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Chrysler Group reversed course and agreed to a recall of 2.7 million Jeeps Tuesday, giving in to the government’s request in the final hours before a deadline
Chrysler stated last week that it would not comply with the recall demand, arguing that the vehicles do not have a high risk of catching fire when struck from behind. It continued to claim Tuesday that the vehicles — 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002 to 2007 Jeep Libertys — are safe
Its statement said it will recall the vehicles for inspection and, in “some cases,” will “provide an upgrade to the rear structure of the vehicle to better manage crash forces in low-speed impacts.”
“Chrysler Group recognizes that this matter has raised concerns for its customers and wants to take further steps, in coordination with NHTSA, to provide additional measures to supplement the safety of its vehicles,” the company said.
In a statement, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which had asked for the recall, said it was pleased that “Chrysler has agreed to take action to protect its customers and the driving public.” It went on to say that “consumers impacted by the safety recall and customer satisfaction campaign should have their vehicles serviced promptly once they receive notification from Chrysler.”
NHTSA says it will continue its investigation into this issue.
Public safety advocate Clarence Ditlow, who has pushed NHTSA to demand a recall, said he was pleased that Chrysler was agreeing to some form of a recall, but said he would wait to see the details before he called it a clear win.
“The inspection part troubles me,” he said. “Until I see the details, the question I have is ‘is it window dressing or a real fix?’”
If Chrysler had not agreed to act by the end of Tuesday, it faced the prospect of high-profile public hearings. There would have been testimony from both car safety advocates such as Ditlow who have pushed for the recall, as well as the parents of children who burned to death in fires. Experts say the hearing would have caused Chrysler’s reputation to take a hit, even if it had avoided the recall.
“It strikes me that Chrysler underestimated the negative publicity they’d get out of fighting, and that they decided it was better off to go ahead and do the recall,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Edmunds.com. She said fighting the recall would have been “a very risky gamble,” even if Chrysler had eventually been proven right.
“It’s still an uphill battle for Chrysler in the perception of quality and [a hearing] could [have] set it back.”
The J.D. Power & Associates survey of car owners found that the number of problems reported by Jeep owners has fallen by about a third between 2008 and 2012. It has moved up in approval rankings from dead last out of 36 brands in 2008 to 23rd out of 34 last year.
An online survey by Kelley Blue Book last week found 64% of those answering the survey would not consider any vehicle from an automaker who fights a recall.
However, a week of used car auctions tracked by Kelley shows no measurable change in average pricing or sales volumes of the affected vehicles. Used car site AutoTrader.com also reported no change in interest in the affected vehicles by potential car buyers visiting its site.
Chrysler still faces liability risks in numerous wrongful death suits. NHTSA says there have been least 37 accidents that caused fires and resulted in at least 51 deaths.
Krebs said she was surprised by the reversal by Chrysler, saying it appeared that Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and other executives at the automaker had dug in and prepared for a fight.
Ditlow said many of the recalled cars will probably never be brought in for the inspection. He said in the case of the recall of older model cars that are no longer covered by warranties, somewhere between 50% and 60% of recalled vehicles are typically brought in by owners.
About 52% of Ford Pintos were brought in, even though that late-1970s recall — which also involved gas tank fires — was very high profile, according to Ditlow.
Chrysler and NHTSA agree to disagree
If there had been a public hearing by NHTSA, the agency could either agree with Chrysler’s argument and drop the request for a recall or order an involuntary recall. If the automaker again refused to issue a recall, NHTSA could go to federal court to force a recall, though that process could take years.
There have been 17,000 recalls involving over 500 million vehicles since NHTSA started the recall process in 1966. It is rare that automakers challenge NHTSA on a recall and even rarer that one wins. Chrysler — under different management than it is now — was the last automaker to win such a challenge when it fought a 1996 recall of 91,000 cars in a dispute over its seat belt system.
There are many models to choose from, but we focused on those available for under $15,000 which includes recommended vehicles for teens from the 2008-2010 model years. Some have the latest safety equipment and are still affordable but key safety features such as curtain air bags and electronic stability control may not have been standard in others until later years. As always we encourage purchasing as many safety features–and electronic stability control in particular–if your budget allows. We list the average price for suitably equipped models available in that year when buying from the dealer.
