Consumer Reports survey names Audi top brand despite emissions scandal


Sometimes cheaters manage to prosper.

Audi, which has seen its sales increase in recent months, even after several of its models were involved in parent company Volkswagen’s ongoing diesel emissions scandal, has now been named the top automotive brand by Consumer reports.

The German luxury marque was followed by Subaru, Lexus, Porsche and BMW at the top of the list, while Fiat, Jeep, Mitsubishi, Land Rover and Chrysler filled out the bottom five.

Volkswagen AG which owns the Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen brands has admitted it installed software that allowed vehicles to cheat on emissions tests as far back as the 2009 model year. It has not yet submitted a fix that has been approved by regulators.

Consumer Reports’ auto testing chief Jake Fisher says the rankings show who’s making the best cars right now and don’t evaluate companies’ honesty, labor conditions or other practices. Audi’s vehicles had the magazine’s highest road test and predicted reliability scores, which are based on buyer feedback. Consumer Reports excluded 2016 Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen diesel models from the rankings because they aren’t currently being sold in the U.S.

Fisher said Consumer Reports strongly believes Audi and Volkswagen should be held accountable for cheating.

Buick, at No. 7, was the only U.S. brand in the top ten. Mazda, Toyota, Kia and Honda rounded out the top of the list.

Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, Maserati, Ram, Smart, and Tesla weren’t included in the brand rankings because they lacked sufficient data. Automakers must have at least two models on sale with enough testing and reliability data to be considered.

The Toyota Camry was the magazine’s top midsize sedan for the fifth time in the 20-year-old rankings of individual vehicles. The Honda Fit was the top subcompact car and the Subaru Impreza was the top compact car. The Chevrolet Impala was the top large car.

The Subaru Forester was the magazine’s top small SUV and the Kia Sorento was the best midsize SUV. The Lexus RX won for best luxury SUV. The best minivan was the Toyota Sienna.

The Ford F-150 was the top performer in the pickup truck category.

Consumer Reports buys test cars anonymously from dealers and performs 50 individual tests on them, including evaluations of braking, handling and fuel economy. Consumer Reports’ rankings are closely watched by the auto industry, since the magazine is consistently listed as one of the top places car buyers go for advice.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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Automotive Turkeys of 2017

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

There’s a lot to be thankful for in the automotive world. Cars are more sophisticated than ever, with continued innovations in fuel economy, and entertainment and safety features. But even as cars improve, there are still some turkeys—those models that just don’t keep pace with the state of the art.

Here, CR highlights the cars and tires that come up short in our current ratings. Remember, as new test data and survey results become available, and models are retired, different models will capture the turkey designation.

Worst Overall Score: Jeep Wrangler JK

The Jeep Wrangler has the dubious distinction of having the lowest Overall Score, which combines owner satisfaction, road test, and reliability into a single rating. Although loved by its owners, the Wrangler’s Overall Score is weighed down by a poor road-test score and middling reliability.

As an everyday vehicle, the Wrangler trails most SUVs, but few are better for off-road use. The Wrangler uses Chrysler’s 3.6-liter V6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission, which returned 17 mpg overall in our tests. Though the Wrangler may be better than ever before, the vehicle rocks and jiggles constantly, and handling is clumsy. Wind noise is very loud at highway speeds. Getting in and out is awkward, and the interior is uncomfortable. Its off-road performance, on the other hand, remains legendary, and the Rubicon version performs better there than our tested Unlimited Sahara did.

Read the complete Jeep Wrangler JK road test.

Worst Road-Test Score: Jeep Wrangler JK

Umm . . . see above.

Read the complete Jeep Wrangler JK road test.

Worst Predicted Reliability: Cadillac Escalade/Tesla Model X (tie)

There is a two-way tie for least-reliable vehicle.

Cadillac Escalade (shown)
Trouble spots:
Power equipment, transmission (major), climate system.
The Escalade falls down on the fundamentals as a luxury SUV; it rides too stiffly and doesn’t stop or handle with the grace of its peers. Despite casting a massive shadow, the Cadillac is not even that roomy inside. The second-row seats aren’t very comfortable, and the third row is cramped. For those who want more room, a longer ESV version that provides more cargo space is available. The Cue infotainment system is confounding.

Tesla Model X
Trouble spots:
Body hardware, paint and trim, climate system.
The electric-powered Model X is more showy than practical. It features rear doors that open up and out of the way, giving easy access to the rear seats. But these massive doors take their time to open and close. The huge windshield extends up and over the front-seat occupants, making the cabin feel airy and futuristic. The Model X is very quick and handles well. The 90-kWh version we tested had a realistic 230-mile range.

Read the complete Cadillac Escalade and Tesla Model X road tests.

Worst Owner Satisfaction Score: Acura ILX

Only 41 percent of Acura ILX owners said they definitely would, all things considered, buy the same car again.

Sometimes you just can’t transcend humble origins. Trying to make a premium model out of the previous generation Honda Civic is a fool’s errand, as proved by the Acura ILX. Adding projector headlights and slapping the Acura badge on the car shouldn’t deceive anyone. There is nothing wrong with the concept of providing an upscale experience in a small package, but the ILX’s hard ride, loud cabin, and lack of some essential features undermine that goal. Charging $30,000 for the ILX amounts to total chutzpah on Honda’s part.

Read the complete Acura ILX road test.

Worst Fuel Economy: Nissan Armada/Toyota Land Cruiser (tie)

Excluding heavy-duty pickup trucks, the Nissan Armada and Toyota Land Cruiser tie for the lowest fuel economy in our ratings, with 14 mpg overall.

Nissan Armada (shown)
The hulking second-generation Armada is very much a clone of the highbrow Infiniti QX80, a full-sized luxury three-row SUV that has been on sale since 2010. Even though it’s about $20,000 less expensive, the Nissan gives up practically nothing to its more luxurious twin. Strong points include a smooth, powerful powertrain; quiet cabin; and formidable 8,500-pound towing ability. Clumsy-yet-secure handling and a voracious appetite for fuel are among the Armada’s demerits.

Toyota Land Cruiser
The Land Cruiser is quick, plush, and refined. It has a composed, comfortable ride and quiet cabin. The Cruiser is a capable off-roader, but it’s fuel-thirsty and lacks agility. The third-row is cramped, especially given the SUV’s rather large size. Many alternatives perform just as well for much less.

Read the complete Nissan Armada and Toyota Land Cruiser road tests.

Worst Accident-Avoidance Score: Toyota Tundra

The Tundra handles well enough in normal driving, but its steering lacks feel. Overall, it just feels larger and bulkier than some newer competitors. With so much power coming from the 5.7-liter V8 engine, the rear wheels spin easily, even on dry surfaces. In our emergency-handling tests, the Tundra reached its limits of tire grip early on, and its top speed navigating our emergency-avoidance maneuver was quite low. Standard electronic stability control helped keep it on course.

Read the complete Toyota Tundra road test.

Worst Winter-Driving Performance: Ford Focus

We asked subscribers to rate their vehicle’s performance in snowy conditions. The results, based on 36,000 vehicles between model years 2013 and 2016, show that some models are better than others. And all of them were rated better than the Ford Focus.

