How Long Should Automakers Be on the Hook for Defective Parts?


How long should an automaker remain responsible for poor workmanship?

Traditional car warranties range from about 36,000 to 100,000 miles, or between 3 and 10 years. Typically, if something major is going to go wrong with the vehicle, it’ll happen within the warranted time frame.

Sometimes, however, poor workmanship or defective materials surface after a warranty expires. Automakers can issue recalls to deal with these kinds of problems, and they sometimes do–but usually a car owner is left responsible for repairs.

In 2012, Volkswagen settled a $69 million class-action lawsuit to address the issue of leaking sunroofs in nearly 3 million cars between model years 1997 and 2009. The Audi A4, A6, and A8 were included in the settlement.

The 2007-2009 Audi Q7 was excluded, but owners across the country are now experiencing flooded interiors due to the same problem. Should Audi be on the hook?

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New Cars *Are* Getting Safer – Don’t Believe What You Read

Ford safety technology

The news is full of gloomy stories these days when it comes to automobiles. It might even be enough to make make you think driving an automobile is becoming more dangerous.

There is, for instance, the recent fatal collision between a Tesla Model S and a semi trailer. And the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said last year was the deadliest on the nation’s highways since 2008.

It’s enough to make you want to swathe yourself in plastic bubble wrap and never leave the house.

But new cars are getting safer, thanks to a host of new technologies. The best part is you’ll probably never have to consciously use most of them, but you’ll nevertheless be glad they’re there.

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Tesla Autopilot Crash Raises Questions About Autonomous Cars


It’s not easy to write about death.

Death, however, is a tragic and so far unavoidable part of automotive culture. In 2014, an average of 89 people died per day in car crashes. Worldwide, the numbers are far larger: An average of 3,287 people die every day in cars.

Those are sobering numbers and even more powerful when you consider that every one of those deaths was a mother, father, son, or daughter.

As common as deaths on international roadways are, one tragic accident has made headline news for being the first to happen in a self-driving car.

Have drivers already become too trusting of autonomous technology?

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A Beginner’s Guide to Digital Instrumentation

Courtesy Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz Head-Up Display

Chances are, anyone reading this post learned to drive a car with some sort of traditional gauge setup. Speedometer, tachometer, engine temperature, gas level, maybe a warning that someone needs to fasten their seatbelt. But is it possible the near future will leave such an interior feeling old-fashioned, obsolete, better suited for classic cars and car shows? We all know how fondly our zealously up-to-date culture likes to deride (or sometimes obsess over) old technological “breakthroughs” like cassette tapes or first-generation iPods, computing devices that look and feel like bricks in comparison to the sleek devices of today. With their growing computing power and ever-more-sophisticated interiors, why would cars be exempt from this double-time march of progress?

Surely we’ve seen this coming. Nothing moves as quickly as technology or has quite the same way of spreading across all parts of a particular product or experience. We have our award-winning infotainment systems; how long could it have been before some of the operating philosophy behind fighter-jet cockpits or the crisp graphics and formidable computing power of smartphones began showing up right in front of drivers’ noses? Not long, apparently: just take a look at the new display setups appearing in consumer vehicles, from the head-up displays (yes, like fighter jets, sort of) to fully computerized dashboards. But if you haven’t necessarily been keeping an enthusiast’s eye on the automotive market, you might not quite know what these new features are all about. They are, after all, still pretty new. So here’s a quick rundown of a few of the more important (or common) among them.

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Tragedy’s Reminder: Check for Recalls Often


The 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee that rolled down a driveway and killed actor Anton Yelchin this weekend had been recalled earlier this spring after federal regulators found that its gear shifting could confuse drivers and possibly cause vehicles to roll away.

It’s a horrific accident that illustrates the danger of automobiles and the importance of quickly addressing recall notices.

We don’t know the specifics of Yelchin’s case. Maybe he never received the notice or maybe he recently purchased the car and didn’t know about the recall. It’s also possible that the notice got thrown out with the junk mail.

The consequences were undeniably tragic and sad.

Automotive recalls are issued regularly and have become an expected part of car ownership, but vehicle owners need to remain as vigilant in checking for them as automakers are in issuing them.

