Auto News for Aug. 31 – Monthly Auto Payments Up Again

  We are closing down for the holiday weekend.   

 The Auto News column will return next Tuesday when there will be a lot going on. (See below) while the Road Test column will resume on Sept. 8.

 My very best wishes for a great weekend, and stay safe!

 Now, on to today’s news.

 Auto loan amounts and monthly payments are reaching new highs, but Experian reports more people are making their monthly payments on time.

 The percentage of delinquent payments dropped to 2.1 percent in the second quarter, down only one-tenth of a percent.

 New and used vehicle monthly payments hit record highs during the quarter, with the average new monthly payment increasing $20 year-over-year to $525, and the average used monthly payment increasing $13 over the same time period, reaching $378.

 For some collectors the price of a car does not matter.  Mecum Auctions total sales rose 38 percent at its latest event in Monterey California. And we’re talking some big bucks here.

 A 2014 hybrid drive Ferrari LaFerrari went for nearly $3.2 million, a 1989 Porsche 962 sold for $2.2 million.  And a Duesenberg 1929 Model J Convertible Sedan brought a $1.155 million sale. That is not the Duesenberg that was recently mentioned in this column that old for $3.8 million.

The LaFerrari is pictured.

 When all of us return from the Labor Day weekend, auto makers will be talking about their latest sales. Edmunds is forecasting they will be up 1.2 percent year over year.  

 “Hurricane Harvey depressed August sales by 2 percent when it hit last year, which is likely why we’re seeing a year-over-year lift in sales,” said Jeremy Acevedo, Edmunds’ manager of industry analysis.

 “Despite this slight boost, August sales fall in line with the slower overall sales pace we expect to see through the second half of the year,” he said. Edmunds analysts also note that through July, inventories reached their lowest levels since 2016.

 While this is a positive sign that the industry has right-sized supply for decreasing demand, fewer vehicles on dealer lots means fewer vehicles are being sold compared to recent years.

“There are a lot of things working against the automotive market right now: Incentive spending is maxed out, interest rates are rising, and vehicle prices are reaching record highs,” said Acevedo. “Add to that the uncertainty that comes with renegotiating NAFTA and tariff talks and it amounts to what could be a challenging back half of the year for automakers.”

 Edmunds is forecasting small sales gains for Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai/Kia with the biggest increase, 15 percent, at Fiat Chrysler.

  Also next Tuesday, Mercedes will present its first, all-electric model from its new EQ brand. It has released few details of what is expected to be an EV crossover, and of course, there is the mandatory teaser pic.




Auto News for Aug. 30 – Ford Downgraded


 Ford shares were down 1.25 percent to $9.84 in early trading on Wall Street this morning after Moody’s downgraded the auto firm’s investment rating on questions about its planned overhaul.

 Ford’s rating is now Baa3, or one step above junk bond status.

 Moody’s had questions about Ford’s overseas operations, as well as the “challenges” it will face in overhauling the company.

 In response, Ford said it has delivered year after year of solid financial results and operating cash flows plus a strong balance sheet.

 The company said it will capitalize on its strengths and bolster underperforming products and regions and as it does, the market will recognize that progress, according to the Detroit Free Press.

 Hyundai has signed up to become the “presenting sponsor” of NBC’s Sunday Night Football pre-game show. It is the auto maker’s fourth season as an official NFL sponsor.

 Ahead of the holiday driving frenzy gas prices have remained steady according to AAA. The average nationwide price for unleaded regular is now $2.84 a gallon. While that is roughly where it has been for some time, AAA said that is also the highest point for the Labor Day weekend since 2014.

 The auto club predicts the average price will drop to $2.70 this fall and has the potential to fall even further.

 It believes prices will fall after the upcoming holiday weekend but things could change if there is a spike in crude oil prices, geopolitical tensions intensify or there is “the mere threat of a hurricane.”    

 Currently, the National Hurricane Center map of the North Atlantic displays a rather quiet ocean.



