Nutson's Nuggets: Last Week's Automotive News and Opinion Aug 4-10, 2014
Auto Central Louisville, KY August 10, 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.
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Nutson's Automotive News Factoids - Week of Aug 3-10, 2014, 2014.
* Your TACh team was as busy as ever this week reporting on the 2014 C.A.R. Management Briefings conference in Traverse City, Michigan and driving the all-new 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe in the Virginian countryside. Look for details here on The Auto Channel.com.
* Chevrolet marketing chief, Tim Mahoney, revealed at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars this week that we will see the next generation Chevy Volt at the North American International Auto Show in January. When pressed he declined to offer any details about what might change but we’re hoping for more style, better price and perhaps improved range on electric power.
* An issue that has been festering over the past week is how Ford and GM calculate the maximum payload for their pickups. What's also interesting is the companies' changing stories on their methods. Ford and GM acknowledge that to come up with the payload figures they delete the weight of some heavy parts, such as the spare tire or rear bumper, from the base curb weights of many of their pickups. They argue that many fleet buyers do not carry a spare tire and also change the rear bumper. We'll keep an eye on this as it shakes out. Meanwhile, RAM and Toyota haven'e said much.
* The Detroit News reports that because of GM’s decade-long ignition-switch debacle that claimed at least 13 lives, a Missouri senator is pushing legislation that would effectively criminalize decisions by auto executives to withhold information on defective parts from the public and federal regulators. Namely, fines that could easily rise into the billions of dollars — witness Toyota Motor Corp.’s $1.2 billion penalty in connection with its unintended acceleration recall scandal four years ago — now could be augmented with up to life in prison for auto executives who hide defects that could result in fatalities.
* The NHTSA said Hyundai has agreed to pay a $17.35-million fine because the company failed to report a brake defect issue in a timely manner. Potential corrosion in the brake systems of 2009-12 model year Hyundai Genesis sedans can cause reduced braking effectiveness and increase risk of a crash.
* Another "hot" item caught in photos this week is a pickup truck that caught fire while being tested. fire. Ford Motor Co. says it is studying a fire that destroyed a pickup during recent testing in California. According to the spy photographer, the truck, heavily clad in black vinyl, is an aluminum-bodied 2016 Ford Super Duty pickup.
* Volkswagen of America, Inc. announced further plans in its holistic approach to e-mobility. Starting with the launch of the zero-tailpipe emissions 2015 e-Golf model, Volkswagen will invest in carbon reduction projects to offset emissions created from e-Golf production, distribution and up to approximately 36,000 miles of driving. Volkswagen also named SunPower as the official solar energy partner power provider. Through these innovative collaborations, Volkswagen will be one of the first high-volume manufacturers to deliver a truly holistic approach to ultra-low-carbon mobility. The 2015 e-Golf will go on sale later this year at participating dealerships in select states.
* The 2015 long list of contenders for North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year is out. The 60-perosn jury will consider some 29 entrants in the car category, and 28 models are in contention for the truck/utility award, a category that includes crossover vehicles. The list is very varied. I have the winners in my mind already. For the list go to: http://www.northamericancaroftheyear.org/index.html
* Toyota announced this week a commitment of $1 million to the “Grand Bargain” being negotiated to save Detroit’s cultural treasures at the Detroit Institute of Art and to mitigate the potentially devastating effect of the city’s bankruptcy on retired city workers. The Detroit Three automakers (GM, Ford and Chrysler) have already chipped in substantially. Toyota spokesman, Curt McAllister, told us Toyota believes the city’s health is crucial to the auto industry as a whole.
* At the very last minute, before adjourning for their summer break, Congress passed a cobbled-up transportation funding package. This deal only addresses immediate extension of highway spending and does nothing to address the longer term need for infrastructure updating and repair. Fuel taxes, ostensibly dedicated to road funding, have not been raised in more than 20 years but politicians of both parties have no stomach for raising them. Having kicked this can down the pot-holed road, Congress is expected to take up the issue again next spring.
* We reported last week on what appeared to be a sure approval by Fiat shareholders to complete the merger with Chrysler. Some shareholders, however, are threatening to bugger the deal by selling their shares at a guaranteed price rather than accept the new stock. Chrysler and Fiat boss, Sergio Marchionne, thinks the concern about this spoiling the deal is overblown and expects it to go through.
* GM announced pricing this week for the new mid-sized trucks, GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado and they will be in line with the competition, Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. Prices for the Colorado will start at $20,995, including the $895 destination charge and the “Professional Grade” Canyon at just about a grand more. Both Chrysler's Ram brand and Ford remain out of this segment, at least in the U.S. Nissan and Toyota have found it necessary to offer substantial incentives in order to sell their mid-sized pickups.
* Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone bought himself out of the bribery charges this week that have tied him up in German courts for the past two years. Facing a possible 10 year-long sentence the 83-year-old feisty Ecclestone paid $100 million of his reported $5 billion dollar wealth to end the legal threat. Some commentators said he bribed his way out of a bribery charge, but this is a common practice in German courts.
* This upcoming week will be filled with activities and events surrounding the most prestigious Concours d’Elegance in the U.S. at Pebble Beach. CA. Mixed in with the old car activities on the Monterey Peninsula, Jaguar Land Rover will introduce three new vehicles from its Special Vehicle Operations group including what they call “the world’s fastest SUV,” Land Rover Sport SVR with 550 horsepower. Other introductions will be the new Lightweight E-Type and the U.S. version of the F-Type Project 7 Roadster.
* The law is finally catching up to driverless cars. As of September 16, the state of California—home of auto newcomer Google—will require test drivers to have a special license, like a trucker or school bus driver. They will need to be employees or contractors of the car manufacturer, complete safety training, and have clean road records. Carmakers themselves will have to apply for a testing permit annually, install manual controls and override systems in each car, submit incident reports and secure $5 million in insurance.