Happy Friday! Welcome back to Navigate. I've been on the road all week in D.C. and Chicago, grappling with crowded airplanes and snarled traffic. You too?
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📺 Next on "Axios on HBO": An exclusive interview with Iraq's President Barham Salih (sneak preview), the head of the IMF Kristalina Georgieva talks socialism and taxes, and Sen. Kamala Harris gives her take on 2020. Tune in Sunday at 6pm on HBO.
Smart Brevity count: 1,355 words, a 5-minute read.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
The proposed deal between one of Detroit's biggest automakers and striking workers is a calculated bet on a vision for the auto industry that's far from certain.
The big picture: GM can afford the rich contract terms negotiated with the United Auto Workers — as long as nothing goes wrong. Higher gas prices, an economic downturn or a new president with different priorities could throw off the entire equation and put GM and other domestic automakers in a financial bind.
Driving the news: The deadline for UAW members to vote on the proposed GM contract is this afternoon.
GM is more aggressive than most in the push toward the future with its majority stake in self-driving startup Cruise Automation and a plan to introduce 20 EVs by 2023.
GM tried to protect its flexibility in the labor agreement by trading higher wages and benefits for the ability to close a massive car factory in Ohio and two transmission plants.
But all 3 Detroit carmakers left their flank open by getting out of the traditional sedan business — effectively ceding that market to Asian competitors.
A new president could alter the landscape, too. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for example, has pledged to halt fracking, which would likely drive up oil prices.
What to watch: Auto sales are already trending downward. A recession would cause them to drop 20%, Smoke tells Axios.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
There is both good news and bad news in the latest government accounting of highway fatalities.
First, the good news: The number of people who died in vehicle crashes in 2018 dropped 2.4%, to 36,560, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported this week.
Now, the bad news, which is getting worse: Pedestrian and cyclist deaths keep rising.
Distraction could be a factor — by both motorists and pedestrians — but the popularity of trucks and SUVs could also be contributing to the spike in pedestrian deaths.
What to watch: The NHTSA plans to upgrade its 5-star rating system for new vehicles to include technologies for pedestrian and cyclist safety.
United's new regional jets have more legroom and self-serve snacks in first class. Photo: Joann Muller
At Chicago's O'Hare airport this week, I got a sneak peek at United Airlines' new Bombardier CRJ-550 regional jet going into service this weekend.
Why it matters: By designing its own plane, United aims to close an amenities gap for short-hop flights to try to get more business travelers in medium-sized cities like Cincinnati, St. Louis and Madison.
Details: The new plane looks like the 70-seat regional workhorse CRJ-700, but United removed 20 seats to provide more comfort and storage.
The bottom line, says Gupta: "We're trying to attract the corporate customer who otherwise wouldn't fly with us."
Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is announcing a new proposal designed to rapidly phase out gas-powered vehicles and replace them with zero-emission vehicles like electric cars, writes Axios' Ben Geman.
Why it matters: In a New York Times op-ed on Thursday, Schumer claims his proposal already has buy-in from the the United Auto Workers; major carmakers including Ford and GM; and big environmental groups including the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Driving the news: Schumer's plan has three core elements.
The big picture: Schumer said last month that a sweeping climate bill would be "one of the first things we put on the floor" if Democrats gain a majority in the Senate.
Special delivery: UPS drone fleet expands services to CVS and others (Marisa Fernandez — Axios)
Bold: Tesla chairwoman on Elon Musk’s promises: Setting ‘audacious goals’ drives success (Mike Wayland—CNBC)
Cheapskates: Who tips best on Uber? Economists analyzed 40 million trips. Here’s what they found. (Andrew Van Dam—The Washington Post)
Inside the 2020 Ford Explorer. Photo: Ford
This week I'm driving the 2020 Ford Explorer, which looks similar to the previous generation, but is fundamentally different, because it is now on a rear-wheel-drive platform.
Why it matters: The Explorer has been around for 30 years, but for the last eight years, it's been on a front-wheel-drive platform, similar to other mid-sized crossovers. Now it's back to its RWD roots. (All-wheel-drive is also available.)
What else is new: The vertical 10.1-inch touchscreen is hard to miss in the top-of-the-line Platinum version I'm driving. It looks out of place to me and doesn't seem very driver-oriented, but the buttons are big and so is the text, making it easy to use.
Fuel economy: With the base 2.3-liter engine, the Explorer gets an EPA rating of 21 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined.
The bottom line: Starting at $33,860, the Explorer has always been a family favorite, but it can get pretty pricey. My AWD Platinum costs $61,330.