By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario -- February 4, 2016 -- It's time once again for our weekly wrap-up of the news that might have slid under your radar, including the latest on the airbag scandal, a metal that's lighter than styrofoam and Bill Nye's incorrect ideas on what people like about NASCAR.
- The airbag scandal just notched up. The Globe and Mail reports this week that, “Continental Automotive Systems said Thursday it supplied potentially defective airbag control units to 5 million vehicles used in Honda, Fiat Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz and other vehicles built over a five-year period.” This widens the number of airbags that need to be recalled. Honda Motor Co. announced late Wednesday that it is recalling 341,000 Accord cars built with Continental airbags between 2008 and 2010. Two injuries are attributed to the defect.
- A very Canadian incident: In Corner Brook, Newfoundland on Saturday a vehicle collided with a personal snowblower. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary reported that there were no injuries, but minor damages were sustained. Police advised residents to use "extra caution" with growing snow banks and narrowing streets in the city.
- Aluminum is all the rage in the industry today. But what happens when cars hit the end of the “lighweighting” road? Perhaps cars will one day be made of Microlattice. Boeing has patented this new material, which the company says is the lightest metal ever created. It’s 100 times lighter than styrofoam and 99.9 percent air. It's made out of interconnected hollow metal tubes of nickel that are just 100 nanometres thick, or about “1,000 times thinner than a human hair.” It was developed for use in aircraft, but we might see it make its way into the automotive world at some point.
- Bill Nye the Science Guy has what he thinks is a great idea for NASCAR ... start racing with electric cars instead of gasoline powered vehicles. According to Nye, racing e-vehicles would be a great improvement on current tech as people would be able to “talk to one another at the race” because it would be so quiet. "We could convert all of our racecars to electricity -- right now -- and show the public exactly what electrons can do," Nye said in a recent blog post. He even suggested changing the name of the racing league to NESCAR (for National Electric Stock Car Racing). Good luck with that Bill. Not going to happen. The noise is half the fun!
- As if the world of modern ride sharing wasn't confusing enough ... now Facebook has filed a patent application that outlines a “system for setting up carpools for people attending the same event.” Facebook already uses the HERE mapping technology on its site. In the future Facebook will match up people driving to the same event using the technology.
- Toyota has issued an official statement saying it is discontinuing its Scion line of cars. Scion was a so-called “youth-oriented brand” that was supposed to appeal to a younger generation. Some of the company's vehicles will be folded into the Toyota line. The yet-to-be-released C-HR small crossover will come to market under the Toyota brand and will “slot in” to the Toyota line just below the RAV4.
- A 1977 Pontiac Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit set a record at Barrett-Jackson this past weekend. At the same time a “ragged but original 1969 Dodge Daytona Charger sold for just half of that” suggesting interest in classic cars is shifting from '60s to '70s models. Sure, the Dodge had moss growing off it and has spent years in a barn. But Dodge only made 503 examples of the Charger Daytona and prices for restored versions approach the US $200,000 mark.
- Indian carmaker Tata has wisely changed the name of its heavily-promoted vehicle, the Zica. With the rise of the new mosquito-born Zika virus affecting pregnant women the company couldn't move fast enough to get away from that name. Smart emergency marketing decision that one.
- Mega big-box retailer Costco has new power in the auto industry. The article notes the “warehouse retailer sold 465,000 vehicles through partnerships with auto dealers in 2015, a 16.8 percent increase from the previous year.” This is not far off the top auto retailer in the US, AutoNation, which sold 533,000 in 2014. Who knew? People like buying cars from Costco. The major perk seems to be fixed prices. The company sells cars through existing dealerships to Costco members. But clients get to pass on the bargaining and upselling that goes on with a typical dealership sale. The service is only available in the US.