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Archive for May, 2014

Tests Reveal Vehicles with Most Effective Crash Prevention Systems

Eight vehicles earned the top safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Thursday after it tested the vehicles’ crash prevention systems.

The IIHS tested vehicles equipped with a forward collision warning system, a system that uses cameras, lasers and radars to detect whether a vehicle is too close to another vehicle. It warns the driver of a possible collision through computerized voice and/or vibration in the seats. The system sometimes comes with automatic braking which significantly reduces the car’s speed upon warning.

The Buick Regal, 2015 Hyundai Genesis, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series and X5, and Cadillac CTS and XTS received “superior” ratings as their respective brakes reduced the speed by 3 mph or less.

The 2014 Chevrolet Impala is the only non-luxury car that earned the top rating. This is despite an investigation of a report that the sedan’s automatic brakes suddenly went off several times and eventually caused an accident. The IIHS spokesperson said the institute was aware of the investigation but did not have issues with the Impala it tested.

Some 2014 models such as the Infiniti QX70 and QX50, BMW 3 Series, Buick LaCrosse, Mercedes-Benz CLA, Lexus IS and GS, Audi A3 and A6, and Dodge Durango earned “advanced” ratings as they slowed down only moderately on warning.

Those that slowed down by less than 5 mph like the Toyota Avalon and Infiniti Q70 were given by the institute “basic” ratings.

The vehicles are tested at 12 mph and 25 mph.

The IIHS began testing forward collision warning systems last fall in hope that automakers will offer the system as standard equipment.

According to the institute, 40 percent of 2014 models offer forward collision systems as optional equipment and only 20 percent come with automatic braking feature.

Some automakers that offer the system as standard equipment at the time are Mercedes-Benz, Acura and Volvo.

Photo credit: Brady Holt / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0



Honda Accord Tops Most Stolen Cars List

640px-2013_Accord_LXThe Honda Accord still leads the list of the ten most stolen and recovered vehicles in 2013.

In its annual Vehicle Theft Recovery Report, vehicle recovery systems inventor LoJack Corp. said that the Honda Accord has been topping the list for five consecutive years now. Rounding out the top 10 are Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Silverado, Acura Integra, Cadillac Escalade, Ford F350, Nissan Altima and Chevrolet Tahoe.

The list was based on the number of stolen vehicles equipped with a vehicle recovery system.

A similar report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau showed that the 1996 Honda Accord is the most stolen make and model with more than 8,600 thefts.

LoJack Vice President of Law Enforcement Patrick Clancy told ABC News that the Honda Accord “continues to be a top seller at car dealerships throughout the United States for a variety of reasons, including their reliability.” This also means that more and more Accords get on the road year after year. Some of these get into accidents and need parts for repairs.

Clancy said that parts are interchangeable between several model years. Thieves get up to three times the value of a vehicle if they sell it for parts. With increased demands for parts, stealing popular vehicles such as the Accord is a lucrative business for thieves.

LoJack’s report also showed that the top 10 states with the most number of thefts and recoveries in 2013 include California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Arizona, Georgia and Washington.

Photo credit: Aneekr / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0



Fuel-Saving Tips That Do Not Really Save

5856850771_49e3e53693_zYou might have read a lot about fuel efficiency and how to save gas. Unfortunately, not everything presented as facts is true. We’ve got a short discussion below about some of the most common fuel-saving misconceptions.

1. Shift to neutral at stops.

This may be true several years ago when engines then required carburetors. But vehicles today have engines with fuel-injection systems which can sense and tell you if the engine is revving beyond idle when the throttle is fully closed. In that case, no fuel is being injected to the engine when your foot is off the gas pedal even if your vehicle’s in gear.

Thus, shifting to neutral at stops does not really save you gas. What that achieves is only premature wearing of the shifting components.

2. Manual transmissions are more fuel-efficient than automatic transmissions.

Years back, manual transmissions are more fuel-efficient than automatics because you can control the engine revs through shifting. But today’s advanced automatic transmissions can save you more fuel than a traditional clutch-and-stick shift can do. There is also the automatic manual transmission which offers a combination of the benefits of a manual and an automatic transmission.

3. Fuel economy declines as the vehicle gets old.

According to, fuel economy normally improves over the first years of ownership or about the first 5,000 miles of a vehicle. But the overall performance, including fuel economy, of your vehicle will certainly deteriorate over time without proper maintenance.

