Report: GM Ordered Replacement Ignition Switches Two Months Before Recall

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The New York Times reported today that GM ordered some 500,000 replacement ignition switches from auto-parts supplier Delphi Automotive in December 2013. That was nearly two months before GM told regulators and the general public that the existing ignition switches, which have led to some 2.2 million recalled small cars in the U.S., could get bumped into the "off" position. Citing emails declassified by a plaintiff's attorney during class-action litigation against GM — and first reported by The Wall Street Journal — the Times notes that the request represented "an urgent field action" and far outweighed a previous request for 11,000 such switches in 2012.

Related: New House Report Blasts NHTSA

The report fuels claims that GM knew about the problem before disclosing it to the public. Earlier this year, news reports said GM may have known about the faulty switches as early as 2002. The automaker faces investigations from the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, 48 state attorneys general and Canadian officials, according to The Detroit News.

GM says the emails simply confirm that the automaker's previous defect reporting and investigation systems needed reform, something it claimed it's done. "We have reorganized our entire safety investigation and decision process and have more investigators, move issues more quickly and make decisions with better data," the automaker said in a statement.

Click here to read the full story from the New York Times.

Cars.com photo by Ian Merritt

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

Peer-to-Peer Services Combine Car-Sharing With Airport Parking

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Want to offset some of that vacation cost or make a few extra bucks while on a business trip? Enter FlightCar, a sort of Airbnb for your ride. The San Francisco-based company launched at San Francisco International Airport in February 2013, and it's since expanded its 24/7 operations to Boston's Logan International Airport, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Related: Legislation Would Ground Recalled Rental Cars

FlightCar's cheeky website reads like a combination between an airport rent-a-car and a car-sharing program, and it has potential to save travelers big bucks. If you live in one of those four cities and own a 2001 or newer vehicle with fewer than 150,000 miles, you can create a free account and drop your wheels off at their airport locations, which are about a 10-minute drive from the terminal. FlightCar transfers you to the airport, puts your car through a cursory safety inspection, documents the cosmetic condition and parks it for free while you're gone ... and then things have the potential to get interesting.

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

Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: October 2014

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A rash of airbag recalls in October hasn't deterred car shoppers. Sales from seven largest automakers gained 5.8 percent in October, leading to an annualized rate that should top 16 million cars for the eighth month in a row. Among the top 10 sellers, two new compacts enter the list — the Toyota Corolla and the Chevrolet Cruze. The Ford Fusion and Toyota RAV4, despite sales increases, are off.

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

Mammoth gains from its Jeep and Ram divisions lifted Fiat Chrysler Automobiles up 21.7 percent to lead the Big Seven in sales gains. The Ram pickup gained 33.5 percent despite no sizeable change in incentives over the year-ago month, and that was versus a pretty good October 2013. It's possible the pickup snatched a number of truck shoppers who didn't want to buy the outgoing Ford F-150. September's strong housing starts, which typically feed pickup sales, provided a boost, too. F-Series sales slipped as truck shoppers await the redesigned 2015 F-150, which arrives later this year, but the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra combined to gain 10.8 percent.

 Here are the top 10 best-selling cars in October:

By Kelsey Mays | November 3, 2014 | Comments (0)

Study: Just One-Third of Hybrids Save Money Versus Non-Hybrid Counterparts

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Onetime tax incentives for hybrid-electric vehicles expired nearly four years ago, leaving consumers to wonder which hybrids actually save money versus their non-hybrid counterparts. Vincentric, a Michigan-based data provider, ran its latest cost-of-ownership model on dozens of hybrids. The result? A third of them save you money over five years' ownership, but most end up costing more.

Related: Study: Despite Recent Relief, Americans Spend More on Gas Overall

Vincentric analyzed cost-of-ownership data on 30 hybrids for the 2014 model year. The company found the average price premium for a hybrid versus its non-hybrid counterpart is $4,325, but five years' ownership and 75,000 total miles trim the hybrid premium to just $1,339. Over that same timespan, 10 of the 30 hybrids studied save money versus their non-hybrid counterparts. The thriftiest car, the 2014 Lexus CT 200h, saves $7,632 over five years. Still, Lexus also makes the worst value in the group — the 2014 GS 450h, which Vincentric says costs $8,155 more than its GS 350 counterpart.

Which hybrids come out on top? And which will cost you more? Read on to find out.

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

Toyota Leads, Fiat-Chrysler Disappoints in Consumer Reports' Latest Reliability Study

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Toyota and its Lexus subsidiary earned the top two spots in Consumer Reports' 2014 Auto Survey (subscription required), which rates reliability from consumer surveys of some 1.1 million vehicles over the past 12 months. Of the 28 brands ranked in terms of predicted reliability, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Fiat, Jeep, Ram and Dodge brands landed in the bottom four slots. At the top and bottom of the survey, those results played out similarly to Consumer Reports' study a year ago.

Related: Porsche Flies, Fiat Flails in 2014 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study

Buggy multimedia systems, including navigation systems, Bluetooth and smartphone compatibility, garnered the most complaints. It's a recurring trend, Consumer Reports notes, and respondents to J.D. Power and Associates' Initial Quality Study have expressed similar frustrations.

But rankings between the two have otherwise limited correlation. Consumer Reports says its reliability study surveys subscribers for malfunctions on existing cars, whether recently purchased or older. J.D. Power says its IQS surveys those who recently bought a new car for objective malfunctions and subjective dislikes in the first 90 days of ownership. J.D. Power ranked 32 brands in its IQS this year; Consumer Reports ranked 28. Five brands made the top 10 in both studies: Honda, Kia, Lexus, Porsche and Toyota. Just three brands made the bottom 10 in both: Fiat, Infiniti and Jeep. To some degree, that cements the reliability — or lack thereof — for those eight.

