Nutson's Nuggets - Automotive News Factoids Week of May 26-June 1, 2014
Auto Central Louisville, KY June 1, 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 Factoids Week of May 26-June 1, 2014
* Google unveiled the latest version of its Self-Driving Car. Google proposes a vehicle that can navigate and drive by itself and that does not feature a steering wheel, brake pedal, or accelerator pedal. Google hopes to begin testing this summer. Note that Google's car goes no faster than 25mph and is intended for in-city use. It will also have to pass regulatory hurdles; American lawmakers have proven somewhat skeptical of Google’s first attempts at a self-driving car. For example, current California law requires that there be a licensed driver behind the wheel of any car on the road.
* In an update, it is reported that Roush Enterprises Inc. will assemble 100 Google Inc. self-driving prototype vehicles with the support of metro Detroit’s supplier base as the tech giant looks to expand its automotive project, sources told Crain’s. Roush is expected to retrofit an unknown existing model at its Allen Park, MIchigan prototyping facility.
* Eight 2014 vehicles received the highest possible superior crash prevention rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).The Cadillac CTS and XTS, Buick Regal, Chevrolet Impala, BMW 5 series and X5, the Hyundai Genesis and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class earned perfect scores when equipped with certain options such as forward collision warning and auto-braking systems.
* The Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists announced this week a new winner in their "Greenest Carmaker" designation. Hyundai/Kia replaces Honda for that honor. The ratings are based on new car emissions across the company's model range. Chrysler is both least improved and highest in emissions. Toyota leads in midsize and large cars but not in the other categories. Ford is right in the middle. GM is at a "tipping point," the UCS says, of matching the industry average.
* Ford issued four recalls affecting almost 1.4 million vehicles in North America. The largest involves 915,216 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner SUVs from the 2008 through 2011 model years for problems with the power steering control module. In another recall, 195,527 Ford Explorers from the 2011-13 model years have a problem with the electric power steering gear. Ford is also recalling 196,639 Taurus sedans from the 2010-14 model years with the license plate lamp assembly problem. A fourth recall involves 82,579 Ford Fusions, Mercury Milans, Lincoln Zephyrs and MKZs from model years 2006 through 2011 with an optional all-weather floor mat that can shift out of position and interfere with the accelerator pedal.
* GM chairman, Tim Solso and former CEO, Dan Akerson said this week neither they, nor new CEO Mary Barra, knew about the defective ignition switches that have been at the center of the embarrassing and expensive recall of millions of GM small cars. The claims were made on a Forbes blog. During arguments this week about the venue for lawsuits some of the lawyers indicated more than the original 13 deaths will be added to the list.
* Friday's announcement from publisher, Source Interlink, took us by surprise: Automobile Magazine will close its Ann Arbor office and renowned editor, Jean Jennings, who helped found the buff magazine thirty years ago, will resign. The magazine will not go away but will become part of the publisher's restructuring of its automobile magazines under a new entity called "The Enthusiast Network." Editorial offices will now be in Los Angeles with a small contingent of ad folks still in suburban Detroit. Mike Floyd will be the new editor-in-chief of Automobile. Source Interlink is also the publisher of magazines including Motor Trend, Hot Rod and Super Street.
* Related to this we recall last year's merger, if you will, of Car and Driver and Road & Track staffs with the closing of the R&T office in California and combining of staff in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
* An NHTSA study says the economic and societal harm from motor vehicle crashes amounted to $871 billion in one year. The study looked at car and truck crashes in 2010 and their economic toll. In that year nearly 33,000 people were killed, 3.9 million injured and 24 million vehicles damaged.
* Consumer Reports announced this week results of their testing of the Honda Accord Hybrid which revealed substantially lower fuel mileage than listed by the EPA test. Instead of the claimed 47 mpg their testing puts it more in the range of 40 mpg, although CR yet considered this stellar fuel economy. The magazine also panned other elements of the Hybrid model scoring it well below Accord's standard 4-cylinder model which costs about $6,500 less. Consumer Reports found Ford's Fusion Hybrid and C-Max had a "significant shortfall" in expected fuel mileage based on EPA numbers. The Yonkers, New York-based magazine and other reviewers say EPA tests don’t accurately reflect real-world driving conditions. We agree, as they are laboratory test derived MPG numbers to be used for comparison while shopping for a new car.
* Critics were abuzz when Ford announced in January at the Detroit Auto Show that the 40th-anniversary 2015 F-150 would be up to 700 pounds lighter than the current truck by using an all-aluminum body and bed with also 70 pounds of that reduction from a new high-strength steel chassis. Well, hear this. In an unprecedented move, Ford had distributed early versions of its aluminum-bodied F-150 trucks to some fleet customers 2½ years ago. The trucks looked identical to the current generation F-150 except they had a cargo bed made of aluminum. Three longtime fleet customers from across the nation — gold miners in Nevada, construction workers in Alabama and a utility company in North Carolina — drove six trucks and accumulated more than 350,000 test miles, without problems. And by the way, aluminum doesn't rust.
* Atlanta-based DeltaWing produces an odd-looking race car with a front track about the width of an old-fashioned farm tractor that the company has campaigned in a variety of endurance races. Company chairman and racing legend, Don Panoz, thinks the aerodynamic, rear-engined design might have applicability to passenger cars so they revealed this week sketches of a four-seat coupe based on that unusual architecture. They'll not produce it but hope to interest someone else in doing so.
* Does anyone remember the American horsepower wars of the mid-60s? Well, they're back. At the moment Ford holds the title at 662HP in the 2013 Shelby GT500. Dodge says the 6.2L supercharged Hemi in the Challenger Hellcat will have at least 600HP, but hasn't announced a final number. The soon to come 6.2 LT4 in the 2015 Z06 Corvette has been said to bring 625HP. Dodge and Chevy are trying to wait each other out. I'm expecting numbers over 700HP. We'll see.
* In the Memorial Day weekend of motorsport racing the most significant event occurred in NHRA drag racing with Courtney Force racing to the 100th victory by a female driver in NHRA drag racing taking the win in her Nitro-burning Ford Mustang funny car in Topeka Kansas. Courtney was the No.1 qualifier and finished in 4.148 seconds at 306.46 mph.
* In other race activity, Nico Rosberg won the F1 Monte Carlo Grand Prix with Mercedes-Benz continuing its dominance now having won every race this season. Rosberg and his team Lewis Hamilton have finished first or second in every race, and now have become open rivals on the same team. Ryan Hunter-Reay won the Indy 500 and Jimmy Johnson the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600. NASCAR driver Kurt Busch in his roookie run at Indy came in a remarkable sixth and then jetted to Charlotte to drive in the 600. His transport was golf cart, police cruiser, helicopter, private jet, helicopter and golf cart. It took only 1 hour and 27 minutes from the end of the race at Indy to be on the ground at Charlotte Motor Speedway.