Deputy Prime Minister of Canada Chrystia Freeland, left, Mexico's top trade negotiator Jesus Seade, center, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, sign an update to the North American Free Trade Agreement at the national palace in Mexico City.

MEXICO CITY/WASHINGTON — Top officials from Canada, Mexico and the United States signed a fresh overhaul of a quarter-century-old trade pact on Tuesday that aims to improve enforcement of worker rights and hold down prices for biologic drugs by eliminating a patent provision.

The signing ceremony in Mexico City launched what may be the final approval effort for U.S. President Donald Trump's three-year quest to revamp the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a deal he has blamed for the loss of millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

The event at the National Palace was attended by Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and U.S. White House adviser Jared Kushner.

The result of a rare show of bipartisan and cross-border cooperation in the Trump era of global trade conflicts, the deal was inked the same day as he became the fourth U.S. president in history to face formal impeachment.

"They approved it today of all days," Trump told reporters at the White House, calling it the "silver lining" of impeachment.

The pact quickly got bogged down in more party division, however, as U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would likely wait for a vote on the deal until after the impeachment trial — likely kicking ratification into next year. Friction also emerged over how intrusive foreign enforcement of labor rules would be in Mexico.

Nonetheless, Lighthizer called it "a miracle" that unions, businesses and actors from across the political spectrum had come together, saying it was a testament to the benefits of the deal. Lopez Obrador credited Trump for working with him, while Freeland celebrated a win for multilateralism.

"We have accomplished this together at a moment when, around the world, it is increasingly difficult to get trade deals done," she said.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was signed more than a year ago to replace NAFTA, but Democrats controlling the U.S. House of Representatives insisted on major changes to labor and environmental enforcement before bringing it to a vote.

The delay at times threatened to scuttle the deal, creating investment uncertainty in all three countries and worrying U.S. farmers already suffering tariffs stemming from Trump's trade war with China.

Intense negotiations over the past week among Democrats, the Trump administration, and Mexico produced more stringent rules on labor rights aimed at reducing Mexico's low-wage advantage. Both Canada and the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee said the deal included a mechanism for verification of compliance of union rights at the factory level in Mexico by independent labor experts.

"It is infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a news conference, adding that USMCA was now ready for a House vote.

Both the U.S. United Steelworkers union and the AFL-CIO labor unions endorsed the revised deal.

However, Mexico's chief negotiator Deputy Foreign Minister Jesus Seade said all disputes would be resolved through panels, and denied there would be anything like foreign labor inspectors in Mexico.

There was no immediate sign of the agreement being made public.

Some Mexican business groups fear that Lopez Obrador and Seade have ceded too much.

Gustavo Hoyos, president of employers federation Coparmex and a vocal Lopez Obrador critic, called the government "a bad negotiator." Other business groups focused on the positive and welcomed the looming end to months of uncertainty.

Seade himself said some of the changes were reasonable but not necessarily "good for Mexico."

New wrinkle

Republican and Democratic U.S. lawmakers say there is broad support for revising the pact, which backers say encompasses $1.2 trillion in annual trade across the continent and supports 12 million U.S. jobs and a third of American agricultural exports. Canada's parliament and Mexico's congress are expected to ratify the deal without major complications.

U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, a Democrat, said sections of the text would be reviewed by lawmakers, but he saw no reason for "unnecessary delays" in bringing it to a vote on the House floor.

However, in a new wrinkle to swift ratification in the United States, McConnell said the Republican-controlled Senate would not take up the deal before congressional recess, potentially pushing the vote into next year.

That seemed to put him at odds with Trump spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham, who said the White House would "push hard" to get the implementing bill passed before year end. Pelosi spokesman Henry Connelly said McConnell had "no excuse" not to bring up USMCA, pointing to fast approvals of previous trade pacts.

Trump launched a renegotiation of NAFTA in his first year in office, intent on delivering on his 2016 campaign promise to replace what he has derided as the "worst deal ever." Canadian and Mexican leaders reluctantly agreed to join the negotiations with their largest trading partner.

"America's great USMCA Trade Bill is looking good. It will be the best and most important trade deal ever made by the USA. Good for everybody," Trump tweeted on Tuesday. "Importantly, we will finally end our Country's worst Trade Deal, NAFTA!"

For Democrats, the deal serves as a retort to Trump and Republican assertions that their only agenda was pursuing his impeachment.

