Archive for May, 2011
In the automotive industry, the phrase "buy American" has been a hot topic for many years. With GM, Ford and Chrysler providing millions of jobs and economic stimulus for the U.S. economy, many citizens feel its their right to buy American cars and keep the country healthy. Yet in recent years, with major foreign automakers building factories in the U.S. and essentially creating new companies in America, the definition of what exactly is an "American car" has gotten quite muddled.
Toyota is one such manufacturer that has built plants in the U.S., and the Japan-based company also has several U.S.-only models that aren't available anywhere else. Now, Automotive News reports that Toyota is looking to give further development responsibilities to its U.S. branch, essentially making it a stand-alone company.
Marketing executives and other higher-ups in Toyota's U.S. branch will soon have the authority to design and approve new U.S.-only cars, without going back to Japan for approval. The new autonomy will hopefully further distinguish the Toyota brand in America from its Japanese parent company.
U.S. executives told the news source that having to run every change by Japanese officials ultimately hindered development on some models, like the Sienna, Tacoma and Avalon.
When the Japanese earthquake first hit, many analysts believed that the major automakers in Japan – Honda, Toyota and Nissan – wouldn't be back to full production levels until the end of the year. That was seemingly confirmed by the automakers themselves in their projections.
However, it's now been revealed that Honda and Toyota may be back to normal levels in the near future. Originally targeting the end of the year as their return to full production, the automakers have been ramping up manufacturing as of late and appear to be well ahead of schedule. That's definitely true at Nissan, which has said that it doesn't anticipate the earthquake to have any lingering effects on the brand.
"April is likely to be the bottom and we might see back-to-normal production levels in July or August," Yoshihiko Tabei, chief analyst at Kazaka Securities, told Reuters. "Some parts suppliers say they are resuming full production in June in time for automakers' summer operations. And the widely anticipated disruption in power supply during summer is not likely to have a big impact on production."
This is good news for car buyers, as less production means higher prices on Japan-only models. Drivers looking for a discount on a new or used car should consider New Jersey State Auto Auction which offers a wide range of both domestics and imports.
With gas prices high right now, drivers may not have a ton of money to spend on a new vehicle. Yet even if you don't have lots of cash at the moment, that doesn't mean you can't opt for a new car.
Technology has advanced considerably in recent years, and many models now come with high EPA fuel economy ratings. That's great news for drivers who are currently stuck driving around a gas guzzler. It seems like every automaker has come out with a high-MPG vehicle in recent years, and best of all is that they're not too expensive. In fact, if you can find them on the used car market the savings can really start to add up.
A recent survey by the Consumer Federation of America found that the average family will spend $3,100 on fuel this year, up from $2,000 in 2009. That's a significant chunk of change to set aside in a recovering economy. The reality is that many drivers can't purchase a car outright. So instead, they opt for financing – which can be a great move when times are tight.
The important thing to keep in mind when doing this is to keep your car loan what's known as "rightside up." An "upside-down" loan is when you ultimately owe more on the car than the vehicle is actually worth. This creates a sticky situation for drivers, as they can't sell off the car to pay the loan.
When you're buying a vehicle for a specific purpose – like its miles per gallon rating – this is an important consideration. That hatchback may look attractive now with gas prices hovering around $4 per gallon, but if prices drop then you might be feeling a bit cramped in a year or two, or starving for a bit more horsepower. The great thing about auto financing is that you don't ultimately have to stick with the vehicle – as long as you remain rightside up, you can always sell it off and put the equity toward a new car.
Drivers should also keep in mind that high gas prices may be a good reason to look into refinancing as well. Refinancing is typically a term reserved for the mortgage industry, but it applies for car loans as well. Those who already have a loan can restructure the terms and lower their monthly payments. This can be a good way to offset the increased price you're paying for fuel by lowering the amount you're putting toward the loan. Just be careful here, as paying too little toward the loan can have the aforementioned effect of making the loan go upside-down.
BMW has recently overhauled its sedan lineup, with redesigns to the 5-Series and 7-Series being generally well-received. However, the aging 3-Series has been in need of a change for some time, and it appears that update will be sooner rather than later.