The cars listed below average between 15- and 51-percent less than the retail price when the vehicle was new. Plus, all have at least average reliability according to our latest subscriber survey. Figure that vehicles from 2008 will generally have 66,000 miles, 2009 models around 51,000 miles, and 2010 about 40,000 miles.
Scanning the list, you’ll see that these are all traditional cars and small SUVs; large pickups and midsized and large SUVs are not recommended for young, inexperienced drivers because they are more prone to roll over and may be more difficult to handle than many other vehicles. Sports cars increase the risk of speeding and have a higher rate of accidents, and consequently, they carry tuition-sapping insurance premiums.
|Make & model||Average buying from dealer price||Average drop in retail value vs. MSRP|
|2009 Chevrolet Malibu||$12,925||45%|
|2010 Chevrolet Malibu||$14,483||39%|
|2009 Ford Focus||$10,388||38%|
|2008 Hyundai Elantra||$9,450||47%|
|2009 Hyundai Sonata||$11,167||50%|
|2010 Kia Forte||$12,117||27%|
|2010 Kia Optima||$13,320||38%|
|2010 Kia Soul||$13,938||15%|
|2009 Mitsubishi Outlander||$12,833||46%|
|2010 Nissan Altima||$14,930||35%|
|2008 Nissan Rogue||$13,125||36%|
|2010 Nissan Sentra||$13,458||26%|
|2008 Scion xB||$11,100||33%|
|2009 Subaru Impreza||$14,317||27%|
|2008 Subaru Legacy||$12,175||43%|
|2010 Toyota Corolla||$13,350||24%|
|2010 Toyota Matrix||$14,394||28%|
|2008 Toyota RAV4||$14,875||41%|
|2009 Volkswagen Jetta||$13,831||39%|
Buying a used car has many benefits. Most important is that the original owner takes the initial depreciation hit, as new cars lose much more value in the first and second years than those that follow. When shopping, look for cars that scored well in Consumer Reports’ tests when new, have proven reliability, and perform well in government and insurance industry crash tests. Before handing over the cash, have the vehicle inspected by a trained and trusted mechanic to make sure there are no hidden problems.
See the complete list of used-car deals across a variety of vehicle categories. Also, see our list of best new and used cars for teens, as well as our special section on teen driving safety. For detailed used car pricing based on the mileage and condition of the vehicle, try Consumer Reports Used Car Price Reports.
Apparently consumers know a good deal with they see one. Driven largely by high residual values, rock-bottom interest rates, loosening credit and aggressive marketing, new-car leasing is at record high rates, according to Experian Automotive in Schaumburg, Ill. Leasing now accounts for 27.5 percent of all new-vehicle transactions, which represents a sturdy 12.5 percent increase over 2012 levels.
“Consumers tend to shop for vehicles based within the limits of their budget, and leasing is often seen as a viable path to a lower monthly payment,” says Melinda Zabritski, senior director of Automotive Credit. “Lenders have seen overall stability come back to the market since the recession, and leasing has gradually returned as a larger part of many lender strategies.”
Not surprisingly, Experian says average lease payments are likewise dropping, from $462 a year ago down to $459 in the first quarter of 2013. If that number still seems high, consider that a large majority of costly luxury cars are leased, rather than purchased outright. Still, automakers in all market segments are now pushing cut-rate leases aggressively on a wider range of models to attract bargain hunters – including those on some of the smallest and least expensive cars on the lot. They love leasing as it brings new customers back to dealerships with clocklike regularity and helps dealers maintain an inventory of recent-model used cars.
We scoured the Internet and found some incredible deals on 12 of the most desirable makes and models, including iconic cars like the BMW 3 Series and the Mini Cooper – all leasing for less than $300 a month. We even came across one car that’s leasing for as little as $99 a month, which is less than the cost of a daily grande latte at Starbucks.
Be aware that we’re identifying the lowest promoted monthly payments available for each make and model; lease terms can vary widely according to a number of factors and the numbers can be juggled according to a lessee’s preference to reflect a lower monthly payment or down payment, longer or shorter lease period and/or more or fewer miles allowed.
