Young drivers believe it's dangerous to talk and to text on smartphones while they're driving, but they're doing it anyway, according to a new study from Consumer Reports.The magazine's latest issue found that, of those young drivers surveyed, almost all said they considered texting, accessing the Internet, or using smartphone apps while driving to be dangerous, with 80 percent saying it was “very dangerous.”Some 63 percent said talking on a handheld phone behind the wheel was dangerous.
Yet their self-reported behavior revealed that almost half of them talked on a cellphone while driving during the past month, nearly 30 percent texted, 8 percent operated smartphone apps and 7 percent used social media or email.
Why such a discrepancy between what young drivers admit is dangerous or very dangerous and their actions? The answer, not surprisingly, is peer behavior. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed said they’d seen other young drivers talking on a handheld phone, 70 percent saw texting, and nearly one-third saw their peers using social media, email or apps.
But bad (or good behavior) begins at home. Forty-eight percent of young drivers surveyed said they’d seen one of their parents talking on a handheld and 15 percent witnessed them texting in the past month.
There is some good news coming out of the survey. Parental and peer influence to stop such behavior, including peers in the car asking the driver to put down the handheld or stop texting, seems to be working, according to the survey.
Almost 50 percent of those surveyed said they’d be less likely to text or talk on a cell phone while driving if peers were with them. Consumer Reports suggests that this cessation of behavior may be due to peers speaking up, since almost half of respondents said they’d asked a driver to put down the phone for safety reasons.
This story originally appeared at The Car Connection
If you're shopping for a new car, it's likely to be smaller than the vehicle it will replace. SUVs are still popular, no doubt--but high gas prices and new entries like the Focus, Elantra, and Cruze alike are changing the makeup of America's new-car fleet.
Size isn't the only factor changing hearts and minds. So is price. The average sale price of a new car may have held steady for the past few years, but the economic malaise of the past four years has shifted many buyers down into the economy class. That means the $20,000 price point is as relevant as ever--maybe more so.
Good thing, then, that the choices among $20,000 small cars have never been better. Whether it's a compact or a subcompact they have in mind, budget-minded consumers have never found safer, sportier, or more feature-rich new cars on the showroom floor.
The best of these? The following compact and subcompact cars score best in TheCarConnection's overall vehicle ratings, and sport a base price of less than $20,000.Subcompacts
2012 Honda Fit – 8.0
Peppy and fun to drive, with a space-efficient seating arrangement thanks to the second-row fold-flat Magic Seat, and massive 20.6 cubic feet of cargo volume, the 2012 Honda Fit is well-configured, affordable transportation that also comes with a pretty generous list of features. The base Fit includes air conditioning, power windows/locks/mirrors, cruise control, keyless entry, a USB input, and an MP3-compatible CD sound system. The small, tall hatchback is priced from $16,125 with five-speed automatic and $17,060 for the Fit Sport with five-speed manual. Fuel economy is EPA-rated at 28 mpg city/35 mpg highway (base Fit automatic) and 27/33 mpg for Fit Sport (manual and automatic).
2012 Chevrolet Sonic – 8.0
A completely new global small car, the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is also an extremely safe car, garnering Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Our review finds the Sonic “supremely roomy, comfortable, refined, tight, and quiet for a small car.” Along with 10 standard airbags, there are other surprise standard features on all models, including alloy wheels, remote keyless entry and air conditioning. For around $15,000, you can get a pretty well-equipped Sonic that delivers 35 mpg highway fuel economy with the base 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Step up to the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and the highway fuel economy increases to 40 mpg.
2012 Ford Fiesta – 7.6
Available in sedan and hatchback models, the 2012 Ford Fiesta offers buyers great styling, responsive and nicely weighted steering, and a nimble, maneuverable feel. Hatchback models provide added versatility. The base Fiesta S sedan starts at just $13,995 and includes a split-folding back seat, rear heater ducts, air conditioning, power locks, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, a decent sound system with auxiliary input, and even a driver’s knee airbag. The Fiesta SE hatchback begins a $16,465. Fuel economy is rated at 28/38 mpg across the board.
