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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.

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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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Despite Skeptics, Fuel-Cell Vehicles Hit the Market

“Fool cells” or “fuel of the future”?

by on Jul.15, 2014

Toyota Executive Vice President Mitsuhisa Kato reveals the company's new FCV fuel cell vehicle in Japan.

Hyundai’s first fuel-cell vehicle, a zero-emissions version of its Tucson sport-ute, has just gone on sale in Southern California, and hydrogen-powered Honda and Toyota models will follow in the months ahead.  Mercedes-Benz is fleet testing its own F-Cell model, and other makers, such as General Motors, may soon enter the fuel-cell market, as well.

To proponents, hydrogen is the ultimate form of clean energy, and one that overcomes many of the drawbacks of battery power such as limited range and long charging cycles. Yet reaction to the technology remains sharply divided.

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Elon Musk, founder and CEO of TeslaMotors, the California-based battery-carmaker, has repeatedly asserted that hydrogen vehicles will never pay off commercially, deriding them as “fool cells.”

But after years on the back burner as money and resources were shifted to battery technology, hydrogen has been regaining momentum in the U.S. and abroad.

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First Drive: 2015 Hyundai Sonata

“An athlete in a tailored suit.”

by on Jul.10, 2014

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata's styling may be toned down, but it remains a striking entry in a segment that has typically emphasized bland design.

First introduced in 1985, the Hyundai Sonata was a largely overlooked entry into the crowded midsize market, but that all changed with the launch of the 2011 sedan which quickly put to rest all those bad jokes and nasty reviews the Korean maker earned – often deservedly – during its early year in the U.S. market.

The sixth-generation Sonata broke the rather restrictive mold carmakers used when designing the midsized sedans. Instead of a drab, boxy silhouette, the recession-era Sonata was sleek, curvy and nicely proportioned. And it marked Hyundai’s coming of age as a serious global player – suddenly a serious challenger to top-rated Japanese brands such as Toyota and Nissan.

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Now Hyundai is rolling out the Gen-7 Sonata for the 2015 model year, and while it has actually toned down the over-the-top styling that made the outgoing model a visual standout, the Korean carmaker intends to build on the value story that turned Sonata into a major hit for the company.

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Ford, Hyundai Add More Vehicles to 2014 Recall Parade

Two automakers recall more than 158,000 vehicles.

by on Jul.08, 2014

Ford is recalling 2013 and 2014 model year Taurus sedans for issues related to halfshafts. The maker is recalling 92,000 vehicles for the problem.

Ford and Hyundai issued seven recalls affecting nearly 160,000 vehicles for issues ranging from defective halfshafts to headliners to roof glass. Ford accounts for 101,000 of the vehicles in the actions.

The largest recall involves more than 92,000 model year 2013-2014 Ford Taurus, Ford Flex, Ford Police Interceptor, Lincoln MKS and Lincoln MKT; 2012-2014 Ford Edge; and 2014 Lincoln MKX models. The issue involves the right-side halfshaft on the vehicles.

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The vehicles in the recall may experience “loss of drive function,” Ford said, adding the vehicles could roll away if the gearshift is placed in park without the emergency brake being engaged. Ford dealers will inspect the halfshaft and repair or replace as needed. (more…)

New Hyundai Genesis Can Outfox Speed Cameras

by on Jul.01, 2014

The 2015 Hyundai Genesis can not only detect speed cameras, it'll slow the car down.

Even the best of drivers occasionally let their foot press down a little too hard on the gas pedal. And while you might be able to talk your way out of a traffic ticket if a uniformed officer pulls you over, you’re likely just going to have to write a check if you’re nabbed by one of the increasingly common speed cameras popping up across the country.

But the engineers at Hyundai have come up with a way to save speeders from their own bad habits. The Korean carmaker is showing off a new system that not only can alert the driver to a hidden speed camera, but which will automatically slow the vehicle down to avoid a ticket.

