Nutson's Auto News Review - Week Ending June 1, 2019
This Week's Auto News:FCA Renault Merger, President Trump Approved E15 For Year Round Sales; US Auto Company's Stock Falls; Bank Predicts Robo-Taxi Success, MIT Disagrees; Infiniti Blows-Off Hong Kong For Japan; Driverless Trucks Now In Phoenix; Cadillac Unveils 3 New Twin-Turbo V6 335 HP Sedans, Porsche Investigation, EV Sales: Blah Forecast; Breathalyzer Becoming Standard Equip?; VW Chattanooga Union Vote; 960 HP Ferrari Plug-in; INDY 500 Best TV Coverage Ever!
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Nutson's Automotive News Digest Week Ending June 2, 2019; Vehicle news and back stories in easy to digest nuggets.
* Joe White reporting for Reuters writes, Fiat Chrysler proposed a merger with France's Renault that would create the world's third largest automaker, half-owned by Fiat Chrysler's shareholders and half by Renault's. Renault said it is studying the idea "with interest" - in fact talks have been underway. If the deal goes through, the two companies could start sharing the costs of developing electric and hybrid vehicles, cleaning up internal combustion engines and developing new models - a big benefit to FCA which is behind on electrification and emissions compliance and buying credits from Tesla to avoid fines. Renault (and its shareholder the French government) would get a cut of the profits FCA reaps in the North American truck and SUV markets with its Ram and Jeep brands. The deal doesn't involve Nissan, Renault's Japanese alliance partner which has balked at a full merger.
* Make America's Air Clean and Fuel Cheap Again; E15 fuel has received the go-ahead for year-round sales. This move is a great step in the right direction to clean our air, become fuel self-sufficient and really replace petroleum based fuels as our primary engine fuel.
* More from Joe White: A former top World Trade Organization official who ruled on trade disputes said the Trump administration's position that imported vehicles are a threat to national security would likely fail if a country, say Germany or Japan, challenged the policy at the WTO. President Trump has threatened to pull the U.S. out of the WTO.
* Auto company stocks took a big hit this week when President Trump threatened tariffs on all Mexican products. Many autos and auto components for U.S. consumption come from Mexico. A tariff of 5% begins in June and increases by 5% each month thereafter until the tariff reaches 25%. General Motors has 14 factories in Mexico and is the largest automaker in Mexico. Analysts disagree whether the companies will pass those extra costs on to customers.
* A Detroit News story says the global robo-taxi market might be worth over $2 trillion a year by 2030, and mass adoption of driverless vehicleand chas could provide a significant boost to a number of existing sectors, according to UBS Group AG analysts. The estimate is based on a UBS Evidence Lab simulation of a robo-taxi fleet in New York that optimized routes and riders’ connections with vehicles, along with metrics like running costs, utilization rates, margins charging-station network size, analysts including David Lesne wrote in a report. The number of taxis operating in New York could be cut by two-thirds once cars are fully autonomous, they said. MIT Study Disagrees 100%
* Nissan will move the head offices of its Infiniti luxury brand back to Japan from Hong Kong. Infiniti, Cadillac and in the early 2000s Ford's Lincoln brand all tried separating themselves geographically from their parent companies ostensibly to attract fresh talent and get space to craft brand identities independent from their companies' mass market brands. Cadillac moved to lower Manhattan. Lincoln to Southern California and Infiniti to Hong Kong. Underwhelming results and pressure to work more closely with the mainstream brands to share EV and other technology is putting an end to such experiments.
* German prosecutors are investigating Porsche CEO Oliver Blume over a possible breach of fiduciary trust tied to payments made to a Porsche works council member, the Stuttgarter Nachrichtenr reported. By approving the payments, Blume and other Porsche staffers may have contributed towards a misuse of corporate funds, the paper said on Wednesday, without citing sources.
* Market research firm IHS Markit forecast that electric and hybrid vehicle sales in the U.S. could rise to 7.6% of the market by 2026 from barely over 1% today, but many of the electrified models headed to showrooms will struggle to find buyers. The top 10 electric vehicle brands - led by Tesla - will account for two-thirds of EV sales, IHS analyst Stephanie Brinley wrote. Remaining brands will average just 11,900 vehicles sold a year.
* Google’s self-driving vehicle division says it’s bringing autonomous trucks to the Phoenix area. Waymo announced that its fully self-driving tractor-trailers will start driving on freeways this week and will expand to more routes over time. Waymo’s self-driving passenger vehicles are ubiquitous in eastern Phoenix and its suburbs, where the company conducts extensive testing and runs a taxi service. The company says the big trucks use the same sensors as passenger vehicles but they’re configured differently. The testing will start with two drivers in each rig.
* While sedans are getting less respect in the automotive market these days, particularly at GM, a couple new versions of Cadillac sedans were launched this week - the CT4-V and CT5-V. Cadillac’s “V-Series” represent their highest performance cars and began with the CTS-V in 2004. These new versions are powered by a 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V6 making 335 horsepower mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The cars will also offer Cadillac’s Super Cruise hands-free driving option.
* A congresswoman from New York has drafted a bill that would require all new vehicles to have blood-alcohol detection capabilities within ten years. Representative Kathleen Rice, a former Nassau County district attorney, says she wants to stop drunk drivers before they can even start a car. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is studying the enabling technology. Opponents are concerned about the right to privacy and the definition of “drunk driving.”
* Workers at the Chattanooga Volkswagen assembly plant will take another vote on becoming unionized later this month. The UAW attempted to organize the plant when it first came on line but the campaign failed. Workers and the management also tried to establish a German-style works council and that failed also. VW is planning an $800 million investment in the plant to begin building an electric vehicle for 2022. The UAW has so far failed to organize any foreign owned auto factories in the southern U.S.
* The most powerful road going Ferrari was revealed this week - the 986-hp SF90 Stradale, Ferrari’s first plug-in hybrid for public sale. The turbocharged V8 accounts for 769 of those horses and three electric motors, one in the rear and two in the front provide the other 217 and making it an all-wheel drive super car. The company claims a 2.5 second 0-100 kph time (0-62 mph) and 0-200 kph of 6.7 seconds. Price has not been revealed and it is not intended to be limited production.
* Simon Pagenaud held off Alexander Rossi and Takuma Sato to win his first career Indianapolis 500 last Sunday. The 2016 IndyCar Series champion finished just two-tenths of a second ahead of Rossi and the pair traded the lead throughout the final 10 laps of the race. Pagenaud dominated most of the day after starting on the pole. The win is the second straight for Roger Penske after Will Power took the checkered flag last season. Penske now has a total of 18 wins at the Indy 500, which is the most by any team. It's the 13th win of Pagenaud's career. Congrats NBC for Best TV Coverage Ever