New York Times: NHTSA Has 'Record of Missteps'

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A New York Times investigation into the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration alleges that the nation's top auto safety regulator spent the past decade stumbling over recalls and withholding its legal powers to regulate an auto industry with record-breaking recalls in 2014.

Perhaps the most damning part: Since 2000, automakers are required to report any claims of serious injury or death as a result of vehicle defects. NHTSA is allowed to make what's called a "death inquiry," which asks automakers to provide the cause of a given accident. But the answer is optional, and the vast majority of automakers decline to provide it. Prior to the publication of the article, NHTSA reversed its policy and now requires those answers.

Click here to read the story, which winds through airbag failures at Honda and fires at Jeep, plus NHTSA's subpoena powers and budget.

By Kelsey Mays | September 15, 2014 | Comments (1)

Detroit Tops U.S. In Car Insurance Costs

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Detroit isn't just the car capital of the U.S. — it's also the king of car-insurance costs. According to insuranceQuotes.com, a subsidiary of finance-info provider Bankrate Insurance, the Motor City and its metropolitan area lay claim to the dubious distinction of having the most expensive auto insurance in the nation.

Related: Know Your Limits: Minimum Auto Coverage Varies by State

Detroit-area drivers on average pay 165 percent more than the national average for car insurance, followed by New York, where motorists pay 36 percent more, and Miami, 34 percent more. The least expensive premiums, the website stated, are enjoyed by Charlotte, N.C., where area residents pay 43 percent less than the national average; Cleveland, 31 percent less; and Pittsburgh, 24 percent less.

By Matt Schmitz | September 12, 2014 | Comments (2)

Toyota: Precollision Systems 'Widely Available' by 2018 Model Year

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Toyota says it plans to introduce new collision mitigation technology in 2015 and hopes the technology will become widely available — but not necessarily standard — across the automaker's lineup by the 2018 model year. Company executives recently told The Detroit News that the automaker would install collision-prevention systems across its lineup by 2017, but spokesman Moe Durand later clarified to Cars.com that the date reflected the 2017 calendar year, which translates to the 2017 or 2018 model year depending on the rollout.

Related: 2015 Toyota Sienna Price Jumps $1,680 Over 2014 Model

In what the automaker calls "all-new, multifeature active safety systems" that incorporate "precollision" technology, Toyota will introduce such systems ahead of any government mandate, Seigo Kuzumaki, deputy chief safety technology officer, told reporters last week.

Collision-prevention systems encompass a number of emerging technologies. Chief among them is forward-collision warning, which alerts you if you're closing fast on a slower car or stationary object. If you ignore the warning many such systems can hit the brakes just before impact. A number of Toyota models — the Prius hybrid and Highlander SUV plus every Lexus — already offer collision warning as an option. But it's missing on a number of affordable cars, including the Toyota Corolla and every Scion. Toyota will offer precollision technology even in its "most affordable compacts," Kuzumaki said, but it's unclear whether that includes Scion. A Toyota spokesman didn't respond to our query.

By Kelsey Mays | September 10, 2014 | Comments (0)

Cadillac Preps Self-Driving Tech for 2017

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In the not-too-distant future, your Cadillac could know that another car is approaching from a blind corner and warn you before you or the other car could see or detect the danger.

Related: Feds: Car-to-Car Tech Can Save Lives

That's because so-called "vehicle-to-vehicle" technology will make its debut in an all-new 2017 car from GM's luxury division, CEO Mary Barra told reporters at the Intelligent Transport System World Congress in Detroit on Sunday. The 2017 Cadillac CTS will also boast such tech.

GM plans to debut the technology under the term "Super Cruise," which will also enable semi-autonomous driving. Super Cruise can brake, accelerate and maintain your lane through steering assist without any driver input. Many automakers already offer such technology — Mercedes-Benz's Distronic Plus with Steering Assist, for example — but require you to periodically keep your hands on the wheel. In certain highway conditions, Super Cruise will not.

By Kelsey Mays | September 8, 2014 | Comments (0)

Seven-Year Car Loans More Popular, but Beware

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Those loans, they're getting awfully long. Experian Automotive says that in the first quarter of 2014, 24.9 percent of all new-car loans were 73 to 84 months long. Four years ago, less than 10 percent of loans were that long. In fact, such lengthy terms have pulled the average new-car loan to 66 months. That's an all-time record.

Related: Deferred Car Payments: Read the Fine Print

As credit continues to open up — and, some argue, automakers try to maintain the past year's sales growth — car loans continue to lengthen. But make sure you consider the terms carefully, because even if you can get a longer loan it doesn't mean you should.

By Kelsey Mays | September 5, 2014 | Comments (4)

Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: August 2014

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The Honda Accord topped the Toyota Camry to become the nation's best-selling car in August. The Accord's sales surged 32.5 percent and signaled a return by shoppers to the tried-and-true family schleppers — midsize sedans — as kids headed back to school. Shoppers flocked toward popular models like the Accord, Ford Fusion (up 19.5 percent) and Hyundai Sonata (up 24.7 percent) as family-sedan nameplates gained 9.5 percent in overall sales. The Accord, in particular, had a few more incentives than a year ago, which is rare for Honda, and shoppers responded. It put the Accord above the Camry in monthly sales for the first time since December 2013.

