Nutson's Nuggets - Automotive News Factoids February 23 - March 2, 2014


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Auto Central Louisville, KY March 2, 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.

If you are a car nut like we all are, you can easily "catch up" on these stories as well as the past 17 year's 1,544,417 automotive news, automotive stories, articles, reviews, rants and raves by just searching for the subject you are interested in The Auto Channel's Automotive News Archive. Hey South Florida TV viewers, I know you are enjoying watching The Auto Channel's TACH-TV on channel 44 WHDT-TV Palm Beach (Cable 17 and 438, channel 9 Miami and channel 32 Fort Meyers-Naples, and thanks for the positive feedback....See you next week, LN

Automotive News Published March 2, 2014

* The Detroit News reports that Alfa Romeo is coming back to the U.S. — for real this time, according to parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. But most of the dealers who were promised the Italian sports cars will not be getting them. At least not this year. Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says Alfa’s return to America will begin with one model, the Alfa Romeo 4C, which will go on sale at the company’s Maserati dealerships by the end of June.

* According to recent data from Cars.com the extreme winter weather conditions across most of the United States resulted in a nearly 20 percent year-to-date increase in all-wheel-drive vehicle sales. Cars.com reports that the majority of all-wheel-drive inventory in 2014 is in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions – a combined 57.1 percent. The Southwest (3.9 percent) and South (10.8) contribute the least inventory.

* Many media reports have it that FoMoCo plans to ditch Microsoft Corp. for BlackBerry Ltd. for future upgrades to its Sync voice-activated system. The Dearborn automaker for years has been plagued with software problems on Sync and its MyFord Touch infotainment system that have stained the company’s vehicle quality ratings. Ford could make the switch from Microsoft to BlackBerry and its QNX operating system this year or next.

* Fiat Chrysler Automobile announced that there would be no convertible model of the new Chrysler 200 sedan and also announced that there would be no sister car, the Dodge Avenger, coming off the new Chrysler 200. Makes one wonder if perhaps the Chrysler or the Dodge brand might be short lived. But conversely, a driving force behind badge-engineering always has been to satisfy dealers. With all FCA brands, save for Fiat, being sold under the same roof, perhaps FCA will do just fine with fewer models. In any case, Hertz will no longer be putting you in the driver's seat of a drop-top Chrysler 200.

* SAE International reports that BYD Motors and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) recently announced some findings from a two-month pilot test on a 40-ft BYD battery-electric bus conducted in Manhattan from Aug. 25 to Oct 25, 2013. The bus tested at MTA offers an average range of 140 to 155 miles between charges. Charging is intended to be completed only at night during off-peak hours to reduce demand on the grid, and takes 3 to 4 h to return to full capacity, according to the bus maker. After two months, the electric bus’s average battery duration was 0.3 h per % SOC, or 30 h of operation per full charge.

* Lexus earned the top overall score in the Consumer Reports’ Car Brand Report Cards, the publication announced. Acura took second place, and Audi was third. Rounding out the top 10 were Subaru, Toyota, Mazda, Honda, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. For a brand to qualify for inclusion, Consumer Reports requires road-test and reliability data from at least three of its nameplates. Thus, Fiat, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mini, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Ram, Scion, Smart and Tesla were not included in the 2014 rankings. As for the top single vehicle, the Tesla Model S took top honors as the Best Overall vehicle.

* GM will expand a recall of the vehicles with faulty ignition switches to include a total of 1.4 million cars from model years 2003-2007. GM had announced a recall of Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5 for model years 2005-2007. Now, GM is adding 2003-2007 Saturn Ions, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHRs, and 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky models. The recall is for the ignition switch that allows the key to unintentionally move or switch to the off position. NHTSA said it will examine “the timeliness of GM’s recall” and wants “to determine whether GM properly followed the legal processes and requirements for reporting recalls.” The recall is causing lots of consternation within the company and may lead to fines. Late in the week GM issued an apology to consumers.

* “Peak Car” will be when the world reaches a point at which annual global sales growth will top out, and that is forecasted to be in the next decade, several auto-industry analysts predict. Experts see a reckoning for car companies. They may have to adapt to a world with less car-buying and more car-sharing, and more cars that drive themselves. In the U.S., 44 percent of people would prefer to live in a city with automated “driverless” cars that would reduce congestion, according to a new survey from Intel Corp. Already in the U.S., where automotive ownership has long seemed a birthright, almost one in 10 households don’t have a car, up 5.7 percent over the last five years.

* Nissan will recall about 13,500 Frontier pickup trucks from the 2012-14 model years for a possible fire hazard. Circuit breakers were installed facing the wrong direction and could “potentially” cause contact with a metal bolt and cause a short circuit.

* After a six-hour rain delay, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the 2014 Daytona 500 in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS. It was "juniors" second 500 win, and according to the new NASCAR rules, virtually guarantees him a place in the final Chase for the Cup. Denny Hamlin was second in a Toyota and Brad Keselowski was third in a Ford.

* Next week starts a new TV show for car guys and gals called "Gear Heads" where they "take fast cars and make them Insanely Fast!" according to their promotional information. The show is produced by Rio Vista Universal and stars engine builders Nick Field and Rick Ford whose Houston-based performance shop Fastlane massages muscle cars into super muscle cars. See the trailer at: http://vimeo.com/78097763.

* The drama over labor representation at the VW Chattanooga assembly plant is not over. After workers turned down the UAW's bid to organize the plant two weeks ago the union immediately filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board demanding a revote claiming unfair interference and coercion by politicians. This week two groups of workers at the plant are challenging that UAW complaint.

* This upcoming week opens the classic car show season with the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. Founder and chairman, Bill Warner, along with his amazing team have put together another rich and diverse show which always includes significant racing cars. Features include Zagato cars, beach cars, Chrysler concept cars of the past and much more. The Amelia weekend at the Ritz Carlton includes a series of fascinating seminars and three auctions as well. Info at: www.ameliaconcours.org. Watch for a story here next week.

* In more Concours news - the most prestigious Concours in the U.S. at Pebble Beach, CA, announced its featured classes this week. The show is in mid-August so there is still time to submit your car if it's worthy. Featured classes include: Maserati, Ruxton, Ferrari Testa Rossa, cars with Fernandez et Darrin coachwork, steam cars, Tatra, post-war Rolls-Royce Phantoms and Eastern European motorcycles.

* You have a very sharp memory if you recall a paragraph we did as part of our Society of Automotive Engineers coverage last spring where we discovered an effort to run a diesel engine on gasoline. Well, now Lund University of Sweden has released a study suggesting trucks could reduce emissions and improve efficiency up to 50% using a combustion process that involves a delay in ignition allowing gasoline to power a diesel engine.

* Honda is killing off the Insight model. Production will stop this summer but the car will be available at Honda dealerships in the U.S. through the end of the year. Introduced as a two-seater in 1999, a second generation five-door hatchback came out in spring 2009.

* On the auto show circuit all eyes will be on Geneva this upcoming week. The Geneva show kicks off Europe's new car season and now amidst some signs of auto sales recovery. Check back here on The Auto Channel for all the news from this show.

* Think warm. It's now meteorological spring.

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