In addition to the labor provisions, Democrats said they won elimination of a 10-year data exclusivity period for biologic drugs from the agreement, which they feared would lead to higher U.S. drug prices.

But Pelosi said she lost her bid to remove liability protections for internet service providers, a provision she had called a "giveaway" to big tech companies.

Lighthizer included a last-minute demand of Mexico for a tighter definition of steel and aluminum in the deal's automotive rules of origin - to be "melted and poured" in North America. While USMCA originally required 70% of the metals used in North American vehicle production come from the region, it did not specify production methods, opening the door to the use of semi-finished metals from China and elsewhere.

Mexico and Canada agreed to a seven-year phase-in of the new standard for steel, Mexican officials said. The aluminum demand was dropped, but with the caveat that it would be reconsidered in 10 years.

Transcript: Roomba pooper scooper. This robot automatically detects dog waste in your yard and scoops it up. Beetl Robotics created this poop-scooping bot to help people around the house. It works by taking multiple photos of the yard and uploading them to the cloud. The cloud system identifies the dog feces and sends info back to Beetl to pick it up. Beetl navigates to the location and uses a pick and lift mechanism. The waste is dropped into an in-ground composter. No word yet on when this handy robot will go on sale.

    We've just hooked up our test gear in a 2020 Shelby GT500, mashed both pedals with the launch control enabled, and ridden the glorious 760-hp wave of power from zero all the way past 170 mph. The result: zero to 60 mph in 3.6, and the quarter-mile in 11.4 at 132 mph.

    That's quite a bit off the pace of last week's YouTuber who ran a 10.66, which isn't surprising since that was at an ultra-sticky prepared drag strip versus our standard concrete test-track surface, where it's difficult to transfer all of that power and torque to the ground through only the rear wheels, even with the optional Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. We struggled mightily with wheelspin, and we tried many different launch techniques to minimize it, such as early upshifts into second gear, setting the launch rpm to its lowest 1200-rpm setting, and even then, backing off the throttle slightly during initial acceleration.

    Our times are slightly slower than Ford's claims of 3.3 seconds to 60 mph and 10.7 through the quarter-mile, which it admits were for perfect conditions at a drag strip.

    image

    Greg PajoCar and Driver

    Compared to the ultra pony cars, the quickest Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 we've tested, which had a 10-speed automatic transmission, shot to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds but matches the GT500's 11.4-second quarter-mile time, with a substantially lower, 125-mph trap speed. The swiftest Dodge Challenger we've tested is a 797-hp Hellcat Redeye Widebody, which is even more hard pressed to find traction at launch—and is also substantially heavier. It achieves 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and passes the quarter-mile in 11.8 seconds, but at the same 125-mph trap speed as the Camaro.

    The GT500 does flex its muscle in its post-quarter-mile performance, hitting 150 mph in 15.1 seconds. That's a massive 3.2 seconds quicker than the ZL1 and 2.8 quicker than the Challenger.

    Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

    Greg PajoCar and Driver

    If you're wondering why the GT500 can't touch the Corvette's 2.8-second zero-to-60-mph time despite having nearly 300 more horsepower, that's precisely why Chevy switched to a mid-engine layout. A rear weight bias allows the Corvette to enjoy more traction and thus put the power down more effectively from a stop. The GT500's superior power-to-weight ratio shows up in the quarter-mile trap speed, where the GT500 is traveling 10-mph faster (132 mph versus the Corvette's 122 mph).

    Acceleration is only one of the GT500's talents. We'll be reporting on the rest of its more-than-a-pony-car ambitions after some more seat time.

    Car and Driver has reconfigured the way we calculate acceleration tests, so some numbers may have changed from previously published reports. See this article for the full explanation.

    LG Chem, the battery supplier for the Chevrolet Bolt, operates an EV battery plant in Michigan. It also has factories in South Korea, China and Poland.

    Going from a supplier relationship to a joint venture will better position GM to "win in the electric vehicle space," Barra said. "I see this as a critical juncture in our goal and our path to create an all-electric future."

    EVs have to be affordable, profitable and convenient, and they have to have the right range, she added.

    LG Chem brings the chemistry and battery cell know-how, while GM has high-volume manufacturing expertise, Shilpan Amin, whom GM promoted last month to vice president of purchasing and supply chain, told Automotive News.

    "In this evolution of technology, we've got to jointly figure out how do we become the most efficient at spending our resources to enable the technology to come to the table," Amin said. "This is one demonstration of the path we're on and the value of those relationships we have with our suppliers."

