NHTSA Sets Record Straight; Toyota Investigation Not Over

Jeff Prescott on

Toyota floor matToyota Motor Sales seems to have been too enthusiastic in its response to a recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report when it issued a press release Monday stating “No defect exists in vehicles with properly installed floor mats.”  Toyota had claimed that NHTSA had completed its investigation into unintended acceleration with certain models, finding that " ... the only defect trend related to vehicle speed control in the subject vehicles involved the potential for accelerator pedals to become trapped near the floor by out-of-position or inappropriate floor mat installations." (See our post “NHTSA Says No Defect In Recalled Toyota, Lexus Vehicles.”)

NHTSA has come out with a strong rebuke, calling the Toyota release “inaccurate and misleading.”

In its own statement, the government safety organization said:

“NHTSA has told Toyota and consumers that removing the recalled floor mats is the most immediate way to address the safety risk and avoid the possibility of the accelerator becoming stuck. But it is simply an interim measure. This remedy does not correct the underlying defect in the vehicles involving the potential for entrapment of the accelerator by floor mats, which is related to accelerator and floor pan design.”

With all the back and forth, it the real message for drivers can be lost. The issue regarding Lexus and Toyota models remains unresolved. NHTSA has committed to working with Toyota on a vehicle-based solution, and it will continue to investigate any possible defect trends. Toyota is working on corrective measures, such as offering to zip-tie mats now and explore potential mat redesigns for replacing under a recall.

Let this serve as a warning for all drivers about the risks of an ill-fitting floor mat, or on that is not secure. With the approach of winter, extra care should be taken in selecting and installing all-weather mats. And they should never be placed atop an existing mat.

The floor mat advisory involves: 2007 to 2010 Toyota Camry, 2005 to 2010 Toyota Avalon, 2004 to 2009 Toyota Prius, 2005 to 2010 Toyota Tacoma, 2007 to 2010 Toyota Tundra, 2007 to Lexus ES350, and 2006 to 2010 Lexus IS250 and IS350.

Owners who have further questions are directed to visit toyota.com/floormats or lexus.com/floormats.

See our previous report: "Toyota, Lexus Floor Mat Saga Continues with NHTSA Insights." more

NHTSA Says No Defect In Recalled Toyota, Lexus Vehicles

Jeff Prescott on

Toyota floor mat installationToyota was strapped in the national hot-seat after a tragic accident in August involving a Lexus ES 350 was blamed on sudden, unintended acceleration. A floor mat from a Lexus RX 400h SUV was wrongly fitted to the sedan and suspected as being a key factor in that incident. Toyota Motor Sales has begun mailing letters to owners of certain Toyota and Lexus models regarding the potential for an unsecured or incompatible driver's floor mat to interfere with the accelerator pedal and cause it to get stuck in the wide-open position. (Read "Toyota, Lexus Recalling 3.8 Million Vehicles to Inspect Floor Mats.")

More significantly, Toyota reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has completed its investigation and found that no defect exists in vehicles in which the driver's floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured. After conducting an extensive technical review of the issue, including interviews with consumers who had complained of unwanted acceleration, NHTSA concluded that " ... the only defect trend related to vehicle speed control in the subject vehicles involved the potential for accelerator pedals to become trapped near the floor by out-of-position or inappropriate floor mat installations."

This is the sixth time in the past six years that NHTSA has undertaken such an exhaustive review of allegations of unintended acceleration on Toyota and Lexus vehicles and the sixth time the agency has found no vehicle-based cause for the unwanted acceleration allegations.

"The question of unintended acceleration involving Toyota and Lexus vehicles has been repeatedly and thoroughly investigated by NHTSA, without any finding of defect other than the risk from an unsecured or incompatible driver's floor mat," said Bob Daly, TMS senior vice president.

In the recently completed investigation, NHTSA reported that:

"The vehicle was fully instrumented to monitor and acquire data relating to yaw rate, speed, acceleration, deceleration, brake pedal effort, brake line hydraulic pressure, brake pad temperature, engine vacuum, brake booster vacuum, throttle plate position, and accelerator pedal position. Multiple electrical signals were introduced into the electrical system to test the robustness of the electronics against single point failures due to electrical interference. The system proved to have multiple redundancies and showed no vulnerabilities to electrical signal activities.”

The floor mat advisory involves: 2007 to 2010 Toyota Camry, 2005 to 2010 Toyota Avalon, 2004 to 2009 Toyota Prius, 2005 to 2010 Toyota Tacoma, 2007 to 2010 Toyota Tundra, 2007 to Lexus ES350, and 2006 to 2010 Lexus IS250 and IS350.

Until Toyota develops a remedy, it is asking owners of affected Toyota and Lexus models to take out any removable driver's floor mat and NOT replace it with any other floor mat. If brought now to a local dealership, many are securing the mats with zip ties.

In theory, the risks related to unsecure floor mats can apply to any vehicle, especially those using thick all-weather mats. As winter fast approaches, it is especially important for motorists to ensure their mats are properly fitted. If not, order appropriate mats. Simple as that.

Owners who have further questions are directed to visit toyota.com/floormats or lexus.com/floormats.