According to a report from BMW Blog, the German automaker plans to end production of the current 3-Series in October, in preparation for a Spring 2012 launch of the new sedan. The report hasn't yet seen an official comment from BMW, but all signs point to it being true. Spy shots have already captured several test models of the new 3-Series, and the spring launch window would give BMW a chance to debut the model at the Frankfurt Auto Show on its home turf.
In addition, the automaker tends to overhaul its models seven years after their introduction, with rare exceptions – and the current generation of the 3-Series turns seven next spring.
Drivers interested in purchasing a BMW 3-Series may want to hold off for the time being, as it appears the next model is just over the horizon. On the other hand, the introduction of a new generation always leads to an influx of used BMWs, where smart shoppers can score some great savings if they don't mind a few clicks on the odometer.
Automakers are primed to report their May sales in the coming days, and the early estimates aren't showing favorably for the major brands.
Car sales were hot to start the year, partly due to the recovering economy and a wave of incentives offered by automakers. Since then, the high price of fuel and production slowdowns have conspired to keep sales low, USA Today reports. While April's sales figures were generally average, it appears that dealership lots weren't very crowded in the month of May, according to early projections from the car website Edmunds.
Specifically, Honda is reported to be set to report their worst May since 1997. Its Japanese rival, Toyota, is also poised for a bad month, set to lose 3 percent of its markets share to other automakers.
Despite the slowdown in sales, Edmunds auto analyst Michelle Krebs told the news source that small cars continue to be a big hit with consumers.
"Even though gas prices have moderated slightly from recent weeks, small cars continue to fly off dealer lots at a pace not seen since the gasoline-price run-up in the summer of 2008," said Krebs.
Two popular models have come under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for unrelated safety issues that could potentially injure drivers.
While no accidents or serious injuries have been reported yet, used models of the Nissan Altima and Jeep Wrangler both apparently have flaws that drivers need to be aware of.
On the Altima, the issue is related to the brake master cylinder. Apparently, this part can wear down over time and begin to leak. While these leaks will trigger a sensor and warning light, the onus is on the driver to heed this light and bring the car into the shop. If the light is ignored, it could potentially lead to a loss in braking fluid. The NHTSA is looking at approximately 440,000 vehicles made between 2007 and 2008 for this specific issue.
The Wrangler issue is also restricted to 2007 and 2008, although the problem is limited to 220,000 units. In rare cases, an electrical shortage can cause the airbag to not deploy properly, which could prove problematic in a collision.
Drivers interested in purchasing a used car should do some research on any recent recalls to make sure that the model they're considering isn't on the list for a safety issue. Once ready to buy, drivers can visit New Jersey State Auto Auction to shop a wide range of models at affordable prices.
Drivers might assume that since the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt are the first two electric vehicles to make it to market, that the two models would stick together – after all, interest in electric models as a concept is good for the future of both brands. However, Nissan has made it clear that it's not playing nice in its latest advertisement, which attempts to knock the Volt down a peg.
The conceptual ad, entitled "Gas-Powered Everything," is set to air during the NBA Finals on June 12th. The minute-long commercial takes place in an alternate reality where apparently electricity doesn't exist – everything from coffee makers to iPods are run on gas, with accompanying plumes of smoke.
These comical images continue until about 75 percent of the way through the ad, when a pathetic-looking driver is seen filling up his Chevrolet Volt at a gas station. A voice then asks "what if everything ran on gas?" as the man watches another driver pass by in his Nissan Leaf. "Then again, what if everything didn't?"
The commercial clearly goes after the Volt where it hurts – taking the electric vehicle to task for using a gas generator to assist the motor. The Leaf never has to visit a gas station, although it is that generator that gives the Volt a greater range than the Leaf.
Electric vehicles are still pretty expensive, so drivers might want to wait until they hit the used car market before committing to one. In the meantime, New Jersey State Auto Auction offers a wide range of high-MPG vehicles, including hybrids.
Volkswagen has unveiled their 2012 Passat, set to debut in the fall, and it appears that the vehicle will be selling at a much cheaper price point than its predecessor.
With an expected MSRP of around $20,000, the new Passat represents a major change for the German automaker – the midsize sedan is nearly $7,000 less expensive than the previous version. This should help the car compete in the highly-competitive midsize segment, which includes best-sellers like the Toyota Camary, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata.
