Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Volvo Recall's 65,000 Cars due to Side Aiarbag problems

Sweden's automaker Volvo Cars said on Monday it will recall 65,000 cars for a problem with side-impact air bags.

The recall affects 2008 models such as the V70 and XC70 and they were sold primarily in Europe, Volvo Cars spokeswoman Maria Bohlin said in a statement.

The cars' so-called "inflatable curtains" did not deploy as quickly as designed in a European safety test in the winter, due to a software problem, she said.

Volvo will recall the cars to fine-tune the software that triggers the release of the air bags, Bohlin said, adding that the company will send letters to all the owners of the affected cars and tell them to take the car to a mechanic to get this upgrade.

Volvo Cars has been owned by U.S. Ford Motor Co. since 1999.

Porsche Accusing VW of Spying on Porsche CEO

It looks like Cold War-style intrigue is back in Germany. In a case of apparent corporate espionage, while on a visit to Volkswagen's headquarters in Wolfsburg, the hotel room of Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking was found to be bugged.

According to a report in the German magazine Der Spiegel, last year a private security firm discovered an activated baby monitor hidden behind a couch in Wiedeking's room at the Wolfsburg Ritz Carlton, just a day before a meeting of the supervisory board of Volkswagen AG. State police in Lower Saxony have confirmed they are investigating a complaint filed by Porsche with prosecutors in Braunschweig, but have declined to say who it is against.

Porsche currently owns 31 percent of Volkswagen, but has been angling for some time to gain a controlling stake in the automaker. However slightly more than 20 percent of VW is in the hands of the Lower Saxony government, and the two are locked in a battle over a rule requiring that "significant decisions" regarding the company have the approval of 80 percent of shareholders, plus one share, rather than a simple majority.

Considering how easy it is to get hold of professional quality wiretapping equipment these days, the use of the microphone end of a baby monitor doesn't smack of professional work. Hopefully the amateur spies will soon be apprehended, but regardless, Porsche's attempt to acquire VW will no doubt continue as planned.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

US Hybrid Sales jump while overall car sales drop

A gallon of gas costs $3.57 cents in Quincy Tuesday. With gas prices soaring through the roof, we wanted to know how car companies plan to adapt.

Hybrid car sales are so popular at one car dealership in Quincy that it's nearly gone dry.

Shottenkirk Toyota only has four hybrid vehicles left on its lot. Three of them are Toyota Camrys, the other is the Toyota Highlander. Now they've completely sold out of all its Priuses, but they've ordered four more. Two of them have already been pre-sold.

Michael Hoxie, Shottenkirk Toyota, said, "the problem is the supply and demand thing, especially with the Prius because Toyota literally could sell every one they could build, they just can't build them fast enough."

If Michael Hoxie had it his way, the whole lot would be filled with hybrid vehicles.

So is there any down sides of owning a hybrid?

"Not that I've seen, they come with a 100,000 mile warranty on the power pack, we've had terrific success with them and when we occasionally trade for one, we almost sell one immediately, they've been great cars," said Hoxie.

They sold nearly 100 hybrid vehicles in 2007. The Camry and Prius are its two best selling models. Those cars have higher fuel efficiencies than a regular gasoline run vehicle. The Camry gets up to 34 miles per gallon while the Prius gets 48. Buying the hybrid 2008 Camry over the regular 2008 Camry will save you more than $1500 a year on gas.

So will car companies adapt to the rising fuel costs and produce more hybrids?

"We keep hearing rumors that they're going to build more and more but the demand is so high right now, it's really hard to quantify how many you could sell," said Hoxie.

While overall car sales in the U.S. have dropped, hybrid sales have increased.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

URGENT Jeep Liberty Recall

The government has upgraded an investigation into Chrysler LLC's Jeep Liberty following reports of drivers losing control of their sport-utility vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it has received 22 complaints of the upper ball joint separating on either of the front wheels. The problem can lead to the front wheel collapsing, which can disable the vehicle or cause the driver to lose control.

The investigation involves more than 300,000 2002 and 2003 model year Liberty 4X4 SUVs.

Max Gates, a Chrysler spokesman, said Monday the automaker was continuing its investigation. Chrysler has received 74 complaints, but no reports of any accidents or injuries tied to the problem.

Most of the drivers who filed complaints have said the joints separated at speeds of under 20 miles per hour, according to NHTSA. But the government said it received five complaints of the separations happening at speeds of 40 mph or more, including one at 75 mph.

