Trends auto news

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Daily U-Turn: What you missed on 7.16.09

07/17/2009   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Maintenance, Trends, Hybrids/Alternative, Lifestyle

First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse looks to breathe life into old brand

GM CEO Fritz Henderson says that the new breed of Buicks new must be more than competitive - they must be superb. So does the 2010 LaCrosse have the goods to take on Acura and Lexus? We find out.

STUDY: More Americans planning to keep their cars longer... are you? [w/POLL]

Automakers looking for a quick turnaround in the new car market aren't going to like a new survey that says consumers plan to hold onto their vehicles longer than ever before.

Pics Aplenty: Double-size gallery of 2010 Jaguar XJ images

For any of you looking to get an even better look - or perhaps just additional looks - at the 2010 Jaguar XJ, we've added about 40 new photos to our gallery.

Other news of import

  • Ford poised to overtake GM as America's top-selling automaker

  • NHTSA: Drunk driving is down, but 16.3% of nighttime drivers are on drugs

  • Discovery Channel's HD Theater bringing WRC coverage back to U.S.

  • Officially Official: Mercedes to produce electric SLS gullwing
  • BMW trademarks "Countryman" for Mini crossover name?

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STUDY: Despite insurance breaks, hybrids driven more, cost more to fix, and get more tickets

07/17/2009   [Original: Quality Planning via Marketwire via Autoblog]
Category: Maintenance, Trends, Hybrids/Alternative, Lifestyle

2010 Honda Insight EX - Click above for high-res image gallery

Conventional wisdom is that hybrid vehicles reduce our dependence on foreign oil and emit fewer environment hurting CO2 emissions. When comparing a hybrid to a conventional gasoline-powered model on a mile-by-mile basis, there's some logic to this argument provided the pricing disparity between the two models isn't too broad. However, a new study by Quality Planning shows that hybrid owners drive much more than non-hybrid owners, potentially negating the benefits of the added battery pack and electric motor.

Quality Planning studied nearly 360,000 vehicles throughout 2007 and 2008 to analyze driving habits, and some of the study's findings are pretty surprising. According to the survey, hybrid and non-hybrid drivers have statistically similar commutes, but hybrid owners drive their vehicles 25% more (2,000 miles) in non-commuting scenarios.

Dr. Raj Bhat, president of Quality Planning, thinks part of the reason for these findings has something to do with the fact that high mileage drivers are typically more interested in hybrids than infrequent drivers.

"What we don't know is whether owning a hybrid vehicle encourages people to drive more miles each day or take more pleasure trips. High-mileage drivers appear to be attracted to these vehicles, so insurers should take steps to verify the intended use of hybrids and validate actual miles driven wherever possible."

The study also shows that hybrid owners are significantly more likely to receive traffic tickets. According to the survey, Toyota Prius owners received .38 tickets per 100,000 miles driven, versus a non-hybrid average of .23 tickets per 100,000 miles. That's a 65% differential. One possible explanation for the ticket disparity has to do with where hybrid owners live. Quality Planning found that hybrid owners are more likely to live in an urban setting, where tickets are more frequently issued.

If you really want a hybrid and you don't want to hear any more bad news, you should stop reading. QP also found that repair costs are significantly higher for hybrid owners. The Ford Escape Hybrid, for example, costs 31% more to repair than the gasoline-only model, while repairing the Toyota Highlander Hybrid will reportedly add 45% more cost. A recent report by IntelliChoice that found that, in the long-term, hybrids and diesels are actually cheaper than gasoline-only vehicles.

The text below illustrates how much on a per dollar basis hybrid repair costs for collision and comprehensive coverage versus one dollar for a non-hybrid. The disparity is shrinking every year, but according to QP, hybrids still cost more to fix. Hit the jump to view the Quality Planning press release.

Collision Comprehensive

Coverage Coverage

2006 Hybrid Models $1.16 $1.75

2007 Hybrid Models $1.09 $1.35

2008 Hybrid Models $1.13 $1.17

Continue reading STUDY: Despite insurance breaks, hybrids driven more, cost more to fix, and get more tickets

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STUDY: More Americans planning to keep their cars longer... are you? [w/POLL]

07/16/2009   [Original: AutoPacific | Image: George Marks/Getty via Autoblog]
Category: Car Buying, Trends

Automakers looking for a relatively quick turnaround in the auto market probably aren't going to like a new survey from AutoPacific. The annual survey of over 32,000 consumers gauges public interest in new car buying, and the 2009 survey shows that a lot fewer people are looking for a new car these days.

Back in 2005, only 46% of those queried said they were waiting more than four years to buy a new car, and this year that number rose to 59%; a whopping 13% increase. The survey asks if car buyers are looking to buy in six months to a year, one to two years, two to three years, three to four years, or four or more years, and the numbers are down across the board verses last year. A paltry 1.49% of those surveyed said they were looking to buy in the next year, down 1.05% from last year, and 2.12% as compared to 2005. The number of survey participants looking to buy in the next one to two years has been cut in half to only 5.68%, which doesn't bode well for the short-term future of car sales.

