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31 Jul 2014

Outstanding auto loans total higher than ever

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Massive Ignition Switch Recall Weighs Heavy On GM's Profits

It looks like Americans are feeling more confident about borrowing money again, at least when it comes to their cars. Credit reporting giant Equifax has released its latest National Consumer Credit Trends Report, and the data suggests that auto lending is booming in 2014.

The total amount of outstanding auto loans in the US amounted to $902.2 billion in the company’s analysis. Not only was that a new record, it was also a 10-percent increase from a year ago. “Auto lending continues to thrive, accounting for more than fifty percent of all new non-mortgage lending through April of 2014,” said Dennis Carlson, Deputy Chief Economist at Equifax, in the study.

The results mixed some bright spots with some seemingly worrying trends following the recent subprime credit crisis, though. According to the report, year-to-date new auto loans as of April 2014 reached $163.5 billion, the highest amount since 2005, and the number of them in that period was also at record levels. According to Carlson, the amount of delinquencies was at near-record lows of less than 1 percent of that $902 billion.

“Subprime lending has grown across all sectors in 2014. This is good news as a fully functioning second-chance market is essential for a healthy economy,” said Carlson in the study. Auto loans to these buyers reached $46.2 billion year-to-date, an eight-year high, which made them about 28 percent of the total loan balance from this year.

The rest of the report indicated a strong credit market elsewhere too. Banks issued more credit cards, and overdue accounts were at a five-year low. The total amount in mortgages was actually down from last year, but delinquencies were lower as well. Want to know more? Scroll down.

Continue reading Outstanding auto loans total higher than ever

Outstanding auto loans total higher than ever originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 31 Jul 2014 08:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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31 Jul 2014

2015 Ford F-150 appearance guide takes the truck from mild to wild with options

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2015 Ford F-150

2015 Ford F-150 Trim GuideWe already know that the 2015 Ford F-150 has a base price coming in at just $395 more than the 2014 model, despite all of the new standard tech and aluminum-intensive construction in the upcoming version. Now the Blue Oval is finally giving us an idea of what that extra money actually buys customers, with the release of the appearance guide for its latest pickup.

The guide basically explains everything you could want to know about what changes occur among the multitude of trims on the 2015 F-150. There are five levels for the new truck. Although, that is something of a misnomer because most of them are also available with either Sport or Chrome packages, plus the FX4 Off-Road option with Hill Descent Control, an electronic-locking rear axle, off-road shocks and skid plates. With 13 available colors, including 4 new ones, and 14 wheel designs in various sizes, pickup buyers should have no problem specing one to fit their style.

The lineup starts out with the base XL with a black grille and fascia and 17-inch wheels. However, across most of the range the Sport and Chrome packages are also available to add either body-color or chrome accents, respectively. Next up is the XLT with a standard chrome grille but also available with a black, billet-style one with a body-color surround. Things really start getting plush with the Lariat model with leather trim, a three-bar front end and 18-inch wheels. The King Ranch sticks with that look but adds power running boards, 20-inch wheels and two-tone paint. Finally, the top-dog Platinum is all about bling with yet another frontal design, chrome door handles and mirror caps, a big logo running across the tailgate and more.

All of the options are certainly a lot to take in, and Ford clearly doesn’t want any potential customers to fall through the cracks in terms getting exactly what they want from their F-150. Check out the gallery to see all of the differences between the trims for yourself.

2015 Ford F-150 appearance guide takes the truck from mild to wild with options originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:34:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

Ram goes all-in on SAE J2807 tow ratings [w/video]

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2015 Ram Trucks Tow Ratings

Thanks to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), when car shoppers look at horsepower and torque figures on vehicles, they know that all the automakers are calculating them the same way. However, that isn’t the case when it comes to truck buyers and max towing capacity ratings because each company figures the value differently. That practice finally changes with the SAE’s standardized J2807 system, though, and Ram Truck is the first one to apply the new test procedure to its entire light- and heavy-duty pickup range.

All models of the Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 use the new, standardized rating for the 2015 model year, but buyers might not notice too much difference. According to the company, in 99 percent of cases the max towing weights are unchanged or even improve slightly from last year. That’s a strong result compared to the 2015 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra that are seeing few increases but mostly decreases under the new testing procedure.

“For too long, an uneven playing field existed and towing capacities went unchecked. We’re happy to be the only pickup truck manufacturer to align with the SAE J2807 towing standard across our pickup truck lineup,” said Mike Cairns, director of Ram Truck engineering, in the company’s announcement of the new specs.

