Nutson's Digest - Important Car and Truck News Week Ending March 30, 2019
AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO - March 31, 2019; Every Sunday Larry Nutson, Executive Producer and Chicago Car Guy along with senior editor Thom Cannell from The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau, give you The Auto Channel's "take" on this past week's automotive news, in easy to "catch up" with news nuggets.
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Automotive News Nuggets Week Ending March 23, 2019
* Automotive News reports that Ford's top-selling dealers were shown the new Bronco at a gathering in Palm Beach, Florida last month. To prevent photos from leaking, Ford took away everyone's mobile phone. Dealers saw an early-build 2-door Bronco and were told there would be a four-door. Of note, dealers were told the Bronco would be available in late 2020, as soon as three months after the so-called Baby Bronco.
* We saw the all-new 2020 Ford Escape this week at a media preview at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. Watch for more details on the new Escape on Tuesday this week when the embargo lifts.
* Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has another potential buyer, Renault S.A. FCA recently backed off a courtship with Peugeot. Renault is still unsettled, to say the least, as they sort the fallout from the Carlos Ghosn-Nissan financial scandal. FCA needs a partner to catch it up on a variety of technology fronts and Renault could use a wider range of products, particularly the Jeep branded ones. Renault aims to merge with Japanese partner Nissan before making its own bid for the Italian-American car maker.
* Trade groups representing diverse stakeholder in the auto industry are intensely lobbying the Trump administration against the imposition of a threatened 25% tariff. The Commerce Department is preparing recommendations as to whether imported vehicles and parts represent a national security threat. The non-partisan Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor estimates the tariffs would raise average new car prices by $4,400 and result in the loss of 700,000 jobs. It's a rarity that these many arms of the auto industry all agree, but the Trump tariffs would be devastating in an already soft market.
* New York City is on the verge of implementing congestion pricing to enter sections of Manhattan, the first U.S. city to do so. Other cities in the U.S. such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle are considering the same. Congestion pricing, already implemented in London, Singapore and Stockholm, has been very successful in reducing traffic congestion and pedestrian injuries.
* Joe White reporting for Reuters that Tesla and CEO Elon Musk notched a legal win, convincing a judge to toss out a shareholder suit accusing the company of misleading investors about the Model 3 launch. A federal judge agreed with Tesla that the company had warned repeatedly about Model 3 launch woes, which Musk memorably characterized as "production hell."
* U.S. auto sales are falling as vehicle prices climb, indicating that buyers at the lower end are getting squeezed out of the new car market, according to a new industry forecast. First-quarter auto sales are expected to drop by nearly 2.5 percent from a year earlier, to 4 million units, according to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.
* The Detroit Free press reports: Pickups are overpriced and are sliding on quality, some consumers say. That's what the 2019 Truck Sentiment Survey found among pickup owner respondents. And of those who switched out of a pickup, more than a third bought sedans, even as automakers cease production of many traditional cars, according to the survey by CarGurus. Separately, a different survey found Chevrolet to be the most popular brand among people younger than 36.
* The European Union is moving to require cars and trucks to have technology that would help keep drivers from speeding as well as data recorders that would document the circumstances of accidents. Those were among the safety features included in a provisional agreement announced by the EU’s executive commission. The package would mandate so-called intelligent speed assistance, which recognizes speed limits using mapping systems and help drivers observe them by restricting engine power. The driver can override the system by pushing harder on the gas pedal. But the onboard data recorder could further deter speeding by registering the car’s speed.
* You’ll only have a few weeks to officially comment on General Motors’ petition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking for a temporary exemption from rules regarding driver controls - they want to eliminate them. GM Autonomouswants to pave the way for a fleet to test fully autonomous vehicles. The petition alleges that 94% of crashes are caused by human error and that making no provision for a vehicle to allow human intervention is a good thing. The comment period ends May 20, 2019.
* Daimler AG’s smart city car was facing likely extinction with the impending retirement of its most significant internal advocate, Dieter Zetsche. Sales of the sub-brand have been dismal over recent years. However, its future may not be so tenuous. Daimler’s largest shareholder, Chinese automaker Geely Motors, the company that also owns Volvo, has formed a 50-50 joint venture with the Smart division to produce the new Smart EV in China using a purpose-built factory.
* South Korean auto supplier, Myongshin, is leading a consortium poised to buy a closed GM factory in Korea to build EVs for European and U.S. consumption. Myongshin supplies Tesla and Hyundai with electric motors. The Korean connection makes sense because of free trade agreements with the U.S. and E.U. Sources close to the deal say the EVs will not be Teslas. The repurposed factory could create 900 jobs directly with 2,000 more at suppliers.
* FCA will eliminate the third shift at the Windsor, Ontario plant that has built the Chrysler minivans for decades. The move will affect 1,500 jobs and many more supplier and support jobs. Lagging sales are responsible. Union president, Dave Cassidy called it “devastating.” This is the first time since 1993 the plant has been down to just two shifts. The plant has experience a number of shutdowns in the past year to adjust inventory.
* The Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, Inc. is being purchased by Stig Investments, Inc., a small group of business leaders with significant experience bringing organizations to maximum profitability and growth. Stig is a select assembly of entrepreneurs who are also graduates of the Bondurant school, racing enthusiasts and automobile collectors. One member of the investor group, Bruce Belser, will serve as CEO of Bondurant, effective upon the close of the transaction, which is expected in the coming weeks.
* Arlen Ness, a giant in the custom motorcycle business, often referred to as The King of Custom Motorcycles died on March 22. Born on July 12, 1939, in addition to Arlen Ness Motorcycles in Dublin, Calif., which dates back to the 1970s, Ness had a fruitful relationship with Victory Motorcycles. A series of Special Edition Arlen Ness Victory motorcycles amplified the Minnesota-based brand’s credibility in the 2000s. In 2016, Ness earned the Sturgis Lifetime Achievement Award.
* Rookie Colton Herta, 18, became the youngest winner in IndyCar history when he captured the inaugural IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas in Austin TX. The previous youngest IndyCar winner was Graham Rahal in 2008 at age 19.
* NASCAR has announced their 2020 schedule and made significant changes in response to fans. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway race will be run on July 5. Daytona gave up its July 4 race to host the final race of the regular season. Martinsville will have a Mother's Day night race and a slot in the playoffs. The finale championship determining race will be on Nov. 8 at the renovated ISM Raceway outside of Phoenix.