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    GM Lost $2.9 Billion on Strike

    ...analysts only expected $2b...

    General Motors' lost $2.9 billion in profit due to the strike according to the company's Q3 earnings report released Tuesday.  That number exceeded analyst estimates by $900 million. In the final two weeks of the strike, as further plants had to be shut down due to parts shortages, the company lost $750 million.  The total loss is about $2.00 per share. The stock is up 4.71 percent over Monday's close at the time of this writing.
    The strike hit 31 factories and 21 other facilities including plants in Canada and Mexico which build the Chevrolet Equinox and Chevrolet Blazer respectively. Both plants were forced to shut down due to parts shortages caused by striking workers in the U.S.
     

    Next Kia Optima Teased as K5 for Korea

    ...a swoopier image for the staid family sedan...

    Kia's styling lately has been on a good run with the handsome Kia Telluride, the Kia Stinger, and the new Kia Soul.  Next up looks to be the redesigned Kia Optima. Though the current model is only 4 years old, Kia is looking at a major redesign for 2020-2021 in the Korean market where it is dubbed the K5.
    The company released a series of concept photos to show the direction in styling they are aiming for. The flowing lines give the car a couple like silhouette, while a larger, blunter "tiger nose" grille takes up most of the front.  The running lights take on a Z shape like on the larger Cadenza and the headlamps merge into the wide front grille. Around back is a trunk lid with a small lip of a rear spoiler and full-width tail lamps. A chrome strip runs from the base of the A-pillar, up and along the roofline and then down under the rear window glass. 
    Inside is a fully digital instrument cluster and a minimal number of buttons and dials on the center stack. The standard style gear shifter has been replaced with a rotary selector. 

    We don't know when the actual reveal will be, but it can't be that far away, perhaps at the Los Angeles Auto Show coming up in November. 

    Ford Finishes With Flex

    ...Laying off 450, MKT is gone too...

    Ford is finishing up production of the Ford Flex at its Oakville Assembly plant in Ontario.  Production is set to finish at the end of November.  The Lincoln MKT which is also built on the line has already ceased production earlier this month.  In cutting these two vehicles, Ford will also lay off about 450 out of 4,100 hourly workers at the plant. The cuts come as Ford changes to an all-utility and truck brand. 
    The Flex was first introduced for the 2008 model year as a bold and retro alternative to a wagon or traditional SUV, combining some elements of both. 
    Ford is scheduled to begin negotiations with Unifor, the largest private sector union in Canada, sometime in 2020. Unifor hopes to get some investment from Ford at the Oakville plant.

    Chinese Buick Enclave Previews U.S. Version

    ...Could these styling updates be coming to a dealer near you?...

    China is by far Buick's most important market. More than three quarters of all Buicks sold are sold in China.  To that end, it should be no surprise that China gets updated models before the U.S. and also get variants that never will see our shores. Even models that are dead in the US, like the Lacrosse and Verano, continue on selling well in China.
    The Buick Enclave is one example.  In the U.S. it is a full-size model, but in China it is downsized to a mid-size model approximately the size of the current GMC Acadia. Buick just debuted the new Enclave in China and while it is unlikely we'll see it over here, the U.S. model could get many of the same updates when it bows for 2021.
    Outside we see a revised front fascia with a new grill. The running lights have the familiar boomerang shape while the headlamps have moved lower into the bumper area.  A new grille insert is there with a wider horizontal slat that gives the Enclave more visual width.

    The inside is where the real story is at. Greatly updated, the infotainment system is seamlessly integrated into the dash and a new set of buttons takes the place of the Precision Control shifter. The console is the floating type with storage underneath. (Click image to enlarge)
    The Chinese Enclave is powered by GM's 2.0-liter turbocharged LSY engine making around 230 horsepower and coupled to a 9-speed automatic transmission. 
    What do you think of the Chinese Buick Enclave and would you like to see these updates in the U.S. version?  Let us know in the comments below.
     

    Sinkhole Swallows Bus in Downtown Pittsburgh

    ...open up!...

