Thursday, May 31, 2012

GM Closing Oshawa Consolidated Line, Equinox And Impala Production Moving To United States

General Motors will announce tomorrow that their consolidated line at Oshawa, currently building both the Chevrolet Equinox and Chevrolet Impala, will close. 2,000 of the 4,000 jobs at the Oshawa plant are located at the consolidated factory, and GM apparently won't be re-investing in the facility.

Under the new plan, GM would move Chevrolet Impala production to the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, and any overflow production would not return to the Oshawa "flex line" because the 2014 Impala is a "different body style". The Equinox will likely move to Spring Hill, TN

A report by a local media outlet quoted CAW Local 222 President Chris Buckley as stating that Impala production would be split between Michigan and a plant in Alabama, but no GM plants in the South come to mind. Buckley is also quoted as saying that the UAW agreed to be more flexible with their contract in a bid to bring more vehicle production to the USA.

Although TTAC often gets accused of anti-GM, anti-Union bias, its a sad day when 2,000 hard working GM employees get caught in the midst of corporate politics, and one of GM's best plans, which has won accolades for the high quality of its vehicles, will end up shuttered permanently. No official announcement has been made, but we'll be keeping an eye out.


from The Truth About Cars

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Volkswagen Beetle Fender Edition Gets Diluted for Production, But It’s Still Pretty Cool

2012 Volkswagen Beetle Fender edition

A few weeks ago we found out that Volkswagen's Fender-edition Beetle had been given the green light for production, albeit without many of the guitar-inspired concept's cool features. Now VW has revealed the production Beetle Fender edition, and it's still pretty cool looking even though it lacks the concept's guitar-compatible, trunk-mounted subwoofer; dashtop tube amp, and the audio system head unit with a retro mesh surround. Read full story »

from Car and Driver Blog

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Pour One Out For Road & Track

It's the end of an era, as perhaps the best of the remaining American color car rags moves from Newport Beach to Ann Arbor. As the slightly snobby California counterpart to Motor Trend's unhappy mediocrity and Car and Driver's wild swings between brilliance and boorishness, Road & Track has always provided pleasant, well-illustrated automotive content with a motorsports focus. No doubt part of that was due to the magazine's distance from the Detroit manufacturers and its proximity to West Coast racetracks and the car-club culture.

No longer. Hearst Corporation is choosing to geographically merge R&T with C/D, and just in case there's someone out there who isn't getting the memo about what's expected, they're changing leadership as well.

According to the Hearst press release, former C/D editor Larry Webster will be calling the shots are the newly relocated magazine. Mr. Webster's resume includes several impressive results in manufacturer-funded race appearances as well as a variety of legitimately interesting columns and features over his career. He is a legitimate "car guy", not a "lifestyle guy" or a marketroid who endlessly bounces between both sides of the PR/journo buffet table.

Even with Mr. Webster's legitimate qualifications taken into account, it's hard to see this as anything other than the same sort of broken thinking that has over-promoted the current leadership at the other American magazines. Combine that with a move back into the sordid orbits of the PR machine, and it's easy to conclude that Hearst is simply preparing everyone for the inevitable merger of their two automotive properties.

I will miss the old R&T. There was always a quiet dignity to their leafy photography and painstaking specification sheets. Let's hope Mr. Webster makes this slide into oblivion as painless as possible.

from The Truth About Cars

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Review: 11th Gen Corolla, JDM Spec, And A Discussion With Its Chief Engineer

Two weeks ago, I covered the arrival of the 11th generation Corolla in Japan. In Japan, the sedan is called Corolla Axio, the station wagon variant is called the Corolla Fielder. My report caused consternation amongst some readers who do not expect the arrival of the new Corolla before 2014. Instead of simply accepting that TTAC is ahead of its times, some readers ordered me to do better research. Your wish being my command (this time,) I went back to the scene of the alleged research crime to sit down with the car's creator, Toyota Chief Engineer Hiroya Fujita. I asked him to explain to the Best and Brightest the birds and the bees of the new Corolla.

I also drove the car around the block a few times.

Fujita is a friendly man. When his eyes sparkle behind his rimless glasses, a laughter is quick to follow. This is the second Corolla in his career. He also led the development of the previous generation, "in its Japanese and South American version." (Hint, hint.)

"Customers are different in each region," says Fujita, and the Corolla will be adapted to these different tastes and requirements.

Asked how many Corollas exist in parallel in this world, Fujita says that there are "many Corollas, but the differences are small."

Fujita confirms that this is the new generation Corolla which will eventually appear in the rest of the world once he and his colleagues are done with the adaptions.

One of the most obvious engineering requirements for the JDM variant was issued by the Japanese government. To qualify as a (lower taxed) compact car, vehicles must measure less than 4.7 m (15.4 ft) in length and 1.7 m (5.6 ft) in width. The new Axio complies with this requirement, while providing more space on the inside.