Seven of the separations occurred while the driver was pulling into the flow of traffic and two others happened while the driver was trying to make a left-hand turn across the flow of traffic.

One of the drivers who filed a complaint said they almost got hit by an oncoming truck. Another driver said the front right wheel collapsed while making a turn, causing the vehicle to swerve into a ditch and narrowly missing striking a telephone pole.

NHTSA has upgraded the investigation to an engineering analysis to "assess the scope, frequency and safety consequences of the alleged defect," the agency said in a report on its Web site.

The issue has caused problems for the Liberty before.

Chrysler recalled more than 800,000 Liberty SUVs in August 2006 to fix the front suspension lower ball joint, which could experience excessive wear and looseness. The recall affected Liberty SUVs from the 2002-2006 model years.

Previously, in November 2003, the automaker recalled more than 300,000 2002-2003 Liberty vehicles because of problems with the lower ball joint, but some of the parts were damaged during the shipping process or installation.

In a March 14 letter to NHTSA, Chrysler said publicity from the two recalls may have led to an increase in the number of complaints about the ball joints, along with confusion about the differences between the lower and upper ball joints.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Chrysler looking to Make Cars in China

Chrysler LLC is discussing joint ventures with a number of potential Chinese partners, including Chery Automobile, in a bid to return to producing vehicles at its own plants in China, executives said on Sunday.

The company aims to become one of the top 10 competitors in the industry's biggest boom market, they said.

"We're having discussions with several potential partners. Those discussions are ongoing," said Phil Murtaugh, who became chief executive of Chrysler's Asian operations last year.

Chrysler representatives also said the privately held No. 3 U.S. automaker was still working with Chery to modify one of its small cars so that it could be ready for export from China.

Murtaugh declined to specify a timeframe for concluding that work and clearing the way for what had been expected to become one of the first Chinese-made cars to be sold in large volumes in developed markets such as the United States.

"I don't think we're too far away, but neither of us is ready to say let's go yet," said Murtaugh, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Beijing Auto Show. "We're working to make sure the product's right."

Chrysler announced a tie-up with Chery last year as part of a bid to reduce its reliance on trucks and SUVs by giving it a subcompact car to sell under one of its own brands.

But when progress in readying the Chery-built vehicle stalled, Chrysler turned to Nissan Motor Co, and this month announced a production swap under which Nissan will build a subcompact in Japan using a Chrysler design starting in 2010.

Murtaugh said that Chrysler and Chery were reviewing safety-related issues such as body structure in order to ensure that the resulting China-built vehicle could be marketed successfully overseas.

"Safety is a huge challenge because of the size of the car," said Murtaugh, who joined Chrysler from SAIC Motor Corp, China's largest automaker and a joint-venture partner with General Motors Corp

Murtaugh said that the engineering work needed to ready the new small car was substantial but stopped short of a wholesale re-design. "We don't have to re-engineer the whole car," he said.

For its part, Chrysler sells a total of 12 models in China but only four of those are locally manufactured through joint ventures now managed by Daimler AG, which sold Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management last August.

The Chrysler 300C sedan, two minivan models and a version of the Chrysler Sebring -- rebadged in China as the Borui -- are all locally manufactured in China. The rest of Chrysler's line-up, which is sold through a network of about 110 dealers, is imported to China, a step that drives prices higher in a market where vehicle prices are falling.

Murtaugh said Chrysler's high import ratio would have to change if the automaker was to realize its ambition of becoming one of the top 10 competitors in the Chinese market, now the world's second largest and widely seen as on track to become the largest over the next decade.


Murtaugh said he expected China's auto market would grow by between 15 percent and 20 percent this year. "We have to grow faster if we want to hit (the) top 10," he said.

Chrysler has made it a priority to increase the number of its dealers in China and to allow all of them to represent all three of its brands -- a step it is also taking in the slumping North American market, which still accounts for some 90 percent of its overall sales.

Separately, Murtaugh said Chrysler was looking to source "a lot" more components from China for cars sold around the world. Chrysler, he said, currently ships less than $1 billion in components from China out of a total procurement bill of between $25 billion and $35 billion.

He also said he was standing by a forecast that Chinese automakers would not be ready to export to the United States until sometime between 2010 and 2012.

Chrysler, which lost $1.6 billion in 2007, is counting on diversifying by selling into faster-growing emerging markets as part of a turnaround under which it has slashed production and jobs in the United States. The automaker has trailed its larger U.S. rivals Ford Motor Co and General Motors in establishing joint-venture production deals with Chinese auto partners.

