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Nutson's Weekly Auto News Digest - November 30-December 6, 2015; NAIAS No Shows; e-Porsche; Buick Made in China, Dart Recall, VW GTI Up, Eye On Design Awards And More


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

AUTO CENTRAL Chicago, December 6, 2015; Every Sunday Larry Nutson, Senior Editor and Chicago Car Guy 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. If you wish to know more just click on the link that will take you to the full story as published here on The Auto Channel.

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 1,956,665 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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* Green Car Journal has announced its five finalists for the prestigious 2016 Green SUV of the Year award to be presented at the 2016 Washington, DC Auto Show. Finalists include the BMW X1 xDrive28i, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-3, and Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

* Winter is coming — and just in time, so are all-new Mopar winter wheel assemblies. The all-new Mopar winter wheel assemblies are available for order for a variety of FCA US vehicles. Assemblies include a winter tire, steel rim and Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), and are delivered mounted and balanced, so you or your dealership can quickly and easily pop off all-season rims and rubber and put on cold-weather appropriate gear. Mopar winter wheel assembly prices will range between $242 to $292 per wheel, depending on the vehicle. Dealer installation is separate.

* Ford also offers a winter wheel and tire factory option for the Focus RS. They are in additional to the performance wheels and tires that come on the RS. We point out here that winter tires are not just about driving in snow. They improve driving dynamics and stopping ability at temperatures below 45 degrees F, when all season or summer tires get too hard.

* More brands will not have a presence at the North American International Auto Show this January. Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association and boss of the North American International (Detroit) Auto Show, told us this week that Mini, Jaguar, Land Rover, Bentley and Tesla will not participate in the show this year citing no new product, priorities on other shows, as well as a focus on other kinds of events. The space vacated by Mini will allow BMW to expand their display space. The NAIAS remains the most important auto show in the U.S. and one of the top five in the world. However, more and more car brands are going it alone so as to not have to share the media limelight in big venues like auto shows and also focusing more on their most important markets. However, we note that Aston Martin is returning to the Detroit show for the first time since 2009.

* November new vehicle sales, usually tepid, were boosted by Black Friday sales. Sales were up 1.4 percent to 1.32 million. The SAAR came in at 18.2 million. Pickups and SUVs continue to be the big sellers. Other factors that influenced that number are fuel prices, interest rates and strong demand in most categories. Most every brand saw sales increases. However, VW got hit hard due to the diesel scandal. Honda was down due to Acura sales drop. Analysts forecast that when we close out 2015 sales will exceed 17 million.  

* Volkswagen posted a 25% drop in overall sales and Audi showed a tiny increase of 0.4% for November in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal. Stop Sale orders on diesels and lack of inventory on unaffected models are credited with the sales slumps. Some models from these two manufacturers saw substantial increases. The hot-hatch Golf GTI was up 13.8% and the Tiguan small crossover posted an increase of 87.7%.

* 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 November was 25.0 mpg—down 0.1 mpg from the revised value for October.  This decline likely reflects the continuing drop in the price of gasoline in November, and the consequent increased sales of pickup trucks, SUVs, and crossovers.  Fuel economy is down 0.8 mpg from the peak reached in August 2014, but still up 4.9 mpg since October 2007 (the first month of our monitoring).

* We just picked up on a new racetrack in Massachusetts. Palmer Motorsports Park is located in Whiskey Hill, 7 miles off the Mass Pike. It opened in May of this year and is the first true road course in Massachusetts. Created for driver training, testing, and competitive events, the PMP track is 2.3 miles long, 40-feet wide, 190 feet of elevation in an alpine wilderness.

* The Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule designed to increase production of ethanol to be blended with gasoline through 2016. The agency said it will require more than 18 billion gallons of renewable fuels, most of it ethanol. The amount is less than was set in a 2007 renewable fuels law, but more than was proposed by the EPA in May. The decision doesn’t necessarily mean a higher percentage of ethanol in an individual driver’s tank – now at 10 percent in most instances – and isn’t likely to have much effect on gas prices. But it does mean there will be a higher supply of the homegrown fuel overall.

* Perhaps you no longer need to know how to change a tire. A study by the American Automobile Association, AAA, found that 36 percent of 2015 models come with run-flat tires or tire inflation kits instead of a spare tire. That’s up from just 5 percent in 2006. This is making for more business for AAA who now have to tow vehicles with a flat to a repair shop.

* Fiat Chrysler is recalling around 121,600 Dodge Dart compact cars worldwide because of a defect that could affect their brake systems. The recall affects 2013 and 2014 model year Darts with 2-liter and 2.4-liter engines.

* A new report from The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute's authored by  Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle analyzes the expected changes in the amount of driving and trip-length distributions by personal vehicles, should completely self-driving vehicles become widely available. The study was initiated since a large percentage of young adults (those between 18 and 39 years of age) currently do not have a driver’s license. A conclusion of the study is that the availability of self-driving vehicles would INCREASE the demand for private road transportation by up to 11%. So….the advent of self driving cars would put MORE personally-used cars on the road. Just what we need, more congestion.

* We learned this week right from the horse’s mouth that the first fully electric Porsche will hit the market at the “end of the decade.” Executive Board chairman Dr. Oliver Blume is quoted as saying, “this is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the sports car.” The four-door Mission E concept car debuted at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in September garnering mostly enthusiastic reviews of its forward-looking design and is expected to have a 300-mile range and a 0 to 60 mph time of about 3.5 seconds. 

* Buick confirmed that it will begin selling the Chinese-made Envision mid-size crossover in the U.S. next summer. The Envision will be the first vehicle made in China by any of the Detroit-3 to be sold in the U.S. It will be shown in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

* As we reported last week the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, one of the country’s premier facilities, reopened after an extensive redesign. Partly because of its dramatic and controversial exterior design, inspired by air movement around a car when under wind tunnel development, it is now a landmark in the museum district of that city. Inside it becomes much more interactive with new exhibits including an actual classroom for the Art Center College of Design. For a preview see the Eye Candy story from our colleague Larry Edsall of

  * One of the most prestigious awards for auto designers was announced this week. The EyesOn Design Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Stewart Reed chairman of the Transportation Design Department at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Reed has designed and fabricated more than 20 concept vehicles for a variety of companies. EyesOn Design is a long-standing, highly respected project of the Detroit Institute of Opthalmology and includes a premier car show at the Eleanor and Edsel Estate in Grosse Pointe Shores, MI on Fathers Day where the award will be presented.