Honda Accord, Civic Remain Top Targets for Thieves

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If you own a Honda Accord or Civic, or a full-size Ford pickup truck, you might want to take a moment to make sure your auto-insurance payments are up to date. You drive one of the top three most-stolen vehicles in the U.S. That's according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau's just-released "Hot Wheels" list, which examines annual vehicle-theft data submitted by law-enforcement agencies across the country to the National Crime Information Center to determine the makes and models most-frequently reported stolen during the previous year.

As in past years, Honda Accords and Civics by far were the most-stolen vehicles in 2012, totaling 58,596 and 47,037, respectively, with full-size Ford pickups coming in a distant third with 26,770 thefts. Older Accords and Civics eclipsed newer Hondas in theft frequency, which NICB attributes to improved anti-theft technology. Most of the makes and models return from the previous list; the only newcomers were the Nissan Altima (No. 9) and Nissan Maxima (No. 10), knocking the Ford Explorer and Nissan Sentra off this year's roster.

By Matt Schmitz | August 20, 2013 | Comments (4)

What's the Most Affordable Midsize Sedan?

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The midsize sedan is one of the most popular segments in the U.S. It serves as a family car, commuter, road tripper and more.

Because of this popularity, automakers offer a dizzying amount of styles and options for their midsizers. This differing content makes it hard for car shoppers to compare apples to apples from one automaker to the next.

We analyzed the segment for the features most drivers would want in a car of this class and uncovered some surprising results.

By David Thomas | July 30, 2013 | Comments (12)

Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: May 2013

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The last time Ford sold 70,000 F-Series pickups in a single month was March 2007 when unemployment was just 4.4%. The best-selling truck eclipsed that mark again in May 2013, gaining 30.6% to hit 71,604 sales. That's the best May since 2005, an era when the F-Series' clipped along at 800,000 or more sales a year.

Such is the pickup rebound, fueled by a construction market that saw some of the highest housing starts in recent months since 2008. The Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra and Chrysler's Ram pickups all had 20%-plus gains for the month — and this comes with little increases in incentives versus May 2012. Ford's recent plans to add jobs to its Kansas City, Mo., facility, where the F-150 is built, seems like a safe bet.

While Ford led Detroit's sales gains, Nissan's 24.7% sales increase led the largest Asian automakers. Sales for the Altima boomed 40.8%, and that's with slightly lower incentives versus a year ago. The rival Honda Accord added 11.7% to stay ahead by fewer than 1,500 sales. Virtually every Honda sale in May "represents a purchase by an individual customer," Honda sales chief John Mendel said in a statement — a reference to Honda's fleet sales, which are by far the lowest among the seven largest automakers.

By Kelsey Mays | June 3, 2013 | Comments (10)

2014 Chevrolet Malibu: First Look

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  • Competes with: Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima
  • Looks like: More curves and chrome up front, same Camaro-like rear end
  • Drivetrain: standard 196-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder and six-speed automatic; optional turbo 2.0-liter and eAssist 2.4-liter
  • Hits dealerships: This fall

Chevrolet is pulling a Honda move with its midsize sedan; just one year after the Malibu's redesign it gets a refresh for 2014. The new Malibu gets a more athletic looking exterior and an updated standard engine.

Outside, the focus in front is on the grille; a wider, lower grille opening and more chrome highlight the changes. Out back, the sedan retains its much-maligned squared-off taillights. 

By Jennifer Geiger | May 31, 2013 | Comments (16)

Recall Alert: 38,197 Chevrolet, Buick Hybrids

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GM is recalling 38,197 model-year 2012-13 Chevrolet and Buick eAssist light hybrid cars due to a problem with circuit boards in the trunk that could cause a fire, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Affected vehicles include Chevrolet Malibu Eco, Buick LaCrosse and Buick Regal sedans. Circuit boards in the trunk could overheat, causing the cars' 12-volt battery to drain and one of several indicator lights to turn on. If owners ignore the warning lights, the engine could stall and a fire could occur in the trunk, the newspaper reported. The issue is not related to the lithium-ion battery that is part of the eAssist hybrid system.

Owners will be notified "soon," according to the newspaper, though no specific time frame was given. Owners of Malibu Ecos, Buick LaCrosses and Buick Regals who notice any kind of warning light are encouraged to take their car to a dealer immediately. For more info, owners can call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's vehicle safety hotline at 888-327-4236 or go to www.safercar.gov.

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GM recalls more than 38,000 Chevy, Buick hybrids due to fire risk (Los Angeles Times)
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By Matt Schmitz | May 6, 2013 | Comments (0)

April's Fastest- and Slowest-Selling Cars

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April's fastest-selling cars mixed luxury models with recent redesigns and, oddly enough, a few oldies. The Audi Q5 and Q7 — frequent speedy sellers despite their age — met the likes of the BMW X3, Land Rover Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class and Lincoln MKZ. A couple 2014 redesigns also made the list: the Subaru Forester and Chevrolet Impala.

It's good news for Ford's Lincoln division, whose redesigned MKZ has been hampered by production setbacks during its launch. Both the MKZ and MKZ Hybrid were among April's fastest-selling cars, reprising the cars' March appearance — but with a key difference. As we reported on April 2, March's brisk sales pace didn't translate into higher sales, but that changed in April. Lincoln shoppers bought 4,012 MKZs and MKZ Hybrids, up 115.4% versus April 2012. It was the best month in the nameplate's seven-year history, Ford proclaimed.

