Weekly Auto News Wrap-up +VIDEO Week Ending June 9, 2019 - Compiled By Executive Producer Larry Nutson
This Week's Auto News:May Sales; Changes In Emissions and MPG?; Colorado EV Love; FCA Renault Kaput; EV Registration Raised In Illinois; Buick Envision Tariff-able; Toyota Goes Chinese Accelerates Electric; RAM Recall; NYC Ice Cream Truck Meltdown; Carlisle, PA LOVES Ford; Framing John DeLorean; Ford v Ferrari; Scott Dixon Queened!
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Nutson's Automotive News Review - Week Ending June 8, 2019; Vehicle news and back stories in easy to digest nuggets.
* US auto sales slid down 0.3% in May, but that's not as much as was forecast. In spite of this the SAAR hit 17.4 million. Of the domestic makers, FCA was up with increased fleet sales. GM and Ford don't report monthly sales anymore but Cox Automotive estimated both companies lower than year-ago. Toyota and Subaru were up, Nissan was flat and Honda down a bit. Kelley Blue Book estimated average transaction price for a light vehicle in the United States was $37,185 in May 2019 and new vehicle prices increased $1,320 (up 3.7%) from May 2018. Lower interest rates are helping sales.
* In late breaking news, after increasing threats to impose progressive tariffs this past week, President Trump announced late Friday that a deal reached with Mexico will make the tariffs unnecessary. Most analysts predicted that the punitive tariffs would hit the auto industry most severely. The plan would have imposed a 5% tariff beginning Monday and increasing to 25% by October.
* As reported by the NY Times, the world’s largest automakers warned President Trump that one of his most sweeping deregulatory efforts — his plan to weaken tail-pipe pollution standards — threatens to cut their profits and produce “untenable” instability in a crucial manufacturing sector. In a letter signed by 17 companies including Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Volvo, the automakers asked Trump to go back to the negotiating table on the planned roll-back. It represents the most forceful statement to date by the auto industry against Trump’s effort to weaken the pollution rules, which were one of President Barack Obama’s signature policies to fight climate change.
* And then this: The White House, after receiving the plea from several automakers for a compromise, said the California Air Resources Board “failed to put forward a productive alternative, and we are moving forward to finalize a rule with the goal of promoting safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles.” Federal fuel economy standards will be set at 37 mpg rather than 51 mpg for 2025 models. Also, California's existing waiver to set its own rules, that has been in place fo decades, will be revoked. This will lead to a big legal battle.
* Colorado state officials said they will move ahead with a plan to mirror California's electric vehicle quotas, rejecting an auto industry campaign to make the EV quotas voluntary. Uh, perhaps not.
* Talks between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Renault went belly-up this week with each blaming the other, and both blaming the French government for the failed deal. The two companies attempted to merge in order to take advantage of the strategic values of the other. A story in Automotive News this week asserts that the blame can be spread among them all.
* Illinois is raising the registration fee for EVs from $17.50 per year to $248 per year. That's $100 more than the $148 (also increased by $50) gas or hybrid vehicles pay, to account for EVs not paying any gasoline tax needed to support road and infrastructure maintenance. The original legislation had proposed a $1,000 fee for EVs but that got cut back. Illinois is also raising the gasoline tax by double to 38 cents a gallon.
* The Trump administration has denied a GM request for an exemption to a 25% U.S. tariff on its Chinese-made Buick Envision sport utility vehicle. The denial of the nearly year-old petition came in a May 29 letter from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office saying the request concerns “a product strategically important or related to ‘Made in China 2025’ or other Chinese industrial programs.” The midsize SUV, priced starting at about $35,000, has become a target for critics of Chinese-made goods, including leaders of the United Auto Workers union and members in key political swing states such as Michigan and Ohio
* Toyota is accelerating its drive to electrify vehicles, planning for half of global sales to be hybrids or battery-electric by 2025, five years ahead of its earlier plans. Toyota was and still remains skeptical of battery-electric vehicles - executives believe hydrogen fuel cells are the real future of cars - but China's EV mandates have forced Toyota's hand. Industry pundits think it might be more like 2030. And, we say charging infrastructure remains the big hurdle to large-scale EV adoption. Can you picture a high rise apartment with electric extension cords hanging out all the windows?
* FCA recalled about 343,000 Ram pickups in the U.S., Canada and Mexico this week to fix a software problems that could disable the vehicle’s seat belt tensioners and airbag inflators. The company said it knows of no accidents or injuries from this defect. Nearly one third of the affected 2019 and 2020 pickups are still in dealer’s inventories.
* Ian Callum is going out on top and stepping down as Jaguar design chief. In his 20 years at Jaguar, Ian Callum has overseen a shift in design away from a traditional luxury style that frequently referenced cars from the past to a much more modern look, culminating in the I-Pace electric crossover. Jaguar's No. 2 designer, Julian Thomson, has been promoted to the top job at the U.K. luxury brand.
* Only in The Big Apple: we just learned that the City of New York seized forty-six ice cream trucks whose owners are charged with a scheme to evade paying around $4.5 million in traffic fines. It seems dozens of “shell” companies were set up to repeatedly re-register the vehicles so they couldn’t so easily be tracked. The police called it “Operation Meltdown."
* A car show record was set last weekend in Carlisle, PA where 3,196 cars showed up for the Ford Nationals celebrating 112 years of Ford, Mercury and Lincoln products. The show featured 50 years of the Boss Mustang, Fox-body cars and the Maverick along with seminars and other events. Organizers say nearly 60,000 people attended.
* In a new movie called “Framing John DeLorean” Alec Baldwin plays the discredited auto executive at the center of the Pontiac GTO and other fascinating stories, who went on to found his own car company that lasted only marginally longer than the Tucker. The film opened Friday in theaters and can be streamed on iTunes and other platforms. DeLorean was famous for playing fast and loose with the rules and his story is a colorful one.
* "Ford v Ferrari" tells the story of Ford's historic 1966 defeat of the famous Italian racing marque at the world's most famous endurance race, LeMans, will be told on Nov. 15 when the movie is released to theaters. The trailer was dropped this week (see below) and it promises scenes filled with speed, crashes and sexy cars. "Ford v Ferrari" tells the tale of Henry the Deuce’s quest – after being spurned by Enzo Ferrari in a cross-Atlantic merger – to embarrass the Italian in his own sandbox: LeMans, the 24-hour race that Ferrari had won 6 years running.
* Five-Time IndyCar champ and New Zealander Scott Dixon will be given the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his services to motorsport. He'll get to visit Buckingham Palace in London for the presentation.