Nutson's Nuggets - Automotive News and Views Week of June 16-22, 2014


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Auto Central Louisville, KY June 22, 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 1,688,999 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 Boston TV viewers, You can now enjoy The Auto Channel TV Network "Free and Clear" on WHDT Channel 3 and your cable system, South Florida auto fans can continue to watch The Auto Channel's TACH-TV on channel 344 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 16-22, 2014

* AutoPacific announced its 18th annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSA), identifying the most satisfying vehicles on the market. And, there were a few surprises. For 2014, the most satisfying brands are Lincoln, Top Premium Brand (displacing perennial leaders Lexus and Mercedes-Benz)¬ and GMC, Top Popular Brand. The vehicle - car or truck - registering highest overall satisfaction is the new-for-2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class that also wins AutoPacific's second President's Award for achieving the highest VSA score ever. The truck with the highest overall satisfaction score is the new BMW X5 Premium Luxury Crossover SUV.¬ The awards in 2014 are much more diverse than they have been in previous years, with no single manufacturer dominating the results. Multiple top-ranked award winners are: Chevrolet with four winners; Lincoln with three winners; Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Kia, and GMC with two winners each.

* The 2014 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study found that new vehicle owners experienced more problems with their vehicles than the previous year‚€™s respondents.¬ The big news of the survey was that the overall number of problems across the board went up 3% after the survey showed a steadily improving trend for many years.¬ Porsche ranked highest in initial quality for the second consecutive year. Following Porsche, which had a score of 74 problems per 100 vehicles, in the top 10 were Jaguar (87), Lexus (92), Hyundai (94), Toyota (105), Chevrolet and Kia (tied at 106), BMW and Honda (tied at 108) and Lincoln (109). Fiat came in last just behind Jeep.

* Ongoing troubles in the Middle East will likely result in a noticeable increase in gasoline prices before long. The price of crude oil has already increased and AAA expects gas prices to remain at the high end of normal into the summer. We are now, AAA contends in a report this week, much more vulnerable to disruptions in supply from refinery troubles or an intense hurricane season.

¬ * A new report by the Diesel Technology Forum says that Americans are buying increasing numbers of diesel-powered cars and SUVs as automakers seek to meet tough new federal fuel-economy rules by 2025. Based on data compiled by IHS Automotive, U.S. registrations of diesel vehicles have increased by 30% since 2010.

* Automotive News reports that two U.S. senators said they want to raise the federal gasoline and diesel tax by 12 cents a gallon to prevent a fund that pays for about half of the country's transportation projects from running out of money in August.¬ U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called for raising the tax 6 cents a year for two years and linking future fuel tax increases to inflation.¬ The gasoline tax is now 18.4 cents a gallon, and the diesel tax is 24.4 cents a gallon.¬ The tax has not been increased since 1993, and hiking taxes is politically unpopular ahead of midterm elections in November.

* A Harley that makes no "potato-potato" sound. Harley-Davidson will unveil its first electric motorcycle next week, and President Matt Levatich said he expects the company known for its big touring bikes and iconic brand to become a leader in developing technology and standards for electric vehicles.¬ Harley will show handmade demonstration models at an invitation-only event in New York.¬ The company will then take the models on the road for riders to try and provide feedback.¬ Harley will use the information it gathers to refine the bike, which might not hit the market for several more years.¬ One hurdle the company has yet to address is the limited range offered by electric motorcycles. The batteries must be recharged after about 130 miles, and that can take 30 minutes to an hour.

* Tesla fans, particularly those who have put down a $5,000 deposit, were happy to learn this week that the company will begin making the upcoming new Model X crossover in prototype form this fall with full production early next year, slightly ahead of the previously promised schedule. They still anticipate the next in Tesla‚€™s portfolio, an ‚€œaffordable‚€??? sedan to be launched about a year later.¬

* In another big announcement from Tesla this week the company‚€™s founder and CEO Elon Musk revealed a policy of opening up the company‚€™s patents to its competitors in order to stimulate faster development in battery and electric car technology. Musk hopes to ‚€œhelp kick-start electric vehicle sales‚€??? with this move. Tesla and Panasonic are preparing to open a new ‚€œGigifactory‚€??? that they expect to be the largest battery factory in the world by 2020.¬

* The Automotive Heritage Museum in Ypsilanti, Michigan will become the National Hudson Motor Car Co. Museum in September after receiving funding to renovate.¬ Hudson Essex Terraplane Historical Society will provide funding to the Ypsilanti museum where a Hudson dealership operated from 1933 to 1957.¬ The new museum will house a different Hudson model annually with era-appropriate signage. The museum's other displays from General Motors Co., Kaiser-Frazer Corp. and others will remain.¬ Hudson Motor Car Co. was founded in Detroit in 1909 and named after Joseph Hudson, founder of Hudson's department stores, who provided the carmaker with startup funding. Hudson Motor Car continued until 1954, when it merged with Nash Motors Co. to form American Motors Corp., which was later acquired by Chrysler Corp. The Hudson name continued as a brand until 1957.

* GM is still at it. Now they are recalling another 3.4 million cars in North America because bumpy terrain or weight attached to the key could move the ignition switch out of the run position -- the same basic problem that began its recall crisis earlier this year.¬ The new ignition recall covers the Chevrolet Impala from the 2006 through 2014 model years, as well as some Buick, Cadillac and Chevrolet vehicles from 2000 through 2011.¬ The company also announced five additional smaller recalls.¬ These recalls cover a total of 165,770 vehicles in the United States, including the 2013-14 Cadillac ATS, 2011 and 2014 Cadillac CTS, and some 2015 Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierras.¬ All told, GM has recalled more than 20 million vehicles in North America this year.

* For the 13th time, Audi has achieved the ultimate success at the world's most famous automobile race. Le Mans success for the brand with the four rings in only 16 runs ‚€“ and may have been the most valuable one to date, as Audi Sport Team Joest prevailed against massive competition by Le Mans returnee Porsche and Toyota in an extremely tough race that was completely open for a long time. The decision in favor of the two Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars was only made in the final phase.

* Formula One champion Michael Schumacher was finally released from a French hospital this week after emerging from a long coma that resulted from a serious skiing accident over six months ago. Doctors say he has a long regimen of rehabilitation yet to come.

* Stanley Marsh 3, a quirky philanthropist best known for funding the creation of the famed Cadillac Ranch in Texas, has died at the age of 76.¬ At Cadillac Ranch, outside Amarillo, 10 Cadillac vehicles, brightly painted and buried nose-down along a Panhandle highway, show the evolution of the car over time. Marsh also funded other art projects in the Lubbock County area.

* NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Ray Fox, a premier engine builder and top mechanic in the 1950s and '60s, has died. He was 98.¬ Fox was at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona, where he'd been admitted with pneumonia. NASCAR and officials at Daytona International Speedway confirmed his death.¬ Among the drivers Fox fielded cars for were Junior Johnson, David Pearson and Buck Baker. He was credited with 14 wins as a car owner, but was the engine builder and mechanic for many major wins. Fox won the 1960 Daytona 500 with Johnson, and the Coca-Cola 600 in 1961 with Pearson.

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