Chrysler's Jeep brand had been in the first wave of such deals. AMC, which Chrysler later acquired, reached a deal in 1983 to build Jeeps in China with Beijing Automotive Works. That partnership was disbanded in 2003.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Over 300,000 Hyundai Sonata's recalled due to Airbag problems

Over 300,000 Hyundai Sonata sedans are being recalled due to an issue with the air bag system. The system isn’t defective per se, but the company has received complaints about how it works. Advanced air bag systems are supposed to be able to detect when small children are present in the front passenger seat, then deactivate the airbag from deploying in case of an accident.

Your Ad Here

In regards to children, the force of an airbag deploying is considered more dangerous than if an airbag had not deployed. However, there are complaints that the system is shutting off even when small adults are in the front seat. A small adult would be better served with the airbag deploying.

The recall will begin next month. Dealers will evaluate the systems and make necessary repairs. Owners can call Hyundai at 800-633-5151 for more information.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

GM Pushing industry to get on the Hydrogen Bandwagon

General Motors Corp.'s leading proponent of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles will challenge the energy industry and governments to commit to developing a public hydrogen fueling infrastructure when he addresses the National Hydrogen Association's annual conference in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday.

In his keynote address to the conference aimed at ramping up commercialization of hydrogen, GM Vice President of Research & Development and Strategic Planning Larry Burns is expected to urge cooperation from government and the energy industry and to outline GM's proposed plan for establishing hydrogen fueling stations first in small numbers in and around a few major cities and over time connecting cities to one another along main arteries.

"The automobile industry has reached a critical juncture in our journey to realize the full potential of hydrogen fuel cell-electric vehicles," Burns is expected to say as part of his prepared remarks. "We have now reached a point where the energy industry and governments must pick up their pace so we can continue to advance in a timely manner."

Urban areas that could be first to establish hydrogen fueling infrastructures include Berlin, Shanghai and Los Angeles, Burns says.

But even in California, a state that is pushing automakers to improve fuel economy and lessen vehicle dependence on fossil fuels, GM says government hasn't cleared the way for hydrogen fueling stations.

The Los Angeles area is one of three urban areas where GM has launched a pilot program called Project Driveway to put Chevrolet Equinox hydrogen fuel cell vehicles into the hands of businesses and average drivers. To support the program, GM is prepared to put in fueling stations that deliver hydrogen in a compact form, called 700-bar, that delivers the desired mileage from a fill-up. But GM was surprised at how difficult it is to get the permits it needs to build adequate fueling stations.

"We are all excited about the project and frustrated by this issue," said Chevrolet spokeswoman Carolyn Normandin.

"What is urgently needed is sufficient investment by energy providers and the cooperation of government."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

New E3 Spark plugs - Marketing myth or Gas saver?

Over the years, countless companies have come up with devices claimed to reduce fuel consumption. The claims have ranged from plausible to the ridiculous. For example, wrapping magnets around your fuel line will not double your mileage and the only way you will ever get 200 mpg with a carburetor is to make it so small that air and fuel flow are so restricted that it can't possibly use more fuel than that. Of course your engine would produce so little power in the process as to be useless.

Spark plugs have long been a popular area for "innovation" of this sort. One of the latest comes in the form of the E3 spark plug featuring its DiamondFire electrode. This one falls into the plausible-but-unlikely category. Writer Larry Edsall recently undertook the latest iteration of a 5,000 mile annual road trip and decided to try out the E3 plugs. While E3 claims a 3-5 percent improvement in mileage, Edsall found his dipped from 20.11/19.98 the previous two years to 19.18 with the E3 plugs. He did all the usual maintenance like oil changes and tire pressures before leaving. Of course the vehicle was a year older and more worn which may have contributed to the dip. But even a fully scientific test with two or more vehicles running side by side in the same conditions (aside from the spark plugs) would probably yield a negligible difference at best. The E3 plugs aren't that pricey ($6-7 each) so if you do choose to try them it won't cost a lot. Just don't be too disappointed if you don't see much improvement in mileage.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Chrysler recalls 1.4 million vehicles

An electrical problem in Chrysler LLC's Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger vehicles is resulting in a massive recall of 212,347 cars to fix the problem.
The vehicles in question involve models from 2007-2008 that deploy standard tire pressure monitoring systems. Apparently, electrical connectors in the system have been rusting, leading to problems starting the engine, dead batteries, inoperative cruise control, or even the vehicle's engine stalling.

