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Nutson's Nuggets - Automotive News Factoids Week of April 7-13, 2014


Auto Central Louisville, KY April 13, 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 1,586,079 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 March April 7-13, 2014

* has named the 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe the winner of the site's 3-Row SUV Challenge. The challenge pitted seven 3-Row SUV's, all $40,000 or less, against each other in a series of expert and car shopper testing to determine which was the best overall SUV in the class. In addition to the 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe, others tested included the 2014 Chevrolet Traverse, 2014 Dodge Durango, 2014 Honda Pilot, 2014 Mazda CX-9, 2014 Nissan Pathfinder and the 2014 Toyota Highlander.

* GM "Switchgate"and the testimony by Mary Barra on Capitol Hill was satirized by "Saturday Night Live" and Jon Stewart, with both programs playing up the fact that the company has been unable to answer many questions about its recall of 2.6 million vehicles linked to at least 13 deaths and 32 crashes. In the actual hearings over two days, Barra repeatedly declined to answer questions saying the company's internal investigation led by a former U.S. attorney in Chicago would get to the bottom of the issue. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., criticized Barra for "not knowing anything about anything." Take note that reports from media-coaching professionals all say the Mary Barra did a great job.

* Then, GM was presented with a $7,000 a day fine for its “failure to fully respond” quickly enough to a demand by federal regulators for information about its ignition switch recall. The fine is retroactive to April 3rd and will continue to mount until the automaker provides the answers to 107 questions posed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

* And then, General Motors has asked a special team at NASA to review whether 2.6 million recalled GM cars are safe to drive with only an ignition key. NASA has helped in the past with auto safety investigations. And finally, two engineers were suspended with pay as part of the investigation as to what went wrong.

* Ford Motor Co. is recalling more than 434,000 vehicles in two separate recalls. Ford is recalling about 385,750 model-year 2001-2004 Escape compact SUVs because a subframe could fail because of rust and impact the ability to steer. About 349,000 of those Escapes were sold in the U.S. In a second recall, Ford is calling back about 48,950 model-year 2013-2014 Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ, Ford Escape and C-MAX vehicles to replace seatback frames that do not comply with a NHTSA standard.

* Massimo Tamburini, the master behind some of Ducati and MV Agusta’s most iconic motorcycle designs, succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 70. Two of the motorcycles that are most indelibly imprinted on his legacy — the Ducati 916 and the MV Agusta F4 — were included in the Art of the Motorcycle exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in 1998 and 1999.

* A Smart Car weighs about 1,808 pounds. Someone's been vandalizing compact Smart cars in San Francisco, flipping the tiny vehicles on their front and rear ends in the city's streets. Four such flipped cars were found this week. Reminds me of days long gone when VW Beetles were picked up and turned sideways in their parking spots.

* Most of the midsize SUVs did not fare well in a new small overlap front-crash test conducted by an influential U.S. safety group, in yet another jolt to the industry already shaken by safety concerns. In recent IIHS tests of SUVs, the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain were the only vehicles to earn the highest rating of "good". Out of the nine tested models, the Toyota Highlander was rated "acceptable" while rest of the group earned "marginal" or "poor" ratings. The worst performers in the test were Mazda CX-9 and Honda Pilot.

* Up against an industry-wide trend of rising costs and difficulties dealing with overseas factories, Danbury Mint – the company best known among gearheads for its high-quality, 1:24 scale, shelf-topping classic cars – has exited the diecast car business. “Like Packard, Duesenberg and Pontiac, so too has our journey come to an end,” wrote the Danbury Mint’s Diecast Product Manager, Art McKenna. “For more than 20 years, the Danbury Mint has been proud to offer what many deem to be the finest 1:24 scale replicas in the world. Unfortunately, our last 1:24 scale replica has rolled off the assembly line.” McKenna said the decision to discontinue the diecast car line came after the factory in China that produced the models for the company closed.

*Toyota is recalling about 6.4 million vehicles worldwide, including almost 1.8 million in the United States for problems with airbags that may not deploy or seats that could move in a crash. The airbag problem affects about 1.3 million vehicles in the United States. They are the 2009-10 Corolla, 2009-10 Matrix, 2008-10 Highlander, 2009-10 Tacoma, 2006-08 RAV4 and 2006-10 Yaris vehicles. The second recall affects 472,500 vehicles in the United States to fix a problem with the seat rails for driver’s and some front-passenger seats. The recall covers about 158,000 2006-10 Yaris hatchbacks, about 250,000 2007-2010 Yaris sedans and about 64,000 2008-2010 Scion xD vehicles.

* The last of the "Great 8" Corvettes has been pulled from the depths of the 40 foot wide by 60 foot deep sinkhole that collapsed within the Skydome building of the National Corvette Museum exactly eight weeks ago, marking the end of the first phase of rebuilding. The 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 was one of two Corvettes that's whereabouts were initially unknown after the sinkhole happened. The car was finally discovered, upside down with the nose pointing towards the red Spire in the center of the room. It is, by far, the most heavily damaged of all eight Corvettes.

* Kelley Blue Book (KBB) announced the 2014 Brand Image Award winners, based on annual new-car buyer perception data. The Kelley Blue Book Brand Image Awards recognize automakers’ outstanding achievements in creating and maintaining brand attributes that capture the attention and enthusiasm of the new-vehicle buying public. For two years running, Honda has been named the Best Overall Brand. Mercedes-Benz captured the Best Overall Luxury Brand. Kia earns its first-ever Brand Image Award in 2014 for Best Value Brand. The Best Overall Truck Brand is Ford.

* VW sent dealers a stop sale order on some models because of a faulty o-ring seal for the automatic transmission oil cooler. 25,000 Passats, Beetles and Jettas that came with the 1.8-L turbocharged engine are affected.

* The 2014 Automobile Magazine All-Stars have been named. Each year there are only ten. At the top, the Automobile of the Year is the 2014 Audi A7/S7/RS7. The others, all 2014s, are: BMW 3-series/4-series, Cadillac CTS, Ford Fiesta ST, Honda Accord, Jaguar F-type, Mazda 3, Porsche Boxster/Cayman, Ram 1500 and Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ.

* Our friends at AutoWeek report that Clint Bowyer driving the Number 15 Toyota Camry for Michael Waltrip Racing and a few of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rivals saw some of the top speed numbers get pretty big during a Goodyear tire test at Michigan International Speedway. "That was 217 mph I just hit a little bit ago," Bowyer said during a break in the test session. Last season, Joey Logano set the track record in qualifying with a blistering average speed lap of 203.949 mph for the August race. We could soon see a new record.

* A major topic at this year's SAE World Congress, not surprisingly, is vehicle lightweighting in an effort to cut fuel consumption. Advanced high-strength steels and aluminum are a big part of the discussion, but so too are composites and plastics. Notably, the American Chemistry Council's (ACC) Plastics Division used the opening day of the event to announce an updated road map, "Plastics and Polymer Composites Technology Roadmap for Automotive Markets," to help automakers and their suppliers meet upcoming fuel-efficiency standards. The plan calls for industry-wide collaborative demonstration projects to generate data, establish predictive models, and develop specifications to improve the manufacturing and assembling of new high-performance parts, according to the ACC.

* Will America soon have an entry in Formula 1? Gene Haas has been granted a license from the Formula One governing body to start an American team. This would be the first American Formula One entry since Penske Racing competed from 1974 to 1978. Note that Haas is a very successful NASCAR team owner. I won't speculate as to who would drive for Haas, but have a look at his NASCAR drivers and venture a guess.