Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Toyota reduces prices on popular Camry models

 Toyota Motor Sales has raised the manufacturer's suggested retail prices for the base model of the all-new, seventh-generation Toyota Camry but is reducing prices on other popularly equipped versions and the hybrid Camry, putting new pressure on competitors in the mid-sized segment. The price for the base Camry “L” model with a four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission has  increased 3.3 percent to $21,995 but the price on the other seven models in the Camry lineup, including to hybrid versions have dropped by an average of $1,200 for the 2012 model year, which begins Oct. 1.  The Camry  has been best-selling passenger car for nine years running and 13 of the past 14 years.
 "Despite all of the enhancements to the all-new Camry, prices for all popular models have been reduced with dramatic repositioning on SE, XLE and Hybrid models, representing the best value in the segment," says Bob Carter, Toyota Group Vice President and General Manager. "Competing in the industry's most competitive segment, we expect the Camry to continue as America's best-selling car," Carter said. The 2012 Camry and Camry Hybrid offer a new exterior design, a more spacious interior,  top of the category safety features, improved driving dynamics and an even quieter ride than before. Toyota officials said.
The 2012 Camry is powered by a revised 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine equipped with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), which features reduced noise and vibration levels and produces 178 horsepower, an increase of nine horsepower, and 170 lbs-ft. of torque. Fuel economy is also improved with EPA estimated mpg ratings of 25 city/35 hwy/28 combined.  All four-cylinder models are matched with six-speed automatic transmissions.
 For those looking for more power, a 24-valve, DOHC 3.5-liter V6, which employs Dual VVT-i is available in the SE and XLE models. The V6 generates 268 horsepower and 248 lbs.-ft. of torque and is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift and has EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 21 city/30 hwy/25 combined.
All 2012 Camrys are equipped with a class-leading 10 standard airbags, and like all Toyota models, the Camry will feature Toyota's Star Safety System standard, which includes Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist. It also features the standard Smart Stop Technology brake-override system. An electronic tire pressure monitoring system is also standard. By Joseph Szczesny

Friday, August 26, 2011

Chevy, Ford, Nissan, Kia and Toyota all score in NADAguides survey

Analysts at NADAguides , online provider of new and used vehicle pricing and information sponsored by the National Auto Dealers Association, have named vehicles from Chevrolet, Ford, Kia, Nissan and Toyota as t he top vehicles for first top vehicles for first time drivers in its annual “Back to School” survey.
   The criteria for included prices of less than $17,500, fuel-efficiency ratings of better than 25 miles per gallon and top safety rating both from NHTSA and from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Total Cost of Ownership is also part of the NADAguides calculations.
   The vehicles spotlighted as the Top New Back-to-School Cars for 2011 are the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LS, 2011 Ford Fiesta S Sedan and the 2011 Nissan Cube 1.8 S. Each of these new vehicles offers outstanding safety equipment and features, the latest in driver comfort and communications technology, versatility and excellent gas mileage, all for a reasonable price, NADA Guide’s analysts concluded.
    In addition, the three Top Used Back-to-School Cars for 2011 include the 2010 Kia Soul, 2010 Nissan Cube 1.8 S and the 2010 Toyota Corolla LE.  All are the previous year’s models, but earned a place on this year’s NADAguides Top Back-To-School list. 
 Troy Snyder, director of product development, NADAguides, said, “This time of year parents and teenagers alike are anxiously researching the best vehicles for getting to and from school safely and economically. 
 “There is an overwhelming amount of information online and we know spare time is a luxury for parents who need to find a suitable vehicle that fits the wants and needs of the family.  Our analysts have reviewed hundreds of thousands of data points to help narrow down the research process and provide parents with a range of vehicles that will make both parents and students happy and safe, all while not hitting the wallet too hard, ”  Snyder said. By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chrysler Group LLC says it's ready to invest $72 million in its Toledo Machining Plant in Perrysburg, Ohio, to produce new generation front-wheel and rear-wheel drive torque converters and steering columns. The final decision, which will protect 640 jobs,  depends on the completion of incentive negotiations and agreements with the State of Ohio. Chrysler also is expected to soon announce a larger investment at Jeep assembly complex in Toledo.
“We welcome this investment in Toledo Machining as it is an acknowledgement of the high quality components that have been produced by our skilled workforce for many years,” said Scott Garberding, Senior Vice President and Head of Manufacturing, Chrysler Group LLC. “Being able to bring new technology to this facility secures its long-term future.”
“We are also appreciative of the support we have received from the State of Ohio in providing the incentives necessary to make this investment possible,” said Garberding. Ohio governor John Kasich visited Auburn Hills to discuss the project with officials both from Chrysler and the United Auto Workers.  The new torque converters will be paired with the next generation eight-speed rear-wheel drive transmission being built at Chrysler’s Kokomo (Ind.) Transmission Plant and the all-new nine-speed front-wheel drive transmission to be produced at the company’s Indiana (Kokomo, Ind.) Transmission Plant I. The new transmissions and torque converters are a critical part of Chrysler’s strategy to meet fuel economy requirements over the next several years.
 The investment would fund the installation of new equipment and special tooling to modernize and enhance the plant’s capability. Work on the plant is expected to begin late third quarter 2011 and be completed in the first quarter of 2013.
“We’re very pleased that Chrysler is making the decision to invest in the Toledo Machining Plant and the skilled workforce there,” said General Holiefield, Vice President and Director, UAW Chrysler Department. “This will help preserve and enhance jobs in the area and give a greater measure of security to our members and their families well into the future.”
Toledo Machining currently produces steering columns for several  plants in Michigan Ohio but also for plants in Windsor,Ont., Toluca and Saltillo, Mex.and Carabobo,Venezuela.
  The plant also produces torque converters, a component that allows the transmission to shift gears in an automatic transmission in Indiana and Michigan as well as Mexico and Great Britain. Since June 2009, Chrysler Group has invested nearly $3.2 billion in its U.S.plants. By Joseph  Szczesny

