Low Gas Prices Send Prices for Used Plug-in Car Tumbling


Despite its recent rise, a gallon of regular gas is still $1.06 cheaper today than it was a year ago, according to AAA. That's led prices for used electric vehicles to plunge, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Related: How Would Chevy's Bolt EV Stack Up Against the Nissan Leaf?

How much? Try more than $2,000. That's the difference in average listing prices between a 3-year-old Nissan Leaf on Cars.com in January 2015 versus a 3-year-old Leaf in January 2014. Last month, the average 2012 Nissan Leaf listed for just $15,575 — a $2,226 drop compared to the average listing price for a 2011 Leaf in January 2014, which was $17,801.

The drop reflects a rough stretch for EV resale value, but it's great news if you're shopping for a used plug-in car.

By Kelsey Mays | February 27, 2015 | Comments (8)

Real Consumers to Test Self-Driving Volvo Fleet by 2017


Self-driving cars appear to be one step closer to the average Joe. Volvo aims to put consumers — not engineers or professional drivers — behind the wheel of a test fleet of self-driving XC90 SUVs in Sweden by 2017. Part of the automaker's "Drive Me" initiative, the project will deploy 100 autonomous cars on select roads near Volvo's headquarters in suburban Gothenburg, Sweden.

Related: Dude, Where's My Self-Driving Car? Experts Discuss Viability

The company already has several self-driving prototypes on the road around Gothenburg equipped with its Autopilot technology. It's hardly the first foray into self-driving vehicles, but Volvo research and development chief Peter Mertens called the consumer deployment the "world's first large-scale pilot" of its kind.

By Kelsey Mays | February 24, 2015 | Comments (0)

Honda Trims Civic Production Amid Dealer Glut


Shopping for a Honda Civic? You might have fewer cars to choose from over the next few weeks. Supply disruptions prompted Honda to announce production cuts at two plants — one in Indiana, another in Canada — by 5,000 cars next week, the Associated Press reports via U.S. News & World Reports. It comes on the heels of Honda cutting production by 20,000 cars at five North American plants this past week. Most of the cuts were Civic compacts, a Honda spokesman told AP.

Related: 2015 Honda Civic: What's Changed

Cutting 25,000 cars is significant when you consider that Honda's U.S. and Canadian plants built 35,802 Civics in January, according to Automotive News. The good news for car shoppers, however, is that dealers have more Civics than they know what to do with right now.

Low gas prices sapped demand for the fuel-efficient compact, and sales fell 14.3 percent in January. Honda began February with a 118-day supply of Civics on dealer lots or in the pipeline — way more than the industry's 82-day average. The glut continues today: Cars.com lists some 62,000 new Civics on dealer lots, or about as much inventory as the Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus combined.

By Kelsey Mays | February 20, 2015 | Comments (0)

Will Apple Build its Own Car?


Your smartphone and your car could someday come from the same company. The Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 13 (subscription required) that Apple has assigned "several hundred employees" to work on an Apple-branded vehicle.g

Related: Should You Use the Apple Watch in Your Car?

The news comes less than a year after Apple unveiled its CarPlay automotive multimedia platform. One source told WSJ that the project, code-named "Titan," will result in a car that resembles a minivan. The newspaper notes that Apple often creates prototypes of new technologies and products without ever building them, but sources indicated that the project's scale and seniority suggest the company is serious about it.

Still, it could take years to bring such a car to market unless Apple is already far into development or has a deal with an established automaker to share parts or a platform. It often takes an automaker five years and more than $1 billion to develop and market a car from scratch; that's including everything from factory tooling to certifying through a swath of federal safety standards. That's before it's even crash-tested by third parties.

Apple has the money to do it, having reported $178 billion in cash as of late 2014, according to WSJ. An Apple car wouldn't be the first to emerge from California's Silicon Valley. Tesla is headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., about 10 miles from Apple's Cupertino offices. It builds the Model S in Fremont, just across the San Francisco Bay. And Google, which introduced a small fleet of self-driving prototypes in 2014, is headquartered in Mountain View — just minutes from both companies.

Cars.com photo by Jenni Newman

By Kelsey Mays | February 16, 2015 | Comments (5)

Report: Cars Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks


A new report from Congress says the wireless technology in cars is vulnerable to hacking. The report, headed by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., contends that wireless networks, Bluetooth, telematics systems like GM's OnStar and synced smartphones are all potential points of access for hackers.

Related: AAA Wants to Protect Personal Data With Connected-Car Bill of Rights

Beyond the implications for driver privacy, Markey's report says hackers could control your car's acceleration, braking and other major systems — an exercise CBS' 60 Minutes demonstrated in its Feb. 8 episode. This hasn't actually happened, The Detroit News points out, but wireless hacking means it could. Regulators, meanwhile, have been slow to step up their efforts on automotive cybersecurity.

Click here to read the full story from The Detroit News.