See our previous report: "Toyota, Lexus Floor Mat Saga Continues with NHTSA Insights."

August Auto Sales Show Shopping Success

Brandy Schaffels on

clunker money By all the reports we've seen from the Department of Transportation and other automotive blogs, the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) program was "wildly successful"  at driving consumers towards dealerships. With nearly 700,000 vehicle transactions utilizing "Cash for Clunkers" trade-ins, not to mention standard purchases that didn't include the government-subsidized rebates, it's clear that manufacturers benefited from a giant sales infusion during the month of August.

When comparing sales figures for August 2009 against August 2008, Ford was the most successful American manufacturer with an increase of 16.99 percent (182,149 units sold) for all of Ford Motor Company and a 21.25-percent jump for just the Ford brand itself. Toyota Motor Company and American Honda were up 6.41 (225,088) and 9.93 (161,439) percent respectively. Unfortunately, even with the incentives, some manufacturers still sold fewer cars than they did a year ago, notably Nissan North America was down 2.93 percent (105,312 units sold), Chrysler was down 15.43 percent (93,222), and General Motors was down 20.19 percent (246,479) from a year ago. (Many thanks to John Neff at AutoBlog for his monthly sales report,  from which these figures are derived.)

However, if you compare these figures to the sales reports from last month or even the month before, the impact of the CARS program becomes much more apparent (see chart below). Even though the percentages of sales only look good for a few of the manufacturers when comparing July 2008 to July 2009, watch what happens when you compare August 2009 to July 2009 and June 2009: Everybody wins with sales increases ranging from 17.37 percent for Ford, 36.50 percent for Chrysler, and 39.59 percent for General Motors all the way up to an increase of 60.76 percent for Honda, 70.97 percent for Toyota, and a whopping 80.64 percent for Nissan from over two months ago.

Ironically, while DOT Cash for Clunker reports  make it look as if the imports were the biggest winners in the C4C transactions,  a report at AutoBlog says that "Ford came out as the clear winner in the Top Ten list," based on additional analysis by Edmunds.com. According to their story, "Ford captured three of the top four positions. The Toyota Corolla, which is at the top of the government's list, falls to number five on Edmunds' list behind the F-150, which didn't even make the government's Top Ten. The Chevy Silverado didn't make the government's Top Ten either, but it's number eight with Edmunds."

As far as getting a clear cut answer from all of this, Mark Twain summed it up well when he said: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." A skilled analyst can make a list of numbers demonstrate anything he wants it to show, but one thing is certainly clear: auto sales for all manufacturers have shown a definite trend upwards in the past few months, and as a result of the additional demand, many manufacturers have increased their production schedules and have brought back some employees who had been laid off in recent months.

It will be interesting to see what the next few months show!

By Brandy Schaffels, autoMedia.com Contributing Editor


BrandAugust 2008August 2009Increased Volume % over one year agoJuly 2009Increased Volume % over one month agoJune 2009Increased Volume % over two months ago
American Honda 146,855 161,439 9.93 114,690 40.76 100,420 60.76
Chrysler Group LLC 110,235 93,222 -15.43 88,900 4.86 68,297 36.50
Ford Motor Company 155,690 182,149 16.99 165,279 10.21 155,195 17.37
General Motors 308,817 246,479 -20.19 189,443 30.11 176,571 39.59
Hyundai 41,130 60,467 47.01 45,553 32.74 37,943 59.36
Kia 25,065 40,198 60.38 29,345 36.98 26,845 49.74
Nissan North America 108,493 105,312 -2.93 71,847 46.58 58,298 80.64
Subaru 18,932 28,683 51.51 21,839 31.34 18,620 54.04
Toyota Mo Co 211,533 225,088 6.41 174,872 28.72 131,654 70.97

Driving While InTEXTicated: Put Down Your Device & Drive!

Brandy Schaffels on

texting while driving is bad Just a year ago, there was very little legislation regulating hands-free and text-free use while driving. At the time, most of the legislation limiting the use of handheld devices while driving was limited to novice drivers, or bus drivers, and only a handful of states deemed it a ticketable offense.

Currently, according to http://handsfreeinfo.com/ only a handful of states require hands-free cellphone use, but more than a dozen states have taken action against driving and text messaging, some in conjunction with handheld cell phone bans. On January 1, 2009, California was the first to enact a no-texting law; Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia enacted texting laws in July 2009, and now 14 states restrict texting while driving. Recently, Utah and New Hampshire also adopted new limits on distracted driving. Additionally, more than 20 states restrict minor or novice drivers from using handheld devices while driving.

In the meantime, if common sense isn't enough to make you put your device down and drive, here's a British public service video that's graphic enough to encourage you to just leave the device at home before you even get into your car. Remember those "Red Asphalt" films that used to be shown as part of driver's education? This is the modern-day version,  meant simply to demonstrate how dangerous it is to text while driving. broken glass and blood spatter

Not for the squeamish, it starts with a carefree carload of teenage girls chattering and doing what young girls do best: flirting with boys. The driver is texting, and within moments disaster strikes in gruesome glass-shattering, bone-breaking, blood-spattering, drama. The video is more than four minutes long, and agonizing to watch.

