Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
AUTO CENTRAL Chicago, April 10, 2016; Every Sunday Larry Nutson, Senior Editor and Chicago Car Guy along with fellow senior editors Steve Purdy and Thom Cannell from The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau, give you TACH's "take" on this past week's automotive news in easy to digest mega-tweet sized nuggets. If you wish to know more just click on the link that will take you to the full story as published here on The Auto Channel.
If you are a car and driving fan like we all are here at The Auto Channel, you can easily wish to "catch up" on these stories as well put them in context with the past 20 year's 1,978,003 automotive news, automotive stories, articles, reviews, archived news, video, audio, rants and raves. Just search The Auto Channel's Automotive News Archive.
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The Past Week's Automotive News Highlights In Easy To Digest Chunks
April 4-10, 2016
* Biggest news of the week for many of us was the retirement announcement of GM VP Global Design, Ed Welburn. Only the sixth person to hold that position, the soft-spoken and highly respected Welburn is capping off a 44-year career with GM. He started in 1972 under legendary design VP Bill Mitchell, who was only the second in that job. Taking over on July 1st will be 33-year GM veteran, Mike Simcoe. Commenting on the transition GM’s #2 guy Mark Reuss commented on the depth of the bench Welburn has built up insuring the success of GM Design for years to come. More Ed Welburn
* Updating on our report from last week, Tesla say it has now received around 325,000 reservations for its new Model 3 sedan. Tesla’s new Model 3 was unveiled to great fanfare last week. The all-electric sedan will start at $35,000 before federal and state incentives, but we expect the first production cars to be heavily loaded and cost much more. The EV has a range of 215 miles per charge and can accelerate from stop to 60 in less than six seconds. Customers must put down $1,000 to reserve one of the cars, which are scheduled to go on sale in late 2017. Some may wait a long time for a car based on slow ramp-up of production and full production capacity. MORE
* Our colleagues at The Detroit Bureau pointed out this week that some of the 300,000+ Tesla Model 3 hand raisers who made $1,000 deposits may get a financial surprise when they take delivery of the car. Paul Eisenstein of TDB pointed out the Federal legislation that grants a $7,500 tax credit may not be available. It is only meant to cover the first 200,000 cars from a manufacturer and Tesla has already sold over 50,000 cars. Pundits note that if the company meets its current production expectations all of their credits could be gone before the Model 3 begins delivery.
* Toyota announced a $1 billion investment to create the company’s third autonomous vehicle research facility located near the University of Michigan. The two other facilities are located in California near Stanford and in Cambridge at MIT. In a statement the company said they are locating this centre in Ann Arbor because of “the strength of the university; the utility of Mcity and the Mobility Transportation Center . . . and the proximity . . . to our two . . . Toyota Technical Centers nearby.”
* The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute's latest report from Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle says the average fuel economy (window-sticker value) of new vehicles sold in the U.S. in March 2016 was 25.3 mpg—unchanged from the revised value for February 2016. Fuel economy is down 0.5 mpg from the peak reached in August 2014, but still up 5.2 mpg since October 2007 (the first month of their monitoring).
* The third in a series of six “bellwether cases” regarding GM’s defective ignition switch problems was settled this week unexpectedly at the behest of the company. GM came out on top in the first two cases for different reasons, but this was the first that involved a fatality. Analysts suggest the company did not want this one argued in open court worrying it could taint future cases. Terms of the settlement are confidential.
* Mercedes-Benz is looking at a second class-action law suit charging the company with cheating on diesel emissions testing and using a “defeat device” to skirt US regulations. Both charges essentially mimic charges against VW last year. VW immediately admitted to wrong doing and set about finding fixes and making atonement. Mercedes-Benz denies the allegations and calls the suit “unfounded. EPA officials have found no problems with the vehicles in question and have not initiated a formal investigation.
* With the death of a Texas teen driver on March 31st the Takata airbag problems got front page mention in the news. This time it was a 2002 Honda Civic that rear ended another car setting off the airbag. A shard of metal went into the teen’s neck. So far only a small number of the millions of cars recalled have gotten fixed. Automakers are all urging owners to get them repaired. To see if your car is on the list go to the NHTSA: www.safercar.gov/rs/takata/takatalist.html
* Ford is recalling about 38,000 Transit vans in the U.S. and Canada because the side-curtain air bags may not protect people properly in a crash. The recall covers low-roof Transit vans from the 2015 and 2016 model years.
* We reported here in late January that Citroen was considering a return to the US market. Now news reports from Paris say the same. PSA CEO Carlos Tavares announced that a 10-year plan has been started to reintroduce the company to the North American market. The first steps would revolve more around car sharing and mobility plans rather than actually trying to sell cars to dealers. The program may start in 2017 using an EV. MORE Citroen Cactus
* A report from AAA says that car operating total costs are lower than ever. On average, drivers are paying 57 cents per mile, which amounts to $713 a month or $8,558 annually. That covers everything from gas, insurance and other fixed costs that come with car ownership.
* At what rate is “manual drift” occurring in the American auto industry, and is there a difference between the rate of manual transmission use between men and women? Swapalease.com, the nation’s largest car lease marketplace, recently analyzed over 50,000 driver records from its marketplace dating back to 2012 to uncover some interesting trends. “Manual drift” is a phrase coined by Swapalease.com that addresses the slow sunset of interest in manual transmissions found in today’s cars. According to analysis conducted recently by the company, the number of manual transmission vehicles driven by Americans has dropped roughly 22% since 2012. In its analysis of over 50,000 vehicle records dating back to 2012, Swapalease.com has found that the rate of use is declining for both genders, but it is happening at a faster pace for men compared to women. In fact, the percentage of men driving manual transmission vehicles has dropped from 85.4% in 2012 to 81.2% in 2015. As a result, the percentage for women has responded by adjusting from 14.6% in 2012 to 18.8% in 2015.
* Ford Mustang beat its rivals to become Germany’s No.1 top-selling sports coupe in March, according to data published by German Federal Motor Transport Authority, KBA. “Germans have fallen in love with the Mustang. Driving a Mustang GT on the Autobahn is a one of a kind experience for people who love cars,” said Wolfgang Kopplin, managing Director Ford Germany.
* Take a good look in you rearview mirror. Lawbreakers will now have a more difficult time recognizing the profile of the best-selling police vehicle in their rearview mirrors. Roof mounted lights may be a thing off the past. Ford announced it will offer a new, factory-installed front interior visor light bar that provides a stealth appearance for police agency patrol vehicles.