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Trump…Tariffs…& Tires That are Reinventing the Wheel.

Airless UPTIS Tire, in development with GM and Michelin, adjusts to road conditions. This and more in AutoInfluence Weekly Automotive News for the week of June 7th

Annnd we’re back. AutoInfluence with all your current automotive news headlines, as we kick off the month of June. So, let’s get down to business.

Ford

Beginning with the ticking countdown of President Donald Trump’s ultimatum that a 5% tariff would be implemented on all shipments out of Mexico by this coming Monday, unless the Mexican government commits to a more active role in the prevention of illegal immigration. Duties would then increase by as much as 25% by October. Setting politics aside, it would be hard (and foolish) to downplay the potential ramification on automotive costs, especially for certain brands. Ford, for example, exported 245,182 vehicles out of Mexico in 2018 as compared to the 725,000 vehicles that GM brought across the border. With a lesser manufacturing footprint in Mexico, Ford has less to lose overall. And suffice it to say that, with a broad $11B restructuring plan in play, every penny counts.

And while Ford may not be the first name on everyone’s lips when it comes to discussion of sustainability, it’s time to give some credit where it’s due. A press release from Ford this week revealed that the automaker utilizes approximately 1.2 billion recycled plastic bottles each year, in the production of underbody shields, equating to approximately 250 bottles per vehicle. Noting that use of the virginal, or even solid plastics would increase the weight of the underbody by as much as three times, the integration of recycled content is not just ecologically responsible, but aids in overall performance and ride quality.

That said, there’s far more to Ford’s commitment to sustainability than just recycled plastics. In fact, Ford celebrated a decade of integrating soybean-based foam products in the construction of approximately 18.5 million North American vehicles. They have also met a goal set back in 2010, to reduce operational emissions per vehicle by as much 30% – and more importantly, they met that goal eight years ahead of schedule. Looking forward, the automaker has set new goals (i) to eliminate the use of single-use virgin plastics by 2030 (ii) to use 100% renewable energy across their manufacturing footprint by 2035 (iii) to contribute 500,000 megawatt hours of wind energy and (iv) to continue manufacturing in accordance with the Paris Climate Accord.

And before we close the door on this week’s headlines in Ford news, some of you might have already seen the trailer released for ‘Ford v Ferrari’ a new biopic starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, telling the story of Ford Motor Company’s decision to challenge Ferrari at LeMans. Damon stars as visionary designer Carroll Shelby opposite iconic British driver, Ken Miles played by Christian Bale. The film hits theater screens on November 15th, and we plan to be among the first in line to see this story told.

General Motors

GM was among the coalition of automakers who are demanding the return to standardized fuel economy goals, following disruption of the earlier push to reach a national average of 54.5 mpg by 2025. With FCA absent from the list of 17 automakers who have challenged President Trump to create one national standard for fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions (and with Ford declining to comment) GM issued a statement regarding the group’s desire to “preserve vehicle affordability and help advance our shared national interest”. The statement reads as follows:

“We continue to prioritize the need for one national program and remain hopeful that the parties can find a solution to achieve this goal. Regardless of the standards, we are committed to a future of zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion. The pathway to that vision includes continually improving fuel economy and our commitment to an all-electric future.”

As part of a presentation this past Wednesday, GM furthered the understanding of their intention to introduce 20 all-electric vehicles globally by 2023. That understanding, was specifically in regard to pricing, stating that they would be offered at “very average transaction prices” thanks to the increasing levels of lower-cost engineering. Good news for all, for sure, since the average price of a new EV like the Chevy Bolt falls in around $37,000 – and most automakers actually lose money with each sale.

And, in one of the ‘cooler’ headlines we’ve seen from GM in a long time, it appears that they’re partnering with Michelin to – of all things – reinvent the wheel. Aiming for a 2024 launch, the non-pneumatic wheel and tire combination (codename: UPTIS or ‘Unique Puncture-proof Tire System’) eliminates the need for air inflation, using flexible composite materials to support the vehicle’s weight and absorb imperfections in road conditions. It’s really cool stuff.

Here’s a conceptual video:

and some footage of UPTIS in action:

FCA / Dodge / RAM / Jeep / Chrysler

Now, last week, the big news was the proposed merger between FCA and French automaker Renault, a union which would maker the composite the third largest global automotive entity. And while the dust has yet to settle after the events of this past week, it appears that the proposal might have crashed and burned (or is at least becoming a battleground for aggressive negotiations). First, Renault announced their plans to delay a vote on the proposal. Then, FCA announced they were withdrawing their offer altogether. And of course, the French government (which holds a 15% ownership stake in Renault) have their own role to play, looking to secure employment and manufacturing interests. In a formal statement, FCA claimed that “the political conditions in France do not currently exist for such a combination to proceed successfully.” On the other hand, France’s finance minister went on record stating, “We want this merger, but we don’t want it under just any conditions.” Where the conversation goes from here is anyone’s guess…

And the government investigation surrounding FCA escalates, inspired by claims from two Illinois-based dealerships that the automaker requested they falsify sales numbers in exchange for $20,000 worth of incentives. But the escalation has placed high-level player Reid Bigland in the crosshairs. Suing FCA for withholding both bonus and stock benefits to the tune of $1.8 million, Bigland claims that he is being used by FCA as a scapegoat, penalized for practices that had been in place for decades, and which he merely inherited. Of course, both the investigation and litigation are pending, but it certainly sounds some alarms as to the state of FCA’s inner workings these days.