Some ask if the ad's graphic imagery goes too far? Screaming teens and blood spatter? Dead parents? Lifeless babies? Jaws of life and emergency helicopters? As the parent of a 16-year-old who hopes to be driving soon, I encourage all parents to watch it with their young drivers. In fact, anybody who has ever sent a tweet or sms while moving should also watch it.

Plain and simple: I'd rather watch it on YouTube, than see it unfold in traffic lanes around me.

Brandy Schaffels, contributing editor more

autoMedia CARnival 8/28/09: This week in the auto blogs
Brandy Schaffels on

It's the week ending August 28, and we've browsed our favorite automotive blogs all week long to gather a collection of what we feel is the highlight from each.

cash for clunkersOnce again, the biggest news involves the end of the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) program AKA "Cash for Clunker" rebates, culminating in 690,114 transactions valued at $2.88 billion, with stories galore on its "wildly successful"  outcome. LeftLaneNews  reports on some of the downfalls of the program, saying the clunkers' Web site crashed several times, resulting in a bottleneck of applications. Moreover, only about a third of dealers have received their first clunkers check, leaving many dealerships with cash flow problems. Consumer Reports  shares the environmental impact, saying the average new car bought with the rebates got 9.2 mpg more than the average clunker traded in, for an annual average fuel savings per driver of 277 gallons of fuel or about $720.

free pizzaPizza magnate Papa John Schnatter has finally been reunited with his Camaro. In celebration, he gave away nearly 36,000 free pizzas.  Click here to read the detailed story of how Jalopnik  helped make it happen -- and if you want, you can even browse the gallery of photos snapped by Camaro owners when they used their car as the ultimate coupon.

which way is the right wayYou wake up in the morning and suddenly everyone is driving on the "wrong" side of the road. Sound freaky? Well, that is exactly what is going to happen in Samoa on September 7th of this year. All Cars All The Time predicts this move will be an epic fail. The Wall Street Journal seems to agree.  We suggest travelers stay away until they get their drivers retrained.

wedding road tripAre we there yet? Jaime Case and Chris Hodges hopped into a Fusion sedan provided by Ford, and took off on a six-week  pre-wedding road trip around the country to see friends and family prior to signing their marriage certificate. Well, they've finally tied the knot, apparently the road trip is nearly over, and to celebrate the couple plans to change their names.... to Ford. Jeez, I hope Ford lets them keep the car after all that!

watermelonsGet this: AutoBlogGreen.com suggests watermelon juice could be the next great automotive fuel, saying there's enough watermelon juice available to brew 2.5 million gallons of ethanol, which would displace up to 15 percent of corn or molasses, cut down on water usage, and supply needed nitrogen to the mix. Seems like the perfect use for the 360,000 tons of watermelons left to rot and spoil each year!

nissan titanChrysler and Nissan have decided to part ways, scrapping three joint-vehicle programs originally intended to fill yawning gaps in their respective line-ups. With Nissan officials recently telling TheDetroitBureau.com they were still open to working with their Detroit counterpart, it appears that the announcement was heavily influenced by Chrysler's new parent, the Italian automaker Fiat. It also appears Nissan is the loser in the latest developments. A separate agreement calling on Nissan and Chrysler to share transmission remains unchanged.

2011 fiesta sedan spiedAutomotiveTraveler.com has snagged spypix of the upcoming 2011 Ford Fiesta -- only not the little Euro hatchback version we've seen so many Fiesta Agents driving! This article features several remarkably clear road shots of the four-door sedan version destined to arrive in American dealerships in the second quarter of 2010. I'd like one in magenta, please?

GPS saves timeWe all hate sitting in traffic, and in the Los Angeles area, it's notoriously bad.   AutoBlog.com shares the results of a study that demonstrates having a GPS system with real-time traffic can save drivers four days per year and reduce emissions by 21%!

electric plug in carIf you're writing a research paper on the history of electric vehicles, then look no further than cleancartalk.com  which shares everything you ever wanted to know -- but were afraid to ask -- about the electric car. With detailed info from its origins in the 1830s to modern-day options, this article is good reading for green gearheads. 

carnival logoMark Tapscott may very well be THE founder of the Carnival of Cars concept, and he had the wisdom to include ME in one of his first editions,  nearly three years ago! If you want to keep up with Tapscott's current content, favorite him at Examiner.com

Thanks for joining us for this week's autoMedia.com CARnival! Have you got something of interest you want us to include in a future carnival? Then fill out our online form  so we can be notified of your interesting entry to our weekly blog CAR-nival. Check back next week for another installment--until then, have a great weekend!

Brandy Schaffels, Contributing Editor


CARS Program Declared 'Wildly Successful'
Brandy Schaffels on

cash for clunkers sign Barely a month after The Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) program was first enacted, the second leg of the pivotal program also known as "cash for clunkers," wrapped up boasting nearly 700,000 car sales and improved fuel efficiency.

