Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Recap - W/O Sept 21-27, 2015 - VW Diesel, Sonata Recall, Ford GT, Cascada Pricing
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
AUTO CENTRAL - CHICAGO - September 27, 2015; Every Sunday, along with fellow senior editors Steve Purdy and Thom Cannell from The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau, I give you our "take" on this past week's automotive news in easy to digest nuggets.
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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Review - September 21-27, 2015
* A news story that ran neck and neck with the Pope's visit was the plot in the VW Diesel scandal that thickened this week beginning with VW saying possibly 11 million vehicles worldwide have been purposely hacked by VW itself to allow more exhaust pollution when on the road. By mid-week VW Chairman Martin Winterkorn had resigned, accepting responsibility for the scandal, that he had no knowledge of until very recent saying he is “stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group." By week's end a new Chairman was in place, namely Porsche chief Matthias Mueller. Class action lawsuits have been filed. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating. The U.S. Congress is going to hold hearings. EU countries are taking a deep look. A criminal investigation is underway in Germany. In the end whatever the solution to rectify the diesels on the road will most likely mean reducing the performance, drivability or fuel economy of cars to meet emission goals.
* For many years EPA has been criticized for allowing manufacturers to do their own testing and then submit the data for government approval. EPA has defended this process saying that diesel cars on the road today make up less than 1% of the total of all vehicles and emit less than two-tenths of 1% (thats 0.02%) of all the emitted nitrogen oxides. Now, federal regulators announced a rigorous new series of road tests. Officials of the Environmental Protection Agency said carmakers selling vehicles in the United States were informed that the spot checks were designed to find so-called defeat devices like those used by Volkswagen.
* FCA is also in the limelight, a bit more on the holier side, from Pope Francis' visit to the U.S. He traveled via a Fiat 500L to Washington, D.C., after his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. During his motorcade at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and in New York City Pope Francis greeted the faithful from a specially outfitted Jeep Wrangler-Popemobile. I think this Jeep is "prayer rated."
* The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Apple appears to be planning the introduction of its own car by 2019 designating it internally as a “committed project." The report also indicates Apple now has 1,800 people working on the project, up from 600. The company has not officially announced that it is working on a car but they’ve been hiring talent away from other carmakers. The Journal notes that it is unclear whether Apple will be partnering with others in the project.
* Buick announced pricing this week for the Cascada convertible due at dealers next spring. This will be the first Buick convertible since the 1991 Reatta. Cascada is a mid-size, premium car from GM’s European Opel division. The front-wheel drive, four-seat, turbo four-cylinder powered car will cost around $34,000 to start. We saw the car at the North American International Auto Show in January and it generated mostly positive buzz.
* Batman won't have to worry about Batmobile knockoffs after a federal appeals court ruled the caped crusader's vehicle is entitled to copyright protection. The Batmobile's bat-like appearance and other distinct attributes, including its high-tech weaponry, make it a character that can't be replicated without permission from DC Comics, the copyright holder, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said. The ruling came in DC Comics' lawsuit against Mark Towle, who produced replicas of the Batmobile as it appeared in the 1966 television show featuring Adam West as Batman and the 1989 movie with Michael Keaton in the lead role.
* Hyundai is recalling 470,000 Sonata sedans from the 2011 and 2012 model years equipped with 2-liter or 2.4-liter gasoline engines to replace key engine parts because a manufacturing problem could cause them to fail. The company also is recalling nearly 100,000 Accent small cars because the brake lights can fail.
* An announcement came this week that the new Ford GT will make its racing debut at U.K.’s Silverstone in April of next year competing in the first race in the FIA World Endurance Championship. In June two Ford GTs will compete at Le Mans where 50 years ago the cars progenitor, GT40, made history by beating the dominant European racers, like Ferrari, going on to dominate Le Mans for the next three years. Nine races constitute the WEC series.
* Autoweek reported this week that Ford plans to allocate about 100 Ford GT super cars per year for the U.S. market when they become available, about half of total production. That’s up from a plan of just 250 cars announced last spring by Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas. Potential buyers will have to “apply for the car,” and if selected they will choose the dealer where they would have it delivered. The cars will cost about $400,000.
* Volvo broke ground this week for their first-ever U.S. factory. Volvo’s president and CEO of North America, Lex Kerssemakers, and South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley along with other dignitaries manned the shovels in Berkeley County on the plant that will produce 100,000 cars/year. Volvo will build the new S60 sedan for both U.S. consumption and for export in the plant.
* In other environmental news, California air regulators approved a substantial cut to carbon pollution from gasoline and diesel fuels, a move that will force oil producers to reduce the amount of carbon generated by all transportation fuels in the state at least 10 percent by 2020. Fuel costs could rise 13 cents per gallon by 2020 as a result of the low-carbon standard.