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1st Gear: Bloomberg reports that there will be 2.5% fewer Americans traveling during the five-day July 4 holiday period as higher prices at the pump crimp travel plans. The number of Americans traveling 50 miles or more from will fall to 39 million from 40 million last year, according to a forecast by the American Automobile Association. That's the third decline in four years. The long weekend runs from June 30 to July 4. Regular gasoline at the pump as of June 20, averaged nationwide, was $3.637, 33% above a year earlier, according to AAA data on its website. The price reached $3.985 on May 4, the highest level since July 24, 2008. Travel by automobile will fall 3% to 32.8 million from 33.7 million a year earlier, Heathrow, Florida-based AAA said.


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2nd Gear: Sources in Japan tell Motor Trend that Honda will combine the best of its car and motorcycle technologies to create a new generation Honda Beat. The original Beat was a 130-inch-long drop-top produced between 1991 and 1996, powered by a 660cc engine designed to take advantage of Japanese tax breaks. The front- drive, two-seat roadster will be based on the platform and tread width of Honda's CR-Z hybrid, but will employ a smaller body with shorter overhangs, and is likely to take cues from the OSM concept Honda debuted in 2008. Expected to tip the scales at less than 2200 pounds, the new coupe will employ the CR-Z's suspension, which includes MacPherson struts on the front with aluminium lower arms, while a highly rigid H-pattern torsion beam setup will be fitted to the rear.


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3rd Gear: AAA, the largest U.S. motorist group, plans to deploy fast-charging trucks to aid drivers of electric vehicles such as Nissan Motor Co.'s Leaf when their batteries run down. The organization will test the trucks starting in August, Christie Hyde, a spokeswoman for Orlando, Florida-based AAA, said today. Initially, the group will have at least six "mobile charging units," including in states such as California, Oregon, Washington, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia, she said. "We know electric vehicles are coming and we've got to be ready for them," Hyde said. She declined to provide details on the cost or makers of the units and said AAA will test chargers from multiple suppliers.


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4th Gear: The electric-powered road is coming to an end for the Tesla Roadster. Automaker Tesla Motors will stop taking orders for the car in the U.S. in about two months as the carmaker focuses on its Model S electric sedan. Priced around $109,000 dollars, the two seat Tesla Roadster sports car was never intended to be a huge seller — and it wasn't. Tesla reported sales of 1,650 Roadsters worldwide by the end of April, 2011.


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5th Gear: According to the Detroit News, nearly two-thirds of Pontiac owners and almost three-fourths of Saturn drivers defected from General Motors Co. to other automakers when they bought new vehicles last year. The Detroit automaker jettisoned Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer as part of its bankruptcy restructuring in 2009, but hoped to keep most of the buyers of those brands in the GM family. GM "knew by cutting these brands they were going to lose market share and they have," said analyst Jesse Toprak of online data firm TrueCar.com in Irvine, Calif. "But higher sales numbers doesn't always equal profits," said Toprak, adding that GM will be better off in the long run by making its four surviving brands more profitable.


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6th Gear: A shipment of Japanese cars will be screened for radiation by Australia's nuclear watchdog when they arrive at Port Kembla, south of Sydney later this week. The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has agreed to test a shipment of around 800 cars from several different manufacturers before they are offloaded.


Reverse:

⏎ Land Rover's XL Evoque. [Autocar]

⏎ Toyota, Honda set to hire thousands in Japan. [Bloomberg via Detroit News]

⏎ Ford adding Sync AppLink software to ten models for 2012. [Automotive News]

⏎ After Child Deaths, KidsAndCars.org Renews Challenge to G.M. [New York Times]

⏎ Toyota plans to cut expenses 20% amid strong yen. [Automotive News]

⏎ Aston Martin V12 Zagato ready for ultimate Nürburgring test. [Newspress]

⏎ Airbags: Yesteryear's outrage becomes this year's boast [Automotive News]


Today in Automotive History:

On this day in 2001, "The Fast and the Furious," a crime drama based in the underground world of street racing in Southern California, debuts in theaters across the United States. Happy birthday, Brian O'Connor. [History]

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