"U.S. customers think bigger is better," says Fujita. Stateside, there won't be a "honey, I shrunk the Corolla." Fujita indicates that the increase in length will most likely translate into more trunk space, the cabin will be "almost the same."

Fujita is a tease. He says that he cannot talk about the U.S. model because it still is in development, under a different Chief Engineer. Then he adds that the different Chief Engineer sits in the office next to him and that they are in constant communication. Occasionally announcing that the U.S. model is top secret, Fujita keeps talking

The U.S. customer will not get the rounded windshield that provides the feeling of even more interior space in the new JDM Corolla. Forget about a wagon version in the U.S.

"I love technology" says Fujita, as he treats the new Corolla to a list of features that hitherto were only available in higher end Toyota and Lexus models. Will the new features survive the journey across the Pacific?

Fujita says that he can't disclose details, and that the new ventilated driver's seat may come to the U.S., or may not, depending on the colleague next door and the U.S. supplier. The chances of the automatic high beams coming to the U.S. currently are low. That feature is better suited to the "winding roads in Japan," says Fujita. The U.S. engine will be a 1.8 liter, the CVT will stay at home in Japan. The new idle stop system also won't make it across the Pacific, it is mated to the CVT.

What will never ever make it into a Corolla, at least as long as Fujita is in charge, is an instrument cluster in the middle.

"I don't like it," says Fujita, "and Corolla customers the world over don't like it either."

The ergonomics people tried to convince Fujita that sideway glances of the eyes are quicker and less distracting than up and down movements of the eyeballs, but the Corolla's Chief Engineer is not buying it.

The new Corolla will not appeal to would-be car racers and horse power worshipers. The car is a crowd pleaser, more than a million change hands each year. Ever since I was on the launch team of the Golf in 1973, I developed great respect for mass market cars and their creators. Designing a supercar is easy, which explains the high numbers of people who dabble in it. The development of a mass-market car that is consistently successful over many generations is a demanding discipline that is mastered only by a chosen few.

With that thought in my head, I drive Fujita's creation until I get lost on the way to Tokyo's new Dinosaur bridge. I make a U-turn and head back. The turn is easy, the car's learning curve is flat. To avoid complaints about different Corollas, I will leave the true driving impressions to Messrs. Dykes, Karesh, or even Baruth when the U.S. version will reach the U.S. shores two years from now. Or thereabouts.

Toyota provided the car and the engineer.

from The Truth About Cars

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2012 Toyota Prius c: Car Seat Check


Toyota has added a little sibling, the Prius c, to its expanding lineup of Prius cars, which also includes the original, the stretched Prius v and the Prius Plug-In. The 2012 Prius c is a four-door hatchback that gets an EPA-estimated 53/46 mpg city/highway. It seats five, but we found in our Car Seat Check that it will only hold two child-safety seats.

For the Car Seat Check, we use a Graco SnugRide 30 rear-facing infant-safety seat, a Britax Roundabout convertible child-safety seat and Graco high-back TurboBooster seat.


The front seats are adjusted to a comfortable position for a 6-foot driver and a 5-foot-8 passenger. The three child seats are installed in the second row. The booster seat sits behind the driver's seat, and the infant seat and convertible seats are installed behind the passenger seat. We also install the infant seat in the second row's middle seat with the booster and convertible in the outboard seats to see if three car seats will fit. If there's a third row, we install the booster seat and a forward-facing convertible.

Here's how the 2012 Prius c did in's Car Seat Check:

Latch system: Two sets of lower Latch anchors are in the outboard seats. The anchors were so difficult to find and use that they rivaled the anchors found in sporty coupes. The anchors sit about 2 inches deep into the seat bight, where the back and bottom cushions meet, and then another inch or so below the bight's opening. There was no way to get at the Latch anchors with any of our car seats' connectors. We used seat belts to install all our car seats.


Three tether anchors are midway down the seatbacks and sit under hinged plastic covers. Thankfully, they were easy to use.


Booster seat: Our high-back booster fit well in the Prius c. The seat belt buckles are recessed into the bottom seat cushion, but they sit up just enough that the booster seat didn't slide over them.


Convertible seat: Both the forward- and rear-facing convertibles fit well in the Prius c.


Infant-safety seat: We had to move the front passenger seat forward a few inches to fit this rear-facing car seat. The front passenger's legroom was tight.


How many car seats fit in the second row? Two

Editor's note: For three car seats — infant-safety seat, convertible and booster seats mdash; to fit in a car, our criterion is that a child sitting in the booster seat must be able to reach the seat belt buckle. Parents should also remember that they can use the Latch system or a seat belt to install a car seat.

