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Automotive News Digest; Week Ending October 13, 2018 Edited By Larry Nutson


AUTO CENTRAL, CHICAGO - October 14, 2018; Every Sunday Larry Nutson, Senior Editor and Chicago Car Guy along with fellow senior editor Thom Cannell from The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau, give you The Auto Channel's "take" on this past week's automotive news, in easy to "catch up" with news nuggets.

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The Auto Channel Automotive News Weekly Digest - Week Ending October 13, 2018
Executive Editor Larry Nutson

* News from the Paris auto show last week included an announcement by Mercedes-Benz that the next iteration of their large S-Class sedan, due in 2020, will include “Level 3” autonomy, according to Ola Kaelleniou who will replace Dieter Zetsche as Daimler and Mercedes CEO next year. M-B is in competition with rival BMW in who will be first in the market with that technology. Level 3 is characterized by not requiring a driver to have eyes on the road. Audi is in the hunt as well.

* Industry observers were taken by surprise as Ford Motor Company announced it will be curtail its 75-year-old relationship with J. Walter Thompson as its lead ad agency, replacing it with BBDO. The JWT/Ford relationship began in 1943 when Ford was still in full war production and focused on looking ahead to post war products with the tag line, “There’s a Ford in your future.” The relationship between Ford and JWT experienced troubles over the years but survived. Ford said it will still use the traditional agency for lesser work.

* Overlooking an insulting tweet by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the Securities and Exchange Commission moved in court to accept the settlement of their suit against the car maker. The settlement involves the company paying $40 million in penalties and making management changes within the company, including Musk giving up chairmanship of the Board of Directors. U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan, in the Manhattan, will decide if the deal will stand.

* Tesla did some more bragging and the NHTSA took them on. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is taking exception to Tesla's characterization of the agency's safety ratings. Tesla released a lengthy blog post saying that it engineered the Model 3 to "be the safest car ever built" and that NHTSA's tests show that it has "the lowest probability of injury of all cars the safety agency has ever tested." But then the NHTSA said that its crash tests combine into an overall safety rating and that it does not rank vehicles that score the same ratings. "A 5-star rating is the highest safety rating a vehicle can achieve," the agency said in the statement, which did not name Tesla. "NHTSA does not distinguish safety performance beyond that rating, thus there is no 'safest' vehicle among those vehicles achieving 5-star ratings." Tesla's Model 3 received five-star ratings in frontal and side crash tests, rollover prevention and overall. The 2018 Ford Mustang, Honda Accord, Subaru Impreza and Legacy and Toyota Camry also scored five stars in those categories. Companies that make wild claims about NHTSA crash test ratings can land in hot water with other authorities, such as the Federal Trade Commission.

* Tesla says buyers must order cars by Monday (October 15) to get the full federal electric vehicle tax credit of $7,500. The company says on its website that cars ordered by Monday will be delivered by the end of the year. Under federal law, buyers get the full credit until a manufacturer reaches 200,000 in sales since the start of 2010. Tesla hit 200,000 in July but the full credit continues for vehicles delivered by Dec. 31. Then it is gradually phased out.

* Volkswagen Brand Board of Management Member, Thomas Ulbrich, announced last week the company’s intention to sell 150,000 electric vehicles as early as 2020, two-thirds of which will be ID and ID SUV models. The company is increasing its already strong move toward electric vehicles apparently responding to moves by the European Union and specific cities to drastically curtail auto emissions. VW is investing one billion euros in its Zwickau plant to produce electric vehicles.

* The Trump administration is moving to allow the sale of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol year-round, which would help farmers by increasing demand for corn, but faces opposition from environmental groups and the oil industry. Current rules prevent the sale of fuel containing 15 percent ethanol, known as E15, during the summer because it can contribute to smog on hot days. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleared the use of E15 fuel for cars that are from model-year 2001 or newer in 2011. Most gasoline contains only 10 percent ethanol. Trump is directing the agency to begin the process of amending federal rules to allow for the sale of E15 gas year-round. The administration hopes to have the new rules in place by the 2019 summer driving season. By the way, there has been a very good corn crop this year. Due to the Trump trade war, Chinese companies stopped buying U.S. corn due to the tariff their government put on it.

* Chevrolet’s 2019 Silverado full-size pickup with a new 4-cylinder engine gets an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 20 city mpg, 23 highway mpg and 21 combined mpg. The turbocharged engine is rated at a substantial 310 horsepower and 348 pound-feet of torque. Power levels and fuel economy are not far off comparable trucks from Ram and Ford that use V6 engines, and very close to Silverado’s own 5.3-liter V8 that is rated at 17 city mpg and 23 highway mpg.

* We usually don’t report on such a small recall, but this one is interesting. Ford issued a recall this week for 194 of its GT supercars made in 2017 and 2018 over a hydraulic fluid leak under the movable rear wing that could cause a fire if its gets into the exhaust. The Ford GT is made by Canadian supplier Multimatic Inc. and is well behind production plans. Ford is reopening sales reservations for the $450,000 car for the 2020 model year.

* Toyota is recalling nearly 188,000 pickup trucks, SUVs and cars worldwide because the air bags may not inflate in a crash. The recall covers 2018 and 2019 Tundra pickups and Sequoia SUVs as well as 2019 Avalon sedans.

* In drag race news, Leah Pritchett of Don Schumacher Racing clinched the 2018 NHRA Factory Stock Showdown championship in her Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals near Dallas, racing to her third consecutive win of the season and earning her first championship in her first full year in the class. Pritchett’s event win at Dallas was the fifth in the seven-event NHRA Factory Stock Showdown season for the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, the brand’s modern-day “package” car, and also the fifth in a row for a Mopar Dodge Drag Pak driver. Pritchett took out No. 1 qualifier Kevin Skinner driving his Ford Cobra Jet Mustang in the final with an arrow-straight 8.106sec/169.02mph pass down the track to earn her third consecutive win.

* According to the New York Times, a new international motorsport series for women will begin next year, with the goal of finding the first female Formula One champion. The new W Series will be free to enter and aims to promote female drivers and steer women into engineering and science career. The W Series will begin next May and feature six 30-minute races on some of the most famous circuits in Europe. In coming seasons, the series will include races in North America and Asia.The cars will be the Tatuus model used in Formula 3, a steppingstone series to F1. There is a total prize fund of $1.5 million, with the overall winner collecting $500,000. Prize money will be awarded down to 18th place. The anticipated field of 20 drivers will be chosen during a process involving on-track testing, simulator appraisal, technical engineering tests and fitness trials.