AutoGuide News Blog
The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
Funny little Italian cars are finally coming into vogue, or so it seems after Fiat reported its best month of U.S. sales to date in February.
“I’m holding my breath, but to beat February would be a big, big win for us,” Fiat brand head Timothy Kuniskis told the Detroit Free Press.
With 3,227 units sold last month, it seems the company is on an upward trend. Still, it’s not terribly surprising because sub-compacts and compacts are out-pacing every other market segment for growth. Thanks in no small part to rising gas prices, the two sections are attracting new buyers to trade in larger vehicles in anticipation of fuel climbing beyond $4 per gallon in the near future.
While it’s undeniable that economic factors are playing a big part in boosting Fiat and other small car manufacturers, the company’s marketing strategy also deserves recognition.
Edgy ads like the Fist 500 Abarth Superbowl commerical and those that followed it are helping to bring the otherwise obscure name in front of consumers.
That obscurity is the direct result of Fiat’s 28-year hiatus from the American market. When the brand relaunched last March it had little marketing support and could have been written off as an unfortunate experiment by Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.
Nevertheless, it seems like the company might have actually times its release wisely, leaving it in a position to sell sub-compact cars with Italian styling cues in a market where most of the competition sells sans-pizzazz.
Managing to replicate its February sales would be a big victory for the company, which is seeing growing interest in the hot-rod Abarth thanks to the aforementioned commercial and others like the recently-aired “House Arrest” spot featuring notorious badboy Charlie Sheen and a slew of sexy women.
Thankfully, it won’t take long to see how the company fares, at least in the short term. If current market trends are any indication of consumer preference there may be more Fiats in sight than you otherwise might have expected.
GALLERY: Fiat 500 Abarth
[Source: Detroit Free Press]
You may think America has its fair share of uninsured motorists on the road, but out in the United Kingdom one out of every 25 drivers do not carry insurance. That equates to an astonishing 1.4-million people that law enforcement has had a tough time cracking down on.
The UK government has decided to step in hoping to curb the problem by installing cameras at gas stations and parking lots. Thanks to their automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system working in conjunction with CCTV cameras, the government will be able to track down all the uninsured motorists in their country.
The hope is that the cameras with the ANPR system will be able to quickly check whether or not a car getting gas is insured or taxed. If either of those are missing, the system will automatically shut down the pump – possibly leaving the vehicle’s owner stranded. What happens after that though would be an interesting scenario, especially if it happened in America.
The UK government plans to meet with representatives from major fuel companies to discuss whether or not this is a good idea. So far the idea has been met with criticism and skepticism; fuel companies fear that gas station cashiers could be in danger from angered motorists while insurance companies are playing devil’s advocate in the scenario where the system doesn’t instantly update that a motorist had renewed their insurance.
[Source: Mirror News]
Gas prices always hit a spike in the summer, and this year is shaping up to be a doozy with prices likely to pass $4.00 per gallon by Memorial Day.
With fuel costs jumping to such dramatic heights, it might feel like a logical decision to jump ship on your current car for something less thirsty. Smart as that seems, an article published in Forbes proves otherwise.
The truth is, a car that gets a few mpg better than what you’re driving now would amount to a few dollars in savings but nothing substantial to most people.
“Assuming the average consumer drives 12,000 miles per year in a vehicle that gets 20 mpg, an increase of $1.00 per gallon, from $3.60 to $4.60 per gallon as an example, would only result in an approximate increase of $11.50 per week in fuel expenses,” Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights for Kelley Blue Book told Forbes.
Moving from a full-size SUV to a something significantly smaller is the only instance where trading cars in favor of fuel economy yields noticeable savings, but it’s important to consider that most people driving larger cars do it for a reason. It will be tough moving the whole family around in a Fiat 500 when you become accustomed to your Chevrolet Suburban.
The move is still difficult to justify if you’re one of the people who bought an SUV just to have one. High-milage hybrid cars come at a premium because of the new technology they rely on. Even if you get lucky and trade that Ford Explorer in for a decent rate, you’re still probably going to pay a lot — both at signing and in installments.
Even if it means buying a couple new handkerchiefs to dab away the tears as you fuel up, it’s probably not cost-effective to make the car trade unless you’re in the market anyway.
Audi unveiled the 2013 A3 hatchback at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show today, showcasing a lighter and more efficient version of the company’s small three-door car, despite remaining almost exactly the same size.
The car will be available with two TFSI engines or a turbo diesel. All three engines were newly developed for the car and bundle efficiency technologies including direct injection, thermal management and fuel shutoff to discourage fuel thirst.
The TFSI engines offer customers the choice between a more conservative 122-hp 1.4-liter engine or sportier 180-hp 1.8-liter engine. TDI fans sit squarely in the middle in term of power, getting 150 hp from a 2.0-liter turbo diesel.
