Nutsons Auto News Nuggets - Week Ending September 7, 2019
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Nutson's Automotive News Review - Week Ending September 7, 2019; Important and Interesting automotive news and back stories in expert-created easy to digest news nuggets.
* August 2019 new vehicle sales are up, thanks to Labor Day weekend sales being included. Honda, Hyundai, Subaru, Nissan and Toyota all had big months. VW was up too. KBB reports that FCA sales were up 6% thanks to RAM and Jeep. FoMoCo sales were up 3% thanks to Lincoln and the new Explorer. Honda and Acura set a new sales record and Honda sedans are selling like crazy (Yes, sedan and not SUVs.)
* The valuation analysts at Kelley Blue Book reported the estimated average transaction price for a light vehicle in the United States was $37,401 in August 2019. New-vehicle prices increased $723 (up 2%) from August 2018, while decreasing $54 (down 0.1%) from last month. Of note, the average price for a battery-powered electric vehicle is $55,351. That's luxury level pricing!
* From FCA we have this statement: FIAT will discontinue production of the current-generation Fiat 500 and 500e in North America. Current inventory of the 2019 Fiat 500 and 500e will last into 2020. In North America, FIAT will continue to offer the new Italian-designed, fun-to-drive Fiat 500X all-wheel-drive compact crossover, the Fiat 124 Spider roadster and the five-passenger Fiat 500L utility vehicle.
* From Reuters, the United Auto Workers union said it will negotiate with General Motors to establish a pattern for its contracts with the Detroit Three automakers. By choosing GM as the "target," the UAW has decided to tackle directly the challenges presented by GM's decision to shutter four U.S. factories, including assembly plants in Lordstown, Ohio and Detroit-Hamtramck in Michigan. UAW leaders are negotiating under the cloud of a federal corruption probe dramatized by raids last week at the home of union's president and past president.
* Mercedes-Benz has announced it will not participate in the Canadian International AutoShow (CIAS) in Toronto next year nor the 2020 Montreal International Auto Show. Car manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz have been limiting the number of major auto shows they attend each year. In 2018, the German car manufacturer withdrew from auto shows in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Quebec City. Many automakers have also been sitting out many U.S. auto shows.
* Repeat after me: There are no self-driving cars! Investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board said a Tesla Model S that plowed into a fire truck in California was operating on Autopilot, and the driver's hands were off the wheel. The driver survived the low-speed collision, and told investigators he was having coffee and a bagel when his car hit the truck. Tesla has said that drivers are alerted to keep their hands on the wheel in Autopilot mode. But the NTSB found that the driver of the Model S that hit the fire truck operated in Autopilot continuously for 13 minutes and 48 seconds before the collision, and had his hands on the wheel for just 51 seconds of that time, despite alerts.
* Volkswagen continues to charge into the electric car business. This weekend in China, the ID.R set yet another record, this time conquering the 99 hairpin turns of the “Big Gate Road” up Tianmen Mountain. The car, which previously set marks at Pikes Peak, Goodwood and Nürburgring, covered the 10.906-kilometer (6.77-mile) road in 7 minutes, 38.585 seconds, again with Romain Dumas driving. “The car is the motorsport ambassador for the new, fully electric range of vehicles from Volkswagen, the ID. family, the first of which – the ID.3 – will have its world premiere on 10 September at the Frankfurt Motor Show.” Tianmen Mountain is more than 800 miles from Beijing and climbs nearly 700 feet in elevation. It takes its name from a 425-foot natural rock arch known as “Heaven’s Gate.”
* Automakers say they will commit to making rear seat reminder systems standard equipment on almost all passenger vehicles sold in the United States by the 2025 model year. This to help combat hot car deaths. The advocacy group KidsandCars.org found that 889 children died in hot cars from 1990 to 2018. Concern over the hot car deaths, most of which are believed to be unintentional and preventable with caregivers failing to remember the children in their rear car seats, has prompted a push for a legislative fix, such as the proposed Hot Cars Act of 2019.
* Porsche has finally unveiled its first all-electric car. The German automaker revealed the production version of the Taycan four-door electric sports car during an event that took place simultaneously in Germany, Canada and China. Two variants will be offered, the Taycan Turbo and the Taycan Turbo S. Yes, "turbo" but there is none; it's just a model name. Priced at $150,900 and $180,000, respectively, both are all-wheel drive. The Turbo S will produce 750 hp, will do a 2.6-second 0 to 60 mph and has a top speed of 161 mph. With a 800-volt electrical system Taycan can get an 80% charge in just over 20 minutes.
* The US EPA and NHTSA are preparing to submit for final White House regulatory review a plan to revoke California’s authority to set its own vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards (CO2) that relate to fuel economy. This is before completing action on setting yearly fuel efficiency requirements. Note that the plan would not revoke California’s ability to set low-emission vehicle standards that has been in place since 1990. An administration official said it was close to submitting a rule internally dubbed the “One National Program rule” aimed at ensuring a single national level for fuel economy standards. It would also block California from setting zero emission vehicle requirements. Ford, VW, Honda and BMW have backed the California plan. GM and Toyota have not.
* Meanwhile the justice department is now investigating Ford, VW, Honda and BMW for possible antitrust violations after they forged a deal with California on vehicle-emissions standards, escalating the conflict between the Trump administration and Sacramento over environmental regulations. Very curios!
* Reuters reports that GM Chief Executive Mary Barra emerged from a White House meeting with President Trump to say the session was "productive and valuable." She didn't disclose details of the discussion. Trump has been haranguing GM and Barra via Twitter over her decision to close four U.S. factories including an assembly plant in Ohio, a key state for Trump to win in 2020. The future of those U.S. factories is a front-burner issue in contract talks between GM and the United Auto Workers that are wheeling in to the last lap ahead of a Sept. 14 deadline.
* President Trump is expected to roll out a new approach to supporting the ethanol industry, after Iowa's former governor warned him that he could lose the Corn Belt state. Farmers are furious about Trump's earlier, pro-oil industry decision to create a bigger loophole for refiners that want to avoid blending ethanol with gas.
* Bugatti has smashed the production-car speed record. Factory test driver Andy Wallace piloted a slightly modified Bugatti Chiron to an official 304.773 mph at the Volkswagen Ehra-Lessien Proving Grounds test track in Germany. The car has a slightly more powerful version of the Chiron's quad-turbo W-16 tuned to make 1600 horsepower. When the Bugatti Chiron was launched it's top speed was limited to 261-mph. It's the first production car to break the 300 mph barrier.
* Bonneville Speed Week was supposed to begin on August 10 but a rainstorm that hit early that week cancelled the first three days of racing and had event organizers from the Southern California Timing Association scrambling to lay a safe course for the 71st annual event. Organizers were forced to eliminate one course this year. That resulted in two courses that were basically for rookies and one four-mile course for drivers of elite cars. Speed Week is always very interesting and drew 446 pre-registered vehicles that includes teams from 12 countries.