Nutson's Nuggets - Automotive News Factoids Week of March 24-30, 2014


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Auto Central Louisville, KY March 30, 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 1,576,110 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 March 24-30, 2014

* Alfa Romeo will mark its North American return at the 2014 New York International Auto Show with the highly anticipated and high-performance Alfa Romeo 4C. The all-new Alfa Romeo 4C delivers an exotic mid-engine design inspired by the brand's legendary racing history. We'll have Press Pass coverage here on The Auto Channel direct from New York in mid-April.

* Nissan revealed an early peek at the 2015 Murano, which makes its world debut on April 16 at the New York International Auto Show. As the halo vehicle for Nissan's expanding range of bold crossovers and SUVs, the Murano previews a new Nissan design language for future Nissan production vehicles. Along with its innovative styling, the all-new 2015 Nissan Murano features a spacious, premium interior and advanced, purposeful safety and connective technology. An invited cadre of auto writers, we among them, got an in-person look at the new Murano in New York City this week and it is gorgeous.

* On April 16-17, Ford is celebrating 50 years of continuous pony car production by bringing the all-new Mustang convertible to the Empire State Building’s 86th floor observatory, allowing visitors to join in the festivities. Ford is re-creating the same feat it achieved nearly 50 years ago – unveiling a Mustang on the world’s most famous attraction, once again making history. A technical team is hard at work disassembling a Mustang into sections so that it will fit into the elevators of the 1,454-foot-tall international landmark. We'll be there.

* In an “unprecedented landslide decision” by Robb Report editors and a panel of guest judges made up of members of the exclusive Robb Report Club, the Ferrari F12berlinetta has been selected as the luxury lifestyle authority’s 2014 Car of the Year.

* Honda marked the opening of Honda Smart Home US, showcasing technologies that enable zero net energy living and transportation. The home, located on the West Village campus of the University of California, Davis, is capable of producing more energy on-site from renewable sources than it consumes annually, including enough energy to power a Honda Fit EV for daily commuting. A Honda-developed home energy management system and an energy efficient design will allow the home's occupant to use less than half of the energy of a similarly sized new home in the Davis area for heating, cooling and lighting. The home is also three times more water-efficient than a typical U.S. home. See videos about Honda Smart Home US.

* GM "Switchgate", the recall involving a faulty ignition switch in as many as 1.6 million vehicles, could ignite legal and financial calamity for Delphi Automotive plc, the maker of the switch, if it is held responsible for the actions of its bankrupt predecessor. Delphi, as well as GM, is protected under Chapter 11 bankruptcy code from certain product liability obligations that occurred before they emerged from bankruptcy, but it still may not be able to avoid penalties, experts say. And it has been reported that General Motors knew about a defect in its ignition switches eight years ago and changed the design of an internal part, but never told federal regulators or the drivers of its cars, according to evidence from a recent lawsuit filed by the parents of a Georgia woman who died in a 2010 GM car crash.

* Toyota announced this week a recall of over 100,000 Avalon full-size sedans from 2003 and 2004 because of an airbag issue. No accidents or injuries have been reported as a result of the problem but the airbags could inflate without warning and without being triggered by an accident.

* Nissan also initiated an airbag-related recall earlier this week effecting a range of sedans and SUVs. Nissan's concern is passenger-side airbags that may not sense an adult in the passenger seat and fail to inflate in an accident. This recall effects over 1 million 2013 and 2014 Altimas, Leafs, Sentras and Pathfinders along with 2013 NV200 Taxis and 2014 Infiniti QX60/QX50.

* Tesla founder and CEO, Elon Musk, announced this week that his company will install a "triple underbody shield" to protect the battery pack after three vehicle fires in the past year caused by the battery compartment being punctured by road debris. Correspondingly, the NHTSA ended their inquiry into the fires without finding any defect for fault. Musk calls those incidents "flukes." The extra weight of the shield, Musk insists, reduced the Tesla S range by less than 0.1%.