The new 2015 Ram SAE J2807 towing capacities are as follows:

  • Ram 1500 with 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 – 7,600 pounds
  • Ram 1500 with 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 – 9,200 pounds
  • Ram 1500 with 5.7-liter Hemi V8- 10,650 pounds
  • Ram 2500 with 6.4-liter Hemi V8 – 16,300 pounds
  • Ram 2500 with 6.7-liter Cummins inline-six diesel – 17,970 pounds
  • Ram 3500 with 6.4-liter Hemi V8 – 16,420 pounds
  • Ram 3500 with 6.7-liter Cummins inline-six diesel – 30,000 pounds

Not only is J2807 meant to create a standard across all truck makers; its tests are supposed to simulate real-world towing for trucks. To achieve a given weight rating, the pickups have to perform certain tests. These include evaluations like a 0-60 miles per hour time allowance, the ability to climb a grade without dipping below a certain speed and some handling checks. Once all of the companies are using J2807, buyers should have a far more accurate idea of towing performance. Scroll down to watch a video of Ram touting its new numbers and read the company’s official release.

Continue reading Ram goes all-in on SAE J2807 tow ratings [w/video]

Ram goes all-in on SAE J2807 tow ratings [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 16 Jul 2014 09:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

Hyundai Azera fate in question for US

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2014 Hyundai Azera - front three-quarter view

The Azera has been consistently outsold by its rivals. Through June, Hyundai has shifted just 4,191 units.

Hyundai’s dealers call the Azera the “nicest car nobody knows about.” That’s according to Mike O’Brien, Hyundai Motor America’s vice president of corporate and product planning. Indeed, the fullsize sedan is a handsome, well-rounded machine, loaded with creature comforts. Yet it’s not selling well, and its space in Hyundai showrooms is about to get a whole lot more crowded thanks to the newly spruced-up 2015 Sonata. No surprise, then, that company officials admit that the model’s future in the US is uncertain.

The Korean automaker’s Sonata family sedan has all-new styling that’s a lot less divisive than last year, with a more conservative, crisply tailored aesthetic that reads upscale, particularly in higher-end trims. It’s also larger inside, offers a more refined interior, and comes with more available creature comforts and safety features. In other words, the Sonata’s redesign is poised to make the Azera’s business case even more problematic, especially as the new midsizer starts at just $21,150.

Introduced at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show as a 2012 model, the Asan, South Korea-assembled Azera is a car that has been consistently outsold by its rivals. Through June, Hyundai has shifted just 4,191 units in 2014 – down from 5,792 cars at this time last year. This, despite the base price on the 2014 model being dropped by $1,250 to $31,000 through standard equipment changes. Compare that to Chevrolet’s Impala, which cleared 14,378 units in June and a total of 78,499 this year. Or the Toyota Avalon (5,605 units in June, 32,031 units year to date) and Buick LaCrosse (5,332 units in June and 25,280 units year to date). Even the due-for-replacement Nissan Maxima sold 3,528 models in June and has moved 23,451 so far in 2014.

The The 2015 model-year Azera will be a late arrival this fall, but after that, its fate is an open question.

Hyundai’s manager of product planning for Azera and Sonata, John Shon, says he still sees daylight between the newly matured Sonata, the Azera and the company’s pricier Genesis Sedan. “We look at it [Azera] as a large car, and as a near luxury car – it sort of straddles that gap. Also, we don’t have a V6 engine, the Sonata has a 2.0-liter turbo.” Shon continues: “One of the great things about Azera is it’s a customer-loyalty product. When we look at who is buying the product, over half the buyers are previous Sonata owners, so it’s the move-up vehicle.”

But the step up benefit isn’t as clear in light of the new Sonata – there’s little difference between it and the Azera in terms of cabin space in both specific dimensions like headroom (Azera: 40.3 inches, Sonata: 40.4 inches), overall passenger space (107 cubic feet vs. 106.1) or cargo space (16.3 cubic feet for both). Performance figures are similar between the two (with the exception of fuel economy, where the Sonata is significantly better), and interior materials and refinement levels are similar now, too. It doesn’t help that Hyundai hasn’t earmarked much in the way of a marketing budget for the Azera, instead preferring to focus on its US-built offerings like the Sonata and Elantra.

The 2015 model-year Azera will be a late arrival this fall, but after that, its fate is an open question. When Autoblog asked Shon if America will see a next-generation model, he admitted, “[That’s] to be seen at this particular point… obviously we’ll see what the market take-rate for the Sonata is, how the Azera continues to do, how the Genesis continues to do.”

There’s little doubt that a third-generation Azera will be made, as the car is a strong seller in Hyundai’s home market. “That vehicle is a Korean domestic market vehicle,” says Shon. “They sell over 100,000 of those a year there. So the vehicle will be built, engineered. Whether we import it into the US is still to be determined.”

