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In Case You Missed It - Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest, March 6-12, 2017; GM Sells Europe Brands; Geneva; McQueen Stang, World Car Finalists, MB Recall; More


AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO, March 12, 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: March 12, 2017

* By far the biggest news of this week is the sale of GM’s European brands - Vauxhall in the UK and Opel in Germany - to French automaker PSA, maker of Citroen and Peugeot automobiles. GM cited the need to focus on Asian and U.S. markets that show much more promise of growth along with Europe’s burdensome regulatory climate and Brexit that would require ever more resources dedicated to new products to keep up with changes in those markets. PSA paid $2.3 billion and this will make them the second largest automaker in Europe next to VW.

* In other merger/buyout news this week, Fiat Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne was reported making overtures at the Geneva Motor Show last week suggesting a merger with Volkswagen. VW CEO Matthias Mueller, who has presided over the troubled automaker’s diesel cheating scandals over the past couple years is quoted as saying, “We are not ready for talks about anything.” He added, “We have other problems."

* The automotive world turned its attention to Geneva, Switzerland this week, as the biggest auto show of 2017, to date, kicked off. Unlike Detroit and Chicago, the Geneva International Motor Show, the 87th, features all global brands. The show with 900 vehicles on display features the latest in electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and sports cars, including 4-door the 805HP hybrid-powered Mercedes-Benz AMG GT concept.

* Europe has a thing for station wagons. More commonly referred to as "estate" or "touring" models, at the Geneva show Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and BMW all introduced vehicles with lots of room in the back and yet with powerful engines up front.

* Other significant intros include the the new 6.5-L Ferrari 812 Superfast that can hit 211 mph, the Mercedes-Benz X-Class mid-size pickup (no decision on coming to the U.S.) and the Range Rover Velar luxury SUV.

* VW showed its first self-driving car, known as Sedric, at the Geneva Auto Show. Sedric is fully electric, connected and autonomous, and picks up passengers at the touch of a button. The vehicle looks like a futuristic travel pod: No steering wheel, pedals or controls.

* The top three finalists in all categories of the 2017 World Car Awards were announced at the Geneva International Motor Show. The jury of 75 international automotive journalists from 23 countries selected the finalists based on their evaluation of each candidate as part of their professional work. See the list here:

* Mercedes is recalling about 1 million cars and SUVs worldwide because a starter part can overheat and cause fires. The recall covers certain C-Class, E-Class and CLA cars and GLA and GLC SUVs, all from 2015 through 2017, including nearly 308,000 in the U.S.

* 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 February was 25.1 mpg—unchanged from the value for January. The value for February 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.

* A survey by AAA said 78% percent of Americans are afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle. The survey also said that 59% of drivers want autonomous technologies in their next vehicle, 54% of U.S. drivers feel less safe at the idea of sharing the road with a self-driving vehicle while 10% said they would feel safer.

* The high-end classic and collector car show season gets underway this weekend with the internationally acclaimed Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance near Jacksonville, FL, but the weather has become a major factor. Forecasts call for 100% chance of torrential rains on Sunday and a beautiful sunny day on Saturday. Though other supporting events were scheduled for then the Concours has been moved to Saturday. Coincidentally, one of the first Amelia Island Concours events was drowned in heavy rain.

* The Utah legislature just passed a bill to lower the threshold for DUI conviction from 0.08 to 0.05 and the governor is expected to sign it. This would make that state the first with such a low threshold. Opponents worry about the effect on tourism. An average size man would be over the limit with two drinks and a woman with one. Opponents further cite the science that says alcohol related accidents are not statistically significant until well past the 0.10 level.

* Rumors of finding the lost Bullitt Mustang in a Mexican junkyard were confirmed this week by Ford historian Kevin Marti, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The 1966 fastback Mustang that starred in the Hollywood film was part of one of the most famous chase scenes in movie history with Steve McQueen, an amateur racer, doing his own stunt driving. The car is under restoration now in a California shop. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the film.

* Volkswagen AG plans to plead guilty this week to three felonies - conspiracy to commit fraud, obstruction of justice and entry of goods by false statement - related to the diesel emissions cheating charges. The plea agreement includes audits and oversights by an outside monitor for three years and substantial reforms within the company. VW has already agreed to $4.3 billion in criminal and civil penalties. Including owner claims and other costs the diesel cheating is expected to cost VW close to $25 billion.