Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest July 24-30, 2017: APEAL Scores; GM Model Cancellations?; Taurus Bye Bye?; Hello Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII; Dieselgate; Recalls Of Course
AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO, July 30, 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 30, 2017
* According to the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, for the 13th consecutive year Porsche topped the overall marque ratings, earning an impressive 884 APEAL score. It was followed by newcomer Genesis (869) and then BMW (855), Audi (854) and Mercedes-Benz (851).
* GM has put six of its cars under review and is evaluating whether to cancel them in the coming years, according to reports. The company is considering plans to eliminate the Chevrolet Volt hybrid, the Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac CT6, Cadillac XTS, Chevrolet Impala and Chevrolet Sonic.
* Ford may discontinue production of the large Ford Taurus sedan for the U.S. market by the end of next year, and quit selling the subcompact Ford Fiesta here by the end of next year or in 2019, according to sources familiar with the company and supplier planning. This, according to the Detroit News. The C-Max, built at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, also is likely to end production by early 2019, according to one source.
* While we don’t usually report new car introductions here, we’ll make an exception for this one. Rolls Royce offered the first full views of the new Phantom VIII. With a base price of $450,000 you can load it up with options and custom materials as much as you like and pay as much as you need to to feel like you’ve arrived. One of the Phantom’s new features is called a “Gallery,” a glass enclosed dash that can display a variety of art. This is the second generation of the brand since coming under BMW ownership and is powered by a twin turbocharged, 563 horsepower version of their big V12.
* Volkswagen has gotten the OK to fix its diesel cars that were engulfed in the dieselgate scandal. Owners eligible for buybacks can instead choose to accept a fix and cash compensation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authorized the fix to VW's 2-liter engine diesel cars from 2009 through 2014, including the Jetta, Jetta SportWagen, Golf, Beetle, Beetle Convertible and Audi A3. After the fix, average fuel economy per vehicle will fall by up to 2 miles per gallon, according to VW. The approved repairs cover about 326,000 vehicles, or 98% of the 2-liter diesels.
* EU antitrust regulators are investigating allegations of a cartel among a group of German carmakers, the European Commission said. German magazine Der Spiegel reported that VW, BMW, Audi and Porsche may have colluded to fix the prices of diesel emissions treatment systems using industry committees. Sixty industry committees made up of about 200 employees discussed vehicle development, brakes, petrol and diesel engines, clutches and transmissions as well as exhaust treatment systems, Der Spiegel reported, citing a letter sent to cartel authorities. BWM made a statement denying any collusion.
* Reports from Europe say a consumer rebellion against diesel — once the fuel of choice in Europe — is gathering momentum. First is was the VW scandal and now the collusion investigation are causing consumers to turn a negative eye. Diesel sales are dropping in many European countries as buyers become more aware of the health hazards. Add the U.K. to those countries committing to eliminate the sale of gasoline and diesel powered cars by 2040. The decision follows similar moves in France and Norway. Then the ultimate goal is to have all these fossil fuel dinosaurs entirely off the road by 2050. In the meantime the government will be offering big financial incentives for municipalities to go ahead and ban these cars from particularly polluted areas. Opponents of the plan point to the potentially critical demand on the electric power grid. Will the internal combustion engine go away? Well, they didn’t say anything about ethanol or other liquid fuels.
* In spite of diesel engines being dissed around the world, particularly in Europe, Mercedes and VW are planning new software tweaks expected to improve emissions levels and cut nitrogen oxide emissions by fully 20 percent, according to reporting by Reuters. As we might expect, this is all being done under stringent supervision of the government. These same updates have not been offered in the U.S. yet. Dr. Dieter Zetche, Daimer AG board chairman, says the goal is to “strengthen confidence in diesel technology."
* And in the U.S., the VW exec currently behind bars for his involvement in diesel gate is expected to enter a guilty pleas in exchange for cooperation with government authorities and perhaps a lighter jail sentence. Oliver Schmidt, a German national and Volkswagen's former top emissions compliance manager for the U.S., had been charged with conspiracy. He worked at Volkswagen's research and development center in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
* As for the electrification of our personal transportation, Toyota announced they will have a long-range, solid-state battery by the early 2020s. A Japanese newspaper reports that Toyota expects to jump ahead of competitors by concentrating on this newer battery technology that promises cheaper cost, longer range and quicker recharging. Toyota, of course, is currently a leader in the public sale of hydrogen fuel-cell cars and continues development of more conventional lithium-ion battery systems as well.
* Our friends at The Detroit Bureau report that nearly eight of 10 Americans – including 68% of Republicans – favor the strict Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards set to phase in between now and 2025, according to a new study by the Consumer Federation of America. According to CFA calculations, the 54.5 mpg target will add an average $325 to the price of the typical new vehicle but save $946 in fuel costs over five years. And the savings could rise substantially if fuel prices go back up to anywhere near the highs seen earlier this decade.
* The National Transportation Safety Board issued a press release this week claiming that speeding contributed to as many traffic deaths as drunk driving over the past 10 years. The NTSB then recommended states that restrict automated speed enforcement consider lifting those restrictions. The National Motorists Association quickly responded questioning the NTSB’s interpretation of the numbers and then noted the history of governmental agencies abusing these systems for revenue generation rather than for safety.
* FCA is recalling 7,802 Dodge Challengers from the 2017 model year in the U.S. because the cars may roll after being parked. FCA will update vehicle software to help ensure the vehicles are in "park."
* Ford is recalling nearly 117,000 vehicles because the bolts in the seat, seat belt or seat belt buckle may fracture. The recall involves the 2014 F-Series pickup, 2014 E-Series van, 2014-2015 Ford Escape and the 2015 Lincoln MKC SUV.
* Drag racing keeps getting more attention by the Detroit carmakers. First it was the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon. Now Ford has announced that the 2018 Mustang will have a redesigned 5.0-liter V-8 engine with 460 horsepower and 420 pound feet of torque. Mated to a new 10-speed automatic transmission, it drops the GT’s 0-to-60 time to under 4 seconds when the pony car is set to Drag Strip mode. Back in June, Ford announced the vehicles would come standard with a burnout feature that locks the front brakes, a device called Line Lock that has been around since the '60s, while letting the rear tires spin free.
* The motorsports landscape is changing. Both Porsche and Mercedes-Benz will compete in Formula E, the all-electric racing series, starting in 2019. Porsche will discontinue its LMP1 racing program and Mercedes will leave the German Touring Car Series, where they have been dominant.