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Nutson's Auto News Digest - Week Ending March 14, 2020


Millennials’ expectations of vehicles; IIHS ADS; Auto Show Closings; Media Events Cancelled; Motorsport Cancellations; Wuhan Honda Plant Opens; Amelia Island Concurs; Diesel Bros Fined; RIP Umberto Falchetti


AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO - March 15, 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 14, 2020; Important or pithy automotive news and back stories in expert-created easy to digest news nuggets.

* New research released by says millennials’ expectations of vehicle ownership and the automotive industry at large are unmet in the year 2020. For example, 43% of millennials expected flying cars by now. Furthermore, 48% believed fully autonomous vehicles would be widely available, ahead of Gen X (35%) and boomers (36%). In the next 10 years, millennials expect fully autonomous vehicles (54%), more alternative fuel sources (46%) and over-the-air software/control updates (40%). But note, 87% believe car ownership is important, compared to Gen X (86%) and Baby Boomers (94%).

* The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has issued a set of research-based safety recommendations on the design of partially automated driving systems. The guidelines emphasize how to keep drivers focused on the road even as the vehicle does more of the work. Under the classification system developed by SAE International, there are five levels of automation, ranging from 0 (no automation) to 5 (fully self-driving). The highest level available in production vehicles today is Level 2. These systems continuously control acceleration, braking and steering to keep the vehicle traveling at a set speed in the center of its lane while maintaining a selected following distance from the vehicle ahead. They require the human driver to remain vigilant and ready to intervene in the event that the system encounters a situation it cannot handle.

* Covid-19 took down another big auto show. The New York International Auto Show has been postponed from its April time slot and rescheduled for August 28 to September 6, 2020. With concerns for the coronavirus show organizers were fortunate to find an open time slot at the Javits Convention Center. It remains to be announced what automakers will do to continue with new vehicle introductions that were planned. We expect more live streaming. Additionally, the Dallas Auto Show is being postponed from its March 18-22 dates as well as the Denver Auto Show from its April 2-5 dates.

* Stand-alone reveals are also being postponed. GM has canceled all upcoming media product programs through April, including the April 2 world premiere of Cadillac's first electric SUV in Los Angeles, the Lyric. The electric GMC Hummer reveal scheduled for mid-May is still on pending review. The all-new 2021 Hyundai Elantra reveal will now be live-streamed.

* Leaked photos of the new Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport flew across the internet this week. This ahead of a planned stand-alone reveal of the Bronco this month and the Bronco Sport at the NY Auto Show. Leaked on purpose, we ask? And now, the Bronco reveal event is canceled.

* Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auctions and Luke Air Force Base are bringing an exhilarating, one-of-a-kind race pitting the pinnacle of automotive engineering against the apex of military power during the Luke Days 2020 Airshow at the Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona, March 21-22, 2020. Major Justin “Fuego” Miller will pilot an F-35A Lightning II down the runway against a 2008 Bugatti Veyron supercar driven by Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson. At the time of production, the 2008 Bugatti Veyron was the world’s fastest production car. Powered by an 8.0-liter W-16 engine, the supercar produces over 1,000 horsepower at 6,000 rpm with 922 foot-pounds of torque. The legendary Veyron can propel to 60 miles per hour from a standstill in only 2.5 seconds and can reach a top speed of 250 miles per hour.

* As for Covid-19 in the motorsports arena, this weekend's NHRA Gatornationals will only run Sportsman classes and reschedule all Pro and Top Alcohol classes until a later date. The Australian Formula 1 race is canceled along with the Chinese, Bahrain and inaugural Vietnam Grands Prix. NASCAR's next two races in Atlanta and Homestead-Miami are postponed. All IndyCar races through April are canceled. IMSA sports car racing scheduled for March 18-21 in Sebring is postponed until November.

* But there is some good news coming via the Detroit Free Press. Honda Motor’s car assembly plant in Wuhan, China — the city at the epicenter of the global pandemic — resumed production Wednesday, the day President Donald Trump announced U.S. actions, including a ban on travel from Europe. The assembly plant, which built 791,518 vehicles last year, shut down for the annual Chinese spring holiday Jan. 23. Scheduled to reopen Feb. 3, the plant was closed indefinitely when the Chinese government sealed off Hubei province to control the virus’ spread.

* Following the recommendation of county and state officials in Florida, executives with Barrett-Jackson announced the company will postpone its 18th Annual Palm Beach Auction, scheduled for April 16-18, 2020, at the South Florida Fairgrounds. The decision was made due to the uncertainty of the current public health crisis and to safeguard auction customers, sponsors and guests from the potential spread of COVID-19. The new dates are October 15-17, 2020.

* Classic reports that now that they’ve had time to tally post-block transactions, the three auction companies doing sales this past week on Amelia Island, Florida, report total sales of $78,585,000, slightly more than earlier reported. Preliminary reports from Hagerty observers at the sales reported sales of $77.4 million.

* A 1929 Duesenberg J-218 Town Limousine and a 1973 Porsche 917/30 Can-Am Spyder were accorded Best of Show honors at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance which celebrated its 25th anniversary. The Duesenberg, owned by the Lehrman Collection of Palm Beach, Florida, was built for George Whittell Jr., a California gold rush heir who famously and fortunately liquidated his stock portfolio — valued at approximately $50 million — just two days before the crash of 1929. The Porsche is owned by Rob Kauffman of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was driven for Penske Racing by Mark Donohue to victories in 6 of 8 races in 1973 and to the Can-Am series championship. Former car owner Roger Penske was honored by the 2020 concours, which also invited back all of its past honorees.

* Henry “Heavy D” Sparks and “Diesel Dave” Kiley, better known as the Diesel Brothers on the Discovery Channel, have been ordered to pay $848,000 in fines for illegally modifying the emissions control systems of diesel pickups. The Standard-Examiner newspaper in Utah reported that the fines stem from around 400 violations of removing or bypassing particulate filters or catalysts that reduce NOx and soot emissions. Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) brought the suit against the Diesel Brothers stars and claim that the modifications performed on the trucks increase their emissions by 10–30 times as much as those of unmodified trucks. The emissions were obvious on the Diesel Brothers builds, as plenty of the trucks driven and sold can be seen, via the Diesel Brothers’ social media accounts, “rolling coal” and leaving a cloud of black soot in their wake. The suit against Sparks and Kiley, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Utah in March 2019, was a citizen enforcement action under the Clean Air Act. Hat tip to Hagerty for this news story.

* This report from Luca Ciferri, editor and associate publisher of Automotive News Europe, who is living under quarantine at his Italian home in Villastellone. Italy is mourning the first known death of an active member of the auto industry community to the coronavirus. Umberto Falchetti, who for many years was the guiding force at supplier MTA, died after a short battle with the virus. He was 86 and otherwise very healthy before developing a fever and never recovering, his daughter, Maria Vittoria Falchetti, told me during an emotional phone call. MTA, short of Meccanotecnica Codognese, makes electronic and electromechanical components supplied to BMW, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, PSA Group and Renault.