Hyundai Azera fate in question for US originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:28:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

How Toyota’s neighbor delayed 23,000 of its deliveries

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Toyota Motor Co Nagoya Port Center

Don’t you just hate when your neighbors’ mess becomes your problem? Toyota certainly has good reason to be upset, after an dirty mishap at a steel mill delayed thousands of vehicle exports from its nearby port in Nagoya, Japan, (pictured above) by as much as a month.

The messy situation occurred on June 22 when the mill near the port lost power and had to burn off an excess buildup of coke oven gas – which isn’t exactly a situation friendly to living beings or the environment. According to Automotive News, it caused a massive amount of smoke to emit from the plant that fell as soot and tar on about 23,000 vehicles that were waiting to be shipped out. Getting the models properly cleaned off has been quite a task. A team of 5,000 workers were at the port until this week getting them gleaming again.

Potential Toyota buyers in North America have no need to fret about getting a sullied car, though. A Toyota spokesperson told Automotive News that none of the vehicles were bound for this continent. The automaker is reportedly considering asking the mill’s owners for reimbursement for the cost of the weeks of cleanup. Paying for the mistake is, after all, the neighborly thing to do.

How Toyota’s neighbor delayed 23,000 of its deliveries originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 17 Jul 2014 09:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

America, you’re now buying more utility vehicles than sedans

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Ford Escape

Now you’ve done it, America. A new study by IHS Automotive has revealed that American motorists are turning to the high-riding style of crossovers and sport utility vehicles more than they are traditional sedans. Through May of 2014, IHS says that SUVs and CUVs account for 36.5 percent of new vehicle registrations. Sedans, meanwhile, cover just 35.4 percent. That represents a flip-flop from the same period five years ago, when the trusty four-door occupied 36.3 percent of registrations to the SUV/CUV category’s 31.4 percent.

It’s not that sedans have become unpopular,” Tom Libby, an analyst at IHS, told Bloomberg. “It’s just that CUVs have really grown. They drive like cars, but they have higher positioning, the option for four-wheel drive and better fuel economy. There’s more space for seating. It’s easy to see why they’ve taken off in popularity.”

We’re guessing when Libby says “better fuel economy,” he’s referring to the current efficiency of new CUVs – models like the Ford Escape shown above – compared to past models, not necessarily sedans. Also, we’d be quite curious to see the breakdown in registration percentages if the CUV and SUV were separated.

Our issue with the SUV/CUV split aside, we’ll admit that these results aren’t all that surprising. Nowadays, you aren’t a competitive automaker if your sedan line isn’t supplemented with a high-riding equivalent, complete with optional all-wheel drive and off-road looks. Still, due to gravity and their often higher curb weights, CUVs tend to be no match for normal sedans when it comes to driving dynamics, and for that reason, we’ll chalk this one up as a disappointing – if predictable -trend.

America, you’re now buying more utility vehicles than sedans originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

Will Dodge limit 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat to 1,200 units?

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2015 Dodge Challenge SRT Hellcat

With over 700 horsepower on tap and a price tag barely over $60k, Dodge appears on paper to have a winner on its hands with the new Challenger SRT Hellcat. But if you want to get your hands on one, you may have to act quicker than this most powerful of muscle cars covers the quarter-mile.

That’s because, according to our compatriots over at Edmunds, Dodge may limit production – in the first year, at least – to just 1,200 units. That would amount to barely a quarter of the Challengers that Dodge moves each month, and would also mean only one Hellcat for every two Dodge dealers in the US – which could lead to some serious contention over which stores and which customers can get their hands on the ultimate Challenger.

Reached for comment, SRT spokesman Dan Reid told Autoblog that “there is no plan to limit production of the Challenger Hellcat,” echoing the words of Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis who told Edmunds: “We don’t know what the market demand is.” Which doesn’t mean that it won’t restrict production, but doesn’t mean that it will, either. It just hasn’t decided yet – or announced any such decision, at any rate – over what will be the final allocation strategy for what could be a game-changing muscle car. That is, at least, until new versions of the Mustang and Camaro come along in pursuit of Dodge’s bragging rights…

Will Dodge limit 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat to 1,200 units? originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 20 Jul 2014 15:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

2015 Chevy SS manual, magnetic shocks confirmed by order guide

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2014 Chevrolet SS

2015 Chevrolet SS Dealer Order GuideThe Chevrolet SS is very much a muscle car for grownups. If you have a career, significant other and maybe some kids to tote around, you can still drive one, secure in the knowledge that there is a 415-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8 lurking under the hood for when it’s time to have some fun. For 2015, Chevrolet is confirming earlier rumors with the addition of a standard, magnetic suspension and optional six-speed manual, according to the automaker’s recently released dealer order guide (pictured right).

Already found on some models of the Camaro and Corvette, not to mention several Cadillac models, Magnetic Selective Ride Control system has been praised for its ability to switch from a firm, sporty ride to a cushier demeanor on the fly. It should make the performance sedan into an even better dual-purpose machine for the family and a little bit of hooning around.

