Weekly Recap: Volkswagen moves forward under Muller

Plus: Notes On The Buick Cascada, Ford Super Duty, And Nissan Altima

Most stunning was the speed of it all. On the morning of September 18, Volkswagen AG stood atop the automotive world. It was profitable and sold more cars than Toyota and General Motors, its two main rivals for global supremacy. By nightfall, the company would be embroiled in scandal.

Revelations the German auto giant cheated on diesel emissions testing in the United States reverberated from Washington to Wolfsburg, Germany. What started out as a problem with 482,000 VWs and Audis in the US exploded into an international scandal. Millions of vehicles have the rigged software, meaning VW broke environmental rules as its cars spewed pollutants all over the world.

The fallout began immediately. Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn – one of the most respected and capable executives in the business – apologized on Sunday and Tuesday. On Wednesday he resigned.

As the week progressed, the company's stock took a beating and credit agencies threatened to drop their ratings. VW dealers and owners said they felt betrayed. The automaker hired a law firm that defended BP after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The EPA is already extending its testing procedures to look for "defeat devices" like the ones used by Volkswagen.

On Friday the company announced a major restructuring. Matthias Müller, Porsche's chief for the last five years, took over as CEO of Volkswagen and is charged with picking up the pieces of a shattered company facing regulatory action and lawsuits. With GM, Toyota, and Takata scandals still fresh, Volkswagen will likely experience unprecedented levels of scrutiny.

Additionally, VW's markets in the United States, Canada, and Mexico will be combined into a North American region under the leadership of former Skoda boss Winfried Vahland, though US chief executive Michael Horn will stay on. The company is also realigning its brands by specialty and streamlining its board.

Firings, government action, restructurings, and international outrage – things that usually build up over months or years – all occurred in about a week. With dizzying speed, Volkswagen's future has changed dramatically. It all happened, it's still happening, so fast.


2016 Buick Cascada to start at $33,990

Buick hasn't made a convertible in 25 years. That's a whole person who can drink plus a kindergartner. So it's been awhile. Enter the 2016 Buick Cascada. It has top-shelf Opel engineering, slinky design, and it's reasonably priced. The Cascada starts at $33,990, including destination charges, and it goes on sale early next year. Buick is offering two trims: 1SV or Premium. The base SV is well-equipped with HID headlights, and LED daytime running and taillights. It also gets navigation, a seven-speaker audio system, rear-view camera, remote start, and IntelliLink infotainment with a seven-inch color touchscreen. The front seats are heated and have an eight-way power adjust feature.

You get more color choices and a different wheel design with the higher trim, which tacks on $3,000 to the sticker. It adds air deflectors and safety features like forward collision alert and lane departure warning systems. Power comes from a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder rated at 200 horsepower that pairs with a six-speed automatic transmission. It all rolls on a HiPer Strut suspension in front and a Z-link rear configuration.

Ford upgrades Super Duty for 2017

Ford revealed its redesigned 2017 Super Duty line this week featuring an all-new high strength steel frame and an aluminum-alloy body. Ford says those elements help reduce weight by up to 350 pounds compared with the outgoing model, and the aluminum body is claimed to be more dent and ding resistant than the old steel unit. Ford didn't reveal further specs, but says the Super Duties will have their most towing and hauling capability ever. The engine lineup carries over with a 6.2-liter gasoline V8, 6.7-liter PowerStroke diesel V8, and 6.8-liter gasoline V10 (again no specs). A new TorqShift-G transmission is available on gas-powered 6.2-liter V8 F-250s. Additionally, you can get up to seven cameras on this rig to help you tow and trailer, and it has things like optional LED lights and adaptive cruise control to dress it up and make it more comfortable, if you need that.

2016 Nissan Altima gets revised styling, SR trim

Nissan redesigned the 2016 Altima with an upgraded interior, styling derived from the Maxima and Murano, and more safety features in a bid to continue its strong sales in the US market. The Altima also gets a sportier SR trim, which has a stiffer suspension, interior accents, aluminum-alloy wheels, and a rear spoiler. Additionally, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder gets 39 miles per gallon in highway driving, an increase of one mpg.
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