Efficiency is further helped by a chassis that loses more than 176 lbs as well as a covered underbody and engine compartment that reduce drag.
Customers will also enjoy the use of Audi connect, the company’s modular infotainment system which makes its debut in the new A3.
Aside from entertainment, the A3 comes with safety technology features like adaptive cruise control, Audi side assist which monitors traffic behind the vehicle and active lane assist.
GALLERY: 2013 Audi A3
Reports are coming in that the United States is paying upwards of $400 per gallon of fuel delivered to troops on the ground, that’s a whooping 100 times more than we pay.
Of course that’s not the cost of fuel by itself. The high rate of gas price there includes the cost of having it delivered to the US ground military operations in Afghanistan, which is by parachute. That’s right, huge Air Force cargo planes drop dozens of pallets on the ground in a remote drop zone containing food, water and of course fuel. Almost seems like a scene right out of Lost huh?
And it appears that it won’t be getting any cheaper for the military as more and more air drops will be occurring now that ground-based supply convoys are becoming more dangerous to setup.
Check out the Wall Street Journal report video after the break.
Believe it or not, hybrids are safer in a crash than their gasoline-only counterparts, according to a new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute.
“Hybrids on average are 10 percent heavier than their standard counterparts,” Moore said in a statement today. “This extra mass gives them an advantage in crashes that their conventional twins don’t have,” said Matt Moore, Data Institute President and author of the study.
The study didn’t include cars like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, which are only available as a hybrid. The study also counted other factors like who drives hybrids and how they generally behave on the road.
While the drivers and hybrids themselves may be contributing to improved safety inside the car, a separate study also conducted by Highway Loss Data Institute suggests that these cars are 20 percent more likely to hit a pedestrian.
The reason, they say, is that while running in electric-only mode they are too quiet, making them less noticeable to someone crossing the street.
Earlier this year, Congress gave the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration three years to decide on a standard for equipping hybrids and electric vehicles with a sound device to alert pedestrians.
Japan is the only country to currently enforce such a standard, according to a CNN article Moore sighted.
Despite that, it seems Nissan has already equipped their Leaf with a system to catch pedestrian attention. Toyota started including the feature on the 2010 Prius in Japan, and will add it to the 2012 North American Prius V.
[Source: Automotive News]
If your cell phone has ever run out of battery power midday, you know how frustrating it can be to charge on the go. Imagine having to do the same for your car.
Driving an electric vehicle (EV) means you’re always thinking about when and where you can charge next. At current charging times that can be significant - DC fast-charge systems on the market today need 30 minutes to achieve an 80 percent charge.
Nissan’s Leaf is one of the EVs available on the market today, and thanks to a recent tech development the automaker hopes to change charging times for the better.
According to a report, researchers at Japan’s Kansai University working with Nissan engineers sped up the charging process by tweaking a capacitor using tungsten oxide and vanadium oxide instead of the usual carbon. The result— a 10-minute charge.
The faster charging process allowed the capacitor to retain almost the same capacity and voltage as lithium ion batteries and appeared to retain durability during charging and discharging tests.
In light of their latest achievement, the same researchers hope to alter the capacitor’s structure to further decrease charging times to three minutes. If they can achieve their goal, charging times will be on par with average fueling times for gasoline vehicles.
The same report also mentioned that while this development will help bring such technology to consumers faster, it probably won’t be widely available for another decade.
Just like how elementary school kids promised free lollipops and candy in the vending machines, America’s politicians make the same affirmations. Case in point: Michelle Bachmann will, if elected, give all God-fearing Americans the divine right of cheap gas.
Drill baby, drill! Bachmann told supporters at an event in South Carolina: “The day that the president became president gasoline was $1.79 a gallon. Look at what it is today. Under President Bachmann, you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon again. That will happen.”
She didn’t mention specifically where this magical oil would come from, other than some vague rumblings about opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Which, according to an EPA study in 2008 (in the middle of $4/gallon gas), wouldn’t do much to lower gas prices quickly or effectively. But then again, with Bachmann herself salivating at the prospect of shutting down the socialist plot that is the Environmental Protection Agency, it’s doubtful that she heeded this report in the first place.
But hey, cheap gas grabs attention—and promising $2/gallon sure is catchy. With the gauntlet laid down by Bachmann, we wonder what the other candidates will promise to Americans. Maybe Governor Perry will promise a free revolver for every man, woman, and child: Mitt Romney will fly over major metropolitan areas dropping denim jackets from an airplane, and Obama, in a bid to stay relevant and popular, will simply throw change from the rooftops.
If you think $4 for a gallon of gas is pricey here in the United States, you should thank your lucky stars that you’re not a resident of Denmark. The Northern European nation is currently leading the world in gas prices, with a gallon costing an average $9.69, including a gasoline tax of $5.41.