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Consumer Reports likes Fiat 500

Consumer Reports withheld its recommend rating for 2012 Fiat 500 but it did describe the 500, the first Fiat sold in the U.S. in more than 30 years, as
After Fiat's being a fun-to-drive car in tests of fuel-efficient vehicles in
the magazine's October issue.
Although it couldn't avoid enough shortcomings to score high enough in the magazine's tests to be Recommended, including a tight rear seat and cargo area, testers found it to be a likable urban car.
An inexpensive way to get a car with better fuel economy is to buy a very small car with a tiny engine, but that often brings with it some shortcomings, the magazine noted “The Fiat 500, a retro-styled sporty car that competes with the Mini Cooper, is one example.  The 500's 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine helps it achieve an overall fuel economy of 33 mpg,” it noted.
 "The tiny Fiat 500 has agile, go-kart like handling, a rev-happy engine, and a crisp-shifting manual transmission that make it fun-to drive," said David
Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center in East Haddam, CT. "But slow acceleration, a choppy ride, and a noisy cabin are demerits." By Joseph Szczesny

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ford teams up with Silicon Valley solar company

Ford Motor and Silicon Valley-based SunPower Corp. are offering a plan that could reduce the cost of owning soon to launch Ford Focus electric vehicle. They are teaming up to offer customers a rooftop solar system, allowing  owners of the Focus electric to "Drive Green for Life" by providing customers with enough clean, renewable energy to offset the electricity used to charge the vehicle. "Under the 'Drive Green for Life' program, Focus Electric owners can reduce their total cost of ownership by generating enough energy from their high efficiency SunPower rooftop solar system to offset the electricity required to charge the vehicle at night," said Mike Tinskey, Ford director of Global Vehicle Electrification and Infrastructure. "It's an eco-friendly solution that perfectly complements our plug-in products and other green initiatives."
Tom Werner, SunPower president and CEO. said the innovative partnership is a win-win for customers, providing a comprehensive sustainability program.  The 2.5 kilowatt rooftop solar system is comprised of the SunPower® E18 Series solar panels that produce an average of 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. These high-efficiency solar panels generate approximately 50 percent more electricity than conventional panels and utilize a smaller footprint on the roof. The system was sized to accommodate a customer who drives about 1,000 miles per month.
The complete SunPower solar system is offered at a base price of less than $10,000, after federal tax credits. Local and state rebates, along with other incentives, may drive the system cost down even more, depending on a customer's location. By Joseph Szczesny

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cadillac to get own version of Volt

