Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest - July 11-17, 2016: Mazda Diesel. Dim Headlight, GM Can Be Sued, Tesla Woes, VW Fix Nixed, Concurs St John's, PU Stamps
AUTO CENTRAL Chicago, July 17, 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.
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The Past Week's Automotive News Highlights In Easy To Digest Chunks
July 11-17, 2016
* Mazda North America CEO Masahiro Moro told us, in a Detroit gathering of auto industry writers and analysts, that the company is getting close to deciding whether to offer a Diesel engine in Mazda's U.S. models. Original plans were for introduction back in 2014 but that got delayed for technical reasons. Now today in light of the VW Diesel scandal Mazda is not sure if the Diesel image is too tarnished or if it's just VW's. They think the later but Mazda is testing the regulatory changes that have come about and expects to decided one way or the other very soon.
* Having trouble seeing the road at night? Not a single small SUV out of 21 tested earns a good rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's headlight evaluations, and only four are available with acceptable-rated headlights. Government standards are based on laboratory tests, which don't accurately gauge performance in real-world driving. For 2017, vehicles will need good or acceptable headlights in order to qualify for the Institute's highest award, TOP SAFETY PICK+. The best-performing headlights in the small SUV group belong to a new model, the Mazda CX-3, and are available on its Grand Touring trim.
* GM's Switchgate is back in the news. A federal appeals court judge has ruled that the 2009 bankruptcy sale of the "Old GM" to the "New GM" doesn't bar the hundreds of lawsuits over accidents that occurred before the transaction that have been filed by car owners over the deadly ignition switch defect. This is a major setback for GM and will now allow due process in the courts to proceed by the affected GM car owners.
* Cars.com experts put five of the most popular compact SUVs through a series of tests to determine the best option for shoppers in its annual Compact SUV Challenge. The test resulted in the following ranking: 1)2017 Ford Escape, 2)2016 Kia Sportage, 3)2016 Honda CR-V, 4)2016 Toyota RAV4 and 5)2016 Hyundai Tucson. The Cars.com test included last year's winner, the Honda CR-V, the segment sales leader, the Toyota RAV4, and vehicles that have been remodeled since the 2015 test.
* Professional hackers, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, shocked the automotive world just a year ago by remotely taking over the controls of a Jeep Cherokee and driving it off the edge of a parking lot. FCA engineers immediately fixed that vulnerability but the automotive world began scrambling to find and fix other vulnerabilities in vehicles. FCA announced this week it would join Tesla in offering bounties of anywhere from $150 to $1,500 to hackers who identify and report software vulnerabilities to the companies. Tesla is reported to have paid out 132 bounties from $100 to $10,000. Details at www.bugcrowd.com.
* Volkswagen’s plan to fix Audi, Porsche and VW 3.0-liter diesel engines was rejected by the California Air Resources Board this week in what is reported as a surprise (really?) to the company. The 3.0-liter engines were not part of the settlement agreement affecting the 2.0-liter engines we’ve talked about here recently. CARB officials claim VW submitted an “incomplete, substantially deficient” plan to “return those vehicles to the claimed certified configuration.” This issue effects about 16,000 vehicles of the half million total diesels caught cheating emissions tests. It could take until December to come up enough data to make a decision on the fix. Foot dragging at its best!
* Things are not getting any better for Elon Musk this week as the Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation into whether Musk withheld vital information on a fatal crash involving Tesla’s Autopilot system prior to a $2 billion stock sale. The probe will determine whether the information was “material” to the sales event. The company says it has not gotten any communication or information from the SEC. A third Autopilot-related crash was reported in Montana this week but no one was hurt in that one. Another crash in Pennsylvania with a Tesla X on Autopilot resulted in the driver getting a “Careless Driving” citation. And…Consumer Reports is urging Tesla to disable the Autopilot system and rename it.
* GM, as part of their partnership with the ride service Lyft, will offer free Chevrolet Bolt electric cars to drivers who pick up more than 65 rides/week. The deal includes providing less busy drivers with a rental deal that includes insurance and routine maintenance. The Bolt is expected to compete directly with Tesla’s new Model 3 when they both are fully in the market next year. The Bolt will have a 200-mile range and up-to-date tech features including WiFi. GM invested $500 million in January to help Lyft get established.
* Recognized as one of the premier Concours events in the country, the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s in suburban Detroit held a press event this week to preview the upcoming show and surrounding events on the weekend of July 29, 30 and 31. With 29 classes or special exhibits, over 300 cars are expected on the field Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM, including vehicles from every decade like a 1901 Duryea and 1911 Oldsmobile Limited and Ken Lingenfelter’s 1996 Vector super car. Racing will be represented by a Rally Racing class. Car selection committee chairman Brian Joseph insists there will be something for everyone. Three days worth of events are scheduled, many free to the public. Details at: www.concoursusa.org.
* At last! The origin of pickup trucks can be traced back to the early 20th century, when automobiles first became popular in the United States. Originally used to haul cargo, these classic trucks have become nostalgic American icons. Announced earlier this year, at long last the US Postal Service new issue of four different forever stamps featuring a '65 Ford, a '48 Ford, a '53 Chevrolet and a '38 International Harvester are now on sale.