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Nutson's Nuggets - Automotive News Factoids March 9-16, 2014


Auto Central Louisville, KY March 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 17 year's 1,545,318 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 Published March 16, 2014

* More Americans used buses, trains and subways in 2013 than in any year since 1956 as service improved, local economies grew and travelers sought alternatives to the automobile for trips within metropolitan areas, the American Public Transportation Association said in a report. The trade group said in its annual report that 10.65 billion passenger trips were taken on transit systems during the year, surpassing the post-1950s peak of 10.59 million in 2008, when gas prices rose to $4 to $5 a gallon.

* Acura will be getting increased attention and focus. Honda North America announced its two brands would now operate as separate divisions with their own teams, instead of the former arrangement of being organized by function. Mike Accavitti remains a senior vice president and adds General Manager of the Acura Division to his responsibilities. He will be responsible for all sales and marketing activities, as well as parts & service business for the Acura brand. Jeff Conrad, who has been the vice president and general manager of Acura Sales for the past five years, is being promoted to senior vice president general manager of the Honda Division.

* GM is squirming under the scrutiny of NHTSA, and now the Justice Department, over an alleged delay in issuing a recall for a poorly designed ignition switch that could allow the car's ignition to be turned off inadvertently by a heavily laden keychain or a bump of the driver's knee. At least a dozen deaths have been association with this problem. The Justice Department wants to know if any criminal charges are justified. In the GM "Switchgate", the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee has launched an investigation into General Motors' recall. As part of the probe, an Energy and Commerce subcommittee will hold hearings that are expected to include officials from GM and the NHTSA. GM has hired the Chicago-based lawfirm of Jenner & Block to investigate the matter internally. Further complications on the issue relate to GM's bankruptcy proceedings, who knew what when, and to what extent is the post-bankruptcy new GM accountable.

* The Detroit News reports that the Department of Homeland Security plans to award a contract for the design of the next-generation presidential limousine by late August, to be ready by the time the next president takes office in 2017. According to a contract proposal posted last week by the U.S. Secret Service on the government’s contracting site, the administration plans to award the contract by Aug. 29, “based on best value to the government.” The contract proposal says bids are “restricted to Major domestic U.S Automobile Manufacturers, who have their primary headquarters located in the United States of America.”

* The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission voted to ban the direct sale of vehicles in the state, becoming the third state in the nation to prevent Tesla from selling to consumers. That would force Tesla, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, to sell its cars through dealers. Instead, Tesla will stop selling cars in New Jersey on April 1, according to Dow Jones. The other two states to have banned Tesla from direct sales are Arizona and Texas.

* U.S. News & World Report has announced the 2014 Best Cars for Families awards highlighting the cars, vans and SUVs that have the space, safety and reliability families need, as well as the comfort, performance and features they want. The 2014 Mazda6 is the Best Midsize Car for Families, and the 2014 Mazda3 is the Best Compact Car for Families. The Honda Odyssey is the Best Minivan for Families. The Acura MDX is the Best Luxury 3-Row SUV for Families and the Best Luxury Large Car for Families is the Cadillac CTS. The Ford Fusion is the Best Hybrid for Families.

* The VW Chattanooga plant UAW "uniongate" issue is still in the news with anti-union VW workers having been given a voice in the NLRB proceedings. Additionally, a lawsuit has ben filed by workers and an anti-union group against VW for "giving things of value" to the UAW in its efforts to gain representation. No matter how this ends up, and it will take a while, Tennessee remains a right-to-work state and no one can be required to join a union to work at the VW plant.

* A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) finds rear cameras are more effective than parking sensors at helping drivers avoid objects while traveling in reverse and can reduce blind spots by about 90 percent. The industry-funded group that prods automakers to build safer cars said the rear cameras don’t help in every situation.

* So much for the economic crisis in Europe as PortAventura Entertainment S.A.U., Europe's largest entertainment company, signed an agreement with Ferrari this week to build a Ferrari-themed park near Barcelona. Inside the park will be a five-star hotel with driving simulators and up-scale restaurants. Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi has been so well-received and well-attended that Ferrari is willing to lend its name to more such ventures.

* The redesigned 2015 Chrysler 200 will begin coming off the line this week at the freshly renovated Sterling Heights Assembly Plant is suburban Detroit. The company put $1.2 billion into the facility upgrading robotics, an all-new paint shop and other upgrades. The plant was slated for closure as part of the bankruptcy but found new life.

* Chrysler Group LLC, a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said Friday it is recalling 25,250 SUVs to address a braking issue raised by a supplier. The recall will improve pedal feel during certain aggressive braking maneuvers. The recall covers some 2012-2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango SUVs, approximately 18,700 in the U.S., 825 in Canada, 530 in Mexico and 5,200 outside North America.

* The coveted Ridler Award for the best custom car at Autorama in Detroit went to a wild yellow 1964 Riviera by JF Kustoms of Osoyoos, British Columbia. Owner, J.F. Launier calls it "Revision." The Ridler goes to the best custom not shown before it appears in Detroit an is one of the two most prestigious awards for custom cars.

* Ford announced this week it will bring production of heavy duty F-650 and F-750 trucks back to the U.S. from Mexico early in 2015. The production of those trucks will go to the Avon Lake, Ohio assembly plant. The move comes with the introduction of the redesigned version of the truck.

* Sad story of the week goes to the report that Chrysler has ordered a bunch of 1992 Vipers donated to auto shop programs around the country be crushed within two weeks. The order came as a result of a few of the cars being illegally driven on the streets by students and being involved in accidents resulting in millions of dollars of liability for the company. Chrysler officially still owns the Vipers and said they no longer provide any educational value.

* RM Auctions reported fully 50% more bidders registered for this year's Amelia Island sale than last year, and the sales reflected that. Preliminary reports show total sales of just over $3 million and a 97% sell-through rate. Top seller was a swoopy 1937 Delahaye 135 Competition Torpedo Roadster in yellow and black from the Pray collection that brought $6.6 million. This reporter's favorite was a classic 1958 BMW 507 V8 Roadster projected to bring $1.6 million. It actually brought $2.4 million. Between Friday’s Gooding & Company auction, and Saturday’s RM Auctions’ event, a total of almost $67million in cars were bought and sent off to new homes.

* At the Amelia Island Concours, the best in show award this year went to a 1937 Horch 853 cabriolet owned by Bob and Anne Brockinton Lee of Nevada.The Horch won the elegance class at Amelia. A 1958 Scarab racer that is part of Miles C. Collier’s collection picked up the top spot in Amelia’s sports car division. On a more local note, the Simeone Automotive Museum's 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza received the Amelia Award in the Zagato Design class.

* The Tonight Show's Jimmy Fallon set off the latest truck wars when he said on-air that he wanted to buy a truck. Ford, Chevy and Ram were quick to jump on the opportunity for some exposure with various tactics to leverage Jimmy's needs. Road & Track editor Larry Webster appeared on the show to help Jimmy out with some practical guidance. No decision was made!