Chrysler has stated that there have been no injuries reported as a result of the problem, but that it had already received nine reports from consumers that their engines had stalled out on them.

The vast majority of recalled vehicles are located in America, with the remaining being in Canada, Mexico and Europe.

If you suspect that your car may be a part of the current recall, you can call (800) 853-1403 to see if you need to get your car looked at.

Chrysler offer lifetime warranty

In what was probably a very statistically calculated marketing move, the Chrysler Group has one-upped most of the auto industry by announcing that it will be offering lifetime repairs for the powertrain sections of its cars and trucks sold to U.S. customers.

The move, made public yesterday, replaces the industry-standard three-year, 36,000-mile powertrain warranty and should give Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge cars and trucks a much-needed public relations boost. Chrysler Group needs to fan this for as long as possible and gain as much traction with customers and dealers as possible, as this is one of those paradigm-shifting moves that could change the auto industry's warranty practices soon.

Starting with yesterday's Chrysler vehicle sales, the new lifetime warranty covers most Chrysler vehicles (and the sub-brands, of course) and "the cost of all parts and labor needed to repair covered powertrain components - engine, transmission and drive system." Will customers start choosing Chrysler vehicles knowing that they'll be protected from failures in these components for the lifetime of their ownership?

Did Cerberus Capital Management (in the process of taking ownership of the Chrysler Group) have a hand in this under the expectation that a warranty program like this would spike sales? Who knows. The bigger question is whether this move will prompt other automakers, like Ford and GM, to offer a similar warranty, and if so, was Chrysler's move a blindsided tackle instead of some kind of desperate expectation?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Safety Recall on Toyota Corolla, Matrix & Pontiac Vibe

More than 700,000 Toyota Corolla, Matrix and Pontiac Vibe vehicles are being called back to the dealership because of a problem with a bolt in the power window system. Toyota is notifying some 50,000 Canadian and 540,000 U.S. owners of Corolla compact cars and Matrix crossover vehicles from the 2003-2004 model years about the need for free repairs.

GM is recalling 123,000 Pontiac Vibe models assembled in a joint venture with Toyota in California.

Toyota also said it is recalling almost 630,000 Noah and Voxy minivans from the 2001 to 2007 model years in Japan to fix a flaw that could lead to cracks in fuel tanks. Toyota Canada says the problem originated with defective bolts from a supplier, saying those bolts have now been redesigned.

Federal safety officials had been investigating complaints about the windows in the Toyotas and in similar Vibes, built by GM in a joint venture with Toyota.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in February that some side windows became inoperable or made popping noises and occasionally shattered.

The agency and the automakers together had collected more than 500 complaints, including 36 claimed injuries and one reported crash. There were also more than 12,000 possibly related warranty claims, according to NHTSA records.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Indian Study indicates many vehicles are not ready for 10% Ethanol Blend

The mandatory 10 per cent ethanol blending in petrol may not happen for the existing 101 million vehicles on the Indian roads without introducing technical changes in them.

The central government plans to make 10 per cent blending compulsory from October from the current 5 per cent.

“We can introduce 10 per cent blending in new vehicles from October, after making the necessary changes in them. However, we are not ready to introduce 10 per cent ethanol blending in the existing 101 million vehicles from October since there is no domestic study on the impact of 10 per cent blending,” said an automobile industry official.

The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) is conducting a study with the oil marketing companies to study the impact on existing vehicles.

These vehicles are not capable of running on 10 per cent ethanol-blended petrol as ethanol releases more heat and can corrode vehicle engines, experts say.

Automobile industry officials also say that 10 per cent blending will lead to a 3 per cent drop in a vehicle’s mileage since ethanol has a lower calorific value than petrol. “However, being an energy deficient country, this should not deter us from blending,” the official added.

In a move that could have implication for India, Germany, which had plans similar to India’s, has decided to scrap the 10 per cent blending programme “as the cost of damages to existing vehicles” would be very high, news agency Bloomberg reported recently.

Biofuel programmes around the world are at the centre of a food-versus-fuel debate. Ecologists argue that producing ethanol from sugarcane and corn, which is being done in the US, is responsible for rise in food prices as a result of food supply shortage.