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

By Kelsey Mays | February 9, 2015 | Comments (0)

Report: GM Will Build Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 10.01.50 AM

Car shoppers may see an affordable electric car with the longest range yet in the new Chevrolet Bolt, which GM reportedly plans to build near Detroit starting late next year. So says Reuters, citing two unnamed supplier sources that say GM has green-lit the concept car — which it merely hailed as an example of its "commitment to electrification" during January's 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Related: How Would Chevy's Bolt EV Stack Up Against the Nissan Leaf?

The Bolt would go into production in October 2016, Reuters reports, and GM aims to build only about 25,000 to 30,000 cars per year. That's significantly more than the 20,860 Volt range-extended EVs that the automaker built in 2014, according to Automotive News. If the Bolt delivers on its promise, there should be enough interest to justify the production. At the Detroit Auto Show, GM said it designed the concept to have an all-electric range of more than 200 miles — well beyond any affordable EV today — and start around $30,000 after a $7,500 federal tax credit.

By Kelsey Mays | February 6, 2015 | Comments (4)

Used Cars Could Depreciate More in 2015


Looking for a used car? This might be the year to start shopping. Ratings agency Fitch and Cars.com partner Black Book, a used-car valuation service, said in a new report that increasing new-car production will turn up the heat on vehicle depreciation in 2015.

Related: Used-Car Prices Fall for Eighth Month in a Row

The jump is significant. In 2014, used cars averaged a 12.1 percent rate of depreciation — which is to say, the average used car was worth 12.1 percent less in 2014 than it was in 2013. Black Book expects the rate of depreciation to climb to 14.5 percent in 2015. But before you run out and sell your car ahead of the decline, Black Book said those depreciation rates are simply reverting toward their pre-recession norms.

If you bought a used car in the immediate years after the recession, you know how pricey they were. That's because the annual depreciation rate on a 2- to 6-year-old car was just 7.7 percent in 2011. From 2012 to 2014, it hovered between 12 and 13 percent per year. Contrast that to pre-recession depreciation rates, which ranged from 14 to 18 percent per year — a rate we may see again in 2015. As depreciation increases, Fitch notes that residual values for auto leasing will fall. That, in turn, could make the monthly cost of a lease rise.

By Kelsey Mays | February 5, 2015 | Comments (2)

Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: January 2015


Auto sales got off to a strong start in January as car shoppers piled into pickup trucks, SUVs and — less expectedly — small cars. With the largest seven automakers reporting figures, new-car sales are up 14.8 percent. The Detroit Three and Japan's three largest automakers all registered double-digit gains, while Hyundai-Kia, the lone laggard, gained just 2.2 percent.

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

Most of the popular nameplates saw renewed popularity: With a new Ford F-150 in growing dealer supply (and landing among January's fastest-selling cars), the F-Series pickup truck gained 16.8 percent. The Chevrolet Silverado increased 24.8 percent. Compact-car shoppers pushed the Toyota Corolla, goosed by slightly more year-over-year incentives, up 20.2 percent. And the refreshed Honda CR-V — outside of pickup trucks, the best-selling nameplate in December 2014 — remains hot, ballooning 27.3 percent without incentives.

By Kelsey Mays | February 3, 2015 | Comments (8)

What Were the Largest Recalls in 2014?


Any way you slice it, 2014 was a record year for recalls. It took less than half the year for the industry to crack the full-year record en route to more than 62 million recalls for the year, by The New York Times' estimate.

Related: More Recall News

What were the largest recalls in 2014? Assessing totals is murky science at best, given the numbers are often amended later and recalls are sometimes expanded. We searched the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's records for every recall issued in 2014, with the caveat that some numbers could change. Not surprisingly, the two biggest recall headlines — ignitions and airbags — accounted for plenty of the top 10.

By Kelsey Mays | February 2, 2015 | Comments (0)

IIHS: Late-Model SUVs Have Lowest Driver Death Rate; Small Cars Have the Highest


Remember the old warning of SUVs rolling over and killing you? Thanks to the spread of electronic stability systems, the opposite is now true. Late-model SUVs have the lowest driver death rates among all cars, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In fact, the rollover death rate for model-year 2011 vehicles is 75 percent lower than it was among 2004 model-year cars.

Related: Study: Half of Young Driver Fatalities Were in Vehicles at Least 11 Years Old

IIHS analyzed driver death rates for 2011 models and 2008-2010 versions of the same cars (not a previous generation) from the 2009 through 2012 calendar year. During the observed period, two models accounted for zero driver deaths: the Honda Odyssey minivan and the Subaru Legacy sedan. Certain versions of seven other models had zero driver deaths, too: the front-wheel-drive Kia Sorento and all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive versions of the Audi A4, Lexus RX 350, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Toyota Sequoia and Volvo XC90. Other versions of those models either had higher death rates or too small a sample size, IIHS spokesman Russ Rader told us, and the study was too far along by the time 2013 fatality data arrived late last year.

In total, five of the nine zero-death cars were SUVs. By contrast, eight of the 10 cars with the highest driver death rates were small cars:

By Kelsey Mays | January 29, 2015 | Comments (2)

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