What the New CAFE Standards Mean for Auto Buyers

July 20th, 2016

White House Infographic, fuel economy standards

There has been a lot of news this week regarding the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration issuing new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. The reports seem to suggest the government has gone lax on the issue of fuel economy because most Americans don’t seem to care about it.

One analyst, however, suggests the opposite may be true. Stephanie Brinley, a senior analyst at IHS Automotive, read the entire 1217-page midterm report that discussed the standards (something probably 99 percent of journalists didn’t do, including me).

She wrote in Forbes, “The (CAFE) standard and NHTSA projected figures for the 2025 model year targets, however, have now been revealed as a projection rather than a legal requirement. The report is supportive of the progress and direction of the existing standards. The agencies believe automakers can meet the challenge, and that consumers want it.”

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GM’s Attack Ads Against Ford: Did They Work?

July 20th, 2016

2016-Ford-F-150

Not long ago we wrote about GM’s attack ads against the Ford F-150 trucks. The ads compared the durability and strength of Chevrolet’s high-strength steel truck bed against Ford’s aluminum bed.

Of course, the test results skewed heavily in Chevrolet’s favor, showing multiple puncture holes in the Ford bed while the Chevy bed escaped mostly unscathed after a front-loader dropped a heavy load of landscaping blocks into each.

Chevy hoped the strategy would scare buyers away from Ford dealerships and cement the Silverado’s reputation as the toughest truck on the market.

Did the campaign work? Not if we base the results on recent sales numbers.

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The Cost of Doing Business in a Safety-Focused World

July 19th, 2016

Crash-test dummies talking

When an automaker begins to develop a new model, one of the earliest decisions it makes is where the vehicle will be sold. While it seems logical to produce one model and sell it in as many markets as possible, red tape abounds, with safety standards being the thickest ribbon of all.

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What to Buy: A Base Premium Brand or a Loaded Non-Premium Brand?

July 18th, 2016

2016_Volvo_XC90

New-car shoppers continually debate between buying a fully loaded economy vehicle or a base-trim premium car.

When buyers realize that $40,000 can either buy a Kia or a Volvo, some interesting comparisons arise. Is it better to get a lower-end brand with the latest high-end features or a luxury brand that’s missing some desirable options?

For the sake of comparison, I spent the weekend shopping for two vehicles: a 2016 Volvo XC90 T5 FWD Momentum and a 2017 Kia Sorento Limited V6.

The base price of the Volvo is $2,450 more than that of the loaded Kia. Is the extra cost worth it?

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The Most Popular Cars in Each Time Zone

July 15th, 2016

2016 Ford F-150

Ford has long declared the F-150 the best-selling vehicle in the nation. Though the official sales numbers agree, we thought we’d put that claim to the test ourselves and measure the Ford F-150’s success by gauging consumer interest on CarGurus. Well, it turns out Ford’s right. The F-150 accounts for an extremely high percentage of the leads generated on CarGurus relative to every other vehicle. It’s the top dog in almost every region in the country and was not far behind in the couple of areas where it wasn’t. As such, we declare it the undisputed champ of consumer interest across the country. Its popularity transcends climate demands, geographic challenges, and cultural differences. Turns out contractors need to work across the country, and so Ford’s popularity cannot be touched.

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Acura NSX to Add Electric, Gas, and Convertible Versions

July 15th, 2016

acura-nsx

The Honda NSX, known in America as an Acura, began life over 25 years ago as a lower-priced and mechanically reliable alternative to the V8-powered Ferrari supercars.

Introduced in 1990, the NSX became the world’s first mass-produced car to feature an all-aluminum body and was powered by an aluminum 3.0-liter V6 engine, which featured Honda’s VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) system, along with a choice between a 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic transmission.

The NSX became a spectacular success and remained in production until 2005. Fans mourned the loss of their Japanese supercar and eagerly watched the headlines in anticipation of its return.

As of this year, the NSX is not only back with a vengeance, but it will likely launch an entire platform of supercar goodness.

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Could Now Be a Good Time to Buy a Tesla?

July 14th, 2016

2015 Tesla Model S

Tesla has seen a lot of time in the news during the past couple of weeks over crashes involving its Autopilot system. Low gas prices also might be hurting its business plan, and there are some growing questions about reliability. This all begs the question: is now the right time to think about buying a Tesla? The answer is a qualified “maybe,” because the decision essentially comes down to how much risk you’re willing to assume.

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Look Out for Flooded Cars on the Used-Car Market

July 14th, 2016

Flooded cars

Spring rains in the United States have not been kind to cars.

The president has declared 11 counties in Texas disaster areas due to heavy rains and flooding. Similar flooding has spanned the country from Virginia to Washington. In Houston alone, about 40,000 vehicles were reported lost due to flood damage.

Typically the damaged cars are either scrapped, or repaired and then given salvage titles and resold. Sometimes, though, unscrupulous sellers take advantage of loopholes in the law and repair the vehicles, retitle them in a new state, and sell them as normal used cars.

The flood-damaged cars can either come as an opportunity for DIY folks who want a good deal, or as an unwelcome surprise for someone who purchases one unwittingly after failing to look for signs of water.

Even if a car looks good and seems to run fine, expensive problems can appear later as corrosion continues to creep inside critical components. Unfortunately, flood-damaged vehicles can be hard to spot, but looking for these signs can help.

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

July 13th, 2016

Audi_Q7_leak

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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Stan Hatoff said, “Gas is Gas,” but Stan Hatoff was Wrong

July 12th, 2016

canada_gas_prices

Down in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, there’s a little outpost of late 20th-century automotive culture. Accepting only cash, Hatoff’s gas and service station is known around the city for consistently providing some of the cheapest gasoline you can find. It’s hard to imagine impatient New Englanders willing to walk away from their car, ask the man behind bulletproof glass for “$20 on pump 4,” and watch as the numbers on an ancient pump slowly climb—but without fail, Stan Hatoff’s station is one of the busiest in Boston.

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