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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest May 15-21, 2017: GM Leaves; A Nutty Professor; Dieseling; Camry Succumbs To RAV-4; Autonomous; Instant Bridge And More


AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO, May 21, 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: May 21, 2017

* Buzz in the automotive business world the past few weeks has centered around the revaluation that electric car maker Tesla has a market capitalization (a measure of a company’s value based on stock price and amount of stock in existence) exceeding Ford and GM, in spite of those traditional company's much bigger size and reach. Tesla founder and CEO said this week he does not quite understand why that is the case and asserted it “is higher than we have any right to deserve.” The new mainstream Tesla Model 3, due on the market later this year, may determine whether that investor optimism is justified.

* In a continuing effort to focus the company on more profitable markets GM CEO Mary Barra announced this week the company is pulling out of India, South Africa and East Africa by the end of the year. Barra expects those moves will save the company around $100 million per year and allow them to put more resources into R&D for such futuristic priorities like autonomous mobility. Earlier this year GM began the process of divesting itself of its European Vauxhall and Opel brands.

* In the deadly Takata air bag matter, there's a proposed settlement in a class-action case. Toyota, BMW, Subaru and Mazda are set to pay a total of $553 million to current and former owners and lessees of 15.8 million vehicles. The money is meant to reimburse them for car rentals or other expenses — like lost wages, towing charges or child care — incurred while waiting for their cars to be repaired.

* No more gasoline or diesel cars, buses, or trucks will be sold anywhere in the world within eight years. The entire market for land transport will switch to electrification, leading to a collapse of oil prices and the demise of the petroleum industry as we have known it for a century. This is the futuristic forecast by Stanford University economist Tony Seba. Prof Seba’s premise is that people will stop driving altogether. Really!

* A report published this week in the journal Nature says that government lab tests don't accurately measure diesel vehicle exhaust as it actually occurs in real-world driving. They don't say vehicle makers are cheating; they say the test is not simulating real-world conditions. We use the education analogy: Do you teach to a curriculum or do you teach so that students can pass a standard test?

* Bloomberg reports that the U.S. Department of Justice has prepared a law suit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles regarding that company’s failure to disclose emissions management software used in 3.0-liter diesel engines powering about 100,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram pickups. While negations continue between the company and the government it appears the latter is ready to move should the talks fail to produce an agreement. The vehicles referenced in the suit are from model years 2014 to 2016.

* Meanwhile, FCA US announced it has formally filed an application for diesel vehicle emissions certification with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for its 2017 model-year Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 diesel vehicles. It may take weeks or even months for this process to be completed, but the news is that they will still have diesels.

* In spite of the popularity of diesels in European automobile markets, Volvo appears to be ready to give up on that powertrain. Volvo CEO Haken Samuelsson told Reuters he expects ever more stringent emissions requirements will force them to move to hybrid and electric propulsion systems. The new diesel engines they just launched will probably be their last, he said. Volvo, along with its sister brand Lynk & Company expects to launch it first full-electric car in 2019.

* You're not quite ready for an autonomous car but don't want to drive yourself. Lincoln Chauffeur provides clients with a carefully screened, highly trained driver when needed. The driver also can conduct other errands while clients attend their engagements. Introduced in Miami earlier this year, Lincoln is expanding its pilot chauffeur program to San Diego.

* Germany has decided to allow self-driving cars on its roads for testing. They will require someone to be on board ready to take over and also a black box to record all events and whether the car or the driver was making decisions and doing the driving. The data will be stored for six months and handed to law enforcement officers on request.

* Our friends at The Detroit Bureau reported this week that the Toyota Camry, best selling car for the past 15 years is being supplanted for that honor by Toyota's small crossover RAV4, a change expected by Toyota’s U.S. boss Bob Carter. The trend in the U.S. light vehicle market has been consistently moving from cars to crossovers and SUVs over the past decade or so. Toyota's worldwide president Akio Toyoda reported to the press a 20% slump in profits for the past quarter and questioned whether they had the right product mix for the U.S. market.

* Transportation secretary Elaine Chao was in Atlanta Thursday to celebrate the reopening of that Interstate 85 bridge that collapsed less than two months ago as the result of a fire. Seven weeks to completely replace a major freeway bridge was previously unheard of but the quick release of $10 million in emergency funds from the Federal Highway Administration along with some regulatory shortcuts honchoed by the state of Georgia are partly credited for the quick repair . Before its collapse that bridge carried nearly a quarter million vehicles per day.