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1st Gear: Can GM Get Ford Tough?
USA Today says Ford's decision to close three European plants could spur General Motors and other car companies to get tougher. GM has been working on an Opel turnaround plan for the better part of a year, but it's unveiled few details. Meanwhile, Ford, which now expects to lose $1.5 billion in Europe this year, is jumping to find a solution. "Can Ford's distressed EU peers follow suit for a more meaningful re-balancing of supply with demand?" Adam Jonas, the Morgan Stanley analyst, said in a report to clients. According to USA Today, he credits Ford with "the vision and industrial courage to make tough decisions" in Europe, where union strength and government resistance make it much harder to shut a plant than in the U.S. GM reports its third-quarter results next week, and the European downturn means its overseas results probably will not be pretty.

2nd Gear: VW To Make An Itty Bitty Diesel Engine
Autocar says competition is heating up in the itty bitty diesel engine market. It reports that Volkswagen will make a two-cylinder diesel to go in the Up! minicar. The two-cylinder VW engine comes on the heels of Fiat's two-cylinder, turbo-charged diesel, which was named the International Engine of the Year last year. (Yes, that's a real award.) Ulrich Hackenberg, who is head of R&D for Volkswagen, says the two-cylinder diesel will be adapted from VW's XL1 engine, which goes into production next year. The diesel will fit into all the cars built from the New Small Family platform. That means there might be a two-cylinder diesel for the VW Taigun small SUV, which the company showed off in Sao Paulo earlier this week.

3rd Gear: Spy Photos Of A Topless S-Class
Car and Driver got some spy shots of the 2015 Mercedes S-class convertible (or cabriolet, as they call it abroad). It says it's the first topless S-class since the 1970s. It will be a soft-top convertible, which differentiates it from the current SL retractable hardtop. Car and Driver says the car will give Mercedes a leg up over competitors such as Bentley and BMW. "The closest vehicle in concept is the Bentley Continental GTC, which is loosely based on the Volkswagen Phaeton," Car and Driver says. It sees the car costing a minimum of $150,000, with an AMG version probably topping a quarter of a million dollars.

4th Gear: New Chrysler Workers, And A New Work Schedule
The Detroit Free Press says there will be 1,100 new workers at Chrysler's Jefferson North plant in Detroit next week. They'll form a third crew at the plant, which has worked on constant overtime, and they'll be working on a new system that is causing some discussion. Chrysler is implementing a plant called "3-2-120." According to the Freep, Most of the newcomers will work 10 hours per day on a four-day schedule running Fridays, Saturdays, Mondays and Tuesdays. Meanwhile, many of the existing 3,000 hourly Jefferson employees will work either 10-hour day shifts from Monday through Thursday or night shifts Tuesday through Friday. The plan means Jefferson North will only be completely idle for one day a week, Sunday. Chrysler says it's gaining an extra 49 days a year of production. The Freep has reported that Chrysler also wants to try the plan at its Warren, Mich., truck plant.

Reverse: Low Bridge, Everybody Down
On this day in 1825, the Eric Canal opened for business across upstate New York. It connected the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean, and opened up the Midwest for trade and development. People poured into states like Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. Goods could be moved much faster and cheaper. The canal became a primary transportation route and stayed competitive when railroads came along. Now, it's used primarily for recreation, but it's still capable of moving barges. Go visit, if you've never seen it. [History]


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Today, we'd like to know what it would take for diesel engines to become popular. Will it happen with itty bitty diesels like the ones from Fiat and VW? Or do diesels have to prove themselves against conventional gas engines? We've love to hear from diesel owners. Remember there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.

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