Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest - October 12-18, 2015: Still VW, Truck of the Year, Toyota H2 Oh!, Tesla, Recalls, Volvo Electrifies
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
AUTO CENTRAL - Paris - October 18, 2015; Every Sunday Larry Nutson, Senior Editor and Chicago Bureau Chief along with fellow senior editors Steve Purdy and Thom Cannell from The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau, give you TACH's "take" on this past week's automotive news in easy to digest nuggets.
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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest - October 18, 2015
* Do you know how all the safety features on your car work? Have you read the most unread book in the world, the owner's manual? The National Safety council and the University of Iowa, along with the Department of Transportation, have begun an education campaign to inform drivers on how car and truck safety features work. The effort includes a website, MyCarDoesWhat.org, with video demonstrations.
* Volkswagen will switch to new diesel emissions control technology in Europe and North America as well as cut a billion euros ($1.1 billion) in annual investment spending. The company will change its diesel technology in Europe and North America and install systems that use a mixture of the chemical substance urea and water to reduce diesel emissions.
* The German government turned down Volkswagen’s offer of a voluntary recall to deal with the diesel emissions scandal and ordered mandatory recall of 2.4 million cars to begin in January. VW will recall approximately 8.5 million cars throughout Europe. The recalls will be overseen by the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (the equivalent of the U.S. NHTSA) and they will be requiring full transparency.
* In further developments from the troubled automaker, VW appointed executive Dr. Winfried Vahland, a 25-year veteran of the company who currently leads the Czech Skoda brand, to a new post overseeing all of North American operations a few weeks ago but Dr. Vahland resigned this week citing disagreement with his bosses on how to handle the crisis. The new job was supposed to begin November 1st. No word yet on a replacement.
* VW will launch an all-electric Phaeton sedan as its flagship and increase its focus on long range plug-in hybrids and high-volume electric vehicles with a range of up to 300 km (186 miles). Watch out Tesla.
* Hollywood is jumping in to the VW diesel scandal. Paramount Pictures and Leonardo DiCaprio's production company Appian Way have optioned the rights to a book proposal from New York Times journalist Jack Ewing about the ongoing debacle.
* If all VW’s other problems were not enough, a report commissioned by Bloomberg and produced by Stout Risius Ross finds that VW’s reporting of injuries and fatal crashes may be fudged. The reported rate is so far below that of other automakers it calls into question the accuracy of reporting. NHTSA relies on manufacturers reports since they do not have enough staff to oversee reporting themselves. Chrysler recently revealed it had been under-reporting.
* The all-new 2016 Nissan TITAN XD full-size pickup has been named "Truck of Texas" by the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) in its annual 2015 Texas Truck Rodeo. The Volvo XC90 was voted the new CUV of Texas and the Ford Explorer Platinum voted the SUV of Texas.
* Automotive industry research companies IntelliChoice and AutoPacific announced the winners of the 2015 Motorist Choice Awards. Winning vehicles came from 13 different brands and 10 different manufacturers. Toyota has the most wins with an even mix of winning cars and trucks from the Toyota and Lexus brands. GM has dominated in the truck segments and follows with 5 winning vehicles from 3 brands, all in truck segments. The remaining wins go to Honda with 3 wins, Hyundai and BMW with 2 wins each, and Volvo, Subaru, Volkswagen, Mazda and Ford, each with 1 win.
* Toyota is aiming to sell hardly any regular gasoline vehicles by 2050, only hybrids and fuel cells, to radically reduce emissions. Electric cars are not part of the plan.
* Kia will recall 377,000 Sorento SUVs in the U.S. after reports of three injuries from parked vehicles rolling away. The recall covers the 2011-13 Sorento.
* Green Car Journal announced finalists for the prestigious Green Car of the Year award to be presented at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. Finalists are 2016 Audi A3 E-Tron, Chevy Volt, Honda Civic, Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Prius. Nominees are vetted by Green Car Journal editors and the winner is selected by a panel of jurors from environmental, automotive and energy organizations as well as knowledgeable car people like Jay Leno. As an aside, the VW Golf TDI was a previous GCOY winner and the award was rescinded due to the VW diesel scandal.
* Tesla Motors announced a new autopilot system that lets cars change lanes by themselves. The autopilot update will be added to around 60,000 vehicles worldwide, including Model S sedans made after September 2014 and Model X SUVs. Tesla did say you will still need to keep your hands on the steering wheel.
* Volvo announced plans to fully electrify it's fleet by 2019. By then all models will have a plug-in hybrid powertrain and they will also produce their first full-electric vehicle by then. The Chinese-owned Swedish manufacturer currently sells a variety of luxury sedans and crossovers. Volvo has committed to building no vehicles with more than four cylinders though they have a few 5-cylinder models reaching the end of their run. A new 4-cylinder hybrid powertrain for the XC90 will have 472 pound-feet of torque and 0-to60 time of 5.9 seconds.