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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest April 25-May 1, 2016:


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

AUTO CENTRAL Chicago, May 1, 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 1,978,448 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
April 25-May 1, 2016

* At the Beijing Auto Show this past week it was all about SUVs. Sales of SUVs, the popular option on China's rough roads, soared 52% last year. Honda held world debuts for two SUVs. Ford, Volkswagen, GM and China's Chery also displayed new SUVs. Reports say as many as 50 new SUVs are due to be launched in China this year by global and Chinese brands, according to research firm IHS Automotive.

* Are you car shopping?, the EPA website that delivers fuel economy ratings and more for every car, SUV and light-duty pickup on sale in the United States is accessible on smartphones thanks to a new free app. The app features the vehicles’ fuel economy, MSRP, annual fuel cost, greenhouse gas emissions score, and other details for vehicles back to 1984. There’s data on hybrids, plug-ins and electric vehicles, including battery range.

* The smartest way to get a solid return on your vehicle investment is to keep your car through what is called the "Cinderella Era." That's the period of time after the payoff when your car is still in great shape and needs only modest repairs," according to Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. "With proper care, the typical vehicle should deliver at least 200,000 miles of safe, dependable performance, and that's no fairy tale." By simply allocating the equivalent of just one new car payment, motorists can cover an entire year's worth of basic maintenance and live happily ever after with their current vehicle.

* The BMW i3 electric vehicle won two categories in the American Automobile Association (AAA) 2016 Green Car of the Year Awards. It won for the Best Green Car in the $30,000 - $50,000 price range as well the Best Green Car in the subcompact category. The 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf was named Best Compact today in the 2016 AAA Green Car Guide.

* Tesla got their attention. Germany’s economy minister announced a 1 billion euro ($1.13 billion) plan to subsidize electrified cars that are seen as the technology of the future. The German government fears their auto industry risks being overtaken by foreign competitors unless it receives greater domestic support. Electric vehicles have had a slow start in Germany. A government plan to get 1 million e-cars on the streets by 2020 is far behind schedule, with just 50,000 sold so far. Note that Germany and other European countries have a very high population of diesel cars.

* Ford, Google, Volvo, Uber and Lyft have formed a new coalition to urge lawmakers to take action on regulations surrounding self-driving vehicles. The automakers, ride-hailing services and technology companies announced the formation of the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets. David Strickland, former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will serve as its counsel and spokesman. These companies will work with civic organizations, municipalities and businesses to bring the vision of self-driving vehicles to America’s roads and highways.

* Google and Fiat Chrysler are in "late stage talks" on a technical partnership on Google's self-driving car project, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, citing AutoExtremist. The talks are said to have been underway for several months, and are in final negotiations. This is just the latest in a series of reports about Google looking for a partner in the automotive industry to help it build cars with the self-driving technology that it has been building for years. Back in December, a number of stories claimed Google and Ford were creating an entirely new company to build self-driving cars.

* Ford CEO Mark Fields said the Dearborn automaker will not be left behind in the race to develop long-range electric vehicles like the Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt that can go 200 miles or more on a single charge. Fields didn’t say when Ford plans to launch a vehicle to match Tesla's Model 3 or the Chevrolet Bolt, Akshay Anand, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book is reported to have said “200 miles will be the new normal for EV range by the end of the decade."

* Mitsubishi formally admitted this week to 25 years of cheating on fuel economy numbers for its vehicles vastly extending the scope of an investigation already underway. Mitsubishi executives acknowledged using “unapproved methods” of testing since 1991 affecting an unknown number of vehicles. The admission involves only vehicles sold in Japan so far since other countries have different standards for teasing fuel economy. Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. (MMNA) today confirmed that vehicles sold in the United States are not impacted by the fuel consumption testing data irregularities.

* The New York Times reported this week that a VW executive prepared a PowerPoint presentation as early as 2006 on how to get around U.S. diesel emissions requirements. The Times noted that it is not known how widely the information was distributed within the company. When the 2.0-liter diesel engine was under development the U.S. emissions standards were six times more strict than European standards, the story notes, resulting in an arrogant attitude from the German company speculating that there would be no consequences of cheating.

* Ford is recalling nearly 202,000 pickups, SUVs and cars in North America because the automatic transmissions can suddenly downshift to first gear due to a software problem. The recall covers the 2011 and 2012 F-150 and the 2012 Expedition, Mustang and Lincoln Navigator. Also 81,000 Explorer SUVs are being recalled to fix a rear suspension problem caused by a poor weld. The recall covers SUVs and Police Interceptor models in the U.S., Canada and Mexico from 2014 and 2015.

* Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is recalling over 1 million vehicles for a software adjustment on the electric shifters that some of us at TAC have complained about in the past. The problem is in the design rather than the execution of the shifter that does not provide enough feedback resulting in drivers leaving the cars thinking they are in park when they are actually in drive or reverse. Cars can then roll away. NHTSA has been investigation the problem that is said to have resulted in 121 accidents and 41 injuries.

* The Cannonball One Lap of America race, offspring of the epic Cannonball Runs created by Brock Yates, is happening this week with some rather incongruous entries from Toyota. Two new Sienna minivans, one an “R-Tuned” model, will compete with sports and super cars in this long-distance, multi-competition event. Covering 3,000 miles through 12 states in eight days the One Lap includes road course, autocross, drag strip and skid pad competitions. Who ever heard of a performance tuned minivan? We guess only Toyota so far.

* Want a new hot rod pickup? Roush began shipping their 2016 ROUSHcharged F-150 Truck to their network of Roush Performance dealers this week. The Roush F-150 SC comes with the company’s fully integrated Phase 1 Supercharger Kit boosting horsepower to 600 with 557 pound-feet of torque. Suspension and appearance also get upgraded and their Side-Exit Exhaust System is included as well.

* The historic racing venue at Nurburgring is now owned 99% by a Russian investor. Victor Kharitonin, a pharmaceutical company founder who bought into the facility in 2014 and has now upped his stake. His total investment is believed to be around $87 million. The 2015 and 2016 Formula One schedules did not include the Nurburgring but talks are underway, says Kharitonin, for a race for 2017.

* Irony in NASCAR. Last week we reported that Tony Stewart was fined by NASCAR for voicing his concern with race cars being allowed on the track with fewer than five lug nuts on a wheel. Less than a week later, NASCAR reversed course and added fines and penalties for teams caught without five lug nuts on each wheel. NASCAR stopped monitoring lug nuts during pit stops and some teams were leaving one off to get out of the pits quicker and gain track position.

* The J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Tech Choice Study says trust in automation technology is very much age dependent, as younger consumers have a notably higher level of confidence in the technology than their older counterparts. Trust in automation technology is a critical step toward the future of automated vehicles. Power says that customers are most interested in a number of automotive technology features that make use of the underpinnings of fully automated vehicles, such as radar, sensors, light detection and ranging (LIDAR) and cameras. Features with high consumer interest include smart headlights, night vision, lane change assist, traffic jam assist, medical emergency stop, smart intersection and predictive vehicle control. However, trust in the technology is directly linked to the age of the consumer. Over half of Gen Y and Gen Z trust self-driving technology. The older Baby Boomers and Pre-Boomers, who could benefit the most, have low trust levels.