* In an effort to more efficiently use their world-wide production capacity in the Ruesselsheim, Germany plant, GM announced this week that the Opel division will produce a Buick product for export to the U.S. beginning in the latter half of this decade. The product was not specified. The plant now builds the mid-size Opel Insignia sedan, which shares a platform with the Buick Regal, and exports products to China. Chinese exports will end in 2015 as part of the plan.

* And BMW said it will invest $1 billion in its 20 year old Spartanburg, South Carolina assembly plant and add a range-topping X7 SUV to the lineup. The plant capacity will grow to 450,000 cars per year by the end of 2016, up from 300,000 today, and make it the company's largest in the world. The X7 will be a large three-row SUV to compete with the Mercedes - Benz GL-Class.

* A Chinese company purchased the entire assets of the defunct Fisker Automotive company this week. The new owner, an affiliate of Wanziang America Corporation, paid $150 million and promises to relaunch the hybrid Karma sport sedan as well as create three concept vehicles. The fate of the GM factory in Delaware slated to produce Fisker automobile is uncertain.

* According to a new report issued by IHS Automotive this week, the average age of vehicles on the road today clicked slightly up this year and will go up again next year to 11.5 years - this in spite of a substantial increase in new car sales over the past two years. According to the experts at IHS these strong sales will not be reflected in the average age numbers until after 2015.

* When it rains, it pours. GM announced two more problems late this week - a "stop-sale" order to dealers to suspend sale of the bread-and-butter Cruze compact and a recall of come Cadillac XLR Hybrids. The Cruze problem, with 1.4-L turbo engine vehicles, was not revealed but the XLR apparently has a calibration problem with the electronic stability control on some cars.

* The University of Michigan wants 9,000 intelligent vehicles operating in Ann Arbor within the next two years. Nearly 3,000 wirelessly connected cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles and bikes are already operating throughout Northeast Ann Arbor as a part of a research project conducted by the U-M’s Transportation Research Institute and funded in large part by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The model deployment, launched in Ann Arbor in the late summer of 2012, studies how cars equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) wireless communication devices interact with one another and with wirelessly equipped infrastructure, such as intersections and street lights. Go Blue!

* For the second year in a row a hot Chevy will pace the epic Indianapolis 500 race on Labor Day weekend. Last year the new Corvette Stingray did the honors and we saw for the first time this week the striking black new Camaro Z28 that will lead the open-wheel race cars around the big oval this year. This represents that eighth time a Camaro has paced the race beginning with a 1967 model. At this year's 98th running of the Indy 500, three-time Indy 500 champion Dario Franchitti will be the driver.

* NHRA Youth Racing is a new program designed to get 13- to 16-year-olds on the track, with adult supervision, in an affordable manner. The concept behind NHRA Youth Racing is simple: Teenagers get to go head to head in eighth-mile competition (using an elapsed time dial-in format), driving registered, insured and street-legal vehicles. In addition to passing a safety inspection, vehicles must be fitted with street tires and mufflers, and can be no faster than 10 seconds through the eighth-mile. Participants must have a licensed supervising adult (over age 25) riding shotgun, and must pass a licensing test that involves five passes with their guardian, along with one pass accompanied by an NHRA track official.

* SRT Viper has pulled out of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. SRT Racing was originally slated to run the no. 92 and no. 93 Vipers in the GTE-Pro class at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, but the outfit just announced its withdrawal from the grueling endurance race. This news follows a fiery exit from the 12 Hours of Sebring and the announcement that SRT will be halting production of the road-going Viper for two months. The Vipers will continue to race in the newly formed TUDOR United Sports Car Championship.

* Our "Rest-in-Peace" report for this week is for Lynda Gayle Owens Petty, the wife of Richard Petty, who died at her home in Level Cross on Tuesday. She was 72. Lynda was surrounded by her family and passed away “peacefully” after her battle with cancer, the family said in a statement.

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