The standard transmission is still a six-speed automatic, but there is now an option for a six-speed manual for those who prefer a three-pedal setup. The new gearbox also adds a 3.70 rear-axle ratio to replace the 3.27 gearing from the automatic, but it predictably deletes availability of the remote engine start system. Afaf Farah, a Chevy spokesperson, tells Autoblog that the manual “will have an additional price,” but the company won’t reveal it until later.

Chevy is also doubling the range of colors available on the SS. The five current shades remain for 2015, but the company is also adding some new hues like: Regal Peacock Green, Some Like It Hot Red, Jungle Green Metallic, Perfect Blue and Alchemy Purple. Finally, all models of the SS get an upgraded OnStar system with 4G LTE that allows the car to act as a wifi hotspot.

In our review of the 2014 model, Michael Harley said, “the SS comes across as a polished, and very well-rounded, sport sedan package that is more focused on performance than the others.” The 2015 upgrades put just a little more emphasis on the sedan’s sportiness. Check out the gallery of the order guide to see all of the changes.

2015 Chevy SS manual, magnetic shocks confirmed by order guide originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 21 Jul 2014 10:14:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

How cars are being exported individually and why carmakers are upset about it

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A Mercedes Benz car stands in front of a

Cars are expensive in China, especially if they happen to wear the badge of a prestigious manufacturer. As we’ve pointed out before, the price of a Range Rover over in the People’s Republic sits at the equivalent of about $450,000, despite its US starting price of $84,225. In addition to that princely sum, many customers shell out an additional $80,000 as part of what we imagine is an exceptionally profitable reservation system for new vehicle allocations.

Considering this, the increase in the number of companies exporting vehicles from US dealerships to China has become big business, and it’s not difficult to understand why. Take our $450K Range Rover, for example. Not including shipping, an imported model is selling for a mere $241,480, according to Automotive News. Even assuming a ridiculously exorbitant shipping price, there’s still over $200,000 in savings.

These companies hire individuals to purchase the cars or SUVs from high-end dealerships via cashier’s check. The individuals are then paid a delivery charge for dropping the car at the exporters. It’s big business, with one company, Efans Trading, exporting 2,000 cars at a value of $80 million back in 2012. But exporters aren’t exactly in the good graces of automakers.

Manufacturers have issued severe punishments, ranging from fines to loss of bonuses to nullification of franchise agreements, for dealerships that both knowingly and unknowingly deal with exporters. After all, if the manufacturer is operating in the targeted country, these exporters are essentially taking money out of their pockets. For dealers, though, the appeal is clear: cars are being purchased at cost, with relatively little hassle, making export sales a profitable gamble.

For exporters this practice is coming with increased risks, too. The US Secret Service has cracked down on known exporters, seizing cars slated for export as well as funds. Efans Trading, for example, had millions of dollars and dozens of vehicles seized, USSS Special Agent Morgan Morgan told AN.

Unsurprisingly considering the amount of money at stake, exporters have lawyered up.

“What you have is the federal government protecting foreign manufacturers’ profit margins,” Josh Widlansky, a Florida lawyer representing one of the groups targeted by the USSS, told AN. “You have totally noncriminal conduct that the government is criminalizing because of these private contracts between the manufacturers and the dealerships.”

What do you think? Should dealers face punishments from manufacturers for dealing with exporters? Should exporters be hounded by federal agents? Have your say in Comments.

How cars are being exported individually and why carmakers are upset about it originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 23 Jul 2014 09:15:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

LaFerrari buyer drives dream collection back to Maranello [w/video]

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Ferrari 288 GTO, F40, LaFerrari, Enzo and F50

We’d find it hard to feel bad for someone who “has to” choose between the latest crop of hybrid hypercars. After all, the Porsche 918 Spyder, McLaren P1 and Ferrari LaFerrari are each awesome in their own right. But for one buyer, the choice was a no-brainer: it was the Prancing Horse all along. Not because he couldn’t get his hands on the Porsche or the McLaren – though we’re sure each is in higher demand than there will be supply – but because he’s already bought each of its predecessors.

That very fortunate buyer is one Jon Hunt. His collection already includes a 288 GTO, an F40, an F50 and an Enzo – each in red, naturally – so when it came time to pick up his new LaFerrari, he drove down from London to Maranello, bringing his sons, a few friends and each of his F-cars (as the tifosi call them) along for the ride.

The result, as you can see for yourself from the photos above and the video below, is one very compelling and drool-inducing family photo. It’s not every day, after all, that you see any of these cars on the road – let alone together in one place.

Continue reading LaFerrari buyer drives dream collection back to Maranello [w/video]

LaFerrari buyer drives dream collection back to Maranello [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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