Other countries like Portugal, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands are all in the $9 per gallon range, with the Netherlands boasting the highest gas tax rate of $5.87 per gallon. Closer to home, Canada is averaging $4.70 with a $1.20 gas tax, while the United States is still at $3.96, with a 48 cent tax.
At the other end of the spectrum are oil-rich nations like Saudi Arabia, where a gallon costs 45 cents, and Venezuela, where it costs a mere 10 cents per gallon. As The Atlantic notes, Venezuela is selling heavily subsidized gas at roughly 98 percent less than market value, and the extra money could easily be put into infrastructure or public transportation.
[Source: The Atlantic]
Ford‘s strategy involving smaller cars priced at a premium will become even more important if gasoline rises beyond $4 gallon, said Ford of the Americans President Mark Fields.
“There is a natural kind of water level that if a gallon of gas goes over, that may shift the market mentality,” Fields told Automotive News. ”When it starts getting over $4 a gallon or gets to triple digits when you fill up your tank, that catches people’s attention.” Gasoline prices are currently at a national average of $3.55 per gallon, and global unrest means that they are likely to keep rising.
The Focus in particular represents Ford’s new premium small car strategy, with high end models costing as much as $29,000, while still achieving 40 mpg on the highway. But with more than 80 percent of its parts shared in common with global variants (and expected worldwide sales of 2 million per year in 2012), the Focus could prove to be an extremely profitable car for the company.
[Source: Automotive News]
Mercedes has a new, technologically-advanced series of gasoline engines, capable of running on a “lean-burn” mode that both reduces emissions and increases fuel efficiency—but they’re not coming to America because the gasoline here isn’t clean enough for the Silver Arrow’s refined tastes.
The problem is that American gasoline contains too much sulfur—as much as 80-95 parts per million across the country. Mercedes needs a sulfur content of less than 50ppm to function correctly, due to the leaner fuel-to-air ratios that allow them to run more efficiently than conventional gasoline engines. The extra quantities of sulfur would overwhelm the trap that captures oxides of nitrogen from the exhaust stream. With the lean-burn combustion cycle, fuel efficiency increases 10%.
Mercedes has fared better with their low-sulfur diesel engines, as U.S. regulations have limited sulfur content in diesel to 15ppm. But in Europe, gasoline sulfur content has been regulated to “almost zero,” according to Mercedes engineers. The EPA is currently evaluating the impact of lower-sulfur gasoline. Sulfur by itself does not actively impact fuel economy.
Mercedes will still sell the four- and six-cylinder engines in America, but simply without the lean-burn capabilities. One of these engines, called BlueDirect in the U.S., is the direct-injection 3.5-liter V6 which will make it across the 2012 C-Class, E-Class, M-Class, and SLK. It still gets a commendable 21-mpg with 302 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. The C-Class also gets a new 1.8-liter four-cylinder that also has direct injection but features turbocharged fury: at 201 horsepower and 229 lb-ft of torque, and 24-mpg.
Lastly, Mercedes is equipping the CL-Class with yet another direct-injection powerhouse, this time a V8: with an MPG rating of 15/23, the twin-turbo 4.6-liter eliminates the gas guzzler tax for the CL550, while producing 429 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque.
But take heart, Americans: our gasoline may be filthy compared to the fine, floral bouquets of the Continent, but it’s not just an American issue: Mercedes won’t be able to sell these engines with lean-burning cycles in markets in Asia and Africa. Ideally, the engineers at Mercedes would like to see a global standard for sulfur, so we won’t feel like we’re not worthy of Mercedes’ gasoline snobbery.
[Source: Ward's Auto]
Given the current state of gasoline, the Toyota Prius has been hotter than Justin Bieber tickets. Unfortunately, there’s a nationwide shortage of the popular hybrid across the American market: Cars.com lists just 9,014 available.
Chalk it up to the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, but the Prius has been selling fast for months now in response to higher gas prices. And while the Prius’s current supply might be over 9,000, consider that the RAV4 has been selling at the same rate, but there are over 21,000 of those available.
So if you want 50mpg in your family sedan, it may shock you that there are other cars that can accomplish that seemingly Herculean feat. Not just a 1989 GEO Metro, either; Cars.com has listed a spate of modern cars that can match that figure while simultaneously offering satellite radio, power windows, and crash protection more substantial than a box of saltine crackers. Some are hybrids, some are diesels, and some—like the Fiat 500 shown above—don’t make you venture down the eco-dweeb path, either.
But you’ll have to click through the jump to find out.
While motorists in North America have had 10 percent ethanol infused gasoline all but forced on them, and Brazil operates almost entirely on E85 biofuel, German motorists have slammed the door shut on the corn-based fuel by simply refusing to purchase gasoline that is made up of 90 percent dino-juice and 10 percent ethanol.