    A Pittsburgh Port Authority Bus became stuck in a sink hole in downtown Pittsburgh this morning.  The bus was waiting at a traffic light when the road gave way.  There were two people on the bus who were able to get off the bus safely. A Kia Optima was also left with its front wheels hanging into the hole.
    The incident occurred at about 7:40 a.m. outside the Westin Hotel downtown on the corner of 10th street and Penn Avenue. The hole is about 20 feet deep and 75 feet wide.  The bus is sitting on three powerlines, two of which are high voltage 22,000 volt lines.  Several gas lines and fiber lines have also be impacted. 
    The cranes to lift the bus out of the sink hole are being set up and will take 6 to 8 hours to assemble. 
    Traffic and bus routes will be rerouted around 10th street until it can be repaired. 

    2019 Ford Mustang Gets Money on the Hood to Move Metal

    ...last model clearance sale...

    Two weeks ago we told you about Chevrolet throwing money on the hood of the Camaro for Mustang drivers.  Now it is Ford's turn, but with fewer restrictions. For one, you don't need to be a current owner of a Camaro in order to qualify.
    Every Mustang starts with $1,000 increase in it rebate.  A base model Ecoboost coupe goes from $1,500 back to $2,500 back. If the car has been in stock more than 61 days, it also qualifies for an additional $750 rebate. Better deals are to be had if you move up a bit. The Ecoboost Premium coupe can be had for $4,250 off if it has been on the lot more than 2 months. If you want more power or an open roof, GTs and convertibles are going for up to $3,500 off.
    These rebates are set to expire on November 13th.  Does that make it time to buy? Well maybe, Ford tends to offer holiday bonuses starting around Black Friday.  It's also worth noting that Ford is offering 0% interest loans for 72 months in certain regions.  It may work out to be a better deal to take the 0% financing if it is available to you. 

    UAW Votes To Ratify Contract

    ...GM strike is ending...

    The UAW has announced that their membership has ratified the new 4-year contract deal with General Motors 23,389 to 17,501.  Roughly 46,000 union members will receive an $11,000 ratification bonus while temporary workers will get $4,500. 
    According to GM, work is to resume Monday with the first shift, however GM was attempting to get volunteers to start production earlier on Saturday and Sunday at Flint Assembly and Fort Wayne Assembly where the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado are built. 
    The strike, which lasted roughly 6 weeks, cost the company $450 million per week. 
    The new agreement includes:
    No increase in healthcare contribution, retaining the current 3% rate 3% wage increases or 4% lump sum payments each of the 4 years of the contract $11,000 signing bonus to union employees, $4,500 for temporary employees $7.7 billion in investments in U.S. manufacturing plants, including Detroit-Hamtramck, a plant originally slated for closure Enhanced employee profit sharing with no cap A clear path for temporary employees to become permanent after three years of service beginning January 2020.

    Controversial! Manual Transmissions are Over-Rated

    Live in the USA and want a new car? Get an automatic

    *Note: this isn’t my opinion. This article is more to spark a discussion. I love #savethemanuals. With that, please enjoy a controversial article.

    Some people are fans of electric cars. Others regale the days of the glorious V12s which are now few-and-far in-between. Same goes for interiors. While the days of analog gauges, non-infotainment systems, and simple controls hearken back to an easier time, trends are making those just memories. Most people, car lovers or not, accept changes to vehicles. Fuel economy, safety, performance, and technology are constantly evolving. However, there is one aspect of vehicles that isn't sport or performance-based that needs to go away. The manual transmission. 

    If you’re reading this and are a #savethemanuals fan, you probably hate me for talking about ditching the manual transmission. I’m sure the comments are not going to be the most positive. Granted, my thought process of manual transmissions is not new. Performance companies such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren don’t have manual transmissions anymore. There is a reason why there has been a campaign for over ten years called #savethemanuals and fans rejoice when a car has either a standard or optional manual transmission. 

