Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest - March 30-April 5, 2015
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
Auto Central Chicago IL, April 5, 2015; Every Sunday, along with senior editors Steve Purdy and Thom Cannell from The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau I give you our "take" on this past week's automotive news in easy to digest nuggets.
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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest- March 30-April 5, 2015;
* Lincoln got the jump ahead of the press intros at the New York Auto Show and introduced the Continental Concept, signaling an all-new full-size sedan coming next year. Targeted for sale in the U.S., China and other markets, the Continental Concept is powered by a Lincoln-exclusive 3.0-liter V6 EcoBoost engine. It also features Lincoln Drive Control ride-enhancing technologies and Adaptive Steering. The car rides on polished-aluminum, painted-pocket 21-inch wheels. The Continental Concept is said to be very close in design to the production car. Analysts say the Continental Concept really leapfrogs the Lincoln brand forward.
* New car news was dominated by the New York International Auto Show this week where manufacturers from around the world revealed new products. Important mass market products like Chevy Malibu, Lexus RX, Mitsubishi Outlander, Honda Civic, Hyundai Tuscon, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Maxima dominated while one of the most anticipated reveals was that of Cadillac’s new full-size, flagship sedan called CT6. Significant talk was heard in New York about new auto manufacturing plants being planned for North America as well. See all the coverage here on TAC.
* March was tough for auto sales with declines for many automakers. That said, overall sales totaled about 1.55 millions and were up slightly by 0.6 percent. The SAAR is at 17.1 million. Consumers are buying compact SUVs and crossovers in record numbers while passenger car sales are taking a hit.
* April is National Distracted Driving Awareness month. According to a survey of police data by Erie Insurance, the most fatal distracted-driving behavior is, now wait for it, daydreaming. So it's not only cell phones and texting. It's romantic encounters, combing hair, changing clothes, applying makeup, brushing teeth, taking selfies and other crazy things.
* Crain's Chicago Business reports that Chevrolet was the top-selling new car in metro Chicago from 2011 to 2013, making this the only big market among 20 around the U.S. where the badge was No. 1, according to data from IHS Automotive. New York, by contrast, preferred Honda; it was No. 1 throughout the three-year stretch. Meanwhile, Los Angeles favored Toyota, and Ford was the best-seller in Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth from 2011 to 2013.
* BMW is recalling nearly 49,000 motorcycles in the U.S. and Canada because flanges that hold the rear wheel can crack if bolts are too tight. The recall covers multiple models from 2005 to 2010 model years. Check with your BMW Motorcycle dealer.
* Seeing red in Formula 1. Four-time world champ Sebastian Vettel took a sensational maiden victory for Ferrari as he won over Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes at the Malaysian Grand Prix. The win marks an amazing turnaround by Ferrari, who last year had their worst season in 21 years, managing only two podiums. Mercedes eight-race winning streak has ended, with a two-three finish. Ferrari also took fourth with driver Kimi Raikkonen.
* Remember NFL's "inflategate" low pressure football issue. Well now NASCAR has one too. NASCAR has penalized Ryan Newman's race team and Richard Childress Racing for manipulating their race tires. It seems they drilled very tiny holes in the tires to bleed off air pressure as they heated up. Fines and suspensions were levied.
* Chrysler suffered a $150 million wrongful death verdict in a case of a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee involved in a high-speed rear end crash. Plaintiffs claimed the SUV burst into flames as a result of the fuel tank being positioned behind the rear axle leaving it unprotected from a crash. The company insisted it met all applicable standards of the time. The jury found that the out-of-control vehicle that hit the Grand Cherokee at high speed was 10% at fault while the manufacturer was 90% culpable. Chrysler is considering an appeal.
* Hyundai is considering an additional manufacturing plant in North America according to Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski. Production in the current U.S. facility has been at capacity for some time causing the company to loose market share by not being able to meet demand. With the introduction of the new Tuscon CUV the company expects to need up to 90,000 units per year of extra capacity. Sister brand Kia is currently adding a plant in Mexico where some of that production could go.
* Volvo Cars is joining the party. Volvo will build an assembly plant in the U.S. The $500-million plant will be Volvo's first car plant in North America. They expect to announce the location in about a month.
* We reported last week Mercedes-Benz’ intention to build a mid-size pickup by 2020. This week we heard speculation that M-B would partner with Nissan on the truck. Then we heard Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn trying to distance his company from speculation on the project. While the two companies are working together on a variety of projects, M-B “is free to do it by themselves, to do it with somebody else . . . or to do it with us,” said Ghosn.
* We learned this week that Midland, MI company XALT Energy just inked a deal for over $1 billion worth of Lithium Titanate (LTO) batteries to be provided to Chinese electric bus makers. These battery systems are ideal for urban use because they are durable, economical and can be recharged very rapidly, said CEO Subash Dahr. This is a five-year contract and production begins later this year.
* Ralph Gilles, formerly head of U.S. design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, who is credited with penning the Chrysler 300 when the company was wedded to Daimler, has been promoted to lead global design for FCA. He will now oversee the design of all FCA brands and be part of the company’s influential Group Executive Council. Gilles, among his other responsibilities, will immediately be faced with presiding over new products from storied brands Maserati and Alfa Romeo, both part of FCA.
* It got fixed this week but, the wheels were falling off in Indiana and they almost had a big wreck on their hands. I'm talking about their controversial new discrimination law. What if the Indy 500 was no longer held in Indianapolis? And there's the Indianapolis street circuit Indy Car race in early May, July's NASCAR at the Brickyard, June's Corvette Bloomington Gold show, and September's NHRA U.S. Nationals. Chevrolet, Ford, FCA (Chrysler), Toyota, and Honda probably had drafted their positions and were in the wait-and-see mode. Add in Good Year and Firestone who supply tires, and all the other suppliers as well as sponsors. Big bucks potentially going somewhere else. Subaru had spoken out quickly and Indiana got the message from many individuals, corporations, and even city mayors like Indianapolis.