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Nutson's Nuggets - Automotive News and Views Week of June 2-June 8, 2014


Auto Central Louisville, KY June 8, 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 their "take" as easy to digest nuggets of the past week's automotive news.

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 1,687,657 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

Nutson's Automotive News Factoids - Week of June 2-June 8, 2014

* Top story of the week has to be GM CEO Mary Barra’s announcement detailing the dismissal of 15 employees, including eight executives, the result of the company’s internal investigation showing “a pattern of incompetence and neglect” related to the failure to recall millions of GM’s bread-and-butter small cars. GM's release of its internal investigation into "switchgate" concluded that there was no deliberate cover-up in its decade-long failure to recall millions of small cars with a defective ignition switch. CEO Barra told employees that the lack of action was a result of broad bureaucratic problems and the failure of individual employees in several departments to address a safety problem. The employee firings were in GM’s legal and engineering departments. The report is being given to federal regulators and Congress and does not tie Ms. Barra and other senior executives directly to the recall delay. The lengthy report, overseen by former federal prosecutor Anton Valukas, is being criticized by many outsiders as too self-serving. A criminal investigation is being conducted by the federal government.

* Americans bought new vehicles at an annual rate of 16.8 million units in May, the strongest pace since February 2007 and up 11% from 15.5 million in May 2013, according to Autodata. Trucks, SUVs, midsize sedans and crossovers continue to be the hottest segments. GM is seeing no negative impact from the ignition recall with sales up 13%. Jeep is up a whopping 58% largely on the strength of the new Cherokee…so much for the complaints of those "experts" critical of its styling.

* BMW marketing and sales boss, Ian Robertson, told Automotive News Europe this week that he is happy with the sales numbers of the small and dramatically designed i3 electric car with 80% of its sales coming from buyers new to the brand. The automaker ramped up production 40% in anticipation of the U.S. rollout. The even more dramatic and much bigger i8 is just now getting to dealers in Europe. BMW seems enthusiastic about electric cars as some other makers begin to pare their full-electric and hybrid models.

* Tesla CEO related a story about the naming of its vehicles. It now has the Model S, and has trademarked the name Model E and will name the coming SUV the Model X. So we have S-E-X, and a consideration to trademark the name Model Y. But, apparently Ford voiced concern with that model name since they used the Model Y designation back in the '30s for overseas market cars.

* News in the American horsepower wars is the announcement that the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 will produce 650 horsepower from its 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine. When the Z06 was first unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show in January, GM would only say that its engine would produce "at least 625 horsepower." The 650 horsepower figure puts the Z06 among some very fast company including not only the 640HP Dodge Viper and the 662HP Ford Shelby GT500 but also supercars cars like the 610HP Lamborghini Hurucán, 651HP Ferrari FF and 641HP McLaren 650S. The other shoe that we are waiting to drop is from the 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat. That car will produce 600-plus horsepower from a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine, according to Dodge. But, do we hear 700?

* Exotic car story of the week, we thought, might be the tiny but wealthy Persian Gulf state of Dubai adding a $1.6-million Bugatti Veyron to its police car fleet. Looking deeper into the story we find they are not using the Veyron, and a couple dozen other exotics, to chase bad guys, rather they just parade them around for PR purposes.

* Chrysler, too, had some recall troubles with the Feds this week. A recall in 2012 of 3/4 million SUVs repaired an airbag problem but since that time a half dozen of those fixed vehicles experienced airbag deployment without an explanation. No fatalities were reported but some burns resulted. NHTSA wants to know what happened.

* Also at Chrysler, they are recalling about 10,700 SUVs to fix a defect that leads to unintended acceleration in cruise-control mode. Being recalled are certain 2014 Dodge Durangos, Jeep Cherokees, Grand Cherokees and Grand Cherokee SRTs assembled in the first four months of this year.

* GM is issuing four new recall campaigns covering nearly 150,000 vehicles. First, 69,500 2014 Chevrolet Silverado LD, 2014 GMC Sierra LD and 2015 Silverado HD, Tahoe and Suburban and 2015 GMC Sierra HD and Yukon and Yukon XL models worldwide because the “base" radio may not work, preventing audible warnings if the key is in the ignition when the driver’s door is opened. And, 36,012 worldwide 2012 Buick Verano and Chevrolet Camaro, Cruze and Sonic compact cars for a defect in which the shorting bar inside the dual stage driver’s air bag may occasionally contact the air bag terminals. Also, 61 2013-2014 Chevrolet Spark and 2013 model year Buick Encores manufactured in Changwon, Korea from Dec. 30, 2012 through May 8, 2013 because the vehicles may have a condition in which the front passenger airbag end cap could separate from the airbag inflator. GM is also recalling 33 2014 Chevrolet Corvettes because an internal short-circuit in the sensing and diagnostic module could disable frontal air bags, safety belt pretensioners and the Automatic Occupancy Sensing module.

* Next to the famed Nurburgring in Germany, one of the most challenging real-road race courses in Europe, is the 37-mile circuit around the Isle of Man off the northwest coast of England. A U.S. spec new Subaru WRX-STI set a record this week with an average of over 116-mph breaking a record previously set by a 2010 WRX-STI.

* And our R.I.P. is for Sports car racing legend John Bishop, the visionary co-founder of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), who died Thursday in San Rafael, Calif. due to complications from a recent illness. He was 87. Bishop co-founded IMSA in 1969 with his wife Peggy and Bill France Sr., after a surprise telephone “cold call” from France – also NASCAR’s founder – that resulted in a quick trip from Connecticut to Daytona Beach to discuss assembling a new sports car sanctioning organization in North America.