Nissan Leaf named 2011 World Car of the Year

After months of speculation, the 2011 World Car of the Year was announced at the New York International Auto Show, with the all-electric Nissan Leaf taking home the top prize.

The Leaf had some tough competition, as it went up against two luxury heavyweights in the form of the Audi A8 and BMW 5 Series. When the votes were tallied, however, it was the electric compact that was standing tall.

"It is a great joy that the world's first, mass-marketed electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf, has won the prestigious award," said Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.

Nissan's first EV, along with the Chevrolet Volt, have garnered quite a bit of attention as the first mass-produced electric vehicles. But of the two, the Leaf is more dedicated to the concept of electric power. The Volt has a gas generator that kicks in at high speeds or when the motor runs out of juice, but the Leaf functions solely on electricity.

The Leaf was released in the U.S. in December, but is still only available in limited quantities. Nissan plans to ramp up production in the coming months to meet demand.

Drivers in the market for a fuel-efficient vehicle will likely consider the leaf, but it comes with quite the price tag even after a federal tax credit. Buyers might be better served waiting till it hits the used car market.

Chevrolet to offer Eco package on Malibu

Drivers looking for a fuel-efficient vehicle have been flocking to the Chevrolet Cruze Eco, which is a special package available on the regular Cruze compact. Essentially, this upgrade adds extra features like air shutters to improve the vehicle's fuel efficiency.

The idea has been successful for GM, so the automaker is now looking to bring "Eco" packages to other models. First up is the recently-unveiled 2013 Chevy Malibu. The car recently debuted at the Shanghai International Auto Show, but already the automaker has announced that the Malibu will be available with the Eco packages.

Outfitting the Cruze with the Eco trim level bumps the highway miles per gallon up to 42, but Chevy doesn't believe that the Malibu will crack 40 mpgs with its highway rating. Instead, the automaker revealed that it is expecting EPA-rated mileage of 38 on the highway and 26 in the city for the Malibu Eco.

And unlike the Cruze version, the Eco won't be using air shutters to achieve the higher rating. Instead, it will be getting a battery system that will technically turn it into a hybrid, although these types of cars are referred to as "mild hybrids."

Drivers in the market for a vehicle with great fuel efficiency may want to check out New Jersey State Auto Auction, which offers a wide variety of cars for sale.

BMW, Mercedes, may surpass Lexus in sales

Lexus has been the king of the luxury sales charts in the U.S. for the past five years, but it appears that 2011 could see a new leader when all is said and done.

Toyota's luxury brand seemed invincible at one point, but last year's recall scandal hurt the brand's image in the eyes of many consumers. It still wasn't enough to topple Lexus completely, but it did allow Mercedes-Benz and BMW to make a late charge at the end of the year.

That trend continued into 2011, and both of the German automakers have outsold Lexus thus far this year. What may seal Lexus' fate, however, is a circumstance entirely out of Toyota's control – the Japanese earthquake. Mercedes and BMW have been largely unaffected by the disaster, but Lexus has already told dealers to begin preparing for severe shortages over the next few months.

Essentially, this means that even if Lexus was selling well at the moment, it might not have enough supply to keep up with its German counterparts. These signs point to either BMW or Mercedes – or possibly both – surpassing Lexus before the year is done.

Drivers interested in a used BMW, Mercedes or Lexus may want to consider New Jersey State Auto Auction. These luxury vehicles can be a bit on the expensive side, but shopping the used car market can help drivers score a great deal. 

Ford trims Lincoln dealer network

Urban drivers in the market for a Lincoln may have a bit more difficulty locating a seller, as Ford has cut nearly 20 percent of its metro Lincoln dealers over the past few months.

The move is not entirely unexpected, as the 500 dealers were reportedly told back in October that the automaker was looking to cut 175 of them. The closings are ostensibly to make the remaining Lincoln dealers stronger by reducing competition among themselves. Bloomberg reports that more than 100 dealers have already been cut, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Ford's trimming of the dealer network is part of a larger plan to bring the Lincoln brand back to prominence. Of Ford's many brands, Lincoln was the only one to survive the company's restructuring, as Mercury was discontinued and Jaguar and Volvo were sold off. Ford has repeatedly stated that it hopes to revitalize Lincoln with a new lineup of vehicles that will make it more competitive against other luxury automakers.

