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Nutson's Mega-Tweet Sized Auto News Factoids W/O February 8-14, 2016

Automotive News In Mega-Sized Nuggets

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

AUTO CENTRAL Chicago, February 14, 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 mega-tweet sized 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 and driving fan like we all are here at The Auto Channel, you can easily wish to "catch up" on these stories as well put them in context with the past 20 year's 1,968,443 automotive news, automotive stories, articles, reviews, archived news, video, audio, rants and raves. Just search The Auto Channel's Automotive News Archive.

Hey Boston TV viewers, you can now enjoy The Auto Channel TV Network "Free and Clear" on WHDT Channel 3 in Boston and on your local cable systems. Just added Naples Florida, along with all South Florida auto fans who can continue to watch The Auto Channel TV Network on WHDT-TV Channel 9 in West Palm Beach as well as cable channel's 17 and 438, channel 9 Miami. WHDN launched its full schedule (including The Auto Channel)of broadcasting in the Naples-Fort Myers market on digital PSIP channel 9.1 channel. Enjoy and thanks for the positive feedback and ratings. See You Next Week, LN.

Automotive News February 8-14, 2016

* The Chicago Auto Show opened this week led by media previews. At the opening press breakfast, the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) announced that the 2016 Volvo XC90 has been named the winner of its sixth annual Family Vehicle of the Year award. During the keynote address from Mark LaNeve, vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service Ford Motor Co., Ford took the wraps off its Chicago-built 2017 Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package. LaNeve also said that Ford will introduce four all-new SUVs in segments where they now don't compete.

* At this week's Chicago Auto Show media previews, U.S. News presented its Best Cars for the Money Awards. Winners are: Compact Cars-2016 Honda Civic; Upscale Small Cars-2016 Audi A3; Midsize Cars-2016 Toyota Camry; Upscale Midsize Cars-2016 Acura TLX; Subcompact SUVs-2016 Honda HR-V; Luxury Subcompact SUVs-2016 BMW X1; Compact SUVs-2016 Hyundai Tucson; Luxury Compact SUVs-2016 Lexus NX; Full Size Pickup Trucks-2016 Ram 1500.

* Mercedes-Benz used its time at the Chicago Auto Show this week to reveal its Sprinter Extreme concept truck based on the 3500 dually Cab Chassis heavy duty van. Looking rather cartoonesque, or Tonka Truck-like, it sports a three-way dump bed and payload capacity of 6,400 pounds, tow rating of 7,500 pounds and 4-cylinder BlueTEC diesel engine. To make it look tougher they embellished it with a graphic mud wrap.

* Other news from Chicago included three more awards for Volvo’s new XC90 that has already snagged a trophy case full of honors. In addition to the Midwest Auto Media Association naming the XC90 Best Family Car of the Year, MotorWeek gave it their Driver’s Choice Award and Consumer Guide Automotive calls it Best Buy in the Premium Midsize Crossover/SUV segment. It looks as if the XC90 could be the most honored car ever.

* How'd you like the super bowl car ads? Audi, Acura, Buick, Honda, Hyundai, Jeep, Kia, MINI and Toyota all vied for our attention at $160,000 per second. The Audi R8 increased 7,780 percent in new-car searches on following its commercial, the most of any advertised model during Super Bowl 50, according to Kelley Blue Book. Rounding out the top three advertised models, the Kia Optima's creative use of Christopher Walken and socks, and the Hyundai Genesis spiked in consumer traffic, gaining 496 percent and 400 percent, respectively. For me, the Audi R8 spot was exhilarating and I loved the bouquet catch in the Buick Cascada spot. And the Toyota Prius bank robber spot nicely showed off the streets of Chicago.

* Gas prices keep dropping. The national average is $1.74 and in Chicago, where prices are usually higher, the average is $1.67. Why? Because cheap Canadian oil has boosted gasoline inventories in the Midwest. Prices may go lower before they rise because refineries soon need to switch to blending summer grade gasoline and the winter supplies need to be sold off. Gas is expected to average below $2 per gallon throughout 2016.

* However, all is not rosy with low gasoline prices. The prolonged slump in oil prices has investors worried that U.S. companies that drill for crude may not be able to pay back their loans. The Mideast oil cartel is over producing intentionally to put American companies out of the oil business, so they can make more money.