2012 Kia Rio – 7.6
With its Euro-inspired looks, nicely-finished interior and smooth drivetrain, the 2012 Kia Rio is “an exceptional value,” say TCC editors, “considering the amount of standard equipment offered in the base LX versions.” The Rio five-door hatchback is also the first non-hybrid, non-luxury vehicle to offer idle stop and go technology that helps reduce fuel consumption by shutting off the engine when the vehicle is not in motion, and automatically restarts it when the driver releases the brake pedal--though the feature has been delayed until the 2013 model year. All base 2012 Rio sedans and hatchbacks carry a less-than-$15,000 price tag, including $750 destination charge. Bluetooth, cruise control and tilt/telescopic steering wheel are standard on all but LX models. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 30/40 mpg across the lineup.
2012 Hyundai Accent – 7.4
The appeal of the 2012 Hyundai Accent is quite simple: a vast interior, great styling in the five-door hatchback, stellar 30/40-mpg fuel economy, and affordable price. The base $15,355 five-door Accent GS has standard air conditioning, a 172-watt stereo, CD player, XM Satellite Radio, USB port, and a rear defroster. Cruise control is standard when GS is ordered with automatic transmission. The Accent SE hatchback adds standard Bluetooth, cruise control, steering-wheel audio controls, a sliding armrest and 16-inch wheels. This is the most expensive Accent you can buy, topping out at $17,555.(more...)
Already a high-risk population, teen drivers face even greater risks when they have other young passengers in the car with them, according to a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released in conjunction with National Youth Traffic Safety Month.
The report, “Teen Driver Risk in Relation to Age and Number of Passengers,” shows that the likelihood of a 16- or 17-year-old driver dying in a crash when multiple other young passengers are in the vehicle increases with each additional passenger.
The statistics are sobering. For example, compared to the 16- or 17-year-old teen driver with no passengers, the driver’s fatality rate:
- Increases 44 percent – when carrying a single passenger under 21 and no other passengers.
- Doubles – with two or more passengers under age 21 and no other passengers are in the vehicle.
- Quadruples – when three or more passengers under 21 and no other passengers are in the vehicle.
Parents and other adults provide a protective influence
Accenting the importance of the protective influence of parents and other adults in the car with the teen driver, the study found that the teen driver’s fatality risk dropped by 62 percent when at least one adult aged 35 or older was in the car. In addition, the risk of involvement in any police-reported crash was cut by 46 percent.
The results showed that although the number of teen driver fatalities has substantially decreased over the past few years, carrying multiple young passengers is still a major risk factor for young drivers.
“These findings should send a clear message to families that parents can make their teens safer immediately by refusing to allow them to get in the car with other young people, whether they’re behind the wheel or in the passenger seat,” said Peter Kissinger, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety president and CEO.
“Parents and teens together can reduce this risk today,” Kissinger added, offering families the following tips.
- Know the graduated driver licensing system (GDL) laws in your state. Keep in mind that even if the law doesn’t set a passenger limit, parents can and should.
- Sign a parent-teen driving agreement that stipulates that teens will not ride as passengers of other teen drivers without advance permission from the parent.
- Make it a point to spend time in the car when your teen is driving. Being there and providing guidance will help your teen become a safer driver.
- Communicate with parents of your teen’s friends so that they will know your teen’s driving rules and will help enforce them.
Also check out other resources for parents and teens at TeenDriving.AAA.com.
View the full report here in PDF format.
This story originally appeared at The Car Connection
The tribal tattoos and tramp stamps that were no-brainer decisions in college proved just that for some bearers in the years since. Will mass personalization on new cars leave fewer scars of regret? Could it hurt resale value? Some Toyota owners may find out.
As explained on Boston.com, the automaker has developed an advanced metal-stamping technique capable of producing sharper lines in body panels. An upcoming limited-edition of the iQ (known in North America as the 2012 Scion iQ) will mark the debut of the process.
Journalists allowed rare access (though sadly, no photography) in this section of the Motomachi factory in Japan were shown samples of doors, demonstrating the minute detailing made possible by this process.
They were “stamped with Toyota President Akio Toyoda’s autograph, as well as cartoon creatures,” the article reports. Made-to-order paintwork and panel stampings are future options the manufacturer wants to offer consumers, though it stopped short of confirming when you could have Hello Kitty on your Camry.
Bespoke appointment isn’t a new concept. Bentley and Rolls-Royce have famously offered it to their clientele for decades. Custom bodywork predates that even further. Personalized stamping on panels is altogether different. And if you think Toyota has bigger fish to fry at the moment, Toyoda himself would agree.