Auto News for Aug. 29 – Older Drivers Are Most Likely To Be Distracted

Adults who are 35-45 are more likely to use their phone when driving than younger generations, those in the age range of 25-34 and 18-24, according to a survey   conducted by Harris on behalf of Volvo USA.

It revealed a majority of Americans still use their phone while driving (71 percent), despite the fact that many states have outlawed the practice.

“Distracted driving is not unique to younger generations. In fact, it’s a problem we are seeing across generations and demographics,” said Jim Nichols, Product, Technology & Brand Communications Senior Manager for Volvo Car USA.

Many of those surveyed feel there are more driving distractions today than there were five years ago. More than half of Americans (55 percent) feel the top threat to safety on the road is driving distracted, compared to driving under the influence (31 percent).

Eighty-nine percent of Americans feel we need better education about the impact of distracted driving.

Bugatti has unveiled a new model, the Divo, that it says is a “super sports car tuned for agility, nimbleness and optimum handling performance on winding roads.”

Here are the facts of the matter:

Maximum speed is “limited” to 236 mph.

It has a higher lateral acceleration than the Chiron at 1.6 g.

Divo is faster by eight seconds around the Nardo handling circuit.

It is lighter than the Chiron by 77 pounds.

Interested? Too late! Bugatti will make only 40 of them and all have been spoken for. And they sold for Powerball like money.

Benjamin Treynor Sloss, Vice President of Engineering at Google and a well-known car enthusiast, has taken delivery of a very personal Rolls-Royce Dawn Black Badge at this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Never understating the case, Rolls calls the car “the most uncompromising expression of open-top luxury in the world.”

In short, it has an ultra-first class interior and special paint job. How much did it cost? Oh, don’t even ask!

Back down here in Earth, Jeep has introduced the first limited-edition model based on the new Wrangler. The “Moab Edition” features special content to the exterior and interior, including 32-inch mud-terrain tires.

Also 17-inch Low Gloss Black-painted aluminum wheels, Rubicon hood and steel bumpers, full-time transfer case, limited-slip differential, premium off-road rock rails and unique Moab hood decal.

And leather-trimmed seats and a leather-wrapped dashboard with contrast stitching.

Plus Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection and rear backup camera with dynamic grid lines.

Prices were not released.




Auto News for Aug. 28 – An Electric Jag E-Type?

 Toyota will invest $500 million in Uber and the two will work together on the development of a self-driving car.

 Technology from each company will be integrated into Toyota vehicles and what were called “pilot-scale deployments” will begin on the Uber ride sharing network in 2021.

 “We look forward to this partnership accelerating both companies’ development and deployment of automated driving technology,” said Dr. Gill Pratt, Toyota Research Institute CEO.

 Mercedes Benz is unveiling the EQ Silver Arrow show car at the Monterey Car Week in California.

Mercedes show car

The single seat styling exercise pays homage to the W 125 model from 1937.

  “Over 80 years ago, the historic Silver Arrows demonstrated that Mercedes-Benz was a pioneer when it came to speed, thanks, amog other things, to their streamlined shape,” says Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer at Daimler AG. “The EQ Silver Arrow show car draws on that legacy. Intended for acceleration and driving pleasure, it embodies progressive luxury and provides an insight into the future of our design.”

 The body structure is made of carbon fiber, and the Arrow is conceived as an electric vehicle with an output of 738 horsepower and an approximate top speed of over 250 mph. But the sound of Mercedes-AMG V8 engine can be called up on the cockpit sound system.

 The 2019 Ford GT Heritage Edition celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1968 and 1969 Le Mans-winning GT40 with limited-edition Gulf Oil tribute racing livery – what Ford calls auto racing’s most famous paint scheme,

Ford GT

 Unique Heritage Blue and Heritage Orange paint led to other similarly painted cars across many race series globally over the past half-century.

