Auto New for Feb. 28

On the one hand, more people were late with their auto payments in December, according to TransUnion. But on an annual basis, late payments in 2012 hit their lowest rate in more than a decade.

Here comes a 9-speed automatic transmission! It will debut at the Geneva Auto Show next week in a Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. It will replace the 6-speed in the 2014 model and backers say it will improve gas mileage and lower emissions.

9 speed evoque

The Detroit News says Chrysler workers will demonstrate outside the Warren, Michigan plant today to protest a new work schedule. It would have them working four 10-hour days a week staggered over six days. Workers claim it is a way for the maker to avoid paying Saturday overtime. Yet their union supports the work plan saying it has created thousands of jobs in communities where it is already in effect.

Volkswagen will introduce a new GTI at the Geneva Show with a turbo four good for 220 horsepower, or ten more with an optional performance pack. The GTI currently sold here is good for 200 horsepower. VW claims gas mileage will improve by 18% in the GTI that will go on sale in Europe in May. No word on what power plants will be available here in the U.S. or when it will go on sale here. The 230 horsepower model will take just 6.4 seconds to hit 60 with a top speed of 155 mph.

Volks GTI

Auto News for Feb. 27

If you did not see the latest picks from Consumer Reports, please check out my column on this page.

It was interesting that eight of the top ten picks came from Asia, with Mercedes and Audi the lone exceptions. Detroit automakers did not fare well in the listings, filling out the bottom six slots.

General Motors now says it is not seeking a pay raise for CEO Dan Akerson as reported by numerous news outlets yesterday. It cited confusion over deferred stock that wasn’t vested until 2012, according to the Detroit News that altered Akerson’s total earnings last year.

An auto dealer group said wholesale used car prices rose 1.3% in January. It cited inventory shortages caused by the number of used vehicles damaged by Superstorm  Sandy.

North America’s biggest work truck show will be held next month in Indianapolis. It boasts 500,000 square feet of “vocational trucks, van and equipment.” Vocational trucks?

It is being called the first automated parking system of its kind ever installed in a museum setting in this country. Boomerang Systems is using a robotic automated parking system at what is being called the world’s largest collection of Ford Model A trucks, (55 of them,) at the Elliott Museum in Florida. Visitors will use a kiosk to select a car and bring it down from a three story stacking system to a custom turntable that will display the vehicle. What would Henry say about all that?

 

Consumer Reports Top Picks

Lexus LS

Consumer Reports Top Picks

Lexus is the Leader

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – This line said it all: “Consumer Reports currently recommends 100% of the Lexus vehicles it has tested.”

In the magazine’s annual auto issue unveiled today Lexus earned the best overall score followed while Subaru and Mazda tied for second place. CR said both brands “build solid cars with good handling, fuel economy and versatility at relatively affordable prices.”

Toyota and Acura rounded out the top five brands. Acura was followed by Honda, Scion, Audi, Infiniti, and Mercedes Benz.

By now you’re probably wondering about the Detroit automakers? Cadillac had the best score among the former Big Three coming in 14th among the 26 models rated. CR said it was helped by its CTS model and weighed down by the “complicated CUE” infotainment controls.

Once again this year, CR marked down Ford and Lincoln, in part, because of its complicated MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch systems. But the magazine had praise for the Ford C-Max and the Fusion Hybrid. Yet Ford finished 23rd on the CR list.

Dodge finished last on the CR list. Only one of its products, the Durango impressed enough to get a recommended rating. As for Jeep, only the V6 Grand Cherokee got a recommend rating and editors said Chrysler is saddled with many older, uncompetitive models. CR said fewer than half of the domestic brands it tested received a recommended rating and most of them came from Chevrolet and GMC.

The magazine said it must have information on at least three models for a brand to be included on its annual list, and that is why Fiat, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Ram. and Smart were not included.

Breaking it all down by category, the Honda Accord was named best midsized sedan, CR saying Honda “nailed it” with the redesigned 2013 model.

