Archive for June, 2013

14 Best Cars for Teens

Safe, fuel-efficient, affordable and reliable.

by on Jun.24, 2013

Tops on the Best Teen Car list, the Ford Taurus has a big interior and a relatively small insurance premium.

Maybe your teen has just gone through that rite of passage, getting a driver’s license. Or perhaps they’ve gotten their diploma and are heading off to college next autumn.  Whatever the reason, it’s a challenge that millions of American parents are familiar with: finding the best car for their teens.

Now, we know that young drivers would likely look for something quick and cool if they were doing the shopping, but parents usually have a different agenda.  They’re looking for a vehicle that’s safe, affordable, fuel-efficient and reliable.

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The good news is that there are plenty of used vehicles that fall into that category.  Better yet, most of the 14 Best Cars for Teens ranked by are also likely to have enough of the cool factor to keep the kids happy.


NY State Dealers Try, So Far Fail, to Ban Tesla

Dealers group enlists legislature to block factory-owned stores.

by on Jun.24, 2013

Tesla wants to skip the traditional franchise system and set up its own factory-owned dealer network.

Elon Musk  has had a history of trying to do things his way.  In some cases, that has won him friends and customers – but the Tesla Motors founder has also stepped on a few toes – and that includes the New York State Automobile Dealers Association which is now trying to prevent the battery-car maker from selling its Model S sedan in the Empire State.

Tesla is not only trying to prove that it can make a business case for selling electric vehicles – in fact, turning its first-ever profit during the January to March quarter – but it also wants to break away from the traditional dealer franchise system and sell vehicles directly to consumers. That has led to a series of legal battles around the country, including Colorado, Texas, Massachusetts and New York.

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The NY dealers group has so far been stymied in its legal battle, the state’s supreme court recently ruling that it couldn’t use the Franchised Dealer Act to block Tesla’s sales plans. So now the trade organization is hoping to fight its battle in the state legislature.

Two essentially identical bills were sent to the New York Assembly and Senate last week that would prohibit the state’s department of motor vehicles from registering any vehicle not sold through an independent franchisee.  That’s another way of saying a traditional franchisee.


Feds Delaying Backup Camera Rules

NHTSA posrpone announcement for another 18 months.

by on Jun.21, 2013

Backup cameras are becoming increasingly common but the government still aims to make them mandatory despite the latest delay.

Safety advocates have been handed another setback as the federal government yet again postpones its long-awaited backup camera mandate.

In a letter to Congress, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said it will likely be as late as January 2015 before the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can finalize rules requiring automakers to install the devices – which many believe could help save 100s of lives.

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NHTSA has estimated that there are 202 backover deaths in the U.S. each year – including 100 children under the age of five.  Another 14,000 Americans are injured in such incidents.


Durheimer in Limbo as Audi Shakes up Management

Audi tech chief pushed aside, likely to leave VW Group.

by on Jun.21, 2013

Audi's tech chief Womfgang Durheimer falls victim to palace intrigue.

To those who casually glance over the press release Volkswagen AG sent out this morning it might seem like an everyday occurrence, the routine corporate rotation of jobs. But something much more significant has apparently roiled through the management ranks of the Volkswagen AG empire, with Wolfgang Durheimer at its epicenter.

What the VWAG release did do was confirm a report that first surfaced in the German newsmagazine, Der Spiegel suggesting that the highly respected Durheimer had been ousted from the job he had been given only last September as the head of R&D for Audi.  Considering the role Volkswagen’s luxury brand plays in the German maker’s empire, it was a towering position with influence over much of the rest of the corporation.

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According to VW, Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, the 63-year-old board member who had responsible for technical development for VW will now assume Durheimer’s post while also maintaining some of his duties at the parent Volkswagen Group.  Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neusser, 53, will now slip into Hackenberg’s old office.

And Durheimer?


New Nissan Program Could Let Leaf Owners Upgrade Batteries

Maker will launch battery replacement program in 2014.

by on Jun.21, 2013

Nissan has been working to reassure owners about the batteries in its Leaf EV.

Nissan plans to launch a new battery replacement program in 2014 that could let owners of the Leaf electric-vehicle benefit from anticipated improvements in lithium-technology that could result in smaller, lighter, longer-range – and less expensive – batteries over the coming year.

While details of the program have yet to be finalized, the maker would permit U.S. Leaf customers to swap out their original batteries for new ones, whether because the old packs were losing power as they aged or because improved batteries were to become available.

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“Technology is evolving and battery prices are projected to decline as EVs become increasingly mainstream,” said Erik Gottfried, Nissan’s director of Electric Vehicle Sales and Marketing. “Therefore, this new battery program today affords more flexibility for the future so that customers can both upgrade to the latest available technology for their LEAF and enjoy more predictable vehicle operating costs.”


