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Nutson's Automotive News Summary June 19-25, 2017: Quality Up; Volvo Challenge; 280 MPH Bugatti Chiron; Most Appreciating In Value Vehicles; RIP "Akron" Arlen Vanke


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AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO, June 18, 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: June 25, 2017

* Results of the 2017 J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey were presented to the Automotive Press Association in Detroit this week and it was a good day for Korean automaker Kia. Not only did the brand lead the field in overall quality (for the second year in a row) but the Kia Cadenza scored the highest quality marks of any individual model and the brand won outright in 5 of 23 segment awards. The top five brands were Kia, Genesis, Porsche, Ford and Ram. At the bottom of the rankings were Fiat, Jaguar, Volvo, Mitsubishi and Land Rover. Domestic U.S. automakers continued to make substantial improvements overall and throughout the industry quality improved over 7%. Most owner complaints are about technology, not mechanical issues. Voice-recognition, poor navigation operation and smartphone pairing are the issues dragging down ratings.

* A Wall Street Journal opinion piece on Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods suggests that car ownership will be impacted by this business deal. A British survey suggests that 65-percent say grocery shopping would be very difficult without a car. Americans make 1.5 trips per week to the grocery store. However, we think with re-urbanization happening the grocery store will perhaps be closer to your home than it once was.

* Dodge marketers are thinking ahead to sales of the much-hyped, limited edition (only 3,000 will be built) Challenger SRT Demon, the 840-horsepower mighty muscle car that begins deliveries this fall. Experience from the launch of the 707-horsepower Hellcat in 2014 showed dealers would scalp buyers with huge markups over sticker price and take big deposits from customers who had little chance of getting a car. They don’t want that to happen with this one. So, priority will be given to sales that are at or below the $86,090 sticker price, at least for the first round of production. Dealers can only order as many Demons as they are allocated.

* Do you remember the GM ignition switch scandal of a few years ago? Well, part of the settlement of that issue with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was a consent order requiring the company to have regular meetings with NHTSA regarding recalls and other vehicle safety issues. The consent order just expired and GM is now committing itself to continuing the regular meetings with the Feds while also listening to employees through the “Speak Up For Safety�?? program that allows workers to be involved in safety issues.

* Volvo is preparing to challenge Tesla and BMW’s “i�?? sub-brand in the performance electric car space with its new sub-brand called Polestar. Formerly the Polestar iterations of Volvo cars were meant to compete with BMW’s “M�?? series and Mercedes-Benz “AMG�?? high performance vehicles. We expect to see details of the new brand’s product plans sometime this fall. Volvo acquired Polestar about a year ago after contracting with the private firm to develop both hot versions of Volvo products for the road and to participate in motorsports.

* A new report from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute's authored by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle analyzed the relationship between the relative sales of cars and light trucks and the following three economic factors: disposable income, price of gasoline, and unemployment rate. The results indicate that each of the three economic factors examined was a significant predictor of the percentage of car sales out of the combined total of car and light-truck sales. All of the effects were in the expected directions: higher disposable income was associated with lower percentages of car sales, while both higher gas prices and higher unemployment rates were associated with higher percentages of car sales. They predicted future percentages of car sales for 36 scenarios defined by all combinations of three levels of disposable income, three levels of the price of gasoline, and four levels of unemployment. The predicted percentages of car sales ranged from 29.8% to 52.9%.

* The new Bugatti Chiron is capable of 280 mph but is electronically limited to just 261 mph under certain conditions and 237 mph normally, according to a story in TheDrive this week. The 1,479-hp super car will be tested to that higher speed next year according to company engineers if they can be assured tire technology will support that speed. Currently the car runs on Michelin’s best performance tires but beyond 250 mph the thermal and gravitational forces become problematic. The story’s author, Kyle Cheromcha, wonders if 300 mph is next.

* In the 2017 24 Hour of Le Mans, Porsche won for a 19th time. The LMP1 No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid driven by the team of by Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley came from behind to win. In second-place was the LMP2 ORECA-Gibson 07 run by the Jackie Chan DC Racing squad. GTE Pro was won on the final lap of the race when Jonny Adam in his Aston Martin Vantage GTE passed the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R of Jordan Taylor, who finished third. Second place in GTE Pro went to the Ganassi Ford GT of Harry Tincknell, Andy Priaulx and Pipo Derani. The GTE Am class was won by the British JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE shared by ex-Formula 1 driver Will Stevens, Dries Vanthoor and Rob Smith.

* When the #2 Porsche crossed the finish line at the Le Mans 24 Hours race it marked the 20th consecutive overall Le Mans race championship for a Michelin shod vehicle. It was also the 26th overall win for the Michelin brand at Le Mans including the very first race championship in 1923 with Chenard & Walker. Nine total manufacturers have won the overall race wearing Michelin tires including: Alpine, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Chenard & Walcker, McLaren, Mercedes, Peugeot and Renault.

* CARS 3 and Lightning McQueen have sped to Number 1 at the box office. Having opened about a week ago, CARS 3 is full of plot twists and turns as a new upstart driver challenges the good old boys.

* Hagerty Vehicle Ratings show some surprises this month. The classic and collector car insurance company watches prices at auctions, private sales and any other source they find rating different vehicles’ sales performance compared to the market average. At the top of the list of most rapidly appreciating vehicles are: 1966 to 1977 Ford Bronco, 1976 to 1986 Jeep CJ-7, 1973 to 1987 Chevy C/K Series pickups, 1948 to 1968 Dodge Power Wagon, 1969 to 1972 Chevy C/K Blazer and the iconic 1949 to 1967 VW Beetle. At the bottom of the list are Mercedes-Benz SL and SE series from the 1960s and 70s, Ford GT, Porsche 911 from 1964 to 1968 and a variety of other European vehicles that were once hot.

* Veteran drag racer"Akron" Arlen Vanke, who raced Pontiacs and Plymouths in the Stock, Super Stock and later, Pro Stock classes, has died at the age of 80. Vanke ran a ’62 Super Duty 421 Pontiac and then in 1963-64 a pair of Plymouth Belvederes, one powered by a 426-cu.in. Max Wedge V-8, and the second by a 426-cu.in. Hemi V-8. Vanke returned to Pontiac in 1966, running the “Tin Indian�?? GTO and then he returned to Plymouth to race full time in the late '60s.