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Nutson's Auto News Digest; Week Ending March 23, 2019


AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO - March 24, 2019; Every Sunday Larry Nutson, Executive Producer and Chicago Car Guy along with 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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Automotive News Nuggets Week Ending March 23, 2019

* It's officially spring and, as usual, gasoline prices are climbing. The current nationwide price average of $2.58 per gallon of regular gas is up 35 cents in the past six weeks. Refinery capacity and the changeover to summer-grade gasoline are the two main reasons for the increase.

* The once almighty oil cartel known as OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), has weakened to the point that its members have lost confidence in the organization’s ability to manage and control oil prices as it has done for decades. Recent political events for certain OPEC members have further hindered OPEC with sanctions on Iran and the demise of Venezuela’s oil industry.

* Ford Autonomous said that it would build its first autonomous vehicles at a $50 million production center in Michigan. Production of the self-driving vehicles is expected to start in 2021, with new design hybrid vehicles being shipped in to be fitted with driverless technology. Ford said it planned to expand its production capacity at an existing plant in Flat Rock, Mich., investing $850 million where it will continue to make its Mustang car and start production on new electric vehicle in 2023.

* GM CEO Mary Barra announced this week a $1.8 billion investment and 700 new jobs at manufacturing facilities in six states. The biggest investment is in the Orion assembly plant in suburban Detroit where $300 million will be spent and 400 jobs added to build a new electric vehicle for Chevrolet. Currently the plant produces the full-electric Bolt EV for Chevrolet. That investment, she said, would occur over the next few years.

* It sounds like pie-in-the-sky to us, but Henrik Fisker announced via Twitter this week plans to produce an “affordable, all-electric crossover/SUV” with all-wheel drive and 300-mile range to sell for under $40,000. Those specs put it in direct competition with Tesla’s recently revealed Model Y. Fisker, designer and company namesake, also posted a dramatic rendering of the prospective front view of the yet-unnamed vehicle.

* Oslo Norway is requiring that all of its taxis be zero emission by 2023. For this reason Oslo is setting up a wireless charging system for cabs, which will be the first such fast-charging taxi system in the world. Norway's residents have largely embraced EVs. A third of new cars sold in the country last year were electric, Reuters notes. Norway is requiring all new vehicles sold in the country to be EVs starting in 2025.

* SEC lawyers told a federal judge that Elon Musk failed to vet a single tweet about Tesla as required by a settlement of an SEC investigation into the "funding secured" buyout affair last year. It is not clear what the agency intends to do if the judge agrees that Musk violated the settlement deal.

* The Insurance Institute for Highway Safe (IIHS) has been crashing some trucks. Three large crew-cab pickups — the 2019 Ford F-150, Dodge Ram and Nissan Titan — earned “good” overall ratings in passenger side crash-testing. Rated "acceptable" are the Toyota Tacoma and Honda Ridgeline. "Marginal" ratings went to Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Nissan Frontier, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500. Lastly, rated 'poor' is the Toyota Tundra. In the small pickup category, however, the Toyota Tacoma got the best overall rating.

* From Joe White at Reuters we heard that FCA shares spiked after Robert Peugeot, head of the Peugeot family holding company, said he'd support a deal between the French automaker and the Italian-American company. FCA had no comment at first, but later in the week it was said they are not interested.

* Carlos Ghosn, dethroned boss of Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi, is now facing another investigation. This one involves alleged ?highhandedness' and ?wrongdoings’ in the company’s choice of an Indian partner for sales and marketing. Ghosn is accused of stepping in at the last minute to change the board's decision imposing a less qualified company run by a personal friend of Ghosn.

* An SUV from Maybach? Looks like one is coming. Mercedes luxury division, Maybach, showed an EV concept SUV at last year’s Beijing Motor Show. We just learned that something similar, though with a V8 engine rather than electric motors, will be built in M-B’s Alabama assembly plant for sale sometime next year. Based on the newest GLS platform the ultra-luxury people hauler is expected to cost around $200 grand. M-B is putting around $1 billion into the plant to prepare for the next-generation GLS and later EVs.

* Porsche has decided to resume the GT2 RS production in Germany Italian container ship heading to Brazil, the “Grande America”, sank in the Atlantic off the coast of France last week after a fire broke out. Over 2,000 cars were lost. Reports say the ship was carrying a shipment of Audi A3, A5, RS4, RS5, and Q7 models, as well as some Porsche Caymans, Boxsters, Cayennes, and reportedly four 911 GT2 RS models. All 27 crew members were able to evacuate and are safe.

* Lamborghini created yet more history under the Floridian floodlights by taking a nervy GT Daytona (GTD) class win at the 67th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in the #11 Grasser Racing Team Huracán GT3 of Mirko Bortolotti, Rik Breukers and Rolf Ineichen. The Italian manufacturer is the first to complete the "36 Hours of Florida", with back-to-back victories in the Sebring classic and the Daytona 24 Hours in the same year, for the second time in a row.

* Kyle Busch has tied Richard Petty with his 200th NASCAR career national series race wins with his first-place finish at Fontana Auto Club Speedway. The win is the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s 53rd in the series. Busch also has piled up 94 wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and another 53 in NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Series competition.

* McPherson College in central Kansas announced a scholarship in the name of Denise McCluggage. McPherson is one of few institutions offering a four-year degree in auto restoration, and the late Denise McCluggage was one of the most iconic sports car racers and journalists of her time - a time that lasted 60 years or more. The scholarship will be offered to women interested in writing, photography or auto restoration.