Archive for April, 2009

Fusion Hybrid gets 1,000 miles on single tank, goes for more

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

A challenge to see how long the Ford Fusion Hybrid could travel on a single tank of gas provided dividends for both “hypermilers” and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The goal for a team of engineers, one racecar driver and a man known for milking mileage, was to make it 1,000 miles using tactics to conserve fuel like coasting, keeping windows closed at high speeds and turning off electronics.

But they reached that goal with about a third of a tank remaining, and ended up traveling 1,445 miles and raising over $8,000 for JDRF.

NASCAR driver Carl Edwards was a member of the team, and even he was impressed by the Fusion Hybrid’s economy, though he’s no stranger to sipping fuel: in 2008, he won at Texas by traveling well below the average race speed and conserving fuel while other racers had to make pit stops.

The tactics that they used can benefit drivers of any vehicle, including used cars, because the tactics were developed by drivers using standard cars. Just don’t expect to make it almost 1,500 miles before the next fill-up.

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Tires, ‘seat time’ the difference as NASCAR star falls to soap box derby driver

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

NASCAR drivers know how important tires are when it comes to winning races: team strategists try to guess on whether to change two or four tires at nearly every pit stop.

But that didn’t stop a teenage girl from using tires to her advantage when she took down Busch champion Greg Biffle in a soapbox derby race.

To be fair to Biffle, Tyler Shoff is a champion in her own right, but in a quarter-mile race at Derby Downs Raceway, it was the tires that helped to make the difference.

In a competition that lasted just 90 seconds, Shoff used specially designed tires that increase fuel efficiency by reducing rolling resistance.

“As a NASCAR driver, I understand the critical role tires play in my ability to perform on the racetrack, and today, Goodyear really proved how big a difference its new fuel-efficient tires can make… even over a distance as short as a quarter mile,” said Biffle, jokingly adding that Shoff did have more “seat time” in the racers than he did.

The fuel economy that some tires can offer may allow used car owners to maximize their cost effectiveness.

Another option is to make sure that all tires are properly inflated, which can improve mileage by up to 3 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Toyota Sienna, Ford Flex break into U.S. News rankings for great family cars

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Something old or something new, priced where used car buyers can afford to borrow, and both are available in blue.

That’s the story of the Toyota Sienna and the Ford Flex, two vehicles that were recently named as two of U.S. News’ top seven family cars.

The Toyota Sienna, a minivan that has been available in the U.S. since 1998, was cited by the news provider for its low cost, smooth handling and its ability comfortably seat eight passengers.

Something old may mean good quality for prospective car buyers, as Edmunds.com editors lauded the 2002 Sienna for its safety features, optional and standard, as well as a smooth engine.

Something new, or newer is the Ford Flex, which first appeared here in 2009. U.S. News lauded its styling, the ability to fit seven adults and accessories that make it the “ultimate road trip vehicle.”

Those looking to save a little money may find people have traded in or sold their 2009 model year Ford Flex, which Edmunds editors gave an 8 out of 10 rating

However used car buyers would choose to finance their options, both cars come in blue, as well as white, black, beige and a host of other colors, too.

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Saturn is up for grabs, but its future is unknown

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

With Saturn‘s future up in the air, fans of the company’s cars may find it easier to find used Saturn cars than some of their newer brethren.

Saturn’s corporate parent General Motors is in the midst of trying to find a business plan that will allow it to avoid bankruptcy, and it has suggested that it is willing to sell or phase out Saturn, according to an Associated Press report.

Bids on the company will continue until June 1, general manager Jill Lajdziak told the news provider, and GM hopes the sale can be completed this year

The company built its reputation in the 1990s as a unique part of General Motors that initially did product development in-house and used parts not found in other GM vehicles.

Used versions of Saturn models are available, and have received some positive reviews from Edmunds.com

The 2007 Aura sedan, for example, was described as “handsome and athletic” by the site, and it received praise by the editors for the interior fit and finish.

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Alleged text messager crashes into building in Chicago

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Police in Chicago said that a 2001 Jeep wagon collided with a small car as a result of alleged texting, and the mangled cars then went into a building, according to a police statement.

Jessica Flanagan, 25, was allegedly driving the Jeep when it collided with a parked Toyota Yaris, Shakespeare District Captain Marc Buslik told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Police told the news provider that the two cars then traveled into construction in progress, reportedly mangling a parking meter in the process.

