Thursday, January 3, 2013

Volkswagen claim fuel economy crown

  the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, with EPA estimated fuel economy ratings of 48 mpg on the highway, 42 mpg in the city, and a combined rating of 45 mpg, becomes the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the Volkswagen lineup and the seventh model capable of more than 40 mpg on the highway, VW officials said.
  With sales of the Jetta Hybrid beginning later in January, Volkswagen will offer more products that achieve this benchmark fuel economy figure than any other automotive manufacturer in the United States.
  The other VW models to achieve more than 40 mpg are in the TDI® Clean Diesel family: Beetle TDI (manual); Beetle Convertible TDI (manual); Golf TDI (manual and automatic); Jetta TDI (manual and automatic); Jetta SportWagen TDI (manual); and Passat TDI (manual and automatic).
  The Jetta Hybrid is Volkswagen’s second hybrid vehicle to go on sale in the U.S. and its first in the compact hybrid sedan segment. It uses a four-cylinder,1.4-liter, turbocharged and direct-injected TSI® engine that is mated to an electric motor and a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission, a unique powertrain in the class. The combined rating of the powertrain is 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.
  Priced from $24,995, the entry-level Hybrid S has standard 15-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, Bluetooth, a six-speaker sound system, and a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel. The SE model, starting at $26,990, adds LED taillights, MDI interface with iPod® cable, the Premium VIII touchscreen radio with SD memory card reader, and keyless access with push-button start. By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Avis buying up Zipcar for $500 million

  Avis Budget Group Inc. has put together a $500 million deal to acquire Zipcar Inc. the world's leading car sharing network,
 Avis has agreed to acquire Zipcar for $12.25 per share in cash, which represents  a 49 percent  premium over the closing price on December 31, 2012, which brought transaction value to the half-billion dollar mark.  The deal is expacted to yield savngs that will allow Zipcar to expand its carsharing business, executives from both companies said.
 The transaction is subject to approval by Zipcar shareholders and other customary closing conditions, and is expected to be completed in the spring of 2013.  Directors of both companies have approved the deal,  while Zipcar shareholders representing approximately 32 percent of the outstanding common stock have agreed to vote their shares in support of the transaction.
Car sharing has grown to be a nearly $400 million business in the United States and is expanding rapidly in major cities around the world. Zipcar has led this industry, leading in innovation and world-class service. Zipcar now has more than 760,000 members and a market-leading presence in 20 major metropolitan areas in the United States, Canada and Europe, and fleet positioned at over 300 college and university campuses.
"By combining with Zipcar, we will significantly increase our growth potential, both in the United States and internationally, and will position our Company to better serve a greater variety of consumer and commercial transportation needs," said Ronald L. Nelson, Avis Budget Group chairman and chief executive officer.
"We see car sharing as highly complementary to traditional car rental, with rapid growth potential and representing a scalable opportunity for us as a combined company. We expect to apply Avis Budget's experience and efficiencies of fleet management with Zipcar's proven, customer-friendly technology to accelerate the growth of the Zipcar brand and to provide more options for Zipsters in more places. We also expect to leverage Zipcar's technology to expand mobility solutions under the Avis and Budget brands," he said.
Avis Budget expects to generate $50 to $70 million in annual synergies as a result of the transaction. In particular, Avis Budget expects significant cost reductions across the fleet life cycle (from procurement to operations and maintenance to disposition, as well as financing), in addition to savings from eliminating Zipcar's public-company costs. Avis Budget also plans to achieve substantial cost savings by increasing fleet utilization across the two companies. Significant revenue growth opportunities exist, including by leveraging Avis Budget's fleet to meet more of Zipsters' weekend demand, which is currently constrained by fleet availability.
These synergies, combined with the expected growth and rising profitability of Zipcar, are expected to make the transaction accretive to Avis Budget's earnings per share in the second year following the acquisition, excluding certain items and purchase-accounting effects.
"We are delighted to announce our intention to join the Avis Budget Group family of companies, and we believe this combination is a win across the board for our members, shareholders and employees.  We will be well positioned to accelerate enhancements to the Zipcar member experience with more offers and additional services as well as an expanded network of locations," said Scott Griffith, chairman and chief executive officer of Zipcar. By Joseph Szczesny

Friday, December 28, 2012

Honda Accord in mid-size test, the online resource for buying and selling new and used cars, reports the 2013 Honda Accord as the winner of its editors' Midsize Sedan Showdown which pitted six of the most popular midsize sedans under $26,000 against each other in a series of tests. Other sedans tested include the 2013 Ford Fusion, 2013 Hyundai Sonata, 2013 Kia Optima, 2013 Nissan Altima and the 2012 Toyota Camry.

"Nearly one in six new cars sold today is a midsize family sedan," said Patrick Olsen,'s Editor-in-Chief. "Midsize sedans are some of the most popular cars you'll see on the road. We test many different types of cars, but the midsize Showdown is one of the most important ones we do, because it provides practical shopping advice and expert insight for those looking to buy."

