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 |  Mar 30 2012, 12:02 PM

Although it’s no secret that most industrialized countries are experiencing ageing populations, which, related to motoring means the average age of drivers on the road is increasing year after year; a study from the University of Michigan has also found, that in many of these nations, younger people are also showing less interest in getting behind the wheel.

According to the study, conducted by the U of M’s Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor;  in the US and other developed nations, notably Canada, Germany , Japan, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom, a higher proportion of internet users led to corresponding lower amount of driver license applications. In the US, dropping application rates saw the ratio of drivers under 30 decrease to 22 percent of the motoring population by 2008; back in 1983 this group represented a third.

According to Michael Sivak, head of the Institute’s human factors group, the lower rate of license applications is “consistent with the hypothesis that access to virtual content through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact among young people.”

Rebecca Linland, an senior analyst with IHS Automotive, agrees with Sivak, stating that, “in every other generation, kids had to leave the house to see their friends and now you can do all that online,” she said. “A car is no longer required.”

However, Lindland does acknowledge that  interests and needs change over time, thus as today’s youth grow older, shifting priorities will likely see them develop requirements for personal transportation down the road. That said, she still thinks the way in which young people today will perceive and use vehicles could very well be different that what we’ve witnessed over the last four or five generations. ”It’s the first time we’ve seen that and that’s why it’s a bit alarming,” she said.

[Source: Automotive News]

 |  Jan 26 2012, 12:30 PM

Besides revealing what consumers think about specific vehicle brands based on seven different categories, Consumer Reports‘ latest Brand survey also shows what nameplates they will consider for their next new vehicle.

Ford, Toyota and Chevrolet were recognized as the leaders when it came to purchase intentions for consumers, however, Honda, in fourth place was ranked considerably higher than the rest of the brands on the list. Honda’s strong customer loyalty helped then to achieve their high ranking and like the top three, the customer loyalty factor was registered at more than 50 percent.

Other findings in terms of brand loyalty revealed that Dodge, which had showed gains in recent years, dropped slightly for 2012 to 28 percent from 35, placing it a distant fifth behind Honda.

As for the reason why, the lack of a quality small car at a time when buyers are looking to save their pennies and placing more emphasis on fuel economy and value may be a significant factor. It’ll be interesting to see how the brand fares next time out, once the Dodge Dart has been introduced.

Volkswagen, which is making a huge push to become a dominant player in the volume segment in the US, has seen its purchase intent double in the last few years. Even with the growth VW has achieved, the purchase intent numbers are still low, rated at just under two percent, meaning that for many consumers VW simply isn’t on the radar when it comes to considering a new vehicle.

Another interesting finding from the survey was of those leading Domestic brands that contained trucks in their portfolio. Men were more likely to consider theses brands than women and for example, Ford showed a 19 versus 11 percent bias towards males, with Chevrolet at 15/11. However, Toyota, which also offers trucks, was actually skewered the other way with 16 percent of women (versus 12 percent of men) most likely to consider a new vehicle.

[Source: Consumer Reports]

 |  Jan 25 2012, 7:30 AM

That’s according to Consumer Reports’ fifth Car Brand Perception Survey, which gauges the perception of different vehicle makes across seven different categories: design, environmental friendliness, performance, quality, safety, technology/innovation and value.

The survey, which was conducted among 2000 adults with at least one vehicle in their household last December, illustrated that the most well-known brands kept their lead, with Toyota, Ford, Honda and Chevrolet rounding out the top four in terms of overall scores, yet other brands edged closer. For example Acura, which ranked twelfth, had a score of 46.8, while BMW, in sixth, scored 69.3 points.

Regarding the survey, CR‘s deputy editor, Jeff Bartlett, said that, “we’ve made [brand] awareness a non-factor, so we’ve equalized it across the brands. So everyone knows Toyota, [but] a few people know Fiat. The question is, of those brands that you’re aware of, which stand as exemplary in each of the seven categories that we’re looking at?”