However, those plans have yet to come to fruition. Sales figures for 2011 so far show Lincoln down by approximately 11 percent, while the rest of the industry is enjoying a 20 percent spike in sales on average.

Drivers in the market for a Lincoln vehicle can still find both new and used cars for sale at New Jersey State Auto Auction.

Edmunds: Compact car prices on the rise

The recent uptick in fuel costs has caused the prices on many used car models to soar as of late, especially compact cars with good fuel economy ratings.

According to data from Edmunds reported by MSNBC, the price of a used Honda Accord has gone up significantly since September, with a purported price increase of 24 percent. Used Hyundai Sonatas are also up in price, with an average jump of 22 percent. Other big movers include the Honda Civic at 13 percent and the Nissan Sentra at 12 percent.

"Gas prices are definitely starting to ripple in the used car market right now," Bill Visnic, an analyst for Edmunds, told the news source.

The news may not inspire much confidence in drivers considering a used vehicle, but analysts believe that the recent trend is just the tip of what could eventually be a much larger surge in small car prices. In the past, seeing the price of fuel reach above $4 per gallon tends to send consumers into a panic, trading in their large vehicles for smaller ones. The price has already been above $4 in some parts of the country, but the national average is still at $3.80 – meaning small car prices could go higher still if costs continue to rise.

In addition, the recent Japanese earthquake may mean a shortage of vehicles over the summer, making the future appear a bit bleak pricing-wise. Many dealers are already preparing to have a reduced supply of cars for sale, meaning that incentives are drying up and prices may begin climbing in anticipation of the shortfall.

Of course, for those who can weather the low fuel economy, this can be a great time to get a deal on a used SUV or sports car. It's true you might be paying a bit more at the pump while the prices remain high, but if you end up with significant savings on the initial deal, it'll be worth it in the long run.

In essence, it might be smart for drivers considering the purchase of a used car to buy as soon as possible, before the prices start to go up even further. Shopping at New Jersey State Auto Auction can ensure that you get a fair deal no matter what the national pressures may be. Financing is available for those who qualify, and there is a wide selection of cars for sale no matter if you're looking for an SUV or small car.

Trade your car in now before prices rise

Even those who have never taken an economics course knows that any business is ultimately based off of the law of supply and demand. With the recent Japanese earthquake wreaking havoc on Japanese automakers and car parts manufacturers, it seems like the "supply" aspect of the equation could be in great jeopardy over the next few months – leading to a demand that could send prices soaring.

Nearly every dealer seems to use the phrase "now is a great time to buy." In fact, the slogan is so often repeated that it's essentially lost all meaning to most buyers. However, now really is a good time to buy for those seeking a vehicle, before the effects from the earthquake really start to take their toll. Most dealers have a supply of cars that will last them through April and May. But with production slowing down or ceasing completely at several major automakers, many analysts are predicting shortages over the summer. The situation is not restricted to Japanese vehicles either – many domestic models source their parts from Japan, so they're expecting slowdowns as well.

"If you need a vehicle, buy right now," Edmunds president Jeremy Anwyl told USA Today. "Look for the vehicles that are available and have incentives to get a good deal… If you can wait until fall, the pricing will be better."

So with prices likely to rise over the summer, it's a good time to buy a car, but it's also looking like it will be an excellent time to trade in a vehicle. Dealers are fully aware that they may be seeing reduced inventories over the next few months, so they'll be looking to secure cars that they can resell over that time period. That could potentially lead to a higher price for your trade-in.

Of course, the normal rules of trading in your car still apply. Be sure to utilize pricing guides like Kelley Blue Book to determine what your car is worth, and don't be afraid to negotiate. In addition, keep the discussion about the trade and your potential vehicle purchase completely separate. Many dealers will raise the price of the car that they're selling you while seemingly offering a great deal on your trade. Keep the two figures separate. In fact, Edmunds recommends not even revealing that you have a trade until after you've locked down a price for the car.

With some savvy shopping and a little elbow grease, you can get a great price on a new or used car as well as an excellent deal on your trade-in. When you're ready to buy, head down to New Jersey State Auto Auction for a great selection of vehicles and fair trade-in prices.

Chrysler to sell natural gas vehicles in 2017

Chrysler has announced that it will be bringing natural gas-powered vehicles to the U.S. by 2017, possibly utilizing technology already being used by its parent company, Fiat, in Europe.