In addition, Volkswagen has also made the car quite a bit bigger, taking into account the criticism leveled at the previous model for being a bit too snug. The car is now three inches longer, with the wheelbase sporting an extra four inches (presumably they shortened the front or rear end to get to three inches total). The result is an extra six cubic feet on the interior, making the car quite roomy.
"The 2012 Passat is a true Volkswagen, offering German engineering, class-leading standard features, and superior fuel economy, all for a remarkable value," said Jonathan Browning, President and CEO of Volkswagen's American branch.
The new Passat might be cheaper than its predecessor, but drivers who are really looking for value would do well to wait until the model hits the used car market. In the meantime, New Jersey State Auto Auction offers a wide variety of cars for sale at reasonable prices.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety routinely tests batches of vehicles to determine its "Top Safety Picks," an award that's been coveted by the automotive industry in the past. The group recently took a look at 13 small cars and crossovers, and found that six were worthy of the prestigious title.
Of the cars tested, only the Ford Focus, Toyota Prius, Nissan Juke, Lexus CT200h, Hyundai Elantra and Honda Civic were able to perform well enough to receive the award. The IIHS maintains that all vehicles must earn the highest rating of "good" on front, side, rear and rollover tests to qualify.
This tough requirement can lead to disappointment for some brands, as the Honda Insight and CR-Z found out in this round of testing. Both cars earned good ratings on all tests except the rollover, where they were merely "acceptable." Similarly, the Scion xD had three good tests, save for an "acceptable" front impact crash.
If you're in the market for a safe and reliable vehicle that won't break the bank, check out New Jersey State Auto Auction. They have many "Top Safety Picks" of past and present available at reasonable prices.
Nissan has announced that it is partnering with diesel engine manufacturer Cummins to work on a new version of its Titan pickup that could potentially surpass 30 miles per gallon the highway, a previously unheard of figure for pickup trucks.
The Japanese automaker is currently at work on a 2.8-liter four cylinder engine that they hope to use in a future redesign of the Titan. Fuel economy is the main target for Nissan and Cummins, with the two aiming for a target of 28 combined miles per gallon, according to PickupTrucks.com.
Given the discrepancy between city and highway ratings, that likely means that the new engine would be rated at above 30 miles per gallon on the highway. This extremely high figure for a large vehicle would go a long way toward helping Nissan meet stricter fuel economy standards instituted by the Department of Energy.
In addition, the engine is being built with an eye on emissions, hoping to comply with the super-ultra-low-emissions-vehicle standards in California, something that's only been achieved by hybrids thus far.
The two groups are looking to complete work on the engine by 2014, in time for it to be available on the next generation of Titan.
Whether you're looking for a pickup truck or a highly fuel efficient vehicle, New Jersey State Auto Auction's wide range of cars for sale at affordable prices will be able to put you in a car that matches your wishes and budget.
There's been a lot of hype surrounding electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, but a recent survey reveals that the cars have a long way to go before they're fully accepted by the American public.
The poll, organized by USA Today and Gallup, found that 57 percent of Americans will not by an electric vehicle, no matter how high fuel prices rise. The skyrocketing cost of gas has caused many to consider the vehicles, but the poll makes clear that there's a limit on just how many consumers will be swayed by the electric argument.
Edmunds CEO Jeremy Anwyl said that the models "find acceptance among a core group of passionistas, but too many questions remain for mainstream consumers." Concerns for many drivers include arrange, charge time, and the cost of energy the drivers will incur through charging the vehicles. In addition, the models are quite pricey to start out with, even after a $7,500 federal tax credit is factored into the equation.
Drivers who want to hold off on purchasing electric vehicles may want to consider used cars instead. New Jersey Auto Auction offers a wide range of cars for sale, including some of the more fuel-efficient models on the market today.
The Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency, have revealed new winder stickers that will provide buyers with more information on the fuel efficiency and emission of the vehicles they're purchasing.
Set to debut on new models in 2013, the new stickers mark the first time that information for electric vehicles will be included. Specifically, charge time and range are detailed, along with an easy conversion that allows drivers to compare the models with gas-powered vehicles.
"Today's car buyers want the best possible information about which cars on the lot offer the greatest fuel economy and the best environmental performance," said EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. "The new labels provide comprehensive information to American car buyers, helping them make a choice that will save money at the gas pump and prevent pollution in the air we breathe."
