Archive for October, 2009

What to look out for before buying that used car

  That spiffed-up used car sitting in the driveway or on a dealer’s lot may have “Buy me!” reflected in its appearance. But looks aren’t everything. That spit-and-polish job may hide troubles under the hood – and on paper. Even used cars are a major purchase, so in order to avoid headaches after you drive away, here are five things you need to check out before writing out that check to buy a used car. The potential deal-breakers are: Lack of service records. Your car needs routine maintenance to stay in good condition, and you should make sure the used car you buy got it too. Ask the seller, even if it’s a dealer, for all service records. If you can’t get these, you have no way of knowing whether the car has been properly maintained. Also look for a windshield sticker indicating …

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Auto Shows getting smaller with a more practical focus

  ”Concept” vehicles — sleek, high-tech dream machines intended to show off an automaker’s vision for the future — are becoming a thing of the past. You won’t find any at the Central California Auto Show, an annual Motor Trend production that opens a four-day run today at the Fresno Convention Center. With the economy wreaking havoc on automakers around the world, manufacturers simply cannot justify the cost of building and touring new concept vehicles, said Mark Rapin, head of the Fresno-Clovis New Car Dealers Association. “Nobody can spend that kind of money to build one and take it on tour around the country in this environment,” Rapin said. American manufacturers for years used concept vehicles to show off new technology and designs several years before they were showroom-ready. Now, Rapin said, “what people see in the new models is the newest and latest technology.” The …

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Nissan plans big global push for its electric cars

  Nissan Motor Co. Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said the Japanese auto maker intends to overcome the high cost of making advanced batteries and make its all-electric cars price-competitive even without government subsidies. Mr. Ghosn, speaking to a small group of reporters in the Chinese capital, gave a timeframe of around three years for the cost-cutting effort, though he said the price of oil would play a large role in determining the effort’s success. “How long do we need government incentives going to the consumer?” Mr. Ghosn said. “We think [such incentives] are necessary for a period of time we estimate to be three years.” The executive said Nissan believes demand for all-electric battery cars is likely to keep increasing, and that the resulting economies of scale in producing batteries will allow Nissan and other companies to significantly slash costs involved in making electric …

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Fisker Automotive to build Nina plug-in electric car in Delaware

  Henrik Fisker and Bernhard Koehler spent the last two days in Delaware, thanking American politicians and taxpayers and local autoworkers for backing their upstart luxury-electric-hybrid car company, Fisker Automotive Inc. Fisker signed a letter of intent Monday night to buy General Motors Co.’s shuttered plant on Boxwood Road, west of Wilmington, pending “a routine four-month evaluation period.” The public celebration was yesterday. Fisker and Koehler, veteran auto executives, plan to pay $18 million for the 142-acre complex and 3.2 million square feet of factory space, and spend $175 million to turn it into a factory for fancy plug-in cars over the next three years. When it’s done, the plant will employ up to 2,000, building up to 100,000 Nina-model cars a year, at $40,000 each (after federal tax breaks). The pair has raised “around $100 million” from equity investors, spokesman Russell Datz told …

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Ford Tops Consumer Reports Reliability Survey

  Ford has secured its position as the only Detroit automaker with world-class reliability. About 90 percent (46 of 51) of Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln products were found to have average or better reliability, according to Consumer Reports’ 2009 Annual Car Reliability Survey. The results were announced today at an Automotive Press Association luncheon in Detroit. Ford’s sustained production of vehicles that are as dependable–or better than–some of the industry’s best dispels the notion that only Japanese manufacturers make reliable cars. Other than the Toyota Prius, the reliability of the 4-cylinder Fusion and Milan ranks higher than that of any other family sedan. Both of those Ford Motor Company products continue to beat the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, while the upscale Lincoln MKZ tops its rivals, the Acura TL and Lexus ES. “It’s rare for Consumer Reports to see family sedans from domestic carmakers continue to beat the reliability …

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California-based Fisker is poised to revamp old GM plant to build electric cars