According to a recent Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)-European Bank for Reconstruction and Development report, the reliance of the expanding biofuels market on commodities such as sugar, maize, oilseeds and palm oil is a major reason for the global price rise in foodgrain.

Ecologists also argue that while biofuels reduce emissions, production of ethanol is resulting in large-scale deforestation across the world.

Officials in the petroleum ministry contest such criticism by saying that ethanol used for blending with petrol in the country will be indigenously procured.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Volkswagen recall on Passat Sedans

Volkswagen AG issued a voluntary recall of 1999-2005 Passat sedans sold in the United States to install an additional heat shield.

About 410,000 Passats with automatic transmissions are eligible for the recall. A damaged heat shield that comes in contact with the exhaust system "could create risk," the German automaker said in a statement Friday.

GM's Chevy Volt Plug-in Concept: How It Works

A little old, but still an interesting read

The Volt, a new Chevrolet concept car, is a different kind of hybrid. In a stand­ard “parallel” hybrid, such as the Toyota Prius, a gasoline engine provides most of the drive to the wheels, assisted by a battery-powered electric motor. The Volt, which introduces GM’s E-Flex “series” hybrid technology, is propelled only by its electric motor. There is a gasoline engine onboard, but its sole job is to turn a generator that produces electricity. Here are the details.

1. Gasoline Engine
The three-cylinder, 1.0-liter turbocharged internal-combustion engine turns on as needed to power the electric generator. In other E-Flex cars, diesel engines or hydrogen fuel cells could be used.

2. Generator
The 53-kw generator, powered by the engine, can recharge the battery in about 30 minutes and, under certain driving conditions, send current directly to the motor.

3. Electric Motor
The 120-kw electric motor produces 160 hp. The car’s top speed is 120 mph. 4. Charge Ports
Ports on each side of the car allow a driver to recharge the batteries from a 110-volt outlet in about 6.5 hours.

5. Battery Pack
A 16-kwh li-ion battery pack provides enough power for up to 40 miles of driving before the generator is required.

6. Fuel Tanks
Two tanks hold a combined total of 12 gal. of gasoline or E85 (a mix of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Vehicles with poor re-sale values

Some cars just don't age well. Even a great value buy in the new-car market can bomb in the used-car market with low resale values.

Vehicles like the Kia Sedona minivan and Lincoln Town Car look good, perform well and often are purchased new at bargain prices. But take a closer look at them three years later, and their value has decreased at an accelerated rate. By the time a car owner is ready to unload one of these vehicles, the owner is often surprised to learn that the car has lost more than 50% of its value.

The shock doesn't end there. After the fifth year, when most vehicles have lost 65% of their value, these vehicles have lost 74% or more. The owners of value-losing vehicles learn that the cost of ownership, which includes depreciation, financing, insurance, repair, maintenance, fuel, taxes and fees, far exceed the vehicle's total monetary value in the fifth year of ownership.

"Resale value matters to everybody unless you are buying to drive it until the wheels fall off and never plan to sell it," says Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst with Kelley Blue Book. "That group represents a small percentage of new-car buyers. Everyone should look at this."

To identify the top 10 value-losing cars, we enlisted the help of Kelley Blue Book's Residual Value Guide for resale values. Kelley Blue Book defines resale value as the projected market value of a vehicle at a specific time in its life cycle. It is typically represented as a percentage of a vehicle's original manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) and is used for estimating the vehicle's value when it's sold or traded in.

Kelley Blue Book updates the data every two months. Our list was based on the November/December 2007 resale value statistics, which are also used by Kelley to compile its 2008 annual analysis.

Depreciation is often the greatest expense incurred by drivers during the first five years of vehicle ownership, but the most overlooked cost among consumers shopping for a new vehicle, says Nerad. With the average new vehicle losing 65% of its value--retaining about 35%--after a five-year ownership period, a $20,000 new car today will be worth somewhere close to $7,000 after five years. The vehicle that best holds resale value is the Mini Cooper, which retains 52% of its value after five years.

Consumer perception plays a big part, says Nerad. If consumers don't believe that a Kia or Suzuki is as good as a Honda or Toyota--whether that perception is justified or not--there will be a dampening effect on value. Shaking off bad brand perceptions isn't easy, says Nerad, adding, "Consumer perception doesn't change rapidly."

Take Kia Motors' popular value-priced Sedona minivan, which tops our list of value-losing vehicles. It comes with an industry-leading 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and has earned the Insurance Highway Institute's "Top Safety Pick" tag in the minivan category for the past three years.

