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Sinkhole; Recalls; Union No!; Aluminum; Petty on Danica; Rotary Back? All In This Week's Nutson News Nuggets


Auto Central Louisville, KY February 16, 2014 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 18 year's 1,583,004 autmotive 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 February 9-15, 2014

* The biggest news of the week was the sinkhole that devoured eight special Corvettes when it opened up under the rotunda of the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY. Fortunately, no one was injured and the damage to the cars is still being assessed. Six of the cars belonged to the museum and two were on loan from GM. The GM cars were very rare - a 1993 ZR1 Spyder and the 2009 ZR1 Blue Devil. GM announced they will assist with the restoration of the Corvettes and the museum will be repaired.

* The political hot potato this week was the unionization vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga,TN. And in late breaking Friday news, the UAW lost its bid to organize Volkswagen's Chattanooga assembly plant. The 712 to 626 vote was counted by the National Labor Relations Board. The campaign was bitter with Tennessee politicians weighing in heavily against the UAW. The UAW needs to begin representing these transplant facilities in "Right to Work" states in order to remain a significant player in the auto industry. Some media used words like "stinging defeat","crippling blow" and "devastating loss." The Chattanooga VW employees might still establish a German-style "Works Council" according to VW plant President Frank Fischer. All this as VW considers where to build a new SUV, either in Chattanooga or Puebla, Mexico.

* The countdown has begun for the 2014 World Car Awards (the WCAs) prize-giving ceremony to be hosted by the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) and Bridgestone Corporation on Thursday, April 17, 2014. Winners of awards to be revealed include: 2014 World Car of the Year, 2014 World Luxury Car, 2014 World Performance Car, 2014 World Green Car, and 2014 World Car Design of the Year. See the complete list of finalists here:

* U.S. News & World Report announced the 2014 Best Cars for the Money on its popular Best Cars website, The awards highlight cars in 21 automotive categories – from subcompact cars to full size pickup trucks – that offer great value and receive critical acclaim. On the whole, foreign automakers outshined domestic car companies, winning 13 of this year’s Best Cars for the Money awards. Import automaker Toyota, with its Scion and Lexus brands, took home the most awards of any automaker with wins in five categories: Sports Cars, Hybrid SUVs, Midsize Sedans, Luxury 2-Row Midsize SUVs and Compact Pickup Trucks. Ford took home the most awards of any domestic automaker and any single brand, winning four awards in these categories: Subcompact Cars, Hatchbacks, Hybrid Cars and 2-Row Midsize SUVs.

* At the opening of the Toronto Auto Show the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) announced the Mazda6 as the 2014 Canadian Car of the Year and the 2014 Jeep Cherokee as the 2014 Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year.

* Chrysler-Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne told Canadian officials this week in no uncertain terms that plenty of other places would like to be the home of Chrysler minivan production as the Windsor, Ontario plant winds down. Production of the next generation van could be moved to the US or Mexico depending on where the incentive package results in the greatest advantage for the company. Marchionne is known as a no-nonsense guy.

* Lexus held onto top honors in the J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study released this week. The study asks owners about the number of problems experienced in the first three years of ownership. Lexus owners reported 68 problems per 100 vehicles. The next most trouble-free vehicle brands were Mercedes-Benz with 104 problems, Cadillac with 107, Acura with 109 and Buick with 112. Then come Honda (114), Lincoln (114), Toyota (114), Porsche (125) and Infiniti (128). The overall industry average went up for the first time in 16 years. Most of the problems are with engines and transmissions.

* Honda is eliminating two hybrid models in Europe, the CRZ small coupe and its hybrid five-door hatch because European buyers continue to prefer diesels. The company will continue to offer the Jazz hybrid minicar.

* Rotary engine fans take heart. AutoWeek reported this week a solid rumor that Mazda is planning a return of the iconic RX-7 potentially during calendar 2015 or 2016 and built off the MX-5 platform. Mazda's RX-8, out of production for the last few years, was the last car in the world with a rotary engine. This new one could have the next generation of that simple but less than efficient engine with about 250 horsepower.

* GM announced a recall of more than 3/4 million 2005-2007 Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5 small sedans this week, the result of an ignition switch problem that may be connected to six highway deaths. The problem is related to driving the cars on rough roads at high speeds causing the ignition switch to move into the accessory position which deactivates the airbags. That big and heavy bundle of keys hanging along with the ignition key is part of the cause.

* The sales situation in Europe regained momentum in the first month of the year. While the overall market grew by some three percent, deliveries by Volkswagen in the first month of the year grew 7.9 percent to 126,200 (116,900) units.

* Toyota announced a recall of 1.9 million Prius Hybrids sold around the world between 2009 and 2014 due to faulty software that could cause the vehicle to stop unexpectedly. Of the total, 713,000 were sold in the United States. About 917,000 will be recalled in Japan.

* Graco Children’s Products is recalling almost 3.8 million car seats because faulty buckles can make it difficult to free a child in an emergency, the company said. But federal safety regulators said the recall, the largest in five years, did not go far enough, and have asked for an additional 1.8 million seats to be included because they use the same buckles.

* America is driving less. U.S. PIRG Education Fund crunched the numbers last and year, looking at how Americans driving habits changed. Two facts: 1) the number of prime-driving age Americans plunged by 2.8 million over the last eight years as baby boomers age into their 60s; 2) a car has a lifespan of 200,000 miles. Both these ultimately lead to demand for vehicles over the last eight years being about half a million cars per year lower.

* The Detroit News reports that Ford Motor Co.’s new aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup has triggered a stampede among automakers, sending many of the company’s competitors scrambling to ink deals with aluminum suppliers for the weight-saving metal. Why? That's because there is no simpler way to boost fuel economy than by reducing vehicle weight, and boosting mileage is something all automakers need to do. The article goes on to say that there isn't currently enough aluminum to go around. But there will be in due time.

* At the recent Bonham's Auction in Paris a private buyer acquired the Harley-Davidson motorcycle that was gifted to Pope Francis. The buyer paid $327,000. The bike has a typical sticker price of around $13,000. A year ago, Willie Davidson, a former motorcycle designer and grandson to a Harley-Davidson founder presented the then-new Pope with a new H-D Super Dyna Glide with the intention of selling off for charity.

* NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty didn't have much nice to say about Danica Patrick's driving ability. But Petty also said Patrick gets attention and that publicity is good for NASCAR. Patrick's reaction was that every person is entitled to an opinion. By the way, the Daytona 500 is next Sunday.

* Hope y'all had a Happy Valentines Day!