    Should they be completely taken off the map? No. I believe sports cars and performance vehicles should still have the option of a manual transmission. The Porsche911 and 718 range and Toyota’s 86 both have a manual as optional or standard. Even “hot-hatchbacks” such as the Honda Civic Type R and the VW Gold GTI/R have manuals, with the manual being the only transmission for the Civic Type R. Do they expect to sell a lot of them? Transmission wise, no, but owners of this type of vehicle want to shift the car themselves. I will admit that cost and upkeep of a manual is cheaper before you count replacing the clutch.

    This brings me to a few different complaints. First, “I feel one with the car.” Excellent! But I feel one with a car that has an excellent automatic or dual-clutch transmission. Inexpensive cars such as a Nissan Versa or Honda Fit seem ok with a manual, but what’s the point then? Feeling one with a car that’s $14,000 doesn’t seem to make sense. If you’re spending that much for a new car, why not get a more fun or practical car with a manual if that’s all you want? To me, feeling one with the car means I know what’s going on constantly with the tires, suspension, and brakes. I also do know what’s going on with my transmission because of complaint number two.

    “Rowing gears”. You start out at first gear, accelerate while shifting to a certain gear, and go down to second gear when you turn a corner. That’s what I did in my Volkswagen GTI with the DSG gearbox. For me, I didn’t really “row gears” the same way you would in a manual, but I did get to choose which gear I wanted to be in. Choice is what manual only drivers like. They can be in the tallest gear such as 6th or 7th and drop instantly to 2nd for a tight corner. Slight problem with that. Thanks to advanced automatic gearboxes that are constantly evolving, vehicles with automatics can shift manually. Not just let the car rev a little bit, but let the car stay in one gear all the way to the top of the rev range. Thanks to paddle-shifters, shifting can feel more fun and like a race-car.

    Speaking of race-cars, complaint number three is “manuals are quicker around a track compared to an automatic.” There is some truth to this but remember the types of vehicles we are talking about. This isn’t about a BMW M4 or a Porsche 911. These are vehicles that probably cost under $50,000. We are talking vehicles like the Honda Accord. Can you take a manual or an automatic Accord around a track? Sure. It would be hilarious to see a brand-new Accord go against another brand-new Accord, but it would be pointless. You don’t buy these to go on a track. 

    So, with the complaints out of the way, why do I think automatics are better? They’re fast. There is a reason that high-performance vehicles are ditching the manual for the automatic. Even in mundane vehicles, clever automatics such as dual-clutch automated manual transmissions can be faster than their manual counterpart. Driving in rush hour traffic or through a city is easier with an automatic. You can change gears the way you want and once driving becomes frustrating, switch the car into Drive and you’re set to go. With technology advancing, the automatic transmission is also evolving. Granted, I still don’t like the CVT transmission.  That said, we now have automatics with more gears, faster shifts, and better fuel economy. When was the last time you saw a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid with a manual? 

    Before I end, I have to say this: this article only applies to car owners in the United States. If you travel out of the country frequently, you will certainly be in countries where you need to know how to drive a manual. Otherwise, the manual transmission is already going the way of the CD changer. It’s just unnecessary to have to shift gears yourself if the car isn’t made for performance. Granted, with the rise of electric vehicles, we soon may see a #savetheautomatics as a hashtag. 
    What is your opinion? Are you livid with me bashing the sacred manual transmission and will only drive manual? Do you care what transmission you have, or do you only drive automatic? Leave a comment below and follow us on social media. 
     

    Preview of Ford's Mustang Inspired EV SUV

    ...Coming to the LA Auto Show...

    Ford will be showing their Mustang inspired EV SUV on November 17th ahead of the LA Auto Show.  We still don't have a name for the upcoming vehicle, but Ford has recently trademarked the name "Mach-E" and "Mustang Mach-E". Could this be a name for this new EV crossover? Time will tell. What you can see from the sketch is that it will have Mustang-like tail lights and headlights, plus a swept back, coupe-like roof line and a long hood. 
    We do know an approximate range per charge of 370 miles on the WTLP cycle, which is slightly more optimistic than the EPA cycle.  Ford also recently announced the creation of the FordPass Charging network, a way to take the worry out of range anxiety.  We expect we'll hear even more about FordPass Charging Network at the November 17th presentation. 

