Depending on your point of view, Car And Driver magazine has authored one of the best April Fools jokes in recent memory, or the worst ever.
Author Jared Gall penned an article late yesterday claiming that President Barack Obama had ordered both General Motors and Chrysler to end their involvement in NASCAR by the end of the 2009 season, or lose their share of federal bailout dollars. Perhaps the author's name -- Gall -- should have provided a clue that something was amiss on April 1. But for a brief time yesterday evening, NASCAR Nation was badly shaken by what now appears to have been a completely bogus report.
The story quoted Obama saying, "Automakers used to operate on the principle of 'win on Sunday, sell on Monday,' but the Auto Task Force's research just doesn't validate that as true."
Car And Driver also reported the government’s automotive oversight committee had concluded that NASCAR’s new Car Of Tomorrow eliminates the possibility of meaningful technological development, saying, "NASCAR is a racing series that regulates down to the smallest detail of the cars. There's no technological development to speak of."
The story also quoted the unattributed government statement as saying, “Racing has been said to improve on-road technology, but frankly, NASCAR almost flaunts its standing among the lowest-tech forms of motorsport. This nation's way forward does not hinge on decades-old technology. We need new, and we need innovation." Car And Driver said Ford will also be required to exit the sport, if the Detroit automaker requests federal bailout assistance. Finally, it claimed that NASCAR officials are considering replacing Chevrolet and Dodge with Hyundai.
Happy April Fools Day, everyone!
This One's Not A Joke: The Charlotte Observer reported today that Sonic Automotive -- a Charlotte-based Fortune 500 company led by Speedway Motorsports Inc President and CEO Bruton Smith – has reported major financial losses for 2008, and could be forced to file for bankruptcy protection.
Sonic is one of the nation's largest auto dealers, with more than 150 locations nationwide. As of December 31, the company had about $1.9 billion in outstanding debt, with approximately $1.5 billion of that debt scheduled to mature in 2009 and 2010. It posted a loss of nearly $686 million last year, after showing a $95.5 million profit in 2007. Sonic shares closed a $1.60 yesterday -- prior to the company’s announcement – down 12 percent from Monday and approximately 90 percent from a year ago.
The company’s annual report blamed the struggling economy and slumping auto sales for its losses, adding, "If we do not restructure or obtain additional financing to satisfy our substantial debt obligations, we may not be able to continue as a going concern (and) avoid filing for bankruptcy protection."
Published reports say that the collateral associated with Sonic’s outstanding debt includes millions of shares of SMI stock.