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Archive for August, 2016

U.S. Setting New Record for Miles Driven

However, individual drivers not close to high-water mark.

by on Aug.29, 2016

U.S. motorists have set a new record for miles driving through June at 1.58 trillion miles.

Cheap gas, an improving economy and a bunch of new cars, trucks and utility vehicles sold all add up to one thing: Americans are driving. In fact, they’re driving at a record pace through the first half of 2016, according to the latest figures.

Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) for the first six months of 2016 hit 1.58 trillion million miles through June, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) most recent Traffic Volume Trends report. The previous record of 1.54 trillion miles was set last year.

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FHWA says for comparison, 1.58 trillion miles, which is a 3.3% increase over last year, equates to roughly 250 round trips from Earth to Pluto. (more…)

How to Keep Your Car From Becoming a Theft Statistic

High-tech thieves create new challenges.

by on Aug.29, 2016

A thief uses a laptop computer, possibly to pair his own key to the Jeep's electronic ignition.

Police in Houston have finally nabbed two suspected crooks responsible for a rash of more than 100 car thefts. But what’s worrying authorities is that they introduced a new, high-tech wrinkle into their toolbox.

According to police, the pair used a laptop computer and software intended to allow Fiat Chrysler dealers to work on vehicles without having the owner’s key. There’s growing concern that sophisticated cyber-thieves are finding new ways to steal vehicles, something that could lead to a surge in car thefts after two decades of decline.

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Even though the numbers have been falling, FBI statistics show that about 500,000 cars, trucks and crossovers are stolen each year – about one every 44 seconds. And, all too often, owners make it all too easy – the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reporting that roughly half of all car thefts are the result of owner error. (more…)

Truck Carrying Takata Airbags Explodes, Killing One, Injuring Four

Supplier’s inflators already blamed for 14 deaths.

by on Aug.29, 2016

A drone image shows the scene of a Takata truck explosion. Photo courtesy Jalopnik.com.

A 69-year-old woman was killed as the result of a crash and subsequent explosion involving a truck carrying airbag inflators and the explosive ammonium nitrate used in those devices that was bound for a Takata Corp. warehouse in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Takata is the Japanese airbag supplier whose faulty inflators have so far been blamed for at least 14 deaths worldwide. That has triggered the recall of about 50 million inflators in the U.S. and more than 100 million worldwide.

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The incident occurred last week on U.S. Highway 277 not far from the Southern Texas Takata plant when the truck, operated by a contractor, was involved in a crash. The driver, 20-year-old Mario Alberto Rodriguez, and a passenger were able to escape before the vehicle caught fire and exploded. But the inferno that touched off damaged or destroyed a number of nearby homes, including one in which victim Lucila Robles was living.

(more…)

Canadian Auto Workers OK Strike at Detroit’s Big Three

Union demanding new investments but automakers want cost cuts.

by on Aug.29, 2016

GM has cut thousands of jobs in Canada, most recently by moving Camaro production to Michigan.

Union workers in Canada have overwhelmingly authorized union leaders to call a strike next month as contract talks with Detroit’s Big Three automakers race towards their deadline.

Negotiations have turned contentious in recent weeks as the two sides struggle to find common ground amidst conflicting demands. Unifor, the union representing thousands of Canadian auto line workers, wants General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler to commit to new investments that would keep the country’s auto plants open. But the Detroit makers are, in turn, demanding cost cuts they claim are necessary to remain competitive.

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Workers voted almost unanimously to approve strikes, and “With this clear mandate our members have demonstrated they are in full support of their bargaining committees and our direction in this set of negotiations,” said Unifor President Jerry Dias.

(more…)

Marchionne Pushing for FCA Manufacturing Revival

CEO plowing hundreds of millions of dollars into North American plants.

by on Aug.29, 2016

FCA put another $166 million into the Sterling Heights (Michigan) stamping plant to ensure the company can make more parts for the new Jeep Wrangler.

Since taking over as head of the Chrysler Group seven years ago, Sergio Marchionne has changed course any number of times during his time at the helm of the old Chrysler Group.

