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Nutson's Top Auto News Digest - Week Of September 20-26, 2020



AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO September 27, 2020; Every Sunday Larry Nutson, The Chicago Car Guy and Executive Producer, with able assistance 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 Wrap-up - Week Ending September 26, 2020; The past week's important, relevant, semi-secret, or snappy automotive news, opinions and insider back stories presented as expertly crafted easy to digest news nuggets.

* It's September and it's the worst month for traffic deaths. Studies by both Michael Sivak, a transportation analyst, and the IIHS came to this conclusion. U.S. traffic deaths have fallen in recent years but still more than 35,000 people still die in crashes. September is thought to be bad due to fewer daylight hours, more people are on the road, and the long Labor Day weekend. Be careful out there.

* JD Power/LMC Automotive forecasts that U.S. car and light truck sales will hit a 15.7 million annual pace in September -- up from 15.2 million in August. Yes, that means sales are running more than 1 million vehicles a year lower than in the pre-Covid time.

* Talk about turbulence. Nikola founder has resigned as chairman amid allegations and an SEC probe. Founder and Executive Chairman Trevor Milton was replaced by board member Steve Girsky, who helped lead GM out of bankruptcy. Nikola has faced a turbulent period following GM’s surprise decision earlier this month to take a $2 billion stake in the company and manufacture its new pickup.

* IIHS reports that studies of intersections in the United States converted from traffic signals or stop signs to roundabouts have found reductions in injury crashes of 72-80 percent and reductions in all crashes of 35-47 percent. A study of 19 higher-speed rural intersections (speed limits of 40 mph or higher) that originally had stop signs on the minor approaches and were converted to roundabouts found a 62 percent reduction in all crashes and an 85 percent reduction in injury crashes.

* Listening to reservation-holder feedback, Ford is expanding the availability of its high-performance off-road Sasquatch package to all-new Bronco two- and four-door models with a class-first 7-speed manual transmission. “The Bronco community spoke and we heard them,” said Mark Grueber, Ford Bronco consumer marketing manager. “Our team moved quickly to add Sasquatch with a manual transmission – another example of our focus on giving customers the best possible off-road vehicles and accessories that we can.” The increased availability of the Sasquatch package also makes the Ford Bronco the only 4x4 with a 7-speed manual and 35-inch off-road tires in its class.

* We drove the new 2021 GMC Yukon Denali last week which is now bigger and features independent rear suspension plus an added diesel engine option. You can read all about it HERE

* Big News! The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) announced it will move its reimagined indoor and outdoor show, originally planned for summer 2021, to Sept. 28 – Oct. 9, 2021. NAIAS will remain a fall show going forward after the inaugural event in September 2021. Show dates have already been secured with TCF Center for the next three years. This comes less than two weeks after the Los Angeles auto show’s move from November to May. Actually, back when the Detroit show was planning to move from its traditional January date, the Fall was in discussion. And now they are there, hopefully, after a nearly 33-month gap since the last show was held in January 2019.

* Meanwhile, the 2020 Beijing Auto Show, Auto China 2020, opened this week after a five month delay. It opened under anti-virus controls that included wearing masks, limiting crowds and some quarantine requirements as well as holding news conferences by international video link. One notable new vehicle was the world premiere of the Honda SUV e:concept, a design study that previews the brand’s first EV to be introduced in China.

* Our friends at The Detroit Bureau report there’s a mounting push, in a number of markets, to reduce sales of vehicles running on gas or diesel, including outright bans in several countries, including the UK, which expects to eliminate sales of internal combustion-powered models entirely by 2040. Now, however, regulators are under pressure to speed things up, possibly to as early as 2030. A new study, jointly prepared by Greenpeace and the Green Alliance, contends that would be necessary in order to meet Britain’s commitment to address climate change. And the proposal, which would eliminate as much as 90 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions just between 2028 and 2032, is winning support from both sides of the political aisle, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson expected to lend his support, according to British media.

* And, here in the U.S., California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an order that aims to end the sale of new gasoline and diesel-powered passenger cars in the state by 2035. The California Air Resources Board will establish regulations requiring that all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California in 2035 be zero-emission vehicles. The proposed rule would not ban people from owning gas-powered cars or selling them on the used car market. Of more immediate interest is that the regulations require a gradually ramp up to zero sale. That means an increase in then sales rate of PEVs.

* Joe White for Reuters writes: What if a company gives a multi-hour future product presentation designed to demonstrate its superiority, and its shares tank? That's what's happening to Elon Musk and Tesla. The electric automaker's shares fell 10% Wednesday as investors and analysts digested Musk's "Battery Day" presentation - and kept finding more to question. Experts in battery technology said the battery design Tesla outlined is promising, but it's not clear how quickly it can be put into mass production. Musk's claim that Tesla has found a simple, cheap way to extract lithium from clay in Nevada drew skepticism from experts in the field. Getting regulatory clearance for such a water-intensive process in such a dry region could take years, experts said. Musk isn't the first to have the lithium clay idea - and those who proposed it before him are still waiting for permits.

* Ford Motor Co. reached a tentative labor contract deal with its Canadian autoworkers based in no small part on critical support from the Canadian government, announced Unifor National President Jerry Dias. A $1.95 billion investment — with $1.8 billion earmarked for Oakville Assembly, specifically — will be spent transforming the auto industry in Canada into a major player in electrification. The investment plan involves building five models of electric vehicles, making Canada a player in the rapidly growing electric vehicle market for the first time.

* Reuters reports BMW agreed to pay $18 million to settle an SEC investigation of its U.S. sales reporting. From 2015-2019, the SEC said BMW paid dealers to designate unsold cars as loaner cars, and report them as "sold." The bank of vehicles was used to smooth out monthly sales figures.

* Volkswagen of America, Inc. used YouTube to reveal the all-new ID.4 electric compact SUV—the brand’s first long-range EV to be sold stateside. At launch, the vehicle will be offered with an 82kWh battery and a rear-mounted AC permanent-magnet synchronous motor with 201 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque. Volkswagen estimates that the ID.4 82kWh RWD 1st Edition models will have a range of 250 miles with a full charge on the EPA cycle. A powerful, electric all-wheel-drive variant with 302 hp will follow later in 2021. Pricing for the ID.4 starts at $39,995, for the rear-wheel-drive ID.4 Pro (available in the first quarter of 2021), before a potential Federal tax credit of up to $7,500 is applied.

* This week also brought us the digital reveal of the 2021 Kia Sorento that has been extensively updated with more new technology and driving features. The 7-seat Sorento is a new design, has more safety features and new hybrid and PHEV engines.

* Another livestream reveal was the INFINITI QX60 Monograph concept that provides tangible insight into how INFINITI plans to transform the future QX60 luxury crossover.

* For the first time since Wendell Scott drove and fielded his independent team from 1961-1973, Michael Jordan will become a majority owner of color in NASCAR. The team is co-owned by long-time friend, three-time Daytona 500 winner and Joe Gibbs Racing star Denny Hamlin. The car will be driven by Bubba Wallace for the 2021 season.

* Aston Martin has class wins in the 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans. The British manufacturer, which was last victorious in the world famous event in 2017, recorded its best ever result at the Circuit de la Sarthe by winning both GT classes and with three crews standing on the podium. The result means that Aston Martin scored enough points to secure the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) manufacturers’ title with one round remaining.

* The largest crowd at any sporting event during the pandemic was at Bristol Motor Speedway last weekend for the NASCAR playoff race. A sold-out crowd of 30,000 spectators was the most Bristol was allowed to admit and the largest crowd since March. Kevin Harvick won the race.

Stay safe. Be Well.