The top rated budget car was the Hyundai Elantra. Editors said it packs good value for the dollar and has nimble handling and a fairly comfortable ride.

No surprise that the Toyota Prius was at the top of the Green Car list. “No current plug-in car can match the Prius hatchback for its blend of fuel efficiency, practicality and affordability,” said the editors.  onda, Hond

 

Two brothers topped the best Sports Car list – the Subaru BRZ and the Scion FR-S. CR said both are exhilarating to drive with super-sharp handling.

Saying the 2012 redesign “breathed new life into the all-wheel drive Impreza” Suby’s baby was named top Compact Car.

Consumer Reports picked the Audi A6 as the top Luxury Car saying it “surrounds you with a sumptuous, impeccably finished cabin.”

Honda picked up two another categories – best small SUV – with its popular CRV and best minivan with the Odyssey.

Toyota’s Highlander was named best midsized SUV.

And what some are now calling a legendary car, BMW’s 328i top the Sports Sedan category, CR praising it for its excellent handling and fun to drive character.

 

 

 

Auto News for Feb. 26

Consumer Reports unveils its annual report on cars and trucks later today. There will be a complete report here a bit later.

General Motors wants to increase the pay of CEO Dan Akerson to match those of other auto industry contemporaries, according to the Detroit News. But it must first get the okay from the Treasury Department for the $11.1 million in total compensation. GM also wants to increase the pay of other top level managers. Treasury must sign off on the deal as part of the government bailout.

Treasury, meanwhile, has started selling its 19% stake in GM. If all goes according to plan it will sell its entire interest in the automaker by March of next year.

McLaren has set the price for its upcoming P1 supercar, and if you are interested, well buy lottery tickets. The base price in the U.S. is $1,150,000. Production will be limited to 375 units and the innovative hybrid will top out at 218 miles per hour. It is said to be 35% faster than the legendary F1.

A new study from the Census Bureau offers some historical perspective on auto insurance. It all began in 1898 when a policy was issued to a Buffalo man. His policy cost $12.25 and gave him $5,000 worth of coverage. He was chiefly concerned about accidents between his car and horses that greatly outnumbered cars on the road at that time – about 4,000 cars to 18-million horses. There were probably some slippery spots on the road from those horses.

 

 

 

 

Auto News for Feb. 25

Auto News for Feb. 25

Volks XL1

There are no plans at present to send to these shores what VW is claiming to be the world’s most efficient production car. VW claims the XL1, about the size of a Mazda Miata, gets 261 miles per gallon on the European scale, which is more optimistic than the standard used here. It will seat two, is extremely light weight at just 1,752 pounds, and is powered by a 47 horsepower two-cylinder diesel and a 27 horsepower electric motor. Top speed is 99 miles per hour and in 12.7 seconds it will race (!) from a standstill to 62 miles per hour.

2014 Jeep Cherokee

Jeep has released pictures of the Cherokee that will debut as a 2014 model at the New York Auto Show next month. It is a replacement for the Liberty that apparently ended up with death and not liberty. It will be built in Ohio.

Edmunds.com predicts that new vehicle sales will increase by just over four percent this month, compared to a year ago. It says pent-up demand and access to credit are offsetting other negative economic concerns.

AT&T will provide most GM vehicles with safety, security diagnostic and infotainment services starting in 2014. This will include streaming audio, web access, and video for backseat passengers. Let’s hope they keep it simple.

Perhaps lost in all the stories out of the Daytona 500 was the fact that Richard Petty helped dedicate some new stamps. They are called Muscle Cars Forever stamps and you can see them at:

facebook.com/USPSStamps

And yes, you can even use them on Saturday!

Saturday Road Test

cars 2013 001

2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Weird Looks – Fun to drive

By Ron Amadon

LAYTONSVILLE, MD – The Veloster may not be the most handsome vehicle on the road today, but let the turbo do its thing, and this rig is just downright fun to drive.