In a statement released by U.S. Department of Transportation, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declared the program "wildly successful" citing not just the number of vehicles sold, but also good news for the environment. The average fuel economy of the vehicles traded in was 15.8 miles per gallon and the average fuel economy of vehicles purchased was 24.9 mpg - a 58 percent improvement helped by the fact that 84 percent of consumers traded in trucks and 59 percent purchased passenger cars.

According to the report released today, cars purchased under the program were, on average, 19% above the average fuel economy of all new cars currently available, and 59% above the average fuel economy of cars that were traded in. This means the program raised the average fuel economy of the fleet, while getting the dirtiest and most polluting vehicles off the road.

All in all, it appears the program has served its purpose, as according to a preliminary analysis by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the CARS program will:

  • Boost economic growth in the third quarter of 2009 by 0.3-0.4 percentage points at an annual rate thanks to increased auto sales in July and August.
  • Will sustain the increase in GDP in the fourth quarter because of increased auto production to replace depleted inventories.
  • Will create or save 42,000 jobs in the second half of 2009. Those jobs are expected to remain well after the program's close.cars in a row

"This is a win for the economy, a win for the environment and a win for American consumers," said Secretary LaHood. The dollar value of the 690,114 vehicle transactions presents a total dollar value of $2,877.9 million! Broken down, the ten states to benefit the most from these purchases are (based on dealer voucher requests):

  • California..............$326,822,000
  • Texas....................$183,776,500
  • New York .............$156,292,000
  • Florida..................$146,565,000
  • Illinois...................$143,613,000
  • Pennsylvania........$138,651,500
  • Ohio .....................$136,267,000
  • Michigan...............$132,407,500
  • New Jersey...........$103,375,500
  • Virginia.................$98,523,500

  • After the stampede of sales ends, the Department of Transportation is now augmenting a 2000-person team to process dealer rebate applications.

    See our previous reports on "Top 10 Trade-Ins and Purchases"  and "What Automaker Sold the Most Cars?"

    Learn even more from "Cashing in on Clunkers."

    By Brandy Schaffels, autoMedia.com contributing editor


    Cash for Clunkers – What Automaker Sold the Most Cars?
    Jeff Prescott on

    The Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) program, known as “cash for clunkers,” has ended. Both government and industry are struggling to emerge from the paper trail left behind by the sales frenzy that saw $3 billion in federal incentives vaporize in just a few weeks. Preliminary figures released this week show that 84 percent of trade-ins under the program are trucks, and 59 percent of new vehicle purchases are cars.

    Consumers were drawn to fuel-efficient models, averaging a 9.2 mpg improvement from the clunker to the new vehicle. Looking at the top 10 most popular purchases, the list is dominated by thrifty, compact sedans such as the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, and Ford Focus. Further, hybrid vehicles accounted for 4.5 percent of new vehicles purchased under the program compared to 3 percent of all new vehicle sales in June 2009. Interestingly, more than ¾ of those buying a hybrid were replacing an SUV or truck.

    But the key question is, what automakers most benefited from the sales? While the Department of Transportation points out that 54 percent of the top 10 vehicles sold were manufactured in the United States, the sales breakdown shows that that import companies Toyota and Honda captured a significant portion of clunkers business, with General Motors leading the domestic brands.

    Cash for clunkers new-vehicle sales share

    19.2% Toyota                        
    17.7% General Motors           
    15.0% Ford                            
    13.2% Honda                        
    8.3% Chrysler                         
    7.8% Nissan                           
    6.8% Hyundai                         
    3.8% Kia                                 
    2.4% Subaru                          
    2.3% Mazda                           
    1.9% Volkswagen                   
    0.5% Suzuki                           
    0.4% Mitsubishi                      
    0.4% Mini                               
    0.2% Smart                             
    0.1% Volvo                             
    <0.1% All other  


    See our previous report on the Top 10 Trade-Ins and Purchases.

    Learn even more from “Cashing in on Clunkers.” more

    Hot Wheels: The Most Stolen Vehicles of 2008
    Jeff Prescott on

    1994 Honda Accord - most stolenThe National Insurance Crime Bureau's (NICB) has released its annual “hot wheels” report on the most stolen vehicles, revealing a list of older, high-volume models. Certain models of older cars and trucks are popular with thieves because of the value of their parts. In addition, older models are less likely to have factory security systems, such as an engine immobilizer, that could deter theft. (Read “Car Theft Prevention Tips - Keep your Vehicle from being Stolen.”)

    The preliminary 2008 FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR) shows that vehicle theft is on pace to record a decrease of 13.1 percent from 2007 numbers. That would make 2008 the fifth consecutive year of declining vehicle thefts. Moreover, if the preliminary figures hold total thefts for 2008 would be below 1 million vehicles--the lowest annual total in over 20 years.

