1st Gear: General Motors confirmed it will spend $328 million to upgrade its Flint, Mich., factory to build the next generation of its full-size pickups expected to launch no sooner than 2013. The move will "add or save" 150 jobs at the 2,100-worker plant, says The Detroit News. The plant is already running two shifts, and GM plans a third shift next month that could add an additional 750 jobs.
2nd Gear: While the basic outlines of the battle over future U.S. fuel economy rules never really changes — automakers want less stringent rules than either federal regulators or California officials — some key details are starting to emerge. One new wrinkle according to the Wall Street Journal: Instead of setting automatic increases through 2025, the next set of rules might include a circuit breaker in the year 2020 that would require regulators to consider whether technology is moving as fast as expected and adjust future years accordingly. The big hangup: Batteries for hybrid and electric cars, which automakers doubt will come down in price or advance in power nearly as fast as some officials believe.
3rd Gear: After studying crashes involving the Volvo XC60 built with an automatic collision avoidance system, the insurance industry says there's a real benefit to the technology. According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, the City Safety system — which applies the brakes at speeds up to 19 mph if it senses an imminent crash — kept the XC60 from 27% fewer low-speed crashes than typical vehicles. According to USA Today, its the first time the influential insurance institute has been able to prove a real-world benefit to crash-avoidance tech.
4th Gear: Sure, a $500 Groupon didn't pull in car buyers — but what about $20,000 off a 2011 Audi R8? There's one tiny hitch: You have to be in Canada for the deal on the 4.2 liter V8 R8s or the Spyder version. And that means paying at least $120,000 Canadian after the discount, then trying to figure out how to ship your new car back across the border. It's a deal straight from Mr. Barry's desk.
5th Gear: Bloomberg reports that Ford plans to sell $1 billion of bonds backed by auto loans as fiscal crises in Europe and the U.S. push relative yields on the debt to the highest level in a year. The securities will be priced this week, according to a person familiar with the offering who declined to be identified because terms aren't public. Well, they seem to have had pretty good luck for when to try and ask for money from the markets, so I guess we should expect Financiapocalypse II sometime in the fall.
6th Gear: According to Bloomberg, the U.S. Energy Department considers Chrysler a "viable company" and is "working through" its low-interest loan application, the head of the agency said. Energy Secretary Steven Chu is overseeing the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program, created in 2007 to spur carmakers and suppliers to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. Chrysler asked for the money in 2008, went bankrupt, then asked for the money again, while the government has approved loans to Ford, Nissan, Fisker and Tesla. Funds from the program can be issued only to companies that are "financially viable...we believe Chrysler is a viable company," Chu told reporters Monday during a visit to an A123 Systems Inc. facility in Romulus, Mich. As long as someone does, right?
⏎ Hold onto your clunker, at least for a few more months. [Detroit Free Press]
⏎ Hold onto your keys, or save this link for when you lock them inside the car. [Consumer Reports]
⏎ Our friends at PickupTrucks.com now have roadies. Little roadies. [PickupTrucks.com]
⏎ Speaking of getting locked out, see what it takes to use a key on a Porsche Cayenne [Kicking Tires]
⏎ Alfa Romeo delays U.S. return. Where have I seen this before? [AutoNews]
⏎ Ferrari picks the winners of a student design competition, including the model above. [Ferrari]
Today in Automotive History:
On this day in 1942, the agricultural chemist George Washington Carver, head of Alabama's famed Tuskegee Institute, arrives in Dearborn, Michigan at the invitation of Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company. [History]
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