These survey numbers could foreshadow more troubles for the auto industry, and AutoPacific president George Peterson sees this as a long-term issue:

"We'll not be seeing the frequent replacement pattern brought about by strong incentives and financing programs that made it easy and financially reasonable over the last decade for consumers to get into a new car frequently. This may also tell us that consumers will be putting a higher priority on vehicles with a reputation for quality and durability that meets not only their short-term needs, but also their long-term expected needs."

As bad as these numbers look, we're guessing that they're more a reflection of the state of the economy than a long-term assessment of the auto industry, although they could also have something to do with improving vehicle reliability and the increasing commonality of longer warranties. Still, AutoPacific's numbers changed drastically from 2008, meaning many that said they would buy a vehicle in a certain time frame only last year have changed their minds a year later. If the economy picks up, we suspect some will change their minds again. If the nation's financial picture remains mired in a depression, though, sales will continue to be slow. Either way, we've got the feeling that the days of 16-17 million annual new car sales in the U.S. are behind us.

Are you planning on keeping your car longer these days? Take our survey (and check out the official press release and chart) after the jump, then drop your fellow reader a line in 'Comments.'

Continue reading STUDY: More Americans planning to keep their cars longer... are you? [w/POLL]

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Sales Watch: Honda Accord sales creeping up on Toyota Camry?

07/16/2009   [Original: Wards Automotive via Autoblog]
Category: Car Buying, Trends, Sedans/Saloons, Honda, Toyota

While the Honda Accord dominated the 1990s, it has been virtually all Toyota Camry in the new century. Yet a look back at the first six months of 2009 shows that the newer, larger Accord is continuing to gain ground on its chief rival. Camry sales have so far remained top in its segment, with 150,242 sales in the first half of the year. The Accord isn't far behind, though, as it has amassed 131,143 sales through June; only 19,199 behind Camry.

Wards Auto reports that the Accord's gains have been consistent over the past three years, as the sales gap went from 94,004 in 2006 to 80,877 in 2007 and 63,828 in 2008. With sales deeply depressed so far in 2009, though, the numbers can be a bit deceiving. Still, the Camry has seen a 37.4% drop in sales, as compared to 36.3% for the Accord.

Toyota told Wards that one reason for the Accord's improved sales verses the Camry are increasing incentives on the full-size Honda. According to Edmunds, the Accord's April incentives increased four-fold verses the automaker's April, 2008 numbers. Even more interesting is the fact that cash on the hood has increased since April, hitting $2,183 in June. The Camry, on the other hand, had $1,538 on the hood last month; down over $400 compared to May.

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Hyundai trumps BMW and Jaguar in J.D. Power 2009 APEAL study

07/16/2009   [Original: JDPower.com via Autoblog]
Category: Trends, Marketing/Advertising, BMW, Dodge, Ford, Hyundai, Nissan, Volkswagen

Click above for a gallery of the graphics from J.D. Power and Associates

Porsche grabs the top spot for the fifth year in a row in the J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) Study. For this year's study, the team at JDPA gathered information from more than 80,900 purchasers and lessees of new 2009 model-year cars and questioned them on more than 90 vehicle attributes. Their studies examined "how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive," based on those evaluations.

While the APEAL nameplate ranking is significant (Porsche, Jaguar, and Cadillac round out the top-three), the segment winners offer more insight into what today's buyers are seeking. This year, it appears to be the newly launched models including the Volkswagen CC, Nissan Maxima, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Flex... each took top honors in their respective category. This year's biggest upset comes in the "Midsize Premium Car" segment as the all-new Hyundai Genesis (sedan) knocks the BMW 5 Series from the podium. Check out the gallery for the graphics, and read the full press release after the break.

Gallery: 2009 J.D. Power APEAL Results

Continue reading Hyundai trumps BMW and Jaguar in J.D. Power 2009 APEAL study

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GM expects sales in China to grow 20% in 2009

07/10/2009   [Original: Automotive News - Sub. Req. via Autoblog]
Category: Car Buying, Trends, China, Buick, GM, Earnings/Financials

General Motors boasted in April that it would double sales in China by 2013 with the introduction of 30 new or upgraded models over the next five years.

Last month, GM forecasted that its vehicle sales in China would grow 10% this year alone and now it seems those numbers may have been a bit conservative. Kevin Wale, GM's China Group President, has just announced that the company expects vehicle sales in the region to grow by a little more than 20% in 2009.

While the rest of the global automotive industry is stuck in a rut, the emerging Chinese market seems largely unaffected by stagnant North American sales or GM's bankruptcy filing in early June. As of now, China is the company's second largest market (thanks in part to their insatiable appetite for Buicks).