    The most-stolen cars of 2008

  • 1994 Honda Accord
  • 1995 Honda Civic
  • 1989 Toyota Camry
  • 1997 Ford F-150 Pickup
  • 2004 Dodge Ram Pickup
  • 2000 Dodge Caravan
  • 1996 Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee
  • 1994 Acura Integra
  • 1999 Ford Taurus
  • 2002 Ford Explorer

  • To prevent theft, NICB recommends:

    Locking your car. Sounds simple, but it is a deterrent. Thieves prize convenience, stealth, and speed—none of which a locked car provides.
    Warning device. A security system with a visible and/or audible warning is effective. Best bet is a system with a blinking light, so thieves don’t bother your car.
    Immobilizer. "Kill" switches, fuel cut-offs, and smart keys are extremely effective.
    Tracker. A GPS-based tracking system that is monitored by the police, such as LoJack or a telematics system like Onstar can hasten vehicle recovery.


    Attn Shoppers: Cash for Clunkers Ends Monday
    Jeff Prescott on

    Cash for clunkers the sequelAll good things must end. The first phase for Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) saw $1 billion in federal car-sales stimulus drained in less than two weeks. Congress quickly approved $2 billion to keep the momentum going, with Obama signing into law on August 9th. Now, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced the cash for clunkers program will come to a close on Monday, August 24th at 8 p.m. EDT.

    “This program has been a lifeline to the automobile industry, jump starting a major sector of the economy and putting people back to work,” Secretary LaHood said. “At the same time, we’ve been able to take old, polluting cars off the road and help consumers purchase fuel efficient vehicles.”

    As of today, the CARS program has recorded more than 457,000 dealer transactions worth $1.9 billion in rebates.

    John McEleney, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), issued the following statement:

    “Today, the Administration announced the submission deadline for all ‘cash for clunkers’ applications. Regardless of when the transaction is consummated, the application must be submitted before the deadline to be considered for funding.  

    “However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has advised NADA that any applications submitted prior to the deadline and then rejected may still be funded if the applications are subsequently corrected (even if the corrections are submitted after the deadline). This opportunity to cure the application is an essential element of the wind-down of the program.”

    Dealership inventory is quick thinning many towns, even as factories ramp up overtime to deliver small, fuel-efficient vehicles in before the funds run out. There is a definite race against the clock for all involved to take full advantage of this unique program, and car shoppers shouldn’t delay.   

    Learn about the so-called “cash for clunkers” program from our guide. And research year-end clearance models in our new car buyer’s guide and reviews.

    Use the free autoMedia dealer quote tool to have dealers compete for your business.

    Cash for Clunkers: Obama Formalizes $2 Billion Extension
    Jeff Prescott on

    Cash for clunkers Cars logoPresident Obama has signed into law H.R. 3435, a bill that extends the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) with $2 billion more in funding. This bill doubles the original $1 billion in funding that sparked a new car sales wave. Late Friday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that 245,384 CARS credits had been requested, totaling $1.03 billion. The extension came just in time to continue the offer through the weekend. (See: “Cash for Clunkers: Senate Approves $2 Billion Extension.”)

    Obama said, “Now, more American consumers will have the chance to purchase newer, more fuel-efficient cars and the American economy will continue to get a much-needed boost. ‘Cash for clunkers’ has been a proven success: the initial transactions are generating a more than 50 percent  increase in fuel economy; they are generating $700 to $1000 in annual savings for consumers in reduced gas costs alone; and they are getting the oldest, dirtiest and most air-polluting trucks and SUVs off the road for good. Businesses across the country – from small auto dealerships and suppliers to large auto manufacturers – are putting people back to work as a result of this program.”

    From the initial sales rush, dealer lots have seen the inventory of their most fuel-efficent cars sold down. For those late-comers to the program, there will be fewer choices of year-end models. (Read: "Cash for Clunkers – Top 10 Trade Ins, Purchases.") It is important for shoppers to not only research their selections, but work to get their first-choice model, rather than compromise. After all, it somewhat defeats the purpose if you don’t buy the four-cylinder you wanted and go with the V-6, instead. Remember, dealers can search regional inventory and have a car transported to their shop. Consider using either a car-locator feature on the manufacturer site or cast a wide net in seeking dealer quotes online to ensure you find the car you want.

    Still can’t find what you want? In some cases, the 2010 models are coming later this month, such as several Toyota models.

    Research new vehicles in the 2009 new car buyer’s guide. Use the free autoMedia dealer quote tool to have dealers compete for your business. more

    autoMedia CARnival 8/7/09: This week in the auto blogs
    Brandy Schaffels on

    It's the week ending August 7, and we've browsed our favorite automotive blogs all week long to gather a collection of what we feel is the highlight from each. The biggest news this week continues to be discussion of Obama's Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) program, as websites discussed the outcome of the program's first week, as well as plans for its next installment.

    Car Allowance Rebate System logoThanks to AutoBlogGreen for the latest update clarifying the mysterious status of the Car Allowance Rebate System legislation, telling us it looks set to continue for at least another month. Apparently, the Senate confirmed the House's $2 billion funding of the incredibly popular program yesterday in a 60-37 vote, Obama is expected to sign it into law soon, and the money should last through Labor Day. Note: If you're considering making a purchase based on CARS rebates, don't delay, as it's not expected to be extended again.

