U.S. Toyota execs to get developmental authority

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.

Drivers interested in "buying American" – or an import car – might want to check out New Jersey State Auto Auction, which offers a wide variety of cars for sale.

Honda and Toyota expected to bounce back after earthquake sooner than anticipated

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.

High gas prices make auto financing an attractive option

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.

Report: BMW plans new 3-Series for 2012

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.

Edmunds: Sales expected to be down for May

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.

Drivers interested in a small car or any other vehicle may want to consider New Jersey State Auto Auction, which offers a wide range of cars for sale at affordable prices.

NHTSA to investigate Wrangler, Altima

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.

Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt butt heads in newest ad

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.

New Passat is larger, cheaper, than previous model

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.

IIHS names six small cars as “Top Safety Picks”

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.

Other models, such as the Suzuki SX4 and Dodge Caliber, did not fare as well, with multiple tests deemed merely "acceptable" and even a few "marginal" thrown in.

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 working on 30-mpg engine for Titan pickup

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.