COVID-19

General Motors, Toyota workers in Texas to continue wearing face masks at work

San Jose Hotel engineering manager Rocky Ontiveros, 60, wears a Texas mask on March 3, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott announced a new executive order that will end the statewide mask mandate and allow businesses to reopen at 100 percent capacity on March 10, 2021.

Photo by Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

Reporting by Automotive News indicates that despite Texas Governor Greg Abbott's executive order lifting the mask mandate statewide and allowing businesses to begin operating at 100-percent capacity again, automakers aren't changing their tune.

This executive order rescinds most of the Governor's earlier executive orders related to COVID-19. The original orders were put in place as a response to rising COVID-19 cases, and related hospitalizations and deaths, in 2020.

The new order removes state regulations and allows private businesses and individuals to decide on their mask wearing protocol and habits. There are currently mask mandates in 35 states and the District of Columbia.

There are fallbacks in place. A release from the Governor's office states, "If COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas get above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven straight days, a County Judge in that region may use COVID-19 mitigation strategies. However, County Judges may not impose jail time for not following COVID-19 orders nor may any penalties be imposed for failing to wear a face mask. If restrictions are imposed at a County level, those restrictions may not include reducing capacity to less than 50% for any type of entity."

Toyota

Toyota, which has a factory in San Antonio, Texas told a reporter with Automotive News that they are looking into the move but don't anticipate any immediate changes to their mask-wearing protocol. Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, Inc. employs 2,542 people and makes the midsize Tacoma and full-size Tundra pickup trucks.

The automaker as has its North American headquarters in Plano, Texas, a northern suburb of Dallas. That facility employs around 4,400 people, most of whom have been working remotely for the better part of a year.

"The early read is – no change for us," said Scott Vazin, Group Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Toyota Motor North America, when approached for comment by Automotive News.

Toyota assembly plants traditionally offers tours of its facility to the general public. Due to COVID-19, plant tours have been suspended at all Toyota manufacturing facilities including those in San Antonio; Jackson, Tennessee; Blue Spring, Mississippi; and Troy, Missouri.

General Motors

General Motors (GM) has a big footprint in Texas. The company employs 8,133 people in the Lone Star State and works with 297 suppliers in the state across 13 facilities. Additionally, as of 2020, there are 588 GM dealership franchises in Texas.

The company's Arlington Assembly plant is home to every new full-size SUV in GM's product lineup sold globally: the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, and the Cadillac Escalade. GM Financial is headquartered in Fort Worth and one of GM's IT Innovation Centers is located in Austin. Assembly plants get much of their power from wind energy harvested from Cactus Flats and Hidalgo wind farms.

There are GM Financial centers in San Antonio, Arlington, and Sugar Land; a customer service center in Austin; a parts distribution site in Fort Worth; GM Financial headquarters in Fort Worth; a commercial lending office and the South Central Regional Office are in Irving.

Patrick Morrissey, Director, Corporate News Relations at GM, told Automotive News, "We'll keep our COVID safety protocols in place to ensure we continue to protect our employees."

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New sports car

2022 Subaru BRZ pricing announced

The BRZ is all-new for 2022.

Subaru

Earlier this year, Subaru announced the all-new BRZ sports car, which is coming this fall to replace the previous generation of the car that was discontinued in 2020. It, along with its Toyota cousin, the 86, get more power, updated interiors, and better technology than their predecessors.

The BRZ Premium is the base trim of the car. It starts at $28,955 after destination. Adding an automatic transmission drives the price up by $1,600 to $30,555. The BRZ Limited starts at $31,455 after destination, which shifts to $33,255 with an automatic transmission.


2022 Subaru BRZ The BRZ's compact size and manual transmission make it enthusiast friendly.


The 2022 BRZ gets a new 2.4-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine that produces 228 horsepower. Part of the appeal of small, sporty cars like BRZ is that they are infinitely more fun to drive than larger, more computerized vehicles. To that end, the car comes standard with a six-speed close-ratio manual transmission. Buyers can opt to swap in a six-speed automatic transmission, but that almost defeats the point of the car. A Torsen limited-slip differential, vehicle stability control with track mode, and 17-inch wheels round out the car's standard performance features.

Inside, the BRZ comes with an 8-inch touchscreen that runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, SiriusXM radio, and dual-zone automatic climate controls. A new gauge cluster display can show amps, coolant temperatures, or the car's lateral g-forces, and when track mode is engaged, the tachometer shifts from a circular to a color linear graph.


2022 Subaru BRZ An updated interior and tech are highlights of the new BRZ,

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No, it didn't snow in June.