General Motors Cadillac brand is getting is very own version of the Chevrolet Volt.
The Cadillac Converj Concept, a dramatic luxury coupe with extended-range electric vehicle technology developed for the Volt originally,  is moving forward as a production car that will be called the Cadillac ELR, General Motors officials said Thursday.
 “The concept generated instant enthusiasm,” said Don Butler, vice president-Cadillac Marketing. “Like other milestone Cadillac models of the past, the ELR will offer something not otherwise present – the combination of electric propulsion with striking design and the fun of luxury coupe driving.”
 GM has already announced plans to begin exporting an Opel version of the Volt from Detroit to Europe later this year.
 Development of the ELR is just getting underway price and timing of the vehicle’s launch will be announced later.
 Nevertheless, the Cadillac ELR will feature the electric propulsion system used in the Volt, which made up of a T-shaped lithium ion battery, an electric drive unit and a four-cylinder engine-generator.
 Like the Volt, It will use electricity as its primary source to drive the car without using gasoline or producing tailpipe emissions. When the battery’s energy is low, the ELR seamlessly switches to extended-range mode to enable driving for hundreds of additional miles.
 Cadillac selected the name ELR to indicate the car’s electric propulsion technology, in keeping with the brand’s 3-letter international model naming convention.
The Converj Concept sparked the idea of combining the desirability of a grand touring coupe with electrification, said Ed Welburn, GM vice president, Global Design.
 “There’s no mistaking it for anything but a Cadillac, an aggressive, forward-leaning profile and proportion showcases a uniquely shaped, modern vision of a personal luxury 2+2,”  said Welburn. Cadillac also recently announced it will add two new vehicles to its product lineup in 2012, the XTS large luxury sedan and an all-new luxury compact sedan code named ATS. By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Kia scores high in KBB rating on total ownership cost

  Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com recently reported the top automotive manufacturer of non-luxury brands with the lowest average Total Cost of Ownership for the initial five-year ownership period was Kia Motors America.  Kelly's rating was made after calculating depreciation, expected fuel costs, insurance, maintenance and repair costs and state fees. Kia's average tco came in below $40,000 over a five-year ownership period, besting all other non-luxury brands with a full-model lineup.   "Kia Motors is committed to offering consumers a full array of high-quality cars and CUVs that provide a combination of world-class styling, cutting-edge technology and an abundance of standard convenience and safety features, and being recognized as a cost of ownership leader by kbb.com is further proof of the brand's compelling value equation," said Michael Sprague, vice president, marketing & communications, KMA.  
 "Consumers are looking to make smart purchases and stretch their dollars, and every Kia vehicle allows them to do just that with low starting prices and outstanding fuel economy, without sacrificing fun-to-drive performance or the modern amenities new car shoppers now expect." Total Cost of Ownership is developed using Kelley Blue Book Residual Values to calculate depreciation costs.  According to the website, depreciation plays the largest role in the TCO, followed by the cost of fuel during the initial five-year ownership period.  The company then calculates total ownership costs for new vehicles by applying a valuation methodology along with critical financial data from third-party providers. 
 For more information, visit Kelley Blue Book's www.kbb.com. By Joseph Szczesny

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

DTE gets electric vans for fleet

DTE Energy has added four Transit Connect Electrics from Oak Park's Azure Dynamics to the company's fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles. The Transit Connect Electrics will be used by DetroitEdison field crews performing repair and maintenance and operations to electrical lines and otherequipment on the electric distribution system, according to president and chief operating officer Steven Kurmas,
“The addition of these all-electric Transit Connects to our fleet will help Detroit Edison advance theuse of electric vehicles in a couple of ways,” said Kurmas. “First, we will learn firsthand how thesevehicles perform in day-to-day field operations and how we can make the best use of their unique characteristics. Second, they will help us learn more about how the use of electric vehicles byconsumers and businesses will impact the electrical system and what utilities need to do to supportadoption of these vehicles.”
The Ford Transit Connect Electric, a pure electric-powered version of the award-winning TransitConnect small van, is fitted with a Force Drive battery electric powertrain made by Azure Dynamicsfeaturing Johnson Controls-Saft’s advanced lithium-ion battery technology. The all-electric,zero-emission vehicle has a target range of up to 50 to 80 miles per full charge, and will berechargeable using either 240-volt or standard 120-volt outlets.
The vehicles were purchased from Suburban Ford of Sterling Heights, Mich., one of the first TransitConnect Electric-selling dealerships, and the first Ford dealership to offer a full line of gas, hybridand electric vehicles. By Joseph Szczesny