Beyond that, the stickers go into more detail than their predecessors, predicting things like average fuel costs each month. The stickers will also be readable by smartphones, allowing drivers to instantly connect online to get more information about a particular vehicle.
Vehicle technology is becoming increasing sophisticated, and most cars can already detect when there is some type of problem with the engine or powertrain. So, what about detecting an issue with the driver?
Ford has been doing extensive research in that area, and recently unveiled a new driver's seat that will be able to detect a passenger's heart function. Through the use of six small sensors, the seat is able to detect electrical pulses from the heart without touching the skin.
The seat can then pass that information on to the car's computer system, which can take appropriate action. For example, if signs of a heart attack are present, the car may automatically disable and notify a local medical center before any damage is done.
"As always in medicine, the earlier a condition is detected, the easier it is to treat, and this technology even has the potential to be instrumental in diagnosing conditions drivers were previously unaware they had," said Dr. Achim Lindner, a medical officer at the Ford research center.
It is widely believed that former professional wrestler "Macho Man" Randy Savage recently died as a result of a heart attack which led to an accident, exactly the kind of situation that Ford is looking to prevent through this new technology.
BMW North America CEO Jim O'Donnell has admitted that he's "disappointed" in the slow-selling 5-Series GT, which was designed as a replacement for the company's 5-Series station wagon.
In comments to Automotive News, O'Donnell said that the new version of the 5-Series has not attracted the customer that the company hoped. Designed to resemble a cross between a coupe and a large hatchback, the polarizing styling has put off some drivers, something that has hurt the automaker's sales.
"The disappointment I have is that I thought a lot of our 5-Series station wagon customers would go with the GT," O'Donnell told the news source. "In point of fact, that is not happening. We have lost those customers to the competition – mainly to Mercedes-Benz."
Besides the fact that the car isn't selling well, the sales that it is generating aren't necessarily good ones. O'Donnell commented that the GT was drawing a lot of buyers away from the 7-Series. The two vehicles are built on the same platform, but the GT is $13,000 cheaper while only adding a bit more bulk. That means the company is losing potential sales for the more expensive model.
It appears that the 5-Series GT will go the way of the dodo soon, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad vehicle. Drivers who are interested in purchasing a used BMW may want to consider waiting for the GT to begin hitting the pre-owned market.
The minivan segment has been in decline as of late, with many families electing to switch over to crossovers and SUVs rather than stick with the "mommy van." Automakers have obviously noticed the lagging sales, but have just recently began to do something about it.
When all is said and done, 2011 may just be remembered as the "year of the minivan," as all the major models got redesigns for the year. With at least six brand-new cars for sale to choose from, it can be understandably tricky for a family to pick the one that's right for them.
That's why Cars.com partnered up with MotorWeek and USA Today for the first ever "Ultimate Minivan Shootout," a rigorous three days of testing that would decide which model rose to the top. A selection of auto experts from the three publications as well as a family of five all tested the Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town and Country, Toyota Sienna, Nissan Quest and Volkswagen Routan over the three days. Each were given a comprehensive scorecard, with all the pros and cons converted to numerical figures
and tallied up. All minivans were similarly equipped and retailed for less than $45,000.
While they eventually came up with a clear winner, no model was deemed completely worthless. The reviewers didn't like the Toyota Sienna, as it came in last place, but they praised its smooth ride, excellent performance and available all-wheel drive. The Dodge Grand Caravan, in fifth overall, was deemed an excellent value – its $34,000 price tag made it much cheaper than the other cars on the list.
The Routan was similarly priced as the Grand Caravan, but held a number of advantages – like a rear-seat DVD and second-row seating. That was enough to earn it fourth place overall. And in third place, the Nissan Quest was deemed the best of the bunch by two of its reviewers – but its lack of standard features and odd styling ultimately held it back.
Things got close at the top of the list, but the Honda Odyssey ultimately beat out the Chrysler Town and Country to win the shootout. Both vehicles were praised, with reviewers and family alike praising Chrysler's luxurious interior and the Odyssey's extensive features.
