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Nutson's Weekly Auto News Review Week Ending March 7, 2020



AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO - March 7, 2020; Every Sunday Executive Producer Larry Nutson and Chicago Car Guy with help from senior editor Thom Cannell from The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau, compile The Auto Channel's "take" on this past week's automotive news, condensed into easy to digest news Nuggets.

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Nutson's Automotive News Review - Week Ending March 7, 2020; Important or pithy automotive news and back stories in expert-created easy to digest news nuggets.

* US automotive sales appear to have avoided any significant impact from the coronavirus in February, but March sales may prove the industry's resiliency amid a recent economic slump, Cox Automotive analysts said. Cox initially forecast US auto sales to reach 1.3 million units in February, a 6% increase from February 2019 sales. However, the analysts said early estimates indicate that February car sales surpassed the forecast, rising nearly 8% year over year. The Cox analysts said the seasonally-adjusted annual rate for US car sales finished at a 16.8 million unit rate in February, above its 16.6 million unit expectation. Analysts at Kelley Blue Book estimated that the new vehicle transaction price average rose by $975 to $37,876 in February, compared with the price average in February of last year.

* Reuters reports Hyundai reported global sales for February fell to the lowest levels in a decade as consumers stayed home in South Korea and China to shelter from the coronavirus outbreak. Supply chain problems are still a big challenge. India's automakers warned that production is threatened by a shortage of Chinese-made components. Lyft said deliveries of scooters for its sharing service could be delayed. In China, Geely said it is helping suppliers get operations running again. But financial analysts and industry officials are equally worried about who will buy any vehicles automakers can build. Over the weekend there were more reports that the virus is spreading in the United States and Europe. Airlines cutting flights, big trade shows and conferences such as CERAWeek and the Geneva Auto Show getting scuttled, stock market angst and political crossfire reinforce fears that now is not a great time to buy a new vehicle.

* Munich will succeed Frankfurt as the German auto show's host city starting in 2021, the VDA German automakers association said. Munich convinced the VDA's board that its city center and highly attractive locations close to downtown can be used to host events for the show, VDA President Hildegard Mueller said in a news release. The IAA will evolve from an automobile platform to a mobility platform, the VDA said. The next show is scheduled to be held in September 2021.

* Automakers achieved a record-high average of 25.1 miles per gallon for vehicles made during the 2018 model year, according to data released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The figure was up slightly from the previous record of 24.9 miles per gallon that automakers averaged in the 2017 model year. But the industry fell short of marks set by the Obama administration, and most manufacturers only remained in compliance with the standards by cashing in credits from previous model years. Preliminary fuel economy for the 2019 model year, which will not be finalized until 2021, is projected to be 25.5 mpg.

* The Geneva International Motor Show was canceled but the broadcast of press conferences and presentation of the world and European premieres took place online. Traditionally, the Geneva International Motor Show is a showcase for the presentation of over a hundred world premieres. Despite the cancellation of the 90th edition of the GIMS, the organizers offered to the public, fans and the media – partly live – the streaming of the press conferences and presentations of the world premieres organized by the manufacturers in different locations. Various events were broadcast and subsequently made available on Video On Demand - on the GIMS platform.

* In other jaw-dropping news, there will be no more 15" steel wheels for NASCAR. The racing organization is going to an 18" center lock wheel made by BBS for 2021. Yes, no more five lugs either! No more missing lug nut penalties. And yes, quicker pit stops. The center lock design is used in sports car racing, IndyCar, and F1, among other series. So yes NASCAR racecars are again less-stock and more purpose-built.

* GM is going all EV. Eleven new electric vehicles will be coming from Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac during the next five years. New battery technology, Ultium batteries using a nickel manganese cobalt aluminum chemistry, will give some vehicles a 400 mile range. Modular chassis and drive trains will make manufacturing simpler...and require less manpower. Trucks, cars, SUVs and an autonomous shuttle will soon be on the streets of the world. There will be performance cars too. In other's all EV and no more or fewer gas or Diesel engines. A new Cadillac all electric SUV will be named Lyriq. 2021 will bring a new elongated Chevrolet Bolt and the GMC Hummer EV pickup. GM expects Ultium cell costs to get to $100/KwH soon...putting a complete vehicle on the same price level as a gasoline engine vehicle.

* The 2020 European Car of the Year award was given to the Peugeot 208 subcompact, which beat the Tesla Model 3, Porsche Taycan and BMW 1-Series, along with the Renault Clio and Ford Puma. The 208 was chosen by journalists from seven automotive magazines across the European continent and the U.K. The announcement was scheduled to take place at an event ahead of the Geneva Motor Show, but was livestreamed from an empty hall after the show was cancelled along with all large gatherings in Switzerland due to coronavirus concerns.

* The World Car of the Year and its 86 jurists announced the top three finalists in each of five categories. World Car of the Year has nominated the Mazda3 and Mazda CX-30, together with the Kia Telluride, while the performance car list includes the Porsche 718 Spyder/Cayman GT4, Porsche 911, and Porsche Taycan. In the urban category, the finalists are the Kia Soul EV, Mini Electric, and Volkswagen T-Cross. World Luxury Car finalists are Mercedes Benz EQC, Porsche 911 and Porsche Taycan. World Car Design of the Year finalists Mazda3, Peugeot 208 and Porsche Taycan. The winners in all categories will be announced during a special press conference scheduled for April 8 during the New York Auto Show.

* Joe White for Reuters says the shoe finally dropped for former United Auto Workers President Gary Jones. Federal prosecutors indicated Jones on charges of embezzling more than $1 million from the union. The FBI raided Jones' home last summer, and charges against other UAW officials in the spreading scandal have contained clear signs that Jones was next. The union ousted Jones as president last year, after he led a 40-day strike at General Motors that cost the automaker $3.6 billion in the fourth quarter.

* SXSW festival cancellation upends auto industry, mobility chat sessions. South by Southwest, the giant Texas festival that was scheduled to host about two dozen sessions on transportation and future mobility, was canceled because of concerns over the coronavirus.

* Ferrari and the governing body of Formula One have cut a deal to settle a probe of whether the Italian company's 2019 engines were tweaked beyond the limits of the rules. Rivals suspected so. Ferrari and FIA said the settlement's terms are private.

* Former Road & Track editor-in-chief Thomas L. Bryant, 76, of Bainbridge Island, Wa., passed away very peacefully on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at the Harbor House in Poulsbo. Born in Daytona Beach, Florida.