Flanagan was cited for failing to maintain her lane and using a cell phone, the news provider reported, after she allegedly told officers she had been texting and reportedly not watching the road.

She may not be the only driver who underestimates the effects of distractions on driving ability, according to a study in the Journal of Safety Research.

Researchers found that drivers didn’t distinguish between activities with or without distractions, although they performed markedly worse.

The National Safety Council estimates that cell phone use leads to up to 636,000 car crashes annually, causing more than $40 billion in damage.

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Pontiac gone, car enthusiasts mourn end of the make

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Now that Pontiac enthusiasts’ worst fears have been confirmed, the used car market may be the last place to find the make that some fans loved.

General Motors released a plan to avoid bankruptcy that included heavy government influence, but also included a plan to discontinue Pontiacs after 2010.

That means that the maker of such popular performance cars as the GTO, Firebird and the Grand Prix will now only live on in the remaining examples that haven’t been junked or scrapped like their namesake was this week.

Collector Ron Schultz told the Chicago Sun-Times, “It hurts American heritage to see Pontiac go away,” even though he owns three classic Pontiac models himself.

Reviews of used Pontiac models on Edmunds.com by internet users consistently beat the editor’s rating, with the minimum being an 8 on a 10 point scale, suggesting the appreciation that Pontiac owners have for their vehicles.

One example is the 2008 Solstice roadster, a sporty little car that Edmunds editors called too small, noisy and underpowered. Users, on the other hand, gave it a 9/10 rating.

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New legislation may force automakers to provide repair information

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

A bill called the Right to Repair Act was recently introduced in the House of Representatives in a bid to increase the distribution of information needed to properly repair vehicles.

It would require that automakers make tools and service information, especially those that relate to the computers that increasingly control the inner works of automobiles, available to independent service centers at the same time it is provided to new car dealerships.

“Without the Right to Repair Act, millions of motorists would be forced back to fewer dealers for service” said Ray Pohlman, Coalition for Auto Repair Equality president. “Consumers spend thousands of dollars to purchase their vehicle and should not be told where they should obtain those repairs by the manufacturer.”

Those in the market for a used car may benefit from this service as well, since the information would lead to better quality care at local auto body shops even after a car warranty is up.

Car makers may appreciate language in the bill that protects proprietary information and trade secrets, although that information would be publicly available once it is distributed to the dealers.

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Car collectors may have to turn to used models for favorites

Monday, April 27th, 2009

A recent survey of car collectors by Hagerty Insurance found that they would be sad to see 10 current models go if struggling automakers decide to discontinue certain models and makes.

But, those looking to pick up American classics like the Chevrolet Camaro and the Saturn Sky may have to turn to the used car listings to sate their thirst for the gasoline-powered greats based on industry reports.

GM is reportedly closing up shop on Saturn and Pontiac production, including the Sky roadster and its Solstice counterpart that provided American buyers the chance to buy a 170-hp convertible at a lower price point than many of its competitors.

Edmunds said the 2006 model year cars had “nimble handling” and offered lots of legrooms in a stylish package.

“As car enthusiasts, many of us would hate to see these cars become extinct,” said Hagerty Insurance CEO McKeel Hagerty. “We appreciate the place in American society that a great car can occupy and the value of that car to future motorists down the road. It would be sad to see them go.”

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Nissan releases feature lists for Murano, Armada

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Two Nissan SUV models may become more affordable for new car buyers, but those looking at used cars could still find a better deal.

The full-size Armada will be available next year with a camera-assisted rear view system, Bluetooth mobile phone system and other comforts for about $43,000. A Platinum edition that adds heated seats and steering wheels along with an upgraded entertainment package will retail for around $50,000.

Used versions may be more readily available and at a lower price point, as Armadas have been available from Nissan since the 2004 model year. All models have come with a 5.6 liter V8 mated to a five-speed automatic transmission that drives a chassis similar to Nissan’s trucks.

Edmunds said the 2008 Armada had a powerful engine that helped with towing and plenty of room in every row.

Nissan also announced that prices on the Murano, its mid-sized SUV offering, have dropped in turn with recent feature additions as well.

The Murano, first introduced in 2003, offers a continuously variable transmission in all model years designed to improve efficiency. An optional all-wheel drive system does not reduce the fuel economy, according to EPA estimates.