The automaker reportedly sees the technology as a strong alternative to the hybrid and electric vehicles that many automakers are currently producing. Chrysler says that natural gas-powered vehicles are cheaper to produce and could potentially reduce emissions even further than electric models.

"The technology is very actively being worked on," Bob Lee, Chrysler’s vice president for engine and electrified propulsion systems, told Bloomberg. "It's a good way for some diversity in the market in terms of fuel use."

Currently, the only natural gas vehicle in the U.S. is the Honda Civic GX, although its only available in limited markets. Honda claims that the vehicle is more affordable and has longer range than electric competitors. Fiat, which owns a majority stake in Chrysler, sells multiple natural gas vehicles in Europe, as do other automakers.

Barriers to widespread adoption of natural gas models include a lack of fueling stations and large gas tanks that take up a lot of space in the vehicles.

Natural gas vehicles are still a long way off, so in the meantime, drivers searching for a fuel efficient model may want to instead opt for a used car from New Jersey State Auto Auction.

Ford expands F-150 recall to 1.2 million vehicles

Ford will be expanding its previous recall of approximately 150,000 Ford F-150 pickup trucks to more than 1 million, after considerable pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The issue relates to a possible short in the electrical wiring that could cause the airbag to deploy unexpectedly, even while the vehicle is in motion. In February, Ford said that the problem could be attributed to an error during a specific shift at a specific factory, meaning just a fraction of the 2004 to 2006 versions of the pickup truck were affected. However, the NHTSA was not satisfied, and urged the automaker to recall all trucks made during the time period, approximately 1.2 million vehicles.

The original recall went through as planned in February, but after discussions with the NHTSA, Ford has decided to expand it to include the extra million vehicles. Drivers will be notified in May, and repairs are expected to take about half a day's work at the dealership.

Drivers interested in purchasing a used Ford F-150 should be sure that the truck is either not included in the recall or has had the necessary maintenance work performed. Those interested in this model may want to consider New Jersey State Auto Auction, where they can get a great deal on these and other vehicles.

GM pushes up start date for Malibu

In an unusual move, General Motors has announced that it will be pushing up the scheduled production of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, meaning buyers may see the car four months ahead of schedule.

The car was originally slated to begin production in May 2012, but a perceived "hole" in GM's release lineup prompted the company to push the production up sooner to January, according to the Detroit News. Reportedly, new CEO Dan Akerson felt that the company did not have enough guaranteed top sellers being released between now and then, so he asked that changes to the schedule be made to accommodate the Malibu.

"Since Mr. Akerson came aboard, he's challenging us to move faster and this is the latest example," GM spokesman Dave Darovitz told the news provider.

As Chevrolet's midsize sedan contender, the Malibu is one of the top sellers for the company, moving nearly 200,000 units last year alone. A redesign generally tends to boost those numbers even higher.

Chevrolet will unveil the new car next week at the Shanghai Auto Show, with the event simulcast on the company's Facebook page. The car will also be at the upcoming New York Auto Show.

Drivers interested in the new model will still have to wait a bit for the release, so they may want to spring for a used Chevy Malibu from New Jersey State Auto Auction in the meantime. 

Camaro’s power boost to push it past Mustang

Throughout the history of the automobile industry, one of the top rivalries has always been the Chevrolet Camaro vs. the Ford Mustang. These two pony cars have gone toe-to-toe since the late sixties, and it doesn't appear the war will be over anytime soon.

Chevrolet revealed today that the new 2012 Camaro will be getting an 11-horsepower upgrade on the V6 model in order to increase its power past that of its rival, the Ford Mustang. However, the Camaro won't sacrifice any fuel economy to do so – still achieving 30 mpgs on the highway. The current version of the Camaro is already outselling the Mustang, so this announcement will likely have the engineers at Ford scrambling to increase the power on their model.

In addition to the performance boost, Chevrolet will also offer a "45th anniversary" edition of the car this summer. This trim level will be mostly cosmetic, with unique badges, a red and silver racing stripe, a black interior with white dashboard and more. Besides this, Chevrolet has redesigned the steering wheel and added an option rear camera.

Drivers interested in a Camaro or Mustang should realize that these cars can be a bit expensive. It might be better to search for a used model from New Jersey State Auto Auction than buy new.