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Archive for March, 2016

Self-Driving Cars Likely to Mean Lower Insurance Premiums

Autonomous cars expected to be a standard feature by 2035, predicts Moody’s.

by on Mar.29, 2016

A Google car prototype.

An estimated 90% of all crashes are the result of driver error which, proponents believe, should mean markedly fewer deaths and injuries once autonomous vehicles begin rolling out on the nation’s highways.

That should be doubly good news for American motorists, according to a report by Moody’s Investors Service, which predicts a sharp decline in auto insurance rates. But that’s not necessarily good news for the insurance industry.

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“Accident frequency will fall sharply over time, and will ultimately translate into significantly lower premiums and consequently lower profits for auto insurers,” the report forecasts.

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Volkswagen Blitzed by FTC Lawsuit

Latest suit asks for compensation for vehicle owners.

by on Mar.29, 2016

The Federal Trade Commission sued Volkswagen over its "Clean Diesel" ad campaign, claiming it misled the public about the cars' capabilities.

Volkswagen’s diesel woes worsened today as the Federal Trade Commission filed suit against the German automaker over its “clean diesel” ads, claiming the campaign misled drivers about the vehicles.

The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, California, claims the automaker’s 550,000 diesel-powered cars sold in the U.S. between 2008 and 2015 we due, in part, to the “clean diesel” campaign.

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Late last year, VW admitted that more than 11 million cars with three generations of diesel engines did not meet the the company’s stated emissions and fuel economy ratings and the maker used a “cheat device” to get around testing aimed certifying the performance of the cars. (more…)

First Drive: 2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith

Leather-clad luxury missile.

by on Mar.29, 2016

Forward into the past, the Rolls-Royce Wraith harkening back to the grand GTs of yore.

“How much is too much?” That’s a question that frequently arises when the conversation turns to uber luxury cars.

“I would never pay $300,000 for an automobile,” some will say, which might rule out a car like the 2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith. Actually, at $372,545 as tested, it’s not inexpensive by any measure, but after spending some time behind the wheel, we’re convinced it’s worth it.

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The 2016 Wraith embodies the best of the British motorcar tradition and continues to build cars where possible using “olde world” assembly methods like hand stitching, hand assembly and hand finishing of myriad leather and wood components.

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Don’t Blame Battery-Cars for Plunging Oil Prices

Rising fuel economy likely a much bigger factor, says Navigant.

by on Mar.29, 2016

There'll be more battery-cars on the road in the years ahead, but not enough to bring oil prices crashing down, says Navigant.

Oil prices have tumbled sharply over the last year, and a variety of factors have led to the slide, including a weakening Chinese economy, as well as a reduction in demand among American motorists.

But battery-cars have had an almost negligible impact, and likely won’t have much of an impact going forward, despite some claims they’ve brought the oil market crashing to its knees. Far more credit goes to the rapid improvement in overall automotive fuel economy, suggests a new study by Navigant Research.

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Such claims are “sensationalist,” says a report by the technology research firm, which adds that a much more substantial factor likely to hold down oil prices is “not a particularly sexy conversation topic.” But the reality is that fleet-wide fuel economy is expected to increase 22% over the next decade, says Navigant, reducing demand by millions of barrels of oil a day.

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Automakers Keep Sales Momentum Rolling in March

FCA, Honda staring at double-digit increases.

by on Mar.29, 2016

Early returns on March new vehicle sales numbers suggest that Americans are continuing to buy at a near record pace.

As analysts sift through the early sales numbers from March they have reached some different conclusions, but the overall picture remains relatively stable with the money spent on new vehicles setting a record as sales momentum begins to slow.

J.D. Power & Associates estimated that new-vehicle retail sales in March are expected to drop 2% lower on a selling-day-adjusted basis, which is the first time there has been a year-over-year decline in sales since August 2010.

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However, Kelly Blue Book offered a different interpretation, estimating that March sales are expected to increase 8% year-over-year to a total of 1.66 million units in March 2016, resulting in an estimated 17.2 million seasonally adjusted annual rate or SAAR. Two additional selling days will help this month’s volume totals as the SAAR will stay relatively consistent with recent months. (more…)

The Recalls Are A-Comin’—Whether You Like It Or Not

NHTSA’s pledge to 100% completion sets unrealistic goal.

by on Mar.28, 2016

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind pledged the agency would achieve a 100% completion rate for recalls in the U.S.