He also noted that whereas in the past it was easy to differentiate the leaders from the rest in certain aspects, such as Volvo when it came to safety or BMW in terms of performance, in the future, it will be much more difficult for one single brand to stand out, especially as more vehicles are able to do more things better.

 |  Jan 19 2012, 4:30 PM

Considering that many members of Generation Y (the demographic group born between the early 1980s and mid 1990s), spend much of their time connected to the web, they tend to favor vehicles that provide  advanced in-car technology and connectivity; via handheld devices, to the outside world.

At least that’s the findings from a study conducted by Deloitte LLP, which said out of  a global survey (which included 1500 Gen Y, X and Baby Boomers in the US, plus some 250 Gen Y in China and 300 in Europe), 57 percent of Gen Y members preferred an “electrified” vehicle. According to the study, the most important interior features were dash mounted controls, with 73 percent of respondents saying they preferred touch-screen interfaces.

In addition, Deloitte’s vice chairman Craig Giffi, says that Gen Y members are also more likely to be drawn to Hybrids than conventional internal combustion propelled cars and trucks, though he believes this is less of a “green” factor and more of an economic one, saving fuel and saving money, versus saving the planet.

However, for automakers, who are keen to cater to the 80 million or so Gen Y members (which represent the single largest demographic group since the Baby Boomers), it might take more than fancy technology to get them behind the wheel, since statistics show, that Gen Y on the whole, are less interested in cars than their predecessors.

“It’s no longer a foregone conclusion that we will be able to sell cars to a large and emerging demographic,” declared Ford’s President of the Americas, Mark Fields, during Deloitte’s Gen Y conference in Detroit. Fields was refering to the fact that in a 30-year period between 1978 and 2008 the number of 16 year olds getting a driver’s license shrank by 16 percent.

Fields also said that for Gen Y, the smartphone has now replaced the automobile as the “ultimate mobile device.” He believes that Gen Y is more tech savvy and relatively affluent than previous generations and to dismiss them as serious buyers is to “ignore them at your peril.”

He also said during his speech that “if we’re going to continue to grow as an industry and a company, it’s really important we reach this consumer.”

And to Ford’s credit, investing heavily in both in-car connectivity (via its MyFord Touch and SYNC) systems as well as increasing overall fuel efficiency via proliferation of its EcoBoost engine technology, has definitely raised the company’s profile with consumers in recent years, as well as boosting market share and profitability.

[Source: Bloomberg]

 |  Jan 03 2012, 3:15 PM

While the 2012 Honda Civic has clearly not impressed the staff at Consumer Reports, the same can’t be said for its smaller sibling the Fit.

For the second year in a row, the Honda subcompact has been named as the best value choice when it comes to small cars; it was also judged best value overall from a field of some 200 competitors, high praise indeed.

During its evaluation of finding the year’s best value vehicles, Consumer Reports, tested cars, SUVs and trucks  from a total of 11 different categories. Scores were determined based on a five-year ownership cost of each vehicle, including depreciation, insurance premiums, fuel costs, interest on financing, repairs and maintenance and sales taxes. Consumer Reports also added it’s own road test scores and projected reliability to each tally.

When all was said and done, the Fit emerged as the overall winner in the small car category, followed by the Toyota Prius Hybrid, Volkswagen Golf TDI (manual gearbox), Toyota Corolla and Scion xD. Most of these cars scored twice as high as the average vehicle rating in the value survey, while the Chevy Cruze, which finished last in the small car category, still earned a total  score close to the average overall value of all vehicles tested.

Rik Paul, automotive editor at Consumer Reports, said in regards to the survey, that “a cheap vehicle can wind up costing you more money over time or can be disappointing down the road.  We think real value is what you get for your money.” Indeed.

 |  Jul 27 2011, 4:55 PM

Some good news for this recession: according to J.D. Power and Associates, the cars on sale today are more appealing than ever before—all the better to win consumers in this difficult economy.