But after five years of ownership, the Sedona retains an estimated 20% of its value. That works out to about $4,280 when using the base MSRP of $21,420 for a basic, entry-level Sedona. That's about $3,000 less than Edmunds.com's projected $7,101 true cost of ownership during year five. (Edmunds.com projects true cost of ownership data for all vehicles.)

Kia Motors says it is working to improve the Sedona's resale value. "It is important to note that Kia's resale values, including the Sedona, are rising," says Kia spokesman Alex Fedorak. He cited Automotive Lease Guide's published residual values for November and December 2007, where Kia received a three- to five-point improvement on its residual values across the board on the basis of current auction values in the standard 36-month period on 2007 and 2008 model-year vehicles.

A consumer also has to decide if saving money on the purchase of a new vehicle is more important than earning more money when selling the vehicle. Buying low is often the wrong strategy, says Nerad. "You end up losing more than you thought you were saving, because in three to five years it is worth so much less than a more tried and true brand," he says.

Suzuki is also working to boost its brand image. Three Suzuki vehicles made the value-losing list: the Reno, the Forenza and the Aerio, which was discontinued at the end of the 2007 model year. Its replacement is the 2008 SX4. The Reno and Forenza are projected to retain 25% of their original value; the Aerio 26%.

Suzuki, which is also battling against negative brand perception among consumers, says it is gradually winning points with skeptical U.S. buyers. It is offering new products backed by a seven-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty that is fully transferable and is intended to improve Suzuki's value position in the used-car market.

"In the last four years, Suzuki is second among major manufacturers in improving its resale performance," responds Suzuki spokesman David Boldt in an e-mail. "Enhanced brand awareness improves perception, and with it, opinion."

Boldt adds that newer models are receiving "residual values fully competitive in their respective segments." Supply and demand also affect resale value. That's the case with the Lincoln Town Car and Mercury Grand Marquis, which are plentiful in rental car and corporate fleets. The Town Car has a projected resale value of 21% of its original value; the Grand Marquis, 25% of its original value.

Vehicles that do not meet consumer expectations for reliability, dependability and fuel economy also struggle. The Dodge Durango SUV has a projected resale value of 24% of its original base MSRP of $26,455. "Resale values are influenced by supply and demand in the new- and used-car market." says Dan Bodene, a Dodge spokesman. "As gas prices have gone up in the last five years, the entire full-size SUV segment has dropped, depressing prices for most entrenched competitors. Most of the Durango's direct competitors are in the same range of value retention."

Mediocre models that went out with a whimper when discontinued don't resurface in the used-car market with a bang. The Suzuki Aerio was discontinued as a 2007 model; it has a projected 26% resale value after five years of ownership. The Chevrolet Uplander ends its run this year. It has a projected resale value of 25% of its original base MSRP of $21,540.

Customized vehicles, like the Ford Econoline van, tend to have lower resale value. Buyers equip the vehicles to fit their lifestyle, but there may be few others in the used-car market who share the same tastes.

Where else can consumers research this information on the Internet? In addition to the Kelley Blue Book information, Consumer Reports also publishes predicted depreciation vehicle ratings that forecast how well a vehicle is expected to hold its value during the first three years of ownership. The Lincoln Town Car, Dodge Durango, Ford Econoline, Mercury Grand Marquis and Chevrolet Uplander all received the lowest rating of 1 on a scale of 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor). The Suzuki Forenza and the Sedona each earned a rating of 2 (fair).

Data were not available for the Isuzu Ascender and Suzuki Aerio and Reno. Isuzu announced in January that it will discontinue selling Isuzus in the U.S. after January 2009. Suzuki is revamping its U.S. lineup. Forenza and Reno will "play a significantly smaller role in both sales volumes and resale performance," says Boldt.

Consumers can try to shore up resale value by equipping their vehicles with options others may want to buy later, like anti-lock brakes, alloy wheels, a CD player with CD changer, parking sensors, navigation systems, sensing cruise control and leather-covered seats. Kelley Blue Book also recommends selecting colors like black, white or silver and avoiding too much customization

Malaysan car PROTON recalled for rear whell bearing problem

PROTON is recalling its PROTON Savvy cars to address a possible problem.

In line with PROTON's continuing commitment to quality, regular random checks are conducted on PROTON cars as part of its i.Care programme. The results from the most recent inspection brought to attention the possibility of water entry into the rear wheel-bearing which could lead to a malfunction of the affected components.

