Nutson's Auto News Nuggets - Week Ending September 21, 2019
News Nuggets: Rivian Electrifying Order; Car Financing Costs Rise; Trump Vs. California CAFE; Porsche Vs Tesla EV; Oil Prices Jump; North American Car of the Year Entries; Ford Vs Ferrari; Hershey Concurs; Petersen Woman; NHTSA Driver Aid Decision; GM Recall; GM Strike; RIP Mike Stefanik; Paul Ingrassia RIP
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Nutson's Automotive News Review - Week Ending September 21, 2019; Important and Interesting automotive news and back stories in expert-created easy to digest news nuggets.
* Thousands of people demonstrated in Frankfurt to demand more action against climate change as the German city’s auto show opened to the public. Some cycled into the city along highways that were temporarily closed for the occasion. Demands raised by the organizers of the protests include an end to the combustion engine, climate-neutral transport by 2035, a speed limit on the autobahn and a strong German climate policy package. Environmental groups say the trend toward bigger and more powerful cars, particularly SUVs, is eating into the fuel efficiency gains of recent decades. When the Frankfurt Motor Show officially opened to the public, Greenpeace activists unfurled large banners branding the models on display “climate killers.
* It’s going to cost more for those looking to buy a new car this year. Finance costs on new car purchases have jumped 24% in 2019, according to new AAA research, pushing the average annual cost of vehicle ownership to $9,282, or $773.50 a month. That’s the highest cost associated with new vehicle ownership since AAA began tracking expenses in 1950 and a reminder that the true costs of owning a vehicle extend far beyond maintenance and fuel. AAA found finance charges rose more sharply in the last 12 months than any major expense associated with owning a vehicle.
* The NHTSA has proposed allowing automakers to offer a variety of sound choices for electric vehicles and other "quiet cars" to choose from to alert pedestrians. In February 2018 the agency finalized rules requiring EVs and hybrids to emit alert sounds to warn pedestrians of their approach, extending to 2020 the deadline for full compliance. The long-delayed rules require automakers such as Tesla, Nissan and GM to add sounds to vehicles when they are moving at speeds of up to 18.6 mph (30 kph) to help prevent injuries among pedestrians, cyclists and the blind.
* The Trump administration revoked California's authority to set auto emissions rules that are stricter than federal standards, part of a broader effort to weaken regulations that address climate change. The widely expected move has national significance: 13 states — roughly a third of the country’s auto market — follow California’s tighter rules. California has promised to fight the change all the way to the Supreme Court. The outcome could split the domestic vehicle market, a nightmare scenario for automakers that would see some states adhering to stricter standards than others. Led by California, a group of 23 states already sued to undo the Trump administration's determination that federal law bars the nation's most populous state and biggest new-vehicle market from setting stiff tailpipe emissions standards and zero-emissions vehicle mandates. Michigan, home of the Detroit-3, just joined the suit.
*Porsche and Tesla are set to battle it out at Germany’s Nurburgring. The race track considered the most challenging in the world boasts 73 tight turns, changing elevations and a brutal length of more than 12.4 miles winding through leafy forest, earning it the nickname Green Hell. Porsche’s new Taycan Turbo S set the record last month as the fastest four-door electric car, clocking in at 7 minutes and 42 seconds. Tesla’s Elon Musk, always one to relish a good fight, picked up the gauntlet and has dispatched a Model S to the "N-Ring" to reclaim the bragging rights as king of the electric sedan. Adding to the frenzy is former Formula One racing champion Nico Rosberg, who chimed in on Twitter to pilot the Tesla. The Taycan’s record was achieved with a normal series production car that came straight from the assembly line and can be purchased by customers. Tesla, by contrast, has already been working for about two weeks near the track to modify a Model S for racing purposes to achieve the fastest-possible time.
* The UAW walked out on GM for the first time in 12 years. Workers shut down 33 manufacturing plants in nine states across the U.S., as well as 22 parts distribution warehouses, the Associated Press reports. It wasn’t clear how long the walkout would last, with the union saying GM has budged little in months of talks while GM said it made substantial offers including higher wages and factory investments. It may just be "saber rattling" on the part of the UAW. GM went public with their offer, showing their hand to all. GM has a 77-day supply of vehicles, above the 61-day industry average. The strike has caused suppliers to stop producing and GM to stop production at some Canadian facilities.
