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Nutsons Weekly Auto News Digest - Week Ending October 31, 2020



AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO November 1, 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 October 31, 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.

* U.S. auto sales for October are expected to show a still recovering market with the sales pace rising for the sixth straight month since April’s historic low. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of sales is expected to finish near 16.4 million, up slightly from September’s surprisingly strong 16.3 million rate but down from last year’s 16.8 million level, according to a forecast released by Cox Automotive. The Cox Automotive full-year sales forecast has been updated to 14.3 million units, down 16% from 2019. New retail will perform better than fleet, down 9%, while fleet is forecast to come in near 1.9 million, down 42%.

* According to Bloomberg the pandemic kick-started an urban motorcycle boom. They ask: Are cities ready? Two-wheeled vehicles surged during lockdown on streets around the world. So have worries about noise, air pollution and safety. In the U.S., as new car sales crashed, motorcycle companies reported their strongest sales in several years. Increases in riders aboard motorcycles, mopeds, and scooters have been noted in urban centers like New York, Rio de Janeiro and Athens.

* Daimler AG's commercial truck unit and Alphabet Inc's Waymo said they will collaborate on development of self-driving Class 8 semi trucks, applying Waymo's automated system to Daimler's Freightliner Cascadia. Class 8 trucks are semi trucks and other large commercial vehicles with a carrying capacity exceeding 33,000 lb. Waymo Chief Executive John Krafcik said during a conference call that it will take time for major suppliers of Class 8 truck hardware to develop the braking, steering and other technology required to bring a fully automated semi to market in high volume. “These are super-long timelines,” he said.

* Mercedes-Benz will increase its stake in Aston Martin to up to 20 percent from 2.6 percent as part of an expanded technology partnership between the automakers. Aston Martin will get access to advanced Mercedes technologies, including next-generation hybrid and electric powertrains.

* Consumer Reports has run a second round of testing on leading edge semi-automated systems, and once again ranked General Motors' Super Cruise technology as more capable (and safer) than Tesla's Autopilot. A Model Y equipped with the current version of Autopilot finished a "distant second" to Super Cruise in its evaluation. Key to the result, Consumer Reports said, is that Super Cruise has a driver-facing infrared camera that monitors the driver to make sure he or she is paying attention and can take over if the system kicks off.

* Elon Musk has enlisted Tesla fans to road test the latest version of Autopilot in their cars on public roads. The results are scary to watch. If the Full Self Driving system were human, it would be a 15 year old with a learner's permit. On the other hand, Mercedes is testing its Level 2+/Level 3 hands-off on the highway system, called "Drive Pilot" on test tracks with its own engineers - and company executives say they wouldn't do it any other way.

* Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Mike Manley confirmed that Ram will join the rush to produce an electric truck, an area that promises robust competition with Ford, General Motors, Tesla, Rivian and Lordstown Motors already planning to launch their own models. And, Ford Motor Co. plans to unveil on Nov. 12 its zero emission all-electric E-Transit, a green version of the top-selling cargo van.

* Research from JATO Dynamics reports the global pandemic has accelerated the adoption of electric, hybrid and plug-in cars in Europe, with diesel and gasoline vehicles losing traction as a result. June was no exception to this trend. While gasoline and diesel registrations fell by 32% and 31% respectively, compared to June 2019, the volume of new EVs registered rose from 111,300 units in June 2019 to 183,300 units last month, up by 65%. In other words, the market share of EVs was 16.2%, which closes the gap to less than eight percentage points compared to the market share for diesel cars.

* A couple weeks ago Ford quietly announced that all 2021 F-150s would come standard with a center console touchscreen containing a new digital owner’s manual. The manual would have search capability and streamed videos. Big deal, you say? More than a few cars have digital owner’s manuals. Ah, but no other cars come close to the F-150 in terms of sales volume. Consider: Going to a paperless owner’s manual saves 290 tons of paper a year. That’s how much 122 F-150s weigh on average! Or put another way it’s about 18,000 feet of stacked paper. Thanks to Autoweek for this little factoid.

* Think electric! In 2023 Volkswagen Group of America will consolidate their Virginia offices and about 1,000 employees into a new space designed for a carbon neutral future. The new offices will have 300 EV chargers. Oh, by the way, work from home is just a temporary Covid thing.

* Two more cars have been inducted into the National Historic Vehicle Register, a 1921 Duesenberg Straight Eight that was the first passenger car produced by the storied brand, and a preserved original 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T SE with a 426/425-horsepower Hemi V8.. The Duesenberg and the Dodge are the 27th and 28th cars, respectively, to be added to the HVA’s ranks of automobiles documented at the Library of Congress as significant historic vehicles in the US automotive landscape.

* Our friends at The Detroit Bur report that after a 15-year absence, the MG brand is returning to the Mexican market. But, don't expect a 2-seat sports car like you might remember. Following the breakup of the Rover Group, MG was sold to China’s auto giant SAIC in 2007, and although its vehicles are still developed in the UK, they are no longer manufactured there. MG is returning to Mexico as an SAIC subsidiary with its own distribution network and will introduce an initial line-up of three models: one sedan and two crossovers. Is the U.S. next?

* Toyota Motor Corp. is recalling 1.5 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles in the U.S. due to an ongoing issue with a fuel pump that causes the part to fail. The Japanese automaker’s latest move grows the action to 5.8 million vehicles globally to deal with the defective part. Check with Toyota or Lexus to see if your vehicle is involved.

* Volkswagen is recalling over 210,000 Jetta sedans from the 2016 through 2018 model years to repair a problem in which bolts in the engine may loosen over time, potentially leading to a fuel leak that could cause a fire.

* It took 4 days for NASCAR to complete the playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway. After the usual start last Sunday the drivers completed 52 laps before rain and mist moved in. This continued for the next two days. NASCAR might have made more laps with its jet dryers than with the race cars. Finally, on Wednesday Kyle Busch won for the first time this season. Should the decision have been to use rain tires like on a road course? Perhaps.

* A Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat from the Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) stable will be crowned the 2020 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Drag Racing Series Funny Car World Champion this weekend at the Dodge Finals Presented by Pennzoil. DSR drivers Matt Hagan, Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman and Ron Capps look to put exclamation mark on the team’s Funny Car domination by driving a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat into the winner’s circle for an undefeated season record and extend their 13 consecutive national events win streak.

* Toyota officially announced the formation of 23XI Racing, which is co-owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan and current NASCAR Cup Series championship contender Denny Hamlin. 23XI Racing will make its debut in the 2021 Daytona 500 with Bubba Wallace behind the wheel of the No. 23 Toyota Camry. The Toyota relationship will also incorporate an agreement with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) to allow 23XI Racing to purchase chassis and other services.

* Scott Dixon driving for Chip Ganassi Racing won the 2020 IndyCar championship, his sixth title win. Dixon had the lead in the series and followed last year's champion Josef Newgarden around the streets of downtown St. Petersburg, Florida finishing third in the race but giving him the title. Dixon ranks third in all-time wins behind A.J Foyt and Mario Andretti.

* Happy Halloween. Did you change your clocks? Please vote on Tuesday.

Stay safe. Be Well.