Sporty handling, relatively low noise, and a well-done interior make the Focus feel more like a small sports sedan than a humdrum compact. Though not blazingly fast, the Focus does get good fuel economy: We recorded 29 mpg overall in our tests for both the four-cylinder and three-cylinder turbo. But several flaws keep it from being one of our top-rated small cars. The most irksome of those is the PowerShift automatic transmission, which stumbles at low speeds.

Read the complete Ford Focus road test.

Worst All-Season Tire: GT Radial Champiro VP1

The GT Radial Champiro VP1 is the lowest-rated among all-season car tires, and its score is particularly hurt by Poor marks for snow traction and ice braking. Its performance in other test categories is Good or better. Our engineers have noted that it is particularly comfortable and quiet. Ultimately, this is more a three-season, rather than an all-season, tire.

See the complete GT Radial Champiro VP1 ratings.

Worst Winter/Snow Tire: Firestone WinterForce

The Firestone WinterForce is the lowest-rated tire in the winter/snow category. In particular, it scored a Poor for noise and wet braking. It got just a Fair rating for dry braking, handling, ice braking, and rolling resistance. To its credit, the WinterForce excelled in hydroplaning, snow traction, and ride comfort evaluations. There are clearly better all-around tires available.

See the complete Firestone WinterForce ratings.

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2017, Consumer Reports, Inc.

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Amazon announces plans to create more than 100,000 US chores

Online retailer prepares to expand full-time US workforce by more than 50% over next 18 months, with hires from Florida to California

Amazon plans to create more than 100,000 jobs in the United States, from software growth to warehouse run, becoming the latest company to boast a hire spree since Donald Trump won the US presidential election in November.

The worlds largest online retailer announced on Thursday that it would grow its full-time US workforce by more than 50% to more than 280,000 in the next 18 months.

Amazon is expending heavily on new warehouses in order to be allowed to stock goods closer to customers and fulfill orders quickly and inexpensively. The new hires, from Florida to Texas to California, will be key to the companys promise of two-day shipping in the membership of its Amazon Prime shopping club, which has given it an edge over rivals.

A BGC Partners analyst, Colin Gillis, said hiring was expected. Amazon continues to meaningfully grow above e-commerce rates and continues to take share from traditional retailers, he told.

The e-commerce giant said in October it would add 26 fulfillment centres in 2016, mostly in Northern america. More are under construction.

The new jobs will extend beyond Amazons Seattle headquarters to communities across the United States, CEO Jeff Bezos said in the release. Amazon did not break down what share of jobs would go to corporate roles versus fulfillment run.
A spokesman for Trumps transition team dedicated the president-elect partial credit for the announcement.

The president-elect met with heads of several of the tech companies and urged them to keep their jobs and production inside the United States, spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.

Job creation has become a hot-button political issue since the 8 November election. Ford Motor Co last week reversed plans for a $1.6 bn factory in Mexico and said it would add 700 employment opportunities in Michigan after receiving criticism from Trump.
The president-elect on Wednesday said he would be the greatest undertakings producer that God ever created.

Trump had criticized Amazon during his campaign, telling the technology giant did not pay its fair share of taxes.

Amazon shares were up less than 1% in early afternoon trading.

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Deliveroo creates $385 M in new funding , now valued at’ over$ 2 Billion’

Deliveroo, the London headquartered restaurant food delivery startup, has raised $385 million in new funding, giving it a valuation of “over$ 2 billion, ” according to the company.

The Series F round is led by U.S. fund administrators T. Rowe Price, and Fidelity — who have previously backed the likes of Facebook, AirBnB and Tesla — with existing investors DST Global, General Catalyst, Index Ventures, and Accel Partners also following on. Total funding for the European unicorn now sits at $860 million.

The new capital will be used by Deliveroo to invest in three aspects of its business 😛 TAGEND

The first is expansion of its “Editions”( previously called RooBox) program, which find it open delivery-only kitchens to enable partner eateries to expand without any of the traditional upfront costs, whilst increasing food selection for customers and optimising delivery times.

Second, the company plans to continue to grow the size of its technology team who, amongst other things, is currently working on Deliveroo’s “real-time logistics algorithm and artificial intelligence systems” to help improve the velocity and number of deliveries that can be made in order to increase what are otherwise very thin margins for on-demand food delivery. Another aspect to its data science is working out where it should launch the next Editions kitchens and what type of food is in demand locally.

Third, Deliveroo tells it wants to rapidly expand into new towns, cities and countries. “This will allow more people to order great food promptly to their door from their favourite local restaurants, ” says the company.

Will Shu( pictured ), founder and CEO of Deliveroo, said in a statement 😛 TAGEND

“I recollect how excited I was carrying out our first delivery. I hoped that people would love being able to order great food from their favourite local restaurants straight to their front door. I am proud that just four years on, millions of people employ Deliveroo in over 150 cities around the world. This is all thanks to the hard work of our riders, the great restaurants that we work with and our brilliant customers.

So I am extremely pleased that our new investors share this vision and has now decided to make such a significant investment in our future.

With this funding we will invest further in our delivery-only kitchens Editions, in developing our technology and in taking Deliveroo to more towns and cities. This investment will take us to the next level and allow our riders to deliver ever more great food immediately to people’s doors.”

Meanwhile, the company’s accounts for the year ending 31 December 2016 were lately filed, and although they are obviously already 9 months out of date, make for interesting reading. As Business Insider reports, Deliveroo grew a lot in 2016, with revenue up 611 per cent to PS129 million. But loss were up too — a 300 per cent increase to PS129 million. However, the figure to genuinely watch is the food delivery company’s gross margin percentage, which sat at just 0.7 per cent.

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At Mary Barras GM, Its Profit Before All Else

Last summer, General Motors Co. Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra flew to the headquarters of General Motors India with a message the team didn’t want to hear. She told Executive Vice President Stefan Jacoby, who runs the carmaker’s international businesses, that a planned $1 billion investment in India might be a bad bet. Even if they could make money, profit margins on the small cars sold there could water down GM’s earnings for years.

While scrutinizing the India operation over the next six months, GM President Dan Ammann received word that Peugeot SA CEO Carlos Tavares might be willing to buy GM’s long-struggling Opel business. For Barra, that raised two important questions. First, if she was holding India to GM’s profit targets, why should Europe get a pass, especially since Opel had been losing roughly $1 billion a year since 1999? Second, she began wondering whether India was truly so different from other emerging markets, which require billions of dollars in investment just to sell small cars that generate slim profits.

By April, Barra had a deal to sell Opel to Peugeot. She also decided not only to scrap the $1 billion investment in India but to stop selling Chevrolet models in the market altogether. Using the same logic, the sharp-penciled engineer-turned-manager decided to pull out of South Africa as well. Including GM’s exit from Russia in 2015, Barra has sold or closed 13 plants and walked away from five markets boasting about 26 million in total vehicle sales annually since she became CEO of the No. 1 U.S. carmaker in 2014. “We’re here to win,” says Barra. “We aren’t going to win by being all things to all people everywhere. It’s not the right strategy.”