* Bridgestone-Firestone North America is recalling nearly 36,000 heavy truck tires in the U.S. and Canada because the tread can separate from the body and cause the tires to fail. The recall covers 22.5-inch Firestone FS561 replacement tires made from Jan. 25, 2015 to Jan. 27, 2016.

* Various reports coming from Germany say that VW will offer generous compensation to the owners of diesel vehicles in the U.S. affected by the cheating scandal. Reports say VW has still not decided whether vehicle owners will be offered cash, car buy-backs, repairs or replacement cars. What's holding thing up is the final approval by U.S. regulators of the plan to fix the vehicles.

* Volkswagen posted its best sales month ever worldwide in spite of the diesel cheating scandal credited with a 5.2% decline in December, its first decline since 2002. The multi-brand VW conglomerate posted a 5.8% increase led by strong sales in China. VW recently began recalling the 8.5 million vehicles that are part of the diesel problem. The problem also caused a delay in posting the company's financial results as they try to figure out the cost of the fiasco.

* Want to get in to the self-driving car arena? Automotive News reported this week that Google is hiring, but not in development, rather in manufacturing. Three dozen job listings for engineers with a variety of manufacturing backgrounds imply that they are thinking of actually making cars in spite of statements to the contrary. Google self-driving car boss, John Krafcik, a respected and experienced auto executive, took over the project some months ago making us think they are really thinking of making cars. (SEE ALSO Hey Car Industry Open Your Eyes, The Silicon Valley Crowd Is On Their Way To Appliance-ize Cars (And The Need For Your Company)

* There's a war of words between SEMA and EPA over the conversion of street cars to race cars. SEMA says EPA is changing its position regarding race cars. At issue is proposed regulation language that would be added to existing auto emissions rules that ban tampering with or disabling emissions control systems on passenger cars and engines, including vehicles intended solely for racing. SEMA says this proposed regulation represents overreaching by the agency, runs contrary to the law and defies decades of racing activity where EPA has acknowledged and allowed conversion of vehicles. EPA says there is no real change, only a clarification.

* The collector car experts at Hagerty released their annual list of vehicles that stand out as likely collector cars within the next 25 years. In order to be considered for the "Hagerty Hot List," the vehicle must be produced within the 2016 model year with an MSRP of less than $100,000. The 2016 Hagerty Hot List is: Mazda MX-5 Miata, Ford Focus RS, Chevrolet Camaro SS, BMW M2, Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang, Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, Porsche Cayman GT4, Dodge Viper SRT Coupe, Cadillac ATS-V, and Lotus Evora 400.

* Mercedes-Benz will recall another 841,000 vehicles in the U.S. to replace potentially defective air-bag inflators made by Japan's Takata. The recall involves 705,000 Mercedes-Benz cars and 136,000 Daimler vans in the U.S. Models and model years were not immediately specified.

* GM is recalling 473,000 pickups and SUVs in North America because brake pedals could fail due to a faulty nut. Affected are 426,573 2015-16 Chevrolet Silverado HD, GMC Sierra HD, and Chevrolet Tahoe police vehicles in the United States and 46,837 in Canada.

* The NHTSA said that the "self-driving system" in Google cars could be considered a car's driver. A consumer watchdog group was quick to say NHTSA is making a mistake. We see this as one of the many regulation hurdles to clear the way for greater autonomy in vehicles. All of this will take some time to work out, perhaps longer than it takes to develop the technology.

* For the first time in over 25 years a domestic car ad appears in the latest print edition of Playboy magazine. The ad plugs the Dodge Viper. As you might have heard, or seen, the print edition of Playboy no long has photos of unclothed models.

* We now have the entire lineup for the new Top Gear UK TV program that went away when controversial former star Jeremy Clarkson was sacked for assaulting a staff member. The super-popular car show is resurrected with more central characters including Matt LeBlanc, whom we all know from the long-running show Friends. Other hosts are Rory Reid, Sabine Schmitz, Chris Evans, Chris Harris, Eddie Jordan and “the mysterious Stig.”

* We don’t usually cover politics in this forum but we can’t resist passing along this tidbit reported by AutoWeek. It seems a group of anti-Clinton activists are attempting a crowd funding effort to display their message - No Hillary ’16”- on an Indianapolis 500 race car. The goal is to raise nearly a million dollars but with less than two months left in the funding period they so far have just 13 donors and $760.