Thursday, August 4, 2011

  Consumer Reports has often left Detroit's executive muttering about its preference for vehicles from Toyota and Honda. However, Consumer Reports  this week panned the widely anticipated redesigned Honda Civic LX, whose predecessors have often been the magazine' highest rated small sedans as well as Top Picks in five of the last 10 yearss.  The new Civi, however, scored  too low to be "Recommended" by the leading automotive testing organization. Honda, which has feasted for years on the magazine recommendations, said CR got it wrong this time.
 Nevertheless, the redesigned Civic LX’s score dropped a whopping 17 points to a mediocre 61 from the previous generation’s very good 78. It scored second-to-last in CR’s ratings of 12 small sedans, followed only by the recently redesigned Volkwagen Jetta.  CR's  testers found the 2012 Civic to be less agile and with lower interior quality than its predecessor. It also suffers from a choppy ride, long stopping distances, and pronounced road noise. On the positive side, the Civic provides decent rear-seat room, and it achieved 30 mpg overall, which gives it the second-best fuel economy in its class—behind only the Toyota Corolla’s 32 mpg.
“While other models like the Hyundai Elantra have gotten better after being redesigned, the Civic has dropped so much that now it ranks near the bottom of its category,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center in East Haddam, CT
The test group also included sedan and hatchback versions of the redesigned-for-2012 Ford Focus and the hatchback version of the Kia Forte, which both scored Very Good. The Focus was fun to drive and more polished than its predecessor, with the type of agile handling, supple ride, and solid feel expected from a compact sports sedan. But a snug rear seat, complicated controls, and annoying behavior by the automatic transmission took a toll on its score.  The 5-Door hatchback is Kia’s latest addition to the Forte line, and is well-equipped, relatively roomy, and offers a lot for the money. But its noise isolation, ride, and interior quality are middling.
The issue also features tests of two versions of the Ford F-150 pickup, perennially the best-selling model in the U.S. Freshened for 2011, it’s quieter and more refined than earlier versions, with an improved ride, and better acceleration.
Competition in the small sedan segment is intense with many new or redesigned entries this year. The redesigned-for-2011 Hyundai Elantra tops CR’s ratings with its impressive fuel economy, roomy interior, and strong value. The new-for-2011 Chevrolet Cruze is much more refined than previous General Motors small cars but fuel economy suffers from its heavy weight. Redesigned for 2011, the Volkswagen Jetta, like the Civic, dramatically dropped in overall score in CR’s Ratings. Some older-design small sedans, like the highly-efficient Toyota Corolla, the roomy and quiet Nissan Sentra, and the sporty Mazda3 remain competitive.
 The full report on small sedans and hatchbacks is available in the September issue of the magazine, on newsstands August 2 and to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org. Updated daily, it’s the go-to Website for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news and car buying information. Check out CR’s ongoing Twitter feed at @CRCars.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep score in Power survey

 The Dodge brand earned three awards as the Dodge Challenger, Charger and Durango led their segments in the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study.
 The Dodge Charger ranked highest in the Large Car segment and was the most improved model in the industry. The Dodge Challenger scored highest in the Midsize Sporty Car class and Dodge Durango took the top spot in the Midsize Crossover/SUV segment.
 The Jeep brand improved by 32 points and Chrysler increased by 27 points compared to the industry's average improvement of three points. "We've listened to our customers and made significant improvements across the product line, launching 16 all-new or extensively updated vehicles in the past year," said Doug Betts, Senior Vice President -- Quality, Chrysler Group. "We worked very hard to make our vehicles truly competitive with the best vehicles in their respective segments. It's nice to see this effort being recognized by our customers."
 Vehicles with high APEAL scores generate faster sales, higher profit margins, and less need for cash incentives. High levels of vehicle appeal also influence customer recommendation rates, according to J.D. Power and Associates. By Joseph Szczesny

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ford cuts price os SYNC system

 Ford Motor Co. is ]reducing by $100  the price of, Sync, the company’s in-car connectivity system, making it even more affordable offering it as an option on base trim levels for the first time.
"Ford Sync is making a difference. Our customers love it and recommend it, and our dealers want it on more products," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service.
 "Sync already has brought hands-free, voice-activated in-car connectivity to millions, helping keep drivers' eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Now, Ford is making it even easier for customers to afford exactly what they want," Czubay said.
 The announcement of Ford’s latest push to make voice control the primary and safest way for customers to access mobile and smart devices while driving - a capability more and more drivers are demanding, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.
 In a 2010 study, the CEA found that 55 percent of smartphone owners prefer voice commands for in-car user interface. Sync users agree, with internal Ford research showing more than 85 percent say they use voice controls while driving, up from 60 percent in previous studies.
 Ford’s new pricing strategy makes Sync the most capable and most affordable in-car connectivity system in the industry. The new pricing will be available first on the 2012 Ford Explorer and Edge base models. Customers who opt for SYNC will pay only $295 for the award-winning in-car connectivity system, previously priced at $395. I
 Ford also has become the first car maker to endorse the Safe Drivers Act of 2011, proposed federal legislation for a nationwide ban on the use of hand-held mobile devices while driving. To date, 10 states, including California and New York, have legally banned talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving, with many local municipalities also following suit enacting their own set of restrictions. Text messaging while driving is banned in 34 states. By Joseph Szczesny