Barra has come a long way since her rookie year as CEO, when she was bullied by Congress over GM’s ignition recall and lampooned on . Today she’s on pace to post record profits in 2017—even as rivals Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. are moving to lower investors’ expectations—and pushing back against hedge fund boss David Einhorn’s proxy challenge to add a second class of GM’s stock that focuses on paying dividends. Barra’s global restructuring isn’t only a clean break from GM’s history, it’s a downsizing almost as big as the painful transformation the company underwent during its 2009 bankruptcy.

Barra says she’s not interested in keeping GM in any market where it doesn’t have a shot at fat profits. But a market that doesn’t seem profitable today could turn out to be tomorrow’s gold mine. Europe is about as large a market as the U.S. India is projected to become the world’s third-biggest by 2021, according to researcher IHS Markit. And Russia, where she closed GM’s only plant, is finally showing signs of a turnaround. Ford stuck it out in Russia with a $1.5 billion joint venture and saw sales there rise 93 percent in 2017’s first quarter. In all, GM has given up close to 1.5 million vehicle sales annually from the abandoned locales.

The problem with all those markets is that profit margins either don’t exist or are nowhere near what GM wants, Ammann says. The automaker is targeting 9 percent to 10 percent operating margins companywide by next decade, vs. 7.5 percent last year. GM’s North American business already beats that, with more than 12 percent in the first quarter of 2017, and China managed 9.3 percent last quarter. But the company’s international operations division, which excludes China and Europe, lost about $800 million last year.

When Ammann was chief financial officer from 2011 to 2014, GM installed a system to track the profits of every model in every market. In India, automakers sold almost 3 million cars last year. But GM has just a 1 percent market share, and the cars delivered very little profit, he says. “In the places where we decide to put resources, we want to win,” says Ammann. “In others we find a way to release resources or exit.”

Ammann likens what GM is doing to General Electric Co. during the storied tenure of former CEO Jack Welch, who wanted his company to be one of the top two players in every business it operated in. GM is trying to apply that discipline even to emerging markets—despite all the talk among management gurus about the importance of maintaining beachheads in the so-called BRIC countries, meaning Brazil, Russia, India, and China. One reason: Barra just doesn’t buy the notion that selling in all the emerging markets is a requisite for success.

“She’s absolutely right,” says Maryann Keller, an auto analyst who has written books on GM. “Who cares about being global? The automakers have chased these victories for years, and many of them were Pyrrhic.”

Barra has two big reasons to free up capital by exiting weak markets. One is the new technologies threatening to remake transportation that require massive investment. The other: GM’s stock price has been lingering all year just $1 above its 2010 IPO price of $33. Because of dual-class stock or concentrated shareholdings, both the Ford family that controls Ford and the Toyoda family that runs Toyota have the clout to fend off activist investors. Barra has no such defense. Twice since taking the job in early 2014 she’s had to deal with activists. Currently she’s in a proxy battle with Greenlight Capital Inc. founder Einhorn, who’s pitched shareholders on a plan to create two classes of shares, one paying dividends and another offering capital appreciation. GM’s board has rejected the proposal, and stockholders will vote on it in June.

GM’s defense has been to tout its financial performance. The automaker made more than $12 billion in North America before taxes last year, compared with $9 billion for Ford. GM makes almost double what Ford makes in China. Ford pulled back on its profit guidance twice last year. And while Toyota said on May 10 that it may see profits decline for a second consecutive fiscal year, GM is forecasting that it might beat last year’s record of $6.12 a share by as much as 5 percent.

But with its share price static and Einhorn maintaining his assault, GM is intent on eliminating costs. Ammann says basic moves such as having more cars use the same parts and engines have helped GM boost its 2018 cost-cutting target by $1 billion, to $6.5 billion. He also says GM may be able to reduce its planned $5 billion investment in small cars for Mexico, China, and South America by about $2 billion, thanks to smarter engineering of the cars.

To keep profits high, GM has pulled back from low-margin businesses including selling cars cheaply to rental fleets. Through April, GM had sold 11 percent fewer rental cars than at this time last year and trails Ford, Nissan Motor Co., and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV in that business, according to Keller. Instead, Barra wants to invest in higher-profit models such as Cadillac. Industrywide, luxury cars make up only 10 percent of global sales but about one-third of auto industry profits. GM has a tiny portion of the luxury market, Ammann says, but sees an opportunity to use Cadillac to grab a bigger piece. The vintage brand’s sales rose 11 percent last year, when it sold more than 300,000 cars for the first time since 1986.

Barra predicts that eventually the industry will see profits in electric vehicles and autonomous driving. But it will require plenty of investment to be a leader in these areas. Given all the competition from traditional automakers and interlopers such as Tesla, Google’s Waymo unit, and possibly even Apple, she says losing money chasing overseas car markets would be a diversion GM can’t afford to indulge.

There’s an added benefit to chopping laggard businesses, Barra says: GM’s culture was notoriously tolerant of losers, and her recent cutting of the chaff has gotten the attention of the troops. Says Barra: “It has driven accountability, because the team knows we’re serious.”

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Obama’s legacy: Lorrie Moore, Richard Ford, Marilynne Robinson and others look back

His election was a historic moment, he campaigned on a platform of hope, but did President Obama deliver? Leading authors have their say

Joyce Carol Oates

Brilliant and understated, urbane, witty, compassionate, composed, quietly fuelled by an idealism born of the legacy of civil rights America in conflict with the old white-nationalist America, Barack Obama is a unique human being and has been a unique president. In some ways (as many have observed) not really temperamentally suited to an office that demands an almost daily scrimmage with opposition politicians in Congress as well as continual conferences with members of his own party Obama has behaved with dignity and restraint that might be mistaken for aloofness; while he has shown an astonishing generosity in attempting to compromise with opposition politicians whose fury at the very election of a black man to the presidency has never been tempered, it is clear that, for all his virtues, and for all his idealism, the bitterly divisive politics of our time made it impossible for him to fully realise his political mission. If each American president represents a predominant style, Obamas is coolness the coolness of grace under pressure, a refusal to rise to the race-baiting tactics of political opponents.

The world may justly recoil in surprise, disdain, derision and alarm at the election of President Obamas successor a uniquely unqualified white-nationalist demagogue elected by a minority of American voters, through an archaic electoral college system put into place to placate slaveholders, in a gesture some have interpreted as white repudiation of the first black president but the fact remains that, in 2008, the American people were wise enough, and fortunate enough, to have put an individual of the quality of Obama into office. We will miss him. So much.

Siri Hustvedt

Soon the face of the United States will change. For eight years, we have been represented by an elegant, well-spoken, funny, highly educated, moderate, morally upright, preternaturally calm black man. The son of a white American mother and a black Kenyan father, he embodies a part of the long and tortured story of race in America, that potent historical fiction that continues to ravage the country. The mantra that race is not a biologically real category is a truth, but that doesnt mean our president wasnt assaulted daily by grotesque lies and by racist imagery, by the watermelons and monkeys that dogged his time in office, vile attacks that came from obscene regions of that public stage we call the internet, but which only rarely found their way into the mainstream media until now, that is. The vicious language of Breitbart News and the cruel policies of the far right are moving into the White House. The ugly new face of the US may be white but its actual complexion is best described as a vehement orange.

