Auto News for Jan. 5

(Today’s column was delayed so we could bring you the latest on auto sales.)

2016 Jeep® Grand Cherokee SRT

2016 Ford F-150 Limited

The 2016 Chevrolet SS sedan features several exterior enhancements that reinforce its commanding presence on the road. A revised front fascia features new, vertical ducts at the outer edges to direct airflow over the front wheel openings to improve aerodynamic efficiency. The fascia also incorporates new LED signature lighting, while new, functional hood vents and new-design 19-inch cast-aluminum wheels contribute to a stronger appearance for the rear-drive sports sedan.

Fiat Chrysler has been selling a lot of vehicles. 2015 was its best sales year in a decade and December sales rose 12.5 percent year-over-year. The leader, as it has been for some time, was the Jeep division.

Meanwhile, Ford said total U.S. sales for 2015 were the best in nine years, up 5 percent. December sales, thanks to strong demand for the F-150 pickup, rose 8 percent. Demand was also on the rise for the Lincoln MKZ, and no surprise, for Ford’s lineup of SUV’s.

GM can crow about its best December in seven years with sales up 19 percent compared to one year earlier. Chevrolet was strong in every segment of the market, GM said, with Buick and GMC posting increases across the board. Officials said customers felt good about the direction of the economy, interest rates and fuel prices were low all of which helped lure consumers into showrooms. And before you ask, let me say the Corvette had its highest December sales ever.

Mazda had a December to remember with sales up 18 percent, its best December since 1994. Total 2015 sales were up 4.4 percent. The CX-5 had its best December ever and the CX-3 registered its best sales since it launched in August.

Mary Barra is not only chief executive officer at GM; she is now chairman of the board. She was unanimously voted in by board members to succeed Tim Solso who continue to serve as an independent board auditor.

GM will invest $500 million in the ride sharing company, Lyft. The general will get a seat on Lyft’s board and access to company software, as well the opportunity to put more people into its cars. “We see the future of personal mobility as connected, seamless and autonomous,” said GM President Dan Ammann. “With GM and Lyft working together, we believe we can successfully implement this vision more rapidly.” The two firms will work on autonomous cars but more immediately create hubs in major metropolitan areas where Lyft drivers can rent GM vehicles, said the Detroit News.

Volkswagen has now been sued by the Justice Department on behalf of the EPA over its emissions cheating software. Volks is said to be in talks with officials over a massive 600,000 plus vehicle recall campaign and, the Detroit News said, faces fines totaling billions of dollars. “With today’s filing, we take an important step to protect public health by seeking to hold Volkswagen accountable for any unlawful air pollution, setting us on a path to resolution,” said Cynthia Giles of the EPA. “So far, recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward. These discussions will continue in parallel with the federal court action.” VW said it will continue to cooperate with all government agencies investigating these matters.

Volvo and Microsoft are launching a wearable-enabled voice control system. Owners will be able to talk to their car to set navigation, start the heater, lock the doors, flash the lights or sound the horn while wearing a Microsoft device. “Let’s face it – who hasn’t dreamed of talking to their car via a wrist-worn wearable,” said Klas Bendrik of the Volvo Car Group. The Microsoft Band 2 will be available in the spring.

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