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Archive for October, 2012

Superstorm Sandy Could Impact Unsuspecting Used Car Buyers.

How to avoid a flood-damaged car – and what to do if it’s yours.

by on Oct.30, 2012

Could some of these flooded cars wind up back on the market?

It could be days, even weeks, before the storm-battered Eastern Seaboard dries out.  Brutal winds and extensive flooding, from Maine to the Carolinas, has wrecked homes and businesses, and left millions without power, even the New York subway system forced to close.

The destruction is likely to include thousands of vehicles damaged or destroyed by floodwater. In some cases, vehicles can be repaired. But many will have suffered extensive, irreparable damage and should be scrapped.  That doesn’t mean they will be.

If recent history is any indication, a number of seriously flood-damaged vehicles will wind up on used car lots and sold to unsuspecting consumers. Experts say half of the vehicles damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Floyd were put back on the road.

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“A car that’s been in a flood, with the engine submerged for any length of time, will never be the same,” said Carl Sullivan, who has nearly two decades of experience inspecting vehicles for AiM, a California-based team of auto inspectors.  “It’s important for used car shoppers to know how to spot flood damage no matter where they live, because these cars can end up on a dealer lot anywhere in the country.”

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Sandy Taking Steam Out of Strong Oct. Sales

But November demand could surge as the Eastern Seaboard dries out.

by on Oct.30, 2012

Mother Nature overwhelms what had been a strong October for the US auto industry.

Hurricane Sandy is taking the steam out of what was on track to be a strong October for U.S. car sales.

The still-massive storm shut dealerships across New England and the mid-Atlantic states, including major metropolitan areas such as New York, Washington D.C. Baltimore and Philadelphia. And heavy winds, rain and storm continue impacting business as far west as Ohio, Michigan and beyond.

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Prior to the wicked and deadly storm, analysts had expected October sales to increase by roughly 11.5 % from October 2011. Before the storm warnings went up, True Car.com, a source of pricing information for new car buyers, estimated October 2012 would see a Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate, or SAAR, of 14.9 million new vehicles, up from 13.3 million in October 2011 — though down very slightly from the 14.94-million-unit SAAR of September 2012.

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Chrysler Q3 Earnings Surge 80%

“We’ve changed the conversation,” says CEO Marchionne.

by on Oct.29, 2012

Strong demand for the new Dodge Dart helped drive up Chrysler sales and earnings.

Buoyed by the largest sales increase among all domestic makers, Chrysler saw its earnings surge by 80% during the third quarter, while revenues gained 18%.

The U.S. maker – which is partnered with Italy’s Fiat SpA – has scored the biggest sales gains of any of the Detroit Big Three this year, the increase in demand lagging only key Japanese makers Toyota and Honda which have been recovering from last year’s serious inventory shortages caused by Japan’s March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

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“We’ve changed the conversation at Chrysler Group,” said Sergio Marchionne, who serves as CEO of both Chrysler and Fiat, the Italian maker now holding a majority stake in its U.S. ally.

Chrysler’s July – September earnings shot to $381 million from $212 million a year ago.  Sales and other revenues rose to $15.5 billion from a year ago.

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Japanese Makers Dominate Consumer Reports Reliability Study

Audi, General Motors make gains – but Ford, Chrysler, Hyundai, Nissan all slide.

by on Oct.29, 2012

Audi's -- its S4 shown here -- pops into the Top 10 for the first time in the CR reliability study.

Japanese makers – led by Toyota – dominated the 2012 automotive reliability study by influential Consumer Reports magazine.

But the study showed that European makers, notably the Audi brand, made significant gains. So did General Motors, though the other two Detroit makers didn’t fare nearly as well in the annual report by the non-profit magazine.

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“Ford had a pretty bad year,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing, noting that the Ford brand fell to 27th among the brands covered by the study while its sibling Lincoln marque dipped to 26th.

Toyota Motor Co.’s three U.S. brands led the annual reliability study, Scion in first place, followed by Toyota and then the Lexus luxury line.  Mazda, meanwhile, landed in fourth position.  Japanese makers have traditionally led the Consumer Reports study.

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Honda Profits Jump 36% – But Maker Lowers Full-Year Forecast

Honda anticipates problems due to Chinese boycott.

by on Oct.29, 2012

The success of the new Honda Accord will be critical to the maker's earnings turnaround.

Honda came roaring back with a 36% increase earnings for the July – September quarter, marking a significant turnaround from the hammering it took a year earlier in the week of Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The maker delivered an 82.2 billion yen net profit – which works out to an even $1 billion – with sales climbing 20% for the quarter to 2.27 trillion yen.

