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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest: January 2018 US Sales; Groupe PSA To ATL; Toyota Lexus Safety Recalls; 2019 Corvette Faaasssttt; Pacifica Autonomous; Rolex Results; Diesel Exhaust Tests; Land Rover Awards


AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO, February 4, 2018 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 "catch up" news nuggets. For More search the past 25 year's millions of (Indexed By Google) pages of automotive news, automotive stories, articles, reviews, archived news residing in The Auto Channel Automotive News Library.

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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Nuggets - January 29-Feb 4, 2018:

* U.S. light-vehicle sales rose 1.2 percent in January with sales of 1.15 million. Car sales fell nearly 11 percent while truck and SUV sales were up 8 percent. Higher incentives and light-truck demand brought customers out in spite of severe winter weather. The SAAR came in at 17.18 million. Nissan, GM, Toyota, Subaru and VW were up; Honda, Hyundai, Ford and FCA were down. The average price for a new vehicle was $36,270, up $1,360 from Jan 2017.

* International brands kicked off 2018 with a 57.4 percent share of the U.S. auto market, up 6.4 percent from the 54.4 percent share they held last January and the 55.1 percent share they occupied in December. Asian brands captured the largest share of the U.S. auto market in January, landing ahead of domestic brands with a 47.6 percent share. European brands maintained a strong sales pace with 9.8 percent of the U.S. auto market. Finally, domestic brands finished January with a 42.6 percent share of the market.

* California is upping the game and aiming to put five million zero emission vehicles on its roads by 2030. Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order expanding the states efforts to reduce emissions. California already has about 350,000 ZEVs on the road. Back in 2012 Brown signed an order for 1.5 million ZEVs by 2025.

* A new Leaderboard Report from Navigant Research examines the strategy and execution of 19 companies developing automated driving systems. GM, Waymo, Daimler-Bosch, Ford, Volkswagen Group, BMW-Intel-FCA, Aptiv, and Reneault-Nissan Alliance are the leading companies developing automated driving systems. Mobility as a service (MaaS) will be the primary means of deploying automated vehicles, particularly in the early years of commercialization.

* French automaker, Groupe PSA, the company that purchased most of GMs European assets less than a year ago, announced a decision to locate U.S. headquarters in Atlanta. They’re wasting no time, according to a story reported by The Detroit Bureau, as an advance crew will be operational there within a month. PSA makes Citroen, Peugeot and other brands and is Europe’s number 2 car company by volume. Can their products, most never seen in the U.S., be far behind?

* Safety recalls cost the industry $22 billion last year according to an analyst’s report we saw this week. Now, we learn this year's first big one is from Toyota with the recall of 645,000 cars, crossovers and SUVs with airbags that don’t go off when they should. Owners will begin getting letters in March and dealers will replace a sensor that they say can, over time, develop an “open circuit.” Airbags have caused an exponentially larger number of recalls than any other system within the vehicle.

* FOUR WHEELER has selected the Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury Si6 as the winner of its 45th annual SUV of the Year award. FOUR WHEELER’s SUV of the Year award event is an invitation-only competition that is only open to all-new or significantly revised SUVs for the upcoming model year. For 2018, the field of vehicles included three entries: the Jeep Compass Trailhawk, Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury Td6, and Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury Si6.

* A U.S.-based engineering company, created by VW and other German automakers, allegedly conducted research aimed at rebutting claims that diesel exhaust is harmful by exposing monkeys to exhaust fumes, and exposing humans to nitrogen dioxide. The German auto industry is being criticized based on the report and the German government condemned the experiment. VW is distancing itself from the research group that is funded by the major German auto makers. In response, VW chief executive Matthias Mueller suspended its chief lobbyist Thomas Steg, who admitted to knowing in advance about the monkey experiment, which took place in New Mexico in 2014. Daimler and BMW have also taken action internally with executives who supported the testing.

* Diesel scandals go on as we learned this week from reporting by Automotive News that the Stuttgart prosector is investigating two Bosch employees on “suspicion of aiding fraud.” This appears to be part of an expanding investigation into Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ diesel emissions in the U.S. involving 3.0-liter engines in the Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee. FCA is at risk of around $4.6 billion in fines.

* Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles announced that Waymo has ordered thousands of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans for delivery by the end of this year as Google’s self-driving subsidiary expands its driverless ride-hailing service to multiple cities. Waymo has about 600 plug-in hybrid Pacificas being used for both research and in practical testing. The Pacifica hybrid will be Waymo’s primary workhorse when its service debuts in Phoenix sometime this year. Other cities have not been announced. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne referred to this as a partnership with “like-minded technology leaders.” How many thousands of Pacificas will be made for Waymo was not announced.

* Harley-Davidson motorcycle sales have seriously waned over the past couple years resulting in a decision announced this week to decommission the Kansas City assembly plant. They also announced this week plans to develop an electrified - that is, fully battery powered - motorcycle that will begin sales midyear 2019. Battery-powered motorcycles have become popular with urban police departments and other commercial users and Harley thinks the public is now ready. In spite of introducing new models targeted more for urban use, U.S. sales were down 8.5 percent last year and global sales were down 6.7 percent and are expected to fall another 4.9 percent this year. Harley's bikes are not attracting young people and they're too big for Europe and Asia.

* Toyota is recalling 49,000 2016 Prius and Lexus RX vehicles and Model Year 2015 – 2016 Lexus NX vehicles in U.S. over an electrical issue that could prevent airbags from deploying in the event of a crash.

* Chevrolet said that the new, 2019 755 horsepower Corvette ZR1, the most powerful Corvette ever, shattered the Virginia International Speedway record just days after Ford’s GT supercar became the first car to record a sub-2 minute, 40 second lap around “America’s Nurburgring.” The ZR1 posted a 2.37.3 time — over a second under the 2.38.6 lap record announced by Ford just last week. Ford’s GT time, in turn, had bested the Dodge Viper ACR’s 2.40.0 time. VIR's Grand West Concourse is 4.1 miles long race and has become the stateside benchmark for performance not unlike the famous, 14-mile long Nürburgring in Germany.

* The overall winner of the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona was the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac Dpi-V.R. co-driven by Joao Barbosa, Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi. They also took the Prototype victory finishing more than 80 seconds ahead of their teammates, the runner-up No. 31 Mustang Sampling Cadillac Dpi team of Mike Conway, Eric Curran, Felipe Nasr and Stuart Middleton. In the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, it was all Chip Ganassi Racing, as the No. 67 Ford GT co-driven by Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon took victory in their class, followed up by the No. 66 Ford GT shared by Dirk Mueller, Joey Hand and Sebastien Bourdain. In the GT Daytona (GTD) class, the No. 11 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Mirko Bortolotti, Rolf Ineichen, Frank Perera and Rik Breukers led the way and won their respective class. The No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 of Michael Shank Racing shared by Alvaro Parente, AJ Allmendinger, Trent Hindman and Katherine Legge finished second. Next up: The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 17.

* Chip Ganassi Racing's Rolex 24 class win was its 200th victory. It was Ganassi's 56th sports car win to go along with 103 IndyCar wins, 39 stock car wins and two rallycross wins.

* The class of 2018 has been announced for the 30th-annual Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (MSHFA) induction ceremony. Inductees are “Lil’ John” Buttera, Carl G. Fisher, Jeff Gordon, Howard Hughes, “Flyin’ Fred” Merkel, U.E. “Pat” Patrick, and Bob Tulles. The ceremony will take place at The Shores Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach, Florida on March 13