The fairly new head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Dr. Mark Rosekind, a veteran of the highly regarded National Transportation Safety Board, announced that NHTSA will seek 100% completion of safety recalls in the U.S.

This comes in the wake of a record 51 million vehicles recalled for safety fixes in 2015 (40% of them related to Takata air bags) and an increase in highway fatalities last year after several progressive years of declining crash deaths, both statistics generating headlines in the media.

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Of course, Congress, and NHTSA are feeling the heat in Washington from media and professional safety critics. And NHTSA – the only agency ordained to do something about it – is wringing its hands. (more…)

Autonomous Vehicles Improve Fuel Economy by 10 Percent

Study shows interconnectivity key to better gas mileage.

by on Mar.28, 2016

Research shows that the use of autonomous vehicle technology could improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles by 10%.

There is a simple way to improve the fuel efficiency of cars, trucks and crossovers by 10%: let them drive themselves.

Actually, it’s not quite that simple, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, but what they’ve discovered is if autonomous vehicles are calibrated correctly and testing was changed to account for the change, they can achieve the aforementioned 10% improvement in fuel economy.

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Without any changes, they found fuel economy could degrade by 3%, depending on how manufacturers program autonomous vehicles. (more…)

Legislation, Not Technology, Key Obstacle to Autonomous Driving, Warns BMW Board Member

German maker wants to combine battery power, autonomous tech in future products.

by on Mar.28, 2016

The BMW Vision shows its flexible body panels, forward and rear gullwing doors and living room-like cabin.

While some automakers hope to have their first autonomous vehicles in production by 2020 – and perhaps even sooner – the BMW board member in charge of global sales thinks that is far too optimistic.

The reality is “probably 2025 or beyond,” cautioned BMW veteran Ian Robertson. “The technology will be there before the legislation is there,” Robertson said, during an interview with TheDetroitBureau.com.

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The Bavarian automaker, best known for its sporty and high-performance cars and light trucks, has also been a long-time proponent of autonomous vehicles, its senior executives first discussing the concept of self-driving technology before the turn of the millennium. (more…)

GM, Ford Insist They Will Remain Profitable in Deep Recession

Taking a “forward lean” into a “downside scenario.”

by on Mar.28, 2016

GM's Alan Batey introducing the 2017 Chevy Bolt.

Seven years after Detroit’s auto industry nearly collapsed, officials at the two largest domestic makers are taking pains to assure investors they will not only survive but thrive during the next big economic downturn.

Fears that the U.S. car market has peaked after hitting record sales of 17.5 million vehicles last year has made Wall Street increasingly wary, driving down the share prices for all the domestic makers, even as they report strong profits. But two top General Motors and Ford executives painted very different pictures for investors as the New York Auto Show opened to strong public attendance.

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“We believe the market is eventually going to plateau, but not in the immediate future,” declared Alan Batey, president of GM North America, during the annual Automotive Summit sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. And even if sales do take a tumble, he stressed, “We have reduced our break-even point to between 10 million and 11 million annual sales for the industry.”

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SUVs Rule at the NY Auto Show

Utes of every size and price range roll into the Big Apple.

by on Mar.28, 2016

Acura unveiled the latest update of its best-selling model, the 2017 MDX, in New York.

When Mazda pulled the wraps off the new MX-5 Miata RF, a new version of its 2-seat roadster, on Thursday, it was one of the rare exceptions at a New York International Auto Show marked by the debut of a score of new sport- and crossover-utility vehicles.

In a variety of shapes and sizes – as well as a broad range of prices — they can be found in every corner of the Jacob Javits Convention Center. And, if anything, industry officials made it clear they’ll have still more utes to unveil in the near future.

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“It appears there is no end in sight to the remarkable growth of the crossover market, here and around the world,” said Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, as he opened up the auto show’s annual media preview with a keynote speech.

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