Research the 2012 Toyota Prius c

Check out More Car Seat Checks

More Safety News

from KickingTires

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Graduated Driving Licenses Save Lives, Says IIHS

Driver's Licenses

Fatalities for teen drivers plunged dramatically between 1996 and 2010; for 16-year-old drivers, the rate dropped 68%, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Those drops can be partially attributed to graduated driver licensing laws that have been implemented, in one form or another, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, says the institute. However, more can be done; only 36 states and the District of Columbia are rated as having "Good" graduated driver license laws, according to IIHS.

If all states adopted the best graduated-licensing provisions for 15 to 17 year olds, IIHS officials believe that driving fatalities in the age group could be cut by more than half in most states. That means 500 lives and nearly 9,500 collisions could be prevented each year.

For those unfamiliar, a graduated driver licensing provision includes three stages: a learner's permit period; an intermediate license, which limits driving in risky situations (such as at a night or with other passengers) except under supervision; and a license with full privileges.

The current best practices, according to IIHS, are a minimum intermediate license age of 17 (found in New Jersey), a minimum permit age of 16 (Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Rhode Island), at least 65 hours of supervised practice (Pennsylvania), a night driving restriction that starts at 8 p.m. for drivers in the intermediate licensing age (Idaho and in South Carolina during daylight savings time) and a ban on all teen passengers (15 states and D.C.).

So far, no state has implemented the perfect mix of restrictions and rules, according to IIHS. States that could benefit the most from implementing these rules are Iowa and South Dakota; both states allow 14-year-olds to get a learner's permit. South Dakota even lets 14-year-olds get a full license three months after their birthday, says IIHS. The fact that these two sparsely populated states allow such young drivers to head out on the road probably has more to do with reducing the burden on parents – both states have few alternative forms of transportation.

States like Connecticut with the best laws still have work to do, according to IIHS. To demonstrate how many lives can be saved with incremental changes, the institute came up with a calculator with a slider for each component of a graduate licensing provision.

Check out the calculator here.

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from KickingTires

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2013 Honda Accord Sedan Spy Photos: The Ninth Generation of Honda’s Sales Leader

2013 Honda Accord Sedan Spy Photos

What It Is: A half-camouflaged 2013 Honda Accord sedan test mule. The ninth-generation Honda Accord will appear this fall in both sedan and coupe forms. (more…)

from Car and Driver Blog

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2013 Lexus ES350 First Drive: Luxury Without Pretense

2013 Lexus ES350

Since its inception in 1989, the Lexus ES line has traded on its core values of composed practicality, restrained styling, and understated luxury. It has worked hard to distance itself from its pedestrian Toyota Camry roots, and it's not about to compromise its dignity with a flashy makeover just to get the neighbors talking. Let the Lexus LFA and LX lux-UV shoulder the fuel-swilling, in-your-face grandstanding for the brand; the ES is quite content in its role as an amiable friend to the aspirational masses. So when it came time to create the sixth-generation ES, Lexus made sure not to wander far from the same predictable formula that has put more than one million examples of the car on the road to date. (more…)

from Car and Driver Blog

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2013 Lexus ES300h Hybrid Driven: Bridging the Gap Between Comfort and Enviro-Consciousness

2013 Lexus ES300h

Virtually identical to the V-6–powered Lexus ES350 in every respect but its powertrain, the ES300h is the brand's first entry into the growing entry-luxury hybrid segment. Before you dismiss the ES300h as just another CAFE-compliance placeholder aimed at buyers wary of conspicuous fuel consumption, consider this: Lexus is expecting 25 percent of all 60,000 projected 2013 ES buyers to select the hybrid version. (more…)

from Car and Driver Blog

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Daily News Briefs: May 31, 2012

Volkswagen of America CEO Jonathan Browning told reporters Wednesday that the automaker would add a midsize SUV positioned between the Tiguan and Touareg, according to Bloomberg News. Browning declined to elaborate on a timetable for introduction, but there's clearly room for one: The smallish Tiguan measures more than a foot shorter than the well-equipped Touareg, and it starts a whopping $20,535 less than its larger sibling. Volkswagen has no three-row sub-$30,000 SUV to compete with the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Traverse. New entries from Nissan and Hyundai — plus rumblings of a possible Chrysler-badged entry — could push the German automaker to get on board. We'll let you know as we learn more.
In other news:

  • After cutting incentives some $300 per vehicle in April, Ford says it raised discounts to industry-average rates in May, Bloomberg News reports.
  • A new study from ALG says Ford and Hyundai posted large gains in perceived quality, but Honda, Toyota and Subaru still top the list. The study's bottom feeder — no surprise — is Smart.
  • Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News expect Toyota to post the highest gains of any major automaker with nearly double the sales of a tsunami-restricted May 2011. The industry reports sales on Friday.

More Automotive Industry News
See Our Comparison of Three-Row SUVs
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from KickingTires

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