Editor’s Note: In 2015, we looked back at the best aftermarket parts of all time, commemorated 60 years of small block Chevy performance, and went Back to the Future to celebrate the iconic movie’s anniversary. We said goodbye to Roscoe P. Coltrane and hello to a whole new generation of Camaros. Jeff Gordon retired. Volkswagen cheated. And BIGFOOT had a midlife crisis. Yep, there was plenty to write home about–or at least write about. Here are our most-popular, most-read news stories of 2015:
It was quite a year for Volkswagen AG. The German automaker admitted to intentionally cheating government emissions tests on about 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide in a what’s been dubbed the “diesel dupe.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discovered that certain VW vehicles had installed software called “a defeat device” which allowed cars to pass Clean Air Act standards during emissions testing despite emitting pollutants up to 40 times the federal threshold. In the United States, about 482,000 diesel vehicles from model years 2009-15 were affected. The news rocked the auto world, set up VW to be pummeled with multi-billion-dollar fines, and created sweeping personnel, and presumably manufacturing process, changes within the company.
It’s always jarring to see or hear about a racecar driver killed during a race. The motorsports world was dealt another tragic blow during an IndyCar Series race at Pocono this summer when the nose cone of another car struck driver Justin Wilson’s head. Wilson fell into a coma and died a day later while hospitalized. The accident prompted IndyCar to institute safety changes for 2016 and beyond, including tethers for heavy pieces to prevent them from going airborne during crashes.
The news shocked and surprised pretty much every vehicle owner who doesn’t spend every day following the goings on of the U.S. Copyright Office, but it wasn’t any less real: A group of automakers and farm equipment manufacturers were lobbying the Copyright Office to prohibit home mechanics and small repair shops from modifying vehicles, citing on-board vehicle computer systems as the intellectual property of the manufacturers.
Vehicle owners were confused and unhappy: Wait. You mean, even though my vehicle is bought and paid for, I don’t ACTUALLY own it? Someone else can tell me what to do with it?
Automakers said altering ECUs can cause safety issues and cyber security vulnerabilities. Performance hobbyists countered that they’ve been modifying cars with chips and modules for years, boosting horsepower, improved fuel economy, and enhanced vehicle performance, without issue.
The Copyright Office in October granted an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which postponed this fight for another three years.
The BBC fired Jeremy Clarkson, the popular host of hit TV show Top Gear, after Clarkson reportedly verbally and physically attacked a producer who failed to provide his dinner after a day of filming. Clarkson is wildly popular with Top Gear fans. More than a million of them signed an online petition asking for his immediate reinstatement after news of his suspension first broke.
The BBC hired British TV and radio personality Chris Evans to take over Clarkson’s, along with three other presenters, for the revamped Top Gear slated to air in May. Clarkson and former show mates Richard Hammond and James May are making a new Top Gear-esque show which will stream on Amazon Prime in 2016.
The news wasn’t as shocking as Michael Jordan’s first retirement to try baseball or Barry Sanders retiring from football so close to capturing the all-time NFL rushing mark, but Jeff Gordon’s announcement that the 2015 NASCAR season would be his last, made waves beyond just stock car racing and motorsports.
Gordon, 44, still has plenty of racing left in him, and we will see him behind the wheel from time to time, he says. He has left an incredible legacy on NASCAR, as someone who ushered in a new era and new demographic of fan, as well as winning so many poles, races, and championships. Often “hated” by certain fans throughout his career, Gordon entered his final race as a full-time driver with a chance to win a championship, and walked away appreciated and admired by pretty much everyone.