Nutsons' Weekly Automotive News Digest - May 24 - May 31, 2020
This Week News: Small Cars Kill IIHS Report; Chinese Virus STILL Affecting Car Production; New Normal, This Weeks Virtual Vehicle Press Intros: Ford Edge ST Line, MINI Countryman; Acura TLX, Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe and Convertible; Ford Mustang Mach 1 Is Baaaak; New Aston Martin "Bond, James Bond" Model Coming; More Driving IN USA; Fairy-Tale Mobilitys Postponed; VW Diesel-gate and Racist Commercial; Tesla Cars More Affordable; States Sue For O'Bama CAFE; Mitsubishi Recall; Nissan Turnaround Plan; 180 MPH Amtrack; Fast Baby From Force and Rahal.
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Nutson's Automotive News Review - Week Ending May 30, 2020; Important or pithy automotive news, Opinion and back stories in expert-created easy to digest news nuggets.
* Cox Automotive reports COVID-19 continues to plague the vehicle market, but May’s sales pace is expected to be a step forward on the path to recovery. According to their forecast, new light-vehicle sales volume in May will finish near 1,050,000 units, down 33% compared to last May but up 49% from last month. After incorporating seasonal adjustments, the annual vehicle sales pace is expected come in at 11.4 million, up from last month’s historically low 8.6 million pace but still far below May 2019’s robust 17.4 million level.
* Americans are getting back on the road. Driving activity is up 60% from the lowest since Covid-19 began. However, activity is still down 49% compared with January. Nice weather may be luring people out to drive with most of the uptick in rural areas and also due to more businesses going back to work.
* Volkswagen has more bad news. Company officials said they were “horrified” after seeing a 10-second short-lived social media ad for its new Golf hatchback that, critics contend, was racist. It ran on both Instagram and Twitter and VW Execs are promising an investigation as to how it got approved. The video spot shows a giant white hand sweeping into the frame, reaching over to grab a black man who had approached a new, yellow Volkswagen Golf parked on the street. It then flicks him through the doorway of a nearby café. Yes, you can't make this stuff up.
* And this too. A German court said Volkswagen must compensate owners of vehicles that had rigged diesel emissions controls. The ruling increases the odds VW will have to shell out more money to resolve 60,000 lawsuits pending in German courts. Volkswagen has already paid more than 30 billion euros in fines and legal settlements as punishment for using technology shortcuts to dodge diesel emissions standards in the U.S., Europe and other markets.
* Fairy Tale Mobility The Detroit News reports the coronavirus pandemic is proving to be yet another obstacle for the self-driving and ride-sharing movement, delaying the widely touted arrival of next-generation automotive technology. Ford is postponing for a year the commercial deployment of its autonomous vehicles. Waymo LLC, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc., had to temporarily suspend its on-road testing and its ride-hailing offerings in Arizona. Uber recently announced layoffs of 3,500, citing the pandemic. And GM is shutting down Maven, the car-sharing service that debuted in 2016 as the wave of the future. With demand for car-sharing and ride-sharing diminishing sharply in the age of social-distancing and other forms of vigilant hygiene, companies are shifting their focus to using driverless vehicles to deliver goods before they ferry people — a reversal of a robo-taxi future envisioned just a few years ago, courtesy of the virus that causes COVID-19.
* CVS Health will try delivering prescriptions with self-driving vehicles in a test that begins next month. The drugstore chain said that it will partner with the Silicon Valley robotics company Nuro to deliver medicines and other products to customers near a Houston-area store. A CVS spokesman said the prescriptions will routinely be delivered within an hour of being ordered. Customers will have to confirm their identity in order to unlock their delivery after the vehicle arrives.
* New product intros have gone completely virtual. This week we saw the new Ford Edge ST-Line, the 2021 BMW 5-Series, the next-gen 2021 Mini Countryman, the 2021 Acura TLX (was planned as a NY Auto Show debut) and the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe and Convertible. This will most likely be the new normal course of business for this year and most likely a permanent change in "the norm" as far as media releases going into the future. We're going to see the new Ford F-150 on June 25 in a web preview.
* Ford announced that the Mustang Mach 1 is roaring back to life this year. The iconic fastback coupe that debuted during the first golden era of muscle cars in the late-1960s now returns for global Mustang enthusiasts looking for the epitome of naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 performance in a new golden age of power as a new choice in the lineup of the world’s best-selling sports car. Reports are it will be powered but the Bullitt's 480-HP V8. We wonder what more Ford might have up its sleeve?