PROTON's Managing Director Dato' Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir said, "The safety and satisfaction of our customers is a primary concern. As a precautionary measure, we are recalling all Savvy's for inspection and repair. We do apologise to all the Savvy owners for any inconvenience".

The recall will affect a total of 34,000 Savvy cars and PROTON will conduct the necessary checks and replacements at no cost to the customer. All PROTON Savvy owners are advised to take their cars to the nearest PROTON EDAR or EON service branches for an inspection. This recall is purely a precautionary measure as the convenience and safety of its customers is PROTON's highest priority.

Customers are therefore encouraged to immediately contact the nearest Proton Edar or EON service branch for an appointment to have their cars inspected.

As an alternative, please call PROTON i-Care at 1-300-880-888. Our staff will be happy to answer any queries that you may have as well as assist in making an appointment with a service centre.

PROTON assures its customers that it appreciates the trust and confidence reposed by its customers in its products. PROTON sincerely regrets any inconvenience to its customers.

PROTON thanks all of its customers for their patience and understanding and their support.

View the full listing of Proton Edar Service Centres, EON Service Centres and our Authorised Service Dealers.

PROTON, was established in 1983, and is Malaysia's 1st National manufacturer of automobiles. With operations in key market centers from UK and Western Europe to the Middle East, and across South-East Asia and Australasia, PROTON produces cars to suit a range of consumer demands and preferences. The offerings include versatile and reliable four-door family vehicles, two-door hatchbacks for the young-at-heart, luxurious and stylish executive sedans, as well as the world-renowned sports cars from Lotus.

PROTON’s inception as a key driver of national development has seen the brand accelerate its learning curve through technology transfer with strategic partnerships and technical collaborations. PROTON cars are now steadily on track to achieving the mission for the future, gearing up to achieve the promise of a marquee which builds cars with passion and soul; cars which are a delight to drive and a pleasure to own.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Three new eco-car projects approved

Thailand Wednesday approved granting tax privileges to automobile-makers Mitsubishi, Toyota and Tata to invest a combined 16.6 billion baht (536 million dollars) to produce more than 300,000 eco-cars for the domestic and export markets. Thailand's Board of Investment (BoI) Secretary General Sathit Chanchouwakul said the three companies would be ready to begin operations within two to four years.

Volkswagen, which has also submitted a proposal to produce eco-cars in Thailand, was not included among the approvals granted by BoI Wednesday.

The Mitsubishi project promised to invest 4.7 billion baht to produce 107,000 eco-cars in Thailand, 88 per cent for export, while Toyota will invest 4.6 billion baht to make 100,000 units by 2012, 50 per cent for export, and India's Tata Motor has pledged to invest 7.3 billion baht to make 100,000 units by 2010, of which 52 per cent will be exported.

The BoI - the government's investment promotion body which grants tax waivers to favoured industries - had previously approved similar eco-car investments worth 21.8 billion baht (703 million dollars) by Asian Honda Motors, Suzuki Motor and Siam Nissan Automobile, the local subsidiaries of Japanese auto multinationals Honda, Suzuki and Nissan, respectively.

Thailand, which already ranks among the world's top 15 auto exporters, is seeking to become a hub for manufacturing small, reasonably priced "eco car" models for both the domestic and export markets.

Under the government's policy, manufacturers who produce eco-car models in Thailand that meet the set requirements will be eligible for a cut on excise taxes from the current 30 per cent of the factory price down to 17 per cent, as of October 2009.

The projects will also receive BoI privileges, which grant tax exemptions on imported equipment and parts, plus tax holidays. To qualify for the tax privileges, manufacturers must produce cars with an engine size of no more than 1,300 to 1,400 cc, using no more than 5 litres of fuel per 1,200 kilometres and must comply with Euro 4 emission standards.

Thailand is already the world's second-largest market for pickups after the United States and has become a leading exporter of the vehicle over the past decade. During the first two months of 2008, Thailand produced 231,680 vehicles, up 27.28 per cent from the same period last year. About 57 per cent of the total production, or 132,674 vehicles, were exported from January to February, a 39.5-per-cent jump on last year's vehicle exports from the same period a year ago. In 2007, Thailand's total vehicle production reached 1.25 million units.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How to Pick out GPS for your wheels

SOURCE: http://consumerreportsblog.blogspot.com/

If you often travel to new places, have trouble reading maps, or simply hate to ask for directions, you might want to consider a portable GPS navigation system. Once you give it a destination, the system can plot out a route, deliver spoken directions, and display each turn as you drive, or in some cases, walk. Most units let you choose guidance options that include plotting the shortest, fastest, and even a toll-free route. An internal database also includes common points of interest such as gas stations and ATMs, and the nav system can route you to the nearest one. You can even choose a nearby restaurant by the type of food.

