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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest - Featuring "Don't Miss" Car and Truck News Made March 31-April 6, 2019

Nutson's Digest

This Week's Don't Miss Automotive Stories: New Vehicle Sales Scoreboard; Takata Air Bags Still Killing; Hyundai and Kia Fires; GM Bolt EV US Tax Break Halfed; Lot's Of Autonomous Vehicle News; Profitable Traffic Tickets; Ghosn Re Re Re Re Arrested (心室無収縮); German Car Co's Charged; Tariff Threats; Tesla Troubles (yet again); FCA Co-Ventures; and More


AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO - April 7, 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.

LEARN MORE: Links to millions of the past 25 year's automotive news, articles, reviews and archived stories residing in The Auto Channel Automotive News Library.

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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest - Featuring "Don't Miss" Car and Truck News Made March 31-April 6, 2019

* Monday was April fools day which always brings out the best in automotive creativity. How about the Dodge Avenger Hellcat? Also we heard about the Toyota Yaris Adventure, Triumph Thruster motorcycle with 1,000 hp jet engines, Hagerty's story on a V6 mid-engine Corvette, the Jeep sedan and Honda Pastport. Did you have a favorite?

* The 2020 Ford Escape details were OK'd for publication. On the invite of Ford we got an advance look at the all-new Escape, outdoors, under a clear sky at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. Compared to the current Escape it’s longer, lower and wider. The rear roof line is sloped and the belt line has been lowered. The front grille is Mustang-like, the front lower section borrows looks from the Ford GT. The new Escape has a less-utilitarian look and now a more refined, classy look.

* March new vehicle sales are down 3.1% although the SAAR is up at 17.42 million. Nearly every auto maker had declines, except Honda and Hyundai were both up. GM, which no longer reports monthly sales, was down 7% for the quarter. Similarly, Ford is down 1.6% for the quarter. Consumers are experiencing sticker shock as average new-vehicle prices were on pace to reach a high of $33,319 for the first quarter, according to J.D. Power. Note that some buyers are paying more than 10% interest on new vehicle purchases. Ouch!

* Since forever Ford's F-Series has been the best-selling truck in the U.S.The Chevrolet Silverado held second place and Ram placing third...usually a distant third. This week, however, something different happened. When sales for the first quarter of 2019 were added up, the F-Series was still number one, but Ram was comfortably number two.

* Exploding Takata airbags have now claimed 16 lives in the United States. Honda confirmed that the 2018 death in Arizona was caused by an airbag malfunction in a 2002 Honda Civic. Previous owners of the 16-year-old car were mailed 12 recall notices, Honda said - but the car had been sold three months prior to the fatal incident, and the automaker had not tracked down the new owner.

* The NHTSA has decided to open two new investigations into fires involving Hyundai and Kia vehicles after getting complaints of more than 3,100 fires and 103 injuries. The agency granted a petition filed last June seeking the investigations by the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, a consumer advocacy group. The investigations cover non-crash fires in almost 3 million vehicles that includes the 2011 through 2014 Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe, the 2011 through 2014 Kia Optima and Sorento, and the 2010 through 2015 Kia Soul.

* The Chevrolet Bolt EV is no longer eligible for the full $7,500 Federal tax credit. Once a carmaker reaches 200,000 EV sales the credit begins to phase out. GM has begun the first 6-months of the Federal Tax credit phase-out period and Bolt EV buyers will only qualify for up to $3,750. On October 1st, the maximum credit will be halved again to $1,875 for another 6 months, until it ends on April 1st, 2020.

* The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) International, Ford, GM and Toyota are forming a consortium to work on Level 4 and 5 automated vehicles. It will be called the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium and will provide the framework for development, testing and deployment of this technology including the development of standards that can be applied internationally.

* Reuters points out that there is a bit of autonomous car angst - Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche connected the dots between the anxiety over two fatal crashes involving Boeing's automated 737 MAX airliners and the debate over the safety of self-driving cars. A separate Reuters/Ipsos poll of U.S. residents found significant distrust of robot cars, and a strong aversion to paying extra for autonomous vehicle technology - which currently costs tens of thousands of dollars per vehicle.

* Money is green and green investors don't buy Lyft. Funds that want to invest in companies that are doing good for the climate are staying away from Lyft's new stock, and will shun Uber because of a growing body of evidence that ride hailing services add to urban congestion and CO2 emissions, and divert riders and revenue from mass transit and walking. This report from Reuters.

* Carlos Ghosn can't catch a break. Ousted Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn was arrested, for the fourth time, by Japanese authorities on new charges that he used illegal means to enrich himself at Nissan shareholders' expense. Ghosn called on the French government to help him as he accused Japanese authorities of trying to muzzle him. Facing 10 days in jail, Ghosn continues to deny all the “groundless charges and accusations,” in his words, claiming he is the victim of a boardroom coup.

* President Trump has a pattern of making threats and then walking them back. His latest threat to completely close the border with Mexico has been walked-back to now put 25% tariffs on autos and trucks made there. He gave Mexico one year to fix the border or else. We'll see.

* At the Washington, D.C. auto show the Nissan Leaf was named the 2019 Connected Green Car of the Year by Ron Cogan, publisher of the Green Car Journal. Chevrolet was honored for 2019 Green Car Technology of the Year with its Dynamic Fuel Management system.

* Reuters reports that European regulators charged BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler with colluding to derail the rollout of exhaust scrubbing technology more than a decade ago. It said the collusion occurred between 2006 to 2014 and took place during the carmakers' technical meetings. Tech for both diesel and gasoline engines is involved.

* The state of Missouri is not known for enlightened law enforcement, particularly when it comes to traffic laws. But, the state Attorney General, Eric Schmitt, is suing the City of Diamond in the southwest part of the state for writing excessive traffic tickets specifically to enhance the city treasury, including ticket quotas. Missouri banned ticket quotas after the 2014 Ferguson shooting of an unarmed black man that began closer scrutiny of policing at all levels in the state.

* PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are in talks to collaborate on electric car development, particularly the development of a “super platform” according to an Automotive News story this week. FCA continues to “look into” anything that will make them stronger including a merger or other alliance. PSA and FCA are already cooperating on light-duty van and other vehicles.

* Elon Musk was facing more pushback from the Securities and Exchange Commission this week for posting on Twitter that Tesla will make around 500,000 cars in 2019. His Twitter statements already had him in trouble with the SEC and he was disallowed from tweeting such things by a court order because they were seen as affecting the stock value artificially and dishonestly. It appears the judge in the matter is insisting that the SEC and Tesla work this out among themselves.