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New Stop-Start Engines Boosting Mileage up to 7%, Reports AAA

Technology becoming more widely available, often as standard feature.

by on Jul.24, 2014

A full 97% of Chevy Cruze buyers are opting for the version with Stop-Start standard.

With increasingly stringent mileage standards coming down the pike over the next decade, automakers are frantically racing to find ways to boost the fuel economy of their vehicles. Some new features would yield benefits that are barely measurable, others could add significantly to a vehicle’s price tag. But new Stop-Start engines are delivering significant mileage benefits, often without additional cost to consumers.

A new study suggests that Stop-Start technology – which shuts an engine off, rather than idling – can reduce fuel consumption by anywhere from 5% to 7%. And it achieves a similar reduction in the production of global-warming CO2 emissions, according to research by the AAA.

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“Up to seven percent improved fuel economy can mean a $179 annual fuel savings* for consumers,” says Greg Brannon, Director of AAA’s Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations team. “The technology requires only minor adjustment for motorists – automatic stop-start technology is simply applied to standard combustion engines.”

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GM Earnings Crushed by Recall Costs

"Nevertheless, we remained profitable," said CEO Barra.

by on Jul.24, 2014

Earnings on new full-size models, such as this 2015 Chevy Tahoe, should boost GM's earnings going forward, analysts forecast.

The fallout from the ignition switch recall and other safety-related problems cut deeply into General Motors’ profitability for the second quarter, the maker reported.

Net income for the March to June period tumbled to just $200 million, or 11 cents per share, compared to a $1.2 billion net for the second quarter of 2013. The GM balance sheet was hammered during the latest period by one-time costs, most of them related to ongoing recalls, as well as for setting up a new victims’ compensation fund. Earnings before the recall-related charges would have been 58 cents a share.

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Beyond the Numbers!

“The ignition switch put tremendous pressure on our earnings,” GM chief executive officer Mary Barray told analysts and reporters. “But nevertheless we remained profitable.”

Barra also said the sweeping recalls, which so far this year cover 29 million units, have not deterred GM from pushing ahead with its effort to improve its competitive position around the world.

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Small Car Shoot-Out Heats Up with Updated Toyota Yaris

Subcompact hatchback gets a “new attitude.”

by on Jul.24, 2014

The 2015 Toyota Yaris goes for a more aggressive design to compete in a crowded segment.

There’s a big battle underway in the small car market, and Toyota has rearmed with a new version of the Yaris subcompact.

Coming to market in both three- and five-door hatchback versions, the 2015 Toyota Yaris is the Japanese giant’s newest model to opt for a more aggressive design than Toyota has traditionally been known for, the maker declaring the hatchbacks now have “a new attitude.”

Your Auto News Source!

They’ll need it considering the increasing competition in the small car market from the likes of the recently restyled Nissan Versa and Honda Fit, never mind the domestic small cars that have begun gaining traction in a market long controlled by the Japanese, such as the Chevrolet Sonic and Ford Fiesta.

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GM Rolls Out Another Six Recalls for 717,000 Vehicles

Maker's recall woes drag on.

by on Jul.23, 2014

The Chevy Camaro is one of the many vehicles targeted by the six new GM recalls.

After a brief reprieve – and hints that the worst of its safety problems had ended – General Motors has announced another six recalls collectively covering more than 700,000 cars, trucks and crossovers.

The latest move brings to more than 26 million the total number of vehicles GM has recalled since the beginning of the year. And when added to the service actions announced by competitors as varied as Ford, BMW and Toyota, the industry overall is fast approaching the 45 million mark, well surpassing the previous record, set in 2004, when 34.1 million vehicles were called back for safety problems.

Keeping You in the Know!

GM officials tried to put a positive spin on the latest action, global safety czar Jeff Boyer asserting that this goes to “signify how we’ve enhanced our approach to safety.”

But the seven new recalls also come as something of a setback for a company whose reputation had already taken a hammering during the first half of the year. By late June, GM officials had been dropping strong hints that they had largely addressed all the company’s outstanding safety problems.

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Buyers Question Value of Trouble-Prone Tech Features

New JD Power APEAL study finds buyers, on whole, less satisfied with latest vehicles.

by on Jul.23, 2014

Porsche dominates APEAL with products like the 911.

Automakers are intent on entering the connected world, loading their latest vehicles up with high-tech features such as 4G WiFi hotspots, voice-operated navigation, and even infotainment systems that can read out Facebook posts. But while these may appeal to young, tech-savvy shoppers, other buyers question the benefits, according to a new report by J.D. Power and Associates.

The quality consultancy’s latest APEAL study finds that, on the whole, car buyers are slightly less pleased with the new cars, trucks and crossovers they are being offered this year. But the survey of recent buyers did find gains in owner satisfaction when it comes to improvements in vehicle fuel economy. Buyers are much more ambiguous about high-tech additions to their new vehicles.

An Appealing News Source!

Porsche was the highest-ranked brand in the latest study, while Hyundai delivered a surprise by landing the top spot among mainstream brands.