    There's familiarity between GM and LG Chem. Denise Gray, CEO of LG Chem's North American subsidiary, spent three decades at GM. She led its efforts to develop battery technology for the Chevy Volt.

    Last month, before the joint venture was announced, Gray noted a change in the undercurrents of the auto industry's need for batteries, one that has seen a shift from projected to realized demand.

    "We're into that segment of time where the demand is there from our customers, and they're assuming that their customers are actually going to buy these vehicles," she told Automotive News. "So we've seen a step-change in demand, which means we have to work extremely fast, hard, effective, in designing batteries and also building the capacity around the world to be able to meet that demand."

    Pete Bigelow contributed to this report.

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    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — With the new 2020 Sonata, Hyundai “wanted to excite people who are looking for a sedan,” says designer Haksoo Ha. That was the impetus behind the car’s aggressively styled exterior, and also the car’s new performance model, the Sonata N-Line.

    As Hyundai builds out its N sub-brand, it is following accepted automotive practice by dividing those offerings into two tiers. Full-on N models, like the Veloster N, will be the ultimate expression of the idea, track-capable cars with comprehensive upgrades. N-Line variants will be more mainstream, with changes largely affecting the chassis and the interior. The Elantra GT was the first N-Line, and the 2021 Sonata N-Line will be the second.

    Although the production Sonata N-Line has yet to be unveiled, we had a chance to drive a pre-production example. The car was still wearing camouflage, but the lower body kit was clearly visible, and there was nothing hiding the model’s exclusive 19-inch wheels (which are larger than those on any other Sonata) wrapped in 245/40-series rubber – which will be offered in a choice of summer performance tires or all-seasons.

    Inside, the big difference in the N-Line is the seats, which have much more pronounced lateral bolsters than the standard chairs, yet are not uncomfortably confining. They’re upholstered in microsuede and leather, and feature red contrast stitching that appears elsewhere in the cabin, which otherwise is little changed.

    In the Sonata, the N-Line makeover extends to the powertrain. The engine is a turbocharged and intercooled version of the base car’s 2.5-liter inline-four. A single twin-scroll turbo boosts output from 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft to an estimated 290 horses and 310 lb-ft (although those numbers are subject to change slightly with the final calibrations). This engine is not an N-Line exclusive, however, and will make its debut in a different Hyundai model before the Sonata N-Line goes on sale next fall.

    In the Sonata N-Line, the 2.5-liter turbo exhales through dual exhaust outlets, and its subtly sporty tone is apparent immediately upon start-up. The N-Line adds engine-sound enhancement, and the driver can select among standard, quiet, and loud modes. On our drive, the loudest setting was not overly boisterous, but we’re told that it may get more so as development progresses.

    The N-Line also gets an exclusive transmission, an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with shift paddles. Its ratio swaps are impressively quick, and the gearbox has the ability to match revs on downshifts. It was occasionally abrupt moving off from a stop, a common issue with dual-clutch units, although again, we’re told Hyundai is working on smoothing it out.

    Stomp on the gas, and the N-Line scrambles for traction but torque steer is under control. (A launch mode also is planned, but this early car didn’t have it.) The N-Line feels notably stronger than the regular Sonata’s 1.6-liter turbo, which itself is no slouch. The engine makes its peak torque from 1,650 to 4,000 rpm, and on the fast sweepers of US-87 northeast of Phoenix, it was fun to lean into the throttle and feel a wave of turbo-spooled torque push us ahead accompanied by a faint whistle.

    Chassis changes feature prominently in the N-Line, which gets its own springs, dampers, and bushings, as well as more robust brakes. The N-Line also adds a Sport+ setting to the Sonata’s standard drive modes, which alters steering effort, throttle calibration, and transmission shift mapping. Sport+ additionally will affect the stability control system, although Hyundai is currently deciding whether that mode will switch it off completely or just put it into a more lenient program.

    The N-Line’s steering has more heft than the standard Sonata’s and is confidence-inspiring without being overly heavy. The suspension tuning is not finalized, but in its current state, the N-Line definitely resists body roll more so than the standard car, and body control is firm. But so is the ride, and Arizona’s relatively minor pavement surface imperfections were dutifully reported.

    It will be interesting to see where the Sonata N-Line ends up in its final fettle, and how it looks with the camo stripped away. The car we drove appeared to be outfitted with as much kit as the Limited, which suggests the N-Line could be the most expensive trim level when it joins the lineup. That would mean a price approaching $35,000 – although Hyundai isn’t talking about price or positioning yet. We can say that the N-Line is sure to add an intriguing dose of spunk to Hyundai’s shapely new Sonata, and should further spice up a segment that includes the 2020 Toyota Camry TRD, too. That’s good news for us: fast and fun is exactly how we like our sedans.

