Automotive News Digest Week Ending February 9, 2019 - Compiled By Executive Producer Larry Nutson
AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO - February 10, 2019; Every Sunday Larry Nutson, Executive Producer 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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* If you watched Super Bowl LIII to see the car commercials, well, there weren't many. Audi, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota were in the game. No U.S. domestic brand ran any spots. FCA chose to use the digital world of social media debuting seven videos across the Dodge, Jeep and Ram brand digital and social channels, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
* It's early February and that means it's time for the Chicago Auto Show. The "World's Largest Auto Show" held media previews this week with two global debuts, the 2020 Subaru Legacy as well as the 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. New heavy duty pickup entries from RAM, Ford and Chevrolet are keeping the pickup wars going. Mazda celebrated the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the Miata the took place in Chicago in 1989, Acura celebrated the 30th birthday of the NSX, FCA celebrated 35 years of minivans and it was the 15ht time Camp Jeep held indoor off-road adventures. One of the country's largest auto shows in terms of visitors, the Chicago event this year boasts four indoor test tracks and — polar vortex or not — six outdoor test drive areas at the mammoth McCormick Place with its 1 million sq.ft.
* At the opening media breakfast of the Chicago Auto Show the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) announced the Subaru Ascent as the winner of its 2019 Family Vehicle of the Year Award and the Volvo XC40 as the winner of its inaugural 2019 Luxury Family Vehicle of the Year award. Adding to the festivities, rathe than making news Kia brought in an impov troupe from The Second City who made us laugh and smile about many things automotive.
* Among news generated at the press preview for the Chicago Auto Show this week was the announcement that Ford will spend over $1 billion updating their assembly plant on the south side of Chicago where they make the Explorer Police Interceptor, the regular Explorer and the Lincoln Aviator. That investment will include a new, state-of-the-art paint facility and updates to the nearby stamping plant. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel came to the press conference to thank Ford.
* GM started its next round of white-collar job cuts this week, however there will be fewer than originally indicated. In November, GM said it needed to reduce its North American white-collar workforce by about 8,000. About 2,250 salaried staff took voluntary buyouts, leaving around 5,750 workers still to be laid off. But a GM spokesman said the automaker had trimmed about 1,500 contract jobs, meaning about 4,000 more staff jobs will be cut.
* Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported its best annual U.S. retail sales in 17 years at 1.7 million units and 4.8 million worldwide. Total sales including fleet came in at 2.2 million. Profits were reported at $4.1 billion and UAW workers in the U.S. will get profit sharing checks of $6,000. Ram trucks accounted for nearly 600,000 sales, up 7% from a year ago, and Jeep Wrangler sold just over a quarter million units.
* The World Car Awards, which will be presented at the New York International Auto Show in April, announced the finalists in this year's six World Car Awards categories. The 2019 World Car of the Year winner will be selected from the following 10 finalists that were chosen from an initial list of 40 contenders. The Top Ten World Car of the Year finalists are, in alpha order: Audi e-tron, BMW 3 Series, Ford Focus, Genesis G70, Hyundai Nexo, Jaguar I-PACE, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Suzuki Jimny, Volvo S60/V60 and Volvo XC40.
* FCA is recalling an estimated 573,876 heavy-duty trucks in the U.S. to address a potential steering-linkage issue. The recall population is limited to model-year 2013-2017 Ram 3500 pickups and model-year 2014-2017 Ram 2500 pickups and 3500 chassis cabs. An FCA US investigation discovered a specific steering-linkage configuration on certain vehicles may separate over time.
* A broken elevator in Turin, Italy, apparently trapped a stunning 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ underground for 35 years. According to the Alfa Romeo Giulia & 105-series Facebook page, the Giulietta SZ was found last November. It was owned by a mechanic who, presumably, was unable to get the car out of the basement, opting to just leave it there for more than three decades. Once the mechanic passed away and there was no will to determine the car’s fate, it reportedly went to government auction, where it sold for almost $650,000 (€547,000).
* The auto industry lost a long-time friend and advocate with the death this week of John Dingell, the longest-serving congressman in U.S. history, who served through 11 presidencies. He was a Democrat and the son of a congressman representing Michigan’s 12th District. Over his long career he was often in a position to affect policies related to the auto industry. Dingell was 92 and his wife Debbie now holds that congressional seat.
* Volkswagen Group announced this week an investment of $300 million in EV charging stations in 18 urban areas around the country beginning in July. They call it a National Zero Emissions Vehicle investment. VW has focused much of its R&D budget on pursuing electric vehicles. The investment in these charging stations is part of the settlement agreement reached as a result of the diesel emissions scandals.
* More details of Carlos Ghosn’s irresponsible financial dealings came to light this week with the announcement that he will pay back the Chateau de Versailles for a wedding party with a Marie Antoinette theme because of an improper sponsorship deal. That repayment will then be passed on to Renault SA. The payment came to light and was reported to French authorities after an internal company investigation. Ghosn remains in a Japanese jail as new allegations continue to come to light.
* Last week’s Salon Retromobile auction in Paris resulted in one of the highest prices ever paid for a prewar car. Artcurial Motorcars auction company sold a 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Touring Berlinetta for nearly $19 million including the buyer’s fee. According to reporting by classiccars.com, the buyer was “a private collector from the U.S.” and the seller a Dutch collector whose father had bought the car 43 years earlier. The seller sat in the front row at the auction.
* The start the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is happening this weekend as the season-opening 59th annual NHRA Winternationals are underway in Pomona, California. Nitro-burning top fuel dragsters and funny cars thrill the crowds while the growing popularity in the FSSX factory super stock class is taking the spotlight from Pro Stock. And,funny car driver Courtney Force will be just watching as she recently announced her retirement, or perhaps better put, sabbatical.