  The White House is expected to announce Tuesday a multimillion-dollar deal that will convert a closed General Motors plant in Wilmington, Del., into a factory making electric vehicles. Vice President Biden will make the announcement that Fisker Automotive of Irvine, Calif., is expected to invest $175 million to retool the plant. Fisker, which will pay the old GM $18 million for the facility and equipment, is getting tax incentives from the state of Delaware, although officials there declined Monday to say how much. Fisker plans to make a car in Delaware that is being developed under the name “Project Nina” after the ship belonging to explorer Christopher Columbus. Russell Datz, a Fisker spokesman, said that the project’s name is meant to be “symbolic of the transfer from the old world to the new in terms of auto technology.” The car …

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Used car dealers scrambling to find pre-owned cars & trucks to sell

  Cash for Clunkers put cash in the pockets of new car dealers this summer but left used car dealers scrambling to find pre-owned cars and trucks to sell. “The problem is we have a demand when we have no supply,” said Kevin Smith of Springfield Auto Mart. He said his inventory of used vehicles is down 50 percent from normal levels. The federal Cash for Clunkers program took older gas guzzling vehicles off the road, offering buyers $3,500 to $4,000 as an incentive to turn in their old vehicles for new, fuel-efficient ones. The $3 billion program was a success, taking 700,000 vehicles off the road. However, many of those older cars would have wound up on used car lots. Marilyn Miller, executive director of the Vermont Automobile Dealers Association, said the downside of the Cash for Clunkers programs is that used cars dealers …

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Demand for used cars continues to outstrip supply

  Used car prices will continue to rise as motor traders face several more months of stock shortage. It could be another 12 months before dealers stop competing with each other to fill empty forecourt spaces, claims vehicle information provider HPI. ‘Dealers are going to continue to struggle until true market confidence returns because fresh used stock remains elusive,’ says valuation expert Martin Keighley. The need for more stock to support the retail sector is vital to kick-start the industry, but he claims the manufacturers, rental companies and fleet operators who have control over used car stocks are no longer managing the process in the usual way. ‘Knee-jerk reactions at the beginning of the recession have not been reversed as the economy has started to recover,” added Mr Keighley. “Manufacturers reduced their used vehicle stocks to the bare minimum, using the scrappage scheme and a variety …

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One of the world’s most influential auto show opens

  The nation that started the hybrid and electric car craze was back spruiking petrol at this year’s Tokyo motor show. Petrol-powered sports cars and ultra-efficient conventional engines were the order of the day at a distinctly subdued Tokyo show, which was minus every major overseas brand thanks to the global economic downturn. Only specialist sports car maker Lotus broke the Japanese stranglehold on what is usually one of the world’s most influential motor shows. Toyota, the world’s largest car maker and the brand that ignited the hybrid phenomenon, showed off two new sports cars, including a Ferrari-rivalling V10 from luxury arm Lexus, while Mazda’s boss told media that, in the short term, more could be done to save the planet through petrol engines than hybrids. The mood contrasted with last month’s Frankfurt motor show, where European manufacturers, which have traditionally heaped scorn on hybrids …

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‘Cash for Clunkers’ has eliminated 600,000 used cars from circulation

  There has always been a dilemma on whether one should buy a new or used car, but after the Cash For Clunkers program there are fewer used cars to chose from. “As we went through that program the trade-ins came but they went away to be dismantled and destroyed, so the availability of those trade-ins on our lots, as well as, auto dealers across the country has diminished greatly,” said Bill Daniel, vice president of the Vaden Automotive Group. The Cash for Clunkers program boosted the economy, but eliminated more than 600,000 used cars from circulation. “It’s taken a lot of your cheaper cars out of the market. We’ve had people come in looking for $2,000 -$4,000 cars, and they’re not just there,” said Coastal Cars owner Bob Sitgreaves. According to Sitgreaves, it’s supply and demand fewer used cars means higher prices. “We’re almost paying retail …

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