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Nutson's Weekly Auto News Digest - December 7-13 2015; UAW-VW, EV'S: Ford To Invest $4.5B, Faraday $1.5B, Gov't OK's Kit Cars


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

AUTO CENTRAL Chicago, December 13, 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.

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* Ford will invest an additional $4.5 billion, its largest five-year investment ever, in electrified vehicle solutions and introduce 13 new models by 2020. By the end of the decade 40 percent of Ford's nameplates globally will be electrified. The Focus EV will get a new DC fast charge capability to enable an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes that will provide a 100 mile range.

* The NHTSA has proposed upgrading its five-star rating system for new vehicles by adding standards for crash-avoidance technology and using more human-like test dummies that better measure crash impacts on the body. Starting with 2019 models, officials would also add an angled front collision test and a rating for how well vehicles mitigate pedestrian crashes. The changes would mark the first time the ratings consider the safety of people outside a vehicle.

* The NHTSA has fined Fiat Chrysler Automobiles $70-million for under-reporting crash, death and injury data tied to its cars and trucks. It's a violation of the TREAD act which requires automakers to report data involving vehicle crashes, deaths, lawsuits, warranty claims and other information to NHTSA.

* The United Auto Workers (UAW) has won a union vote among skilled-trades workers at Volkswagen’s lone U.S. assembly plant in Tennessee. The workers who specialize in repairing and maintaining machinery and robots at the German automaker’s factory in Chattanooga voted 108-44. Volkswagen had objected to the new vote for the UAW to represent just the 162 skilled-trades workers, arguing that all 1,400 blue-collar workers should have a say over union issues. 

* It’s a new era for the kit car industry.  President Obama signed into law legislation that will permit low volume car manufacturers to produce turn-key replica vehicles for customers nationwide. The just-passed Motor Vehicle Safety Act exempts low-volume carmakers from crash-test standards. The Low Volume Manufacturer bill, now law, specifically allows small-volume automakers to construct up to 325 replica cars a year subject to federal regulatory oversight. Replica cars resemble production vehicles manufactured at least 25 years ago. Engines powering the cars still have to meet emissions, which at the moment means using GM engines since none other comply.

* Finalists for the prestigious 2016 North American Car and Truck of the Year awards were announced this week at an Automotive Press Association event in Detroit. Car of the Year nominees are Honda Civic, Chevrolet Malibu and Mazda MX-5 Miata. Truck/Utility of the Year candidates are Honda Pilot, Nissan Titan XD and Volvo XC90. The jury is composed of 53 independent automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada. No manufacturer sponsorship is allowed to muddy the waters. The Mazda Miata just won the 2015/2016 Car of the Year in Japan. The two winners will be announced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 11.

* In an effort to draw more interest, the 2016 North American International Auto Show will host “The Drive Home,” a first-of-its-kind promotional tour in which three classic cars from America’s Car Museum will drive from Tacoma, Washington, to Detroit. A 1957 Chevrolet Nomad, a 1961 Chrysler 300G two-door hardtop and a 1966 Ford Mustang will make the 11-day journey that will include stops and enthusiast club rallies at roughly 10 cities.The event starts on Dec 27 and will culminate Jan 8 with a drive down famed Woodward Avenue.

* Volkswagen said only a small group of employees was responsible for cheating U.S. diesel emissions tests. Board members were not involved in the sham which is the result of a "chain of errors". More time is needed to figure out the exact culprits which began as far back as 2005. Also, the CO2 emissions problem affecting cars in Europe now appears to involve far fewer vehicles. The number now is 36,000 instead of the previous 800,000.

* Ford is recalling about 451,865 cars, including 411,205 in the U.S., because their fuel tanks may crack and leak gasoline, potentially leading to fire. The company will recall its 2010-2011 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan cars.

* Janis Joplin's psychedelically painted 1964 Porsche 356 C Cabriolet was up for sale at the recent RM Sotheby's sale of vintage cars in New York. Expecting to sell for around $600,000 it instead sold for a wining bid of $1.76 million. "Oh Lord won't you buy me a ……"

* Anyone who has followed sports car racing since the 1970s will know the famous Brumos Porsche dealership in Jacksonville, Florida, sponsor of one of the most successful racing teams of the time. Started by Peter Gregg in 1971 the team competed in IMSA GT winning the Daytona 24 Hours four times and dominated much of endurance racing. The Porsche dealership, established in 1959, has been sold to Field Automotive a small dealer group in Florida. 

* Famous car designer Henrik Fisker promises to show two cars at the upcoming North American International (Detroit) Auto Show, one of which will be a classic American super car. Fisker, who designed the Aston Martin DB9, BMW Z8 and other exceptional cars, went into the car business himself with the hybrid Fisker Karma exotic sedan but could not sustain the company. That company is now owned by a Chinese partnership. 

* Hagerty Insurance keeps close track of classic and collector car auctions and this week posted the top 10 highest priced cars at auction since 2010. Here are just the top three: 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO at Bonhams Quail Lodge Auction - $38,115,000: 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 at Bonhams Goodwood Auction at $29,700,000; and 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spider at RM’s Monterey auction at $27,500,000. For the full list see: CLICK HERE.

* The carmaker most of us have never heard of called Faraday Future announced this week plans to invest a billion dollars in a manufacturing plant near Las Vegas to build a full electric car to compete with other electrics including Tesla. The company is backed by Chinese businessman Jia Yueting, known to some as the Chinese Steve Jobs according to our colleagues at the Detroit Bureau. Because of significant government incentives Tesla is also in the process of investing in the Las Vegas area with a new “Gigafactory."

* We reported last week that Buick will bring their new compact crossover Envision to the U.S. market this summer as the first Chinese-built mainstream vehicle to be sold here. The brand already has Enclave large crossover built in Michigan, and Korean-built subcompact crossover called Encore. The new Envision is built on the new global platform that will underpin the next generation of Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain. Pricing has not been announced but is expected to compete with vehicles like the Audi Q-5 that start in the mid 30-grand range.