Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Recap W/O August 31-September 6, 2015 - Dick Guldstrand Hot Rod and Corvette Daddy, 1997 Winner Of The Auto Channel's Car Guy Of The Year Passes At 87
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
AUTO CENTRAL - CHICAGO - September 6, 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.
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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Review - August 31-September 6, 2015
* It was hot August new vehicle sales. Everyone was surprised with total sales of 1.5 million, down a bit from a year ago but with a seasonally adjusted rate (SAAR) of 17.8 million units. The sales pace was the highest in ten years and the best August since 2003. And yes, car sales are still suffering with the popularity of light trucks and SUVs.
* Shopping for a new car and looking for model year-end bargains? Edmunds this week published a list of cars to consider based on the expectation that these models will be replaced of the 2016 model year. This list includes: BMW 3-Series, Chevy Volt, Honda Civic, Toyota Prius and VW Passat. The Edmunds editors note that you should begin your shopping soon to have the greatest selection possible.
* The U.S. average retail price for regular gasoline was $2.51/gallon (g) on August 31, the lowest price for the Monday before Labor Day since 2004, and 95¢/g lower than the same time last year. On a regional basis, average gasoline prices range from $3.16/g on the West Coast to $2.20/g in the Gulf Coast. Although gasoline prices in the Midwest have fallen in recent weeks, an unplanned outage of the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, previously caused retail prices in that region to increase 60¢ per gallon on August 17. Gasoline prices in Chicago and Cleveland now average $2.95/g and $2.31/g, respectively.
* Toyota announced that it will be investing approximately $50 million over the next 5 years to establish joint research centers at MIT and Stanford University to develop intelligent rather than self-driving cars. Part of the $50 million worth of research will look at ways to mitigate the risks and challenges of an aging population and the role technology and robotics can play in highway safety. Toyota will focus its effort on using advances in artificial intelligence technologies to make humans better drivers. Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker, envisions cars of the future that will act as “guardian angels,” watching the driving behavior of humans and intervening to correct mistakes or avoid collisions when needed.
* Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk said this week we can expect the new Model X crossover based on the current Model S will be available soon and be priced about $5,000 over the Model S because it is bigger and more complex. A special high-performance version will be available as well with a zero-to-sixty time of 3.2 seconds. The entry level Model 3, expected some time next year, will be priced around $35,000. Musk hopes to be selling the Model 3 at half-million/year by 2020 finally making the company profitable.
* 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 August was 25.3 mpg—down 0.1 mpg from July. This decline likely reflects the decreased price of gasoline in August, and the consequent increased sales of light trucks and SUVs. Fuel economy is down 0.5 mpg from the peak reached in August 2014, but up 5.2 mpg since October 2007 (the first month of our monitoring).
* In another report from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute's Michael Sivak, he says that while we have more vehicles on the road in the U.S. and congestion is getting worse, we are spending less time driving around. American drivers spent about 10% less time in their vehicles to handle daily activities than they did 10 years ago. The average time spent traveling per day for all activities dropped from 1.23 hours in 2004 to 1.11 hours in 2014. So, that on-line shopping and UPS or FedEX delivery is paying off.
* Honda will voluntarily recall approximately 17,800 model-year 2015 Fit vehicles in the United States to replace the plug top ignition coils, free of charge. The original plug top ignition coils may degrade over time, which, in the worst case, could cause the vehicle’s engine to stall, potentially increasing the risk of a crash.
* FCA is recalling approximately 160,000 model-year 2014 Jeep Cherokee SUVs because of a problem with the control module for the windshield wipers that could lead to a malfunction.
* The latest James Bond film "Spectre" is beginning to get noticed and Aston Martin will celebrate 50 years of being the official Bond car by producing 150 Bond Edition DB9 GT cars. The 6.0-liter V12 sports car gets primarily cosmetic and accessory upgrades, like a special “trolly" case, and Bond Edition watch. You can order yours now at just $165,000.
* The first of the new generation of New York taxis hit the streets this week without fanfare and after years in development and stiff competition for the exclusive contract. The new cab is a Nissan NV200 variant, conventionally powered and designed specifically for its purpose. Some fleets and cabbies are balking at the $29,000 price tag. The Nissan version replaces the venerably Ford Crown Victoria and other vehicle models as the city’s only official public conveyance.
* Scott Dixon captured a fourth IndyCar championship by winning the season finale Sunday to snatch the title from Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya led in points from the season-opening race right until the final lap Sunday. But he finished sixth, allowing Dixon to tie him in the standings. Dixon was awarded the title based on wins.
* The National Corvette Museum officially reopened its Skydome this week nearly 19 months after a giant sink hole opened up beneath its floor swallowing eight special cars causing various degrees of damage. Some of the Corvettes will be returned to their original position one of which was restored by GM. The new floor has an outline of the sinkhole with a manhole and window for access and viewing of the partial cavern beneath.
Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy