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Nutson's Nuggets - Automotive News Factoids September 16-22, 2013


Auto Central Louisville, KY September 22, 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.

If you are a car nut like we all are, you can easily "catch up" on these stories as well as the past 17 year's 1,474,563 automotive news, automotive stories, articles, reviews, rants and raves by just searching for the subject you are interested in The Auto Channel's Automotive News Archive. Hey South Florida TV viewers, I know you are enjoying watching The Auto Channel's TACH-TV on channel 44 WHDT-TV Palm Beach (Cable 17 and 438, channel 9 Miami and channel 32 Fort Meyers-Naples, and thanks for the positive feedback....See you next week, LN

Automotive News September 16-22, 2013

* We drove the all-new 2014 Mazda3 compact this week at a national media introduction. It's a game changer, with many new features that are segment-firsts, and will change the industry. Look for our complete review here on The Auto Channel soon.

* Kia is often a step or two behind sister brand Hyundai - witness the introduction of the full-size Kia Cadenza sedan based on the Genesis platform. Kia announced this week they will bring to the US next year a new, big, luxurious flagship sedan called K900 based on Hyundai's Equus platform. We'll see the "BMW 7-Series size car at a 5-Series price" in dealerships sometime during the second half of 2014. Watch for ads for the high-zoot Korean cruiser during the upcoming Super Bowl.

* The one-millionth car to be built in the Lansing (Michigan) Grand River Assembly plant came off the line to the cheers of workers, media and a few politicians earlier this week. The plant opened in 2002 to produce the first generation Cadillac CTS, a car that began a renaissance for that classically American brand. The honored car was a lovely, red third generation CTS. Many observers touted the second generation CTS as a vast improvement over its predecessor, and this third gen appears to take another great leap forward. More on that when we get a chance to evaluate it thoroughly.

* We've reported repeatedly this year about amazing prices being brought by special cars at collector car auctions around the world. Here's another. A 1935 Alfa Romeo Tipo 8C-35 sold for about $9.44 million at Bonhams Goodwood Revival last weekend. That is a new record for the marque. This particular car was driven by famous race driver Tazio Nuvolari and it was supported by Ferrari before that latter company began supporting F1 race cars. Both distinctions add to its value.

* Two Saab 9-3s crawled off the assembly line as a test run at the long-idle Trollhattan assembly plant late this week as the new owner, National Electric Vehicle Sweeden, attempts to keep the brand alive while pursuing ambitious plans to have a 9-3 Turbo in production later this year. The Chinese-owned company also plans development of more models, perhaps one based on the innovative Phoenix concept we saw a few years ago in New York. Saab has been teetering on the edge of oblivion for years now, but they somehow keep surviving.

* Bowling Green, KY was the scene of much excitement this week as the first 2014 Corvette Stingrays began shipping to dealers around the country. The plant got a $131 million makeover to produce the new 'Vette which features an aluminum frame. This will be the most powerful Corvette ever with a 455 hp V8. Pricing begins at about 52 grand and has garnered nearly universal rave reviews from journalists and enthusiasts.

* Tesla's ever-confident founder and CEO Elon Musk announced this week plans to have a fully self-driving car within the next three years. He said the car's sensors and computers would manage 90% of driving. A fully autonomous car is a bit further down the road, he said, and other automakers and tech firms (like Google) are pursuing that goal as well. (I think many state driving laws will need revision before we have fully autonomous cars on the road.)

* Ford Motor Co. has announced plans to install charging stations for EVs at more than 50 of its office and manufacturing facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada in order to allow employees to recharge their EV batteries while they're working. Ford said each employee would receive free charging for the first four hours to ensure the battery is "topped off" and the employee can confidently drive home after work. Ford plans to begin installing the charging stations and some 200 chargers at virtually all of its Canadian and U.S. facilities in November and continue the process through 2014. Nissan and GM have similar programs, as do many non-automotive companies.

* The ubiquitous London cab is back in production again after the British manufacturer was rescued by China's Geely Group. Geely is reported to have made numerous improvements to the taxi at its production facilities in Coventry where it has begun building the TX4 model. The rehab of the plant has resulted in increased output and the addition of 66 jobs at Coventry.

* In motorsports, beyond the NASCAR circus, Juan Pablo Montoya is leaving NASCAR to return to IndyCar driving for Roger Penske. Montoya has been in NASCAR since 2006 and has raced in Formula 1, with seven wins, and in CART winning the 1999 title and the 2000 Indy 500.

* The Detroit News reports that Volkswagen AG plans to phase out the use of conventional (naturally aspirated) gasoline engines over the next few years and replace them with turbocharged gasoline and diesel engines. According to Mark Trahan, v-p at Volkswagen of America for group quality, the German auto manufacturer will replace its three remaining gasoline engines - the five cylinder and two six-cylinder types - with turbocharged engines. Earlier, Ford Motor Co. v-p of Powertrain Engineering Joe Bakaj, uttered similar words, warning that the conventional gasoline engine could be marking its end in future Ford vehicles. He noted that he couldn't predict when the conventional gasoline engine would be retired but suggested that the company's Eco-Boost or diesel engines would replace them.

* Eiji Toyoda, age 100 and five days, died of heart failure. He was instrumental in Toyota Motor Corporation’s growth from a local car-building concern to arguably the largest car-building operation on the planet, and has influenced the production of countless millions of cars that didn’t even bear his family’s name.

* Senator John Thune, R-S.D., has proposed a measure that would kill funding for a federal loan progam that was meant to develop fuel-efficient automotive technology. His proposed amendment to ax the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan came one day after the Energy Department announced it would auction off the unpaid $168 million loan that was made to defunct EV maker Fisker Automotive. Thune said the amendment would "permanently end the ATVM program and save taxpayers from paying more of President Obama's bad green-energy bets." The program that was formed in 2007 and sometimes criticized for its complexity and bad loans, hasn't made a loan since March 2011, that despite some $16 billion still remaining in the federal coffers. According to The Detroit News, the Energy Department earlier this month sold an unpaid $50 million loan to Allen Park-based VPG to AM General for $3 million. Taxpayers are said to have lost $42 million on that sale. And earlier this week, the Energy Department said it would auction off the $168 million loan that was outstanding from Fisker Automotive, which hasn't produced a vehicle in more than a year. There are, however, loans that were made by the Energy Department that had positive results. Loans to Ford, Nissan and Tesla have performed well and Tesla recently paid off its loan nine months early.

* Continuing a rash of airbag-related problems throughout the industry, and particularly among the Asian manufacturers, Honda announced a recall of around 400,000 North American minivans and SUVs. Honda says there have been no reported accidents or injuries, just a "small but increasing number of complaints."

* BMW will recall more than 134,000 of its 5-Series models because their rear lights can fail. Model years affected are 2008 through 2010 and include the 528i, 535i, 550i and M5 models.

* Suzuki Motor of America said it is recalling nearly 200,000 cars and SUVs over an air bag defect that could allow the device to deploy even if a child is sitting in the front seat. The recall covers the 2006-11 Suzuki Grand Vitara compact SUV and 2007-11 Suzuki SX4 passenger cars.