A few oddball cars often land among the fastest sellers, and April was no exception. The current Scion xB hatchback hit dealerships in May 2007 while Nissan introduced the current Frontier pickup truck at the 2004 Detroit auto show. In car years, the elder Nissan is somewhere between actors Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer — and it hasn't aged as well. But the Frontier and xB spent little time on dealer lots in April, and both have minimal incentives. Go figure.

April's slowest sellers document the continuing sales trickle for two cars: the Acura ILX Hybrid and Chevrolet Malibu Eco. Both variants make up a good chunk of their respective nameplates in Cars.com new-car inventory, but they took 150 and 229 days, respectively, to move. Contrast that with April's 51-day monthly average, which stayed about even with March (48 days) but came in a bit slower than April 2012's 45 days.

Here are March's fastest and slowest sellers:

By Kelsey Mays | May 2, 2013 | Comments (1)

March's Fastest- and Slowest-Selling Cars

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We won't have March sales results until later today, but the month's fastest- and slowest-selling cars depict that a couple automakers are catching a break. With a faster-charging option, more cargo space and a lower starting price, the 2013 Nissan Leaf landed a spot among March's fastest-selling cars — this after meeting less than half of Nissan's sales expectations in 2011 and 2012. In March, the all-electric hatchback averaged just seven days to sell. Leaf sales increased 13% through February, so we'll see if Nissan's little EV pulled off an automotive Florida Gulf Coast University last month — or if the faster pace drove few actual sales.

Meanwhile, the redesigned Lincoln MKZ, which was beleaguered by a slow ramp-up in dealer supply, also hit its stride. Lincoln dealers needed just 14 days on average to sell an MKZ. That beat rivals like the Lexus ES 350 (35 days, on average) and Acura TL (50 days). Other movers include the usual slate of redesigns, from the redesigned Subaru Forester to Toyota's fourth-generation RAV4. Flagship luxury SUVs had their day, too: Mercedes-Benz's GL-Class marked its sixth month on the list, and Land Rover's Range Rover flagship had its third.

Despite a cooler March versus last year's record warmth, SUVs represented a similar share of the month's fastest-selling cars. Nine of March's 17 fastest-selling cars were SUVs; that's about even with March 2012, when eight of 17 fast sellers were SUVs.

By Kelsey Mays | April 2, 2013 | Comments (4)

GM's New Framework Could Add Apps Galore

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The weather map displayed on a small screen showed what anyone could gather from looking outside. I sat inside a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, tucked into a brick-lined gallery in Chicago during a recent auto show. The digital map cast most of northeast Illinois with a blue overlay — snow. Outside the gallery, the white stuff came down thick.

Sam Johnson, lead engineer for Chevrolet's MyLink multimedia system, had fired up The Weather Channel's app in the Malibu's center display screen. It works similarly to the smartphone app. He also had online radio aggregators iHeartRadio, TuneIn and Slacker on hand. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Through GM's new system, dozens of car-specific apps could be available through the automaker's touch-screen systems: Chevrolet's MyLink, Buick and GMC's IntelliLink and Cadillac's CUE. GM announced the new framework at January's Consumer Electronics Show. I saw it in action at this month's Chicago Auto Show. It's similar to the Car Connectivity Consortium's free-form MirrorLink initiative, of which GM remains a member. But here, The General gives the marching orders.

By Kelsey Mays | February 21, 2013 | Comments (4)

Chevrolet Lowers Prices on 2013 Malibu

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Online searches are increasingly important for selling cars, and GM has recognized this, deciding to drop the Chevrolet Malibu's price as much as $770 on some models in an effort to improve the car's position in search results.

The average price reduction for the 2013 model will be about $450, Russ Clark, Malibu marketing director, told Bloomberg News. The move puts the Malibu before rival Toyota Camry in online searches that arranges results by price. "We did it in order to try to generate more potential traffic on the car both on the websites as well as dealers, but I can't tell you that January itself was a big change just because of that," he said. "It recognizes the competitiveness of the segment and ensures that we remain on the shopping list."

The price cuts vary by trim level, but they've now made the starting price $345 lower on the base 1LS trim, putting it at $22,805, including an $810 destination fee. This does bring it in lower than the Camry base model at $23,030, including a $795 destination charge, and has worked to reposition the Malibu in searches on Cars.com.

By Aaron Bragman | February 11, 2013 | Comments (9)

Recall Alert: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu

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GM is recalling 8,519 model-year 2013 versions of the Chevrolet Malibu sedan due to suspension bolt problems, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The affected vehicles may have one or more suspension bolts that weren't adequately tightened. This could lead to a sudden change in handling, increasing the risk of a crash. According to a GM letter to NHTSA, "Initially, noise and a minor handling effect may be noticed. As the condition progresses, sudden changes in the vehicle handling could occur and the driver may not be able to control the vehicle."

GM has already started the owner notification process, and dealers will inspect the bolts and retighten as necessary for free. Owners can call GM at 800-630-2438 or NHTSA's vehicle safety hotline at 888-327-4236 for more information.

In other GM recall news, NHTSA is expanding a previous 2012 Buick Verano, 2012 Chevrolet Cruze and 2012 Chevrolet Sonic airbag recall to include the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro. Click here for the original recall or call GM for more information.

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By Jennifer Geiger | January 31, 2013 | Comments (2)

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