No, I did not agree with all of President Obamas policies. I was mortified by ongoing drone attacks and upset by his administrations surprising secrecy. I had hoped for national healthcare, not insurance exchanges. Obama has been criticised harshly by some in the black community for not speaking out enough about racism in its many insidious institutional forms. For years, he sought compromise with Republicans in Washington, and it seems obvious in hindsight that he may have hoped for too much for too long from an intractable Congress.

Obamas legacy? We are too close to know. I suspect his importance will only grow, and if our republic survives the next four years (by which I mean, if its very foundations are not eroded beyond recognition) and perhaps even if it doesnt, Obama will stand for a politics of human dignity, not a politics of shameful trumpery, hatred and rage.

Richard Ford

It may be the wrong way to say it, but at least a partial marker of Obamas effectiveness and of representative governments effectiveness, when it works has been his capacity not to trivialise being president by confusing his ego with the job. Because he hasnt done that, he has been able with some success to be not one constituencys private messenger (mine, for instance though I wouldnt have minded it), but to be all constituencies messenger. That hasnt always worked perfectly, and as a strategy it has had a tendency to round off extremes, both wished for and not. But it is by far a better and more respectable aspiration than making America great (again?), which clearly promises to leave a lot of people out. To some observers, this aura of balanced impartiality has made President Obama seem austere and professorial. Aloof. But not to me. To me, his demeanour is of a serious adult whose office makes arduous demands on him, requiring an answering ardour, resolve and discipline, along with a sublimation of the purely personal. I guess thats boring. Though well soon learn more about boring.

Conservatives, of course, dont like Obama because hes too liberal. And lots of liberals are disappointed because he hasnt precisely toted their water, either. (You know youre doing something right when liberals are disappointed in you and conservatives hate you.) But rather than being all things to all people, President Obama has seemed to be just one thing to all people which, to my mind, is what our president ought to be. This cold morning, when I think about Obama, immersed in what must be a decidedly mixed brew of emotions mixed about his deeds, mixed about his effects on the US, decidedly mixed about our future Im confident he is thinking, right to his last minute in the office, as the president, and not much about, or for, himself. Thats what I expected when I voted for him that hed be a responsible public servant whod try to look out for the entire country. He did that. It wont be long before we are all going to miss him.

Obama speaks in Washington to victims of gun violence in January 2016. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Attica Locke

In 2009, about a year after the historic election of Obama, I was in central Louisiana, spending a few days and nights on a sugar plantation. A storm was coming, and I sat for hours on the porch of the small cottage I was staying in, listening to the wind whistle through the sugar cane fields nearby. The sound was reminiscent of voices, and I remember uttering the words thank you to whatever souls lingered in those fields. It was one of the most profound experiences of my life, to consider the election of the countrys first black president while sitting on the grounds of a former plantation, to be able to say to my ancestors, Your labour was not in vain.

What I choose today a month or so after the election of a bully and a bigot that has so disheartened the majority of my country is to remember the US at its best. To say simply: Thank you, Barack. Thank you for your grace, your intelligence, your curiosity, your patience, your respect for our constitution, your respect for people who dont look like you or pray like you or love like you, your jump shot, your rendition of Al Greens Lets Stay Together, your love of books, your love of writing, your beautiful children and your incredible wife. I honestly dont know where we go from here, or, frankly, what country I live in anymore. But I know your presidency was real it happened and I am thankful I got to see it in my lifetime.

Edmund White

Obama will go down in history as one of our great presidents. He always keeps his cool, looks at every question from all sides, brought us health care, sustained the LGBQ community, saved the economy, lowered unemployment, hovered over the Middle East conflict with admirable passivity, avoided Islamophobia. He has a model family, wears clothes beautifully, moves with elegance and dances well. What more do you want?

Marilynne Robinson

Obama is a deeply reflective man, an idealist whose ideal America is a process of advance and self-realisation, not to be thought of as arriving at any final order, but as continuously generating new aspirations in the course of its vital, turbulent, democratic life. He has a steady faith in the essential generosity and wisdom of the American people, as a corrective to the deviations from the emergence of the more perfect union he so often invokes in his speeches. For this reason, and because of his understanding of the countrys history as in many ways uniquely progressive and uniquely open to new hopes, he can accept even his own frustrations and the hostility directed against him as part of this history and life. His resilience in the face of constant attack and the unfailing respect he has shown for the dignity of his office are effects of this historical vision.

A president of the United States, however fascinated by the country itself, must deal with the extraordinary complexity of our foreign entanglements, old hostilities and marriages of convenience, many of them patches on a reality that has shifted over decades. And there are the crises of the moment. At issue now is whether terrorism should be dealt with by the methods of traditional warfare, methods terrorism is designed to obviate, or whether an effective strategy would adapt to address its unconventional tactics. President Obama has been seen as weak for choosing the second option though, after Iraq, the limits of invasion and bombing should be clear.

Objectively, the fact that a law professor could walk in on an unprecedented economic collapse, a global crisis, and right things well enough that his critics can forget what an abyss had yawned, is a proof of extraordinary brilliance and composure. He may not have done everything right, but given a normal Congress, the president would have been able to stimulate the economy in the usual ways, for example by building infrastructure, that everyone knows the country needs. New schools and bridges would have relieved the public of both the fear and, in some degree, the reality, of national decline. But this would have made President Obama more popular, and the Republicans were determined to limit him to one term. His Affordable Care Act has performed according to his hopes, again despite furious opposition. While incrementalism has been the approach available to him in the circumstances, it is also wholly consistent with his understanding of American democracy. He expects controversy and criticism, and he has had more than his share.

I know Obama as a man who loves books and ideas, creativity and inventiveness. He talks about the US in terms of the wonderful varieties of competence and the beautiful demonstrations of good faith and good conscience that pervade its daily life. He sees government as a means to ensure that all these individual gifts will be honoured and enabled. In looking beyond any present moment to the new hope that will surely emerge from it, he can love the country exactly as it is.

Garth Greenwell

Obama has been criticised for being too much style, too little substance. Were now receiving a lesson in how substantial style is. For eight years, Obama displayed a genuinely presidential demeanour, adding extraordinary personal dignity to the dignity of the office. He modelled respect for the life of the mind, for reason and reasonable debate, for the pursuit of culture. Against unprecedented and dishonourable resistance from an opposition party, he rejected a politics of outrage and in his first term repeatedly attempted to find a common ground. As that resistance appealed ever more overtly to the racism and xenophobia that have so animated this electoral season, Obama held up a vision of an America enriched by diversity and bent toward ever-greater justice, the America of Lincoln, Whitman and Martin Luther King.