Tuesday, it was announced that the 707-hp Dodge Charger Hellcat was receiving a new Octane Edition – fusing aggressive elements from the R/T Scat Pack 1320 with an array of satin-blacked out badging and accents. Available in either ‘Pitch Black’ or ‘White Knuckle’, there are also interior accents to accompany the upgrade – perfect for anyone with about $70 grand burning a hole in their pocket.

Toyota / Lexus

And it’s a light news week over at Toyota – but Toyota and Subaru are moving forward, following an announcement that they will be joining forces to develop a new platform for battery EV crossovers. The first offering to be served up, is expected to parallel the RAV4 and Forrester in terms of size, and will be offered by both automakers – albeit with differentiating badging and styling.

Honda / Acura

And things are quiet over at Honda, as well — although the 2019 Acura NSX has been named as the year’s ‘Best Performing Car’ by The Car Connection, out of 300 cars being assessed on their power, speed and handling.

Nissan

In an evaluation of new vehicles across 11 categories, Automotive Science Group (ASG) recognized four of Nissan’s offerings among their list of the best. Kicking things off with the aptly named ‘Nissan Kicks’ which won ‘Best Economic Performance’ in the compact crossover segment, and which was praised for maintaining a 6% lower cot of ownership across the first 6.5 years of its lifecycle. Similar accolades were bestowed upon the 2019 Rogue in the midsize segment, albeit based around superior fuel economy, averaging 29 mpg versus the segment average of 22. The 2019 Nissan Leaf was selected as one of the ‘Best 5’ in terms of ‘All-Around Performance’ as was the 2019 Versa.

Hyundai / KIA / Genesis

And Hyundai moves forward with a concept first revealed at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show, in the form of its yet-unnamed Intelligent Personal Cockpit, an AI system that takes connective technologies to a whole new level. Syncing with multiple devices, with the option of connecting even to other vehicles, the system takes existing technologies while integrating calendars, personal scheduling, and the ability to identify discrepancies to help streamline planning within a family. It can also help to facilitate the control of other internet-enabled devices used within the home. At this time, no timeline has been presented for roll-out, but the system has been described as ‘near-production ready’.

Over at KIA, we now have a name for the compact SUV which the automaker has been teasing in recent months: ’Seltos’ (inspired by the name of Hercules’ son in Greek mythology, with adapted spelling, changing the ‘c’ to an ’s’ to represent sophistication, sport design, speed and space). Okay..(?) That said a formal reveal is expected later this month.

And the 2019 Stinger has been named as a Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, when equipped with the optional Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection. In total, this means that there are 10 current KIA models included in this IIHS distinction.

And while there’s not much for news in the way of Genesis, this has been a great week for videos worth visiting at www.autoinfluence.com — so with that in mind, feel free to watch this really cool video of a G70 drifting under a tractor trailer.

Why?

Psssht. More like, why not?

Mazda

With European deliveries starting in the fall, and American deliveries expected to fall in close behind, Mazda’ new Skyactiv-X engine will be making its highly-anticipated debut under the hood of the new Mazda 3. And while it was well-known that there’d be a reduction in horsepower, it was announced this week that such a change was modest – losing only 8 points, and falling in around 177hp. That said, its a palatable trade-off considering the Mazda 3s reported fuel economy of up to 55 mpg combined. Even if that number doesn’t necessarily reflect the same testing methods used by the EPA, expect a notable improvement over the performance numbers of the Skyactiv-G. The improvement comes as a result of Spark Controlled Compression Ignition, a method of combustion which has been described as mimicking a diesel engine, thus improving fuel efficiency. Expect more details regarding confirmed technical specifications to arrive over the next year.

Volkswagen / Audi

This week VW teased a big announcement before releasing an extended ad which, in the light of Dieselgate, utilizes some tactful humility to acknowledge past missteps while still managing to promote the next wave of eco-friendly options, beginning with the I.D. Buzz. Lacking notable dialog, the evocative spot is successful at communicating both a sense of remorse, a plea for closure and a promising future.

Which brings us to VW’s first production EV the ID.3 which has passed the 20,000 mark in terms of pre-bookings. European orders for the five-door hatchback were opened last month, with VW aiming for 30,000 pre-bookings by the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. Needless to say, with 10,000 reservations made within the first 24 hours, and already being 2/3 of the way there (to the goal) things are shaping up pretty well.

And Audi is teasing the possible stateside return of the Audi A6, after more than a 10-year hiatus in the U.S. In fact, the release of the alluring Allroad marks the first return since the C5 generation was discontinued here after 2004.That said, there should be no expectation that it will carry over the turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel powertrain found in European models. Speculation is that it will come powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6. But only time will tell how this actually plays out.

Tesla

And finally, more and more Tesla owners are putting the beta test version of Tesla’s new Enhanced Summon feature to use. Spec’d to work within a range of 150 feet, the feature is meant to be used in private areas, such as driveways and non-public parking lots. That said, a video put up this week shows a Model 3 owner summoning the vehicle out of his driveway, only to negotiate a near-90° right turn before driving another hundred feet on a curved residential street, finding its way to the driver. And while this isn’t the only video of its kind, and there are plenty of conversations to be had regarding deviation from intended purpose, public safety and a potential need for regulation…it’s a clear display of how quickly autonomous vehicles are becoming a reality.

Annnd we’re back. AutoInfluence with all your current automotive news headlines, as we kick off the month of June. So, let’s get down to business.

And that about wraps things up for us here at AutoInfluence. But as always, we’ll be back here next week with all your current auto news, and…say hi to your mom for me.

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