Nutson's Nuggets - Automotive News Factoids Week of May 5-11, 2014


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Auto Central Louisville, KY May 11, 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 1,589,987 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 Factoids Week of May 5-11, 2014

* Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat S.p.A. and Chairman and CEO of Chrysler Group LLC, and his leadership team presented the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ (FCA) 2014-2018 business plan to an audience of more than 380, including members of the financial community, dealers, suppliers, labor representatives and members of the media, in Auburn Hills, Mich. Chrysler brand will grow, becoming a volume producer, with a new minivan and a Chrysler 100 sedan. Dodge will be for hot rodders and loses a couple models including the minivan. Ram keeps on and Jeep gets a couple new models and grow sales to 1 million units. And of course, Alfa comes to the U.S. Signage at the Auburn Hills headquarters was changed to FCA, from the former Chrysler. Next, the large pentastar glass window at the top the building gets an architectural makeover.

* For only the second year since 1997, U.S. motorcyclist fatalities are projected to decrease in 2013, according to a new analysis of preliminary state data released today by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). The latest Spotlight on Highway Safety report also notes that despite the probable 7 percent decrease in rider deaths, motorcyclist safety has not improved in fifteen years. Weather, according to the report, was the predominate factor to explain the drop in motorcyclist fatalities from 2012 to 2013. The first six months of 2012 were unusually warm and dry across the nation, prompting an uptick in ridership. The weather in the first nine months of 2013, however, was cooler and wetter, similar to 2011, when fatalities dropped in many states.

* For those concerned about the modest power (a turbo1.8-L four making just 134 horsepower) of the exotic little Alfa Romeo 4C we'll have here soon, take heart. Harald Wester, Alfa CEO is quoted this week taunting the sports car's stiffness which would accommodate more power. He also said "the first adjustment would be the brakes." The U.S. version of the car is already blessed with more content since we demand more than Europeans.

* Our friends at The Detroit Bureau report that the California Energy Commission is investing $46.6 million to accelerate the development of hydrogen fueling stations. The cash infusion will add 28 new stations to the existing nine stations. There are another 17 sites in various stages of development, which would bring the total stations expected online in the next couple of years to 54. That commission’s goal is 100 stations.

* Stable gas prices and solid sales of light trucks and larger SUVs and CUVs are skewing average fuel economy numbers downward. The average fuel economy for vehicles sold in April was 25.2 mpg, down 0.02 from March according the University of Michigan survey team who keep track of that number. On the brighter side that number is 5.1 mpg higher than when they began the survey in 2007.

* General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. are joining the University of Michigan in establishing a testing site for driverless cars that will simulate a cityscape, the school announced. The Michigan Mobility Transformation Center, a 32-acre testing site near the Ann Arbor school's North Campus, is scheduled to be completed this fall. The university's regents last year approved the $6.5 million for the project. Other companies involved include Bosch, an auto industry supplier; Econolite Group Inc., which makes traffic control equipment; and Xerox Corp. Industry partners plan to each commit a total of $1 million over three years to support the MTC and its programs, the school said.

* AutoTrader.com's expert editorial team has named the ten "Must Shop" vehicles for consumers who are looking to reduce or eliminate their visits to the gas station. The new vehicles AutoTrader.com editors say should be on the shopping list of fuel-conscious consumers include: Chevrolet Volt, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid, Infiniti Q50 Hybrid, Lexus ES 300h, Lexus GS 450h, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, and Volkswagen Passat TDI.

* This week's recall from GM involves 8,590 new 2014 Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Malibu sedans sold in North America to fix a potential brake problem. These vehicles mistakenly had rear brake rotors installed into their front brakes. A rear brake rotor is 7 millimeters thinner than a front version by design and over time higher heat generated by the thinner rotors will shorten brake pad life.

* GM is also recalling 60,000 2007-2008 Saturn Aura cars that could rollaway after drivers park the vehicles. The recall covers four-speed automatic cars built between April 2006 and October 2007. The shift cable could wear prematurely causing the indicator to show the wrong gear.

* Chrysler Group is recalling 780,000 minivans to replace power window switches that can short-circuit and overheat or catch fire if they get wet. The recall applies only to 2010 to 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans that have power window vents for passengers in the third row of seats. Chrysler says 644,850 of them are in the U.S.; 106,980 are in Canada; 8,009 are in Mexico and 20,638 vehicles are in other foreign countries.

* GM executive engineer Jim Federico announced his retirement this week triggering speculation that he could be related to the small car ignition switch scandal plaguing the company. Federico has worked for GM for 36 years and led an analysis of the problem in 2012 reporting to Mary Barra. He also held high level development engineering positions with a variety of GM small and medium size cars. Putting the cynics to rest was the announcement no more than a few days later that Federico would become the Chief Engineer at Harley-Davidson, a job hiring that doesn't just happen overnight.

* In another auto industry engineering story, Indian auto manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra acknowledged that in order to compete on a global basis it didn't have the bench-depth of auto engineers in India. They are opening an R&D technical facility in a Detroit suburb that will employ more than 100 people. Mahindra tried to launch its pickup in the U.S. about two years ago and that collapsed due to technical difficulties.

* Top-Fuel drag racer Don 'Big Daddy' Garlits and his electric dragster have just set a new 184.01 mph, 7.258-second quarter-mile at the Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida. That's a little short of the 200 mph pass Garlits was aiming for, but has still broken the previous record by 24.16 mph. Garlits's dragster has six 7.5-inch DC electric motors. Total output is 1,500 kilowatts--equivalent to about 2,000 horsepower. Juice is provided by four lithium-polymer battery packs, at 420 volts and 3,600 amps. Don had no range anxiety during his quarter mile run.

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