    A report at Edmunds Auto Observer, which was heavily based on information obtained from a Hyundai press release, states that these new purchases could result in a 59-percent fuel economy improvement between the new and old vehicle of the early clunker trades. In fact, according to their report, Hyundai estimates individual fuel consumption will decrease by 275 gallons per year, reducing fuel costs by nearly $680 annually at current gas prices. According to Hyundai's calculations, this first round of trade-ins could potentially decrease annual fuel consumption across the U.S. by 69 million gallons, reducing spending by a total of nearly $170 million on gasoline and cutting CO2 emissions by more than 600,000 metric tons.

    A deluge of car shoppers purchased nearly 185,000 vehicles within the first week of activity: Consumer Reports shared data showing what participating consumers were trading in and then buying with their rebate dollars. As expected, the vehicles most often cashed in are popular SUVs and pickup trucks, with small and midsized sedans dominating the new-car purchases. They also include lists of the top vehicles purchased (Toyota Corolla was the number one most purchased car) and the top ten vehicles traded in (Ford Explorer 4WD wins that dubious honor).

    Cash for Clunkers signWith nearly all gas-electric hybrid cars qualifying for the Cash for Clunkers vouchers, hybrid sales in July grew to 3.55 percent of the new car market--its largest market share ever. According to HybrdCars.com, new car dealers sold 35,429 hybrids, with more than half of the sales coming from the Toyota Prius. Hybrid sales jumped by 35 percent in July compared with last month and a year ago--while sales of conventional new vehicles rose 15.4 percent for the month and were down 13 percent from July 2008.

    Finally, there's been lots of greenwashing on this subject, but Bill Basore over at AutomotiveTraveler has the courage to explain, in painful detail, all the reasons why the Cash for Clunkers program is bad. While many consumer and industry insiders may quietly agree with him, nobody has written anything that so clearly explains why it's so clearly bad. Plus, all the videos demonstrating how they disable what appear to be perfectly reliable cars are just tragically sad.

    Sick of Cash for Clunkers news? Okay, let's move along....
    Jalopnik Bad Car MoviesWe already know those snarky guys over at Jalopnik love cars. They love movies, too. Would it surprise you to hear they also love movies about cars? Well, we all know there are some really great car flicks out there, as well as some really pathetic car flicks. Click this link to view Jalopnik's list of 12 of the greatest car flicks of all time. Or click this link to view their list of 12 of the worst.

    Connected in the carIf you're one of those folks who's always on the move, check out this article at The Detroit Bureau explaining a new generation of wireless technology that provides Internet access via cellular data networks for devices in a moving vehicle. With in-car internet service like this, your kids may soon start asking, "Already?" rather than, "Are we there yet."

    Annoying window switchesAutomotive journalists drive a lot of cars. And since most of that time is spent sitting in the driver's seat, certain things tend to annoy them more than others. AutoBlog has compiled a slideshow of interior annoyances, gripes, and grievances. Not everyone will agree with all the choices, but some of them are especially problematic. What do you think?

    2010 Chevrolet CamaroI hate to report it myself, so I'll let the folks at MotorTrend.com say it: The Chevy Camaro got a 4-star crash test rating in front driver and passenger tests. :( Now that the NHTSA put the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro through four crash tests, the Mustang has another minor selling point over its main rival: Compared to the Mustang coupe's five stars all around, the Camaro only received five stars for the side driver and rollover tests. According to the article, the Camaro continues to outsell the Mustang, and in July, 7113 Camaros were sold to 6686 Mustangs.

    Woodward Dream CruiseThe 15th Annual Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise is taking place next weekend! Are you going? Whether you'll be there or not, you'll want to check out this collection of billboards that Chevrolet has commissioned to be displayed in the Detroit area as part of the festivities. Happy Cruising!

    Thanks for joining us for this week's autoMedia.com CARnival! Have you got something of interest you want us to include in a future carnival? Then fill out our online form  so we can be notified of your interesting entry to our weekly blog CAR-nival. Check back next week for another installment--until then, have a great weekend!

    Brandy Schaffels, Contributing Editor


    Cash for Clunkers: Senate Approves $2 Billion Extension
    Jeff Prescott on

    Cars cash for clunkers part 2In a last-minute vote before August recess, the U.S. Senate approved H.R. 3435, a bill that extends the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) with $2 billion more in funding. The bill was passed with 60 yeas and 37 nays. It now goes to President Obama for signing into law.

    Obama has been a strong proponent of the cash for clunkers extension, and it is expected that he will swiftly put pen to paper. Government officials had forecasted that the initial CARS funds would have run dry this Friday. It is estimated that upwards of 500,000 clunkers could be traded in and replaced with more fuel-efficient, and likely safer, vehicles as a result of this continuation.

    The original program has exceeded expectations, fueling a massive sales rush over the past few days. Buyers have been exchanging older, worn-out SUVs and pickup trucks for fuel-efficient small and midsized cars. Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors have claimed 45 percent of the CARS sales during this period. (See “Cash for Clunkers – Top 10 Trade Ins, Purchases.”)

    "Our customers and dealers appreciate Congress' help in keeping the program's momentum going and providing the stimulus to put more clean, fuel-efficient vehicles on the road. CARS is one program that has given consumers, the economy and a vital industry a much needed boost," said GM Sales Vice President Mark LaNeve.

