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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest July 17-23 2017: New Audi A8, Buick Regal, Yaris “GRMN"; Hall of Fame Inductees; Weedy Ford Fusions; New Yawk F1; Recalls Of Course


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AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO, July 23, 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: July 23, 2017

Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest July 17-23 2017: New Audi A8, Buick Regal, Yaris “GRMN"; Hall of Fame Inductees; Weedy Ford Fusions; New Yawk F1; Recalls Of Course

* Washington State just implemented the most restrictive anti-distracted driving law in the country making it an offense to even hold a mobile device while driving - and not only while driving, but when stopped in traffic or at a signal as well. The first offense carries a $136 fine and subsequent tickets will cost $234. It is also a secondary offense to smoke, eat, drink, read or groom in your car, and that will be a $99 fine. The Michigan legislature is also considering a ban on holding a mobile device regardless of whether it is being used, but that bill is meeting resistance from the National Motorists Association and is stalled in committee.

* A new report from the University of Michigan (UoM) Transportation Research Institute's Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle says that urban driving is up while rural driving is down. Since 2000 city drivers covered 33 percent more distance and rural drivers drove 12 percent less. The researchers came to no clear conclusion as to why. I might conclude that on-line ordering and delivery has the folks out on the farm just sitting at home and waiting for the delivery truck.

* Navya, a French company that makes self-driving shuttles, will set up its first U.S. plant in Saline, Michigan. Navya plans to build 25 of its autonomous shuttles at the 20,000-square-foot facility before the end of the year. The company's 15-passenger Arma shuttles are all electric and have carried 170,000 passengers to date. Forty-five shuttles are in use at private and public sites in various locations around the world, including Switzerland, Singapore, France and at the Christchurch International Airport in New Zealand. Arma shuttles are expected to be in use as part of a regular shuttle service at the University of Michigan's North Campus in Ann Arbor this fall.

* With the introduction of the new Audi A8 last week, autonomous cars came one step closer to reality. The company’s director of R&D, Peter Mertens, contended that Audi is now so far ahead of the competition that no one will be able to beat them. The new A8 has a system called AI Traffic Jam Pilot that has “Level 3” autonomous abilities allowing the car to entirely drive itself under certain conditions on divided highways and up to 37 mph. Dr. Mertens did not speculate on when the next level will be achieved or when the system will be in other Audi vehicles.

* With the introduction of the 2018 Buick Regal GS this week GM will go against the grain powering it with a normally aspirated, 3.6-liter V6 dropping the outgoing car’s turbo four-cylinder. With horsepower up considerably to 310 and torque down slightly to 282 pound-feet the new engine is mated to a new 9-speed automatic transmission. On the more conventional side, Honda just announced it will not offer a V6 at all anymore in the Accord offering instead two turbo fours and a non-tubo hybrid four.

* Daimler has announced a "service action" to update 3 million diesel powered vehicles in Europe. The update will reduce NOx emissions. This is an extension of a service action that began in March on certain vehicles to now cover many more and is said to cost Euro 220 million. Daimler also confirmed that they have a new generation of diesel engines that will continue to be offered into the future. Mercedes has no diesel models in the U.S. for 2017 due to delayed EPA approval but we expect they will for 2018.

* Similarly, Audi is offering its customers in Europe and other markets a retrofit program for cars with EU5 and EU6 diesel engines. A total of up to 850,000 cars worldwide with six-cylinder and eight-cylinder diesel engines (V6/V8 TDI, EU5/EU6) will get new software. This will further improve their emissions in real driving conditions beyond the current legal requirements. The service also applies to the Porsche and Volkswagen models that are fitted with the same types of engines.

* Fifteen Ford Fusions, made in Mexico, arrived in northeast Ohio earlier this month with 14 kilos of marijuana stashed where the spare tire was supposed to be, said police. In all, there was 400 pounds of marijuana, with a street value of $1 million, said the Portage County (Ohio) Sheriff’s Office. Police believe the drugs were stashed into the trunks while the cars were being transported by rail from Sonora, Mexico, to a CSX rail yard in Lordstown, Ohio. They believe the drugs were supposed to be removed along the route but someone failed to do so. Ford Motor Co. said it determined the drugs weren’t placed in the cars at the auto plant or shipping yard in Mexico. The company said it’s working with the FBI and Customs on the investigation.