Related: August's Fastest- and Slowest-Selling Cars

With sales from the largest seven automakers up 5.1 percent, industry projections suggest a sales pace not seen since mid-2006. Shoppers chose Chrysler (up 19.8 percent) and Nissan (up 11.5 percent) more than other automakers. GM, whose sales fell 1.2 percent on slow Buick and Cadillac sales, was the only automaker to see a drop. Whether this can be blamed on the automaker's recall crisis is hard to say, given GM has seen a sales uptick through much of the year.

By Kelsey Mays | September 3, 2014 | Comments (5)

Deferred Payments: Read the Fine Print

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Until someone downs that last Labor-Day brat, Fiat Chrysler Automobile's Summer Clearance event will allow you to finance a new Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram or Fiat without car payments for the first 90 days. Chevrolet's Labor Day sale has a similar deal: Finance a new Chevy, and you can take three months off before your first car payment.

Sounds pretty good, right? Not so fast.

Related: Chevrolet, Ford Kick off Labor Day Sales Early

Make sure you read the fine print. Deferred payments might seem like a win-win, but the terms can vary — and the details make a big difference in how smart it might be to put off those payments.

By Kelsey Mays | August 26, 2014 | Comments (1)

Feds: Car-to-Car Tech Can Save Lives

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A new report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives a sneak peek at the future of accident avoidance. The agency says two technologies, left-turn assist and intersection-movement assist, could prevent as many as 592,000 accidents and 1,083 traffic fatalities a year. They're part of a burgeoning future of V2V, or vehicle-to-vehicle, technology.

Related: U.S. Government Considers Mandatory Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication

The 305-page report, which includes analyses of privacy and security implications, accompanies NHTSA's proposal to issue rules around vehicle-to-vehicle safety technology. The highlighted technologies, LTA and IMA respectively, have yet to be sold on mass-market vehicles. But the study suggests they could help prevent a lot of collisions.

By Kelsey Mays | August 19, 2014 | Comments (3)

Chevrolet, Ford Kick Off Labor Day Sales Early

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It's still a couple weeks before you can fire up the barbecue and watch your alma mater get steamrolled by the Southeastern Conference, but some car dealers are kicking off Labor Day early — on the sales front, that is. Automotive News reports (subscription required) that Ford launched its Labor Day sale on July 29. The sale, which runs through Sept. 2, includes most of its lineup save the 2015 Mustang, F-Series and commercial vans, according to Automotive News.

Related: July's Fastest- and Slowest-Selling Cars

We checked the offers, and most involve zero-percent financing for as long as 72 months, or offers of up to around $3,000 off an Escape, $3,500 off an Edge and $3,500 off a Fusion (all 2014s). That's more than what Ford offered on the Fusion a year ago, but incentives don't appear to have increased a great deal in the past month, so this summer sale could mostly be a new name for existing spiffs.

GM, meanwhile, started its Chevy Labor Day Sale early because, as GM spokesman Jim Cain told Automotive News, "Ford started its Labor Day sale a little bit early." The brand's sale includes three months' deferred payments on the 2014 Silverado, Traverse, Cruze, Malibu, Camaro and Impala. Cash incentives on those models amount to $2,500 on the Cruze, $2,000 on the Malibu, $1,000 on the Impala, $2,000 on the Camaro and $2,000 on the Traverse (all 2014s). Chevrolet is GM's only brand that's offering the 90-day deferrals, Cain told us. GM isn't offering the deal for its Buick, Cadillac and GMC brands.

By Kelsey Mays | August 15, 2014 | Comments (0)

Report: GM Can't Find 6.4 Percent of Ignition-Recalled Cars

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Of the 2.2 million small cars in the U.S. that GM recalled for faulty ignition switches, the automaker can't find nearly 140,000 owners. A July 25 regulatory filing to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 139,592 recall notices for the Chevrolet Cobalt, Saturn Ion and other compacts couldn't be delivered, according to The Detroit News. That amounts to 6.4 percent of the cars, which GM recalled in a series of campaigns between Feb. 25 and April 9.

GM Ignition-Switch Recall: What Owners Need to Know

"Six percent is not really high at all, in terms of unreachable [owners]," GM spokesman Alan Adler told us. "We couldn't find owners for them at the end of the quarter. I'm sure the number's much lower now. That's all June 30 numbers."

The information comes as the automaker has reached out to owners of the cars, which range from the 2003 to the 2011 model years, through mailed notices, social media, English and Spanish versions of a recall website, gmignitionupdate.com, and full-page newspaper ads, The Detroit News reports.

By Kelsey Mays | August 8, 2014 | Comments (2)

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