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New Tundra to start at $22K

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Toyota released the prices for the 2010 Tundra and stated that all of the models will come with the new 4.6-liter V8 engine.

The car, which should be in dealerships starting this month, is also coming with some minor improvements.

There is a redesigned front grille and tail lamps, as well as a new two-bar grille design. In an effort to increase safety within the cab, all models will come with the standard equipment of a driver and front passenger knee airbags. Finally, Toyota says a shelf has been added to the storage space in the lower glove box.

The truck will start at $22,960 for the regular cab with a 4×2 bed. The higher end of the price range will be $44,155 for the CrewMax Limited 4×4. According to the car manufacturer, the new MSRP’s is an “overall increase of $557” from their prices for previous models.

However, people who are in the market for reliable and inexpensive Tundra may want to look into used models, such as the one that came out in 2007.

According to Edmunds.com, the 2007 Tundra produced a “smooth and quiet highway ride” with strong braking ability.

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News service: Used car sales up

Friday, April 24th, 2009

A marketing research firm is predicting used car sales to continue to be strong through 2010, the Detroit Free Press reports.

The CNW Marketing Research, which is based in Oregon, reported that approximately 13 percent of new car shoppers left dealerships with a certified used car instead, according to the article.

Furthermore, CNW expects used car sales to continue in its popularity through 2010 and predicts sales of 40 million in the market, an increase of 9.5 percent from last year’s number of 36.5 million.

One reason people may be gravitating toward used cars instead of new ones is the weak economy, which has caused many individuals and families to tighten their budget.

For those looking to buy a used car, some car officials recommend consumers order a vehicle history report and have an independent mechanic evaluate the vehicle in an effort to know the car’s status.

Recently AOL released a list of the Best Used Cars Under $20,000 and placed the 200 Audi A4 Avant Quattro in the best wagon category.

“We like the 2.0T engine for its racy driving characteristics and fuel efficiency,” stated the website.

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Texting in Idaho leads to collision with cop car

Friday, April 24th, 2009

A man in Idaho who was reportedly found texting and driving, plowed into a cop cruiser on an interstate there.

Joshua Benney, 37, drifted from his lane and hit a cop car that was pulled over while an officer was conducting a DUI stop. According to police, he admitted to officers that he was texting immediately prior to the collision.

Neither police officer involved in the DUI stop was injured.

“Every time I pull somebody over, every time I stop on the side of the freeway, it always runs through my mind. It’s dangerous that somebody might do exactly what happened here and run into the back of my patrol car,” Boise Police Sergeant Snyder told KTVB.

Although no laws in Idaho currently ban the practice, Benney still faces possible charges of reckless or inattentive driving.

In Pennsylvania, a statewide ban on cell phone use while driving recently failed, cities like Philadelphia have laws restricting usage, and New York and New Jersey both have laws on the books that allow police to issue citations for driving while using a cell phone.

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Feds: Used cars cost 12% less than a year ago

Friday, April 24th, 2009

The economic downturn may give those looking to buy a used car an inadvertent boost, according to new government data that says used models are more affordable than they’ve been in at least a year.

According to the Consumer Price Index, used car prices are about 2 percent cheaper than they were in February, and 12 percent cheaper than if a buyer had made the same car buy in March 2008.

Although gas prices are up somewhat from February, and may hit $2.36 a gallon by the summertime, used car buyers can counteract that by purchasing more fuel efficient cars which can go further on the same tank of gas.

Drivers can also take advantage of the fact that $4 prices for a gallon of gas are highly doubtful for the near future, as prices are down to nearly half of what they were a year ago.

Those who are on a tight budget may be able to take advantage of utility and energy costs that are somewhat cheaper than they were a year ago, and are likely to improve as the weather turns warmer.

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Nissan to introduce zero-emission vehicles in 2010

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

In celebration of Earth Day, the Renault-Nissan Alliance announced a new partnership that will reportedly bring a zero-emission vehicle to the U.S. next year and be mass marketed global two years after.

The partnership will be between Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Nissan in Tennessee, which expands an existing deal between the car manufacturer and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

“Nissan in Tennessee is working with partners that share in the belief that the introduction and expansion of electric vehicles is one of the best solutions to reducing CO2 emissions,” said Dominique Thormann, senior vice president, administration and finance, of Nissan North America. “It’s only through collaborative efforts such as this that we can make zero-emission mobility a reality.”

