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GMC and Buick will offer a feature-heavy advanced infotainment system called Intellilink by December to combat Ford's Sync-based system.

Intellilink is to be introduced first on the GMC Terrain in the fall and by the end of the year it will appear in Buick models – the LaCrosse, Regal and Verano compact sedan.

The system is basically the same as the MyLink system introduced by Chevrolet earlier this year, which allows users to use a Bluetooth-connected smartphone to simply ask to "play (artist)" or "call (name of contact)," which will then ask you if you'd like their home or mobile number.

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With an iPhone or Android smartphone, there's also an app that allows one to start the car or lock the doors remotely, but not on Blackberrys yet. In Canada, it also won't offer a WiFi hub, or allow the Internet radio streaming app Pandora, for wireless provider and regulatory reasons, respectively.

GM says the Stitcher SmartRadio app will work in Canada on non-BB smartphones though, with Intellilink using only apps that can be controlled by voice commands, though there will be onscreen functionality as well.

A regular Bluetooth cell phone can also be paired up to use the voice functions, while an iPod or USB with music can also be connected and controlled with voice, display or steering wheel controls.

GM is studying the use of the forward-facing camera it uses for object detection to integrate it into one's online social circles direct from the car, said Byron Shaw, managing director of GM's Advanced Technology office in Silicon Valley. "We're looking at a way to take pictures from there and posting it in real time on Facebook," he said.

Diesel Cruze may be on the way

The hot-selling Chevrolet Cruze is set to receive a diesel version in North America, the Associated Press reported this week, citing anonymous sources that suggested the car wouldn't arrive until 2013.

The Cruze diesel could challenge the Toyota Prius for most fuel-efficient car on the market, with an average near 50 mpg (4.7 litres/100 km), AP reported.

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GM Canada has been barraged by questions from the media over why the Cruze won't offer a hatchback version of the car, as it does in other markets. The answer lies with American product planners, who did not feel it was worth producing at the Lordstown, Ohio, plant where the North American Cruze is built.

Such planners may point to American sales charts as vindication, as the Cruze just became the best-selling car in the country in June, and has climbed to within the top five in Canada.

But the much-touted American disdain for hatches appears to be eroding, with the Detroit News citing Ward's Auto data this week that shows that hatchback sales in the United States were up 63 per cent between 2006 and 2010, while overall car sales were down 23 per cent.

As always, what the U.S. wants, Canada gets.

Ontario cracking down on distracted driving

The OPP is targeting distracted and texting drivers in a month-long campaign it's calling Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other, in an effort to increase compliance with Ontario's ban on using hand-held devices while driving.

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In the first week of the campaign, the provincial police force laid more than 1,600 charges related to distracted driving, with OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis warning there are many more thousand to come, judging by the number of drivers he sees talking or texting on the road.

OPP officers will pull over drivers caught using any phone or music device while driving, but will be looking for evidence of careless driving due to other distractions as well, such as eating, playing with the stereo, or hunting around in the vehicle for something when you're not stopped at a light.

Those caught using a cell phone face a first-time fine of $155, or $110 for using any other device (iPod, USB, etc.), while the more serious careless driving charges carry fines ranging from $400 to $2,000, possible licence suspension or even jail time for up to six months.

Canada out of running for Audi plant

Audi officials in Germany acknowledge they are planning a new production plant in North America, its location and timing to be decided in the next three years, but it looks as if Canada may already be out of the running.

A report in trade journal Automotive News this week quoted Audi CEO Rupert Stadler emphatically stating that a new production facility was needed in the United States. "It is totally clear that we need new production capacity in the U.S.," Stadler told the paper in an interview in Germany. "The question only is when."

It should be noted that among European auto executives, it's common to use "the U.S." when discussing both the Canadian and U.S. markets, and perhaps Mexico.

But the report also suggested that a second plant for engines and transmissions could be part of the plan, which could be shared with Volkswagen. Volkswagen inaugurated its only North American assembly plant in the southern U.S. in May, with the opening of the Chattanooga, Tenn., facility that builds the 2012 Passat.

APA urging class action for fuel buyers

A Canadian consumer protection group is urging drivers to join it in a potential class-action lawsuit against major Canadian gasoline distributors over gas pumps that overcharged buyers for fuel by pumping less fuel into the tank than displayed on the pump.

The watchdog Automobile Protection Agency said that a study conducted between 1999 and 2007 and published by Measurement Canada showed that 4.9 per cent of all gas pumps inspected exceeded the allowable 0.5 per cent variance.

And perhaps not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of those variances involved pumping in less fuel than displayed, not more.

The APA says that the amount of fuel loss is small per transaction, but because of the huge quantities of fuel used in Canada in those years, the figure represents "a substantial amount from which consumers of fuel and car drivers have been deprived."

The group says it has filed a class action suit against Petro-Canada, Imperial Oil (Esso), Ultramar, Irving Oil and Shell Canada, whose pumps were "especially identified" in the report. Any individual driver, or group/company of 50 people or less, who has records of filling up between Jan. 1, 1999, and Sept. 1, 2007, may be eligible to join the suit, and the more interest shown, the more likely the class action to be authorized, the APA said.

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