    Nissan Leaf Prototype Has AWD and 501 lb.-ft of Torque

    ...Looking to take on Tesla?...

    When it comes to electric vehicles, Telsa takes nearly all of the headlines, but Nissan has been quietly selling the Leaf since 2010, two years before the Tesla Model S came to market.  Now, Nissan wants some of its thunder back and is working on a dual motor prototype of the Leaf e+.  The motors are set up at each axle and provide a combined output of 304 hp and 501 lb.-ft of torque.  The regular Leaf e+ has 214 horsepower and 251 lb.-ft of torque and gets to 62 mph from a stop in 6.9 seconds, so with 90 more horsepower and about double the torque, the dual motor version should scoot along quite nicely. 
    Nissan has tuned the power delivery to be smooth but very responsive.  The all-wheel drive system has been tuned to work with the regenerative braking to help control stability even more than a normal all-wheel drive system would. 
    While it is not going into production, this test bed shows that Nissan is working on more EV systems for the future for a greater variety of vehicles. 

    Tesla Model 3 11th Best Selling Vehicle In Europe

    ...And 50 percent of the battery electric vehicle market...

    The Tesla Model 3 nearly broke into the top 10 best selling vehicles in Europe for September 2019, missing the mark by just 217 units.  Overall, sales growth in the EU is strong with 14 markets reporting positive numbers.  Germany came in at 9.1 percent and Italy came in at 6.5 percent.  Battery electric vehicles were up sharply, increasing 119 percent, of which Tesla controlled nearly 50% of that number.  Total Tesla registrations were 19,500 out of the 40,700 BEVs registered.  That put the Tesla Model 3 as the best selling BEV in Europe. 
    For September, the Volkwagen Golf was the best selling vehicle in Europe with 32,398 units registered. 
    Tesla shares jumped 18 percent yesterday after a surprise profit for Q3 of $1.86 per share, up from an expected loss of 42 cents per share. 

    Mazda Rolls Out The MX-30 EV

    ...Interesting styling, so-so specs...

    Mazda rolled the new MX-30 electric vehicle at the Tokyo Motor Show today. The  MX-30 is a new take on the Kodo design language and one of its most interesting features is the clamshell doors. This vehicle will be the brand's first battery electric vehicle, but it is unlikely to make it to the U.S. in this form.  What we're looking at here is a European model. 
    The MX-30 is powered by a single motor driving the front wheels and a 35.5 kWh battery pack under the floorboards.  That battery size is rather small compared to some other EVs (The Chevy Bolt EV is 60 kWh for example) and range is limited to about 130 miles. Power rings up a 141 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft of torque. 
    Mazda has tuned the MX-30 differently than other EVs. Rather than strong torque off the line, power builds more gradually and regenerative braking is less grabby than others. Mazda even pipes artificial engine noise into the cabin to give the sensory effect of acceleration. Mazda called the new powertrain e-Skyactive. 
    There are rumors that an MX-30 will appear at the Los Angeles Auto Show with a rotary powered regenerator, a vehicle much more interesting to the North American buying public, but for now, we just sit and wait for pricing to be announced to this European model.
     

    Review: 2019 Volvo XC40 R-Design

    ..When being late to the party is a strength..

