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GM Now Under Investigation by Attorneys General in 45 States

Maker says number of ignition switch fatalities could rise.

by on Jul.24, 2014

General Motors is not only facing multiple federal investigations, 45 attorneys general are also conducting queries regarding the company's faulty ignition switch.

Already facing investigations by both houses of Congress, as well as a criminal probe by the U.S. Justice Department, General Motors revealed Thursday that it is now facing additional investigations by the attorneys general in 45 states linked to its long delay in ordering a recall of 2.6 million vehicles equipped with defective ignition switches.

Though some probes had previously been announced – GM earlier confirming it had gone before a federal grand jury in New York – the latest revelation suggests the maker’s safety woes could get substantially worse, while it could also be facing significant new fines and legal costs.

A Breath of Fresh Air!

The news was revealed on the same day GM announced that it had earned a meager $200 million during the second quarter of 2014 due to expenses of more than $1 billion to cover the cost of various recall repairs and the establishment of a victims’ compensation fund linked to the ignition switch problem. A day earlier, the troubled maker had submitted documentation to federal regulators indicating the number of people killed or injured due to crashed caused by the switch problem could rise. (more…)

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 Estimates Victims Fund Will Cost at Least $400 Mil

Forecast comes in lower than many estimates – but impact of safety scandal still severe.

by on Jul.24, 2014

GM CEO Barra shown during her most recent testimony before a Senate subcommittee this month.

General Motors anticipates it will spend at least $400 million to recompense victims of a defective ignition switch so far linked to the death of at least 13 people, though it cautioned that the figure could run as high as $600 million, depending upon how many people qualify for the program.

Those numbers, while significant, come in substantially below widespread reports that had placed the potential cost of the program at as much as $1 billion or more. GM announced details earlier this month of the victims’ compensation program that will be handled by compensation specialist Kenneth Feinberg.

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“There’s no cap on this program and at the end of the day Ken Feinberg will determine how much this program costs,” GM Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens told reporters on Thursday morning following the release of the maker’s second-quarter earnings. (more…)

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.”

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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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My Car’s Been Recalled: Now What?

Recall notice provides next steps on getting repair completed.

by on Jul.23, 2014

If you find this in your mailbox, don't panic. Open it to find out what you need to do to ensure your vehicle is safe to drive.

Due to the sheer number of vehicles recalled in the United States this year – in excess of 40 million – you very well may have a vehicle that is involved in some sort of safety-related service action.

So, the big question is: what do I do now?

On Track!

Well, first: don’t ignore that notice. Experts warn that even seemingly minor recalls can involve life-threatening defects and must be dealt with. (more…)

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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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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Chrysler Recalling 800,000 Vehicles for Ignition Switch Problem

by on Jul.22, 2014

Jeep Grand Cherokees from model years 2005-2007 are part of a larger recall of Chrysler vehicles with ignition problems.

Chrysler is expanding an earlier recall, targeting nearly 800,000 older Jeep models because of an ignition switch problem that could cause the vehicles to stall and disable their airbags and other safety systems.

The move comes as federal safety regulators investigate reports that drivers inadvertently can bump the keys on as many as 1.2 million Chrysler products, causing them to turn from the On to Off or Accessory position. The problem is similar to one that has led to the recall of millions of General Motors products in recent months. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into the possibility the problem could occur on products built by other manufacturers, as well.

Keeping You Safe!

While Chrysler and its dealers prepare to notify customers and schedule repairs, the maker is advising owners to remove everything but the ignition key from their key rings to reduce the risk of an unintended stall-out. (more…)

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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