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“It knows there is a speed camera there,” the automaker’s spokesman Guido Schenken told reporters during a session marking the Korean launch of the newly redesigned 2015 Hyundai Genesis sedan. “It knows where the speed camera is and it will adopt the correct speed.” (more…)

Hyundai Counts on Alabama Plant

Breaking bottlenecks is critical as the new 2015 Sonata rolls out.

by on Jun.30, 2014

The body of a new 2015 Hyundai Sonata rolls down the assembly line at the Alabama plant.

Hyundai has begun delivering the new 2015 Hyundai Sonata to dealers across America from its bustling assembly plant in Montgomery, Alabama, a factory stretched well beyond its rated capacity as the Korean carmaker struggles to keep up with consumer demand.

The Montgomery plant, which has 3,000 employees, now operates on three shifts five days per week and last year built a total of 398,000 vehicles – nearly 100,000 more than what it was built to handle when it opened a decade ago.

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Dave Zuchowski, president and chief executive officer of Hyundai Motor America, noted the ability of the Montgomery plant to expand production beyond the rated capacity has been critical to Hyundai’s ability to meet customer demand in recent years.

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First Drive: 2015 Hyundai Genesis

Maker looking to draw buyers from other luxury brands.

by on Jun.20, 2014

With the 2015 Hyundai Genesis, the automaker is looking to attract new luxury buyers wanting a good deal as well as plenty of opulence.

Hyundai has grabbed market share since the recession by offering consumers a little bit extra at a very attractive price that confounds the competition.

The South Korean automaker also is ambitious. So while it started out building small cars that stressed affordability and fuel efficiency, it has also shown a deft touch in the mid-sized and even luxury segments where it is challenging the premium brands such as Lexus, Cadillac, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz with the 2015 Hyundai Genesis.

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The Genesis is a large rear-wheel drive sedan that delivers distinctive styling, ample power, some of the very latest technology as well as solid ride and handling for a price, $38,000, that is less than what you would pay for an established luxury brand. (more…)

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.”

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Toyota Launching Hydrogen Car by Year-End

But new fuel-cell vehicles could carry steep price tag.

by on Jun.09, 2014

Toyota unveiled its FCV hydrogen concept vehicle at the Tokyo Motor Show last autumn.

Toyota will launch production of its first commercially available hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle before the end of the year, according to a report from Japan. That would appear to be months ahead of its original plans.

Toyota, which hasn’t changed its stance of “2015 or sooner” for the release of the car, first revealed plans to get into the hydrogen car market last autumn, at the biennial Tokyo Motor Show. It has produced a number of prototypes in years past, but the Japanese giant has been suggesting that it might go the fuel-cell route as an alternative to depending on battery-electric vehicles to meet tough new Zero-Emission Vehicle, or ZEV standards.

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The first Toyota battery cars would come in at around 8 million yen, according to the Japan Times, which would work out to a hefty $78,000, though the English-language publication noted that by the beginning of the next decade, Toyota would like to trim that to somewhere between 3 million to 5 million yen, or between $30,000 and $50,000 at current exchange rates.

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What Was Hot and Not in May

Convertibles are cold, despite the warm weather.

by on Jun.03, 2014

Porsche can barely keep up with demand for the all-new Macan sport-utility vehicle.

What’s hot and what’s not? One thing’s for sure: the U.S. new car market is back in gear after a chilly winter left many makers struggling with a shortage of buyers. But May saw shoppers flooding back into showrooms for what was one of the best months in a decade for the industry overall – and a number of players, notably including Jeep and Audi, set all-time records.

But, as always, the double-digit gains weren’t spread around uniformly. Volkswagen, for example, posted yet another decline, and appears to be losing even more momentum until its new, seventh-generation Golf hatchback finally reaches showrooms.

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Credit relatively stable fuel prices for the strong demand for pickups, big SUVs and other fuel-chugging models. Surprisingly, despite finally getting some warm weather, however, a number of convertibles were decidedly cold, at least in terms of sales.

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