    Automakers want to be first into a new segment for various reasons. They can become the icon for the class and grab a fair chunk of sales as competitors rush to get their models in. There is a significant downside to being first as it allows some of the competition to study and figure out where to improve on. This brings us to the 2019 Volvo XC40 which is the focus of today’s review. It was one of the late arrivals to the subcompact luxury crossover class, but it allowed the automaker to study and figure what it could improve on. How does it stack up?
    The XC40 shares various design traits with the XC60 and XC90 crossovers. They include a familiar boxy profile, wide rectangular grille, and LED headlights with the signature “Thor’s Hammer” element. But Volvo allowed their designers to play around to give it a distinct identity. Take for example the side profile with its beltline that sharply rakes along the rear door and meets the rear pillar. There is also the option of a two-tone color palette that gives the XC40 a youthful look.
    Inside, the XC40 follows the ideals as seen in other Volvos with a minimalist look. But again, Volvo gave free roam to their designers to make it slightly different. While my test vehicle didn’t come with the bright ‘Lava Orange’ carpet, there is patterned metal trim where you would expect to find wood and felt-like material covering parts of the door panels. There is a fair amount of hard plastics used, but Volvo made the smart decision of keeping them in places where they make sense such as panels covering the center console.
    My R-Design tester came with leather upholstery for the seats, along with power adjustments for those sitting in the front. The front seats are the best place to sit in as they offer plenty of support and comfort for any drive length. In the back, there plenty of head and legroom for most passengers. But the XC40 falters on the seats as the bottom cushions come up a bit short and the seat-back doesn’t have any form of recline.
    Volvo’s technology story in the XC40 is mixed. The reconfigurable 12.3-inch display for the instrument cluster is a delight to look at with vibrant graphics and different layouts to present key information. Move over to the center stack to find a nine-inch touchscreen with Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system. Many of the controls for audio, climate control, and systems are controlled through the screen, with a row of buttons sitting underneath for volume and a few other functions. This decision does make for a cleaner dash but also makes accomplishing simple tasks very irritating. To change the fan speed or audio input, you have to go through various screens to find that one menu or slider. Adding more physical buttons would clutter up the dash, but would massively improve overall usability.
    What engine comes under the hood of the XC40 ultimately depends on the driven wheels. Go for front-wheel drive and you’ll end up with the T4 - turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder with 187 horsepower. Opt for all-wheel drive like in my tester and you’ll get the T5 - the same 2.0L four, but with 248 horsepower. Both come paired with an eight-speed automatic.
    The T5 is the workhorse of Volvo’s lineup by boasting decent performance and fuel economy for most of their models. In the XC40, the T5 becomes a surprising performer with excellent off the line performance and a seemingly endless flow of power when needed for passing. Some credit is due to the 258 pound-feet of torque which is available on the low end of the rpm band. The eight-speed automatic provided timely and smooth shifts.
    Fuel economy is rated at 23 City/31 Highway/26 Combined. My average for the week landed around 24 mpg.
    Opting for the R-Design does change up the chassis setup with an emphasis on sporty driving. This is apparent in the bends as the XC40 feels confident with minimal body roll and quick reflexes. Steering is responsive, but there will be some who wished there was a little bit more weight dialed in. The downside to the R-Design’s chassis is the ride feeling slightly rough, not helped by the optional 20-inch alloy wheels fitted to my tester.
    Despite being somewhat late to the party, the Volvo XC40 stands out from the subcompact luxury crossover crowd. The styling inside and out put the model into its own space that competitors dream about, along with offering a strong performer in the form of the T5 engine. Where the XC40 stands out is the Care By Volvo subscription service. Starting at $700 a month for 24 months, this service gives you the vehicle, complimentary maintenance, insurance, and the ability to upgrade your vehicle to another one after 12 months. No one has been able to match what Volvo is offering.
    The XC40 shows that if you bring something compelling to the party, it doesn’t matter how late you are.
    Disclaimer: Volvo Provided the XC40, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
    Year: 2019
    Make: Volvo
    Model: XC40
    Trim: T5 R-Design
    Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC Four-Cylinder
    Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 248 @ 5,500
    Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 1,800
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/31/26
    Curb Weight: 3,713 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Ghent, Belgium
    Base Price: $35,700
    As Tested Price: $46,385 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
    Options:
    R-Design Features - $2,500.00
    Laminated Panoramic Sunroof - $1,200.00
    Vision Package - $1,100.00
    Advanced Package - $995.00
    Premium Package - $900.00
    20" 5-Double Spoke Matte Black Alloy Wheels - $800.00
    Harman Kardon Audio System - $800.00
    Heated Front Seats & Steering Wheel - $750.00
    Metallic Paint - $645.00

    Hyundai Develops Machine Learning Cruise Control

    ...can it read your thoughts?...

