Auto sales hold steady, S&P upgrades, and a button that'll tell you if you're drunk

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1st Gear: Sure, the stock market's looked more like an EKG readout as of late, but auto sales will likely hold fairly steady in September, according to recent projections from Ford and external analysts. But they're reviewing their predictions for the fourth quarter as signs indicate that the economic recovery is losing momentum. Automakers had hoped for a rebound in the pace of sales in the fourth quarter — really, they were hoping for the SAAR to pop up to more than 13 million vehicles — once Japan's automakers had rebuilt vehicle inventories that have been depleted since the March quake. But now, it's looking more like projections are coalescing around an SAAR of around 12.6 million units.


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2nd Gear: The Detroit News reports this morning that rating agency Standard & Poor's upgraded General Motors credit rating in response to the company's new four-year-labor deal - and plans to upgrade Ford Motor Co if it gets a similar deal. S&P also said it was upgrading GM's corporate credit rating to "BB+" from "BB-," and it revised GM's outlook for future ratings to stable from positive. All-in-all, good news for the top two 'merican automakers.


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3rd Gear: Citroen is again teaming up with Mitsubishi for its latest new compact SUV. The new Citroen C4 Aircross is based on the multi-diamond Japanese brand's ASX crossover and goes on sale in the UK during the second half of next year. Citroen and Mitsubishi has form here; they collaborated on the C-Crosser, which was based on the Mitsubishi Outlander, and the C-Zero electric car.


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4th Gear: Auburn Hills, MI-based auto supplier Takata is working on a device that will check a driver's blood-alcohol level through the skin. Takata and its partner, TruTouch in Albuquerque, N.M., have received a $2.25-million grant from the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), an industry group. to make the device commercially viable. The Takata team tells the Detroit Free Press it is working to make its current breadbox-sized device that uses an infrared sensor to determine alcohol level small enough, cheap enough and unobtrusive enough to be put on the car's start button, said Kirk Morris, Takata's vice president of business development.


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5th Gear: The Guardian reports that claims by the European auto industry that mandatory efficiency targets would make cars unaffordable for Europeans are not true according to figures showing 2010's new cars were, on average, more efficient and emitted less CO2 than a year before. The figures come from a new report by campaign group Transport & Environment that says the average car sold in Europe last year was 4% more fuel efficient, emitted 4% less CO2, and yet was still 2.5% cheaper in real terms than in 2009.


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6th Gear: General Motors has introduced the auto industry's first front center air bag, an inflatable restraint that is designed to help protect drivers and front passengers in far-side impact crashes where the affected occupant is on the opposite, non-struck side of the vehicle. Basically, that's a technical way of saying you don't want yourself to come out looking like the dummy over on the left. This new-fangled front center air bag will be introduced on the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and Chevrolet Traverse crossovers for the 2013 model year as standard on Acadia and Traverse with power seats and on all Buick Enclaves.


Reverse:

⏎ Japanese auto supplier to plead guilty to price fixing; faces $200M fine. [Detroit News]

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⏎ Toyota-Honda U.S. rebound brings call of 'what recession?' [Automotive News]

⏎ Auto parts firm to pay $200M fine for price fixing. [AP via Businessweek]

⏎ Toyota-Honda U.S. Rebound Brings Call of ‘What Recession?' [Bloomberg]

⏎ Mercedes-Benz Launches Perfume For Men. [Motor Authority]

⏎ The preferred Bollywood vehicle. [NDTV]

⏎ What to watch in Game 1 of Tigers-Yankees. [Detroit News]


Today in Automotive History:

At 5:45 PM on this day in 1955, 24-year-old actor James Dean is killed in Cholame, California, when the Porsche he is driving hits a Ford Tudor sedan at an intersection. The driver of the other car, 23-year-old California Polytechnic State University student Donald Turnupseed, was dazed but mostly uninjured; Dean's passenger, German Porsche mechanic Rolf Wütherich was badly injured but survived. Only one of Dean's movies, "East of Eden," had been released at the time of his death ("Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant" opened shortly afterward), but he was already on his way to superstardom—and the crash made him a legend. [History]

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