AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO – March 10, 2019; Every Sunday Larry Nutson, Executive Producer and Chicago Car Guy along with fellow senior editor Thom Cannell from The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau, give you The Auto Channel’s “take” on this past week’s automotive news, in easy to “catch up” with news nuggets.
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* The 2019 Geneva International Motor Show media previews were this week. The Geneva show is about high fashion, luxury and hypercars. It’s a showcase for the likes of Bugatti, Koenigsegg, Lamborghini and Pininfarina and a show that sells cars to rich people. As expected, new EV concepts were also in the news. VW unveiled two micro-mobility ideas…the Streetmate and Cityskater concept electric scooters.
* At the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, the World Car of the Year jury selected the Audi e-Tron, Jaguar I-Pace, and Volvo S60/V60 as the top three cars in the world, with the final winner to be announced next month at the New York Auto Show. Additionally, the World Car of the Year jury has selected the late Sergio Marchionne as the World Car Person of the Year.
* Also at the Geneva Motor Show, the all-electric Jaguar I-PACE has been voted ‘Car of the Year’ at the European Car of the Year Awards 2019. This is the first time a Jaguar has won the coveted prize and was the only vehicle on the shortlist to boast zero emissions.
* Two extremes from the Geneva show: With a sale price of 16.7 million euros ($19 million), the Bugatti La Voiture Noire was publicly debuted. And, the Koenigsegg Jesko with a twin-turbocharged V8 making 1,280 hp on regular gasoline and an eye-watering 1,600 hp on E85. It just might hit 300 mph.
* Volvo Cars, as a worldwide leader in safety, is sending a strong signal about the dangers of speeding and will limit the top speed on all its cars to 180 kph (112 mph) starting in 2020. The company’s Vision 2020, which aims for no one to be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by 2020, is one of the most ambitious safety visions in the automotive industry.
* Newly elected Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who campaigned on a bold promise to “fix the damn roads” in the capital of the U.S. auto industry, will propose nearly tripling the state’s per-gallon fuel tax. The Democrat’s budget proposal, which will be a tough sell in the Republican-led Legislature, would boost the 26-cent gasoline and diesel tax by 45 cents by October 2020.
* This past weekend saw one of the premier hot rod and custom car shows of the year in Detroit, the 2018 Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama Presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts. Autorama judging is a complex and thorough process with more classes than we could count. The most important of these is known as the Great 8 from which one overall winner is selected for the prestigious Don Ridler Memorial Award. Ridler winner for 2019 is the late Steve Barton’s radical custom 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham transformed from a rare Pininfarina-built car. The custom build called “Cadmad” took 16 years and was done by Jordan Quintal II and the team of builders at Super Rides By Jordan in Escondido, California.
* Dethroned Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi boss Carlos Ghosn is finally out of jail on bond. He was released from his Japanese incarceration this week with the help of his A-list legal team. After more than 3 months in the slammer he vows to challenge the “meritless and unsubstantiated” charges of financial crimes brought by Japanese authorities. His bail amounted to 1 billion yen ($8.9 million). Prosecutors argued to keep in in jail without bail.
* VW says driverless vehicles have limited appeal and high cost. Fully autonomous vehicles will take at least another five years to perfect, with the cost and complexity of rolling out the technology globally serving to undermine the business case. VW says Level 5 (full autonomy under all driving conditions) will never happen globally.
* The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that the average fuel efficiency of cars and trucks hit a new record high in the 2017 model year at 24.9 miles per gallon, but said the report showed there are “legitimate concerns” about the industry’s ability to meet rising annual requirements.
* Volvo Cars, owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co, will not sell its all-electric Polestar models in the United States if the company faces tariffs on exports from China, the Financial Times reported. “The business case for bringing the car to the U.S. is highly dependent on the type of tariffs we have,” said Polestar Chief Executive Officer Thomas Ingenlath.
* Plug-in hybrid versions of the Jeep Renegade and Compass, the brand’s first two electrified models for Europe, could be exported to the U.S. if there is sufficient demand, said Fiat Chrysler Automobiles European head Pietro Gorlier. The two small crossovers were revealed at the auto show in Geneva.
* New vehicles are piling up on U.S. car dealer lots, creating concern just as sales are expected to sputter. The inventory of unsold new cars on dealer lots rose 2.1 percent last month, setting an all-time February high, a top industry analyst said in a research note this week. That total of 4 million new vehicles in U.S. stock is a 21-month high.
* Auto loan interest rates hit a high level not seen since 2009 at an average of 6.26 percent, according to reporting by Edmunds. That’s more than a full percent higher than last year. Edmunds analysts say that’s mostly the result of manufacturers offering fewer zero-percent and ultra low rates as incentives to sell more cars. The average transaction price of a new vehicle remained high as well at $36,331.
* Fiat Chrysler is recalling more than 60,000 cars and SUVs worldwide because they can keep going on cruise control or accelerate even after a driver taps the brakes. The recall covers certain Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio models from 2017 through 2019.
* Volkswagen’s Audi luxury brand is recalling nearly 75,000 cars and SUVs in the U.S. because fuel leaks in the engine could cause fires. The recall covers certain A6, A7, and Q7 SUVs from the 2016 through 2018 model years. Also included are A8 sedans from 2015 through 2018. Dealers will replace the left and right fuel injector rails at no cost to owners.
* The annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, launches the 2019 concours show season at the Ritz Carlton resort north of Jacksonville, Florida this weekend with a special display of Ferrari 250 GT SWB Coupes, one of the priciest of collector cars, along with more than a dozen other special classes. Multiple events, including classic and collector car auctions, seminars and an automotive fine art show are part of the weekend activities.
* Classic British sports car maker Morgan Motor has been sold to Italian investment group Investindustrial according to an announcement by the group this week. Morgan is one of a handful of independent automakers in the world and one of the most storied. The company’s last few years have been some of its most successful, selling around 700 cars/year. Morgan chairman said it is “essential to bring in a strategic partner . . . that shares our vision for Morgan.”
* Inductees this year to the Motorsports Hall of Fame are NHRA legend and team owner Don Schumacher, NASCAR legend Tony Stewart, IndyCar great Dario Franchitti, motorsports pioneer Augie Duesenberg, motorcyclist Kevin Schwantz, sports car ace Phil Remington and at-large selection Linda “Miss Hurst Shifter” Vaughn.