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REPORT: China passes U.S. in auto sales

07/10/2009   [Original: The Associated Press via Google via Autoblog]
Category: Car Buying, Trends, China, GM

Most of the world has been knee deep in a wicked recession for quite a while, and auto sales have been hit especially hard. Here in the U.S., the numbers have been abysmal, as the first half of the year saw only 4.8 million sales through June. China, on the other hand, is running away with the overall sales lead, as the emerging emerged market has added 6.1 million cars and trucks to its still developing roadways. According to The Associated Press, June sales were up 36% over the same period in 2008, and they're up 17% on the year.

The big winner in the market so far this year appears to be General Motors. The struggling Detroit, MI-based automaker has seen its China sales jump by 38% this year; while its U.S. sales have tanked. Industry analysts are predicting that the overall market for passenger cars in China will be between 10 and 11 million units.

Most experts weren't expecting China to pass the U.S. in overall sales for another decade, but the crumbling American auto industry has expedited the power shift, at least for the short term. With 1.3 billion people and a healthy economy, this day was destined to come.

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REPORT: 'Personality traits' of automobiles studied

07/09/2009   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Trends, Etc., Lifestyle

Reader-submitted "Cars" Photoshops - Click above for image gallery

The styling of your vehicle makes a statement, of course. Designers spend years perfecting the craft of automotive sculpture, and are finely attuned to what types of shapes and conventions send a given message. Now, the researchers want to move in and figure out how to express what the artists already know with a scientific approach called morphometrics. The practice of shape analysis, usually used for more classical studies like medicine and biology, is useful in improving healthcare equipment or possibly aiding in the identification of unknown remains.

People inherently look for faces and patterns, and the front of a car lends itself to being anthropomorphized. Professor Dennis Slice and his colleagues at Vienna University think the information gleaned from looking deeper into what the "faces" of various cars say - meek or mild appearance, for instance - and how to zero in on just what features will send the automaker's intended message. Of course, design teams already seem to be doing a good job of telling a story with design, with or without the newfangled algorithm. Possibly harder to nail down is the answer to the question of whether styling makes drivers behave differently, the next topic Slice and his team are tackling. Hat tip to Matt.

Gallery: Pixar CARS Photochops

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Canada pondering Cash-For-Clunkers too?

07/07/2009   [Original: The Vancouver Sun | Image: Theo Heimann/Getty via Autoblog]
Category: Car Buying, Trends, Government/Legal, Green, Earnings/Financials, Canada

Historically speaking, Canada has gotten the blunt end of the stick when it comes to new car pricing compared to its southern neighbors. Pricing on many vehicles versus an otherwise identical U.S. counterpart has long been comparatively inflated, and America's recently passed Cash-For-Clunkers bill has left many Canadian consumers feeling even more short-changed than normal.

But help may be on the way. The Vancouver Sun reports that Jim Prentice, Canada's environmental minister, is reviewing whether the Great White North should get a Cash-For-Clunkers scrappage incentive program of its own. According to the story, Prentice has met with "a number of auto manufacturers over the past few months" in order to discuss whether the government should issue its own $3,500 incentives to junk old vehicles and purchase new ones.

Interestingly, before a decision is made, Prentice plans to analyze whether a small, existing auto salvage trade-in program in Alberta has had any effect. That program apparently gives eligible owners a comparatively modest sum - $300 - for scrapping their 1995 or older vehicles. Instead of the cash incentive, alternative awards for the current program include up to $490 toward a new bicycle or as much as a year's worth of mass transit passes.

A decision on a Cash-For-Clunkers program for Canada will likely be handed down in the next 60 days.

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REPORT: China rolls out 89 new models in six months - that's one every two days

07/04/2009   [Original: Gasgoo via Autoblog]
Category: Car Buying, Trends, China, Plants/Manufacturing

Geely GE - Click above for high-res image gallery

We've been hearing Chinese officials say for quite some time now that there are far too many automakers in the country for a healthy market in the long-term, but we didn't realize until today just how out-of-hand it may be. According to state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua, China has seen an unprecedented 89 new automobile launches so far this year.

That's surely a big number, but it doesn't really hit home until you consider that 89 vehicles in the first half of 2009 averages out to a new or heavily revised vehicle appearing in China once every two days. Of those new designs, 73 were cars, nine were SUVs, six were MPVs and - in contrast to typical American vehicle launches over the same period - only one was a crossover.

As you're surely aware, 2009 is only half over, and there are reportedly some 50 new vehicles still slated for introduction before the end of the year, equaling about 140 new models introduced in 2009. The good news, at least as far the bottom line goes, is that the new releases have translated into sales. The 4.96 million vehicles sold between January and May of this year represent a 14.29-percent increase over the same period in 2008. Still, considering the glut of new models hitting the market, one has to figure that a goodly number of those vehicles will go begging.

Gallery: Geely GE

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