    Car shoppers may find dealerships have a dwindling supply of the choicest models, as the auto industry transitions to the 2010 model year. Many new models will be shipped to dealers this month for those who can wait, or are willing to reserve a vehicle in advance. It is important for consumers to research their purchase. History shows these buyers tend to hold on to a vehicle for a long time – best to make sure it is one that will serve their needs for many years to come.

    Research new vehicles in the 2009 new car buyer’s guide.

    Cash for Clunkers – Top 10 Trade Ins, Purchases
    Jeff Prescott on

    2009 Toyota Corolla most popular cash for clunkers purchaseThe CAR Allowance Rebate System (CARS), popularly known as “cash for clunkers,” is widely regarded as a success, and now we have further proof. In “Cars for Clunkers Works, Time for a Sequel?” we chronicled the July sales that were buoyed from the program. We now have more detailed information on what vehicles were purchased, with refined figures by brand.

    Thus far, 83% of trade-ins under the program are trucks, and 59% of new vehicle purchases are cars. Nearly half of new vehicles purchased under the program were from the Big 3. Detroit’s share in this program (45%) is equivalent to their overall share in the auto market (about 45%) – a couple points less than indicated in published reports yesterday.

    Looking at the product mix, the trade ins are all traditional, high-volume models from domestic brands. The popular purchases are from several brands, skewing toward the imports. On average, the new models boast 63% better fuel economy than the models turned in.

    A whopping 184,304 vehicles have been exchanged through this program, with car buyers benefiting from $775.2 million in credits. The program is still in effect, with some money remaining. The Senate is expected to pass a $2 billion extension to the program, and automakers and their suppliers are ramping up in anticipating.

    So what are people buying? Below are the cash for clunker Top 10s.

    Top 10 Trade-in Vehicles

  • Ford Explorer 4WD
  • Ford F150 Pickup 2WD
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD
  • Jeep Cherokee 4WD
  • Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan
  • Ford Explorer 2WD
  • Chevrolet Blazer 4WD
  • Ford F150 Pickup 4WD
  • Chevrolet C1500 Pickup 2WD
  • Ford Windstar

  • Top 10 New Vehicles Purchased

  • Toyota Corolla
  • Ford Focus
  • Honda Civic
  • Toyota Prius
  • Toyota Camry
  • Hyundai Elantra
  • Ford Escape FWD
  • Dodge Caliber
  • Honda Fit
  • Chevrolet Cobalt

    New Vehicles Manufacturers

  • 18.7% - General Motors          
  • 17.9% - Toyota                        
  • 16.0% - Ford                            
  • 11.6% - Honda                         
  • 10.6% - Chrysler                     
  • 7.0% - Nissan                          
  • 6.6% - Hyundai                        
  • 3.8% - Kia         
  • 2.3% - Mazda                          
  • 2.2% - Subaru                         
  • 1.9% - Volkswagen                  
  • 0.4% - Suzuki                          
  • 0.3% - Mini                              
  • 0.3% - Mitsubishi                     
  • 0.2% - Smart                           
  • 0.1% - Volvo                            
  • 0.1% - All others                       
  • Research new vehicles in the 2009 new car buyer’s guide. Learn even more from “Cashing in on Clunkers.” more

    Cars for Clunkers Works, Time for a Sequel?
    Jeff Prescott on

    2009 Ford Focus Coupe cash for clunkersThe CAR Allowance Rebate System (CARS), popularly known as “cash for clunkers” was executed in a bumbling fashion that only government could manage, yet it was a resounding success. Manufacturers have released their July sales figures, and the news is largely good (or at least, not as bad), with most full-line automakers seeing a lift in the past week from the CARS program. (Learn how cash for clunkers works.)

    Subaru boasted the most impressive gain, comparing July 2009 to July 2008, with a stunning 34-percent increase. Although not known for high fuel economy, much of its model line is eligible for consideration, and the AWD-automaker is drawing showroom traffic with its redesigned Legacy and Outback. Volvo saw a 26-percent gain, with the XC60 crossover gaining new buyers to what is otherwise an aging product line. Hyundai issued CARS credits weeks before the program was finalized, and as a result, the crafty company saw a 12-percent gain. (See “Hyundai Honors Cash for Clunkers CARS Rebate – Now.”)

    But the real winner is arguably Ford Motor Company. Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln retail sales increased nine percent versus a year ago; total sales (including fleet) were 158,838, up two percent versus a year ago. Ford itself boasted its first sales increase in 19 months. The big winners in the Ford line were Focus (21, 830 sales) Escape, (20,241 sales), Fusion (17,610 sales), and Ranger (7,695 – up 65 percent). Combined, its hybrid models sold 5,353 units.

    General Motors figures were down 19.4 percent over July 2008 – a dramatic improvement over past months. Chrysler fared even better, just 9.4 percent off.  The Jeep Patriot was up 134 percent, the Dodge Caliber up 63 percent, and the Chrysler PT Cruiser up 24 percent – making the move to continue production seem rather sage. Both companies pulled this off despite significant dealer reductions in the past 12 months. Combined, the Detroit 3 accounts for an estimated 47 percent of the cash for clunkers sales, according to the Detroit News. In addition, the program proved to prime the retail pump and brought many more additional sales.