He has junked plans for an IPO of Chrysler stock; moved to halt production of passenger cars and delayed the roll out of Alfa Romeo’s ambitious product plan.

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But one project to which he has remained actively engaged during at the helm of Chrysler and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. has been rebuilding the old Chrysler Group’s industrial plants. The company’s assembly plants in Sterling Heights, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, have been completely retooled. (more…)

Marchionne Predicts SEC Will Clear FCA of Wrongdoing

CEO declined to comment on progress of Magneti Marelli sale.

by on Aug.26, 2016

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne predicted today that the SEC's investigation into FCA will find no wrongdoing.

The Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. will ultimately show that FCA has done nothing wrong, FCA chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne said today.

The SEC is investigating whether FCA deliberately misstated its sales results during the past five years. Dealers have sued FCA over the sales reporting practices, including a Chicago area dealer claiming it amounted to fraud.

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FCA restated its sales totals for the five years and conceded its long string of monthly sales increases actually ended in 2013. (more…)

It’s Getting Harder to Justify a Hybrid

Cheap gas, improved mileage offset one-time cost advantage over conventional vehicles.

by on Aug.26, 2016

The Toyota Prius hatchback no longer has a cost advantage over a similar gas model.

If you’re picking a new car, truck or crossover based on the bottom line, you may be in for a surprise, according to a new study. While hybrids tend to deliver better mileage than comparable gasoline-powered vehicles, you may actually wind up spending more in the long run.

Less than one out of four of the 29 hybrids covered by consulting firm Vincentric’s U.S. Hybrid Ownership study actually had lower costs than comparable gas-powered models. Lower pump prices are certainly a factor, but other issues play into the equation – notably including the fact that the fuel efficiency of non-hybrid vehicles has been fast on the rise.

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Add the higher cost of hybrid models, said Vincentric President David Wurster, and “Hybrids … may be losing their competitive edge.” (more…)

Bigger Isn’t Better When it Comes to Uber Profits

Report estimates leading ride-share service lost $1.3 billion.

by on Aug.26, 2016

A subscriber orders a car through the Uber app.

It may be the nation’s leading ride-sharing service, but that hasn’t helped Uber deliver a profit.

The Silicon Valley start-up lost a hefty $1.3 billion during the first half of the year, according to a report by the Bloomberg news service which cited sources with access to a conference call the company had with its investors.

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According to the report, Uber finance chief revealed that the ride-sharing service went $520 million into the red during the first quarter of the year, with another $750 million loss racked up during the April-June quarter.

(more…)

Texas Jury Finds in GM’s Favor on Ignition Switch Case

Automaker gets another victory in court.

by on Aug.26, 2016

A Texas jury to tossed out a lawsuit against GM involving its faulty ignition as the automaker claimed the plaintiffs fabricated evidence.

General Motors has won a significant legal victory as a Texas jury tossed out a case that claimed a defective ignition switch was the root cause of a fatal accident that killed one motorist.

A jury in Harris County, Texas, decided in favor of GM rather than plaintiff Zachary Stevens, who alleged that a defective switch caused him to lose control of his 2007 Saturn Sky and crash into another vehicle, killing the other driver. GM said Stevens’ reckless driving was at fault.

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The manslaughter charges initially filed against the plaintiff in the civil suit were dropped after GM recalled 2.6 million vehicles with the switch in 2014, according to his lawsuit. It was one of a number of cases in which criminal charges lodged against drivers were set aside after reports of the defective switches became public. (more…)

New Car Sales Slide in August

Decline comes as makers are spending big on incentives.

by on Aug.26, 2016

Analysts are expecting August new vehicle sales to dip despite the highest incentives on new cars in a year.

Sales of new vehicles have hit a speed bump during August, even as incentive spending increased, according to a new estimate by analysts.

A monthly sales forecast developed jointly by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive indicates that new-vehicle retail sales in August are expected to drop 6.5% from a year ago, and total new-vehicle sales are expected to slip 5.2%.

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The Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate of sales or SAAR is also expected to drop to 16.8 million units in August, according to the J.D.Power and LMC Automotive model, which leans heavily on sales data collected from new car dealers around the country. (more…)