Been away from your computer this week and missed all the automotive news? We’ve gathered a few of the top stories of the past week along with the weekend racing schedule for your convenience.
After weeks of debate and some delays, General Motors and the United Auto Workers labor union have reached a tentative agreement. Neither side has been very forthcoming about the new plan, as it must still be ratified by UAW members. However, central tenets involve the creation or retaining of manufacturing jobs at GM plants in the U.S., plus $5000 signing bonuses to eligible UAW-represented GM workers. All employees will receive hourly pay increases, and GM will expand its profit-sharing operations. Expect the details of the new labor contract to be finalized within the next few weeks.
One tidbit that did emerge from GM’s agreement with the UAW is that the automaker will build a new midsize truck at a factory in Missouri. All evidence points to the fact that Chevrolet will be bringing the new Colorado midsize truck to the U.S. market soon; the latest-generation Colorado originally was destined only for markets like Southeast Asia. Though Chevrolet hasn’t confirmed the move, there is no other GM midsize truck that could be assembled in Missouri.
Honda will soon unveil a new version of its popular CR-V crossover, and this concept gives us an early look at that vehicle. The new CR-V, which makes its public debut at the Los Angeles auto show in November, goes on sale in December. It wears slightly revised styling, with a new three-bar grille, upswept taillights, and a concave D-pillar with angular rear windows. A supplier document also tells us that the new CR-V will offer a choice between the current model’s 175-hp 2.4-liter inline-four engine, and a 2.5-liter inline-four with 201 hp.
Lacking any luxury vehicles of its own, Mitsubishi will soon sell a rebadged version of the Infiniti M sedan in Japan. Called the Nissan Fuga in Japan, the car will be sold as Mitsubishi’s replacement for the Diamante. In exchange, Nissan will receive a version of Mitsubishi’s Minicab-MiEV electric van. Mitsubishi and Nissan also have exchanged small commercial vans, and have a joint venture in place to build minicars for the Japanese market. It seems unlikely that Mitsubishi will sell the reskinned Infiniti in the U.S. market.
BMW’s X6 ActiveHybrid won’t return to the U.S. market for the 2012 model year, though it will continue to be sold in international markets. Availability of the ActiveHybrid7 and planned 5 Series hybrid is unaffected. The X6 ActiveHybrid’s drivetrain was born from a joint venture with GM, Chrysler, and Mercedes-Benz to design two-mode hybrid systems. Similar systems were used by the Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango hybrids, both of which were killed off almost immediately after being announced, and the Mercedes ML450 hybrid, which ended production when the new-generation M-Class bowed for 2012. GM continues to sell trucks and full-size SUVs with the hybrid technology.
After one court denied the initial request, an appeals court in Sweden has allowed Saab Automobile to enter voluntary reorganization. Like the Chapter 11 provisions of American tax code, this affords Saab some protection from its creditors while the company attempts to restructure and become profitable. Saab reportedly owes millions to suppliers and hasn’t paid employees for several months. The company hopes it can finalize deals with two different Chinese automakers in order to bring in more cash. In a statement, Saab Automobile said it was experiencing “only temporary liquidity problems.”
Another revelation from GM’s deal with the UAW is that the company will bring a plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee off standby status in order to build two “midsize” vehicles. The plant, which originally built Saturn products in the 1990s, currently only builds four-cylinder engines and miscellaneous body components. It seems likely that Spring Hill will provide additional assembly capacity for the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain, two crossovers which have been selling extremely well for GM. They are currently assembled in Ontario, Canada. The Equinox has recorded a 48.2-percent sales increase compared to 2010, while sales of the Terrain have jumped 61.1 percent year-over-year.
This week we got into the driver’s seat of some widely disparate new vehicles. The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is the least expensive of the new cars we drove, but the subcompact Sonic is an impressive entry. With a choice of two small engines, energetic handling, and nice interior trim, the Sonic is a big improvement over the Aveo it replacements. We also sampled the 2012 BMW M5, the latest in a long run of high-velocity executive sedans from the German automaker. This one has a twin-turbo V-8 engine making 560 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque, making it seriously fast in a straight line, while a return to hydraulically assisted steering also helps improve feel through the steering wheel. The new M5 is far better than the car it replaces. For those requiring less power in their 5 Series, allow us to recommend the 2012 BMW 528i. With a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine replacing the car’s famous inline-six, the 528i is still plenty quick and powerful. Better yet, the new N20 engine is expected to be significantly more fuel efficient than its naturally aspirated predecessor. Finally, we had a chance to drive the beautiful 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG roadster. Like its coupe forbear, the roadster packs a 6.2-liter V-8 engine with 571 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. Switching from a coupe to a convertible means losing the fabulous gullwing doors, but the SLS AMG roadster
– NASCAR Sprint Cup, Sylvania 300, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sunday September 25 at 2 p.m. EST on ESPN
– Formula 1, Singapore Grand Prix, Sunday September 25 at 8 a.m. EST on Fox Sports