The Super E10 gasoline has an octane rating of 95 , but motorists in Germany are simply purchasing the pricier 98 octane fuel that is devoid of ethanol. The backlash comes from a variety of organizations, ranging from the German ADAC automobile club to Greenpeace, who claim that ethanol can do everything from ruin the mechanical bits of automobiles to increase CO2 production.
While only half of Germany’s gas stations offer the fuel, the problem is so severe that Germany’s Environment Minister is convening a summit to figure out how to deal with the problem. Currently, gas stations are sitting on ample reserves of E10 while the non-ethanol high grades are in short supply.
[Source: The Truth About Cars]
With oil passing the $100/barrel mark on Thursday, analysts are warning that a gallon of gasoline could soon cost as much as $5 this summer.
“If this thing escalates and there’s a good chance that there’d be a shift in supplies, $5 gas isn’t out of the question,” said Darin Newsom, an analyst at energy firm DTN told USA Today.
With major oil companies pulling out of Libya, the 15th largest crude oil exporter in the world, oil futures contracts are trading at levels not seen since October of 2008. While countries like Saudi Arabia could theoretically pick up the slack, the disruptions will still cause a spike in prices. Other factors like increased demand as the weather warms up, and the constantly increasing demand from China, could see average gas prices continue to rise.
[Source: USA Today]
The EPA will announce Friday that it has approved the use of E15 gasoline for vehicles made after the year 2000. The EPA previously approved the added ethanol content for vehicles made after 2007 – the new regulations would see the amount of vehicles able to use E15 grow exponentially, and directly benefit American corn farmers, whose crop is used in the production of ethanol.
The increased use of ethanol has been roundly criticized for its effect on food prices (more corn used for fuel causes the price of maize, a staple crop for much of the world, to rise), its environmental impact and the simple fact that most small engines are not designed for a such a concentration of ethanol.
Although ethanol is touted as a “green” fuel, the higher blends of ethanol in gasoline can have the effect burning out the catalytic converters, resulting in higher emissions.
[Source: Left Lane News]
Audi owners will no longer have to worry about accidentally filling their diesel vehicles with gasoline. The company is introducing a mechanism that will have you pumping without a problem.
Right now, you can’t put diesel into a gasoline-powered vehicle because the diesel nozzles are large and won’t fit in the filler neck. On the flip side, gas nozzles are smaller and will fit in the diesel neck. Audi’s new system will feature a flap in the neck that prevents fuel flow. This flap will open if the nozzle hits contact points just below the cap. Since the smaller gasoline nozzle can’t hit all of the contacts at once, the flap ensures that improper fuel won’t be getting into the tank.
Audi’s new flap system is similar to the one used by BMW, who installed this mechanism in all of its diesel vehicles since early 2009. Available for the 2011 model year, Audi’s A4, A5 and Q5 TDI will feature the new system in Europe.
In recent years, more people have been encountering the issue of misfuelling, resulting inconvenient and potentially expensive consequences. This could be the result of the increased refinement of diesel models, which has seen them run nearly as smoothly and quietly as their petrol counterparts.
The Automotive Leasing Guide is what the auto industry uses to determine residual values for leased vehicles. It’s a pretty important guideline, and when the ALG speaks, people listen. So the ALG’s prediction of gasoline at $4.13 a gallon by 2013 has some pretty big ramifications for consumers and their vehicle choices.
Naturally, the ALG is predicting an increase in residuals for compact and hybrid cars. While compacts and hybrids should see a residual jump of nearly 10%, the big losers will be full-size SUVs, which should take a 7.4% hit in residual value. The same price fluctuations apply to wholesale values as well, with compacts and hybrids expected to bring 30% more at auction, while the same big trucks will go for 20% less.
Before anyone panics, let’s not forget that Canada has endured prices very close to $4/gallon for a few years now, and their vehicle makeup, while similar to the United States, skews more towards compact cars. While the best selling cars in America in 2009 were the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, Canada’s favorites were the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 respectively. Bet that Civic Hybrid is looking like a good buy now, isn’t it?
[Source: Autoblog Green]
GM is recalling 547 Cadillac SRX’s equipped with the 2.8L twin-turbo V6 due to potential engine failure if the car is run with regular, rather than premium fuel.
In a statement released by NHTSA, the agency said that “The combination of regular fuel usage and aggressive driving maneuvers may induce pre-ignition.” If pre-ignition occurs, you may hear a pinging or knocking sound from the engine. If the vehicle continues to be driven after the onset of this noise, a connecting rod or piston may break, resulting in engine damage, and perhaps engine failure, which would disable the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.”
Cadillac will re-program the car’s ECU for free, and owners can contact the company at 1-866-982-2339. In the mean time, take it easy with the loud pedal and don’t cheap out at the gas pump.
[Source: Inside Line]