* The Automotive Hall of Fame held its 2017 Induction and Awards Gala Ceremony at Cobo Center in Detroit to recognize four global automotive leaders for their contributions to the automotive industry. The award is the industry’s highest honor. This year’s inductees are Albert Bombassei of Brembo, trucking's August Fruehauf , motorsports legend Jack Roush and GM Designer Edward Welburn.

* FCA is recalling 565,647 vehicles so the alternators can be replaced. The recall affects certain 2011-2014 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans, Dodge Challenger coupes, Dodge Durango SUVs and 2012-2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs equipped with electro-hydraulic power steering. Another recall affects 770,853 vehicles around the world, including certain 2011-2015 Dodge Journeys sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico and certain 2011-2015 Fiat Freemont crossovers sold outside North America. These vehicles have an issue with the drivers-side front air bag.

* Toyota announced that it is conducting a safety recall involving 671 Model Year 2016 Avalon Hybrid and Camry Hybrid vehicles in the U.S. Among these 671 vehicles, up to 42 are potentially equipped with a misassembled front drive shaft.

* New York City held its first ever professional car race. The FIA Formula E Qualcomm NYC ePrix race, using 20 Formula E race cars resembling Formula 1, may soon make the Brooklyn, New York Red Hook neighborhood as well known as Monaco. A noted difference is that the 140 mph formula cars are quiet, at only 80dB compared to 128dB of gas-powered cars. Like other EVs, battery technology is still evolving. Halfway through the race batteries run down so in a midrace pitstop drivers change to a new car with fresh batteries. Sam Bird followed up his win in the inaugural FIA Formula E Qualcomm New York City ePrix with an emphatic victory in the second race of the weekend double-header event held on the Brooklyn Circuit.

* Subaru of America, Inc. announced that the Subaru WRX STI Type RA NBR Special set a new lap record for a four-door sedan at the famous 12.8-mile Nürburgring Nordschleife race track, achieving a time of 6:57.5. This time attack car has also set lap records at the Isle of Man TT and the Goodwood Festival of Speed hill climb, where it was also 3rd fastest overall. Subaru said, "We brought the WRX STI Type RA NBR Special here to set a record and call attention to the WRX STI Type RA that we will launch later this year."

* We reported last week on the exclusivity around Ford’s decision as to who gets the privilege of buying a new Ford GT super car. This week Ford announced many of these lucky buyers will have to wait longer than expected for their cars due to both supplier issues and homologation testing. The company did not say how long the delay is likely to be but said the ramp-up to projected production levels is “nearly completed.” The Ford GT, without options, will sell for $450,000. We know that early cars will go to Jack Roush, Jay Leno, Mark Fields and Bill Ford, among others.

* Hendrick Motorsports announced this week that 24-year-old driver Alex Bowman will replace Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for the 2018 NASCAR season in the No. 88 Chevrolet with continued sponsorship from Nationwide and Axalta. Bowman had a part-time ride with Hendrick last year when he shared the No. 88 car with Jeff Gordon, and he had turned down offers from other teams opting to stay with Hendrick. Bowman is a three-year veteran of the Cup series with a solid record including three top 10 starts in his 10 races last year.

* To our surprise we learned this week Toyota will offer a limited edition supercharged Yaris “GRMN" to about 400 enthusiasts in Europe joining, at least on a small scale, the hot-hatch market there. To date Yaris has been thought of here and there as a tepid and efficient tiny economy car. This one will get a supercharged 205-hp 1.8-liter four cylinder with 184 pound-feet of torque and a six speed manual transmission. The name comes from the aftermarket company that developed this Yaris variant - Gazoo Racing, tuned by Meister of the Nurburgring.