By Kelsey Mays | October 27, 2014 | Comments (8)

Lexus Talks Turbochargers, Possible SC Successor

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German luxury brands have been bullish on turbochargers for years, but Toyota's Lexus division has been reluctant to follow — at least until now. An all-new turbocharged four-cylinder in the NX 200t serves as the base engine in the brand's newest SUV. If you believe Brian Bolain, Lexus' corporate marketing manager, it's just the tip of the turbo iceberg.

Related: 2015 Lexus NX Starts at $35,405

Lexus has come a long way since its 1989 inception: Sixty dealerships have grown to more than 230, and the brand held the U.S. luxury-brand sales title throughout the 2000s. But it lost the crown to Mercedes-Benz in 2011 when a March earthquake and tsunami in Japan left U.S. inventory below BMW and Mercedes levels for six of the nine months that followed. Mercedes has kept the sales title ever since.

Bolain downplayed the importance of Lexus being America's top-selling luxury brand, but he did hint at a few directions it might go — specifically, more turbochargers and perhaps a replacement for the SC convertible.

By Kelsey Mays | October 27, 2014 | Comments (0)

Ford Adds Auto-Braking, Pedestrian Detection to Collision-Warning System

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Ford plans to add pedestrian detection and auto-braking to its forward-collision warning system with a network of radars and windshield-mounted cameras. Dubbed Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, the technology debuts on the 2015 Ford Mondeo in Europe and will roll out to "other Ford and Lincoln products around the world," the company said Thursday in a press release.

Related: Ford's Driving Skills for Life Makes Big Impression on My Teen

Pre-Collision Assist reads a lot like Subaru's EyeSight system, which uses a pair of windshield-mounted cameras to detect pedestrians, lane markings and other obstructions. EyeSight, which includes auto-braking, scored the highest in a 2013 test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety of various collision-warning systems for the 2013 and 2014 model years.

At the time, IIHS also tested the optional forward-collision warning systems in the Ford Edge, Explorer, Flex and Fusion, as well as the Lincoln MKT, MKX and MKZ. Since then, the institute tested systems in the Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS, but without auto-braking capabilities, all nine cars earned a basic rating — the lowest of three grades — under IIHS' frontal-crash prevention scores. Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker confirmed to Cars.com that Ford's forward-collision warning system today still lacks auto-braking.

PCA will change that.

By Kelsey Mays | October 24, 2014 | Comments (6)

What Cars Are Included in the Takata Airbag Recall?

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This week saw the latest expansion of airbag recalls that began 18 months ago from Japanese supplier Takata Corp. and is now linked to at least four deaths. As of today, the recall affects some 7.8 million vehicles in the U.S. from 10 automakers based in three continents. The bulk of them — 5 million — are from Honda. Takata issued a statement earlier this year that noted the incidents of airbag malfunction — where a faulty inflator can send metal and plastic shrapnel into occupants if the front passenger airbag deploys in a crash — have occurred in warm areas like Florida and Puerto Rico, and it suspects that high humidity plays a role in the problem. Returned airbags from Toyota confirmed as much, USA Today reports.

Related: NHTSA Urges Quick Fix of Defective Airbags

USA Today reports most owners should have already received recall notices by now, and some automakers — namely, Toyota and BMW — have advised keeping the front passenger seat clear of occupants until a dealer inspects the car for a faulty inflator and, if there is one, replaces it.

What cars have been recalled? And what should you do if you get a notice? We've compiled everything we know so far below:

By Kelsey Mays | October 23, 2014 | Comments (10)

Mazda Leads, Fiat Chrysler Trails in Latest EPA Fuel Economy Report

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Mazda's 28.1 mpg led all major automakers in average fuel economy for the 2013 model year, according to a new EPA report on industrywide fuel economy. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' 20.9 mpg, meanwhile, trailed the 11 automakers surveyed. The 148-page report notes that all major automakers except sixth-place Toyota and ninth-place Ford saw their averages increase between 2012 and 2013, and the industry's overall 24.1 mpg is the highest average since the EPA began tracking the data in 1975.

Related: Gas Prices Are Up, But So Is Average MPG

Preliminary 2014 model-year data shows Mazda still in the lead, with 28.8 mpg. That beats Honda (27.6 mpg), Subaru (27.5 mpg), Nissan (26.8 mpg), Volkswagen (26.7 mpg), Toyota (25.8 mpg), BMW (26.0 mpg), Daimler (22.8 mpg), Ford (23.4 mpg), GM (22.0 mpg) and FCA (21.1). The overall 24.1 mpg incorporates corrected mileage from Hyundai-Kia, but the EPA didn't include the Korean automaker in its rankings because Hyundai-Kia is under a continuing investigation for the mileage corrections it issued in late 2012.

By Kelsey Mays | October 9, 2014 | Comments (3)

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Hits the Stock Market on Monday

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Having cleared all regulatory hurdles, the merger between Fiat and Chrysler will become fully effective on Sunday, The Detroit News reports. The recently formed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will issue common shares Monday on the New York Stock Exchange and Italian stock market.

It's the final step in a process that began more than five years ago. Fiat took a stake in then-teetering Chrysler in June 2009 as part of the U.S. government's $85 billion bailout of Chrysler, GM and their financing arms. The Italian automaker completed its acquisition of Chrysler in January 2014, and the FCA name was born. Trading of existing Fiat stock ends this Friday. Current owners will receive one share of FCA for every Fiat share they owned, Fiat said in January.

Read the full story from our friends at The Detroit News here.

By Kelsey Mays | October 7, 2014 | Comments (0)

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