Tests included 185 miles of driving on varying roads to determine actual fuel mileage for each sedan; one day of round-robin driving, where each expert tested each of the sedans back-to-back on the exact same course and a day of family testing, where our test family went car-to-car judging  seating, cargo, features and ride-quality.
"The Accord is one of the oldest and most trusted midsize sedans on the market," said Olsen. "With each redesign, the Accord continues to get better. The 2013 won our Showdown because of its high-end standard features, value for the money and great driving characteristics." By Joseph Szczesny

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hyundai Sonata chalks up new record

  Hyundai reports its mid-size Sonata broke its all-time yearly sales record this week, surpassing the 225,961 sales it logged in its record-setting performance in 2011 . Sonata joins the Elantra, Veloster, Genesis, and Equus in setting all-time sales records for Hyundai in 2012, Hyundai officials said.
"Sonata's redesign in early 2010 demonstrated that mid-size sedans that paired bold design and fuel-efficiency with long-time segment essentials such as roominess, safety and durability could really break through," said John Krafcik, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor America. 
Sonata's retail sales mix demonstrates the strength of its segment-first all-four-cylinder powertrain offering, including the well-equipped GLS, sport-focused SE, premium Limited, and fuel-efficient Hybrid.  Through November, 52 percent of Sonata sales were GLS, 18 percent SE, 22 percent Limited, and eight percent Hybrid.  Performance enthusiasts drove the mix of the 274-horsepower 2.0T turbo-charged model, available on both SE and Limited, to 13 percent of retail Sonata sales.
 In addition, while the mid-size segment as a whole experienced a significant 20 percent growth in fleet sales (primarily rental cars) in 2012, Sonata's record sales this year come with a lower fleet mix and fewer rental car sales than last year, dropping from an 11 percent fleet mix in 2011 to a projected 9 percent in 2012.
 Within the segment, only the Honda Accord had a lower fleet mix. Mid-size segment fleet sales will represent about 21 percent of total mid-size car sales in 2012. Most competitors, including those with all-new models, significantly increased sales to rental car companies and other fleets in 2012.
 Krafcik said Sonata's on-going sales success has been accompanied with not only low fleet mix but also very low incentive spending, yielding some of the highest residual values in the segment. According to Autodata, Sonata incentive spending through November is the lowest of all the top-ten best-selling mid-size sedans at just $1,350 per vehicle, more than 40 percent below segment average. By Joseph Szczesny

Friday, December 21, 2012

Toyota fined again

 The federal National Highway Traffice Safety Administration fined Toyota  $17.4 million, which is the maximum allowed under US law - for taking too long to report safety issues to authorities.
It is the fourth time in the past three years that the Japanese car giant has been fined by U.S. authorities. It paid $50 million in  fines in 2010 over its handling of car recalls. The new fine is for a recall in June of about 150,000 vehicles.
The carmaker has recalled more than 10 million vehicles this year.
Last month, Toyota announced it would recall 2.7 million cars worldwide because of problems with the steering wheel and water pump system.
In 2009 and 2010, Toyota recalled about 12 million vehicles, damaging its reputation for reliability.
"It's critical to the safety of the driving public that manufacturers report safety defects in a timely manner," said David Strickland of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Strickland added Toyota had agreed to make changes to quality assurance and to review its safety procedures in the US as part of the settlement.The carmaker's chief quality officer Ray Tanguay said the company had agreed to pay the fine "in order to avoid a time-consuming dispute and to focus fully on our shared commitment with NHTSA to keep drivers safe." By Joseph Szczesny

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Boeing, BMW collaborate on carbon fiber research

Boeing  and the BMW Group are joining forces to collaborate on research into the use and resuse of high-tech materials. The two companies have agreed to signed an agreement to collaborate on  research on carbon fiber recycling and share knowledge about carbon fiber materials and manufacturing.

Boeing and BMW are both pioneering the use of carbon fiber in their products.  Boeing's 787 Dreamliner is made up of 50 percent carbon fiber material and BMW will introduce two vehicles with passenger compartments made of carbon fiber in 2013. Recycling composite material at point of use and the end of product life is critical to both companies.

"This collaboration agreement is a very important step forward in developing the use and end use of carbon fiber materials," said Larry Schneider, Commercial Airplanes vice president of Product Development, who represented Boeing at the signing in Seattle. "It is especially important that we plan for the end of life of products made from carbon fiber.  We want to look at ways to reclaim and reuse those materials to make new products.  Our work with BMW will help us attain that goal."

"Boeing for us is a suitable partner for collaboration in the field of carbon fiber," said BMW AG for Development Board Member Herbert Diess. "Boeing has many years of extensive experience using carbon fiber in the field of aviation, while the BMW Group has earned a significant competitive advantage through its use of special manufacturing methods for series production of carbon fiber parts. Through this cooperation, we can merge know-how between our industries in the field of sustainable production solutions."

As part of the collaboration agreement, Boeing and the BMW Group will also share carbon fiber manufacturing process simulations and ideas for manufacturing automation. 

BMW opened a plant in Moses Lake, Wash. in 2011 that will provide carbon fiber parts for the 2013 i3 and i8 models. Both new models will be assembled in Leipzig, Germany.  By Joseph Szczesny

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thousands of cars lost during East Coast storm

 The National Insurance Crime Bureau said progress is being made in identifying and 
removing thousands of vehicles damaged beyond repair by Sandy. The estimate of 
230,000 insurance claims for vehicle damage in the areas affected by Sandy 
remains unchanged at this time.
 Many of those vehicles were flooded and are 
being towed to holding areas where they will be loaded on car haulers and taken 
to facilities to be crushed.
 Last week, representative from NCIB visited holding areas in Brooklyn where more than 
7,000 new vehicles awaiting delivery to dealerships had been parked when Sandy 
flooded the area with more than three feet of water. All but 800 cars had been 
removed. The vehicles suffered extensive damage as the wind and water shoved 
them into each other and flooded their electronic systems, damaging them beyond 
"New York City Police and the other law enforcement agencies around the area 
were understandably focusing on other emergencies and disaster efforts 
initially," said NICB New York Region Operations Director Thomas Lohmann. 
they have begun to address the issue of dealing with thousands of flooded and 
damaged vehicles, and they are doing an outstanding job of getting these 
vehicles towed to holding areas where they can be identified and accounted for 
prior to being scrapped. They are also going after towing companies that have 
taken cars off the street without permission, and are submitting outrageous 
towing and storage bills to insurance companies," he said. By Joseph Szczesny