It would be difficult to overstate what it has meant, for queer people in the US, to have a president so fiercely insist on our place in that vision. Obama took too long to evolve toward support of marriage equality. But from his first days in office he affirmed the dignity and value of queer lives. He passed hate crimes legislation and repealed Dont Ask Dont Tell; his administration crafted the first comprehensive national strategy for combating HIV/Aids; by memorialising sites central to the movement for LGBT rights, he wove queer history into the larger history of America.

Some queer people, especially some gay white men, have been reassured by comments from the president-elect that he will preserve marriage equality. They are wrong to be reassured. His vice-president-elect, Mike Pence, has supported conversion therapy, a cruel and thoroughly discredited practice, and has said that the legal recognition of queer families leads to societal collapse. At the time of writing, his cabinet appointments have, to a person, opposed LGBT rights; many of them have viciously attacked the dignity of queer people. Most importantly, he has shown himself determined to demolish that vision of a pluralistic America in which these people and other minorities have an honoured place. He replaces Obamas style of moderation, reason and respect for the other with outrage, disregard for fact, and imperious personal grievance.

The gains queer people made under Obamas administration are fragile. So are the norms and institutions of liberal democracy. Our new president has given every indication that for the next four years they will be under constant attack.

Lorrie Moore

There are many things Obama did not entirely succeed at: Libya, quitting smoking. (How could anyone in his position have quit smoking? I have money on this.) But to listen to his intelligent voice for eight years after the previous eight years of the Bush administrations torqued syntax was a relief and reassurance to the ears of our citizenry. He was not just a historical presence but a consoling one, despite the house arrest our Congress essentially had him under. He was creative and purposeful as a leader, given everything, and his election was thrilling to the world and to the US. Nothing like it will happen again for a long time.

Hanya Yanagihara

He always seemed too good to be true, like someone who had been focus-grouped with not just one, but many, demographics, a plurality of fantasies embodied in one man: black, smart, handsome, young. And then the fantasies grew more outlandish, and still, he fulfilled every one: raised abroad; multiethnic; multinational; the brother of an Asian sister; the son of a single mother; a father of daughters. If hed been a character in fiction, hed have been unbelievable, less a convincing person than a constellation of symbols, a dream that a certain population of America had of itself.

So I understood the headiness, the elation, surrounding his rise. But what always made me uncomfortable then, in 2008; now, in 2016 was the idolatry that followed him. There were people (my father, for one) who wouldnt hear any criticism of him, who would shout you down for merely questioning him. I would be at dinner parties where the hosts would say I wont hear anything bad said about him. Ill defend him against anything.

I understood this. He was a vulnerable figure in many ways, a symbol of a not-too-distant past, a black man hoping to lead a country in which black men have never been safe. He inspired our fantasies, but he also inspired our sense of protectiveness; he wore history lightly, but he would never have the privilege of discarding it entirely. We wanted, even needed, him to succeed, because his success would be proof of our own collective evolution. Yet there was also, from some quarters, a kind of condescension in the defence of him, an implication that the very fact of his presence was so miraculous that he couldnt be looked at too directly or too closely.

We were correct not to engage with the ranters on the right. But we were wrong not to discourage the idolatry on the left. And the unhinged accusations from one side only encouraged a defence that became increasingly, obdurately partisan on the other, a defence that also provided cover and an excuse to ignore saner critics of all persuasions. Dissent is essential to a democracy; not just voicing it, but listening to others who can reasonably voice it as well. Yes, he did eventually receive his share of meaningful criticism, including from some people who supported him but, Id argue, far less than he might have. I was astonished, again and again over his two terms, by the number of people I encountered who seemed to recoil at the mere suggestion of his potential shortcomings and flaws. I voted for him twice, but I knew he wasnt perfect. I didnt expect him to be.

The irony, of course, is that he himself accepted his criticism gracefully and calmly. This grace may be one of his enduring legacies. As many of us in the US prepare to be in opposition once again, to traverse a period in which our romance with him is likely to only intensify, let ours be a reminder to never again become so blind with love or hatred for a politician that we forget to look squarely at him, without fear or favour.

Gary Younge

Judged by what was necessary, Obama was inadequate; judged by the alternatives, he was a genius. He was elected in the full bloom of the financial crisis, when change for many was not simply a slogan; it was a real and urgent need. But under his presidency, the gap between rich and poor and black and white grew; Guantnamo is still open; the financial system that caused the crash remains intact and unrepentant; poverty, corporate profits, deportations and whistleblower convictions are up. True, he performed triage on a haemorrhaging economy; rescued the car industry; delivered some health care to large numbers on fairer terms, though its now unravelling; promoted alternative energy sources and cut carbon emissions. But given what the moment required, a Marshall plan for American cities and a new deal for the country as a whole, it was insufficient. One could blame this all on the Republicans. But Obama stood claiming he was uniquely placed to bridge those divides. And for some of his presidency, Democrats did control both houses and had a supermajority in the Senate.

That said, his victories saved the country from austerity, vice-president Palin and war without end or purpose. Preceded by George W Bush, he repaired the USs image in most parts of the world, returned verbs to sentences and facts to science. As Trumps dystopia becomes a reality, the nostalgia for his calm, measured and consensual solutions has begun early. He leaves the White House untarnished by scandal. These are no small things. They are also not enough. Could be worse is poor rhetorical compensation for Yes we can. He raised expectations he could not meet, contributing to the despondency and cynicism that dominated this election. He is just one man: he couldnt have done everything. But he could have done more.

Illustration: EDEL RODRIGUEZ

Lionel Shriver

Lets put aside any bygone dismay at the outgoing American presidents chiding that a naughty British electorate voting to leave the EU would be ostracised to the back of the queue in the five to ten year negotiation of a US-UK trade deal that neither party requires anyway. (So much for the special relationship especially crap, apparently.) Mark my words: we will miss this man.

I never expected Obama to walk on water, and some policy disappointments are no surprise. High-handed de facto legalisation of illegal immigrants unconstitutionally overrode Congress. Guantnamo still hasnt closed. The Affordable Care Act kept private health insurance companies unaffordably in charge. But at least Obama tried, with partial success, to reform a broken health care system. The Iran nuclear agreement, taking out Osama bin Laden, extrication from Iraq (however temporary), instigating normalised relations with Cuba: well done.

Most of all, I will miss his style: his suave deportment; his droll sense of humour; his understatement and his physical energy; his articulacy; his charm; his grace. After eight years of George W Bush who, in comparison to the Potus in the pipeline, now seems a wit of Shakespearean scale it has been a great relief for many American expats to feel proud of their president again: Hey, that hip, sidling, intelligent guy at the podium? Thats our man! We exiles will have to sustain ourselves with that memory for at least four years of chronic embarrassment.

Rare is the president who enacts a fraction of his initial plans (which is downright comforting at the moment). Slow to get us out of the sinkhole of Afghanistan, at least Obama hasnt involved the country in yet another allout war, whatever you may think of inaction in the sinkhole of Syria and sometimes whats most important is what a president didnt do. During Obamas term of office, the US economy has been sort of OK; the rest of the world has not completely imploded. These days, thats all I ask.