    This overall success was just the boost the auto industry needed, infusing capital and helping to clear away year-end 2009 models. It didn’t come easy. One billion tax dollars went to the cause, and the rush to implement CARS meant many speed bumps along the way.

    Last Friday, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) estimated that the funds were at risk of expiring, just days after the program began. Yet the federal government encouraged sales to continue over the weekend, ensuring the funds would be made available and chaos would ensue, as some dealers hesitated to risk reimbursement to make sales. Program overseer the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is struggling to catch up with the filed paperwork that would identify the number of credit claims filed and therefore determine the money spent.

    For now, the official word from Cars.gov is that the program is in effect. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives passed a bill to contribute another $2 billion to extend cash for clunkers. It rests with Senate now. This week, the Senate will accept the House bill, revise it, or reject it altogether. There seems to be significant momentum behind supporting CARS. After all, the first deployment exceeded expectations.

    Research new vehicles in the 2009 new car buyer’s guide. Learn even more from “Cashing in on Clunkers.” more

    autoMedia CARnival 7-31-09: This week in the auto blogs
    Brandy Schaffels on

    It's the week ending July 31, and we've browsed our favorite automotive blogs all week long to gather a collection of what we feel is the highlight from each. The biggest news was the implementation and nearly immediate suspension of Obama's Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) program.

    clunkerIt took less than a week, but reports indicate CARS may have already burned through its billion dollar funding. Passed at the beginning of the month and officially set into motion on Monday, a brief story published last night at AutoBlog  indicates that nearly 23,000 cars have already been sold. According to AutoSpies,  when shoppers heard that the program could be stalled so the feds could reconcile the backlog of sales and trade-ins, last-minute buyers crawled out of the woodwork to take advantage of last-minute sales opportunities. As explained at Edmunds Auto Observer, however, a great concern to dealers is the that they must destroy the clunkers and provide proof they have been destroyed before they can even apply for the government voucher. If the money runs out, the dealers must honor the deal without receiving the reimbursement.

    GreenlingsAutoblogGreen says compressed natural gas-powered vehicles are the invisible children of the green car scene in the U.S. While there are nearly 10 million natural gas vehicles in the world they're not common on American roads. This week's Greenlings column gives the scoop on CNG vehicles in America.

    jalopnikOh yes, we know that cars are a part of American culture. We grow up in them, live in them, love them, but like the culture they reflect, cars change over time. Jalopnik shares a photo gallery of ten things you experienced your kids probably won't.

    Suzuki KizashiAfter being previewed by a trio of concept cars over the last two years, not to mention being the subject of numerous spy photos in the Southwestern United States and on Germany's Nuerburgring, Suzuki's Kizashi has finally been officially introduced. According to LeftLaneNews,  the midsize Kizashi will begin arriving in showrooms this winter in North America. You can get a sneak peek of the Suzuki Kizashi here at autoMedia.com.

    crashed camaroIt seems we've seen no shortage of crashed Camaro pix in the news lately. Unfortunately, this popular ponycar seems ripe for the wrecking, as demonstrated by video reporting the first crash of a New Camaro in April at Jalopnik  and these photos recently published at  BangShift after some dumb kid neophyte driver put down nearly 400 feet of rubber and then smashed his dad's '69 Camaro into the neighbor's front yard. Old or new, the car carnage is equally sad, totaling nearly $30k in damages for this young driver.

    Kia HamstersHaha! Consumers might love those rock-and-rolling Kia hamsters, but apparently, Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing for Kia USA, told BNET Auto "We didn't want the hamsters to become the spokesperson for our brand. We wanted to be a more serious brand." As a result, allcarsallthetime reports the only hamsters you'll be seeing in advertising for Kia's new Forte sedan are the ones that customers have chosen to transport themselves. See how the Kia Soul compares against the Nissan Cube and Scion xB here at autoMedia.com.

    Chevrolet Corvette in Gran Turismo PSPAre you a gamer? Then you'll appreciate this report from Motor Trend,  which declares when "Gran Turismo" for the PSP hits shelves in October, 638-hp of uncompromised Detroit muscle will be its focus. The Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 is the star of the cover, a decision made by creator Kazunori Yamauchi to show his support for the U.S. auto industry. They interview Yamauchi about the game, the domestic auto industry, and his view of the automobile's future.

    RechargingHybridCars asks what fuel-economy numbers will look like on the window stickers of electric vehicles coming to the US market next year: Trying to find the answer could short-circuit your brain, as consumers must learn a new system for evaluating the efficiency of cars that use little or no gasoline, especially since a consistent system hasn't yet been fully developed.

    Thanks for joining us for this week's autoMedia.com CARnival! Have you got something of interest you want us to include in a future carnival? Then fill out our online form  so we can be notified of your interesting entry to our weekly blog CAR-nival. Check back next week for another installment--until then, have a great weekend!

    Brandy Schaffels, autoMedia.com Contributing Editor