* Joe White writing for Reuters says oil prices made their biggest surge since 1991 following the attack on Saudi oil processing operations, and bellicose exchanges between President Donald Trump and Iranian officials. Echoes of 1991 are bad news for Detroit. Then as now GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler rely on big vehicles to haul in profits. The start of the first Gulf War and the resulting oil price jump torpedoed U.S. vehicle sales and sent GM into a financial tailspin. Things are different from 1991 in material ways. The United States is now a major oil producer. Today's SUVs and pickup trucks are more fuel efficient than the vehicles offered 28 years ago. Since the 2008 financial crisis, Detroit's automakers have been battening down to withstand a downturn and telling Wall Street ravens they are wrong to assume that a short term shock would send them reeling. A new round of oil price volatility could give them a chance to prove it.
* From ClassicCars.com we learn the Elegance at Hershey, one of the premier concours d’elegance on the East Coast, has canceled its 2020 event due to financial issues, the organizers announced, although leaving the door open to resume the show for 2021. The Pennsylvania concours, held for the past 9 years in the town made famous for its chocolate, was scheduled for next June in the gardens of the historic Hotel Hershey. What the organizers are calling a hiatus for the 2020 Hershey concours was prompted by the event’s decreased ability to donate to its charitable causes. During the past 9 years, the concours has donated more than $1 million.
* You may recall the upset earlier this year when drivers in California started receiving fines for having exhaust systems that were too loud to meet the requirements of a law passed in May 1998 that prohibited vehicle exhaust louder than 95 decibels. Though the law had been on the books for more than 20 years, what changed was a bill passed in 2018 that required police officers to issue an immediate fine instead of the traditional 30-day repair notice. Steps were taken in the California Assembly to stop the immediate fines and to return to the 30-day repair program, and SEMA reported this week that SB 112 has gone to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for his signature. SB 112 is a budget implementation bill that restores the “fix-it” ticket instead of levying an immediate fine, SEMA said. The bottom line: you still can equip a vehicles with aftermarket exhausts systems however compliance with the noise level requirement is a requirement.
* 20th Century Fox has released a new trailer and poster for their upcoming film FORD v FERRARI, based on the remarkable true story of the visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and the fearless British-born driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale). The film follows Shelby and Miles, who battled corporate interference, the laws of physics, and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford Motor Company and take on Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966. FORD v FERRARI also stars Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Remo Girone and Ray McKinnon. The film will be released on November 15 by The Walt Disney Studios.
* The Petersen Automotive Museum will be memorializing “The Fastest Woman on Four Wheels,” with a temporary exhibit honoring the life and accomplishments of Jessi Combs. Combs was killed last month during a land speed record attempt in Oregon. The exhibit opens this Sunday, September 22nd, 2019, and runs for four days. Titled Jessi Combs: Life at Full Speed and housed in the museum's William E. Connor Penthouse, the display will feature artifacts from her Long Beach, California studio and workshop.
* GM is recalling more than 107,000 2015 through 2018 Chevrolet Trax small SUVs in the United States and Canada because a suspension weld can break and cause steering problems. If the improperly welded joint were to break there is a risk of a crash.
* Plymouth, Michigan-based electric vehicle startup company Rivian Automotive has an agreement to fill the largest order of fully electric vehicles in automotive history. The startup is to build 100,000 electric vans for e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc. over the next decade, Rivian said. The first batch of vans is expected to hit U.S. roadways by 2021, with 10,000 on the road by late 2022. All 100,000 are to be operating in Amazon's fleet by 2030.
* Semifinalists have been announced for the 2020 North American Car, Utility, and Truck of the Year Awards. A jury of 50 journalists from print, online, radio and broadcast media across the U.S. and Canada have voted and narrowed down this year's list of eligible vehicles to 12 cars, 12 utilities and five trucks. After another round of testing the jurors will select three finalists from each category and the identity of those models will be announced at the LA Auto Show on Nov. 20. The list of all is HERE
* Mike Stefanik, one of the most successful modified stock car drivers in NASCAR history who set records on the Whelen Modified Tour, died in a plane crash in Connecticut. Mr. Stefanik, 61, was piloting a single-engine ultralight aircraft when it crashed in a field near the border of Connecticut and Rhode Island, the authorities said. Stefanik’s racing career had lasted more than 30 years. He was also a six-time nominee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, winning the rookie of the year honor at 41 years old in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 1999.
* Paul Ingrassia, a longtime journalist for The Wall Street Journal and Reuters who won a 1993 Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of a boardroom revolt at General Motors, has died after battling cancer. He was 69.