Nutson's Nuggets - Automotive News Factoids August 5-11, 2013
Auto Central Louisville, KY August 11, 2013 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 easy to digest nuggets of the past week's automotive news you may have missed.
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Automotive News August 5-11, 2013
* R.L. Polk said the average age of all light vehicles on the road now stands at a record high of 11.4 years. That's up from 11.3 years last year, and 10.8 years in 2010. Beginning in 2002, when the nation's car and light-vehicle fleet was an average 9.8 years old, it has continued to rise in age for 11 consecutive years. For passenger cars, the average age has hit a record high of 11.4 years, while the average age of light trucks has increased to a record 11.3 years, Polk said. The latest data is based on a review of over 247 million U.S. car and light truck registrations in January.
*Further, Polk recently developed a new forecast for vehicles in operation (VIO) through 2018, the first of its kind in the industry. With the rebound in new vehicle registrations, Polk is forecasting the total VIO to grow five percent to more than 260 million vehicles by 2018. During the past five years, with the significant decline in new vehicle registrations, the market has seen both segments of the aftermarket enjoy strong growth potential. During that time period, the 6-11 year old segment grew marginally and vehicles more than 12 years old increased by more than 20 percent. However, Polk expects the 6-11 year old vehicle segment to shrink by more than 20 percent and the 12+ year old segment to grow at a rate almost half of the prior five-year period
* GM is cutting the Chevrolet Volt's price by $5,000, following in the footsteps of other EV makers. The 2014 model will start at $34,995, including an $810 destination fee (excluding tax, title, license and dealer fees). If consumers include federal tax credits ranging from $0-$7,500 (depending on individual tax liability), pricing could start at $27,495. Individual tax situations differ, so consult a tax professional prior to claiming any credits to confirm eligibility for vehicle tax benefits.
* Just a week after the official debut of the electric i3, the first model of the BMW i brand, The Auto Channel's Henny Hemmes drove a prototype of the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car at the company's proving ground in the south of France. The i8 will debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show and come to the market next spring.
* The average fuel economy of 2013 model vehicles sold in the United States through July is 24.7 mpg, up 1.2 mpg compared with 2012 vehicles, according to a monthly report from University of Michigan researchers. New vans, SUVs, cars and pickups sold in July had an average fuel economy of 24.8 mpg, up 0.1 mpg from June and tying the record high from March, April and May this year, according to the report. One unintended consequence of the better mileage and purchase of less fuel is lower road tax revenues making it more difficult to fund highway maintenance and improvements.
*At the 2013 CAR Management Briefing's in Traverse City, Michigan in the Advanced Powertrain Forum Bob Lee, head of Fiat and Chrysler global Powertrain said Chrysler and Fiat will not invest in electrified powertrains until consumers are willing to step up and pay for the technology. Instead, Chrysler and Fiat will broaden their North American lineup with more diesels and downsized, turbocharged gasoline engines. Lee said consumers don't value hybrids and other electrified vehicles enough to pay for the added cost of battery packs, electric motors and chargers.
* NASCAR champ Tony Stewart broke his leg in a non-NASCAR sprint car dirt track race. The injury comes at a vital time as Stewart is in a battle for one of the final spots in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. As also an owner in Stewart-Hass Racing, some are questioning his owner vs driver thinking.
* The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded â€œTop Safety Pick +â€??? to six models that passed the new overlap frontal crash test introduced last year. The two-door and four-door models of the 2013 Honda Civic are the only small cars to earn the top rating of good in the test. The 2013 model-year Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and 2014 model-year Scion tC earned acceptable ratings, which also qualifies them for the â€œTop Safety Pick +â€??? honor. The other six vehicles were 2013 models of the Chevrolet Sonic, Cruze and Volkswagen Beetle â€” all rated marginal â€” while the 2013 Nissan Sentra, 2013 Kia Soul and 2014 Kia Forte were rated poor. The test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicleâ€™s front end on the driverâ€™s side strikes a five-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 miles per hour. As a group, small cars fared worse than midsize cars in the same test but better overall than small SUVs, the IIHS said.
* German Tier I auto supplier Bosch Group said it believes there is a "diesel boom on the horizon" for the U.S. Bosch acknowledges that sales of diesel-powered vehicles in the U.S. are nearly insignificant, noting that they currently make up 1% of the passenger car market. But the company says market share can be expected to increase significantly in the future due to the rapidly expanding range of available diesel models. The company says a realistic estimate is that diesel power will be able to capture a 10% share of the light vehicle market in the U.S. by 2018.
* Last week we reported that Ford quietly announced it will no longer support NHRA drag racing teams with three teams and five drivers contesting top honors in the Funny Car class. Some of the teams and drivers have long standing relationships with Ford. Toyota could take up the slack according to an AutoWeek story this week.
* Toyota is planning to show a new hybrid concept at the upcoming Frankfurt Motor Show. Called the Hybrid-R it will sport a small V8 with capacitor-based hybrid similar to the powertrain that placed second in the demanding 24 Hour of LeMans. We have no clue what it will look like or whether it will be a sports car, high-performance passenger car or other configuration.
* We got our first hint of the upcoming reintroduction of GMs 'compact' pickup trucks that we expect to see in late 2014. The past generation Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon sold poorly and the automaker still has not cleared inventory of vehicles that went out of productions more than a year ago. GM sees "a segment that's not being addressed," said CFO Dan Ammann.
* Hackers crippled ten National Highway Traffic Administration servers. We're struggling to understand what anyone would want in to those bureaucratic data ponds unless it was instigated by an automaker anticipating a recall fight. NHTSA insists no personal or confidential information was leaked.
* Another interesting introduction slated for Frankfurt is Opel/Vauxhall's new 1-liter, three-cylinder, direct-injection, turbocharged gasoline engine called SGE (Small Gasoline Engine) that will power the Adam city car. A fuel economy improvement of 20% is claimed over the current 1.6-liter non-turbo engine.