Jane Smiley

There are several things that President Obama has done that have been very important. The first of these is breaking the colour line as far as the presidency is concerned. It had to happen, and it was always destined to flush out the racists and the resisters, who have consolidated themselves in the Republican party and have been so overt that they have succeeded in disgusting much of the rest of the country and reducing the moral standing of their party. President Obama and the first lady, Michelle, have been gracious and amused in the face of this (in the same position, I would have been alternately terrified and enraged), and as a result, I have come to admire them as exemplary human beings. Obamas accomplishments have been steady and incremental in the face of congressional intransigence, he has managed to improve the economy.

He has given us the beginnings of a healthcare plan, ridden the waves of louder and louder discussions of racial inequality, and introduced some policies to fight environmental degradation and climate change. But he has also given us (or allowed us to endure) drone warfare, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the non-prosecution of Dick Cheney and George W Bush for war crimes. In addition, even though Obama has paid more attention to Native American rights than any previous president, we have had to endure the Dakota Access pipeline debacle, amounting to unbelievable cruelty towards Lakota people and their supporters. The Army Corps of Engineers has at last blocked the permit. Can we thank Obama for this?

A president is both a world leader and a national figure. As a world leader, Obama has presided over increasing political and environmental chaos without much help from any other leader (remember David Cameron?); I think he has done the best he could not to engender more chaos. As a national leader, he has engendered more chaos, but it is necessary chaos a loud and meaningful return to the question of what constitutes the real America. The final answer is still up in the air. This election year, we had our choice stick with the corporatocracy (Clinton), try to improve the structure (Sanders), boil it down to a living hell (Cruz), or throw it all away (Trump) and we still cannot decide.

Obama meets with Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Photograph: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Candace Allen

The grace. The all-encompassing, abiding, and amazing grace: in manner and form, in argument and intellect, with humour and cool, no matter what came his way, be it birtherism or monkey memes, gross disrespect or counter-constitutional misbehaviour. The commitment. To the demands of that impossible job, to equality and science and the angels of his better nature in the face of an opposition which, for the first time in the history of the republic, would rather the country fail than the black man succeed. The intransigence of that opposition was surprising, but he never flinched nor doubled down; not only because this was the job, but because he was the first African American elected to that role. There could be no hint of shirking as he was carrying the dignity of our race as well as our republic on his shoulders. And being alright with that.

Obama has made my heart dance; the entire family has.

Which is not to say that its been a perfect time. Im not sure that anyone could make a better job of the mess that is Syria, but I wanted Guantnamo closed. The Nobel peace prize when he had barely begun was absurd; the financial indulgence of Israel in the face of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahus Palestinian policy and general disrespect wearied my soul. But I ask those who chide that he might have cleared legislative gridlock had he been more a back-slapping arm-twister in the manner of Lyndon B Johnson, do you think those Republican recalcitrants just managing to mask their racism would have acquiesced to such a touch? Obamas mixed-race identity and his being at peace with all facets of this identity is the very embodiment of E pluribus unum but they couldnt see their reflection in him.

Their preference?

Obese entitlement and inchoate bluster; but white as they are white. From discipline in all regards to no self-control at all. From respect for and aspirations toward Enlightenment principles to the conning posture that facts are superfluous as he surrounds himself with a crew of pantomime villains that would be laughable if they werent so terrifying. I will not say his name. He is not my president. Count me among the resistance, my eyes steady on the prize.

Benjamin Markovits

Obama featured briefly in my last novel. He arrives at a political fundraiser, gives a speech, and afterwards gets involved in a game of pickup basketball. The speech, in some sense, was the easy part. Obama is a terrific speaker, and when you try to copy him, its one of those moments when another writers style has become fair game as if your character had left some notes lying around, of the kind of thing he usually says.

There are his cadences: those rhetorical lists of two or three, as he works through an idea, a stump speakers trick for drawing out a thought until the next one comes along. His folksiness, of course, was literal, too. It seems all politicians need something to call us, and what you can get away with is one of the measures of your appeal. Ed Miliband struggled with friends, but I was always happy to be included among Obamas folks. And then those sudden shifts in register, from hip and appealing (Come on, man!), to something a little more Nancy Reaganish, schoolteachery and prudish (Thats not who we are!). Somehow he gets away with that, too.

Harder to convey on the page is the sense you get, hearing him speak, of a great actor delivering his lines. As if he both meant them and somehow was considering them at the same time like an actor who has intelligent thoughts about the quality of the screenplay even in the middle of his performance. He reminds me of Robert Redford, lets say, from All the Presidents Men. There is something in their eyes … and they use the same slight hesitations over a phrase, as if they might change their minds at any point. Even at his most emotional or inspirational, Obama keeps a certain amount back a detachment that comes across for some reason as dignity and not evasiveness.

Cynthia Bond

I did not believe Obama could win the primary in 2008. I was born in April 1961, four months before Obama. Although desegregation had been the law of the land since 1954, in Texas it was in name only. I grew up near Prairie View University a historically black college where my father taught. Id never seen a white person, except on television. When we learned we were moving to Lawrence, where my father would teach literature at Kansas University, my sister drew a white man with brown palms. This was all we knew. My entire childhood I saw racism, what had to be fought, what may, or may not be won.

I volunteered for Obamas 2008 campaign. The tenuous thread of hope becoming a thick cord I was a believer. I cheered with my three-year-old daughter when he won, leaping and screaming with friends and their children. Then the inauguration. Then watching him fighting, making changes that shifted the face of the US. And I exhaled. I believed. Each time I saw him there was hope that anything was possible. Of course I could defeat the self-hatred Id been taught it was never mine.

I saw Obama win twice saw his hair turn grey. I saw his pain at the Sandy Hook school massacre, at the killings in Orlando, at the body count of black men and women killed by police. I saw the rise of white nationalism and hatred. Still he remained strong. Still he accomplished more.

I innocently believed that a nation that had elected Obama would never embrace a man who as president elect, has turned the US into his personal cash cow, doing things that even my partner, a government official, would be fired for doing. When I was a social worker I couldnt even borrow a dime from a client. It would be a violation of trust.

I am reminded, once again, that I am living in the racist country of my childhood. How could I have forgotten? What dream had I been living in?

I am a tangle of sorrow, pride, anger, and still hope. Mostly because Obama is still here, as a blazing tribute to what has been, and what can be again and because there are millions of us who will fight for what is good in America.

Barack Obama, with first lady Michelle, and daughters, Malia, left, and Sasha, join performers on stage for the Christmas in Washington TV show in 2014. Photograph: White House Pool (isp Pool Images)/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Sarah Churchwell

I voted for President Obama twice, and if I were able to vote for him a third time, I would. This is not to say that I think his presidency has been without its serious, even calamitous, failures, the most important of which is his unwillingness to intervene in any meaningful way in Syria. I also feel that his excuses for kill lists and murderous drones are a serious betrayal of the principles upon which I voted for him.