Of course, drivers should keep in mind that these are only the results of one test. Earlier this year, Edmunds Inside Line ran a very similar test with some wildly different results. With performance more of a factor, the Sienna actually ended up as the best overall, with the Quest and Odyssey tying for second. The two American models brought up the rear, and the Routan wasn't even tested.
If you're looking to buy a used minivan, you might want to head down to New Jersey State Auto Auction. They have nearly every model available, and you can take your time and do your own minivan shootout to see which you like the best.
Several new 2012 Honda Civics have already been recalled due to an issue during manufacturing resulted in improperly-installed fuel lines.
Honda announced that it was bringing back more than 1,500 vehicles, which were only produced several weeks ago. The 2012 redesign of the Civic only recently went on sale, so it's a bit unusual for a recall to be issued so quickly.
The only vehicles affected by the change were 2012 models produced between April 21st and May 2nd. Honda became aware of the issue when an employee at the company's factory reported a smell of gasoline coming from one of the cars.
Apparently, the fuel lines can become dislodged in the vehicle. If left unchecked, this could start a small fire. Fortunately, no injuries have been reported as a result of the defect.
In fact, the problem may not affect that many owners. Since the car just went on sale last month, a good portion of the models are likely still sitting at the dealership. For example, of the 337 cars recalled in Canada, only 2 had actually been purchased. Honda has not revealed how many were sold in the U.S. so far, but has already notified the owners.
Chevrolet has announced plans to ramp up production on its electric-hybrid Volt after a factory overhaul.
In order for the factory, located in Detroit-Hamtramck, to prepare for the changes, GM will close the factory at the beginning of June for at least four weeks. However, the lost production time will be made up immediately in increased efficiency. When all is said and done, the plant will actually produce 1,000 more Volts this year than the originally planned total of 15,000.
While the changes will have an effect on production this year, GM is really looking toward the future. Production for Volts has been increased for 2012 from 45,000 to 60,000. In addition, the factory will also be responsible for manufacturing the 2013 Malibu, beginning next year.
The move is largely seen as a reaction to the growing demand for fuel-efficient vehicles. The Volt has been available for some time, but has still only been released in limited markets. The increase in production is a sign that the car is catching on and GM is putting its full support behind the electric vehicle.
Recent news about the Volt from Kelley Blue Book suggests that the $41,000 will retail for about $17,000 if bought used in three years, so drivers may want to wait until they hit the used car market before making a move.
A lack of used cars has led to dealers willing to pay very high prices for models, making it one of the best time in years to sell a car.
The Associated Press reports that more drivers held onto their cars during the recession, meaning that the normal cycle of buying a new car and then selling it to a used dealer was considerably disrupted. Used car dealers are now beginning to feel the effects, and are thus paying higher prices simply to fill up their lots.
According to data from the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), dealers are paying an average of $11,660 for cars. That represents a near 30 percent increase since December 2008.
"You're not going to find a situation like this very often," Jonathan Banks, executive auto analyst for NADA, told the news source.
NADA's data isn't an anomaly by any means. Manheim, which is one of the biggest auto auction companies, has been tracking used car prices since 1995 with their monthly vehicle index. Chief economist for the company, Tom Webb, says that prices this year are the highest in the history of their tracking.
The chief reason is the fact that buyers are holding onto their vehicles for longer. During the recession, most drivers couldn't afford to purchase a new vehicle. Instead, they opted to hold onto their current car. In addition, many people decided to buy used cars rather than new ones. That continued activity has led to a dwindling supply of cars for used car dealers. Anyone who's taking a basic economics class can predict what happens next. With little supply of used cars over a number of years, dealer demand has built up to the point that they're willing to pay high prices for the vehicles.
According to data from Polk Research, the average age of a car on the road is now 10.6 years, up from 9.8 in 2007. That can partially be attributed to the economy, but another factor is that cars are simply lasting longer. Automakers have really stepped up their long-term reliability, meaning it's not necessary to switch models every few years.
That said, there's no telling how long these good prices will last. Manheim predicts that prices will fall off again in approximately two months. Leasing also became more popular during the recession, so the end of three-year leases will likely mean a large influx of used cars.
If you're looking to trade your vehicle, New Jersey State Auto Auction is a great choice. They offer fantastic prices that are often well above the Kelley Blue Book value and can get you a great deal on a new car as well.