply of resin, which is a major component in fuel and brake lines. The breaking point occurred on March 31 when an explosion at supplier Evonik Industries' German factory hamstrung production of nylon resin. Automakers will meet today in Detroit to discuss the issue, the Associated Press says.
  • Ford CEO Alan Mulally told reporters in California that slow initial sales of the Ford Focus Electric, which goes on sale this month, won't stymie the automaker's plans to ramp up EV popularity. Ford wants hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric cars to account for 25% of its sales by 2020, according to Bloomberg News. "We believe that the electrification of vehicles is going to continue as the battery cost comes down," Mulally said. "We see this as continually growing." Mulally's EV bullishness comes as a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates EV owners can save $750 to $1,200 a year compared to a typical gas-powered vehicle.
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