    Auto Express spoke to Ponz Pandikuthira, Nissan’s European vice president of product planning, about the next-generation Qashqai crossover, which we know in the U.S. as the Rogue Sport. Due on sale next year, the all-new Qashqai will be the same size as the current vehicle, but sport an all-new design and ride on an updated version of the current CMF architecture spread throughout the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance. Instead of a battery-electric offering, Pandikuthira told AE the automaker's planning two hybrid systems for the compact crossover. One of them is Nissan's ePower series hybrid powertrain that uses an engine as an on-board generator to power a battery-electric propulsion system, the other is Mitsubishi's plug-in hybrid powertrain as used on the Outlander PHEV.

    Nissan's still deciding where the systems will be offered. The ePower system has served well in the Japanese-market Note, where speed limits are typically low; the maximum on Japanese expressways is 62 mph. Pandikuthira said his team is “investigating the ePower technology for Europe” even though average European speeds are higher, highway drivers on regularly doing 80 to 85 miles per hour. The challenge for ePower is that "At those speeds, you end up depleting the battery very quickly, so the range extender has to work really hard to keep the energy going and then it goes out of its range of efficiency."

    The executive isn't sold on plug-in hybrids, though. He sees them as a stopgap for up to four years, when increasing battery density and lower battery unit cost are expected to make pure electric vehicles a more profitable proposition. "We’re not pursuing a big plug-in hybrid strategy," he said. "On some car lines we’ll try it out, but the business case for plug-in hybrids is not very good." That's a fascinating assessment considering the Outlander PHEV is the best-selling PHEV in the world, and Europe's best-selling PHEV for four years straight.

    Our Rogue Sport lags in the update cycle behind its Qashqai counterpart; the 2020 Rogue Sport debuted in Chicago with design changes that Nissan made to the Qashqai in 2018. We've asked a Nissan U.K. rep if either of the third-generation Qashqai's potential hybrid systems will make it to the U.S. whenever the Rogue Sport enters a new generation - assuming our version continues as a re-branded offering. We'll update the post if we get a response.

      If you can't actually drive around the Nürburgring, you can at least pretend to do so on your table. The latest board game to try and reproduce the excitement of racing down the track is the second edition of a Nürburgring-themed version of Monopoly.

      Monopoly

      nuerburgring-shop.de

      €44.95

      This time, instead of Baltic Avenue or Park Place, you can stake your claim to specific track segments. Instead of houses and hotels, the game offers viewing stands and tokens shaped like a trophy and a tire. The trouble, if you want to actually enjoy your time at the gaming table, is that Monopoly is a pretty boring roll-and-move game. Created over 100 years ago, Monopoly remains hugely popular even as the tabletop gaming industry is undergoing a creative renaissance.

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      Nurburgring Shop

      Other than an insane number of reskins like this Nürburgring version, Monopoly doesn't offer any of the clever game play mechanics and strategy you can find in many other racing and car-themed board games. There are games that recreate the 'Ring on a board or just try to give players the feel of racing. If spending 45 euros (roughly $50) doesn't sound quite like your cup of tea, here are some other options to expand your board game collection with the Green Hell in mind.

      These games broadly fall into two categories. The first are racing simulations that use different ways to replicate the challenge of getting your car across the finish line first. The other simply use cars or racing as a thematic cover for game mechanics of all kinds.

      Eagle-Gryphon Games PitchCar Racing Board Game

      Eagle-Gryphon Games amazon.com

      $89.99

      $62.01 (31% off)

      In the first category, we have classics like PitchCar and Formula D. First released in 1995, PitchCar is a dexterity game where players take turns flicking a disk along a track made up of pieces that can be arranged in various ways. You could even build your own miniature Nürburgring with enough track expansion packs.

      Formula D

      Asmodee amazon.com

      $59.99

      $46.58 (22% off)

      Formula D (and its similar predecessor, Formula De) try to simulate Formula 1 racing without the real-time element. It's a strategic game of maneuvering and car management, with the addition of luck from dice rolls thrown in. An official Nürburgring track expansion board was released for Formula De, and it can be used with Formula D as well.

