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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest March 27-April 2, 2017; China Cars, AHOF, New VW TDI For Sale, R-R Rocks, New Jag XK-E-xpensive, Recalls Of Course, Self Driving Cars Scare


AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO, April 2, 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: April 2, 2017

* A new survey of American drivers by AAA reveals that the majority of respondents - 78% - say they would “be afraid” to ride in a fully self-driving car and about half - 54% - say they would “feel less safe” sharing the road with such vehicles. Most, though, say they like the autonomous features in many cars today like lane departure intervention, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. As we might surmise, there is a distinct generational difference in responses with older drivers more concerned than younger ones.

* According to a story in AutoWeek the Chinese will not be entering the U.S. market initially with small, cheap cars like the Japanese and Korean brands. Rather, they plan to begin with high-end vehicles. Fledgling Chinese automaker Lynk & CO plans to bring a small-ish CUV first to California in 2018 with a base price of around $40,000. Lynk & CO is a sub-brand of Geely, the Chinese company that acquired Volvo in 2010 and this new car was developed off a Volvo platform. Currently on sale in the U.S. are the Chinese-made Volvo S60 and Buick Envision.

* The 2017 Toyota Prius claimed top honors from the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) as the 2017 Canadian Green Car of the Year (CGCOTY). Announced at the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver International Auto Show, the Toyota Prius was chosen from among three finalists, winning over the 2017 Kia Optima HEV and 2017 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid.

* Uber says it is resuming its self-driving car program in Arizona and Pittsburgh after it was suspended following a crash. Self-driving cars in San Francisco also resumed operating. The difference between the California program versus the ones in Arizona and Pennsylvania is that California does not allow passengers to ride in the vehicles.

* The Automotive Hall of Fame 2017 class of honorees includes August Fruehauf who pioneered, in great measure, the modern long-haul truck by inventing the tag-along semi-trailer and, in the process, triggered the wide-scale distribution of modern consumer goods. Other 2017 inductees include motorsports team owner and aftermarket innovator Jack Roush, Brembo Chairman and President Alberto Bombassei, and former GM Vice President of Global Design Ed Wilbur.

* Our friends at The Detroit Bureau report that "one of General Motors’ top designers has quit the automaker for a new job with a maker of stylish athletic clothing. Clay Dean, who held several key positions during his long career with GM where he is credited with breathing new life in the Cadillac brand when he served as design chief, has taken a job as chief designer for Under Armour, a maker of sports clothing and equipment."

* Believe it or not you’ll soon be able to buy a sort-of-new Volkswagen 2.0-liter diesel Golf, Jetta, Passat or Beetle. They’ll not be 2017s, rather they are new 2015 models that got stuck on dealer lots and have just been cleared for sale by the EPA. These cars have been sitting around since the diesel emissions scandal and now just need a software update, and probably some maintenance, to be sold. The downside is that once the EPA-required hardware fixes come on line sometime next year owners will be obligated to have those installed, and we don’t know yet how that will affect performance. About 12,000 vehicles may become available. VW has also said no new diesel models will be offered in the U.S. at least through model year 2018. The company is moving aggressively toward electric vehicles.

* Tesla began updating software in owners' cars - Models S and X - this week that will address some of the concerns of its semi-automomous features. The over-the-air updates will allow the Autosteer function to work up to 80 mph instead of 55, enables Lane Departure Warning, Auto Lane Change and the Summon feature allowing owners to move the car backwards or forwards at low speed by remote control. It also updates convenience functions like adjusting headrests and the opening height of the Falcon doors on the Model X.

* Rolls is rocking! Rolls-Royce Motor Cars announced a series of nine remarkable Wraith ‘Inspired by British Music’ cars, created in collaboration with, and celebrating the legacy of, some of British music’s most revered rock and vocal artists including Roger Daltrey CBE, Dame Shirley Bassey, Sir Ray Davies and Ronnie Wood. A proportion of each car’s value will be donated to charities selected by each musician, including The Teenage Cancer Trust.

* One of the most collectable of collector cars is about to be “reborn” as Jaguar promises to restore 10 of its classic Series 1 E-Type sports cars and offer them for sale to a lucky few deep-pockets lovers of the marque. Prices will start at about $355,000 and can be upgraded for drivability with technology like synchromesh transmissions. This is just the latest of these projects from Jaguar Classic as they began building nine new units of the Jaguar XKSS race cars last year. * Our friends at report that the next new ride-sharing service is one featuring classic vehicles with an occasional celebrity at the wheel. Called “Lemo” we first thought it referred to cars that were lemons but it actually refers to Jay Leno one of the service’s investors. Apparently, Jerry Seinfeld is also involved and expects to do some of the driving as well. The service will initially be available in New York, LA and London but it is expected to expand to most metropolitan areas within a year or so.

* Nissan is recalling more than 56,000 Murano SUVs because of power steering hoses that may leak fluid and potentially lead to fires. The recall affects the 2013-2014 model years.

* Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is recalling more than 25,000 2014 Fiat 500L cars in the U.S. and Canada over software issues that are affecting acceleration.

* Ford is issuing a safety recall in North America for approximately 230,000 2014 Ford Escape, 2014-15 Ford Fiesta ST, 2013-14 Ford Fusion and 2013-15 Ford Transit Connect vehicles equipped with 1.6-liter GTDI engines. Ford’s investigation of these vehicles has identified a risk of under-hood fires.

* Ford is issuing a safety compliance recall for approximately 548 2017 Ford F-450 and F-550 vehicles to replace the driveshaft. Affected vehicles may experience driveline vibration caused by a powertrain system resonance condition at speeds above 75 mph.

* In bizarre auto news, an Italian drug gang needed money, so it devised a bizarre plot to dig up the body of legendary automaker Enzo Ferrari and hold it for ransom. In a massive raid involving hundreds of officers, 34 people were arrested in Sardinia and northern Italy just as the gang was about to launch its scheme, 1½ years in the making, at the tomb shared by Ferrari and his father in Modena, in central Italy. Ferrari died at age 90 in in 1988 and was buried alongside his father inside the ornate tomb at San Cataldo cemetery, complete with a model Ferrari perched on top. Modena is where Ferrari founded the luxury car company in 1939 as Auto Avio Costruzioni.