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In Case You Missed It - Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest - Jan 9-15, 2017; NAIAS, VW, Takata, Kia Stinger Praised, Chrysler Diesel OOPS


AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO, January 15, 2017; 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 are a car and driving fan like we all are here at The Auto Channel, you can easily "catch up" or put these stories in context by searching the past 25 year's 2,004,559 automotive pages of news, automotive stories, articles, reviews, archived news, video, audio, rants and raves accessible from The Auto Channel's Automotive News Archive.

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Nutson's Nuggets: January 15, 2017

Learn More: 2017 NAIAS (Detroit Auto Show) Press Pass Coverage

* Media preview days at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit are over. Highlights include: Volkswagen’s I.D. Buzz, a small electric van based on the design of the classic Microbus; a concept large sedan from Nissan; Kia’s new rear-wheel drive sedan called Stinger; the beautiful Volvo V90 station wagon; a concept version of the Lincoln Navigator with gull-wing doors and three steps that fold into the rockers; Bob Lutz newest creation that looks like a Hummer; and GAC, the first Chinese company to have space on the main floor of the show. See all the details from the auto show here at The Auto Channel.

* Kicking off the Detroit NAIAS the 2017 NACTOY winners were announced. Chevrolet Bolt is North American Car of the Year, Chrysler Pacifica is North American Utility of the Year and Honda Ridgeline is North American Truck of the Year. Are you surprised?

* There were lots of tweets this week emanating from the NAIAS too. Many were about the new vehicles being shown but just as meany were from car makers touting how much they spend in the U.S. to build cars and employ people. In this time of Trump moments, following Ford's announcement to cancel a new plant in Mexico, FCA announced it would spend $1 billion on two new U.S. plants and Toyota said it would spend $10 billion on new U.S. investments. President-elect Trump tweeted his support. Oh, and VP Joe Biden, a true car guy who owns a '67 Corvette, toured the show.

* Kia Motors America’s all-new 2018 Stinger fastback sedan has been honored with an EyesOn Design award for Production Car Design Excellence at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). At an event typically dominated by introductions from American auto companies, Kia’s Stinger stole the spotlight.

* Ford Motor Company is bringing back two historic nameplates--the Ranger midsize pickup and Bronco SUV will return to North America later this decade. I hope gasoline prices stay low.

* AutoWeek showed a picture and fanned speculation that Toyota would bring out a new hot-hatch version of the tepid subcompact Yaris at the Geneva Motor Show in March. Toyota has not confirmed the car and we don’t expect to get it here in the U.S. right away in any event, but the 210 hp version of this little car could be a real screamer with as much power as GTI and Civic Si. Word came from Toyota’s Gazoo Racing but nothing has leaked about what it will be called or other details.

* More power to you. Dodge’s new ultimate performance halo, the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, is set to be unveiled at the New York International Auto Show. Dodge will debut "Cage," the first in a series of pre-reveal teaser videos giving fans and followers insight into Demon’s engineering prowess. It is expected to have even more power than the explosive, 707-hp Hellcat, believe it or not. Check out website. The Demon name was first introduced to the Dodge lineup in 1971.

* 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 December was 24.9 mpg—down 0.1 mpg from the revised value for November. This change likely reflects the continuing increase in the proportion of light trucks sold. The value for December 2016 is up 4.8 mpg since October 2007 (the first month of their monitoring), but down 0.6 mpg from the peak of 25.5 mpg reached in August of 2014. The average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in 2016 was 25.2 mpg, down 0.1 mpg from 2015.

* President Barack Obama’s administration is finalizing stringent gas mileage rules that require automakers to produce car and truck fleets that average fuel economy sticker values of about 36 miles per gallon by 2025. The new emission standards began to take effect with the 2017 model year. They call for ramping up from the current fleet-wide average of about 34 mpg for cars and trucks that were required in 2016 to an eventual goal of 54.5 mpg by 2025. The increase, which some automakers have said might be too ambitious, starts with a rise to an average of over 35 mpg for the 2017 models that already are being rolled out. The bottom line is, the technology exists to do this but it depends upon what consumers actually buy that make up the average of all vehicles sold. I expect a big marketing push including pricing actions to sell more high MPG vehicles.

* VW agreed to plead guilty on criminal charges and will pay $4.3 billion in criminal and civil fines wrapping up its diesel-gate mess. Final approval will include the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the company's compliance for three years. This same week a second individual, Oliver Schmidt, a 47-year old German who worked in the U.S. for VW, was arrested in Miami by the FBI while on a visit and charged in the case. Five additional VW Execs, some retired and who live in Germany, have been indicted. Ironically, in spite of this, VW may pass Toyota for the global sales crown for 2016.

* The EPA is at it again now accusing Fiat Chrysler of installing secret software that allowed its diesel vehicles to emit toxins above legal levels. The 104,000 affected vehicles include the light-duty 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3-liter diesel engines sold in the United States. The issue is software installed in all modern diesel vehicles that calibrates an engine’s performance and controls emissions levels. Federal regulations allow diesel cars to shut off emissions controls in certain situations to protect the engine from damage. EPA says FCA didn't inform them of the software. It's just all about the paperwork.

* In the Takata exploding air bag fiasco, the company has agreed to plead guilty in a single criminal charge and pay $1 billion in fines and restitution. Three former Takata Japanese executives have been indicted with the DoJ working on extradition.

* There is stunning news in NASCAR that 13-year Cup series veteran Carl Edwards, age 37, is stepping away from Joe Gibbs Racing immediately. Edwards said he wants to spend more time on his outside interests, citing aviation, agriculture and a possible career in politics. Edwards lives in Missouri with his wife Katherine, a physician, and his two children.

* A Chicago federal judge ruled that Craig Breedlove can sue the Museum of Science and Industry for the $395,000 in damage to his historic Spirit of American jet car. The car went to the museum in 1965 after setting new land speed records and breaking the 500 mph barrier. The car was returned to him in 2015 with damage, missing parts, and graffiti.

* The Former Chrysler and Mitsubishi assembly plant in Normal, Il, west of Chicago, changed hands this week being bought by Rivian Automotive, formerly electric car maker Mainstream Motors. We don’t know what they expect to make there but they are apparently serious in acquiring this 2.4-million-square-foot factory, announcing $175 million in updates and promising to employ up to 1,000 people in exchange for a $1 million tax break. No word yet on what they will be building there but the company in its early life was pursuing production of a low-cost electric car.