Monthly Archives: March 2013

EPA Demands Cleaner Standards For Automakers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a new set of emissions rules which they believe will positively impact the quality of air in the nation and lead to a reduction in the number of asthma cases among children.

Opponents of the plan say the new regulations will cause gasoline prices to increase as much as 9 cents per gallon in some areas and be a hardship on refineries at a time when they are still recovering from the Global Recession.

However, the Office of Management and Budget has been studying the proposed rule changes for more than a year and they say the benefits far outweigh the negatives. They also say the rules changes will only cause an increase in the price of gasoline of about a penny nationwide. And they say the improvements will have concrete benefits when it comes to the state of health in the nation, including reducing health care costs by approximately $23 billion and preventing more than 2,000 cases of premature death.

It also helps that the proposed changes in emissions rules are being fully and whole heartedly endorsed and supported by automobile manufacturers, state regulators and environmentalists who say it long past time that the United States address growing emissions problems.

The Wall Street Journal reports the EPA has estimated that once the new rules are in place they will “cut smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent and reduce soot by 70 percent.” That’s a huge reduction, especially when you consider the United States spent more than a decade completely ignoring the emissions issue while it waged war half a world away on two fronts.

Feds Mandate ‘Noisy’ Electric Cars

Electric cars are known for being energy efficient, small and quiet. It’s the last part that has some public activists crying foul and the federal government stepping in to make these cars a little less quiet.

The problem is that these quiet electric cars produce no warning noise for pedestrians-especially blind or vision impaired pedestrians-who might not realize they are close and could potentially step in front of them.

Advocates for the blind have been pushing the federal government to do something about these hazardous situation, and the feds have finally agreed. The new federal government mandate will force electric car manufacturers to install a special noise production device which will alert everyone the vehicle is coming, until it reaches 17mph. What is so far unclear is what sort of “noise” will be considered effective and how much this noise device will cost manufacturers and ultimately the consumers.

There is also something to be said for the fact that the quietness of these cars is a selling point. People like quiet cars. The people who are buying electric cars are the same people who are intentionally avoiding ‘noisy’, gas guzzling cars. They think noisy is uncool and quiet is “in.”

Will noisy electric cars sell as well as the quiet ones did? And given that the quiet ones haven’t been selling as everyone had hoped they would be by now, will this spell doom for electric automakers? Only time will tell.

Consumer Reports ‘Best Used Cars’ For The Money

In what will likely come as a surprise to many the Consumers Reports list of the ‘Best Used Cars’ is not topped by a Honda. Or a Toyota.

Nope. This year, a 2009 Pontiac Vibe takes the title of ‘Best Used Car’ despite the fact General motors did away with the Pontiac brand a few years ago. Of course, because the brand doesn’t exist any more is part of what makes a used Pontiac Vibe such a great deal for consumers. The car is highly rated for performance, quality and mileage and since the Pontiac brand is discontinued, they are also pretty inexpensive comparatively. In fact, Consumer Reports says you are likely to score one for less than $10,000.

Of course you can also find a few Honda’s and Toyota’s, a Hyundai and even the Mazda CX-9 on the Consumer Reports ‘Best Used Cars’ list. These cars known to hold their resale value for longer than most American cars. They are also better quality, better performance and better mileage cars (even used) than most newly built American cars on the market right now.

Now, we’re Americans and we love America just as much as you do, but until American manufacturers start building quality, sensible vehicles for the average consumer (who want performance, and quality) not just ‘muscle cars’ they simply are not going to be as in-demand second hand as more imports.

As an example of this, 12 of the 20 ‘worst cars’ on the Consumer Reports list are American made.

Attack Of The ‘Zombie’ Cars

Subaru has a real problem on its hands. They just issued a recall involving 50,000 vehicles across North America. Unfortunately for Subaru the media has chosen a moniker for their problem which just begs for mocking: ‘zombie cars.’

Specifically, the issue involves more than 45,000 Outback, Impreza and Legacy cars built between 2010 and 2013 along with all the Subaru Crosstrek vehicles built in 2013. An electrical problem is causing these vehicles to start automatically without the driver doing anything. Apparently it is caused by the remote starter embedded in the key fob. If that key fob is dropped or bumped it may start sending a signal randomly to start the vehicle’s motor.

Hence the term, ‘zombie car.’

This latest recall is less than a tenth the number of cars recalled by Subaru in January when they had to recall more than 625,000 vehicles due to a risk of fire. Although this latest recall pales in comparison when it comes to the number of cars, it is slightly more exciting because of the catchy name.

And admit it, a car which starts itself at random is slightly spooky, and spooky is popular. We wouldn’t be surprised if rather than getting a black-eye because of this ‘zombie car’ debacle Subaru actually started selling more cars. People might start lining up for a chance to own a ‘zombie car’ just so they can brag to their friends that their vehicle is perhaps ‘haunted.’

Subaru has told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that at least two minor injuries and a few property damage accidents have occurred as a result of these ‘zombie cars’, but again, we think that might just raise their ‘hipness’ factor with consumers looking for a reason to be excited by driving like they were when seat belts were optional and out-running the police was just a dirt road or cornfield away.

Consumer Reports ‘Best New Cars’

Consumers reports has released it’s list of the best new cars for 2013, and you’ll be forgiven for yawning at the fact a Honda sits at the top of the list. Specifically, the 2013 Honda Accord.

Honda vehicles repeatedly make ‘best’ lists from a multitude of motor vehicle organizations. And for good reason. Honda vehicles are known to retain their value longer than just about any other vehicle. This has a great deal to do with their quality manufacturing process; Honda vehicles simply don’t break down as often as similar vehicles.

It doesn’t hurt that Honda vehicles also perform well. These vehicles, by and large, not only start out performing well, but continue to perform well throughout their lives. Mileage is among the highest in class, and this is another factor in their popularity.

Honda vehicles also boast some of the best features in the automobile industry including a wealth of safety features and some of the best auto-tech available in modern day vehicles.

Now, it is certainly worth mentioning that all these features, the high resale value and the general quality of the Honda vehicle line mean that consumers will likely pay a premium to drive one. Because a Honda holds its resale value so well, even if a consumer chooses to buy a used Honda they are still likely to pay much more for it than if they choose a different make and model.

If consumers are looking for good quality in a more reasonably priced vehicle, Consumer Reports recommends they visit their local Hyundai lot. The Hyundai Elantra was chosen by Consumer Reports as the ‘Best Budget Car’. Hyundai quality has greatly improved in the past decade and the variety of vehicles they build mean consumers have a wide assortment of vehicles sizes and specifications available. Since they don’t quite have the same resale value of Honda, and are not nearly as popular as Honda, for consumers looking to buy a more reasonably priced vehicle which still offers high quality would do well to look at Hyundai.