 Autoblog reports introduction of the seventh-generation Mustang has been pushed back a year to 2021. No reason given but speculation is that this ‘Stang might ride on a whole new platform.

 Jaguar Classic has confirmed it will offer all-electric E-types for sale. Combining its restoration expertise with technology from the Jaguar I-PACE Jaguar Classic will offer tailor-made E-types restored and converted to electric power. An EV conversion service for existing E-type owners will also be offered.


 Technical specifications and pricing details will follow, but Jaguar Classic is now taking expressions of interest from potential E-type Zero clients. Deliveries of the first electric E-type vehicles are expected to start from summer 2020.

 Want cheap wheels? Nissan announced its 2019 Versa sedan will carry a starting price of $12,360. That will get you a model S with a 5-speed manual tranny.

 BMW wants you to know that a range of its products will be featured in the new Amazon series “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.” The first season will be available on Prime Video beginning of Aug. 31.

 The Honda Insight has earned the 2018 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s highest overall safety rating of TOP SAFETY PICK+.







Auto News for Aug. 27- Now Here’s An Expensive Car!

Tesla shares fell in pre-market trading this morning – reaction to the announcement from Elon Musk that on second thought he will not take the auto maker private.

A couple hours before the market opens, Tesla was off almost three percent to $313.50

In San Jose California, a Tesla rear ended a fire truck that was parked with all of its emergency lights on. The driver told police that he thought he had the auto-pilot on. He was arrested for alleged drunken driving. There were no serious injuries in the crash.

And in Thermal California, it was the case of hot lemons. Police investigating a rash of stolen farm products found 800 pounds of stolen lemons in a car. The driver was arrested. The news gives a whole new dimension to the idea that some cars are lemons.

This one is not!


A 1935 Duesenberg SSJ LaGrande roadster is now the most expensive American car and most expensive pre-war car ever sold at auction. At the Monterey Car Week, the car once owned by Gary Cooper went for $22 million after some spirited bidding.

What makes it so expensive? It is one of only two still in existence.

The previous record was $13.7 million for the first Shelby Cobra sold at auction back in 2016.

INFINITI Prototype 10

It will probably never be built for sale, and there apparently is no drive train in it, but here is a look at the Prototype 10 from Infiniti that was revealed at the Monterey Car Week. The styling exercise is a one seat speedster that is designed to be an all-electric vehicle that also gives, Infiniti says, some indication of where its future styling is going.

Weekend Road Test: Gas Teams With Electricity To Produce Economy


Kia Niro PHEV EX Premium
A Plug For Economy

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – The Kia Niro in its base form will easily meet the needs of many, but what about Mr. & Mrs. Frugal?

Enter the Niro plug-in electric with the same four cylinder gas engine but with the ability to run on pure electric power for an estimated 26 miles.

The DOHC Atkinson cycle 1.6-liter four cylinder gas engine produces 104 horsepower and 109 lb-ft of torque.

Add in the electric motor and total output climbs to 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque and Kia can brag about a larger battery pack and more powerful electric motor than some of the competition.

Sixty horsepower for the motor and 8.9 kWh for the battery pack.

So there was adequate power for most all driving situations. And a relatively quiet set of wheels on the interstate.


Okay, what about economy? The EPA rating is 105 miles per gallon equivalent, and 46 mpg in gas only mode.

MPGe is a measure of how far the Niro can travel electrically using the same amount of energy in one gallon of petrol.

However, it would not be easy to achieve the full 26 miles using generated juice without feathering the accelerator to a large degree. Just getting up to speed on a 35 mph heavily traveled suburban highway has the 1.6 liter four kicking in.

For the week, I registered 40 mpg overall again, rarely in in full electric mode due to the demands of keeping up with traffic.

One interesting feature is a Driver-Only Air Conditioning setting that delivers the cooled air only to that side of the cabin to save on power consumption when only the Lone Ranger is behind the wheel.


