Nutson's Weekly Auto News Digest - November 16-22, 2015: LA Awards, LA Reveals, Comings and Goings, Tesla Talks and VW Of Course.
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest - November 22, 2015;
* The Los Angeles auto show media previews took place this week. The all-new 2016 Toyota Prius, 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio sedan, Fiat's rebirth of the 124 Spider roadster, Caddy's new XT5 crossover, the 2017 Ford Escape with two new engines and the new face of Lincoln on a revamped 2017 MKZ sedan all caught our attention. VW, Kia, Infiniti, Jaguar and others revealed more "newness" that followed a general theme at the show of being more practical and yet chock full of new technologies.
* FCA announced at the LA Auto Show this week it will be bringing back the iconic 124 Spider next year as a 2017 model. The new two-seat convertible will be “updated for the modern consumer,” they insist. The original rear-wheel drive car with modest power was sold in the U.S. from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. The new car, based on the new Mazda Miata, will also be rear-wheel drive and be powered by a 1.4-litre turbo four-cylinder engine good for 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque.
* Toyota introduced the newest hybrid in their lineup this week - RAV4. That makes eight vehicles in their lineup with the Hybrid Synergy Drive mild hybrid system that adds around 10 to 15% to the fuel mileage of each vehicle. Toyota’s luxury division Lexus also boasts 6 hybrids. The media launch for RAV4 Hybrid was combined with the launch of the newest, fourth generation, hybrid Prius that rides on a new global platform.
* For the first time in the magazine brand's 66-year history, MOTOR TREND announced winners of the Golden Calipers for Car of the Year, Truck of the Year, SUV of the Year, and Person of the Year at a red-carpet gala in front of an audience of industry insiders and celebrity guests. 2016 MOTOR TREND winners are: Car - 2016 Chevrolet Camaro, Truck - 2016 Chevrolet Colorado, SUV - Volvo XC90, Person - Thomas Doll, Subaru of America President and Chief Operating Officer.
* In conjunction with the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, Road & Travel Magazine has named the 2016 Kia Optima as its International Car of the Year and also named the 2016 Sorento its International SUV of the Year.
* Green Car Journal named the 2016 Chevrolet Volt the 2016 Green Car of the Year, the 2016 Ford F-150 as the magazine's 2016 Green Truck of the Year and the 2016 Ram ProMaster City as its 2016 Commercial Green Car of the Year.
* Car and Driver has named its 10Best for 2016 and they are: BMW M235i, Cadillac CTS Vsport, Chevy Camaro, Ford Shelby GT350/GT350R, Honda Accord, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Mazda3, Porsche Boxster/Cayman, Tesla Model S, and Volkswagen Golf/GTI/R.
* Carvana, the first complete online auto retailer and Forbes 5th Most Promising Company, launched the world’s first, fully-automated, coin-operated car Vending Machine in Nashville, Tenn. Carvana customers can now purchase a car entirely online and choose to receive their car through a proprietary and fully-automated pick-up experience, similar to how a can of soda is dispensed from a traditional vending machine. The vending machine is a state-of-the-art, multi-story structure that delivers customers’ cars by merely inserting a custom coin. Go figure!
* Do you still play CDs for music listening? The demise of the in-car CD player is near. According to a report from IHS Automotive, the car dash board CD's days are numbered. Many new cars on the market today have no CD player. Seventeen percent last year and 24 percent this year will have no CD player available. By 2012 it will be nearly half at 46 percent. Note that no CD player makes more room for a bigger touch-screen.
* Ford has developed a new “Drugged Driving Suit” designed to show drivers the dangers of driving under the influence of illegal drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin. Ford developed the suit together with scientists from the respected Meyer-Hentschel Institute in Germany to simulate some of the effects of drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and MDMA (commonly known as Ecstasy); including slower reaction time, distorted vision, hand tremors and poor coordination. The Drugged Driving Suit will be incorporated into Ford Driving Skills for Life, the award-winning novice driver education program that has provided free training to more than half a million people globally.
* Byron, Michigan driver Erik Jones won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with a win at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 19-year-old finished the EcoBoost 200 race in sixth place to win the series by 15 points beating nearest rival Tyler Reddick. The youngest driver to win the World Truck Series, Jones drives the No. 4 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
* Tesla made a rare appearance before an automotive media group this week visiting the Detroit Automotive Press Association to offer an update on the company, its plans and philosophy. Not much real news was made at the event but Tesla VP, Diamuid O’Connell confirmed plans to introduce the new mainstream, high production, lower cost Model 3 next March to begin production in early 2017. Tesla recently issued a voluntary recall of all Model S sedans to fix a mounting bracket but Mr. O’Connell said that was just a precaution and not a serious safety issue.
* Legendary illustrator and artist Art Fitzpatrick died this week at age 96. Fitzpatrick began his career as a car designer for Briggs Body Company, then he designed for Chrysler, Lincoln and Packard in the 1930s and 1940s. After WWII he began doing illustrations for Mercury advertising partnering with Van Kaufman a former Disney animator. Together they produced some of the most successful advertising art in the automotive business for many years, particularly known for their Pontiac images in the “Wide Track” era. Fitzpatrick is thought of as a patriarch in the automobile fine art community and produced two series of U.S. postage stamps.
* Volkswagen submitted proposed fixes for diesel engines affected by the emissions-cheating scandal to the German government this week according to reports in Automotive News Europe. The proposal affects just the 1.6-liter engine and involves both hardware and software fixes. VW also said they have other proposed solutions for the other engines with the exception of the 1.2-liter diesel that is not sold in the U.S. VW met with U.S. regulators this week to submit proposed fixes for vehicles here. Details have not yet been made public. VW is quickly becoming the text book case of what not to do in handling a scandal.
* As the week came to a close the final votes were counted on the UAW contract deals with both GM and Ford. Both new contracts were ratified by narrow margins. Now all three Detroit-based car companies can move forward for another four years.