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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest; July 31-August 6, 2017: Concept Winners, Mazda and Toyota, More Kids Dying In Hot Cars, Auto Sales Wilting, Mustang roar, GM Recall, Driving On Drugs


AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO, August 6, 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. When you wish to "learn more" just click on the article subject link which will take you to the full story as published here on The Auto Channel.

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Nutson's Nuggets: August 6, 2017

* The winners of the sixteenth annual North American Concept Vehicle of the Year Awards were announced during a ceremony held at the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s in Plymouth, Michigan. Jaguar took the honor of 2017 Production Preview Concept of the Year with its I-Pace Concept. Aston Martin earned the 2017 Concept Car of the Year award with its RB 001 Valkyrie Concept. In a rare occurrence, this year there was a tie for the Concept Truck of the Year between the Genesis GV80 and the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz. From among the winners in the Concept Car, Concept Truck and Production Preview Concept categories, the Jaguar I-Pace posted the highest overall score to earn the top award as Most Significant Concept Vehicle of 2017.

* U.S. EPA approval is required before a new vehicle can be sold. It's a routine matter and not newsworthy. However, it has become so. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said Friday it has received certification from the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board that allows the company to produce and sell 2017 model-year Ram 1500 pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs with 3-liter diesel engines. The certification comes after months of work between the agencies and the automaker to address regulator concerns about diesel emissions control technologies used on earlier versions of diesel Ram pickup and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

* Most-awaited and the subject of much speculation, the Tesla model 3 electric car is finally here. Tesla delivered the first few Model 3 production units to employees who ordered the car. The Model 3’s main feature was its $35,000 starting price, but no one can place an order coming close to that price right now. At the moment, employees have to pay a minimum of $49,000 because only the "long range" battery option for a $9,000 is in production as well as the glass roof, which is part of a $5,000 “premium package”.

* The New York Times reports that political leaders and auto industry executives met in Berlin this week to address a growing public backlash against pollution from diesel cars. The “Diesel Summit” meeting will include governors of seven German states where cars are produced or where urban pollution is particularly severe, as well as top executives from Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford of Europe, Opel and major suppliers.

* If you buy a new 2018 Mustang you may make your neighbors happy. The industry-first Quiet Start, also called “Good Neighbor Mode”, has been developed by Mustang engineers. It allows drivers to schedule the time of day when their Mustang GT’s V8 engine will roar and when to keep it quiet to show courtesy to neighbors. New Quiet Exhaust mode limits volume of 2018 Mustang GT’s 5.0-liter V8 engine using active valve performance exhaust system that closes valves to restrict the amount of noise made by the car.

* Mazda and Toyota just announced a joint venture to build a $1.6 billion assembly plant in the U.S. The location has not been announced nor what products will be assembled in the new plant but it will be capable of building 300,000 units/year and it will employ around 4,000 workers. Sources say this is just one element of the new partnership between these two Japanese automaker as they will also be jointly developing new electric vehicles and pursuing other future technologies.

* In other Toyota collaboration news, we learned at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars in Northern Michigan this week that the Asian automaker will be partnering with the American Center for Mobility providing a $5 million grant. The Center, located in Southeast Michigan, is a test environment where manufacturers can evaluate connected and automated vehicle technology. Even with the decentralization of the automobile business, Michigan remains the home of at least 75% of U.S. automotive research and development.

* We just returned from the annual auto industry conference hosted by the Center for Automotive Research where conferees explored many forms of disruptive mobility technology. We did not hear anything there about on Musk’s brainstorm called Hyperloop, a high-speed, tube-based system. Well, that system is now in Phase II testing and achieved a top speed of 192 mph at a 500-meter, above-ground tube in Nevada. The pod uses a linear induction motor and glides throughout the tube by magnetic levitation.

* Ford Explorer CUV Police Interceptor versions have been suffering exhaust leaks of late causing some crashes. At least one large police agency, Austin, TX, has taken their entire fleet of 400 Explorers out of service. Ford has suggested the exhaust leak may be related to extra equipment added to the vehicles, but they have launched a major effort to solve the problem. The city of Auburn, MA said that three of their officers have been admitted to the hospital as a result of carbon monoxide exposure.

* A scientist at San Jose State University, meteorologist Jan Null, who has specialized in studying and tracking deaths of children caused by heatstroke, reports a substantial increase in pediatric heat strokes caused by kids being left in hot cars. It could be an anomaly but 11 children died just this past week. We regularly see news reports of children and pets rescued from closed, hot cars and automakers are beginning to offer optional systems that remind drivers that someone is in a rear seat.

* The opioid epidemic is all over the news these day and we just learned that a study from Columbia University has shown that highway deaths related to opioid use has spiked as well. While the overall number is relatively small compared to the total number of deaths it has risen from just over 1% to 5% from 2010 to 2015. These results may be a bit questionable since the study did not consider whether the accident was caused by opioid use, only whether the the drugs were in the victim’s system. This could be similar to the difference between an accident being “alcohol related” and caused by “drunk driving.”

* July sales of new vehicles brought a bit of a surprise. The trend has been generally downward but rising sales of trucks and sport utility offset big declines in cars and compacts. A sudden drop in sales of many popular trucks in July, including the Chevrolet Silverado, the Honda CR-V and the Jeep Cherokee has raised some concerns. July sales fell 7 percent from the previous July, to 1.4 million cars and light trucks. Experts say one issue that may be at play is a continuing rise in vehicle prices. In July, the average amount a consumer borrowed to buy a new vehicle was $30,689, 17 percent more than five years ago, according to Edmunds, the automotive data provider. The average monthly car payment was $509.

* GM is recalling nearly 700,000 model year 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 pickup trucks worldwide because of a possible lose of the electric power steering due to a software problem.