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Nutson's Auto News Digest - Top Auto News Week Of September 28-October 3, 2020



AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO October 4, 2020; Every Sunday Larry Nutson, The Chicago Car Guy and Executive Producer, with able assistance from senior editor Thom Cannell from The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau, compile The Auto Channel's "take" on this past week's automotive news, condensed into easy to digest news Nuggets.

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Nutson's Automotive News Wrap-up - Week Ending October 3, 2020; The past week's important, relevant, semi-secret, or snappy automotive news, opinions and insider back stories presented as expertly crafted easy to digest news nuggets.

* September brings the end of the third quarter and brought increased new vehicle sales from most all automakers. However, year-to-date sales continue down anywhere from 10 to 20 percent. It's the fifth consecutive month of sales pace improvement after April’s historic low. Recovery from the pandemic effects continue but tempered by rising unemployment, low dealer inventory and relatively few 2021 vehicles on dealer lots. Dealer inventory should be around 25% 2021s and it's only at 3%. Cox Automotive says it looks like the auto industry is on track to finish the year with unit sales of 13.9 million, a drop of approximately 16% versus 2019.

* Tesla sales were up this last quarter now totaling 318,000 for the year. This despite an earlier temporary plant shutdown. In January Tesla said they would sell 500,000 units this year, an increase of 36% from 2019. EVs, not just Tesla, are on the rise.

* From Reuters: China is back in black. Demand for new vehicles is rebounding smartly from the pandemic slump, led by strong sales of electric and luxury vehicles. Industry executives who gathered for the Beijing Motor Show press days over last weekend projected the world's largest auto market could grow, and several outlined plans for new investments. Pause for a second and take in the fact that there IS a Beijing auto show. The pandemic has forced other major global auto shows to go dark and scramble for dates in 2021. Some of the biggest news from Beijing focused on the surge of investment in electric vehicles. China's biggest automaker, SAIC, and its partners Volkswagen and General Motors, outlined plans to launch a staggering 100 new electrified vehicles - battery electrics, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fueled - by 2025.

* Former Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said he will not take over as chairman of the automaker's board as originally planned, opening the door to a more independent figure. Zetsche's decision was welcomed by investors. As CEO, Zetsche oversaw revitalization of the staid Mercedes product line, and started Daimler on the road to restructuring to meet the challenges of regulation, electrification and digitization. But he also was in the wheelhouse when Daimler sailed into a storm over diesel emissions cheating.

* Uber has won back its license to operate in London, a significant victory for CEO Dara Khosrawshahi's efforts to repair the company's relations with regulators. A London judge gave Uber a license to operate for 18 months, despite "historical failings," citing the company's recent efforts to improve insurance documentation and identity verification for drivers. Uber isn't free and clear - London's black cab operators are still fuming over the competition from Uber drivers, and London's mayor said city officials will be watching Uber's behavior closely.

* From The Detroit News: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will pay a $9.5 million penalty to settle allegations that it misled investors in 2016 over its vehicles' diesel emissions, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said. The agreement is one piece of a greater case brought against the Italian American automaker over allegations that it used defeat devices to cheat on emissions testing. Similar cases have been brought and settled against other automakers, including Volkswagen AG and BMW, and auto supplier Bosch. The case against FCA concerns 104,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs and Dodge Ram 1500 pickups from the 2014-16 model years with 3-liter V-6 diesel engines.

* General Motors agreed to repay $28 million in tax breaks given by the state of Ohio on condition that the company keep making cars at its Lordstown plant in the Mahoning Valley. The repayment was part of a broader package to resolve the company's conflict with Ohio officials (and President Trump) over the Lordstown closure.

* Michael Sivak of Sivak Applied Research finds that people in Democratic/Blue states are driving less than people in Republican/Red states - even when you adjust for the differences between urban and rural roads. So there.

* Electrify America is increasing access to sustainable electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure for rural Californians with the deployment of eight new solar-powered, off-grid charging stations across Fresno County. This infrastructure is an important part of Electrify America’s commitment to expand access to clean and financially sustainable EV charging to low-income, disadvantaged, and rural communities within the state of California.

* Time to downsize. Lamborghini, Bugatti, Ducati, the storied brands in Volkswagen's portfolio, may be on the block as the company reviews its strategy for moving into the electric vehicle future. The German automaker's board and top management are planning a review of the company's strategy in November, and senior officials say Lambo, Bugatti and the Ducati motorcycle brands could wind up for sale.

* Jim Farley became Ford's CEO as of October 1 and began putting his imprint on the company with no delay. Farley named John Lawler the new CFO who had been running the company's autonomous vehicle and mobility efforts. We noted Ford said they will be "offering compelling, uniquely Ford fully electric vehicles at scale around the world, including Transit, F-Series, Mustang, SUVs and Lincoln."

* The immediate, former past-president of the United Auto Workers union, Dennis Williams, pleaded guilty to embezzling union funds to pay for vacations and cigar parties. He could face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. The big question is how and when the current leadership of the UAW will reach an agreement with federal prosecutors to assure that the corruption to which Williams and other former UAW officials have admitted won't happen again.

* Ford is recalling 620,000 vehicles in U.S. because of a rearview camera defect. The recall covers vehicles from the 2020 model year and include certain Ford Edge, Escape, Expedition, Explorer, F-150, F-250 SD, F-350 SD, F-450 SD, F-550 SD, Mustang, Ranger and Transit vehicles. The 2020 Lincoln Corsair and Nautilus are also part of the recall.

* Subaru of America, Inc. announced it will attempt to set a new GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title for the largest parade of same-make vehicles on Sunday, October 4 in Costa Mesa, CA. The parade, organized by the 2020 Subaru Tecnica International Subiefest, will span two miles and include more than 2,000 Subaru vehicles driven by Subaru owners. Subaru Tecnica International (STI) Subiefest is one of the largest annual gatherings of Subaru enthusiasts in the U.S.

* Honda will end its participation as an engine supplier in the FIA Formula One World Championship at the end of the 2021 season to focus on zero-emissions technology. Honda, which returned to F1 in 2015 in partnership with the Red Bull Racing team, will instead accelerate development of zero-emissions technologies such as fuel cells and batteries. Honda's departure will leave only Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault as Formula One engine makers.

* NASCAR is shaking things up for 2021. New on the 2021 NASCAR schedule are road-course races at Circuit of The Americas (May 23) and Road America (July 4), a second race at Atlanta Motor Speedway (July 11) and a shift from the oval layout to the road-course layout at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Aug 15). Additionally, Bristol Motor Speedway’s half-mile paved oval will be covered with dirt for the track’s annual spring race on March 28. It will be the first Cup race on dirt in the modern era (1972 to present).

* Zef Eisenberg, the millionaire founder of a fitness nutrition company, has been killed attempting to break a British land speed record. The 47-year-old, who launched the Maximuscle company, died at Elvington Airfield in North Yorkshire when he crashed during a record attempt. Eisenberg, who holds over 70 British, World and Guinness speed records with bikes, cars, and quadbikes, was attempting to break the British Land Speed Record in a Porsche 911 Turbo S, at an event organised by Straightliners Ltd/UKTA.

Stay safe. Be Well.