Auto News for Oct. 31

Happy Halloween, and, if I may, congratulations to the Boston Red Sox! Many of us long-time fans remember decades when there was no hope of the team ever playing October baseball in what one player called “a museum” Now they have won three World Series including the first one in Boston since Babe Ruth was a defensive fill-in in left field. There are millions of happy hearts this morning.

Take out one-time items, and things are clicking at General Motors. In the third quarter, the General reported earnings of 96 cents, and that is two cents better than analysts were forecasting. Helping the old Bottom Line was a reduction in European losses. There is even the hint of a dividend payment for the first time since 2008.

Thanks to brisk business in its motorcycle and auto business, Honda has reported a 46 percent earnings gain in its latest quarter, compared to a year ago.

Chrysler continues to prop up Fiat. It posted net income of $464-million in its latest quarter thanks to strong demand for its Ram trucks. Fiat reported a loss of $339-million. Chrysler earnings were up 22 percent despite the slow roll out of the Jeep Cherokee. Ram truck made a $1-million donation to the National Future Farmers Association.

According to the EPA, the Ford Fiesta with the 1-liter, three-cylinder, EcoBoost engine gets 45 miles per gallon on the highway. That makes it the most economical non-hybrid gas powered car in the U.S. The Fiesta 3, as it were, will go on sale in December. EPA said the Honda Insight will deliver 44 on the highway with the VW Golf diesel coming in at 42.

ford fiesta

Auto News for Oct. 29

Consumer Reports is out with its list of the ten most reliable brands. Lexus came out on top, followed by Toyota, Acura, Audi, Mazda, Infiniti, Volvo, Honda, GMC and Subaru.

Chrysler moved five spots higher to number 18 but finished below average. CR said Ford and Lincoln were next to the bottom plagued by infotainment systems that consumers said either didn’t work or were too complicated. Only Mini had a lower score.

The most reliable new car was the 2014 Subaru Forester and the worst score went to the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. You can find additional information at:

http://autos.yahoo.com/news/consumer-reports%E2%80%99-car-reliability-survey-shows-japanese-brands-dominating–europeans-gaining-ground-165357824.html

The Detroit News reports that CR has dropped its recommended rating on four models, including the Toyota Camry due to its poor performance in offset front crash tests. Also dropped were the RAV-4, Prius V, and the Audi A4.

Elsewhere, the Treasury Department said it has booked a loss of $9.7-billion on its sales of GM shares. It now owns only about 7 percent of GM, down from 60.8 percent at one time.

BMW announced the 4 series convertible will make its world debut at the L.A. auto show on Nov. 20th. It will be offered as both a 428i and as a 435i, with base prices of $49,675 and $55,825 respectively. The 428i will carry a 2.0-liter turbo four and the upscale cousin a 3.0-liter turbo six. Both will feature an eight speed automatic tranny with paddles.

 

 

Auto News for Oct. 28

Honda S660

Honda will take the wraps off a small sports car at the Tokyo Auto Show on November 20th. The S660 is said to be an “open-top sports-type mini-vehicle” by its maker and will hit the market in 2014. Early indications are that it will carry a 64 horsepower, three cylinder engine and a CVT with paddles for shifting. Motor Trend reports that changes will have to be made to the design to meet U.S. crash standards, if and when it comes to these shores.

HOnda S660 interior

New worldwide sales figures put Toyota on track to close the year as the world’s best-selling brand. GM was second and Volkswagen third over the first nine months of 2013.

GM will report third-quarter earnings on Wednesday.

Kelley Blue Book is out with what it considers the best new car lease and cash back deals available through October. You can find out more at:

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/kelley-blue-book-highlights-the-10-best-lease-deals-for-october-229308561.html

 

Saturday Road Test – 2014 Ford Escape

Ford Escape 4

 

2013 Ford Escape

For Ford – Great Escapism

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – The weekend beckons and you and yours are ready for your own “Great Escape.”

The reference is to one of the highest grossing films of years ago, to the tune of more than $11-million at the box office. Ford has had similar sales success with its Escape crossover. Even though they slipped a bit in September it was still Ford’s best-selling vehicle that was not a truck.

Ford Escape 1

With plenty of room for a Mom, Dad, two kids and 34.4 cubic feet of storage for their carry-on bags, the Escape makes for a nice weekend get-away vehicle. If needed, fold the second row seats and cargo space expands to 68 cubic feet.

Economy is good with an EPA rating of 23-32 mpg with the 1.6 liter four that bats out 178 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. With the six-speed automatic the test vehicle was EPA rated at 23-32 miles per gallon, and I came away with 27.

One can upgrade to the 2.0-liter four that increases the horsepower level to 240 and the torque to 270 lb-ft. If you live in mountainous terrain the 2.0 liter would be a good choice. Otherwise, the 1.6 that was under the hood of the test crossover will fit the needs of most Escape buyers.

Ford Escape 3

Of course, this is the EcoBoost engine, a technology that Ford claims reduces emissions, improves fuel economy, and performance wise, does “what a six cylinder (engine) did years ago,” according to Mike Murphy of Ford. It has now built more than 2-million of them worldwide.

