Nutsons Auto News Nuggets - Week Ending August 31, 2019
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Nutson's Automotive News Review - Week Ending August 31, 2019; Important and Interesting automotive news and back stories in expert-created easy to digest news nuggets.
* Ferdinand Piëch, the former chairman and chief executive officer who transformed Volkswagen AG into one of the world’s biggest carmakers and added Porsche to its holdings, has died. He died last Sunday at the age of 82 in a hospital in Bavaria, Germany. Mr. Piëch’s wife, Ursula Piëch, said in a statement that he died “suddenly and unexpectedly” but did not give a cause. German news media reported that Mr. Piëch collapsed in a restaurant. Piëch is a grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, the designer of the iconic sportscar as well as the VW Beetle, and part of the Porsche and Piëch clans which today still control the carmaker. Piëch is credited with creating the Porsche 917 race car, leading the development of Audi's quattro system and bringing the Bugatti Veyron into the world. Piëch will be remembered for the far reaching impact he had across the entire automobile industry.
* Japanese cars continue to escape any new tariffs from the Trump Administration, at least "at the moment." President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced an agreement in principle on a trade deal, with Tokyo making concessions on agriculture and Washington maintaining auto tariffs at current levels of 2.5% on passenger vehicles and 25% on pickup trucks.
* President Trump took aim at GM tweeting out inaccurate accusations that it had moved factories to China and had become one the smallest carmakers in Detroit. Those assertions are wrong by almost any measure. GM sold 2.9 million vehicles in the United States in 2018, outpacing the 2.4 million sold by Ford and the 1.7 million sold by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. GM has about 100,000 hourly and salaried employees in the United States. Ford has about 85,000 and Fiat Chrysler has about 62,000. GM, in fact, has not "moved" factories to China. Most of the cars it builds there are for the Chinese market. Only one GM vehicle built in China — the Buick Envision — is sold in the United States.
* For the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Toyota will provide 3,700 vehicles, including dozens of self-driving cars, about 500 fuel-cell vehicles and 850 battery-electric cars to the international sports competition. More than a dozen Toyota e-Palette autonomous vehicles will run on a continuous loop within the Olympic and Paralympic Village to shuttle athletes and staff.
* Forget about that walk to and from where you park your car. Hyundai Motor Group has developed a new prototype electric scooter. Building on its initial concept presented at CES 2017, the new model boasts rear-wheel drive, a highly-capable lithium battery and stylish front and rear lights. The latest concept features in future Hyundai Motor Group plans to enable first- and last-mile mobility through integrating the scooter with future Hyundai and Kia vehicles. When mounted on a vehicle, the scooter is charged automatically using electricity produced while driving, ensuring that the user can complete their journey seamlessly.
* A federal investigation into misuse of millions of dollars in training center funds by Fiat Chrysler executives and United Auto Workers leaders has expanded to General Motors. Michael Grimes, a retired senior official with the union’s GM division, has been charged with wire fraud and money laundering for allegedly receiving $2 million in kickbacks from UAW vendors. FBI agents raided the homes of the current and former UAW president and the union's northern Michigan resort at Black Lake. The probe comes at a bad time for the UAW as they are in the midst of negotiating new contracts with the Detroit-3 automakers. The latest raids make clear that federal prosecutors are scouring the UAW from top to bottom.
* Some alerts on Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are so annoying or bothersome that many drivers disable the systems and may try to avoid them on future vehicle purchases, according to the J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Tech Experience Index (TXI) Study. The report says the constant alerts can confuse and frustrate drivers. Owner satisfaction ranges widely by brand. For example, one brand has 90% of its customers wanting lane-keeping/centering on their next vehicle, while another brand has just 59% of its customers saying the same thing. Read more here: HERE
* Volkswagen Group of America has agreed to a $96.5 million settlement with owners of gasoline engine vehicles who sued over incorrect fuel economy ratings of certain 2013-2017 models. The German automaker's U.S. subsidiary said the agreement covers about 98,000 vehicles — 3.5% of its cars from the four-year span — that will have its fuel-economy ratings restated to reflect a discrepancy of 1 mile per gallon. The cars are all gasoline models, but were equipped with software similar to defeat devices used in Volkswagen's diesel cars to cheat federal emission testing. The software adjusted transmission shifting during the test to optimize fuel consumption.
* Just over 30,000 2020 Kia Telluride SUVs are being recalled in the U.S. due to a seatbelt installation problem. Year to date, Kia hasn't sold much more than 30,000 Tellurides, so the recall applies to nearly every Telluride on the road right now.
* Ford is recalling more than 550,000 trucks and utilities in North America because seat backs may not properly restrain people in a crash. The recall covers certain 2018 through 2020 F-150 pickups, 2019 and 2020 Super Duty trucks, 2018 and 2019 Explorer SUVs, and 2019 and 2020 Expedition SUVs. All have manual driver or front passenger seat-back recliner mechanisms.
* Reuters reports that the Frankfurt auto show, which opens next month, is stepping up security checks to prepare for potential disruption by climate activists who are calling for people to join anti-car protests. Police are already investigating a group calling itself “Rocks in the Gearbox” after more than 40 luxury vehicles were vandalized at a car dealership in Kronberg on the outskirts of Frankfurt, adding to a string of anti-auto protests. Ahead of the car show, Germany’s auto industry association the VDA has sought to defuse anti-car sentiment by inviting environmental activists from Greenpeace, Deutsche Umwelthilfe to a panel discussion in Berlin on September 5 along with executives from Daimler and BMW and the VDA, to debate the climate crisis and mobility of the future. The Frankfurt show, known as the IAA, is due to take place from September 12 to 22.
* The City of Chicago, like most every large city, has some financial woes, budget issues and large debt. In a "State of the City" speech about Chicago's finance, Mayor Lori Lightfoot suggested some form of traffic congestion plan is being considered to bring in new revenue. Charging drivers a fee in congested areas of the city has been in conversion in New York City and may soon be reality in Chicago.
* Car enthusiasts in the UK are concerned about a report from a bipartisan select committee of Parliament that effectively calls for eliminating private automobiles and trucks by the year 2050—battery electrics and fuel cell vehicles included—to achieve the goal of making Britain carbon-neutral. The Science and Technology Select Committee report also says that the ban on combustion-powered cars and hybrids should be accelerated to 2035 from 2040.
* It's been a difficult week for the motorsports community. Jessi Combs—vehicle builder, racer, fabricator, TV personality, and all-around automotive legend—was killed this week in a crash while attempting to break her own land-speed record in southeast Oregon. She was 36. The crash occurred as Combs was piloting her jet-powered land-speed car on the Alvord Desert, a dry lake bed where several land-speed records have been set. Combs held the title of "fastest woman on four wheels" after setting a record of 398 mph in her jet-powered North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger in 2013. More recently, she had piloted that same car to 483.227 mph in a single shakedown run in October 2018, though that run ended prematurely with mechanical troubles.
* And, at the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium Formula Two driver Anthoine Hubert was killed following a heavy crash. The 22-year old Frenchman died following an estimated 160 mph collision with Juan-Manuel Correa's car as they exited a corner on the high speed track. Hubert raced for the British-owned Arden team
* If you're on the road this Labor Day weekend motorists are forecasted to enjoy savings of more than 25 cents per gallon across most of the country compared to earlier this summer, according to the American Automobile Association, which issued its fall gas price forecast. AAA expects prices this autumn could average $2.40, down from $2.75 around July 4.
Larry Nutson is on the Board of Directors of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, serving as the Treasurer, and a contributing writer to ClassicCars.com and Chicago Tribune/Autos.