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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest July 3-9, 2017: Tesla Toast?, EV Road Tax?; France Sans Gasoline; MB PU; NACOTY; Volvo Gets HyEV's; June US New Auto Sales Down


AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO, July 9, 2017; Every Sunday Larry Nutson, Senior Editor and Chicago Car Guy along with fellow senior editors Steve Purdy and Thom Cannell from The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau, give you TACH's "take" on this past week's automotive news in easy to digest mega-tweet sized nuggets.

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Nutson's Nuggets: July 9, 2017

* Total industry sales fell 3% in June and 2.1% over the first six months of the year, according to Autodata. That equates to a seasonally adjusted, annualized selling rate of 16.5 million. It's the industry's weakest first half of the year since 2014. June sales fell 4.7% for General Motors, 5.1% for Ford and 7% for Fiat Chrysler while sales increased 2.1% for Toyota, 2.0% for Nissan, 0.8% for Honda. Sales fell steeply for both Korean automakers — 10.8% at Kia and 19% for Hyundai.

* CNBC reports that for "drivers of electric cars, going green is starting to take more green. A growing number of states are imposing new fees on electric vehicles as officials scrounge for ways to pay for infrastructure projects they say are long overdue. At least five states, including California, passed bills targeting the cars this year, bringing the total number with fees on the books to 13. The charges generally range from $100 to $200 a year. Also facing extinction: a $7,500 federal tax credit for buying an electric car. The credit expires once manufacturers sell 200,000 vehicles, and major automakers such as Tesla, General Motors and Nissan are on track to hit that limit within the next few years. But advocates are concerned that the credit could wind up on the chopping block even sooner amid sweeping efforts to simplify the tax code."

* A few years ago Volvo announced that in spite of being a luxury brand they would no longer build engines bigger than four cylinders. Now they’ve gone a step further by announcing that by 2019 they will no longer build anything exclusively powered by gasoline or diesel. That is, every vehicle in their lineup from then on will be either full electric or hybrid. They promise five new fully electric models between 2019 and 2021, including some Polestar-developed high-performance models. A historic move, Volvo will be the first traditional automaker to forgo the combustion engine as the sole motive power.

* Though it seems a long way into the future it’s really just over 20 years - France’s Energy Minister, Nicolas Hulot, said his country will end sales of gasoline and diesel automobiles by 2040. That leaves just electrics. He said, “France wants to become the No. 1 green economy.” France will also move away from coal-fired power plants entirely by 2022 and end oil and gas exploration. French President Macron says they will eliminate net carbon emissions by 2050. The target is less ambitious than ones set by countries like Norway and India. (SEE The Auto Channel Called For An End To New Gasoline Vehicles by 2014 - We Beat France By 26 Years!

* As all these electrified vehicles come into the real world it's interesting to envision how reduced traffic noise will be as a result of quieter engine operation.

* Bloomberg reports that as aging motorcycle riders hang up their leathers, Harley-Davidson and Honda as well as Ducati and BMW are pinning their hopes on smaller, affordable bikes for a new generation. Aimed at millennials, a new breed of small bikes, priced in the $5,000 to $7,000 range, has quickly become the most promising part of the business. Between 2011 and 2016, sales of motorcycles with engines smaller than 600cc increased by 11.8 percent, while bigger, more powerful bikes managed only a 7.4 percent gain.

* The vehicles eligible for the 2018 North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year were announced. There's a total of 35 candidates--12 cars, 20 utilities and 3 trucks. For the first time in the awards’ 25 years, there’s not a single eligible passenger car from a Detroit-based brand. It's also curious that two of the three "truck" candidates are actually SUVs--built using a body on frame truck platform. The 2018 Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year will be announced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in mid-January 2018.

* The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute's latest report from Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle says the average fuel economy (window-sticker value) of new vehicles sold in the U.S. in June was 25.1 mpg—down 0.2 mpg from May. This drop likely reflects the decreased price of gasoline in June, and the consequent increased proportion of pickup trucks, SUVs, and crossovers in the sales mix. The value for June is up 5.0 mpg since October 2007 (the first month of their monitoring), but down 0.4 mpg from the peak of 25.5 mpg reached in August 2014.

* Mercedes-Benz posted a teaser on Youtube this week with hints of the new X-Class, a midsize pickup (M-B’s first) expected to be on a ladder-type frame. It will feature locking differentials at each end powered by a diesel V6 with a 4Matic all-wheel drive system. A concept truck was shown just last year. We expect to see the real thing soon as they plan to debut it on July 18th. X-Class will not be available in the U.S.

* After lots of skepticism from the automotive media it appears Tesla is ready to begin delivery of the new Model 3, a few weeks ahead of schedule. Deliveries will begin as a trickle as Tesla begins to satisfy over 300,000 enthusiasts who have put down deposits to get a car. As we’ve reported here before, the Federal subsidies that can bring the price of the Model 3 under $30,000 may run out long before these hand-raisers all get their cars since the government program is limited to the first 200,000 cars by a manufacturer. Tesla owners have already tapped into more than half those subsidies with Models S and X. Federal subsidies will be cut in half after the first round, then half again later. (According to a story in The WSJ no new Tesla was registered in Hong Kong in April after the tax break was discontinued)

* The Great Race, a long-distance competition for old cars (1972 and older) according to a time-speed-distance rally format starting in Jacksonville, Florida, finished this week in Traverse City, Michigan in the midst of the annual Cherry Festival. The race covered 2,600 miles and took nine days covering six states and is sponsored by Coker Tires, Hagerty and Hemmings Motor News. Of the 107 finishers the winners were Jody Knowles with his Aunt Beth as navigator in Knowles' grandfather’s 1932 Ford Cabriolet. They scored an error of just under 45 seconds.

* Introduced to the motoring press in July 1957, Fiat’s Nuova 500 was intended to bridge the gap from scooters and microcars to larger, more expensive automobiles. Not only did this iteration of the 500 bring affordable family transportation to the masses in Europe, it went on to become a symbol of mid-century style, and a worldwide ambassador for Italy. Recognizing its cultural and design significance, the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) announced the addition of a 1968 Fiat 500F Berlina to its permanent collection. A MoMA spokesperson wrote that the 500F, “…embodies many of the principles that typified mid-century modernist design and connects it to themes explored in works throughout the Museum’s collection.”