Regular engine maintenance is the secret to keeping your vehicle’s reliability and efficiency. It also allows you to find out and fix problems, which might hurt fuel economy badly, as early as possible. In this way, there’s no way your engine will be any less fuel-efficient over time.

4. A dirty air filter hurts a vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

A dirty air filter used to lower mileage in older vehicles. But with fuel-injected engines used by modern vehicles now, that shouldn’t be the case anymore. These engines use a computerized engine control module which regulates the air-to-fuel ratio. This is why a dirty air filter on a modern engine won’t significantly affect fuel economy.

5. Premium gas is the best in terms of fuel economy.

Oil companies may have subliminally told consumers that premium gas has something to do with fuel economy. But experts discourage consumers from filling in a vehicle’s tank with gas that’s not recommended for that vehicle. If your car is designed for regular gas, stick with it and don’t go premium unless recommended in the owner’s manual. But in general, using higher-octane gas does not really have a significant effect on any vehicle’s fuel economy and performance. Gassing up with premium only makes you spend more unnecessarily.

Photo credit: Images Money / Flickr / CC BY 2.0



Fiat CEO Doesn’t Want You to Buy the 500e

500e-5-exteriorCEOs of automakers normally want you—or even lure you—to buy their cars.

But not Fiat’s.

Sergio Marchionne, Chief Executive Officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, does not want potential buyers to purchase the company’s only electric car, the Fiat 500e.

“I hope you don’t buy it because every time I sell one it costs me $14,000. I’m honest enough to tell you that,” he said at a conference at the Brookings Institution, Reuters reported.

The gasoline-run Fiat 500 starts at nearly $17,000 including delivery charges. But the California-only 500e costs $32,650 excluding federal tax credits. Consumers are not willing to pay the full price that covers the manufacturing costs of the electric vehicle so, Fiat loses money.

As of April this year, the Italian automaker sold 11,514 units of the 500 in the U.S., down by 15 percent from the first quarter last year. The company does not disclose the sales figures for the 500e.

So, Marchionne is not willing to sell more than what it is required to meet the state’s requirements.

“I will sell the (minimum) of what I need to sell and not one more,” he said.

The 500e was built in compliance with the state of California’s mandate which requires automakers to sell zero-emission cars. Electric cars are at this time the easiest way to meet the requirement.

Marchionne said that the U.S. Department of Energy should rather set targets and let the automakers meet them in their own way.

In 2009, Chrysler filed for bankruptcy and received a U.S. taxpayer bailout. Fiat then took over the company and completed the buyout early this year.

Marchionne fears of this happening again if they keep building electric cars.

“If we just build those vehicles, we’ll be back asking…in Washington for a second bailout because we’ll be bankrupt.”

Fiat has recently revealed that it is planning to build several hybrid cars that are powered by both electric and gasoline engines, which will account for at least more than half of sales.

Electric cars are not very appealing to consumers because of their limited driving range and expensive price.



Auto Loan Debt Rises (But Many Borrowers Still Pay Late)

2806609520_799e948b55_zAuto loan debt per borrower has increased in the first three months of 2014, latest TransUnion report shows. But auto loan delinquency rate has likewise risen from the previous year.

TransUnion data shows that a borrower takes on an average of $16,862 of auto loan debt in the first quarter this year, up 4.1 percent from $16,191 in the same period last year.

The credit-reporting agency’s vice president of automotive, Peter Turek, said, “The continued increase in auto loan debt is a healthy sign that auto sales and the auto loan market continue to perform well.”

U.S. car buyers have more purchasing power in the recent years when fuel prices stabilized, interest rates went down, and credit became more available.

But the number of borrowers who fell behind their payments by 60 days or more has also risen early this year. The auto loan delinquency rate is now one percent, up from 0.95 percent in the first quarter of 2013. But it is down from 1.14 percent in the previous quarter and below 1.10 percent, the average for the January-March period since 2008.

Moreover, the rate of late payments among subprime borrowers (consumers with credit scores below 641 on the VantageScore 2.0 scale) increased from 5.11 percent in 2013 to 5.52 percent this year. The share of auto loans originated to that group has also expanded from 2012 to 2013.

Turek said, “Auto loans to the subprime population are growing as are delinquency rates for that group, but as an industry the level of risk is well managed.”

The largest increases in delinquency rate occurred in Alaska, Arkansas and Michigan. Eleven states, however, experienced declines with the largest in Oregon, Hawaii and California.

Photo credit: wsssst / Flickr / CC BY 2.0



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