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Automotive News Digest; Week Ending December 8, 2018; Executive Producer Larry Nutson


AUTO CENTRAL, CHICAGO - December 9, 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 In Digest Format - Week Ending December 9, 2018;
Executive Producer Larry Nutson

* U.S. light-vehicle sales slipped 0.5 percent in November. Ford, Honda and Toyota are down. FCA is way up with robust RAM and Jeep sales. Fleet shipments are down and cars are not selling. Still, the SAAR came in as the year's second strongest. Sales total for the year is headed to 17 million for a fourth-straight year. Kelley Blue Book estimated that average transaction price for light vehicles in the U.S. was $36,978 in November 2018, up 2 percent compared to a year ago.

* A temporary truce in the China v. U.S. trade war might provide some temporary breathing room. President Trump agreed to hold off on additional tariffs that could affect the auto industry. Political experts have speculated the truce may not last. President Trump also said he will withdraw from NAFTA as a way to pressure the House Democrats to pass the revised agreement.

* Following this news, Trump tweeted he had a new deal with China. However, news report have failed to corroborate his statement and there may be little coming from his meeting with the Chinese leader.

* Nissan, as a corporate entity, is expected to be charged along with ousted company boss Carlos Ghosn and Nissan director, Greg Kelly, for violating the Japanese Financial Instruments and Exchange Act for under-reporting Ghosn’s income from the company for five years. A Nissan spokesman said the company has “identified serious misconduct related to the reporting of Mr. Ghosn’s compensation.” Both Ghosn and Kelly remain in jail since their arrest on November 19th.

* German automotive executives from VW, Daimler and BMW met with Trump administration officials this week. President Trump has pressured foreign automakers to make more vehicles in the U.S. by threatening increased tariffs on imports, arguing that European duties on American cars are unfair. VW said it might use capacity from Ford to build cars and BMW said it is considering a second plant.

* Waymo, the former Google self-driving project owned by parent company Alphabet, is launching a commercial robotaxi service in the Phoenix area. Called Waymo One, a few hundred customers will have access to an app to summon a ride in modified Chrysler Pacifica vans using their smartphone. For now, the company says it will have Waymo-trained test drivers behind the wheel, even though the company already has driverless vehicles on public roads in Phoenix. Earlier Waymo appointed the former chairman of the National Safety Council, Deborah Hersman, as their new chief safety officer.

* GM CEO Mary Barra testified before members of Congress about their production and staff cutbacks. Barra said that GM has an overcapacity problem but will keep an open mind on plant closures. GM plans to also trim about 15% of its white collar workforce, many of which will be engineering staff that it doesn't need with the switch to electric vehicles.

* And while GM is closing plants in Detroit, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is adding production capacity. FCA is planning to reopen its long-idled Detroit Mack II engine plant to assemble the three-row version of the company’s popular Jeep Grand Cherokee, according to reporting in Automotive News. It will be the first new Detroit assembly plant since 1992. FCA gave up on most of its passenger cars getting ahead of competitors in making the transition to trucks, SUVS and crossovers.

* New York City is leveling the playing field and setting $17 per hour as the minimum wage for Uber, Lyft and all car-for-hire drivers. Of course this will raise fares, but that's only fair for all.

* TRUCK TREND has selected the Ram 1500 as the winner of its 2019 Pickup Truck of the Year Award. TRUCK TREND staff, comprised of a group of truck experts from across the nation, selected the Ram 1500 following an intense weeklong evaluation of eight trucks throughout 1,300-plus miles of grueling performance testing in California.

* Volkswagen expects the era of the internal combustion engine car to fade away after it rolls out its next-generation gasoline and diesel cars beginning in 2026. Traditional automakers are under increasing pressure from regulators to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions to combat climate change, prompting Volkswagen to pursue a radical shift to electric vehicles. VW will continue to modify its combustion engine technology after the new platform is introduced next decade. After 2050, there may still be some gasoline and diesel models in regions where there is insufficient charging infrastructure.

* Meanwhile in France violent protests have broken out over a fuel tax scheduled for 2019 that has led to French President Macron scrapping the tax for now. The fuel tax was part of a plan to wean France off of fossil fuels in order to reduce greenhouse gases.

* The journal Science published this week the analysis of a group of researchers from the University of Southern California , MIT and other institutions that claims the Trump administration’s justification for rolling back tailpipe emissions is “misleading,” concluding it could result in more crash fatalities and injuries. They proclaimed the administration’s analysis is "fundamentally flawed” and “makes no sense.”

* The Detroit Auto Dealers Association revealed to a meeting of the Automotive Press Association that it has inked a deal with its venue, Cobo Center, to host the North American International Auto Show for another seven years. Bigger news, announced months ago, is the plan to move the NAIAS from its traditional date in early January to the middle of June beginning in 2020. The move is in response to major headwinds facing major motor shows around the world. The new Detroit summer auto show is planned to be part of a month of auto-related activities.

* In the near term, the upcoming Detroit NAIAS, the last to be held in January, appears to be performance car heavy. A new Lexus RC F Track Edition was confirmed by Toyota's U.S. sales boss, Bob Carter, at the company's holiday luncheon. The new Toyota Supra as well as the new Mustang Shelby GT 500 are expected to also break cover.

* Former NHRA Top Fuel championship-winning driver and crew chief Dick LaHaie passed away Dec. 5. He was 76. LaHaie won the championship as a driver in 1987 and tuned both Scott Kalitta and Larry Dixon to world championships in the class. LaHaie retired from his crew chief role in 2005 and has been enshrined in numerous drag racing and motorsports halls of fame, including the Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame and the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, in recognition of his sterling career.

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