Nutson's Auto News Digest Week Ending February 29, 2020
End of car shows? Work arounds for next week's Geneva Motor Show; Recalls, Impala Gone; Guthrie Hall of Famed, Cussler RIP, China car sales disappear, EV's starved of China made batteries, Bad week for autonomous vehicles, Bad week for silicon valley promoted vehicles.
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Nutson's Automotive News Review - Week Ending February 29, 2020; Important or pithy automotive news and back stories in expert-created easy to digest news nuggets.
* Next week's Geneva Motor Show has been canceled because of coronavirus fears, striking a marquee event from the global auto industry's calendar as it braces for a third year of recession. Switzerland's Federal Office of Public Health said that gatherings of more than 1,000 people had been banned through at least March 15 in a bid to restrict the spread of the virus. "We regret this situation, but the health of all participants is our and our exhibitors' top priority," conference organizers said in a statement on Friday. This year's event was set to open to journalists on March 2. The public would have been able to attend from March 5 through March 15.
* At the 89th Geneva International Motor Show the World Car of the Year finalists were to be announced on the evening of March 2. There were 68 press conferences scheduled over two days. Some automakers have now completely canceled press conferences and others such as the VW Group and Mercedes-Benz have announced digital live streaming press conferences. Perhaps this will be the new work order of vehicle introductions and a contribution to reducing the carbon footprint associated with auto show media previews. Many auto makers were already not participating in the Geneva show, a decision that was made long ago and not due to the virus. Check back for more info.
* Organizers of other big trade shows and public gatherings have called off events because of the virus threat. In Japan, big companies are cancelling press briefings and holding telephone briefings instead to reduce infection risks. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is restricting access to its European plants following the spread of the coronavirus in northern Italy. The Italian engineering and design company Italdesign-Giugiaro has also closed its two facilities in Turin after an employee tested positive for the virus. Cases of coronavirus in Italy, the most affected country in Europe, have risen to more than 200, with three deaths, prompting the government to close off the worst-hit areas in northern parts of the country. Another conversation is being had with suppliers in regard to who will pay the very high air transport costs that are now being incurred. The entire COVID-19 issue is very fluid and changes daily.
* Joe White writing for Reuters reports that California is expected to release the latest report on self-driving vehicle companies, including the number of times each company's robot drivers disengaged because they couldn't handle a tricky traffic situation or otherwise tripped up. Autonomous vehicle companies came out ahead of the report with blog posts and statements arguing the disengagement measure isn't relevant or accurate. One thing these numbers have been in the past is unflattering, at least to some companies. The underlying issue is that there is no agreed on way for regulators, the public or the industry to measure and benchmark the safety and capability of a robot car.
* Are you confused about the features on your car? Help is on the way. Consumer Reports has teamed up with several other organizations advocating for automotive safety to develop standardized names for various new advanced safety systems now found on most new cars so that consumers know what they’re getting when shopping for a vehicle.
* In the world's largest car market, China, car sales plunged 92% during the first two weeks of February in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the China Passenger Car Association. It was even worse in the first week, with nationwide sales tumbling 96% to a daily average of only 811 units, PCA said in a report released earlier this week. Deliveries this month may slump by about 70%, resulting in a 40% drop in the first two months of 2020.
* UCS says ride hailing is making pollution worse. Ride hailing drivers circling for fares are generating more carbon dioxide than private cars, the Union of Concerned Scientists concluded in a study. The UCS, an environmental NGO, is the latest organization to turn on the ride hailing industry's claim that its services reduce congestion and pollution.
* The experts of the National Transportation Safety Board rendered scathing judgments on Tesla, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Apple and the auto and smartphone industries generally for the way that semi-automated driving technology has been deployed to a driving public addicted to smartphones. The NTSB's formal agenda was a hearing to discuss the causes of fatal crashes involving Tesla vehicles operating on the Autopilot assisted driving system. Board member and staff experts faulted NHTSA for its "hands off" approach to regulating assisted driving technology. They criticized Tesla for deploying "beta" systems that allowed drivers to take their hands off the wheel for as long as three minutes at the time of a 2018 accident in which a Tesla Model X plowed into a crash barrier on a California hghway, killing Apple engineer Walter Huang. The NTSB cited evidence that Huang had been playing a videogame on his Apple phone, and took Apple to task for failing to enforce policies against employees using devices behind the wheel. The NTSB's chairman called on smartphone makers to use technology to prevent the use of smartphones while driving. Source: Reuters.
* The last Chevrolet Impala rolled off the assembly line at GM’s Detroit Hamtramck plant. GM has made 6.8 million Impalas. It’s also the last internal combustion vehicle to be made at the plant that will be retooled to build electric vehicles. First appearing in showrooms in 1958, the Impala was a top-selling full-size car for General Motors Co. for decades. In 1959, GM sold more than 440,000; by 1965 it sold more than 1 million.
* EV sales would be higher if we had more EVs to buy. Global EV production is being constrained by a shortage in batteries. Lack of battery manufacturing capacity is the issue. Over the next several years the plan is to significantly increase the number of battery manufacturing plants. Today, Audi, Jaguar and Kia have shortages and are idling production of their EV models.
* Ford is recalling more than 217,000 pickup trucks mainly in North America to fix a problem with the daytime running lights. The recall covers certain F-150 trucks with LED headlights from the 2018 through 2020 model years. The Dearborn, Michigan, automaker says the running lights will keep working if the driver moves the headlight switch from auto to the low beam position. U.S. safety standards require vehicles to change to parking lights in that case.
* Kia is recalling 193,000 cars and minivans to fix a fuel leak problem. 2013 and 2014 Olympia sedans and 2011 and 2012 Sedona minivans are affected.
* The U.S. government’s highway safety agency has ordered an autonomous shuttle company to stop carrying passengers in 16 U.S. cities after a mysterious braking problem occurred in Columbus, Ohio. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the suspension will remain in place while it examines safety issues with the low-speed shuttles operated by France-based EasyMile. Low-speed shuttles generally run 25 mph or less and are restricted to small geographic areas. The EasyMile shuttles have a human attendant on board to handle unexpected problems.
* Janet Guthrie, the first woman to race in the Indianapolis 500, and 1995 Brickyard 400 winner Dale Earnhardt Sr. have been elected to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum’s Hall of Fame. Induction ceremonies are scheduled for May 21.
* NASCAR driver Ryan Newman said he suffered a head injury in his crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500 but did not disclose details in a statement from the driver that was read before last Sunday’s race in Las Vegas. There is no timetable for Newman’s return to racing, but Roush Fenway Racing said the 42-year-old Indiana native is determined to get back to the track this season.
* Clive Cussler, the author and maritime adventurer who captivated millions with his best-selling tales of suspense and who, between books, led scores of expeditions to find historic shipwrecks and lost treasures in the ocean depths, died at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 88. Also an avid car collector, the Cussler Museum is dedicated to the preservation of astounding rare and vintage automobiles from all over the world. It is an extensive collection of over 100 significant automobiles, ranging in years from 1906 to 1965.