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Nutson's Weekly Auto News Digest - January 4-10, 2016; MPG, Droven Home, Awards, GM Hedging Bet, Black and Blue, VW and Recalls Of Course


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

AUTO CENTRAL Chicago, January 10, 2016; 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 1,962,123 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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* U.S. auto sales total for 2015 hit a new record at 17.47 million. The old record was 17.35 million set in 2000. Ford's F-series truck was the nation's top selling vehicle at 780,354. It seems the aluminum-body idea was a good one! GM was the sales leader and Ford was the best selling brand. VW sales fell 5% on the heels of the diesel scandal. Actually, car sales were down significantly but the market surged for SUVs, pickups and crossovers. Among U.S. automakers sedan sales dropped 11% but pickups and SUVs showed a 15% gain. Lower fuel prices, a confident consumer base and changing tastes in vehicles are usually credited for the strong performance in the market. The sales pace for 2016 is expected to slow but could set another new record.

* The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas has become a strong secondary venue for the introduction of both new vehicles and new automotive technologies. That trend continued this week as Chevy introduced the production version of the new Bolt full-electric subcompact car we saw as a concept at last year’s Detroit auto show. Ford formally announced its new direction as a “mobility” company rather than a car company. VW revealed a new full-electric micro bus. And autonomous vehicle technologies were everywhere.

* The North American International Auto Show in Detroit begins this upcoming week with two days of media events. Notably absent will be Mini, Bentley, Maserati, Rolls Royce, Tesla, Jaguar and Land Rover. Their spaces have were quickly soaked up at this, one of the five most important motor shows in the world. Over 5,000 media folks from 60 countries are expected to cover the show. Regular visitors to the show will notice a redesigned floor plan that has manufacturers in unexpected places. The NAIAS reports over $200 million in all new exhibits. Watch for complete coverage of the show here on The Auto Channel.

* The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute's latest report from Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle says average fuel economy (window-sticker value) of new vehicles sold in the U.S. in December was 24.9 mpg—down 0.2 mpg from the revised value for November. This decline likely reflects the continuing drop in the price of gasoline in December, and the consequent increased sales of pickup trucks, SUVs, and crossovers. Fuel economy is down 0.9 mpg from the peak reached in August 2014, but still up 4.8 mpg since October 2007 (the first month of our monitoring). The average fuel economy of vehicles sold in calendar year 2015 was 25.3 mpg, down 0.1 mpg from the value for the vehicles sold in 2014.

* The Detroit Free Press Car and Truck of the year are the 2016 Chevy Malibu and the 2016 Volvo VXC90, respectively. Soon we'll know the NACTOY winners. I wonder if they will be the same two?

* Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. ("FCA") and Ferrari N.V. ("Ferrari") announced that the separation of the Ferrari business from the FCA group was completed on January 3, 2016. FCA shareholders are entitled to receive one common share of Ferrari for every 10 FCA common shares held.

* California's Clean Vehicle Rebate Project will finally implement its income-based green car incentives in March 2016, and the change will mean the state's wealthiest buyers will no longer receive aid to buy electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids, according to research by CarsDirect. However, lower-income customers will see their reimbursement level increase. The long-planned move is part of the state's strategy to encourage driving green among the middle class.

* The next chapter in the Volkswagen diesel scandal story will unfold next week as VW’s new boss Matthias Mueller goes to Washington to meet with government officials. The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, filed a civil complaint in federal court in Detroit, Michigan against Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations, LLC, Porsche AG, and Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (collectively referred to as Volkswagen). This could mean billions of dollars in fines and liabilities for the company. Meanwhile, some State's Attorneys General are complaining that VW is not cooperating and hampering their investigation by claiming Germany's privacy laws preclude them from turning over internal e-mails and other communications.

* The AIADA newsletter reported that Volkswagen AG assumes it will have to buy back about 115,000 cars in the United States as a result of the emissions scandal, reports CNBC. Without citing its sources, Germany's daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung said the company expected it would have to either refund the purchase price of a fifth of the diesel vehicles affected or offer a new car at a significant discount. Volkswagen expects that the rest of the vehicles will need major refits. Nothing definitive has yet been decided.

* Lyft the ride-sharing service is getting a $500 million investment from General Motors. Lyft and GM are creating an Autonomous On-Demand Network and will also work together on a series of national rental hubs where Lyft drivers can rent short-term vehicles, unlocking new ways for people to earn money without having to own a car.

* Who said it's winter? It's time for motorsports. This weekend, January 8 - 10, the Roar Before the Rolex 24 kicks off the racing season at DAYTONA and we'll see drivers in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. It will be the first major racing event at the speedway following the completion of the $400 million “DAYTONA Rising” project at the World Center of Racing.

* The 2016 Dakar rally officially kicked off with its first stage at the start of the week with the field of competitors across four categories taking to the Argentinian roads. Criss-crossing Argentina and Bolivia the first stage was marred by a crash that injured four spectators. Robby Gordon in his quest to become the first American to win the Dakar Rally, overcame two days of horrible course conditions to post his first top ten finish of the 38 Annual Dakar Rally in the fourth stage mid-week. Formerly run through the desert terrain of North Africa the Rally is now a South American event that covers some of the roughest roads on earth. Gordon who has won many races in NASCAR, IndyCar, CART, TransAm and many other series is driving a Gordini super car on Toyo tires covering roads as high as 11,500 feet. Stage Five travels through Bolivia and San Salvador and has the potential to shake up the field.

* At the January Gooding and Company auction in Scottsdale you can bid on the Dallara-Honda racecar driven to victory in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 by Ryan Hunter-Reay. Andretti Autosport, an IndyCar team that owns the car, is offering it with a catch: The new owner must allow Andretti Autosport to continue racing the car through the 2018 season. After that, the new owner can take delivery of the car. In exchange for the wait the new owner will be immersed with the team for this year's 100th running of the Indy 500. Looks like we have a new way to fund a motorsports program.

* Axalta Coating Systems, a leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings, announced its North American Automotive Color of the Year for 2016 – Brilliant Blue. Brilliant Blue is a mid-shade blue that has both depth and vividness with slight turquoise highlights. It is made with Axalta’s high chroma Vermeera technology using a multi-layer process to achieve both an intense blue color and a unique sparkle effect.

* Participants in "The Drive Home" arrived in the Detroit Area Thursday after 2,900 miles in 11 days crossing the U.S. from Tacoma, WA. Three cars, a ’57 Chevy Nomad, a ’61 Chrysler 300G and a ’66 Mustang emerged from the LeMay, America’s Car Museum with the goal of getting to Detroit in time to open the North American International Auto Show. A handful of reporters pitched in to drive the cars for segments of the route and your The Auto Channel Detroit editor Steve Purdy took the route across the Rocky Mountains where the cars conquered the famous Loveland Pass at 11,990 feet.