Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest - August 8-13, 2016; Bentley Diesel, Jeep Hacking, MPG Down, Ford Cell 6 Mil., Recalls Of Course
AUTO CENTRAL - Chicago, August 13, 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.
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Week Of August 8-13, 2016 Automotive News Factoids
* 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 July 2016 was 25.4 mpg—up 0.1 mpg from the value for June 2016. Fuel economy is down 0.4 mpg from the peak reached in August 2014, but still up 5.3 mpg since October 2007 (the first month of their monitoring).
* It was mostly cloudy but it didn't matter. The University of Michigan Solar Car team has successfully defended its decade-long reigning championship, winning the 2016 American Solar Challenge for the sixth consecutive time. Michigan raced against 23 other teams of college students that had built their own solar-powered electric vehicles. This is the ninth time that U-M has won the race.
* Apply sunscreen when driving. A recent study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology revealed that nearly 53 percent of skin cancers in the U.S. occur on the left, or driver's side of the body. If you drive a car with a sunroof or a convertible wear a hat and apply sunscreen.
* Distracted driving has been around for a long time. Only in recent years has it gotten lots of attention due to texting and talking on cell phones. Now New Jersey is taking more action. A bill under consideration in the state Legislature calls to prohibit "any activity unrelated to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of the vehicle on a public road or highway." That means no cup of coffee for those sitting in traffic, no munching on that breakfast burrito, no time to groom.
* The U.S. Department of Energy has approved $6 million to be shared by Ford and the Los Alamos National Laboratory to accelerate development of hydrogen fuel cell technology. The Dearborn automaker will use the funds to develop a lower-cost production system for fuel cells, which today are too expensive to enable the few fuel cell cars on the market to be sold at competitive prices.
* Another Tesla is reported to have been involved in an accident while in Autopilot mode according to a story in Reuters this week. A Chinese driver of a Model S sideswiped a parked car on the shoulder of the road in Beijing, according to the report. The driver claims that when he bought the car he was told it has a “self-driving” feature rather than a driver-assist feature that would require the driver to remain engaged with hand on the wheel. Tesla’s Chinese website does call it a “self-driving” mode.
* In other auto news from China we learned this week that we’ll get details on the reincarnated Fisker Karma soon. The Chinese company Wanxiang bought the Fisker car business lock, stock and barrel and they are now ready to reveal their new Revero that looks just about the same. Billed as an extended-range electric vehicle, the company claims the "solar roof will provide enough energy to power the car,” though that is a bit of an exaggeration. The new Karma could be available in the U.S. and Canada later this year.
* ZF issued a recall this week on over a half million of their new nine-speed automatic transmissions found in a variety of FCA, Honda and Land Rover vehicles. The problem is a bad control sensor that can cause the transmission to slip into neutral at any speed in any gear. Auto dealers will be responsible for notifying owners and doing the necessary repairs.
* Bentley, one of the world’s most exclusive and luxurious brands, is poised to offer its first diesel powertrain in its 100 year history. The new Bentayga SUV will offer a “triple-charged” 4.0-liter diesel V8 now used in the Audi SQ7 TDI. Bentley is one of the brands owned by the VW/Audi group. The powerful engine is good for 435 horsepower, 660 pound-feet of torque, 0-100 kph (62mph) time of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph. We expect to see it introduced at the upcoming Paris Motor Show and will probably not be offered in the U.s.
* Bryan Clauson, 27-year-old Indianapolis 500 competitor, who also ran in a variety of USAC and other racing series, died this week as a result of injuries sustained in a Midget car race in Belleville, Kansas. Clauson competed in three Indy 500 races, 26 NASCAR Xfinity Series races and he won the 2007 ARCA race at Gateway Motorsports Park. He also won two USAC National Sprint Car championships. He had been in a crash on the same track the night before this accident and praised parts makers for keeping him safe, according to an AutoWeek story.
* You’ll recall more than a year ago computer hackers broke the codes on a Jeep Grand Cherokee and drove it off the edge of a parking lot to show they could do it. FCA immediately dove into solving the problem with no subsequent issues. Now, we hear that two more hackers were arrested last week for using laptops to break into and steal Jeep Wranglers from a Houston dealership. Most of the stolen vehicles were taken to Mexico and sold. FCA is now scrambling again to secure the wireless communications systems of their products.