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US Sales; Cars and Gas Prices Up; Autobahn; Ghosn; Kia, Subaru Recalls; Impala New Life; Tesla No Dealers; Pedestrian Deaths; Seinfeld Porsche


AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO - March 3, 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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* February had a big chill and new car sales dropped. Fiat Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota, VW and Honda all reported declines. GM and Ford now report quarterly, but analysts say they are down too. Continuing a trend, Subaru sales were up. Overall, sales are down 2.9 percent with the SAAR at 16.61 million. Analysts blame severe weather conditions in much of the country, the lengthy partial government shutdown and worry over lower tax refunds.

* The analysts at Kelley Blue Book reported the estimated average transaction price for a light vehicle in the United States was $36,590 in February 2019. New-vehicle prices increased $993 (up 2.8 percent) from February 2018, while decreasing $205 (down 0.5 percent) from last month.

* The average price of regular-grade gasoline in the United States is up 10 cents a gallon over the past two weeks, to $2.44. According to the Lundberg Survey, the jump follows a rise in crude oil costs, but that the price at the pump is still 15 cents lower than it was a year ago. The highest average price in the nation is $3.38 a gallon in the San Francisco Bay Area, while the lowest average is $2.03 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

* A bill introduced in the California legislature would require the department of transportation to add lanes to Interstate 5 and State Route 99 that would mimic the German Autobahn by having no speed limit. Existing lanes on those freeways would remain posted at 65 mph. State senator, John M. W. Moorlach, is behind the bill and he believes it will reduce emissions by reducing congestion and getting motorists to their destination more quickly. Most observers don’t believe the bill had much chance of passage. Don't get your hopes up!

* Carlos Ghosn, dethroned boss of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors, is still in a Japanese jail facing tax evasion charges. He’s been locked up for 100 days. Ghosn with the assistance of a new, high-powered legal team, just made his third application for bail. With the trial potentially several months away, we’re learning about a potential defense strategy - primarily blaming a “conspiracy inside the automaker,” according to reporting by Automotive News Europe.

* GM is extending the life of two cars. The Detroit-Hamtramck plant was slated to idle in June, but GM said production of the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac CT6 sedans will extend into January 2020. The plant also built the Chevrolet Volt electric hybrid sedan and the Buick LaCrosse sedan. Production of the both cars ended Feb. 15, according to GM.

* The Detroit Bureau reports that the Peugeot brand is making its return to the U.S. and Canadian markets. Groupe PSA made the announcement saying the relaunch of its dealer network could take until 2026 to put in place. The news comes 28 years after Peugeot pulled out of the U.S., a victim of rapidly declining sales.

* Kia is recalling 378,000 2012-2016 Kia Soul vehicles over engine damage and fire risks. Additionally, Hyundai and Kia are recalling 155,000 2011-2013 Tucson vehicles and 2011-2012 Sportage vehicles over possible oil pan leaks.

* Subaru announced a global recall of 2.2 million SUVs, the biggest ever for the company, over a brake light glitch that could affect how the vehicle engines start. The company said it was recalling 306,728 units of Impreza and Forester in Japan, while the remaining 1.96 million vehicles will be recalled in North American and other regions. This is just the most recent of Subarus quality issues. Within the last year they’ve halted production after finding a defect in the power steering and issued a recall the result of a valve spring problem.

* Tesla said it will largely abandon its long-controversial retail model of factory-owned stores, turning instead to an equally radical model for selling vehicles in online sales only. Tesla will only sell its electric cars online as it accelerates its cost cutting so it can realize its long-running goal of selling a mass-market sedan for $35,000. On another front, Tesla is putting more resources into its vehicle service infrastructure that relies on mobile units rather than a service center.

* U.S. pedestrian deaths hit a 28-year high in 2018, according to new estimates that suggest the nation's SUV boom is becoming increasingly deadly. The Governors Highway Safety Association estimated that pedestrian deaths across the nation rose 4 percent to 6,227 last year The GHSA reported that the number of pedestrian deaths involving SUVs increased by 50 percent from 2013 through 2017, while the number of pedestrian deaths caused by passenger cars increased by 30 percent over that same period. We note: More people are moving to cities therefore there are more pedestrians walking. And, there is the issue of distracted walking.

* Comedian Jerry Seinfeld, a serious Porsche enthusiast and collector, is suing a California collector car dealer over the authenticity of a 1958 356 Porsche Speedster GS/ST after he (Seinfeld) was sued by the company that bought it from him. The buyer, Fica Frio Limited, claims it is not an authentic GS/GT and wants its $1.5 million back along with other costs of the purchase. According to AP reporting, Seinfeld paid $1.2 million for the car, but no one has specified why the car's authenticity is questioned.