While the cost of a new-car lease is based largely on the available interest rate and a given model’s residual value, automakers and leasing companies can manipulate other provisions of the agreement to help sweeten the deal on a given model. Called “subventing” a lease, this often involves subsidizing a below-market interest rate, artificially inflating a vehicle’s residual value or offering bonus cash to lower a car’s transaction price.
Another way automakers can lower a lease’s monthly payment is to reduce the number of annual miles allowed. This is typically 12,000 miles per year, though some leases might include as few as 7,500 annual miles. Be sure not to enter a lease that unduly limits your mileage – particularly if you have a distant daily commute or like to take long road trips – as it may cost you dearly down the road. Depending on the lease terms you could be assessed as much as an extra 15 to 30 cents a mile for exceeding the limit, which means you’d have to come up with $150 to $300 per 1,000 extra miles on the odometer at the end of the lease. However, those who worry they might exceed the stated annual mileage can often purchase additional miles up front at a discounted rate.
Be aware that if you tend to be hard on your car or truck, think twice before leasing one. Leased vehicles must be returned in excellent condition, without dents, deep scratches, window cracks or torn upholstery and with all accessories in good working order; otherwise you’ll be assessed costly “excessive wear and tear” fees.
Finally, keep in mind that the lowest advertised lease rates are typically available only to so-called “well qualified lessees” with top credit scores who represent the lowest risk. Those with less than stellar credit will typically pay a higher financing charge that will, in turn, result in a costlier monthly payment.
The fine print: Monthly payments quoted for vehicles in our list of top lease deals are 2013 models and trim levels specified and do not include additional options, taxes or registration fees. All offers are good through July 1, 2013. Keep in mind that you may be able to garner an even better deal by negotiating a lower transaction price with the dealership. Typically the down payment and first month’s lease payment are due at signing. None of the deals listed here require a security deposit. Dealer participation may vary and the rates and provisions quoted may vary according to region. Check the automakers’ websites and local dealerships for additional deals and details.
Monthly payment: $299; Term: 36 months; Due at signing: $3,774; Annual mileage: 10,000. This is without doubt one of the best deals we’ve ever seen on what is without quarrel one of the most desirable sport sedans in the industry. This deal includes the base 320i model with the Premium Package and is subject to $1,125 dealer contribution and a $750 lease cash incentive.
Monthly payment: $239; Term: 24 months; Due at signing: $2,009; Annual mileage: 10,000. Pound-for-pound this deal on the midsize LaCrosse delivers the “most” car for the money, with a quiet and comfortable five-passenger interior residing under a sleek and stylish exterior. This deal is for the base “eAssist” mild hybrid four-cylinder model and includes two complimentary years of OnStar Directions & Connections, SiriusXM Radio and two years or 24,000 miles (whichever comes first) of free vehicle maintenance; it’s subject to a $2,000 lease cash incentive.
Monthly payment: $149; Term: 36 months; Due at signing: $2,469; Annual mileage: 12,000. This price gets you a Cruze LS with automatic transmission, and represents a terrific deal on this nicely styled, accommodating and solid-performing compact sedan.
Monthly payment: $199; Term: 39 months; Due at signing: $3,069; Annual mileage: 12,000. This rugged-looking smallish midsize five-passenger crossover SUV is family friendly and a real bargain at this price; it’s for a SLE-1 model with front-wheel drive. A similar deal is offered on its near twin, the suburban-chic Chevrolet Equinox.
Monthly payment: $169; Term: 36 months; Due at signing: $2,299; Annual mileage: 10,000. One of the industry’s best-selling compact sedans received assorted improvements for 2013, with a low lease rate being the icing on the proverbial cake. This deal is for a Civic LX Sedan (including PZEV models) with automatic transmission.
Monthly payment: $219; Term: 36 months; Due at signing: $3,399; Annual mileage: 10,000. Arguably one of the most amenable compact crossovers currently in production, it’s difficult to find fault with the peppy and perky CR-V, especially at this low monthly payment. It’s for a base EX model with front-wheel drive and is subject to a $500 lease cash incentive.
