1st Gear: President Barack Obama will unveil the 2017-2025 fuel economy standards Friday, doubling current fleetwide requirements to 54.5 mpg, but giving Detroit's Big Three leeway to keep building profitable SUVs and pickup trucks. After weeks of talks with automakers, the Obama administration softened its proposal from its initial 56.2 mpg by 2025, agreeing to only require 3.5% annual increases in light trucks through 2021. But the government will require 5% annual increases for passenger cars during the same period — a potentially tough demand on foreign companies whose product lines are more car-based. Detroit's Big Three and at least four other major automakers were haggling over final details Wednesday, but planned to sign formal agreements by Friday's event.
2nd Gear: So who's the holdout? According to Bloomberg this morning, the holdout is Toyota. The super number one best automaker from the land of the rising sun is objecting to the fuel-economy target, said three people familiar with the talks. Toyota and some European carmakers say that Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC are getting a break because fuel economy standards for light trucks will increase more slowly than for cars, said the people, who declined to be identified because the discussions aren't public. For the past two decades, Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, rules were easier on Japanese carmakers because they already sold smaller, more efficient vehicles and had to make fewer adjustments to meet a corporate fleet average. GM, Ford and Chrysler sold bigger vehicles and had to do more to be in compliance, said Maryann Keller, an auto industry consultant in Stamford, Conn. "The Japanese were always the winner on CAFE because the standards allowed them to make more less-efficient vehicles," said Keller, who served on a National Academy of Sciences panel on fuel economy in 2003. "Now they will have to start really improving the fuel economy of their cars." Chant with me now: S-U-Vs! U-S-A! S-U-Vs! U-S-A!
3rd Gear: Chevrolet took the wraps off the 2013 Malibu's interior yesterday, showcasing the car's new dual-cockpit interior that will come in four color schemes. The interiors will supposedly include higher-grade materials and a well-sculpted look. Space grows about four cubic feet over the outgoing model and includes Chevrolet's new infotainment system, dubbed MyLink, which has a seven-inch touch-screen color monitor at the top of the center stack. MyLink provides features such as USB connection, Bluetooth connectivity for phones and music players and the ability to play smartphone apps such as Pandora.
4th Gear: Ariel — famous to motorists for its skeletal Atom sports car — will start making motorbikes again in 2012 starting with a new superbike likely to be priced around $32,000. Owner Simon Saunders tells Car that Ariel would build the new bikes in the UK, but they would use Honda engines like the Atom sports car. Up to 200 Ariel bikes could be built in a year. 'What we want to do is build a motorcycle that follows the principles of the cars we already build,' said Saunders. 'High performance, fund to ride and bespoke.' We expect Hell for Leather editor and Jalopnik alumn Wes Siler will break his arm on one soon.
5th Gear: Bloomberg reports this morning that BMW and Chrysler each won three segments in J.D. Power & Associates' annual study of the most appealing brands and vehicles, including many that scored poorly for quality. Ten of the 20 category winners in the Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study, such as the Ford Fiesta subcompact and Porsche AG's Cayenne sport-utility vehicle, garnered the lowest overall-quality score in J.D. Power's annual study of new-car quality, which measures the average number of defects in the first 90 days of ownership. BMW's X3 sport-utility vehicle and Z4 Roadster earned segment awards in the APEAL after receiving the lowest rating for new-car quality a month earlier. How'd they do it? It's because redesigned models with new features tend to score high in the APEAL study but then might show some initial quality problems later on as customers actually start to live with them. Ford saw just that happen when they fell from fifth to 23rd in the Initial Quality Study in June after glitches arose in some of its MyFord Touch dashboard systems. The technology was panned by Consumer Reports magazine that same month.
6th Gear: Autocar reports this morning that the new Lexus GS will feature the crucial four-cylinder diesel engine that this BMW 5-series rival needs to compete in the executive sedan arena. Senior sources at Toyota's premium brand say gas-electric hybrids will remain central to Lexus's range, but they also acknowledge the need to "broaden the appeal of the brand and make it more accessible — and we certainly haven't given up on diesel".
⏎ Chrysler to stay American. [Detroit News]
⏎ G.M. Says Opel Unit Not for Sale. [New York Times]
⏎ Visteon CEO hints at breakup, but mum on details. [Automotive News]
⏎ Late-night car repairs prove hard to find. [Detroit News]
⏎ Earthquake knocks Toyota off top spot. [GoAuto]
⏎ Mopar unveils products to customize Fiat 500s. [Detroit News]
⏎ Ford to Increase Its Plant Capacity in India. [New York Times]
Today in Automotive History:
Italian race car driver Tazio Nuvolari wins the greatest victory of his career in the Grosser Preis von Deutschland (German Grand Prix) held on the Nurburgring racetrack in Nurburg, Germany on this day in 1935. [<a href="History]
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