* Tesla cut prices for most of its models in North America by up to 6%, responding to the pandemic sales slump. The deepest reductions come on Tesla's oldest vehicles, the Model S and Model X.
* The 107-year-old British luxury carmaker Aston Martin is recreating the Bond DB5 from the 1964 movie “Goldfinger,” starring Sean Connery, in painstaking detail. It is but one example — a really expensive one — of how auto manufacturers, including Land Rover, Jaguar and Porsche, have started reaching into their pasts to update some of their classic models and equipment. A special run of 25 “Goldfinger Continuation” DB5s is being hand-built at the same facility in Newport Pagnell that produced all 898 originals between 1963 and 1965. The cars are finished in the same Silver Birch paint scheme, the interior leather is identical in color and texture, and the dashboard and gauges are as true to the original appearance as possible.
* The Javits Center in New York city continued use as Covid-19 field hospital has made the August New York Auto Show unfeasible. Although it currently has no patients, the facility remains set-up as an active hospital and is in standby mode for the foreseeable future. Because of this, organizers of the New York International Auto Show have decided the next Show will take place April 2 – 11, 2021. Press Days are March 31 & April 1.
* Autoweek reports the 2021 Geneva motor show might not take place after a loan was offered to the group that puts on the event was not accepted due to the conditions surrounding the money. The 2020 show was canceled last minute due to coronavirus concerns. The Foundation of the Geneva International Motor Show, or GIMS, withdrew its application for 16.8 million francs after it was told it would have to "completely outsource the show including its conceptualization to Palexpo SA." Palexpo is Geneva's convention center where the event is held. The organization of the event in 2021—a condition linked to the urgency clause of the draft legislation—is very uncertain at the moment. The major GIMS exhibitors encourage and strongly recommend to plan the next edition for 2022.
* Led by California, a group of 23 states plus cities and several environmental groups filed suits in federal courts challenging the Trump administration's decision to require automakers to achieve only 1.5% annual improvements in fuel efficiency/greenhouse gas emissions through 2026. They argue that the move is based on erroneous science, and endangers public health. The lawsuit escalates a standoff between President Trump and a coalition of Democratic states, which have gone to court to stop him. Trump has called the rollback the crowning deregulatory achievement of his tenure, a move that he has said will save lives, lift the economy and help the auto industry.
* Mitsubishi is recalling nearly 223,000 vehicles in Canada and cold-weather U.S. states because parts of the suspension can rust, detach and cause drivers to lose control. In the U.S. the recall covers the 2008 to 2013 Outlander, the 2011 to 2016 Outlander Sport, the 2008 to 2010 Lancer and the 2010 Lancer Sportback.
* Despite manufacturers’ efforts to make them safer, the smallest late-model cars remain the most dangerous, according to the most recent driver death rates calculated by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. Small cars and minicars accounted for 15 of the 20 models with the highest death rates for model year 2017, while nearly half of the 20 models with the lowest death rates were luxury SUVs. Very large SUVs have the lowest overall death rate of any vehicle category with 15 fatalities per million registered vehicle years. Minicars have the highest at 82.
* Nissan's 4 Year Plan to Turn-It-Around; Nissan officially rolled out a four-year plan to regain profitability, outlining a strategy to cut manufacturing capacity by 20%, reduce overlapping models, and slash annual costs overall by roughly $3 billion. The plan is to make Nissan less global -- pulling out of South Korea, closing plants in Spain and Indonesia, pulling the Datsun brand out of Russia -- but more profitable.
* Train manufacturer Alstom continues advanced testing of Amtrak’s new Acela fleet, reaching another milestone with the first Acela prototype completing a test run at Transportation Technology Center near Pueblo, Colorado, traveling at speeds up to 165 mph. The new Acela fleet, scheduled to go into service on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor sometime in 2021, will be capable of traveling at speeds in excess of 180 mph, though the trains’ initial operating speeds will be capped at 160 mph. The new Acela trains will carry up to 386 passengers, a 30% increase over current Acela train cars.
* Courtney Force and Graham Rahal announced they are expecting their first child just around the time they’ll be celebrating five years of marriage. Rahal, a six-time winner in the NTT IndyCar Series and the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, and Force, a 12-time Funny Car winner in NHRA and the daughter of drag racing legend John Force, were married Nov. 21, 2015 in Santa Barbara, California. Courtney Force retired from racing before the 2019 season as the winningest female Funny Car driver in NHRA history. Graham Rahal will begin his eighth season of driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway on NBC.
Stay safe. Be Well.