Most appealing? How is J.D. Power able to gauge this seemingly-subjective criteria? Through customer surveys of 80 vehicle attributes, combined with sales figures, which is what J.D. Power does best. Since 1996, the Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study (APEAL) has been an attempt for the company to determine how much consumers enjoy the cars they’ve just bought, and despite difficult times for both the economy as well as the auto industry, people are indeed still buying cars and still giving their opinions on them.

The APEAL study found that new or redesigned models are both better-looking and have better fuel economy than their outgoing examples: two points that attract consumers more than anything else. J.D. Power maps this on a 1000-point scale, and from 778 total points in 2010, the industry average of overall vehicle appeal has jumped to 781 points—the most it’s ever been since the survey’s inception in 1996.

“The auto industry has taken a battering during the past few years,” said David Sargent, vice president of vehicle research. “However, it is clear that throughout this period, automakers have never lost sight of the fact that survival—and ultimately success—only comes from winning over customers in the showroom. Offering highly appealing vehicles is one of the primary means to succeed.”

The survey may be industry-wide, but certain manufacturers still stood out. BMW had three cars that received satisfactory ratings: the X3, Z4 and 5-Series all drove away with awards, as well as Dodge’s Challenger, Charger, and Durango. Ford and Honda each captured awards for the F-150 and Fiesta, as well as the Ridgeline and Odyssey, respectively. Some cars of note included the Chevrolet Volt, Range Rover, Lexus IS, MINI Countryman, Nissan Armada, Porsche Cayenne, Scion xB, Suzuki Kizashi, Volkswagen GTI, and the Hyundai Equus—which walked away with the highest APEAL score in the industry, beating out the usual suspects BMW 7-Series, Lexus LS and Mercedes S-Class for the first time, a point that will come to a Hyundai network television ad near you soon.

For the seventh year in a row, Porsche carried the highest APEAL score at 879. Suzuki, despite its aforementioned Kizashi, slithered by with the lowest. For the full ranking, click the jump to view lots of J.D. Power’s famous graphs.

Continue Reading…

 |  Jun 16 2011, 10:07 AM

At least that’s the findings from the latest study by navigation product manufacturer Tom Tom, which highlights traffic blackspots in Europe.

Not only is Brussels the top of the list when it comes to congestion among big European centers, but it’s traffic is getting worse, with an increase in volume by some 1.2 percent this year over 2010.

Things aren’t much better across the channel in the UK. It’s three largest cities, London, Birmingham and Manchester are all in the top 15 when it comes to congestion hot spots (London is number 3) and in fact out of the top 50 towns and cities listed in the study, no fewer than 16 are in the UK, ranking Britain as the worst country in Europe when it comes to motoring gridlock.

Nevertheless some parts of the UK, notably Northern Ireland have seen significant drops in traffic volume. Belfast has seen a reduction by around 2 percent, while south of the border in EIRE, Dublin has seen a 9.7 percent drop in the last year.

Still, both these cities lag behind Cologne, in Germany; Tom Tom’s findings revealed that just 18.9 percent of its roads were congested.

The data for the to 50 most congested European cities was compiled using real travel time databases, highlighting how fast cars can actually move on a given road, with congestion being defined if motorists can only reach 70 percent or less of the posted speed limit. The survey was also limited to towns and cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants and 200 km (125 miles) of road network.

 |  Mar 06 2011, 9:23 AM

If you’ve ever wondered as to the mental capacity of your fellow commuters, here’s a statistic that will confirm your deepest suspicions: 19 percent of drivers admit to browsing the Internet from their cell phones, while on the road.

That’s one in five drivers, according to a survey conducted in November by insurance company State Farm. Of course, this could be low among certain groups of drivers for the 912 people the company asked, and State Farm plans to conduct another study soon. Why? Most of the people who admitted to playing with their smartphones while driving were teenagers and younger drivers—usually the least experienced on the road, which could lead to massive carnage.

Those who go online while going on the highway acknowledge the dangers, but aren’t too concerned about it—the study found that these drivers would only change their behavior after they’ve been in some sort of accident. Hopefully nobody will be seriously hurt or killed when that happens—and hopefully, it won’t involve you.

[Source: USA Today]