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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…)

GM Issues Stop Sale on Used Cadillac Models

Unusual move reflects slow pace of recall repairs.

by on Jul.21, 2014

The announcement covers Cadillac CTS sedans using key, rather than keyless, ignition systems.

It’s become something of a regular occurrence for manufacturers to issue so-called “stop sales” when they suspect a new model might have a problem that could lead to a recall. Volkswagen recently ordered one for its new Golf and GTI models, and General Motors has issued several this year, including one covering its popular Chevrolet Cruze sedan.

But GM has now issued another, more unusual stop sale, this one telling its dealers to park and sit on some older Cadillac models because of potential ignition switch problems. The order covers Caddy CTS models sold during the 2003 to 2013 model-years, as well as 2004 to 2006 Cadillac SRX sport-utility vehicles. A handful of 2014 Cadillac CTS models were also included.

Breaking News!

The move, however, does not affect vehicles sold by non-GM dealers, whether franchised or independents, so shoppers need be aware that the vehicles have not yet been repaired and could be subject to problems until GM comes up with the appropriate fix.

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The Reluctant COO: Nick Scheele Dies at 70

Obit: former Ford COO was knighted in 2002.

by on Jul.21, 2014

Former Ford COO Nick Scheele.

He was dapper, affable and erudite. He was also a bit reluctant when asked to take on the mounting disaster that was Ford Motor Co. at the beginning of the new Millennium. But Nick Scheele was nothing if not loyal, and despite worsening health problems and a desire to simply fade away into the gentle bliss of retirement, in 2001 the British executive agreed to serve as the Detroit maker’s chief operating officer.

Scheele helped guide Ford through some of the worst times in its more than 100-year history, setting the stage for its unexpected recovery. He also propped up the long-troubled British maker Jaguar, helping restore its once glamorous image as one of the automotive world’s design leaders.

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Ultimately, the man described by London’s Telegraph as having “a backbone of steel” did get his chance to retire, more or less. But even after leaving Ford in 2005, Nick Scheele continued to find other ways to serve until his death last week at the age of 70.

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Say Goodbye to the Steering Wheel

Experts anticipate autonomous vehicles will soon take over.

by on Jul.18, 2014

An endangered species?

Google will soon begin rolling out the first of 100 self-driving microcars, most of which will have some familiar features missing, namely such traditional necessities as a steering wheel, brake and gas pedal. And while the Google vehicles will just be prototypes designed to test the tech firm’s autonomous driving technology, a survey of industry experts anticipates that the basic design could soon become the norm, rather than the exception.

The majority of the 200 respondents surveyed for this month’s Intelligent Vehicles Symposium, or IVS, anticipate vehicles being mass produced by 2035 won’t have steering wheel, gas or brake pedals, even rearview mirrors or horns.

Insight!

That’s in line with a separate study by Navigant Research that predicted about 95 million autonomous vehicles a year will be sold by 2035.

That figure is “reasonable to me,” said Alberto Broggi, a professor at the University of Parma, in Italy, a leading researcher on autonomous vehicles, and a key participant in the IVS conference — which was sponsored by the IEEE. But he questions whether all of those vehicles will be fully autonomous or still allow motorists to take control if they want – or need – to.

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Fiat, VW Deny Merger Talks

But VW has hinted it’s still hungry for acquisitions.

by on Jul.17, 2014

VW's Winterkorn and Fiat's Marchionne shown emerging from a meeting in Geneva last year.

Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech has a voracious appetite – for acquisitions, that is, the recent additions of Porsche and truckmaker Scania AB to the VWAG family bringing to thirteen its global brand count. And he has openly expressed interest in adding more, his second-in-command, VW Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn even naming Alfa Romeo as a possibility.

So, why not go one step further and buy Alfa’s parent, the newly merged Fiat Chrysler Automobiles? Or so goes a story in Germany’s Manager Magazin that set the rumor mill ablaze today. It claimed that Volkswagen, the largest maker in Europe and the world’s second-largest, based on 2013 sales, had approached Fiat about selling it some or all of the Euro-American company.

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Beyond the Headlines!

However, both companies are firmly denying the report, Fiat declaring in a statement that has, “not held discussions with Volkswagen regarding a potential merger.” For its part, a VW statement flatly said that, “There are currently no M&A projects on the agenda,” adding that, “We are now focusing on boosting efficiency within the Group.”

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Nissan Won’t Wait for 2020 to Begin Rolling Out Autonomous Technologies, Says Ghosn

New study forecasts annual sales of 95 mil self-driving cars by 2035.

by on Jul.17, 2014

A prototype Nissan Leaf autonomous vehicle negotiates traffic at a simulated urban intersection.

Betting on huge demand from motorists in the world’s increasingly crowded mega-cities, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has laid out an aggressive timetable for bringing the maker’s autonomous vehicles to market.

Even before the first of those self-driving cars goes on sale in 2020, said Ghosn, Nissan will launch new technologies, such as automated lane controls and highway traffic management systems that will begin to supplement the driver behind the wheel.

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We're Not on Autopilot!

Nissan is aiming to take the lead in the development of autonomous technologies but is likely to face a battle as other automakers enter the field – as well as tech giant Google which will begin launching field tests this year of a new prototype self-driving vehicle it has developed. The race could find a willing public, according to a new study by Navigant Research forecasting annual sales of autonomous vehicles could reach 95 million by 2035.

“By the end of 2016, Nissan will make available the next two technologies under its autonomous drive strategy,” said Mr. Ghosn.

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Adding Teen to Your Insurance Means Average 79% Increase in Premiums

But there are ways to reduce the cost.

by on Jul.17, 2014

Teens have the highest rate of crashes, and distracted driving is just one of the reasons.

Studies show drivers under the age of 20 are three times more likely than the general population to get into a fatal accident, and that doesn’t include fender-benders and other, more routine crashes – all of which mean that parents who plan to put a teen onto their insurance policies need to be prepared for a big increase in premiums.

The insurance bill for the typical married couple will jump an average 79%, according to a new study by insuranceQuotes.com. And for those young motorists who have a poor driving record, premiums could well more than double. The good news, however, is that the average teen penalty dipped from 85% in 2013.

News You Can Trust!

The younger the driver, the more insurance rates will rise, and males will pay a stiffer penalty than females, reflecting their traditionally higher risk behind the wheel. Insurance rate increases also vary from state-to-state. The penalty is stiffest in New Hampshire, noted the insuranceQuotes report, at an average 111%. (more…)

SUVs and Crossovers Now Outselling Sedans

“Trucks” now dominate American sales charts.

by on Jul.17, 2014

The shift to car-based crossovers -- such as the latest version of the Ford Explorer - has helped drive the ongoing boom of utility vehicles.

With the U.S. auto industry in full recovery mode, manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand of some of their most popular sport-utility vehicles and crossovers which, for the first time, are now outselling conventional sedans, according to a new study.

Utility vehicles, whether traditional, truck-like SUVs, or more modern, car-like crossovers, accounted for 36.5% of the overall American market during the first five months of 2014, compared with 35.4% for sedans, long the dominant body style, according to an analysis of new vehicle registrations by IHS Automotive.  A year ago, sedans outsold “utes” 36.6% to 33.9%.

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“These vehicles offer the combination of appealing features associated with both cars and light trucks, including a higher seating position, higher ground clearance, softer ride, more interior space, optional four-wheel or all-wheel drive, and towing capacity, among others,” said HIS analyst Tom Libby.

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