Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest - February 29-March 6, 2016
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
AUTO CENTRAL Chicago, March 6, 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 1,970,443 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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The Past Week's Automotive News Highlights In Easy To Digest Chunks
February 29-March 6, 2016
* The Road to World Car awards journey continues with announcement of the Top Three in the World finalists in five award categories at the Geneva International Motor Show. Winners will be announced at the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) on March 24, 2016. Finalists are: 2016 World Car of the Year: Audi A4 Sedan/Avant, Mazda MX-5, Mercedes-Benz GLC; 2016 World Luxury Car: Audi Q7, BMW 7 Series, Volvo XC90; 2016 World Performance Car: Audi R8 Coupe, Honda Civic Type R, Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupé; 2016 World Green Car: Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Mirai (Hydrogen Fuel Cell), Toyota Prius (Hybrid); 2016 World Car Design of the Year: Jaguar XE, Mazda CX-3, Mazda MX-5.
* The early March Geneva International Motor Show always delivers many exotics, convertibles, and sports cars. We saw the new Corvette StingRay Gran Sport, the Porsche 911R, Volvo's gorgeous V90 wagon, the 280 mph Bugatti Chiron, Mercedes-Benz C-class convertible and of course an SUV or two including the new Maserati Levante.
* February new vehicle sales followed in January's footsteps and continued to be strong gaining a 6.8% increase. Americans bought or leased 1.34 million vehicles, equating to an annual sales rate of 17.5 million. Ford is up a whopping 20%. FCA, Honda and Nissan also had double digit gains. Land Rover, Lincoln and Volvo brands have 30% increases.
* Volvo Cars’ S90 premium sedan has been voted Production Car Design of the Year 2015 by a panel of professional car designers from around the globe. The award, presented by Car Design News at the Geneva Motor Show, represents the pinnacle of automotive design awards. The jury is made up of eighteen top car designers from around the world from companies such as Bentley, Daimler, McLaren and Ferrari.
* Nearly 87 percent of drivers engaged in at least one risky behavior while behind the wheel within the past month, according to latest research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. These unsafe behaviors include driving while distracted, impaired, drowsy, speeding, running red lights or not wearing a seat belt. These results come as nearly 33,000 Americans died in car crashes in 2014, and preliminary estimates project a nine percent increase in deaths for 2015.
* Three out of four U.S. drivers, that's 75%, report feeling "afraid" to ride in a self-driving car, according to a new survey from AAA. Most uncomfortable were women and baby boomers. With today's heightened focus on autonomous vehicles, this fear poses a potential concern to the automotive industry as consumers may be reluctant to fully embrace the self-driving car. Despite this significant fear, AAA also found that drivers who own vehicles equipped with semi- autonomous driver-assistance features are, on average, 75% more likely to trust the technology than those that do not own it, suggesting that gradual experience with these advanced features can ease consumer fears.
* Meanwhile, on Valentine's Day a Google autonomous car caused its first crash when it changed lanes into a bus with the accident report just being released last week. The autonomous Lexus RX crossover moved into the right lane to make a turn when it sensed an obstruction. When it tried to go around the obstruction it bumped into the side of the oncoming bus. No injuries resulted from this very low speed crash. This Google car had been programmed to act more like a human driver, and look what happened. Google’s autonomous cars have driven over 1.3 million miles in testing with 17 crashes, all caused by human error.
* 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 February 2016 was 25.2 mpg—unchanged from the revised value for January 2016. Fuel economy is down 0.6 mpg from the peak reached in August 2014, but still up 5.1 mpg since October 2007 (the first month of their monitoring).
* On that note we should mention that gasoline prices are starting to rise. Rising crude oil prices and the switch over to summer blend fuel is contributing.
* Automotive News reports that Volkswagen's brand chief Herbert Diess said it will take months rather than weeks to reach an agreement with U.S. regulators on an emissions fix for 600,000 diesel cars. This coming from an interview with the German regional newspaper, Wolfsburger Allgemeine Zeitung. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer last month turned up the heat on Volkswagen by setting a March 24 deadline for the carmaker to state whether it has found a fix that is acceptable to U.S. regulators. Weeks turn in to months, meanwhile there are fewer and fewer cars to fix.
* It’s never too early for a car company to begin courting its next generation of buyers. Witness Audi’s announcement that the popular Lego brand of construction toys will soon offer two special Audi race cars, the R8 LMS Ultra that won the Nurburgring in 2014 and the E-Tron Quattro that won the FIA World Endurance Championship. Other new vehicles offered by Lego include a Corvette Z06, Mustang GT, Camaro drag racer, Porsche 911 and Ford f-150 Raptor.
* How much horsepower can you stuff into a Ford Focus? We learned this week that a 600-horsepower, version of the 2.0-liter engine with 664 pound-feet of torque will power a rallycross version of the Focus RS to contest the Supercar WRX class in the World Rallycross championship series. With a 0-to-60 mph time of around 2 seconds it will certainly be the fastest Focus ever. Don’t expect to be able to buy one yourself but you can get a 350 horsepower version from the factory.
* Just a year ago a Florida company called Revology Cars, located near Orlando, showed a prototype of a high-quality Mustang replica at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Now they are back with two production replicas, a 1966 Mustang GT and a 1966 Shelby GT350H, again to be shown at next weeks Amelia Island event. These cars look authentic but have modern underpinnings as well as comfort and convenience features not on the original cars. Revology has plans to produce replicas of other Mustangs as well as other popular old cars.
* The coveted Ridler Award for best custom car at Detroit’s Autorama last week went to a Chip Foose-built 1956 Chevy Impala owned by Don and Elma Voth of British Colombia. “The Imposter” is based on a stretched Corvette platform and incorporates design and styling elements from both the Corvette and the ’65 Chevy. Most of the car is hand built including glass, body panels and mechanical parts. Named after Don Ridler who was one of the primary promoters of Autorama this award is one of the most prestigious in the custom car community.
* The Simeone Foundation Museum of Philadelphia has been given the prestigious AACA Plaque Award “in recognition of outstanding achievement in the preservation of automotive history” by the Antique Automobile Club of America.