But what will linger with me most powerfully about Obamas presidency, is the dignity and style with which he, along with Michelle Obama and their daughters, inhabited the White House. They are grownups in an infantilised, and infantilising, world. They are disciplined, distinguished, serious, proud. They are intelligent, humorous, compassionate. There was not a whiff of scandal; their standards are exceptionally high, and they expected the rest of us to measure up. Some people obviously resented that, but I found it a tremendous relief. My countrys response to this man of such obvious superiority, who happened to be African American, has been so vile that I still cant fathom it. But it wont destroy his legacy.

The Obamas changed the rules for what it means to inhabit the White House, and not only because they were the first black family to do so. They were also the first modern family to do so, to be informal yet classy, upright yet kind, and, most important, themselves. These are real people, and they are formidable people. Obama didnt get everything right, but clearly we shall not see his like again in the White House. One of the few shreds of hope to which I cling is the promise that once he leaves the presidency, he can take the gloves off. He seems ready to keep fighting, and remains a formidable champion to have on our side.

Aminatta Forna

When Obama was elected president of the United States, I was happy but worried. I was worried by the fervour which accompanied his achievement. Obama talked about change and here were people taking him at his every word. The world was going to change! I never saw this feverish look on the face of a person of colour, only the faces of white people. The black and brown people around me were joyful, but we knew better than to believe in promises, however heartfelt they might be, because nothing is that easy. Yet here were some folks acting like his was the Second Coming, raising the bar so high, anything but transcendence would count as a failure. I believe they would rather have seen him martyred.

Over the coming weeks his legacy will be debated here in the US and all over. The ticks: Cuba, same-sex marriage, Affordable Care Act, Iran, Bin Laden. The crosses: Cuba, same-sex marriage, Affordable Care Act, Iran, okay theyll give him Bin Laden. The fact of the matter is we dont know what his legacy will be. Certainly, the Trump wrecking ball threatens to overturn parts of both his legislative legacy and foreign policy achievements. So what will Obama be remembered for most?

Grace. There is, I have seen, a deep love in many quarters for Obama which I have never witnessed for another American president in the years I have lived on and off in this country, and the love is rooted in the almost surreal levels of grace Obama and his family have shown in the last eight years: in the face of the Tea Partys antics, the obstructionism of Republican congressmen, willing to debase themselves and the principles of democracy in order to try to bring him down, the birther insults, the cries of you lie during a speech in Congress. Both his public behaviour and his personal behaviour have set a standard few presidents have ever reached, a combination of gravitas and warmth. Singing Amazing Grace in a Charleston church in memory of slaughtered churchgoers, his easy relationship with his daughters and deep love for his wife, the genuinely funny White House Correspondents Dinner speeches. Most of all, his refusal to show bitterness toward his enemies.

Of course, it was his dignity his detractors simply couldnt stomach, he transgressed the imagined boundaries of class and race. In his conduct, he was better than them. And so to cover their shame, they voted for a new president in their own image.

He provoked the best and the worst of the American people. The world will miss Obama. Deeply.

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Holden constructs final Chevrolet SS

General Motors Australian division, Holden, confirmed on Thursday that it has built its final Chevrolet SS.

Currently on its style to the United States, the final example was finished in black and equipped with a manual transmission. The buyer, likely person at GM or a dealer, requested that the person or persons build the car each sign the inside of the engine bay, which they blithely did, Motoring reports.

Holden also confirmed that it has built the final Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle( PPV ).


Chevy stopped taking orders for the SS in February and sadly there are no plans for a successor, entailing the 2017 model year is likely to be the cars last. With limited advertising and accessibility, the car was never meant to be a volume vendor. Instead, it was a route for GM to fill capability at Holdens plant ahead of the planned shutdown are planned for October, 2017.

Since 2014, Holden has exported 12,953 SS sedans to the U.S. The Caprice PPV has been here since 2011 though only 7,305 examples have been brought over. Prior to that, Holden exported approximately 41,000 Pontiac G8s between 2007 and 2009 and 31,500 Pontiac GTOs between 2004 and 2005.

With the Holden plant soon to be closed for good, its almost certain we wont consider an Australian-built car offered by GM in the U.S. again.


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Outdoor Channel stars Lee and Tiffany Lakosky show how to hunt a turkey


Did your grocery store run out of turkeys? No problem!

Outdoor Channel stars Lee and Tiffany Lakosky want to remind you that you can always hunt your own bird for the big Thanksgiving dinner.

In fact, Lee said, thanks to the National Wild Turkey Federation reinvigorating the U.S. turkey population, there’s plentiful opportunity to bag your own. (Check the rules online for your state)

“Turkeys have exploded everywhere,” Lee told “They’re all over, so abundant right now. It’s a great time to be a turkey hunter.” (Fun fact: there’s a huge population in Hawaii).

The couple, who have their own Outdoor Channel show “Crush with Lee & Tiffany,” mostly bow hunt turkey, with Lee using a Mathews Halon 32 bow and Tiffany a women’s Mathews Avail.

However, they have used a shotgun, too, wielding a Benelli 12-gauge.

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The Lakoskys have hunted turkey for about 14 years on their own farm in Iowa and also in Texas, Kansas, and Nebraska. They harvest 2 to 5 turkeys a year. Turkey hunting can be done in both spring and fall.

Lee noted that hunting turkey is “more fun in the spring because that’s their mating season so they’re gobbling and strutting and really putting on a show and you can call to them. In the fall, they’re gobbling on the roost and just grouped up andyou gotta just see which way they’re going” to forage on the ground for food.

But the early bird catches the turkeys — you must start before sunrise.

Tiffany said, “They’re not easy to hunt. They’re pretty wily.”

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In the brush, the Lakoskys usually conceal a blind — a camouflage pop up tent with mesh windows to shoot from. Lee said the next step is to put a couple of plastic decoys on the ground that look like the hens, female turkeys, or jakes, young immature gobblers, to attract the mature male turkeys.

They listen for a gobble from the turkey’s roost in a tree “and when they fly down, just start calling them and try to get as close as you can,” with a special turkey caller with a reed they blow into, Lee said.

“Basically their routine is, they fly up, roost at night and in the morning, try to round up their hens” or look for food on the ground, he said.

The outdoor TV celebrities pride themselves on being clean and humane hunters. If they aim with a bow, their preferred and more challenging method, they shoot for the turkey’s lungs — and with the shotgun, for the head.

RECIPE: Rabbit and Squirrel Gumbo

Tiffany said, “We have targets that are in the shape of a turkey. We practice all season long to make sure we have ethical shots and do our best.”

Also, “turkeys are super mean,” Lee revealed. “They fight, have spurs on their feet and try to keep the hens from the other ones. They’re super smart and they’ve got great eyesight. If you blink, basically, they see you and run. There’s no curiosity about a turkey. They see something that isn’t quite right, they’re gone.”

Tiffany added, “A wild turkey can run as fast as 25 miles per hour and fly up to 55 miles per hour.”

She said that it’s important to obey the hunter’s mantra, yes, to be very, very quiet. “For Lee, it’s easy,” Tiffany laughed. “For me, I have to consciously make an effort to stay quiet and not talk.”

Afterwards, they pull the guts out and clean the turkey, plucking the feathers and using paraffin wax to remove the feathers if they want to keep the skin on.