GMC

Testing trucks is always fun. Well, to be honest, testing any vehicle is fun and is absolutely a privilege, but I absolutely love putting trucks through their paces. My most recent tester was the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4, a factory off-road model with style and substance. Let's take a look at what makes it tick.

Off-Road-Ready Truck With a Stout Powertrain

Key upgrades here include a two-inch factory lift kit with Rancho Monotube Shocks, Goodyear Mud-Terrain tires mounted on 20-inch wheels, a two-speed automatic transfer case, and a traction select system with off-road and towing settings.

The net effect of all that gear is impressive. The AT4 rides as smoothly as many crossovers and maneuvers with relative ease for a truck its size. In town, there's little distinction in driving manners between this beefy off-road pickup truck and most family haulers, as long as being taller than nearly everyone else in traffic is ok with you. The truck handles well, and exhibits little instability over bumps at speed, which is a common challenge with pickup trucks and off-road vehicles.

My test truck was equipped with the optional 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel and a ten-speed automatic gearbox. With 277 horsepower and a stout 460 pound-feet of torque, it's the perfect companion for a truck meant to climb over and out of gnarly obstacles on the trails. In daily driving scenarios, the engine is quiet and refined, and shows little of the rattly, noisy diesel sound many people expect from the engines. With plenty of torque on tap, the AT4 feels somewhat lively, and is able to navigate traffic with ease. Reaching highway speeds and passing once there is also a breeze, and the truck remains surprisingly peaceful on the interstate.

Comfy Interior and Useful Bed Features

Inside, my test truck came equipped with leather upholstery and optional heated/cooled front seats. We had a rare heat wave in Maine during my week with the truck, and its powerful air conditioning combined with the cooled seats to create a much-needed oasis for this rare brutal week in northern New England. The front seats are wide and well-padded, but I found myself shuffling around, wanting more in the way of hip and thigh support. There's a tendency to slide to one side of the seat and stay there, which could easily be solved with a bit more bolstering on both the seat back and bottom.


2021 GMC Sierra AT4 The Sierra's cabin is comfortable and well-made.GMC


As all of my vehicle testing adventures do, the week with the AT4 involved plenty of kid transport. The full-size pickup's back seat is wide and flat, which makes it ideal for installing car seats, but I can't imagine that it'd be extremely supportive for an adult over a long-haul trip. The truck's lift means it's hard for kids to climb in, but they had a fun time trying. The novelty may wear thin over time, but it lasted for the week we had the AT4. Once inside, the kids (and anyone else in the back seat) had their own air conditioning vents and plenty of room to stretch out in their booster seats.

Normally, a truck bed would be an afterthought in a review, but GMC has gone to lengths to make its bed a standout. The Carbon Pro composite bed material is tough, as in there's no need to worry about throwing whatever you want into the bed tough. I hauled over 100 30-pound patio paver blocks over the course of a few trips, and never felt the need to add extra protection to the bed after the first trip. I tossed an old rug and some flat cardboard to protect the bed at first, but it proved to be as stout as GMC claims. Adding functionality is the MultiPro tailgate, which offers several options for steps and different cargo hauling situations. It makes an excellent step, and when the center section is folded down, it opens up much more access to the bed when standing on the ground. My tester also had an optional Bluetooth speaker system built right into the step system, which would make for an awesome camping or beach party.

Tech-Heavy Cabin

In terms of tech, the Sierra AT4 is up to speed but nothing to write home about. Its optional 8.0-inch touchscreen runs wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with an option for wired connections. There's also Bluetooth, SiriusXM Radio, and more. It's a cohesive system that is easy to use and intuitive, made even easier by clever behind-the-steering-wheel-mounted controls that allow volume and track adjustments. My truck also had an optional head-up display, which unsurprisingly is extremely difficult to see with polarized sunglasses. This is a common issue not unique to GMC, and could be solved by switching to non-polarized glasses.


2021 GMC Sierra AT4 The MultiPro tailgate adds ultimate functionality.GMC


Most advanced safety equipment is optional, and when I say most, I mean all. The Sierra AT4, and all Sierras for that matter, is available with automatic emergency braking, a bed-view camera system, forward collision alerts, front pedestrian braking, a front/rear parking assist system, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, lane departure warnings, and more. While I get the need to differentiate models with various features, the lack of some of these safety items is hard to swallow at nearly $60,000.

Bottom Line

I tend to become infatuated with full-size pickup trucks while I have them in for testing, but that feeling typically fades after a while. The Sierra AT4 was a little different. The diesel engine and comfortable interior make for a supremely daily-drivable pickup truck, and the Carbon Pro bed with multi-function tailgate makes a strong case for the GMC. Ultimately, it's too much truck for me, but it's a solid choice for those that can put it to work.

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