A 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 recently set a single lap speed record of just about 223 miles per hour at Daytona. Just don’t look for that engine in your next Fiesta.

The test “Deep Impact Blue” Escape was a mid-trim SE model that proved to be a comfortable long distance runner with a 10-way adjustable driver seat with power lumbar adjustment and nimble enough for around town errand running. Standard for 2014 is a handy rear view camera.

In that regard, it had a $495 power liftgate that I would highly recommend and a gizmo that is supposed to raise the liftgate if you wave a foot under the bumper. But no matter how gracefully you make that move on one foot with arms full of groceries you will not land on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Fit and finish was excellent, I liked the “Ice Blue” lighting, but the Navi system housed in an eight-inch color display, could be slow to respond to commands. Like others, I felt Ford’s MyFord Touch System was needlessly complicated and would, if possible, leave it off any purchase.

Despite that, the Escape is one of the better crossovers on the market. Solid, economical and spacious, it will fit the needs of many families and carries a reasonable price if one goes easy on options.

With $2,630 worth of options the tester would go out the door for $28,930 – in line with any of the competition. The base price of the test Escape was $25,500.

Ford Escape 2

 

 

 

Auto News for Oct. 25

Teens are not driving or buying cars for a good reason, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute. They simply can’t afford to. This is all related to the economic slowdown and the shortage of work that has disproportionately affected teen job seekers, the group said. “Paying for their own cars, gas and insurance is hard if they can’t find a job,” said HLDI Vice President Matt Moore.

Here is something you may not have expected to read. The government shutdown had minimal effect on auto sales, according to Edmunds.com. “A longer shutdown could have left an ugly mark on what has been otherwise a glowing year for the automotive industry,” said Edmunds. It believes October sales will be up 8.2 percent over September’s total and 12.7 percent higher than a year earlier. Forecasters think GM sales will rise 15 percent month over month while Ford will be up 5.2 percent and Chrysler will be off 2.2 percent. The official figures will be out in early November.

Ford will show off 10 customer-modified versions of its Transit Connect Wagon and Transit Connect cargo van at the SEMA show in early November. They are said to feature “elaborate interior reconstructions, blazing graphics and eye-catching exteriors.”

 

 

Auto News for Oct. 24

IMG_0232

The road continues silky smooth for Ford. This morning it reported record third quarter profit of $2.6 billion, and earnings per share of 45 cents, a gain of a nickel over a year earlier. Here is the item that moves Wall Street. Earnings per share topped analyst expectations coming in at 45 cents a share compared to forecasts of 38 cents, and that is no small thing.

It is worth noting that CEO Alan Mulally said again that despite never ending rumors, he has no plans to leave Ford through the end of next year. Given the automaker’s robust financial performance it is also worth noting that just down the road it will unveil the redesigned Mustang and new full-sized pickup. As they said in radio, “The hits just keep on comin’”

Mercedes is also doing well helping to raise net profit at Daimler AG by 53 percent. It said demand was brisk for the A, B, and C class cars.

And if you are heading to Europe and don’t mind paying a high price for a rental, Hertz is now offering some rather nice wheels in six countries. Among them, a McLaren MP4-12C Spider, Ferrari F12berlinetta, Porsche Cayenne and Cayman and the BMW X6.

Drivers with poor credit based insurance scores pay almost twice as much for protection than drivers with excellent scores, according to insuranceQuotes.Com. California, Massachusetts and Hawaii prohibit the use of insurance scores in setting coverage rates.

 

 

 

 

Auto News for Oct. 23

2014 Jeep Cherokee Latitude

They are on the way finally – the Jeep Cherokee is now being shipped to dealers after a delay caused by needed tinkering with the vehicle’s 9-speed transmission. It was software issues that setback the original July and then September shipping dates.

PPG Industries says when it comes to our favorite automobile colors we are rather decisive. White and black  are the top two favorites and when you add silver to the list you have covered nearly 75 percent of new vehicles. Six percent of new cars were painted something called “natural.”

Twenty-five to thirty percent of Nissan Leaf electric cars are being purchased by women according to the maker. In its early days on the market they were mainly bought by men. Sales picked up when Nissan cut the Leaf’s price by 18 percent to $28,800.

Ford will shut down its plant in Wayne, Michigan, for two weeks due to excess inventories of the Focus and the hybrid C-Max, according to the Detroit News. A one week shutdown will occur this month and another in December.

A study backed by Bridgestone Americas found that parents significantly underestimated the driving distractions their teen drivers engage in. One quarter of parents believe their teen text messages when behind the wheel, yet twice that number admit to doing so. In many cases, the study found, teens are “actually picking up these … behaviors from their parents.

The Jeep Jamboree, that annual gathering of off roaders, has partially fallen victim to the recent government shut down. The event was scheduled for early October in a national park, but, of course, that park was closed. The Jamboree will now be held November 3 in Manhattan, Kansas at Tuttle Creek State Park with three off road courses.

Mazda has sold its 10-millionth vehicle here in the United States. It was a Mazda3 purchased by a woman in Glen Ellyn, Illinois – her first new car.