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Nutson's Automotive News Recap August 3-9, 2015


By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

AUTO CENTRAL - CHICAGO - August 9, 2015; Every Sunday, along with fellow 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.

If you are a car nut like we all are here at The Auto Channel, you can easily wish to "catch up" on these stories as well as the past 20 year's 1,912,187 automotive news, automotive stories, articles, reviews, archived news, video, audio, rants and raves just search The Auto Channel's Automotive News Archive.

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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Review - August 3-9, 2015

* U.S. new vehicle buyers are loving their crossovers, SUVs and pickups. July new car and truck sales topped 1.51 million, up 5.3 percent increase from last year. The annual selling pace, the SAAR, is 17.55 million cars and trucks. Luxury brands continue to see gains, save for Cadillac, and Lexus topped both BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

* The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute's latest report from Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle says the average fuel economy (window-sticker value) of new vehicles sold in the U.S. in July was 25.4 mpg. The fuel economy in July was unchanged from that in June, consistent with the increased market share of vehicle in the middle of the fuel-economy spectrum (such as crossovers). Fuel economy is down 0.4 mpg from the peak reached in August 2014, but up 5.3 mpg since October 2007 (the first month of our monitoring).

* This past week we covered the annual Management Briefing Seminars hosted by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in beautiful Traverse City, MI. The conference is one of the most important in the auto business and began with a substantial power outage at the host hotel, the Grand Traverse Resort, the result of a fierce storm some of us witnessed rolling across the East Bay. The neighbouring casino had power so they provided the essential coffee and food until power could be restored Monday evening. See full daily reports here at TAC.

* Continental brought their latest automated driving vehicle to the CAR conference, a Chrysler 300 loaded with Conti’s newest 360-degree radar and camera system that continually monitors surroundings and feeds the information into redundant systems to manage the car without driver input. The system also monitors driver alertness so that he/she can intervene when necessary. Adaptive cruise control, lane departure intervention and a variety of other systems are integrated as they move toward autonomous car design.

* Altair together with the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) announced Ford Motor Company as the winner of the 3rd annual Altair Enlighten Award for its use of various lightweight materials to minimize weight of the 2015 Ford F-150. The award was presented during the 2015 CAR Management Briefing Seminars (MBS). The Enlighten Award is the automotive industry's first award program created specifically to acknowledge innovation in vehicle weight reduction.

* Lexus boss of U.S. operations, Jeff Bracken, spoke at the CAR conference this week about other matters but when queried by a Reuters reporter after his speech Bracken revealed plans to add another “flagship” model to the brand’s portfolio along with the new generation of the big LS sedan. He did not reveal what kid of product it would be but hinted it would not be a sedan. Automotive News recently reported Lexus is working on a full-size coupe but it could as easily be a luxury SUV to keep pace with Jaguar, Bentley and others who are entering that segment.

* The 2015 CAR Management Briefing Seminars had to deal with no electricity due to a severe summer-time storm. To save the day, a Subaru-powered Husky 5000 generator provided the only source of power for attendees.

* General Motors announced this week a nearly 40% increase in electric range based on EPA testing for the second generation Chevy Volt due in showrooms this fall. The first generation Volt could barely manage 40 miles/charge under ideal conditions. The new car will get 53 miles/charge. The range extending 1.5-liter internal combustion engine also gets a boost in efficiency to a EPA-estimated 42 mpg.

* A few weeks ago hackers had their way with a Jeep Cherokee. This week it was a Tesla Model S. Cyber security is becoming a front page issue as our vehicles become ever more commonly connected to the internet in order to take advantage of apps and even becoming wifi hotspots. Tesla uses wireless communications to send software updates to it vehicles making it an easy target. This incident was mounted by a cyber security firm wanting to demonstrate vulnerability.

* The UAW continues intensive talks with U.S. automakers in advance of the September 14th expiration of the current 4-year contract. UAW VP Jimmy Settles told the Detroit Free Press this week that the union is more interested in job security and keeping production in the U.S. than in capturing more of company profits for their members. They will also try to mitigate the inequality of the second tier pay formula. Ford recently announced major investments in Mexico, some think for the purpose of leverage in the negotiations.

* Mazda is recalling 206,000 SUVs that may have rusted front suspension parts. The recall covers about 193,000 2007-2014 CX-9 SUVs.