Nutson's Auto News Factoids - Week Of December 30, 2013 - January 5, 2014
Auto Central Louisville, KY January 5, 2014 Each week Larry Nutson, Senior Editor, New York Bureau of The Auto Channel, along with Steve Purdy and Thom Cannell from The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau give you easy to digest nuggets of the past week's automotive news you may have missed.
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Automotive News December 30, 2013 - January 5, 2014
* 2013 came to a close with overall auto sales of 15.6 million, up 9% over last year in spite of a weak December. Nearly every segment was up with more trucks/SUVs being sold than cars. GM had the largest overall share at 18%, then Ford with 16% and Toyota with 14%. For the year, by maker, Ford Motor Co is up 11%, Chrysler Group up 9% and GM up 7%. Toyota is +7%, Honda +7%, Nissan +9%, Mazda +3%, Subaru +26%, Jaguar/Land Rover +20%, Daimler Group +13%, BMW +8%, Hyundai/Kia 0%, and VW Group down 1%. 2013's sales are the biggest since 2007 when the SAAR was 16.2 million. The recent low was just 10.4 million units in 2010. Most analysts remain optimistic for 2014.
* Chrysler was first out of the shoot with a press release in 2014. Chrysler LLC, the smallest of the three Detroit-based automakers, is set to be absorbed by the Italian company, Fiat. Fiat said Wednesday that it reached an agreement to take full ownership of Chrysler in a $4.35 billion deal with the United Automobile Workers retiree health care fund. Fiat and the UAW trust have shared ownership since Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy in 2009. The deal to buy out the trust’s 41 percent stake will make Fiat the world’s seventh-largest automaker. Fiat has had operational control since the controlled bankruptcy orchestrated by the U.S. government in 2009. The government loaned the company $12.5 billion and the company has repaid $11.2 billion.
* Next week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is expected to feature the most automotive content yet. The show has become a "de facto car show" according to Edmunds.com. Much news is made there as well including this year's expected announcement of a Google/Audi partnership focused on developing Android-based software for upcoming vehicles. This will be a challenge to iPhone based systems.
* Chevrolet this week announced pricing for the new Camaro Z/28 racing and performance version of the popular pony car. The Z/28 will be in showrooms this spring. MSRP for the 505-hp screamer will begin at $75,000 plus a $995 destination charge.
* Andy Granatelli, known as "Mr. 500", Indy 500 car owner and long time racing supporter has died. Granatelli turned STP oil treatment into a national institution and built racecars that won the Indianapolis 500 in 1969 and in 1973. From 1961 to 1965, he entered cars in the Indianapolis 500 with 837 HP supercharged V-8 engines, up from the conventional 450. In 1967, he built and sponsored a radical new car with a turbine engine and 80 percent fewer parts than a conventional, piston-driven engine. The turbine almost won twice save for the failure of some small parts. Granatelli bought Paxton Products in 1958, a maker of superchargers and his first major business operation. Soon Paxton supercharged Studebaker Avanti's appeared. Granatelli and STP were long time sponsors of Richard Petty in NASCAR. He died in Santa Barbara, CA at the age of 90.
* Seven-time Formua One racing champion Michael Schumacher remains in a coma this week after a tragic crash on the slopes while skiing with his son. Two surgeries to relieve pressure in his brain are expected to result in nearly a month of recovery time and complications are still a serious risk. The doctors also noted that had Schumacher not been wearing a helmet during his accident in the French town of Meribel, he would not have survived.
* Since 2007, the workforce of the Volkswagen Group has grown by about 248,000 employees, representing a rise of 76 percent. This increase includes 123,000 new jobs created throughout the world and around 125,000 employees of companies newly integrated into the Group. As of the end of 2013 (figures for November 30, 2013), the Volkswagen Group has about 573,000 employees, including some 260,000 in Germany. This is more than ever before. VWAG wants to be number one in the world.
* Our friends at The Detroit Bureau report on congressional inaction that affect EVs. While the tax credits for buying a battery car remain in effect, two other government incentives expired at the end of 2013: one providing a 30% tax credit for the purchase of a high-speed electric vehicle charger, up to $1,000. The other covers 10% of the cost, up to $2,500, for the purchase of an electric motorcycle. Tax credits of up to $7,500 remain in effect for those who buy battery-cars. But Congress notably has failed to act on proposals by the Obama White House to not only increase those incentives but to make them available to buyers immediately, rather than having to wait as much as a year, to when a purchaser files their taxes.
* Volvo will recall nearly 31,000 S60 sedans with 5-cylinder engines from the 2011 and 2012 model years because of a problem with the oil pressure warning sensors.
* Maserati will recall 63 of its 2014 Quattroporte GTS V8 models because of a possible loss of electrical power and a potential fire risk.
* Michigan joined California, Nevada, Florida and Washington, D.C., in passing driverless car legislation that will allow testing of autonomous vehicles on Michigan roads.
* IHS Automotive forecasts total worldwide sales of self-driving cars will rise from nearly 230,000 in 2025 to 11.8 million in 2035. The firm predicts cars that have no driver controls — that are autonomous only — will be on the roads around 2030. The study also predicts that nearly all vehicles in use are likely to be self-driving cars or self-driving commercial vehicles sometime after 2050. While the technology offers great potential of mitigating crashes and injuries many hurdles remain including legal issues, liability concerns along with technological challenges. The report also said, if autonomous cars prove reliable, one day governments may not allow human drivers.
* Maria Sheahan writing for Reuters reported that Carmakers BMW and Toyota have agreed to develop a joint platform for sportscars, BMW's development chief Herbert Diess told a German newspaper. "We have agreed on a joint architecture for a sports car. What is important is that there will be two different vehicles that are authentic to the two brands," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quoted Diess as saying. BMW and Toyota had in January signed an agreement to cooperate on various areas including lithium-air batteries and lightweight technology. They also said at the time they would study the potential for a joint platform for a mid-sized sports vehicle in a feasibility study to be completed by the end of 2013.
* Ford Motor Company announced today the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept, a first-of-its-kind sun-powered vehicle with the potential to deliver the best of what a plug-in hybrid offers – without depending on the electric grid for fuel. Instead of powering its battery from an electrical outlet, Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept harnesses the power of the sun by using a special concentrator that acts like a magnifying glass, directing intense rays to solar panels on the vehicle roof. C-MAX Solar Energi Concept, which will be shown at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas, is a collaborative project of Ford, San Jose, Calif.-based SunPower Corp. and Atlanta-based Georgia Institute of Technology.
* The NHTSA finally submitted a revised rule to the White House that could push automakers to install backup cameras in more of their cars and trucks. The regulation would set new rear visibility standards for light vehicles sold in the United States. The standards are aimed at keeping children from being run over and killed by vehicles moving in reverse. We might see a final proposed rule within a year. Meanwhile many companies are installing back up cameras as standard equipment.
* Autobytel Inc., the company dedicated to connecting automotive consumers with dealers, announced the winners of the Autobytel 2014 Car and Truck of the Year Awards. Jaguar F-Type takes top New Car honors; Land Rover Range Rover dominates the Truck/SUV segment.