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Making new automotive history

Once in a while we produce an issue that's fit for a time capsule.

Monday's Automotive News is one of them. Page 1 carries three stories. Each will surely fascinate any student of auto history who comes across them 100 years from now.

One of the stories nods to ages past from the start. It begins: "General Motors has been the top-selling automaker in the U.S. for the past 90 years, a stretch that began in the Great Depression, spans 15 presidential administrations and has withstood countless crises, including the company's humbling bankruptcy."

That streak, as we point out, is under threat by a disruption of seismic proportions: the global microchip crisis. Heading into the fourth quarter, GM finds itself trailing Toyota Motor North America by about 90,000 sales.

Dealership buy-sell deals are the stuff of sketchier statistics. But you'll be hard-pressed to find any month like the one we've just witnessed.

The latest megadeal adds the 54 new-vehicle stores of Larry H. Miller Dealerships (No. 8 in the U.S.) to the holdings of No. 6 Asbury Automotive Group. The $3.2 billion transaction caps a month in which bigger rivals of Asbury — Group 1 and Sonic Automotive — announced huge deals of their own.

And there may be more to come.

"I do expect that this is just the beginning of mega-transactions being announced over the next 12 months, said Erin Kerrigan, of Kerrigan Advisors.

And then there's Ford. The creator of the mighty Rouge complex made another manufacturing mark last week by announcing the largest single investment in its history. It includes the company's first factory on vacant land in more than 50 years.

And what a footprint it is. A total of 5,100 acres on sites in Tennessee and Kentucky, with three battery factories and an assembly plant for electric F-Series pickups. The price tag, shared by Ford and battery partner SK Innovation: $11.4 billion.

That third Page 1 story ends with words from Bill Ford himself.

"It's a huge stake in the ground for what we believe will be the future," he said. "And we want to make sure we're at the forefront of that future."

No one knows how Ford's bet will turn out. But those historians flipping through the Oct. 4, 2021, issue of Automotive News a century from now will.

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