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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest - July 18-24: 10 Years To Driverless Cars? Buick Wagon? Tequila! Concours@St Johns; Gordon Back; Tesla Plan


AUTO CENTRAL - Chicago, July 24, 2016: 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. If you wish to know more just click on the link that will take you to the full story as published here on The Auto Channel.

If you are a car and driving fan like we all are here at The Auto Channel, you can easily wish to "catch up" on these stories as well put them in context with the past 20 year's 1,985,187 automotive news, automotive stories, articles, reviews, archived news, video, audio, rants and raves. Just search The Auto Channel's Automotive News Archive.

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The Past Week's Automotive News Highlights In Easy To Digest Chunks
July 18--24, 2016

* Keith Crain in Automotive News writes: "Tesla has a feature on its cars that it calls "autopilot," and it isn't. We are probably not going to have a tested and proven driverless car for a decade or more — assuming the courts figure out who needs the insurance and the licensing for the vehicle. That might take a decade by itself." Editorial note: There are no driverless cars on the market today. None!

* To that end and quoting the Detroit News: "A General Motors Co. executive said Friday that fully autonomous vehicles that provide ride-sharing services in limited geographic areas could be on the road within five years. Mark Reuss, GM’s head of global product development who spoke at the Billington Global Automotive Cybersecurity Summit in Detroit, also said consumers could possibly buy their own self-driving cars in 10 years."

* Automotive News says that Buick in the re-do of its Regal sedan may add a station wagon. This sounds like blasphemy in today's world of everyone loving SUVs. But, why not? A colleague suggests it should be called the Buick Regal Estate.

* Oh how we can get lulled into a false sense of security. In Greenwich, Conn., Range Rovers are popular among car thieves. It's been made easy since residents leave them parked with the keys in them. Even fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger had his stolen.

* Route 66 is turning green. The 2500-mile Mother Road has seen a growing number of electric car charging stations installed. In Illinois where Route 66 begins, a network of charging stations has been installed form Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. BWM, Mitsubishi and Nissan are supporting the project which will cover eight cities. Instead of '57 Chevys it will be Nissan Leafs and BMW i3s cruising Route 66.

* Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards may be rolled back from the current 54.5 mpg by 2025 by the federal government because of cheaper fuel and consumers’ continuing love affair with big vehicles. The required mid-term review by the Feds says that car companies have the technology available but consumers aren't buying the fuel-sippers. While no formal decision is expected soon, analysts at the EPA are hinting that a CAFE of 50 to 52.6 might be more likely. Large vehicles like SUV/CUVs, pickups and vans comprise over 60% of sales in the U.S. and that is not expected to change unless fuel prices skyrocket. No surprise that automakers are disappointed, because they wanted the rules changed. When we think about what consumers are buying, or not buying, we are reminded of the saying: "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink."

* Just in time for National Tequila Day, which is this Sunday July 24. Ford Motor Company is teaming up with Jose Cuervo to explore the use of the tequila producer's agave plant byproduct to develop more sustainable bioplastics to employ in Ford vehicles. Ford and Jose Cuervo are testing the bioplastic for use in vehicle interior and exterior components such as wiring harnesses, HVAC units and storage bins. Initial assessments suggest the material holds great promise due to its durability and aesthetic qualities. Success in developing a sustainable composite could reduce vehicle weight and lower energy consumption, while paring the use of petrochemicals and the impact of vehicle production on the environment.

* Automotive research and consulting firm AutoPacific, Inc. announced the 2016 Ideal Vehicle Awards (IVA), recognizing vehicles that best meet their owner's expectations and desires. Tesla is the top brand, taking the crown from Porsche. The Volvo XC70 is the highest scoring vehicle. Read more here:

* Volkswagen appears to be weathering the storm of its diesel emissions cheating debacle well as it posted earnings of 7.5 billion euros (about $8.25 billion) for the first half of the year, up 7 percent. The company reported setting aside another $2.2 billion to cover costs of the scandal, primarily in the U.S. VW credits that surprisingly strong performance to solid sales at the VW brand, heavy fleet sales and cost cutting. Accusations surfaced this week that top executives knew about and even directed the subjugation of emissions standards. More on that next week.

* The problems with VW diesel emissions compliance is being felt by other manufacturers as well. BMW is delaying launch of diesel-powered models for 2017 because of increased scrutiny by U.S. regulators. The delay will primarily effect the 328d and xDrive35d. Even Mercedes-Benz is not immune as M-B is being sued charging similar cheating to that of VW. So far neither U.S. nor European regulators have found any basis for those law suits.

* Auto sales in Europe continue strong in spite of lagging sales in the UK credited to fears of Brexit effects. The European Automobile Manufacturers Association reports first half of the year new vehicle registrations up a substantial 6.9% over one year ago. Experts are expecting a modest slowdown for the second half of 2016 and further slowdown in 2017 and 2018 as Brexit issues come to the fore. Surprisingly, the current numbers are enhanced by the Italian and Spanish markets, both up over 11%.

* The Detroit area will be the scene of one of the most prestigious car events in the country next weekend as the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s in Plymouth, MI presents three days of shows, seminars, tours and social events aimed at the high-end of car collecting. RM Sothebys will also present an auction of high-end classic and collector cars during the weekend. Italian and British cars have their own shows earlier in the weekend and features of the Sunday show Ford GTs, European classics, muscle cars, rally racers and much more. Details at:

* All eyes were on Tesla CEO Elon Musk, maker of high-end electric cars, late this week as he revealed the progressive company’s second master plan. The first master plan issued 10 years ago envisioned a progressive range of electric cars beginning with a high-price, limed production models, then progressively more mainstream cars. With the Model 3 slated to begin production next year that plan is progressing nicely. The new plan announced this week includes automotive and non-automotive goals for Tesla including solar roofs with battery storage, expansion of vehicle development to all segments, development of self driving systems that are ten times safer than manual driving and finding ways your car can make money for you when you’re not using them.

* NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon will emerge from retirement, at least temporarily, to take the wheel of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Dale Ernhardt, Jr., the car’s usual driver is suffering what appears to be concussion-related symptoms of nausea and balance. Earnhardt, Jr. is being evaluated at the University of Pittsburgh Medial Center. Gordon is currently slated to drive in the next two races beginning with this weekend’s Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Since retirement Gordon now works as a NASCAR race TV commentator