Nutson's Nuggets - Automotive News and Views Week of June 9-15, 2014


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Auto Central Louisville, KY June 15, 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 their "take" as easy to digest nuggets of the past week's automotive news.

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 1,688,032 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

Nutson's Automotive News Factoids - Week of June 9-15, 2014

* In an open letter on the Tesla Website founder and CEO, Elon Musk, took the unprecedented step of removing patent restrictions on all of the company’s electric car technology. He restated the company’s goal “to accelerate the advent of sustainable transportation,” and contends that the “open source movement” is the way to do that. He says that “Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.” With his record of achievement who among us will say that Musk is wrong?

* Another half-million GM cars got recalled this week including every Camaro of the current generation, that is, 2010 to 2014. The Camaro’s problem is also an ignition switch, this time a defect that could allow the driver to shut the car off by bumping the key fob with his/her knee. No deaths and only three crashes are involved. GM’s new safety boss, Jeff Boyer, says, “Discovering and acting on this issue quickly is an example of the new norm for product safety at GM.”

* When New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission granted Nissan an exclusive deal to provide the “Taxi of Tomorrow” by requiring operators to use just that one vehicle the operators cried foul. They filed suit saying the Commission overstepped its authority. The appeals court did not agree and ruled the city can continue to pursue that $1 billion plan. The new taxi is based on Nissan’s NV200 small cargo van and includes amenities like power outlets, a see-through roof and antibacterial seats.

* We’ll soon be able to by Alfa Romeo cars on this side of the pond and Chrysler announced this week the approval of the first 86 dealers, all of whom already have Fiat or Chrysler franchises. The goal is to have 300 dealers in all. The first new product will be the sexy little two-seat 4C coupe. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles boss, Sergio Marchionne, promises to invest $6.8 billion in new Alfa products. We can’t wait to see them all.

* Auto industry analyst firm, IHS Automotive, Inc. released a report this week that shows the average age of passenger vehicles in the U.S. has remained flat for the first time in the recent years, and they also report for the first time light trucks averaged the same age as the passenger cars. The new number for both is 11.4 years. A decade ago, the average vehicle in the U.S. was 9.7 years old according to IHS Automotive. Sixteen-year-old cars and trucks make up 21.1 percent of vehicles in the U.S. as owners embrace the idea of driving their car well past the 100,000 mile mark. The number of passenger vehicles on U.S. roads is now 252.7 million.

* For the second time in less than a year Ford has voluntarily restated mileage ratings on some of its cars. Six models are effected this time: Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, Fiesta, Fusion Hybrid and Energi versions, and C-Max Hybrid and Energi versions. It seems the stated mileages on these cars are 5 to 7 mpg optimistic. Ford will send checks to owners of these cars of between $125 and $1,050. Ford’s group VP of Global Product Development, Raj Nair, said, “This is our error. When we see an issue, we address it." Ford identified an error with fuel economy ratings for certain vehicles through its internal testing and notified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Ford worked with EPA as the agency retested the vehicles, which resulted in lower fuel economy ratings.

* Automobile industry analyst, John Murphy of Bank of America, spoke to the Automotive Press Association this week about his organization’s projections regarding product cycles for the next 3 to 5 years. He said, “replacement rate drives showroom age, which drives market share, which in turn drive profits and stock prices.” The report projects Hyundai and Kia to pick up the pace of new products after the current lull and Ford’s product introductions to remain strong. From 2013 to 2017, Ford’s U.S. market share is forecast to grow from 15.7 percent to 16.2 percent. Honda is also expected to grow from 9.8 percent to 10.3 percent. Murphy predicts GM will hold onto its 17.9 percent market share. Hyundai, Kia and Toyota likely will maintain share, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will maintain its 11.5 percent market share. European automakers overall will see a slight drop in market share. And Nissan, without a clear product plan, is at significant risk to lose market share, down to 7.8 percent from 8 percent.

* According to Edmunds.com, in May 46 percent of people trading in their recalled Chevy Cobalts bought a new Chevrolet. This has climbed from 33 percent in January. The Cruze was the most popular model purchased. For folks who did not buy a Chevrolet the most popular model was the Honda Civic followed by the Toyota Corolla.

* You wouldn't think that Japan would be opposed to small cars. Microvehicles, specifically cars, trucks, and vans are being viewed unfavorably by Japanese industry and government officials as a distraction for the nation's automakers. The micro cars called "kei" pronounced like the letter K, are being taxed heavily because Japan wants its industry to focus on vehicles suitable for export to other countries, and not the niche, Japan-only market.

* Art and cars do mix. The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) announced that the nation’s three Detoit-based automakers would donate a combined $26 million to help save the city’s art collection, that has been considered an asset in the bankruptcy.Ford Motor Company and General Motors each will give $10 million and Chrysler LLC will give $6 million to help the DIA raise $100 million as part of a so-called grand bargain that would also ease pension cuts for city retirees.

* Please pass the ketchup. It might seem that tomatoes and cars have nothing in common. But researchers at Ford Motor Company and H.J. Heinz Company see the possibility of an innovative union. Researchers at Ford and Heinz are investigating the use of tomato fibers in developing sustainable, composite materials for use in vehicle manufacturing. Specifically, dried tomato skins could become the wiring brackets in a Ford vehicle or the storage bin a Ford customer uses to hold coins and other small objects. Nearly two years ago, Ford began collaborating with Heinz, The Coca-Cola Company, Nike Inc. and Procter & Gamble to accelerate development of a 100 percent plant-based plastic to be used to make everything from fabric to packaging and with a lower environmental impact than petroleum-based packaging materials currently in use.

* Tustin,California Hyundai’s Dealer Principal, John Patterson, proudly handed over the keys to Hyundai’s first mass-produced Tucson Fuel Cell CUV in a ceremony with Hyundai executives and Timothy Bush, the first Hyundai Fuel Cell customer. Now, all Tucson Fuel Cell lessees can drive Hyundai’s next-generation Tucson Fuel Cell for just $499 per month, including unlimited free hydrogen refueling and At Your Service Valet Maintenance at no extra cost. For the first time, retail consumers can put a mass-produced, federally-certified hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in their driveways, with availability at three select southern California Hyundai dealers: Win Hyundai in Carson, Tustin Hyundai, and Hardin Hyundai in Anaheim. Hyundai and others see HFC vehicles as a better solution than battery-powered EVs.

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