    Hyundai Motor Group has announced they have developed the first Machine Learning based Smart Cruise Control (SCC-ML). This new technology can read the driver's behavior and incorporate the driving style into the cruise control's system. It incorporates artificial intelligence with advanced driver assistant system that is essential to self-driving technology. 
    Previously, the driver had to manually adjust factors like distance to the next vehicle and acceleration.  Now with machine learning, the SCC can fine-tune these settings by reading a driver's habits.  Even the same driver may accelerate differently depending on the situation. SCC is now able to read those different situations and adjust acceleration to the driver's preferences automatically. 
    The system is specifically programmed to avoid learning unsafe driving patterns. 
    The system is planned for Hyundai group vehicles in the future with an upcoming Highway Driving Assist system that features land change assist. SCC-ML achieves level 2.5 self driving. 

    Hyundai to Debut Fuel Cell Semi-Truck Next Week

    ...Aiming for zero emission semis...

    Hyundai is set to debut a hydrogen powered fuel cell semi-truck at the North American Commercial Vehicle show in Atlanta next week. The truck, named the HDC-6 Neptune is named after the Roman god of the sea, the largest source of hydrogen on earth.
    Not much is known yet about the truck, but in the teaser it is shown to be a very art deco design that Hyundai says is based on the streamline trains of the 1930s. Hyundai currently offers trucks from Class 2 to Class 8 and buses.
    Look for an update on October 29th.

    Quick Drive: 2019 BMW X2 M35i

    ...a lot of bucks for your bang...

    The X2 is BMW’s entry into the compact crossover vehicle segment. It’s based on the X1, but with a lower roofline and more car-like characteristics. While the base X2 28i comes with a 228 horsepower 2.0-liter engine with either front or all-wheel drive, I got my hands on one with the M badge at a meeting of the Mid-West Automotive Media Association at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet Illinois.
    The M badge brings a default of BMW xDrive and increases engine horsepower to 302 and the torque to 332 lb.-ft.  BWM claims a 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds and 29 mpg. With that much power coming from a 2-liter engine, there was bound to be a bit of turbo lag and while rolling the small BMW minimizes the lag well. However, from a dead stop, there is a disturbing amount of lag that would scare me if I needed to pull out into fast traffic. Sprints from zero require planning.  When already at speed, the 8-speed automatic is quick to downshift and the engine is willing to rev. Putting the X2 M35i into sport mode does make the engine more lively.
    The suspension setup is stiff and you’ll feel all of the road imperfections except on the most glass-smooth of pavement.  That is the tradeoff for having very nimble handling.  It is rather fun to push this small front driver into the corners. My tester came with 20-inch wheels rather than the standard 19-inchers.
    This is not one of those cars that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. The interior is definitely snug and I wouldn’t recommend the driver’s seat to anyone much larger than my 5’10” frame. Because of the lower roof, headroom suffers, especially in the rear. Cargo room is small, but if you’re in the market for a car this size, it is to be expected.
    Still, in spite of its lack of size, the X2 is a comfortable place to sit with bold leather seats in Magma Red. The controls are well placed, though with a large number of buttons. BMW’s iDrive is here too, which always takes some getting used to.  Android Auto is not an option and BMW offers Apple CarPlay as a subscription service.  This is one thing I can’t get my head around as both are offered for free on much less expensive vehicles.
    Because of the smaller dimensions, rearward vision isn’t great and there are a few blind spots that can make things tricky.
    The BMW X2 competes with the likes of the Volvo XC40, Audi Q3, Range Rover Evoque, Cadillac XT4, and the Mercedes-Benz GLA.  All of those, save the GLA, feel roomier inside, making the X2 a more ideal fit for someone of diminutive size. However, the M35i can out power all of them except the GLA AMG 45.
    The as-tested price of my X2 M35i is estimated at $50,400 MSRP. Whether you can stomach $50k for a compact crossover with 302 horsepower is up to you.


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