When the Veloster was first introduced, there were complaints about its power. The inline four batted out 138 horsepower but the Velo needed more power to star. Enter the 201 horsepower twin scroll turbo and those complaints have eased with an increase in torque from 123 lb-ft to 196 lb-ft @ 1750-4500 rpm.

A six speed manual tranny is standard with a six speed automatic an option.  With the stick shift, zero to 60 pops up in about 7 seconds, compared with a non-turbo time that is 1.5 seconds slower. Out on the road that makes a heck of a difference.

The manual transmission was a delight on twisting back roads and lived in a harmonious relationship with the turbo. Yet one would not want to race a Volks GTI or Honda Si.

It could be argued that the Veloster Turbo was never destined to be a track car anyway. For those who are attracted to its rather, (ahem), strange exterior styling it is a chance to own a sporty looking vehicle that certainly will stand out against the competition.

cars 2013 004

One also has to put up with some other little peccadillos such as the lack of a rear door on the driver’s side, and a large bar across the rear window that reduces visibility.

On the other side of the ledger, the interior is first rate with an easy to read instrument panel, comfortable seats, and major controls that fall readily to hand. The jazzy looking V-shaped center stack was also a nice touch. Rear seating space for adults was tight, but okay for the kiddos.

Two where the Veloster stands out:  Economy, cargo space and bang for the buck.

The EPA rates the stick shift turbo at 24-35 mpg on regular gas and let’s just say I came in on the lower end of that scale. EPA estimates for the GTI with a stick are 21-31 while the Si checks in with 22-31 mpg.

The Veloster sports 15.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats up and that grows to a hefty 89.8 with all seats folded.

30589_1_1

Nifty standard features on the tested Turbo M/T model included 18-inch alloy wheels, 7” touchscreen, a fine sounding audio system with all the usual hookups, heated multi-adjustable leather seats with power lumbar, and so forth.

A $2,500 “Ultimate Package” added a sunroof, backup warning system, automatic headlights and navi. Add in $95 floor mats, (something should be standard on ALL cars,) and the test unit carried a price of $26,520 including delivery. A base price of $22,725 tops both the GTI and Si.

It should be noted that the Veloster captured two categories in the latest Kelley Blue Book list of vehicles projected to have the lowest operating costs over the next five years.

 

 

 

Auto News for Feb. 21

 

(Check out the special report on economy cars filed yesterday and a photograph that shows $4 a gallon is real!)

McLaren P1

McLaren is rocking the auto world with more information on the P1 that it will debut at the upcoming Geneva Auto Show. A mid-mounted 3.8-liter twin turbo V8 will combine with an electric motor to generate a whopping 903 horsepower, lots of torque, and reduced emissions. The electric motor is mounted directly onto the engine and, McLaren maintains, produces 176 horsepower. The P1 will be able to travel 6 miles on electric only power. No acceleration figures were released but I would guess something like 0-60 in less than three seconds would be reasonable. As for the price, well the old slogan certainly fits here – “If you have to ask …”

Tesla has posted a quarterly net loss of nearly $90 million, a bigger dip in the red than expected. Yet the company said it will be close to break even on cash flow in the first quarter. And it said there is strong demand for its Model S sedan.

If you had to guess, which luxury German automaker was the top seller here in the U.S. last year – Mercedes or BMW? R.L. Polk reports that Mercedes had more new vehicle registrations than BMW.

Audi will use the early March Geneva show to display a plug in hybrid, the A3 e-tron. In keeping with the brand’s reputation, the A3 boasts a 0-62 time of 7.6 seconds and a top speed of nearly 138 miles per hour. Audi claims it can travel up to 31 miles in electric mode.  It can be driven with just the gas engine, just the electric drive or a combination of both. The e-tron, Audi claims, “provides a realistic glimpse into the future of mobility.”

The most stolen vehicle in Michigan is the model year 2000 Dodge Caravan.

Only 31% of motorists who received a traffic ticket in the past five years ended up paying more for auto insurance, according to a division of Bankrate. Younger drivers, no surprise, were most likely to face higher rates.