People who are in the market for a used car may want to look at some at the 2007 Nissan Altima hybrid as a way to cut down on fuel costs and be environmentally friendly.

According to Edmunds.com, the Altima hybrid combined the features fans of the model have grown to love (good handling, ample room) with being fuel efficient.

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Chrysler unveils electric concept car for USPS

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Chrysler showcased four all-electric Town & Country minivan concepts to the U.S. Postal Service yesterday and vowed to apply for a grant to manufacture a “fleet” of such cars for the government agency.

The car manufacturer said it intends to apply to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Transportation Electrification stimulus program for a federal grant, enabling Chrysler to make enough zero-emission electric minivans for most of the postal workers around the country.

“Our ENVI electric minivan concepts illustrate Chrysler’s innovation with electric vehicle technology and show what the future could hold,” said Frank Klegon, executive vice president fo product development at Chrysler.

ENVI, which gets its name from the first four letters of the word environment, is a team within Chrysler charged with the task of integrating electric-vehicle technology into existing products.

Sam Pulcrano, vice president of sustainability at the USPS, said the department is currently looking to replace its “aging fleet” with energy-efficient vehicles.

Because of an established relationship with Chrysler, the USPC currently has more than 10,000 minivans in its fleet from the car manufacturer.

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Mazda to focus on electrics, hybrids in effort to promote fuel economy

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Japanese automaker Mazda says that it will ramp up efforts to deliver better fuel economy on many of its product lines.

The company wants to increase fuel economy across all models by 30 percent in the next five years, aided in some cases by a move towards hybrid vehicles, according to an Automotive News report.

“Our new gasoline engines will achieve the same fuel economy as current diesel engines, and our diesel engines will achieve similar fuel economy as existing hybrids,” Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi told the news provider.

While some Mazda fans may be willing to wait, there are many used cars that offer similar fuel economy, and some may be less expensive than their newer counterparts.

Diesel-powered vehicles, such as those made by German makes like Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes Benz offer used car buyers up to 30 percent more fuel economy than those powered by standard engines, and a variety of models have been using the power train for years.

Other opportunities for used car buyers looking for a car that’s stingy in gasoline consumption are hybrids such as the Toyota Prius or the Honda Insight, which incorporate electric motors and see combined efficency ratings above 35 miles per gallon.

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2009 Toyota Camry will be first hybrid pace car for entire NASCAR race.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Every time the flag waves at the Coca Cola 600, NASCAR fans will be watching their favorite drivers line up behind a car that has a legal, but new modification: hybrid technology.

A 2009 Toyota Camry hybrid has earned the honors of being the first pace car with hybrid technology approved for use in an entire race, reports USA Today, and it is slated to lead the field at several other tracks.

The Camry, which had no engine modifications made in order to perform its race day duties, gets 33 miles per gallon, but Toyota spokesman Ed Laukes says, “It’s a tribute to the torque and other performance characteristics of the Camry Hybrid that allows it to meet NASCAR’s requirements for pacing the longest race of the season.”

For those not lucky enough to find the “golden can” of Coca-Cola that is the ticket to win the car following the race, it may be less expensive than one thinks to get behind the wheel of a hybrid.

Toyota has offered hybrid versions of the mid-size model for the past several years, and the fuel economy in the used cars may provide an added benefit for those looking to save some money not just when they buy their car, but at the pump, too.

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Infamous Google Street View car photographed

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

A part-time photographer recently snapped a picture of the car used by Google for its Street View technology, which in turn reportedly upset the employee of the search engine company, UK newspaper the Telegraph reports.

The 58-year-old man who took the photograph asked to remain anonymous and stated that it was “ironic” the Google driver would get upset at having his picture taken, especially with privacy issues some organizations have brought up concerning Street View, according to the article.

At the time, the car was reportedly mapping a street in the village of Wool in Dorset when it was spotted by the photographer who then decided to take out his camera since the car is so rarely seen.

From the picture taken, the car appears to have a large tripod with a massive camera on top of a metal pole strapped to the roof, allowing it to take the 360 degree angles computer users have gotten used to with the technology.

Google has been using the vehicle, and presumably other similar ones, all over Britain in recent months to capture various neighborhoods.