But the near-term future may not be quite so rosy. Honda sales tumbled more than 40% in the key Chinese market during September, and the maker expects an ongoing boycott to hammer both sales and earnings in the months ahead.

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Warning it must factor in the “recent situation in China,” Honda officials warned that overall sales for the current fiscal year – which ends next March 31 – will likely reach just 4.1 million. That’s about 180,000 less than originally anticipated – though it would still be a 1 million unit increase over 2011.

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Hot Wheels Chevy Camaro is no Toy

Life-size Hot Wheels-edition pony car debuting at SEMA.

by on Oct.29, 2012

Chevy returns Mattel's favor as it puts the Hot Wheels name on a special edition of the 2013 Camaro.

Chevrolet and Mattel have had a long and prosperous relationship. The toy company has been producing matchbox-sized replicas of the pony car since 1968, a year after the real Chevy Camaro first landed in showrooms.

At the upcoming SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the automaker plans to return the favor, introducing the first production version of the Chevrolet Camaro to bear a Hot Wheels badge.

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Chevy has used the Hot Wheels theme for several years at its SEMA stand, last year positioning a bright yellow version of the Camaro at the base of a life-size track.  But now the maker plans to actually add a Hot Wheels edition to the line-up.  It will come as a $6,995 upgrade on both the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro and Camaro Convertible, sales scheduled to begin early next year.

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Controversial IndyCar Chief Steps Down

Targeted by owner’s coup.

by on Oct.29, 2012

The fiery Las Vegas crash that took the life of Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon was one of many missteps that led to Bernard's ouster.

Randy Bernard, the head of the IndyCar racing series, has stepped down after a controversial, three-year reign following an angry revolt by team owners determined to oust him.

The announcement comes despite widespread praise for the IndyCar Series which was credited with having one of its best seasons ever.  Among other developments, Chevrolet returned to the racing program this past year, a season that saw IndyCar introduce its first all-new car in nine years.

But the series has been plagued by dissent, some owners openly talking of a coup against Hulman & Co., which controls both the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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Despite the strong showing this past year, Bernard was blamed for a number of missteps that hurt both the racing league and his own position as its chief executive.  Among the most criticized moves was a decision to hold the series’ final race of 2011 in Las Vegas at a track that some experts felt was too dangerous at IndyCar speeds.

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Nation’s Fastest Highway Opens

Texans now able to legally hit 85.

by on Oct.28, 2012

Texas opens the country's fastest highway.

With the opening of the last 41-mile stretch of a new toll road outside Austin, the Lone Star State now can lay claim to having the fastest highway in America.

Motorists can cruise along that last portion of Texas State Highway 130 at speeds of up to 85 miles per hour.  The privately-operated, 91-mile toll road is the only portion of Gov. Rick Perry’s ambitious Trans Texas Corridor superhighway project to actually make it into reality.

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“There are very few people that get up and say they love road construction, but I think everyone is happy when you open a road up,” the one-time presidential candidate said as he snipped a ribbon and declared the high-speed route open for traffic.

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Honda Designs Car Exclusively for Women

But will women actually want the Honda Fit She?

by on Oct.26, 2012

The Honda Fit She's is being billed as the world's only automobile specifically targeted at women.

The auto industry has traditionally been male-dominated but Honda has rolled out a new model it claims to have specifically designed with women in mind.

The new Honda Fit She’s is a pretty-in-pink version of the maker’s familiar subcompact that offers a few niceties the maker believes will specifically appeal to distaff buyers, such as a windshield designed to block skin-wrinkling ultraviolet rays.

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But will women actually care? While the new Honda subcompact may be the only car currently on the road specifically targeting women there’s a good reason.  Previous feminine offerings, such as the old Dodge LaFemme, met with little more than indifference and, in some cases, outright hostility.

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Toyota Back on Track as Global Sales Leader

Sales up 28% for first 9 months of 2012.

by on Oct.26, 2012

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda may miss his ambitious sales goal for 2012 but still regain the global automotive sales crown.

Toyota is fast recovering from last year’s Japanese earthquake and tsunami, a disaster that left it struggling for inventory for most of 2011.

And while the maker has suffered additional setbacks this year – including a boycott in China and its largest single recall ever due to a vehicle fire hazard – it is rapidly regaining momentum, global sales up 28% for the first nine months of 2012. That puts it ahead of General Motors and could let the Japanese giant the worldwide automotive sales crown it relinquished last year.

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In all, Toyota sold 7.4 million vehicles behind January 1 and September 30. By comparison, General Motors sold just 6.95 million cars, trucks and crossovers during the same period, its own sales up a far more modest 2.5%.

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