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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Nuggets April 30-May 6, 2018: April US Auto Sales; Toledo Jeep History; VW Dieselgate Criminals; Testy Musk; RAM Heist; New Down Under Marque; Brakes Beautiful; Labonte European-ized; RIP NASCAR's James Hylton


AUTO CENTRAL, CHICAGO - May 6, 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 Auto News Nuggets April 30-May 6, 2018

* Auto sales for April were down 4.8 percent with 1.35 million sales. FCA and VW were up, along with Subaru and Volvo. Ford, Honda and Toyota were all down. Nissan took a big hit, dropping 28 percent. GM is now reporting sales quarterly, but industry estimates say they were down 2.5 to 3 percent. The seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate came in at 17.15 million making eight consecutive months of sales above 17 million. Year-to-date auto sales show a tiny 0.2% increase. The average price of a new car in April was $35,411, up 2 percent from the same month last year, according to car valuation and automotive research company Kelley Blue Book, as consumers continue to favor more pricey crossovers, SUVs and pickups. Gasoline prices are rising and so are interest rates.

* After 12 years and more than 2.1 million vehicles produced, the last Jeep Wrangler JK rolled off the line at the FCA US Toledo Supplier Park, making room for the all-new Jeep truck, which will launch in the first half of 2019. Manufacturing capacity for the new Jeep truck was created by moving production of the next generation Jeep Wrangler (JL) to the north side of the Toledo Assembly Complex as part of a $4.5 billion industrialization plan to realign the Company’s U.S. manufacturing base to expand the Jeep and Ram brands.

* Make America Green Again! A coalition led by California sued the Trump administration over car emissions rules, escalating a revolt against a proposed rollback of fuel economy standards that threatens to split the country’s auto market. In a lawsuit filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, California and its coalition — 17 other states and the District of Columbia — called the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to weaken auto emissions rules unlawful and accused the agency of violating the Clean Air Act.

* The VW diesel scandal lingers on with criminal charges revealed this week by the U.S. Justice Department charging former VW Group chief executive Martin Winterkorn with conspiracy to cover up cheating on emission testing. He is accused of conspiring to defraud the United States government in its enforcement of pollution standards under the Clean Air Act, and conspiring to commit wire fraud and to violate the Clean Air Act itself. The investigation is now over three years old and peaked early with VW admitting to rigging the onboard computers on over 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide to sense a testing cycle and mitigate emissions just during the test. It is unlikely Winterkorn will be ever be tried in the U.S.

* Tesla's Elon Musk got a bit testy with the investment community at an unusual earnings call this week according to reporting by Bloomberg. The company continues to struggle with production problems regarding the highly anticipated Model 3 mainstream electric sedan. Tesla has been burning through cash at an alarming rate, say many analysts. Musk appeared annoyed with direct questions about the company’s problems. To a question about Tesla’s reporting to investors he replied, “I think if people are concerned about volatility, they should definitely not buy our stock.”

* With a well orchestrated plan, thieves stole 8 brand new 2018 Ram pickups from the Fiat Chrysler Warren (Michigan) assembly plant. The trucks were fresh off the assembly line. About a dozen thieves all arrived in another stolen pickup, broke through a gate and drove off with each thief behind the wheel of a new Ram. The belief that the theft was to fulfill "an order" for the trucks...perhaps being shipped out of the country. Late news reports two of the trucks had been recovered and police are looking into the theft being an inside job.

* Add another autonomous vehicle testing facility to the mix in Michigan. Toyota announced this week plans to open a closed-course autonomous testing facility as part of the Michigan Technical Resource Park in Ottawa Lake, Michigan, southwest of Detroit. The 60-acre facility will reproduce driving scenarios too dangerous for public roads, like dense urban traffic, slippery road surfaces and complex road layouts. The facility is expected to open in October 2018.

* We reported not long ago that there is no auto industry remaining in Australia after GM and others pulled out one at a time over the past years. Now we learn that a new car with a familiar name is being built there - the Brabham BT62 high-performance race car. Jack Brabham was a legend in sports car racing in the 1960s building cars that won 35 Formula One races. Now Brabham’s son David is in charge of the limited production new car with a 5.4-liter, 700 hp, V8 that will cost $135 million. The goal is to contest LeMans.

* Discussion continues in Detroit to change the timing of its January auto show to October. It's looking most likely that will happen in 2020. However, recent news stories say that GM is suggesting the auto show be moved to June and tie it in with the Detroit Grand Prix. This would reposition the show for the people who matter — the people who buy the cars, trucks and SUVs. Evidence is mounting the Detroit auto show is less relevant to industry insiders than it was not too many years ago. As of now eleven automakers have said they will not participate in the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the North American International Auto Show.

* Detroit Free Press auto critic Mark Phelan reports, "High-fashion brake calipers will be one of the next frontiers in automotive design, as big, low-profile tires and open-faced wheels grow more common, and Brembo is working to get there first. The manufacturer of advanced lightweight brakes already makes calipers in more than 100 colors, including 12 shades of red, Brembo North America President and CEO Dan Sandberg said."

* Bobby Labonte, the 2000 Monster Energy Series Champion, has revealed that he will pursue another series championship in 2018, only this one will take place on tracks unfamiliar to most NASCAR fans. After dipping his toes in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series last year, with road course racing at Brands Hatch in Fawkham, U.K., last May, and becoming the first NASCAR driver to race in Europe, Bobby has announced he will commit to a full season of racing in that series this year. He will pilot a familiar car to many fans, driving the number 18 Toyota for RDV Competition’s race team that looks surprisingly similar to the Interstate Battery car he drove to the NASCAR championship 18 years ago. The racing format in the Euro Series is rather different than here in the U.S., primarily because all of the tracks — except the oval Tours Speedway in Tours, France — are road race courses.

* Former NASCAR driver James Hylton, the 1966 rookie of the year, was killed in a vehicle traffic crash. He was 83. His 61-year old son James Hylton, Jr also died in the crash on an interstate near Carnesville, Georgia