Monthly payment: $199; Term: 36 months; Due at signing: $2,215; Annual mileage: 10,000. It may be too small for some, but the venerable Mini Cooper is among the most enjoyable little cars on the road with pleasing go-kart-like handling and an eccentric nature. This deal is for the base Cooper hatchback with automatic transmission and is subject to a $500 dealer contribution.
Monthly payment: $299; Term: 39 months; Due at signing: $2,999; Annual mileage: 12,000. With 332 horses under the hood the 370Z costs less to lease than a buck per month per horsepower. Talk about fast money. This deal is for the base coupe with manual transmission equipped with floor mats and splash guards, and is subject to dealer contribution.
Monthly payment: $199; Term: 36 months; Due at signing: $1,999; Annual mileage: 12,000. Think you can’t afford to drive an electric car? Think again. Assuming your daily drive is within the Leaf’s range (about 75 miles give or take on a charge), this can be a terrific deal, especially with the EPA rating the Leaf at the electric equivalent of 129/102-mpg city/highway. This deal is for the Leaf S and is subject to a $7,500 lease cash incentive and dealer contribution.
Monthly payment: $299; Term: 36 months; Due at signing: $1,999; Annual mileage: 12,000. Arguably one of the hottest new models for 2013, the FR-S is a stylish and thoroughly entertaining rear-drive sports car that’s being offered at an attractive price. This deal is for a base model with automatic transmission.
Monthly payment: $99; Term: 36 months; Due at signing: $1,393; Annual mileage: 10,000. Granted, this is a small car that’s small even by small car terms, but it’s basic transportation for two passengers and can be had for just over three bucks a day. Deal is for the base Pure Coupe model and is subject to dealer contribution.
Monthly payment: $249; Term: 39 months; due at signing $0; Annual mileage: 10,000. Not only is the incredibly spacious midsize Passat sedan being offered for a low monthly lease rate, you can drive one off the lot for zero down, which makes this an even better bargain. Deal is for a Passat S with Appearance Package and automatic transmission and is subject to dealer contribution.
Facing stiff competition in the more crowded electric car market, General Motors is offering huge incentives to move its Chevy Volt off of dealer lots.
Volt buyers can get rebates of $5,000 on 2012 Volts or $4,000 on 2013 models. Alternatively, General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) is offering a special lease deal of $269 a month for 36 months with an initial payment of $2,399 for qualified buyers, the company said Monday.
While automakers don’t make big profits (and often lose money) on electric cars, they are nevertheless an important part of the business. For example, California, the largest auto market in the United States, requires car makers to sell a certain number of plug-in cars if they wish to do business there.
The Volt is a plug-in car that can go about 40 miles on a charge, but also has a a gasoline engine to provide power for longer drives.
Besides those types of regulations, electric cars are important image makers for car companies. “A lot of these companies want to be known as the company people think of when they think of a plug-in car,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with the auto Web site Edmunds.com.
Pricing and incentives on electric cars have been getting more aggressive recently as automakers try to improve sales of the cars.
Honda recently announced a new low lease rate for its Honda Fit EV, an electric car that’s available in California. The Fit EV is being offered for $259 a month with no money down. That price includes insurance, maintenance and unlimited mileage. Plus, Honda (HMC)will provide a free home charging station.
Chevrolet dealers sold about 1,600 Volts last month, which is 4.3% fewer than were sold in May of 2012. Nissan (NSANF), meanwhile, saw a big increase in sales of the Leaf plug-in. Nissan sold 2,138 Leafs last month compared to just 510 the year before. Nissan is offering very low lease prices on the Leaf. The Leaf is available for $199 a month with only $999 down. Nissan also lowered the sticker price on the car as they moved production of the car from Japan to the United States.
The Toyota Corolla has long been the antithesis of the enthusiast car. It’s the automotive equivalent of smooth jazz — ubiquitous and innocuous but seldom loved. And like a forgettably syrupy Kenny G ballad album, it’s also enjoyed enviable success over the years; in 1997 it beat out the Volkswagen Beetle to become the best-selling car of all time, and is always near the top of the charts for its segment, selling 290,947 units in 2012 in spite of being near the end of its model cycle.