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Tiffany, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child, due in April, said she’s still hunting while expecting and they have even gone turkey hunting with their son Cameron, 1. “He slept through the whole thing,” in the blind, she said.

For Thanksgiving, they will consume their very own hunted turkey, plus pheasant and duck with relatives visiting from Minnesota.

Lee’s cooking tips? “Have grandma do it,” he said.

The pair plans to release a cookbook next fall including recipes from both their moms for various hunted animals and birds they hunt.

Tiffany recommends hunting turkey in a group: “It’s such a social sport compared to, like, deer hunting. There are times we have five or six people out there turkey hunting together. You just have so much more fun.”

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Elon Musk Says Its Pencils Down for Teslas Model 3

It’s official: The pencils are down.

Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk told a roomful of reporters on Tuesday that the final designs for Tesla’s $ 35,000 electric Model 3 were locked up two weeks ago, and the company is moving forward on schedule to start producing them next summer. That was just the beginning.

Musk, 45, spoke in a room lined with windows looking out onto the grounds of what’s rapidly becoming the biggest building in the world: Tesla’s battery Gigafactory. When complete, the three-story building will be about the size of New York’s Central Park. To put it another way, 107 football fields could fit inside its footprint.

The diamond-shaped factory in the scrubland outside Reno, Nevada, is surrounded by thousands of wild horses that drink from building ponds at the Gigafactory. Musk says the project inspires in him a sense of Wild West romancewhich is perhaps why he opened himself up to a wide-ranging interview that covered everything from proprietary battery design to the book he’s read in his spare time.

Here are eight big takeaways from a tour of the Gigafactory and a Q& A conference with Musk, Chief Technology Officer J.B. Straubel, and Panasonic executive Yoshihiko Yamada.

1. Battery costs are falling to $100 per kilowatt hour

This fact may sound esoteric, but it’s incredibly important. Batteries make up a third of the price of an electric car and are the only reason these vehicles have been more expensive than their gasoline counterparts. Musk said he’s confident the company will reach a price of $100/ kWh by 2020( down from an average price of $1,200 in 2010 ). If he’s right, the economics of electric cars will flip, as will the instance for battery-backed solar power.

Here’s Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimations from where the industry was headed as of February . Given Musk’s optimism, it might require some revisiting.

Data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance

2. Battery costs are falling for three reasons

Cheaper materials, a shorter furnish chain, and mill automation. The first is straightforward: Buying at Gigafactory scale lowers the procurement costs of raw materials such as lithium.

Supply chain costs are where some of the real breakthroughs are coming. Constructing a battery pack typically requires components from a dozen manufacturers. Each of those products must be built, packaged, shipped around the world, unpackaged, assembled together into a pack, repackaged, and shipped again.

That’s not how things will work at the Gigafactory. Tesla plans to build a train line connecting the Gigafactory to its auto mill 240 miles back in Fremont, Calif. The Gigafactory will make every aspect of the battery packs. Raw materials will enter the factory at one aim, and finished packs will exit from the other endon a develop straight-out to Fremont.

A construction worker prepares the second tale floor of “Section D” for cement. Some assembly for the Model 3 drive train will take place here .
Photographer: Troy Harvey/ Bloomberg

Automation is the final cost-cutting step. Musk says that although the factory will probably employ around 10,000 people by around 2020, most major manufacturing processes are being automated. Some of his most creative engineers were assigned the task of house what will be a more efficient factory. “They can make five times as much headroom per hour than if they work on the product itself, ” Musk said.

Tesla has even become its own construction company and is its own licensed general contractor, having hired top designers of football stadiums, the new Apple Inc. headquarters, and the Pentagon for its Gigafactory crew.

3. The Gigafactory has already cut the fossil-fuel lines for Tesla

Tesla cut and capped the natural gas line leading to the Gigafactory, so there’s no going back to on-site fossil fuels. There’s also no diesel generator for backup power. That means Tesla must rely on electricity for manufacturing processes that require heat, an unusual step for a major plant of any kind.

By the time the facility is fully up and running, the Gigafactory is meant to be net zero for energy, powered largely by onsite solar backed with batteries.

The opinion inside the Gigafactory .
Photographer: Troy Harvey/ Bloomberg

4. Tesla wants to be a power plant

Ever heard of ride sharing? How about battery sharing? Last month, I wrote about how, by pursuing cousin company SolarCity Corp ., Tesla may have designs on becoming its own electricity virtual power plant, aggregating bits of power from thousands of batteries and rooftop solar systems and selling that energy back to the grid. It’s a hugely lucrative market, if Tesla can crack it, and on Tuesday Musk had reaffirmed that he intends to.

“I think we’ll get into grid services, ” he said.

5. Musk plans to spend and make a lot more fund

Last week Musk released a kind of 10-year mission statement for Tesla, which he dubbed “The Master Plan, Part Deux.” On Tuesday, he said the plan will cost tens of billions of dollars to enforce.

However, he immediately clarified that the money would be spent over many years and that, in the meantime, Model 3 marketings will more than make up for it. Musk said the Model 3 may bring in revenue of $20 billion a year( which works out to 500,000 autoes at $40,000 a piece ), with a 25 percentage gain margin. He conceded that a “modest” capital raise might yet be necessary.

Musk describes the new battery cell size alongside Chief Technology Officer J.B. Straubel and Panasonic executive Yoshihiko Yamada .
Photographer: Troy Harvey/ Bloomberg

6. More Gigafactories are going

The Gigafactory schedule is being accelerated so Tesla can render 500,000 autoes in 2018, Tesla’s Straubel said. Tesla’s goal for 35 gWh of annual cell production by 2020 is now expected to come in two years ahead of schedule. The fully operational Gigafactory may be capable of three times the output originally forecast.

Musk says future Gigafactories will be necessary, blending all stages of production from battery cell production to finished cars. Expect plants in Europe, China, and maybe India, he told.

Only 14 percentage of the Gigafactory is complete. Virtually everything shown here will be subsumed .
Photographer: Troy Harvey/ Bloomberg

7. Tesla remains on Autopilot

Musk said he was frustrated by the media coverage from a fatal crash in Florida that happened while a driver was employing Tesla’s driver-assisting software. He insisted that the Autopilot technology has stimulated the companys automobiles safer.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mobileye NV, the maker of chips and software for driverless cars, said its cooperation with Tesla wouldnt extend beyond its EyeQ3 product. Parting styles with Mobileye was inevitable and not surprising, Musk told. “Theyll run their route, and well go ours.”

8. Musk still takes time to read

Currently he’s stimulating his style through a book called, Twelve Against the Gods by William Bolitho, published in 1929. Bolitho, a South African journalist, wrote about 12 famous “adventurers”from Alexander the Great to President Woodrow Wilsonwho fought against the conventions of their days, for better or worse. It’s out of print, but copies are readily available.

This wall is only temporary. It’s there so building can continue on the outside while batteries are stimulate on the inside.
Photographer: Tom Randall/ Bloomberg

Watch Next: Big Topics Still Remain About Tesla’s Model 3

Big Topics Still Remain About Tesla’s Model 3

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