Toyota Increasing U.S. Capacity – Again

Maker struggling to keep up with growing sales.

by on Jun.21, 2013

Toyota's latest investment will help keep up with consumer demand for products like the new Avalon.

With steady growth in North American sales pinching capacity throughout the auto industry, Toyota Motor Corp is struggling to maintain its market share and now plans to boost capacity with a $200 million investment at three key factories in the U.S.

Toyota is far from alone. Sales in the U.S. are expected to jump from 14.5 million in 2012 to 15.5 million this year, leaving a number of makers racing to keep pace. Among manufacturers now planning to add employees and, if necessary, expand existing facilities are Ford Motor Co, General Motors Co. Chrysler Group, Nissan Motors and Honda.

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The steep recession that started in 2008 forced manufacturers and suppliers to trim capacity and until now they have been slow to add new capacity even as sales have recovered. But the tempo of new investment finally is picking up.


Volvo’s Chinese Fire Drill

New owner Geely hopes to ignite Volvo sales around the world.

by on Jun.21, 2013

Workers assembling a pilot S60L sedan at the new Volvo plant in Chengdu.

The assembly line creeps along at a glacial pace.  For the next few months, the workers at the sprawling plant on the outskirts of the Sichuanese capital of Chengdu will be carefully trained before the first cars actually roll into Chinese showrooms.

But eventually, if all goes according to plan, the factory will be running at a frantic rate.  Long little more than an after-thought in the global luxury market, Volvo Cars has ambitions to challenge more established brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

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At least, that’s the goal set by Geely which purchased the Swedish maker from Ford Motor Co. three years ago.  The ambitious Chinese conglomerate plans to invest at least $6 billion to rebuild Volvo, completely updating its product line-up and adding new plants to produce them, starting with the factory in Chengdu and another in China’s Northeast industrial belt.


Tesla Demo’s 90-Second Model S Battery Swap

Faster than filling a gas tank, declares CEO Musk.

by on Jun.21, 2013

Tesla demonstates the speed of its battery swap system compared to the time it takes to fill up at "the fastest gas station in LA."

Beyond the high cost of electric-vehicle technology, perhaps the biggest turn-off for consumers has been the lengthy time needed to recharge products like the Model S.  Or so goes conventional wisdom.

But the maker has set out to show that recharging the sedan doesn’t have to be an obstacle – first by announcing plans for a nationwide, high-speed “Supercharger” network and, now, by demonstrating the ability to swap out a depleted battery for a fresh one faster than you can fill up a gas tank.

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After tweeting plans to prove that possibility, Tesla CEO Elon Musk invited journalists and several hundred Model S owners to the factory to demonstrate the new battery-swap strategy. On a video screen overhead, a Tesla employee was shown filling up a car’s gas tank at what the South African-born executive described as “the fastest gas station in L.A.”  On stage, a robotic machine automatically removed a Model S battery and replaced it with a fully charged one.


Value of Used Battery-Cars Declining

Plug-based vehicles see sharp plunge in trade-in prices.

by on Jun.20, 2013

Nissan is developing a new program to help boost resale demand for the Leaf battery-car.

In another blow to battery-cars, analysts for the National Automobile Dealers Association have noted a steep drop in the value of used plug-in electric vehicles.

Trade-in prices are expected to decline nearly 30% this year—the highest depreciation of any vehicle segment in the American automotive market, according to a new report from the NADA Used Car Guide, which tracks the prices of used vehicle .

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“The steep rate of depreciation for used plug-in electric vehicles can be attributed to limited range, manufacturer incentives and federal tax credits intended to offset the higher prices of new plug-in electric vehicles,” said Jonathan Banks, executive automotive analyst for the NADA Used Car Guide.


New Corvette Stingray Beats the 4-Second Mark

But there's an asterisk in the record book.

by on Jun.20, 2013

The new Corvette takes a turn around VIR.

It’s already on tape to be the most powerful “base” Corvette ever produced, and when the seventh-generation ‘Vette hits market over the summer, it will also come in as the fastest, for the first time ever breaking the 4-second mark.

Well, put an asterisk in the record book. It’s the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray with the optional Z51 Performance Package that will screech from a standing start to 60 in just 3.8 seconds. It will also hit 1.03 g in cornering and brake from 60 to 0 in just 107 feet, Chevy has announced.

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“For the new Stingray, we set out to elevate every aspect of the Corvette’s performance,” said Tadge Juechter, Corvette chief engineer. “Considered alone, the acceleration, braking and cornering performance of the Corvette Stingray is truly impressive. More significant is how well they work together, resulting in a lap time at VIR (Virginia International Raceway) that places the new Stingray in the upper echelon of all sports cars.”