But reputation and bulletproof reliability alone hasn’t been enough to stave off competition in recent years, and it’s been sparring with the Ford Focus for bragging rights as the best-seller. Since a half-hearted makeover would likely lead to losing more market share, Toyota has unveiled a new, eleventh generation Corolla that’s sleeker and dare I say, interesting.
Surprisingly similar to the carbon fiber-trimmed Corolla Furia concept from this year’s Detroit Auto Show, the production version sheds the frumpy profile from the existing car by stretching the wheelbase and overall length by almost four inches. With chiseled lines and sculpted creases on the outside and a sportily svelte cabin within, it’s the best-looking Corolla yet. Nonetheless, the smallish tires tucked into cavernous wheel wells show it’s still an economy car at its core.
And while the fundamentals of the car won’t change much — there’s still a 1.8-liter, 132-hp engine, a four-speed automatic (in addition to a six-speed manual and CVT) and a torsion beam rear suspension — Toyota promises a more engaging drive. Steering has been slightly quickened to 3.19 turns lock-to-lock similar to the pre-refresh 2012 Honda Civic, and the electronic power steering unit touts better road feedback and accuracy. The S trim traditionally has little frills and no thrills, and for 2014 it’ll see a stiffened suspension setup as well as a 140-hp engine.
So the “sporty” grade won’t take on a Volkswagen GLI at a stoplight, but efficiency, not speed, has always been one of the key selling points of the Corolla, and Toyota is targeting 42 highway mpg for the LE Eco trim. The compact will also see more standard features across the line-up, including Bluetooth connectivity, LED-adorned headlights and eight airbags.
None of those are groundbreaking specs, but what’s game changing is Toyota’s shift towards the sporty, even with what has long been a hopelessly forgettable appliance. If the Corolla gets a competitive pricepoint and driving dynamics that don’t induce sea sickness, it may not only be a value-minded purchase for buyers, but an enjoyable one.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is home to perhaps one of the most appropriate buttons we’ve encountered in the What Does This Button Do? series. Mysterious buttons are rarely spelled out as clearly as the Jeep SRT8′s, or as fun to use. By spelled out, we mean the whole word, “Launch,” appears on the button to designate the 470-horsepower, all-wheel-drive Jeep SRT8′s Launch Mode. There are no acronyms or guessing with this button. What the button does is also made clearer by the awesome depiction of a drag strip’s starting-line lights, aka a “Christmas tree.”
Jeep’s launch control is standard on SRT8s for consistent, enhanced fast starts of the high-performance SUV. Launch Mode brings the engine, suspension, transmission and driveline together for fast launches from a standstill by revving the engine at a standstill and launching the 5,000-pound SUV like a rocket.
To activate, Jeep’s instructions say the SUV must be stopped on a level surface before fully depressing the brake pedal – while in Drive – and then pressing the Launch button. While holding the brake, mash the accelerator pedal to the floor within a half-second and the engine will rev to a predetermined rpm. Once the engine speed is up, all the driver has to do is lift the brake and the SRT8 launches perfectly every time.
Cars.com reviewer Aaron Bragman tested the SRT8′s Launch Mode at the vehicle’s introduction:
“Jeep rates the SRT Grand Cherokee at 4.8 seconds from zero to 60 mph, but I discovered that this is a conservative figure: Using the SRT’s onboard software and a special launch button, I was able to consistently rip off 4.5-second zero-to-60 times, and SRT engineers say that they’ve been able to achieve 60 mph in 4.2 seconds under perfect conditions.”
Yesterday it was a Ford recall, and today it’s Toyota.
Toyota is recalling nearly a quarter of a million vehicles because of a braking problem.
The Japanese automaker said Wednesday the global recall would affect 242,000 Prius and Lexus hybrid cars made between March and October 2009. Toyota (TM) said it had received more than 90 complaints from drivers who said they needed to step more heavily on the brake pedal than they were used to. A spokeswoman said a flaw was allowing nitrogen gas to leak into the brake fluid, reducing the effectiveness of the brakes. There were no reports of accidents or injuries, she said. Most of the cars affected are in Japan, where 117,000 vehicles are being recalled, followed by 91,000 in North America, 30,000 in Europe and smaller numbers in other markets.
Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., said it would inspect the brake booster pump assembly on recalled Prius and Lexus HS 250h vehicles and replace it if necessary. Toyota has been struggling to repair its reputation for reliability and safety after a series of recalls affecting millions of vehicles in recent years.
Ford (F, Fortune 500) said it is not aware of any incidents of fire due to the fuel leak, or of any injuries caused by the defect. Ford said it had received 600 complaints about the fuel leak from customers as of March 31.
Last July, Ford recalled 11,500 of its 2013 Escape SUVs because a defect in the fuel line that could cause a fire. At the time Ford took the unusual step of advising drivers not to even drive the vehicles until they were repaired. There was no such warning with the most recent recall.
Ford also announced two small recalls. It has recalled 500 2013 Lincoln MKZ vehicles because the insulation on the engine block heater can crack at extremely low temperatures. Additionally, Ford said that 25 2013 Fusions are at risk of impaired steering or the loss of steering control due the lack of an internal retaining clip.
Self-driving cars are quickly becoming a reality.
Companies like Audi and Lexus are beginning to integrate autonomous operation into their own cars using advanced computer systems, cameras, radars, and sensors that take control of vehicles at highway speeds.
Take for example Audi’s new A7 four-door sedan. It’s equipped with a range of sensors that allow the car to pilot itself. But this isn’t the same type of autonomous driving that Google’s cars can achieve.
New York Times reporter, John Markoff wrote about his experience piloting the Audi A7 last month in Jerusalem. He spoke with Mobileye Vision Technologies, the company that designs the camera-only autonomous system for Audi.
The Mobileye car does not offer the autonomy achieved by Google’s engineers. The Google car, which has been tested for more than 300,000 miles in California traffic, will merge onto freeways, drive safely through intersections, make left and right turns, and pass slower vehicles.
The Mobileye can only drive in a single lane at freeway speeds and is able to stop, slow, and then go back to highway speeds.
Instead of being compared to Google’s self-driving technology, Mobileye wants to prove that autonomous driving can be commercialized. But this feat isn’t easy to achieve.
Markoff discovered that Google’s technology is actually the future of driving. Once it’s perfected the car will be able to drive itself in any situation, including merging in and out of traffic.
Mobileye’s technology is complementing expensive cars as a way to justify at $70,000 price tag. Mobileye is more commercial and less intense than Google’s self-driving car.
Google usually gets all the attention for its self-driving car initiative, and for good reason. The search giant’s autonomous cars are at the forefront of the self-driving car craze. Google has more advanced technology, more sensors, and more cameras that give the driver a full view of what’s going on around each section of the car.
Brand value can be a fickle thing. It’s impossible to measure accurately and it can be affected by numerous volatile factors. But at the end of the day, if a consumer is willing to pay more for one brand over another then brand value becomes a vital indicator of a company’s overall value.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the auto industry, where a consumer’s perception of a brand can often be the main decisive factor when it comes to buying a new car. One of the best indicators of how valuable each brand is compared to its rivals is the annual BrandZ Top 100 global survey, conducted by influential market research firm Millward Brown.
In its latest study, Millward Brown researchers found that Toyota is once again the most valuable automotive brand in the world, with an estimated value of $24.5 billion, a gain of 12 percent on last year’s result. BMW, which has held the top spot since 2010, has been relegated to second, with its value coming in at $24 billion, a drop of 2 percent on last year.
Toyota’s strong gain was said to be brought about by increasing interest in hybridvehicles while BMW’s image was tarnished slightly by its performance in the slumping European market. Interestingly, only four other automakers made it into the BrandZ Top 100 global survey this year: Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Nissan and Volkswagen.
Apple, which has been the top ranking brand since 2011, is once again on top, with an estimated brand value of $185 billion.
For the study, brand value is essentially the sum of all earnings that a company’s brand alone is expected to generate. It is calculated based on information from surveyed consumers, who are asked to judge a brand based on attributes that are important to them.
World’s most valuable car brands in 2013 in $ billion; rank in top global 100; % value change from 2012