Forget Kit Cars, Here Come the Repli-Mods

June 17th, 2016

limited-edition-50th-anniversary-shelby-427-cobra-14

If you could flip through the annals of automotive history and bring back a modern version of any car within their pages, which car would you choose?

That’s a question that may receive an answer in the coming years as a new kit-car law could spawn an entire automotive sub-industry.

The Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015 allows manufacturers to apply for an exemption from NHTSA safety and crash-test standards for up to 325 “replica motor vehicles” each year. These modified replicas, or repli-mods, would still have to meet current-year emissions standards, which will require modern EPA-certified production engines and emissions controls.

The reality of buying a modernized classic could be just around the corner. Here are some we’d love to see.

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Mercedes-Benz Addressing All Threats, Both Foreign and Electric

June 16th, 2016
The new look of electric Mercedes-Benz? This the Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile concept.

The new look of electric Mercedes-Benz?

By the end of 2015, Mercedes-Benz had fallen behind its competition in U.S. sales. While in catch-up mode, the company steered into the passing lane, floored the gas pedal, and is accelerating fast.

Sales of BMW and Lexus vehicles both surpassed Mercedes at the end of last year. To make matters worse, there are some who would say the company also lags behind Audi and Tesla when it comes to innovation and technology.

So far this year, though, Mercedes-Benz is on pace to outsell both BMW and Lexus. Through May, Mercedes holds a roughly 20,000-vehicle lead over each. Mercedes also has plans to further distance itself from Audi and Tesla by introducing new vehicles to snag some of their sales.

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Looking for Deals on Used Cars Coming Off Lease

June 15th, 2016

2013 Honda Pilot off lease

A burgeoning number of leasers will return their cars over the next six months, and their number is bound to grow even further as leasing continues to be a popular alternative to buying a new car.

Experian Automotive, citing AutoRemarketing.com, says 1.8 million cars will be coming off lease between the end of April and December.

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Everyone’s Dropping Stones: Who Makes the Toughest Truck Bed?

June 15th, 2016

chevy_ford_truck_bed

Some are calling it a cheap shot, while others are surely convinced that aluminum is best for soda cans and not trucks.

A new ad for Chevrolet, which has probably been seen by every truck enthusiast in the United States by now, compares the steel bed of a new Silverado against the aluminum bed of a new Ford F-150.

After a front-loader full of landscaping stones dropped its load into the bed of each truck, the Chevy held up noticeably better than the Ford. Even a simple drop of a toolbox punctured the Ford’s bed.

On the surface it seems like a fair test, if not representative of the type of real-world abuse a truck might receive. We do wonder why Chevy would go to the trouble, though, when it plans on using lightweight aluminum in its next generation of trucks.

An even newer video from Honda, which shows a similar test on a 2017 Ridgeline, should make us wonder if Ford and Chevy both have it all wrong.

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Taking a Look at the Most and Least Expensive Cars to Own

June 14th, 2016

2016 BMW 340i

There are some things we replace, and other things we repair. I have no qualms replacing a toothbrush every couple months, or buying a new pair of running shoes after a few hundred miles. When it comes to more expensive items, however, my point of view shifts dramatically. Companies like Patagonia have made a strong push against disposable merchandise, offering repair services for their products and encouraging shoppers to fix their gear rather than just throwing it away and buying replacements. It’s a commendable, environmentally friendly decision—and considering the price tags on Patagonia products, one that’s appreciated by shoppers, too.

Of course, when it comes to repairing vs. replacing, nothing trumps the auto industry. Drivers spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars per year keeping their cars on the road and, try as a I might, I just can’t visualize disposable cars showing up anytime soon. YourMechanic.com connects car owners with mechanics and in doing so has amassed an impressive data set breaking down the average cost of ownership by brand and specific model, including the maladies that most commonly afflict each brand.

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Fiat 124 Spider: Better Than a Miata?

June 13th, 2016

2017-Fiat-124-Spider

The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider is finally getting its First Drive reviews, and the results are consistent: the much-anticipated new roadster from Fiat is as mediocre as you might expect.

Well, maybe that’s not fair. The 124 Spider is getting some good reviews, but there’s nothing out there saying this is the car that’ll turn Fiat into a best-selling automaker. So far, most agree that the new Fiat roadster is a good car, if not a great one.

The base model could be an exception. Skipping the fancy luxury and performance trims could give owners one of the most respected driver’s cars on the road today. That’s assuming, of course, they are among the few people looking for what the 124 Spider has to offer.

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

June 10th, 2016

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 distraction.gov 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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Volkswagen Off Your List? Think Skoda!

June 10th, 2016
The Skoda Vision S concept: Perfect for North America?

The Skoda Vision S concept: Perfect for North America?

Volkswagen has taken a serious hit in the United States after its diesel scandal.

Sales dropped by 17.2 percent in May and the German automaker holds less than two percent market share here.

To say that Volkswagen is struggling in the U.S. market is a huge understatement, but the company still has hopes of recovering and expanding here. Part of that recovery and expansion could mean the introduction of a brand that Americans don’t associate with scandal and lies. In fact, it’s a brand that’s mostly unknown to American car buyers.

Could Czech automaker Skoda be the answer to Volkswagen’s problems?

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Uber Worth More than GM, Will it Change the Auto Industry?

June 9th, 2016

uber

Following the stock prices and industry valuations in the auto business can be an exercise in futility, not to mention an exceptionally dull experience without much reward.

The numbers, though, can provide an interesting glimpse into the trends, and the possible future, of the automotive industry.

An article at CNN Money dives into the dismal May sales numbers automakers have reported and their effect on stock prices. Other factors, including increasing fuel prices and automotive scandals, are contributing to slower sales.

All of this to say that, in addition to individual auto sales, automakers need large companies to purchase fleets of vehicles to help boost their numbers. One of the largest, and potentially one of the last, companies likely to purchase large numbers of cars is ridesharing startup Uber.

The irony here goes beyond measure.

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Use the Drop in Subcompact Prices to Your Advantage

June 8th, 2016

Scion_Family_003Looking for good, basic transportation? You can’t do much better than the used subcompact market, whether you’re searching for a used car or crossover.

But don’t think you’ll save only in the subcompact used-car market. Smart maneuvering could afford you savings in other segments as well….

According to the latest research from Black Book, which evaluates the used-car market by attending hundreds of used-car auctions a week, both used cars and crossovers have shown price drops far exceeding anything else in the used-car universe.

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