Opel Astra OPC, Vauxhall Astra VXR, and GM's CEO is living in an electric dream

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1st Gear: Will Buick Bring Us This Sweet, New Opel/Vauxhall Hatchback
Hot on the heels of the recently launched GTC, here's the first official photos of the new Vauxhall Astra VXR / Opel Astra OPC, which goes on sale next year and is set to become one of the most powerful cars in its class and the fastest production Astra in Vauxhall and Opel's history. Based on the the same Delta II platform as the plain old Astra, this hot hatch that we probably only have a shot of getting here as a Buick, is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged direct injection engine. That powerplant gives the Astra VXR / Opel OPC / Buick-yeah-right-we-wish power output of 280 HP and 290 lb-ft of torque, enough to give it a top speed of 155mph. Other performance features include a limited slip differential on the front axle and Brembo brakes. It's also getting Recaro seats. Buick buyers will love those.


2nd Gear: GM's CEO Lives In A Dream World Where Everyone Buys A Chevy Volt
General Motors CEO Dan Akerson stubbornly says he still expects the company will sell 45,000 extended range Chevrolet Volts in 2012 in the United States. Akerson also said that the company also still plans to build 60,000 Volts in 2012 — exporting 15,000 them. "We are ramping production so we can hit a number on the order of 45,000 for next year," he told CNBC today. GM has sold 5,003 Volts through the first 10 months of the year — and appears it is unlikely it will meet its goal of selling 10,000 vehicles this year. But GM boosted Volt sales by 50% in October — thanks to finally having their Hamtramck plant up and running at a higher capacity — to its best ever sales month with 1,108 units sold. Still, it's a long way to go from here to 10,000 units sold this year — and I don't think they're going to make it. It doesn't mean the Volt's a failure, but it does mean GM's sales estimates are.


3rd Gear: Japanese Automakers Are Still All Thai'd Up
The manufacturing disruptions from the flooding in Thailand are continuing to take their toll on Japanese automakers. Honda told the Associated Press earlier this morning that it is still unclear when its flooded Thai auto plant — and its annual capacity of 240,000 vehicles — can restart production. The automaker said production reductions will continue in Japan, North America and Europe, as well as Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan.


4th Gear: Republican Rep. Wants To Kill Fuel Economy Loans Dead
The Detroit News reports that Texas Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Flores has proposed ending the government's $25 billion loan program to help automakers retool plants to build more fuel-efficient vehicles. Flores introduced a bill on Tuesday to end the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program, which was created by Congress in 2007 and funded in 2008 in two measures signed into law by President George W. Bush. "My proposed bill to terminate the program prior to the end of the current fiscal year could potentially save additional billions in unused taxpayer dollars. Repealing the ATVM loan program will preserve much-needed funds to support projects that have the best chance of providing middle-class jobs here at home in the near term," Flores said. "It will also ensure that funds are provided for an immediate need, rather than letting them sit idly by waiting for a careless and inefficient bureaucratic process that has made little progress in the past three years."


5th Gear: Delphi Is No Oracle On IPO Size
Bloomberg reports that Delphi, the former bitch boy parts unit of General Motors, plans to set terms for its initial public offering by tomorrow and begin pitching to investors next week, two people familiar with the sale said. Troy, Michigan-based Delphi will seek $550 million in the IPO, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. Shares will probably begin trading Nov. 17, one of the people said. The company had, according to company insiders, planned to raise more than $1 billion. But that was back in May. Now it's November. And that ain't happening.


6th Gear: Porsche Sells Malbec To Keep Autos Coming Into Argentina
Bloomberg tells us that Porsche importer Hugo Pulenta has promised to ship wine from his family's vineyards in the Andean foothills in exchange for permits to bring his expensive cars into Argentina. Under similar agreements with the government, Mitsubishi Motor Corp.'s representative will export peanuts while imported Subarus will be matched by sales of chicken feed to Chile. Is it possible for the auto industry to get any more strange? Nope.


⏎ Congress Considers Increased Financing to Study Alcohol Interlocks. [New York Times]


⏎ More than 50 Vehicle Debuts to be Unveiled at the LA Auto Show. [Sacramento Bee]

⏎ Will Chrysler Save Fiat? [Motley Fool]

⏎ GM to make pickups in Wentzville. [AP via Bloomberg]

⏎ Chrysler proposed $22 an hour. [Detroit News]

⏎ Used cars still fetch top dollar, study finds. [Montreal Gazette]

⏎ Tesla's High-End Boutiques are Spreading Like A Foot Fungus. [CNBC]

Today in Automotive History:

On this day in 1979, hundreds of Iranian students storm the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking more than 60 American hostages. The students, supporters of the conservative Muslim cleric Ayatollah Khomeini, were demanding the return of Iran's deposed leader, the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, who had fled to Egypt in January 1979 and by November was receiving cancer treatment in the United States. After the student takeover, President Jimmy Carter ordered a complete embargo of Iranian oil. [History]


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