Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest, March 20-26, 2017; Tariffs; Toyota Goes Microsoft; Bolt Needs Early Discounts; E15 Bull; Uber Driver-less Less; Diesel-gate Continues; Pete Hamilton RIP 13-19, 2017
AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO, March 26, 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 26, 2017
If President Trump gets his way on auto import tariffs from Mexico the brands most hard hit will be VW and Ram according to Carjojo, a data analysis firm that watches the automobile markets. Carjojo points out that 57% of VW vehicles and more than half of Ram 1500 pickups sold in the U.S. are assembled in Mexico. Carjojo CEO Peter Levy points out that the resulting “price disruption brought on by the [20%] tariff could have massive ripple effects across all brands, no matter where their vehicles are made.”
* Toyota is gaining licensing rights to a suite of connected vehicle technologies developed and owned by Microsoft, both companies announced this week. While financial details were not announced this is billed as the largest intellectual property deal with an automaker by Microsoft yet. The patents being licensed include an operating system, voice recognition, gestural control, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity tools. Toyota and Microsoft have been cooperatively working on connected car technology for about a year through the Toyota Connected research program.
* Barely three months after public sales began for GM’s new Chevy Bolt EV electric car many dealers are offering big discounts to get sales moving. The Bolt EV is good for a claimed 238 miles on a charge and has an MSRP of $37,495. Dealers in California are offering discounts from $3,000 to $4,400 according to a report in Automotive News. California residents also get $10,000 in government subsidies for buying an electric car. Bolt is sold in seven states currently.
* The California Air Resources Board has been around since before the EPA, established in 1967. CARB reaffirmed its own set of regulatory standards for the automotive industry. Like the federal standards these rules must be reviewed at legally specified intervals. Setting it and 12 other mostly East and West Coast states that follow its lead on a different path than the rest of the nation, a battle will be brewing with the Trump administration who has signaled that it may be willing to weaken its standards. Stay tuned.
* According to the valuation experts at Hagerty, 10 vehicles in the 2017 production run by major worldwide automakers stand out as the likeliest to grow in value and appeal to classic car enthusiasts. The Hagerty "Hot List" for 2017 includes: Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, Audi TT-RS, Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport, Fiat 124 Spider Abarth, Ford Raptor, Mazda Miata RF, Porsche 718 Cayman/Boxster and Toyota 86.
* Velocity Channel's second most popular show is changing. Edd China, the lanky, sideburn-sporting co-host/mechanic will be leaving “Wheeler Dealers.” A press release from Discovery explains that after 13 seasons, China has decided to leave the show and pursue other projects. Mike Brewer, the show’s co-host and “dealer” will stay with “Wheeler Dealers” for its 14th season. China’s role as mechanic will be filled by fellow Brit Ant Anstead, former host of the British series “For The Love of Cars” and “Building Cars Live.”
* The famous black London cab is about to go green. The London Taxi Company has opened a new, £300 million ($373 million) factory based in central England. It has the capacity to assemble over 20,000 electric versions of the iconic taxi a year.
* Despite the ongoing rollout of E15 fuel nationwide, a handful of bills introduced in legislatures in D.C. and elsewhere aim to put a halt to sale of the fuel blamed for causing damage to older vehicles. The most extreme of those bills, H.R. 1314, which Virginia Representative Robert Goodlatte introduced, calls for the elimination of the Renewable Fuel Standard, the portion of the Clean Air Act enacted in 2005 that provides for minimum volumes of renewable fuels – everything from corn-based ethanol to biodiesel – to be blended into the country’s fuel supply. The bill has since been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
* Ride-hailing company Uber aims to repair its corporate culture once they figure out what the problems are. Months of bad publicity began with charges of sexual harassment within the company and was punctuated by a rant where company CEO Travis Kalanick is caught on video railing at an Uber driver. Uber board member Arianna Huffington said Kalanick will not be stepping down but emphasized that a search is in progress to find a chief operating officer to take over some of the company management.
* In other Uber news, Uber has suspended its pilot program for autonomous vehicles in Arizona, Pittsburgh and San Francisco after a vehicle equipped with the new technology crashed on an Arizona roadway. The accident occurred when the driver of a second vehicle "failed to yield" to the Uber vehicle while making a turn and the Uber car rolled over on its side. Two 'safety' drivers were in the front seats of the Uber car, which was in self-driving mode at the time of the crash. There were no injuries.
* The ongoing diesel emission cheating scandal at Volkswagen is now about to disrupt even company ownership. Ferdinand Piëch, former chairman for VW and grandson of company founder Ferdinand Porsche, is planning to sell his interest in parent company Porsche Automobil Holding SE, according to reporting from Automotive News. The Porsche and Piëch families own 52% of the company’s voting stock and have right of first refusal for stock sales. Analysts opinions vary as to whether this will result in better management of the company
* Former NASCAR star Pete Hamilton, winner of consecutive Daytona 500s driving a Plymouth for the iconic Petty Enterprises race team in 1970 and 1971, had died. In addition to driving for Petty Enterprises, NASCAR Hall of Fame car owner Cotton Owens as well as Banjo Matthews fielded cars for Hamilton during his six-year career. Hamilton was 74.
* In late news, Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari has won the first race of the 2017 Formula One season, taking first in the Australian Grand Prix. Vettel qualified in second behind Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, but worked a better pit strategy and ultimately finished well ahead of Hamilton, who took second place. The other podium finisher was Valtteri Bottas, also of Mercedes, who was gaining on his teammate as the race came to a close but ultimately had to settle for third.