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Car Safety 2016: Warnings, Assists, and Autopilot, Oh My!

Car scanning road ahead

We love cars, but find the fact that it took almost 1.6 million U.S. motor-vehicle fatalities to make wearing a seat belt mandatory in America troubling. Happily, annual fatalities have declined fairly steadily since their early-‘70s peak, despite the fact that Americans now drive well over one and a half times the number of miles they did then, often while using a smartphone. And with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing and rating vehicles for safety and crashworthiness, we have to admit it’s getting better.

Smartphones can, of course, pose huge risks to drivers, so much so that NHTSA partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation to create the website, and “distracted driving” now has its own Wikipedia entry. But the connectivity and processing power of smartphones can also be used to help drivers avoid accidents and to make sure authorities get alerted quickly and with all the information they’ll need to respond to an accident. And those capabilities will definitely be required for any future “self-driving,” “autonomous,” or Autopilot-equipped cars. As we learned at NEMPA/MIT’s recent panel on the intersection of technology and design, a whole new world of car safety and driver-assistance technologies is available–and evolving–so we’re going to take a look at some of the more important and effective new tech.

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What’s Past Is Prologue: Looking Back on the Origins of Today’s Tech

1962 Oldsmobile Cutlass Jetfire Advertisement

In The Tempest, William Shakespeare once wrote, “what’s past is prologue.” The quotation implies that one’s history can dictate his or her future actions. It’s written outside the United States National Archives Building, and I had a particularly intelligent and entertaining professor who reflected on it often. Looking at the auto industry, it’s clear that the sentiment extends beyond Shakespeare’s verse.

New automotive technologies emerge every year. We covered some of them last week. Some, like the airbag or the seat belt, have ushered in a new era of motoring, changing the landscape forever. Others fall flat—despite Saab’s creative thinking with the 9000 Prometheus, steering via joystick never really got off the ground (the Prometheus didn’t even make it to production). What I find most interesting is looking back on these advancements and seeing how they’ve impacted cars today, despite their often lackluster starts.

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Digging Into Self-Driving Cars

NEMPA MIT panelists John Leonard, Gil Pratt, Timothy Anness, Mary Gustanski, and Michelle Finamore.

Panelists John Leonard, Gil Pratt, Timothy Anness, Mary Gustanski, and Michelle Finamore.

People are funny. We’ve complained about having to waste time sitting uncomfortably in traffic for decades now. But when the phrase “self-driving car” and the idea of traveling in a car without having to dedicate full attention to it started becoming unavoidable in auto news, drivers of all sorts cried foul, calling the idea bad for reasons ranging from practical and real to theoretical and imagined.

Too far along to abandon the self-driving idea, automakers experimented with new language; disruptor Elon Musk demonstrated his wisdom with words by naming Tesla’s system Autopilot, after an established technology that’s already trusted and relatively understood, at least conceptually. Another important differentiator for Tesla is the fact that Autopilot promises partial rather than full autonomy, a critical difference that came up repeatedly at the recent New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) conference on The Intersection of Technology and Design.

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10 Economical Options for the Sensible Graduate


As Boston-area folks know all too well, another year’s worth of college students will soon graduate and move on to their next stage in life. Whether that next stage will be an entry-level job, more school, volunteer or charity work, or getting right to work on their first (next?) startup, we wish this year’s graduates nothing but the best with whatever comes next.

We ran a recent survey that determined more than half of graduating college students plan to buy a car, and we were happily surprised to learn that over half of them expect to buy it themselves. Two-thirds of those getting a new car plan to buy a used one, and almost half expect to spend $15,000 or less, though we also learned that graduating college students don’t understand a car’s true costs. Over half plan to work in the city, and 71% plan to commute by car.

So here’s a graduation present from CarGurus: a list of 10 cars available used at an average cost of $15,000 or less that are all fine commuting cars and should hold their value relatively well. We deliberately avoided sports cars, which might tempt even a valedictorian to drive unsafely and would cost substantially more to insure. We hope all recent graduates plan to continue learning in their next stage of life, and we look forward to celebrating some of their successes in the no doubt impressively near future.

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