“Manufacturers often look to new features and technologies to keep their vehicles fresh and attractive, but designing systems that consumers find intuitive and easy to use has been a challenge,” said Power Vice President Renee Stephens.

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Surge in Sales Propels Daimler Profits

Revenues up 6% as demand grows for new S-Class, other models.

by on Jul.23, 2014

Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche during a recent product unveiling. Mercedes plans to launch 30 new models by the end of the decade.

Promising to regain its once-formidable lead as the world’s top luxury car manufacturer, Daimler AG has unleashed an unprecedented product assault that has begun gaining traction with consumers – driving a surge in second-quarter sales and earnings for the parent of the Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands.

With revenues up 6%, to $42.4 billion, Daimler posted a net profit of nearly $3 billion for the April to June period. But perhaps more telling was the fact that earnings before interest and taxes, or EBIT, shot to 7.9% of revenue during the latest quarter, up from 6.4% a year earlier.

The Journal of Record!

“We are growing profitably, our strategy is bearing fruit,” said Daimler AG Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche in statement accompanying the earnings announcement. “We are very satisfied with the second quarter and continue to work effectively on structural improvements.”

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First Drive: 2015 Dodge Challenger

Redefining the muscle car.

by on Jul.22, 2014

At 707-hp, the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat claims to be the most powerful muscle car ever to roll out of a Big 3 plant.

If you thought the golden age of muscle cars was gone and forgotten, Dodge has a big surprise coming for you next year — actually, a whole bunch of them.

After bringing back its retro-styled Challenger coupe in 2009, the Chrysler performance brand has made steady gains on the stalwarts of the modern muscle car era, the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. And for 2015, Challenger is getting not only a major design update, but a host of new variants including the new SRT Hellcat which, at a smoking 707 horsepower, is being billed as the most powerful factory- assembled muscle car ever.

We Give You the Muscle!

While modern muscle cars aren’t for everyone, models like the Challenger are gaining traction not only with the Baby Boomers who grew up listening to the squeal of rubber, but also younger buyers looking for something out of the ordinary.

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Convertible Owners are More Educated, Affluent, Finds New Study

Over half have bachelor’s degree.

by on Jul.22, 2014

The Beetle Convertible was last year's most popular ragtop - but only #48 on the U.S. sales chart.

Don’t let it go to your head, but if you drive a convertible, chances are you’re both more educated and more affluent than the typical American motorist, or so shows a new study from Experian Automotive.

You’re also  lot more likely to live in one of the sunshine states, especially California, Texas or Florida – though ragtops also have plenty of fans in more northern climes, including coastal communities in New York, as well as that heartland state, Illinois.

A Breath of Fresh Air!

While convertible sales have been shrinking in recent decades, most manufacturers offer at least a couple ragtops, and though luxury makers typically have more models in their line-ups, some of the most popular models are mainstream offerings, such as the Ford Mustang convertible and Mazda Miata roadster, noted Experian.

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Team Sets Cross-Country EV Driving Record

California to NY in just over 67 hours.

by on Jul.22, 2014

The Edmunds team takes a break from their cross-country excursion in that Model S sedan.

A team of drivers has gone a long way – 3,331.9 miles, in fact – to disprove negative perceptions about electric vehicles, setting an all-time record along the way.

Driving a Tesla Model S from Redondo Beach, California to New York City in just 67 hours 21 minutes, they showed that battery cars aren’t necessarily slow, nor limited in range, and they demonstrated the potential for new quick charging technology, as well.

Stay Plugged In!

Dan Edmunds, the director of vehicle testing for website Edmunds.com, led expedition, paired up with the auto tracking service’s photo editor Kurt Niebuhr. Significantly, they made the trip on their own, without the sort of backup often used in record runs – including an earlier trip sponsored by Tesla itself meant to prove that a Model S really could drive coast-to-coast in reasonable time.

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The 14 Worst Cars of the Decade

Vehicles that make us scratch our heads and ask: Why?

by on Jul.22, 2014

About to sink without a trace: the Coda battery sedan didn't last much longer than the media test drive.

There’s a lot to like when it comes to the latest cars, trucks and crossovers. Today’s vehicles are, to the large degree, better than ever.  Intense competition translates into more striking and creative designs, improved fuel economy, better performance and far more features.

That said, a few stinkers still slip through, models that have you wondering who was on vacation when they came up for approval. We have our own list of lemons. And by that we don’t necessarily mean they had reliability issues, but that they were plagued by bad designs, poor performance, minimal utility, unjustifiable price tags or, yes, quality problems.

Fuel for Thought!

We raised the question with a number of our colleagues to see what products landed on their list and found that a few, like the Pontiac Aztek and Acura ZDX, came up time and time again. Others were surprising. Indeed, some of our favorite products were listed at losers by media colleagues – and vice versa. So, we expect some of our readers will also question our judgment, perhaps our sanity. But here’s our list of the 14 worst cars of the past decade. (more…)