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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest May 2-8, 2016


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

AUTO CENTRAL Chicago, May 8, 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 1,978,107 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
May 2-8, 2016

* April new vehicle sales were all about trucks and SUVs. Honda and Nissan set new overall records. Ford saw record SUV sales with the Explorer making big gains. Toyota reached new sales levels for trucks and SUVs. April sales overall were up 3.5% to just under 1.51 million vehicles, the best since 2005, with a seasonal selling rate is 17.42 million.

* 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 April 2016 was 25.2 mpg—down 0.1 mpg from the value for March 2016. This decline likely reflects the increased market share of pickup trucks and SUVs. 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).

* Our friends at The Detroit Bureau report that according to a new study by Alan Meier and Yuche Chen of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory roof racks may cost drivers as much as 25% more in gas usage. Researchers in the first-of-its-kind study discovered that in in 2015, these popular add-ons were accounting for nearly 1% of all light-duty vehicle gasoline consumption. On the surface, it may not sound like much, but it equates to more than 100 million gallons of gas annually due to increased power need to overcome aerodynamic drag.

* The World Car Awards announced a new award for 2017 – the ‘World Urban Car’ award. With more than 50 percent of the world’s population now living in towns and cities, and that figure expected to increase in the years ahead, urban cars are the future, and this new award recognizes the responses of carmakers to this growing trend. Note: The world's urban-living population is forecasted to grow to over 70 percent by 2050.

* We’ve heard rumours for the past couple of years that Porsche may bring to market a new mid-engine supercar that will slot between the 911 Turbo and the 918 Spyder. Porsche this week trademarked the moniker “960” further fuelling the rumours. While not confirming the rumours the company hinted that “there are blank spots in our range - and you have to look at what the competition is doing and keep these things in mind.”

* In an effort to keep up with GM’s Bolt and the new Tesla Model 3, VW announced this week a longer range for the fully electric e-Golf, up to 186 miles in the European cycle. That is up from the current 118 miles. In the US cycle it will probably be about 130 miles, up from 83 miles. These numbers are well below the Bolt and Model 3 but VW boss Matthias Mueller said in the next few years VW will have a family electric car good for 310 miles on a full charge.

* As reported by The Detroit News, the biggest barrier to the adoption of self-driving cars will be legal issues, not the technology itself, according to a Delphi Automotive executive. Jeff Owens, Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President at the Gillingham, U.K.-based supplier, expects the first cars controlled totally by computer technology on city streets within five years, but for the general public it could be 10 years away. “The first autonomous vehicles will probably be taxis,” Owens said in a telephone interview from his Detroit office. “That could happen in five years because the regulatory environment is a little easier. It takes between 5 and 8 years to significantly change national traffic regulation, but in cities or municipalities this change can take weeks, not years; the legal framework is much simpler if a vehicle is for hire rather than owner driven.

* The Wall Street Journal was first to report that GM and Lyft within a year will begin testing a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric taxis on public roads, a move central to the companies’ joint efforts to challenge Silicon Valley giants in the battle to reshape the auto industry. Details of the autonomous-taxi testing program are still being worked out, according to a Lyft executive, but it will include customers in a yet-to-be disclosed city. Customers will have the opportunity to opt in or out of the pilot when hailing a Lyft car from the company’s mobile app.

* The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety claims that higher speed limits are responsible for 3300 traffic deaths over the past 20 years. The IIHS release provides no detail on how they arrived at those numbers. The story triggered a storm of controversy led by the National Motorists Association who have numbers that show exactly the opposite. The IIHS, funded by the auto insurance industry, says the NMA, continues to make these claims without any evidence.

* The Google Self-Driving Car Project and FCA announced, in a first-of-its-kind collaboration, that they will integrate Google’s self-driving technology into all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to expand Google’s existing self-driving test program. This marks the first time that Google has worked directly with an automaker to integrate its self-driving system, including its sensors and software, into a passenger vehicle.

* The huge Takata airbag recall just got even bigger. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this week added 35 to 40 million more vehicles to the mix. This is now the biggest recall in U.S. history. The new decision involves all Takata-made ammonium nitrate units that do not use a drying agent. More than 100 injuries and 10 deaths have been attributed to the Takata units. One in every four vehicles on the road in the U.S. had the defective safety equipment. It could take years for all of them to be replaced in the most complex safety recall in U.S. history.

* Nissan will recall 3.53 million vehicles worldwide to fix airbag sensors that could malfunction because they don't correctly classify a passenger. The automaker said the recall includes 2013-17 models of the Nissan Altima, Leaf, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Sentra, Rogue, NV200/Chevrolet City Express/Taxi, Infiniti JX35/QX60 and Q50.

* Nissan is also recalling more than 108,000 Rogue SUVs because the rear hatch door could fall on people without warning. The recall covers Rogues from the 2014 to 2016 model years.

* GM is recalling 4,789 2016 full-size trucks because a front upper control arm can separate from the vehicle. The recall covers some 2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickups, Suburbans and Tahoes; GMC Sierra 1500 pickups, Yukons and Yukon XLs; and Cadillacs Escalades and Escalade ESVs, and a small number of early 2017 Silverado trucks.

* The new Chrysler minivan, now called Pacifica, was officially launched at the Windsor, Ontario assembly plant where the popular van has been built for 33 years. In attendance was FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne who is originally from Windsor. Chrysler says it spent $2.4 billion USD in the development of the new minivan and $744 million to prepare the plant. Over 1,200 full-time jobs have been added to the facility.

* Looking for a piece of hip-hop automotive history? A decked-out 1996 Hummer H1 that belonged to hip-hop star Tupac Skakur will cross the auction block May 12 as part of the “Marvels of Modern Music” sale by RR Auctions. This fully documented 6.2-liter diesel monster includes a Clairion 12-disc CD and Sony GPS, both state-of-the-art in its day. The H1 is expected to bring six figures.

* The Ford GT won its first race last weekend a month before its highly anticipated return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. Drivers Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook piloted the No. 67 Ford GT to victory in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. In the two-hour, 40-minute race, the GT, powered by a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine, only had to pit once due to its low fuel consumption. Its competitors had to refill two or three times.