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Power to the People

Quality guru J.David Power inducted into Automotive Hall of Fame.

by on Jul.25, 2014

Dave Power, founder of J.D. Power and Associates, was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.

He isn’t your typical car guy, fixated on fast cars and powerful engines. But while his game is all about numbers, he isn’t exactly a bean-counter, either. J. David Power III has carved out a unique and, appropriately, powerful position in the automotive industry. And that’s something car buyers around the world should be grateful for.

The 83-year-old former newsboy is the founder of J.D. Power and Associates (JDPA), the California-based arbiter of quality in the automotive industry – and, increasingly, a variety of other industries from airlines to telecomm. With its public studies and private research, JDPA has become a critical link between consumers and manufacturers and, according to many in the car business, can claim a major share of the credit for the dramatic improvement in automotive quality and reliability over the past four decades.

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“He gives people their voice in the marketplace,” said Bud Liebler, a former Chrysler marketing vice president, who was on hand to honor Dave Power during his induction into the Automotive Hall of Fame on Thursday night. (more…)

A Dozen Ways to Keep Your Car from Being Stolen

Don’t become a statistic during National Vehicle Theft Protection Month.

by on Jul.25, 2014

A car is stolen every 44 seconds in the U.S., but there steps owners to can take to lower the odds.

Despite a nationwide crackdown, car theft remains a major problem, and according to government statistics, a vehicle is stolen in the U.S. about every 44 seconds. As the title of a recent movie suggested, a thief may need as little as 60 seconds to break in and then drive off with your car.

But you don’t have to become an unhappy part of those statistics. Driver error is responsible for as much as 50% of vehicle theft, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some common sense steps can reduce the odds of having your vehicle stolen – while you can also improve the odds of recovering your car, truck or crossover if it is snatched.

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The simplest step is to always remember to lock your car – and then take the key. Even with today’s remote keyless entry systems, a surprising number of motorists still don’t bother to close their windows and lock their vehicles up. Many people will even leave their keys in a cupholder or even in the ignition. You might as well put a sign on the windshield, “Steal Me.” (more…)

Mercedes-Benz Downsizes with New AMG Engine

Set to debut in maker’s upcoming AMG GT sports car.

by on Jul.25, 2014

The new, 510-hp Mercedes-Benz engine will debut under the hood of the upcoming AMG GT.

With the unveiling of its all-new 4.0-liter V-8, Mercedes-Benz joins a growing trend in the automotive performance market. Smaller, it seems, is better as performance and mileage requirements collide.

Due to make its debut under the hood of the planned Mercedes-Benz AMG GT, the new twin-turbo V-8 will deliver the sort of numbers that would traditionally require a far bigger engine – along with the fuel economy traditionally not possible in a high-performance sports car.

High-Performance!

A growing number of makers are opting for features like turbocharging, and even hybridization, to generate more power out of smaller engines. And as ever-tougher fuel economy and emissions standards go into place around the world, the trend is only likely to accelerate, according to industry planners and engineers.

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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 Malibu 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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