Archive for March, 2011

Auto sales expected to stay strong in March

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  U.S. auto sales are expected to stay strong in March as customers go on a small-car buying binge, driven by fears of rising pump prices and shortages of vehicles from Japan. March sales are projected to rise 16.5 percent from the same month last year and 25 percent from February, keeping the auto industry’s steady recovery on track, according to Edmunds.com. Automakers report March sales on Friday. Small cars such as the Honda Civic and Ford Fiesta likely saw strong sales. J.D. Power and Associates predicts that 24 percent of vehicles sold to individual buyers in March will be small cars. That’s up from 18 percent in December and 20 percent in February. The last time the percentage was that high was August 2009, when the Cash for Clunkers program encouraged people to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. Jeff Schuster, head of global forecasting …

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Federal regulators propose national fuel efficiency regulations

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  Buoyed by rebounding sales and more sympathetic political climate, the emboldened auto industry is digging in against official Washington on some key safety and environmental issues. Automakers say they have no blanket opposition to the rules on safety and good fuel mileage; they just want adequate time to meet them, and at a cost that’s reasonable for them and their customers. Each safety or fuel economy rule can cost billions of dollars. The most critical showdown is expected this summer, when federal regulators propose national fuel efficiency regulations for 2017-25. Automakers are seeking a workable federal plan that would pre-empt California and other states from setting their own patchwork of fuel requirements. Already, on the environmental front, major foreign and domestic automakers have filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of a higher blend of ethanol for newer vehicles — a formula …

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Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf may sell over MSRP

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  Price gouging on hot cars is a sleazy practice, and few dealers will admit they do it. But when short supply meets high demand, as it has with the new green cars, the market can and will push prices up. The Japanese tsunami and earthquake have aggravated the situation, and anyone who actually has cars to sell holds all the cards. If you think the $41,000 MSRP is too much to pay for the Chevy Volt, how would you like to pay $61,000? That’s the jacked-up price a Los Angeles-area dealer is charging for GM’s first plug-in hybrid. And reports of a $55,000 Nissan Leaf are not apocryphal — that’s how much a consumer recently asked for his car on eBay. Some desperate buyers are offering to pay $70,000 for the Leaf. In fact, it takes ingenuity for dealers to price-gouge on …

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Alcohol-detection devices may be available as new car option

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  Proposed federal funding for alcohol-detection devices could make them available as a new car option within 10 years, but some hope — and others fret — it will speed installation in every car. “What we’d like to see is it used as much as possible,” says Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Although she doesn’t think the devices, which stop drunken drivers from starting their cars, will ever be mandatory, she says the devices could solve the problem. “We’ve worked on behavior modification for the last 30 years, but we’re still killing almost 11,000 Americans a year,” she says. Legislation sponsored by Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., would redirect $60 million in highway safety money over five years to a government-industry research project developing a prototype alcohol-detection device for cars. These aren’t the clunky ignition interlocks …

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Is the Chevy Volt or Cruze ECO right for you?

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  The Chevrolet Volt is sort of like the Corvette ZR1 of fuel economy. It is, in its class, General Motors’ technical tour de force. So the Chevrolet Cruze ECO is sort of like the standard non-Z Corvette. No, it’s not the ultimate “King of the Mountain” chest-thumping package, but it’s still very good and – this is key – it costs less than half as much. But which would be right for you? Do you want to be seen saving the planet? Surprisingly neither of these cars will probably get you the attention such an endeavor deserves. During a week spent driving the Volt around New York City it got nary a second glance from anyone. Shocking, really. The Volt’s design is subtle enough, I figured, that people just didn’t pick it out when it wasn’t on a billboard. The Cruze Eco, on other …

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Mazda suspends orders for vehicles built in Japan

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  A shortage of parts because of factory closures in Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami could cut global output by 600,000 vehicles by the end of the month, say analysts. With manufacturers uncertain about when their plants will resume full production, the figure is likely to increase further. Japanese-made parts are used all over the world and General Motors was forced to temporarily close a pick-up truck factory in Louisiana last week. It is expected that Toyota may also lower production at its own pick-up plant in San Antonio, Texas, as soon as next week. Toyota, the world’s largest vehicle maker, has revealed lost output so far of 140,000 cars, with Honda losing production of 46,600 cars and trucks and 5,000 motorcycles. Mitsubishi’s production has been reduced by 15,000 vehicles. Honda will see interruptions at its North American plants from April 1 because …

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Ford’s supply of black and red paint limited due to Japan crisis

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  Henry Ford once said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” But today, as Japanese suppliers scramble to come back on line after the devastating earthquake and tsunami, Ford Motor Co. is asking its dealers to order trucks and SUVs in any color but black. Specifically, Ford is asking dealers not to order any new full-size pick-ups or SUVs in so-called Tuxedo Black because of a problem getting a paint ingredient from a supplier in Japan. The automaker is also scaling back, but not stopping, its use of Tuxedo Black on mid-sized SUVs and the large Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS sedans. Red’s a problem, too. Ford is scaling back three shades of red on SuperDuty and Ranger trucks, Focus compact cars, Econoline vans and Lincoln Navigator SUVs. A Japanese supplier provided a …

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Safety features to look for when buying a used car

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  There is no doubt today’s new cars are the safest they have ever been, but if you know what to look for, you can still find an older used car that’s safe too. Consumer Reports auto expert Mike Quincy says first and foremost, get a car with electronic stability control (ESC). “Consumer Reports has long been a big fan of stability control. We think it’s the most important safety feature since the seatbelt,” Quincy said. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests show ESC helps drivers maintain control, but it was not introduced until 1995 and only on a few vehicles. Next on the list are airbags. Attorney Brian Chase, who specializes in auto safety cases and has tested numerous vehicles for their safety features, says consumers should make sure the used car has airbags, including side-curtain airbags. “If you’re involved in a rollover accident in …

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Prices for new and used cars not that far apart

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  Are you in the market for a brand new or used car this spring? As you hunt, you may notice something surprising. In some cases, the price tags for new and “pre-owned” cars aren’t that far apart. A few economic factors over the past few years has led the used car market into a new phase. It comes down to a simple lesson of supply and demand. “We have about 100 used cars on the lot right now and the biggest challenge of our business is keeping 100 used cars on the lot,” says Dustin Peugeout, general manager at Liberty Ford in Maple Heights. In Northeast Ohio and across the country, the overall used car supply is the lowest its been in years. There are a few reasons why. One reason is that leasing has been roughly non-existent for the past 36 months, and as a …

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Prices rise for Toyota Prius, Honda Fit and Mazda3

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  Americans have begun snapping up Toyota Prius, Honda Fit and other fuel-efficient models made only in Japan almost the way shoppers denude bread and milk shelves in a supermarket when a storm is predicted. The intensity first spurred by rising gas prices has been amplified by predicted shortages of many models as the Japanese auto industry remains disrupted by the March 11 earthquake and its aftermath. “We’ve gone from 60 (Priuses) in stock to 16” over the last two months, says Buzz Rodland at Rodland Toyota in Everett, Wash. A dozen are coming, “but we are told they are going to dwindle” quickly after that. Indicating the shortages may not be brief, Honda has told dealers it’s not taking orders for any vehicles made in Japan in May. March and April orders already were delayed. Topsham, Maine, dealer Adam Lee says the only Priuses …

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