      Downforce

      Restoration Games amazon.com

      $39.85

      In the second, more gamer-y category, we can point to Downforce, a 2017 version of the 1996 game Top Race by acclaimed game designer Wolfgang Kramer. Instead of just racing, Downforce features cards players use to bid on cars, drivers who have special powers, and strategy in timing when to make your move on the track, just like real racing.

      Stronghold Games Kanban Automotive Revolution Drivers Edition Board Games

      Stronghold Games amazon.com

      $45.73

      Coming in 2020 and currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign is Kanban EV, which has players taking on the role of managers in an electric-car factory and trying to make the best of their assembly lines to secure a promotion to the managerial board. The current version, just called Kanban, features similar game play but with gasoline engines. Looks like the EV revolution is coming to all corners of the automotive industry.

      DETROIT -- Toyota and Lexus will remain active in auto shows around the U.S. but aim their displays and their spending more directly at consumers and less at the media, brand leaders told Automotive News on Thursday.

      "We are making adjustments," said Bob Carter, head of sales for Toyota Motor North America. "Auto shows are still a critical part of the business, and they're critical from a consumer perspective. Most buyers — 35 percent of the people who are going to buy a car in the next 12 months — stop by an auto show. It's a very important place to communicate."

      Carter said he was "shocked" by Mercedes-Benz's decision to skip the 2020 New York auto show, given the size of the market and its importance to the luxury segment. He said Lexus and Toyota would continue to have a presence in New York and other large and regional shows, but that the automaker may aim its marketing dollars more at experiential marketing at the shows — including ride-and-drives at auto shows — instead of press conferences.

      "What you will see us do is align our investments to those shows relative to the size of the markets," Carter said. "We'll adjust the investment on media days, but to the consumer, it's still the place to be."

      Carter said Toyota and Lexus planned to launch 31 new vehicles or derivatives of existing vehicles over the next three years — seven more than it had done over the previous 36-month period.

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        If those oddly shaped autonomous vehicles above look weird to you, you'd better stand back, because Toyota is thinking in a lot of new directions. "Mobility for all―bringing the joy and freedom of movement to all people―is the goal we work toward," says Toyota on its website. The company goes on to state that it aims to create innovations in next-generation mobility featuring cutting-edge technologies with the potential for "expanding the possibilities of future mobility."

        image
        Toyota e-Palette.
        Toyota

        Is this just fancy corporate-speak? Not according to top Toyota executives. "I think of us as the Human Movement Company," says Jack Hollis, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota division of Toyota Motor North America. "We're looking out globally," Hollis says, in considering the needs of the world's diverse population. "In this country we think of mobility as cars, but mobility is different for different people around the world."

        Hollis won't say what products the company will be announcing in the next several years, but he alludes to the fact that it could be just about anything that helps people get around better. "For people in some countries, it could be a single-seat transporter like our iRoad," a cool-looking, experimental, three-wheel electric vehicle made for low-speed inner-city travel that leans into turns like a bicycle.

        "In some places it could be an electric skateboard—or even shoes!" Hollis laughs and waves away the idea that Toyota will be getting into footwear. "But what about giving an elderly person a better way to get around when you have to take their car keys away? It could be a robo-taxi."

        image

        Toyota

        Or something else entirely; Toyota has research initiatives into dozens of related fields. Its robotics group not only has created the amazing T-HR3 Humanoid robot, which could, theoretically, do your housework. But it has used that technology to build robotic people helpers like the Human Support robot; it looks like C-3PO's little brother, and it can provide bedside nursing support for the sick or elderly. The company has also shown the exoskeleton-like WelWalk rehabilitation device, which assists patients recovering from leg paralysis. Walking is, after all, the most basic form of mobility.

        Toyota's corporate vision of mobility also encompasses helping people get places with less stress, cost, and wasted time. Toyota's Ha:Mo project—Ha:Mo stands for "Harmonious Mobility Network"—aims to integrate shared vehicle use and public transportation to make mobility in congested cities quicker, more convenient, and more efficient. And of course, Toyota is working on all of the same autonomous, connected-car, and electric-vehicle initiatives as every other auto manufacturer.

        "When people are mobile, their lives are better, they're happier," says Hollis. Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda, Hollis says, "told me that his KPI—his key performance indicator—was smiles. I said, 'Really?' He said, 'Yes!' "

        Toyota will showcase one of its mobility-product experiments, the e-Palette, by providing a fleet of the autonomous, vanlike people movers to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics games. The driverless vehicles will be available to transport the athletes to and from their events.