What about recharging? Plug into the port on the driver’s side front fender and a full charge can be achieved in approximately 2.5 hours via a 240V (Level 2) charger, and under 9 hours via a 120V (Level 1) charger.

Here is one great move on Kia’s part. There is NO Continuously Variable Transmission, instead a six-speed dual clutch automatic and that makes a whole lot of difference on the road with much less engine noise when more power is demand for merging and other vital operating situations.

Thank you Kia engineers and take a bow.

Inside, there is additional good thinking with the battery pack located under the cargo floor, so the PHEV offers 19 cubic feet of hauling space, the same as the non-hybrid.


And check out that picture of the center dash. That is the way that audio and ventilation controls should be arranged. After just a few get acquainted miles, you can easily make changes without taking your eyes off the road. No trying to hit a small button on a screen. That’s got to be a safer solution.

Keeping with Kia tradition, the EX Premium model came well equipped with a long list of features.


An 8.0 center dash screen with navi, dual zone automatic climate control, premium audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outside mirrors, and LED headlights. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on board.

The interior was a very modern and fresh design, the seats were very comfortable, and one could accommodate two adults in the rear cabin with nary a complaint.

There is also that 10 year, 100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty to consider along with same warranty on the battery pack.

Remember this is a top of the line model with lots of features that brought the price to $35,575 including $940 for delivery.

The base LX model begins at $27,900, but my recommendation to the price conscious is to step up to the $31,500 EX and gain some rather nice features.


PHEV is Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle

Auto News for Aug. 24 – New from BMW, Audi and Acura


 BMW has introduced the First Edition of its Z4 M40i sports car at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, but the introduction was short on details.

 Here is the key stuff that we do know.  

 Power is provided by a 3.0-liter inline six with a 0-60 run under 4.4 seconds, BMW claims. The current 3.0-liter is rated as 382 horsepower with 369 lb-ft of torque.

 It gets an M tuned sports suspension with electronically controlled dampers, M Sport braking system and an electronically controlled M Sport rear differential.

 Also a soft top, a paint job called “Frozen Orange Metallic”, 19-inch alloy wheels, power seats and a Harman Kardon audio system.

 Full model details are promised on September 18th.  

 The Acura NX gets some handling improvements for the 2019 model year.

 Those include modified chassis components, tires and software that resulted in a nearly 2-second faster lap time in testing around the world famous Suzuka Circuit.

 Chassis enhancements include larger front and rear stabilizer bars and stiffer rear toe link bushings. Also some new software calibrations to the NSX’s power unit.

 It will ride on Continental SportContact tires developed exclusively for the NSX and there are new exterior colors including “Thermal Orange Pearl.”

 The 2019 is having it coming out party at the Monterey Car Week in California.    

 Not to be left out of the party in California, Audi presented an all-electric design concept called Audi PB 18 e-tron.

 Audi said it was designed for the track and the road with an interior that has the driver in the center of the cockpit that can also slide to the side to accommodate one passenger thanks to a “by-wire design of the steering and pedals” so a mechanical connection is not needed.

 The concept uses three electric motors – one up front and two in the rear. The latter directly driving one wheel via half-shafts. They deliver power output of up to 150 kW to the front axle and 450 kW to the rear – the Audi PB 18 e-tron is a true quattro.

 Maximum output is 500 kW, with boosting, the driver can temporarily mobilize up to 570 kW.

 Audi cites a 0 to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in scarcely more than 2 seconds.

 In normal road traffic, the driver can limit the maximum speed in favor of range. This limitation is easy to deactivate on the racetrack and can be adapted to local conditions.

 Look for a range of 310.7 miles on a full charge.

 “The all-electric Audi PB 18 e-tron presents a radical vision for the high-performance sports car of tomorrow,” Audi said of its new creation.

 The Honda Pilot has earned a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the group’s highest crash test grade.

 To qualify a vehicle must earn good ratings in the driver-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests and an acceptable or good rating in the passenger-side small overlap test. It also needs an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating and available good-rated headlights.