Although not always as easy to use as the in-dash systems available on many new vehicles, portable systems are catching up. Features like internal, rechargeable batteries and pre-loaded North America map databases are now commonly included on budget systems. More premium features such as real-time traffic reporting are becoming available on more affordable units, although those often require additional hardware.

Portables have the distinct advantage of being easy to move from car to car, enabling a family to share a unit or lend it to others. Their low weight and small size are well suited to long-distance business travel and vacations by plane (for use in a rental car when you arrive), or for walking and biking tours (for use as a handheld device).

And with prices from about $200 to $650, portable units are much less expensive than the typical price tag of up to $2,000 for an integrated, in-dash factory system.

As sales of portable GPS navigation devices continue to skyrocket, more manufacturers are entering the market, giving shoppers many products from which to choose. With our latest ratings update, we have added new units from Garmin, Hewlett-Packard, LG, Magellan, Mio, Navigon, Pioneer, and TomTom. For our next update, we plan to post ratings on devices from Garmin, Harman-Kardon, Panasonic, Sony, and Uniden.

Units have decreased in size since the first portables came on the market, but that is not always good. If a device is too small, it can be hard to read or operate. We find that the common 3.5-inch screen, measured diagonally, is a good compromise between portability and usability. If you plan to use the device frequently, consider a compact unit with a wide screen, giving a larger map view, easier-to-read information, and bigger touch-screen buttons.

Special features like photo viewing, a video player, hands-free calling, and traffic information are available in an increasing number of units.

None of the navigation systems we've tested is perfect. They don't substitute for local knowledge, and all databases had minor errors. But a portable system will usually get you there, guiding you on the way and providing you with peace of mind when you are traveling to unfamiliar areas. The highest-rated models make it especially easy to enter destinations and they give the most helpful directions.

Navigation is the priority. We recommend focusing first on how well the system works for navigation, using the ratings to prioritize nav features and map database coverage, over entertaining, nonessential extras.

Built-in battery convenience. Look for a unit with good battery life, especially if you want to use it for walking. While all systems include a plug for your car's 12-volt outlet, a built-in battery leaves you the option to use the power port for another device, such as a cell phone, and it eliminates cord clutter. A battery also enables you to preload a route before you enter the vehicle. Some models are also packaged with a traditional AC plug for in-home use and recharging.

Text-to-speech capability. A system that speaks street names rather than says simply "turn left" can help you negotiate an unfamiliar area and is especially useful in urban driving, where streets can be close together. It is a handy feature that reduces the need to take your eyes off the road to scan the on-screen map.

Avoiding traffic. A system with traffic-information capability can be helpful if you travel a lot in cities that have good traffic-monitoring coverage. Between the map and detour functions, the system can help you route around traffic congestion and alert you to accidents and road construction. But as with traditional radio traffic reports, there are some weaknesses in the nav-system-based services, specifically related to available data and the timeliness of the report. Unless specifically stated that a unit has an internal receiver, many devices need an external receiver or a cell phone to obtain traffic data and most will require a subscription fee for the information. (Typically, only the premium-priced units have a built-in receiver and that is noted on the product pages, accessed through the Ratings chart.)

Modern features. A full-featured model can effectively upgrade an older car with features like Bluetooth hands-free telephone capability, MP3 player, an iPod connection, and an FM transmitter.

Travel gear. If you travel outside the United States, look for a unit that offers maps for navigating overseas. Most will function in the U.S. and Canada, but some models, such as the Garmin 770 and TomTom GO 920t, will also work in Europe and other countries.

Size matters. The more portable the unit, the better-especially if you frequently pack it in a suitcase. Some are no bigger than a wallet and weigh less than 7 ounces, while others are as large as a paperback book and weigh considerably more-two pounds or more.

Mounting. Most models mount to your windshield using a suction cup attached to either a ball-in-socket, rigid, or gooseneck-type arm. We find the rigid arms are better at holding the units in place, especially over bumps. (Note: Windshield mounting is prohibited in California and Minnesota.)

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner