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The Top-Ranked Vehicles in the JD Power 2014 Initial Quality Study

It doesn't always depend on how much you spend.

by on Jun.18, 2014

The Hyundai Accent scored second only to the Porsche Panamera among all 207 models included in the 2014 JD Power Initial Quality Study.

While the typical 2014 model posted a “somewhat unusual” dip in quality, at least according to the latest J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, there were a number of stellar performers on the list – including some significant surprises.

Porsche led the list among 32 brands covered by the 2014 IQS, while the German maker’s 4-door sports car, the Panamera, had the “single-lowest” number of problems among any of the 207 models the annual survey of U.S. owners covered.

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Even more surprising, perhaps, was the fact that Korean carmaker Hyundai came in fourth overall, and was the highest-ranked of all mainstream makers, beating out such familiar quality leaders as Toyota and Honda. And the little Hyundai Accent, at the other end of the price spectrum from the Porsche Panamera, was the second most problem-free vehicle, the new J.D. Power study found.

“You have some very expensive cars at the top,” noted Dave Sargent, Power’s lead automotive analyst, “and very inexpensive ones.”


Kia Rio Wins Subcompact Sedan Shoot-Out

But Consumer Reports slams Toyota Yaris.

by on Mar.22, 2012

Strong praise for the Kia Rio from Consumer Reports.

Don’t call the new Kia Rio sedan a “penalty box.”  There was a time when that might have applied to subcompact sedans in general – and Korean-made products in particular – but a shoot-out among domestic and import small cars suggests the best of the subcompact segment deliver more than just a cheap price tag.

The Rio EX, in particular, made a strong impression on the folks at Consumer Reports, the non-profit publication rating the Korean subcompact best in an otherwise impressive class of sedans.  The Rio hatchback didn’t score quite as well, but still landed in the top three among a field that also includes the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa.

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Notably, CR some harsh and unexpected pot shots at the Toyota entry into the growing – and increasingly competitive – subcompact segment , suggesting the Japanese giant’s Yaris hatchback  “continues to underwhelm.”  Once dominant in the small car market, Toyota has been losing ground of late, and many industry analysts believe its decline is only tangentially related to last year’s Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

The challenge is keeping up with a segment that has improved dramatically in recent years.


Hyundai Eyes Second U.S. Plant

Maker credited with creating 94,000 U.S. jobs.

by on Nov.14, 2011

The 1 millionth Hyundai Sonata rolls off the assembly line at the maker's Alabama assembly pl.ant.

With dealers selling new models like the Elantra and Sonata as soon as the trucks roll up to Hyundai’s U.S. showrooms, the Korean carmaker is beginning to ponder the need for a second American assembly plant.

John Krafcik, Hyundai Motor America president and chief executive officer, said the South Korean maker’s U.S. dealers could easily sell more vehicles but are hampered by shortages of Hyundai’s most popular products, including the new subcompact Accent, which has been all but sold out since it went on sales this past summer.

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Where dealer inventories typically average 60 days, industry wide, that’s down to barely two weeks, according to Krafcik, a one-time senior Ford engineer, who offered a glimpse at some of the Hyundai products to come during a meeting at the Hyundai-Kia Technical Center near Ann Arbor, Mi.


Honda Bumps Up Mileage Hoping to Salvage Slow-Selling Insight Hybrid

Highway fuel economy now at 44 mpg – but is that enough?

by on Oct.17, 2011

Honda has updated the interior and exterior of the 2012 Insight - but the big selling point may be the hatchbacks improved mileage.

Honda is hoping to pump some life into its slow-selling Insight hybrid for 2012 by adding more features, giving it a more high-tech appearance – and bumping up its mileage.

There’s no question the Insight needs some help.  Sales have lagged significantly below expectations for a vehicle Honda had once hoped might pose a real challenge to the gas-electric segment’s king-of-the-hill the Toyota Prius.

The question is whether the newly-updated 2012 Honda Insight – with its revised styling and 44 mpg highway rating – can lure buyers in at a time when fuel prices have retreated and conventionally powered products, such as the comparably sized Hyundai Accent, are also delivering highway numbers in excess of 40 mpg.

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Changes to the 2012 Honda Insight’s exterior include a more distinctive grille with a thin, blue accent bar to underscore its identity as one of the maker’s hybrid models.  The ’12 also features restyled front and rear bumpers and updated head and taillamps, as well as restyled wheels. Meanwhile, changes meant to improve airflow under the vehicle yield a 2% improvement in overall aerodynamics.


First Drive: 2012 Nissan Versa

by on Jul.13, 2011

Nissan comes up with a complete remake of the Versa sedan for 2012.

With a starting price of just $10,990, the 2012 remake of the Nissan Versa sedan will clearly catch the attention of those on a tight budget.  And in this economy, there are a lot of folks who qualify.  Stealing a march on its Korean rivals, the Japanese maker’s smallest 4-door actually comes in significantly cheaper than comparably equipped offerings from Hyundai and Kia.

Anyone familiar with the Nissan Versa nameplate knows that has long been a big selling point – but a low cost often has its price, the prior generation requiring buyers to accept significant sacrifices in terms of room, performance and creature comforts.

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The good news is that the all-new 2012 Nissan Versa sedan no longer demands such concessions.  Based on the Japanese maker’s new global V platform, the latest iteration proves unexpectedly roomy, far better equipped and is a lot more fun to drive.  It also gets significantly better fuel economy, though it does not meet the magic 40 mpg highway target that some key competitors are unabashedly promoting at every opportunity.

There will be two Versas for 2012, buyers need note.  The hatchback, which has traditional accounted for almost two-thirds of Nissan’s subcompact sales, won’t get a re-make for another year.  The big news for the upcoming model-year is the redesign of the sedan.


40 MPG Rating Helps Hyundai Move the Metal

Maker believes it can hit 50 mpg by 2025.

by on Jul.11, 2011

Demand for better mileage is making it difficult for Hyundai to keep up with demand for the new Accent.

Hyundai, which is making an aggressive push to claim the fuel-economy crown long held by Japanese automakers such as Toyota and Honda, has discovered that pitching 40 mpg is a fast way to draw customers into its showrooms.

The Korean maker also appears to be breaking from its major rivals suggesting it is on the way to delivering fuel economy numbers in excess of 50 mpg by 2025, not far off of the federal government’s proposed jump in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standard.

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“Hyundai aims to be the fuel economy leader and our ’4 x 40′ strategy is accelerating our overall fuel economy improvement, which now tops 35 mpg across the entire lineup,” said John Krafcik, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor Americal, who has said Hyundai’s entire fleet already meets the 2015 fuel economy standard of 35.6 mpg.

“But we really see 40 mpg as a starting point. We committed to at least 50 mpg corporate average fuel economy by 2025 and remain the only automaker to set our sights so high,” Krafcik said.


Hyundai Earnings Surge 46%

Korean maker's sales surge past Honda.

by on Apr.28, 2011

Coming at you. New products, like the big Equus sedan, are helping Hyundai drive up earnings.

It was a great first quarter for Hyundai, the upstart Korean carmaker that has been much of the auto industry’s established order a scare.  The maker reports it earned $1.75 billion for the January to March period, a 46% jump.

With demand up everywhere from Berlin to Beijing – and Boston in- between — Hyundai also recorded global sales of 922,000 for the quarter pushing it in front of Japan’s number three maker, Honda.  Considering the huge losses in production Honda and the rest of the Japanese have suffered in the wake of that nation’s March 11 disaster, Hyundai is likely to maintain that lead, analysts suggest, for at least another quarter, if not longer.

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Hyundai’s net, 1.88 trillion in Korean won, was up from 1.28 trillion won a year ago.  First-quarter sales and revenues totaled 18.23 trillion won, a 21% increase.

The Korean company has been on an aggressive growth curve fueled by the expansion of its line-up into a variety of new segments, and from the addition of overseas assembly plants, such as the facility it opened in Alabama, two years ago.


First Look: Hyundai Accent

by on Apr.20, 2011

Hyundai reveals its fourth 40 mpg model, the new Accent.

While Hyundai’s claim to being the most fuel-efficient brand in America might be open to challenge, there’s no question the make is riding a wave as more and more U.S. buyers shift to high-mileage products – like the Elantra, the most popular non-hybrid product on the market getting at least 40 mpg in highway driving.

Now, the Korean maker announced at the New York Auto Show, it is adding another model ready to deliver 40 mpg – the completely updated Hyundai Accent.

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The smallest of the maker’s products available in the U.S., the updated Accent will get a new 1.6-liter Gamma inline-four engine that features technologies often reserved for larger and more expensive products, including direct injection and continuously-variable valve timing.

Putting out 138 horsepower, the new Accent will deliver an EPA-rated 30 mpg around town and 40 on the open road.