After 2008’s extensive recalls, 2011’s Japanese earthquake disrupting production and years of tightened competition, Toyota’s president is personally involved in efforts to right the ship.
Rebuilding its reputation for quality is a given, but the company also aims for more distinctive design while improving efficiency and flexibility on the assembly line. That way, when regulations change or demand varies, the factory can respond in less time.
Toyota showing how intricate body panels can be stamped could be more an example of what’s possible than what’s to come. But since the automaker hasn’t taken the custom-order idea off the table, you can still hope to spec a really boss flame job and the raised contours of Pikachu on your Prius.
This story originally appeared at The Car Connection
You’ve worked hard to get your college degree. If you’re not swamped in student loan debt and are considering buying a car to help you navigate your new place in the world, there’s some help available.
The good news is that most major automakers offer some form of college graduate discount. The bad news is that some are regional offers, and many are somewhat confusing in their terms.
But you got through college exams, right? So, sifting through the fine print should be a talent you’ve developed by now.
Here’s a sampling of some of the special discounts available from automakers to college grads this June.
Ford College Student Purchase Program
Ford is covering all its bases with a discount program available to full-time and part-time college students (freshmen through seniors), graduate students, trade school students, and recent college grads. It only applies to residents of the United States and to vehicles sold in the U.S.
All you need to do is to sign up for the Ford College Student Purchase Program and then purchase or lease a new 2011, 2012 or 2013 Ford or Lincoln vehicle to receive your $500 student bonus. This is on top of any applicable national Ford incentives available at the time.
General Motors Best in Class Alumni & Student Discount
The program is a little different at General Motors, where the discount isn’t a fixed amount but a Preferred Price that’s less than MSRP. The General Motors Best in Class Alumni & Student Discount program is available on many new and unused 2011, 2012 and 2013 model year Chevrolet, Buick and GMC vehicles and can be combined with current incentives.
Eligible participants for the GM college discount program include college students from any two- or four-year school, recent graduates who have graduated no more than two years ago, and current nursing school and graduate students.
To get the discount, you apply for an authorization number through the Best in Class Alumni & Student Discount website, print it out and bring it to a participating Chevrolet, Buick or GMC dealer. Be sure to mention that you’ll be using the Best in Class Alumni & Student Discount in your first contact with the dealer. You’ll also need to bring proof of eligibility: evidence of enrollment or your diploma.
Honda Graduate Program
Honda gives graduates a head start by offering flexible, competitive financing through Honda Financial Services on the purchase or lease of a new or Certified Used Honda vehicle. On traditional financing, college grads can also benefit from a deferred first-payment option for 90 days, with 60 days interest-free.
The Honda Graduate Program has a few minimum eligibility requirements, including five percent minimum down payment; no adverse credit history; verifiable proof of employment or a firm job offer commitment with a start date no more than 120 days from the date of the finance contract.
The program is open to graduates with a master’s, bachelor’s or associate degree from a U.S.-accredited two- or four-year college or registered nursing school. Eligible participants must have graduated during the past two years or will graduate in the next four months from the date of the finance contract.
Credit and document requirements must be presented to the Honda dealer at the time of purchase or lease. Certain current offers are also available with the Honda Graduate Program.
Hyundai College Grad Program
The Hyundai College Grad Program offers eligible graduates the opportunity to buy any new 2011, 2012 or 2013 model year Hyundai vehicle with no down payment, an additional $400 on top of current Hyundai rebates and 90 days until the first month’s payment (not available in Connecticut and Pennsylvania).
Visit your Hyundai dealer and bring a copy of your diploma or letter from the registrar’s office stating you graduated or will graduate, along with proof of employment or an offer letter from a prospective employer. Hyundai Motor Finance must deem your salary adequate to cover living expenses and car payments.
Graduates of a four-year university, accredited two-year college or nursing school are eligible. Graduation must be within the past two years or the next six months. Offer includes graduates and graduate candidates attending accredited master’s or doctorate programs. Hyundai vehicle must be purchased between April 3, 2012 and July 2, 2012.
Nissan SignatureGRADUATE Program
Nissan offers recent college graduates a customized finance choice through the company’s SignatureGRADUATE Program. The program includes $500 cash back on 2011/2012 Nissan Rogue, Xterra, Cube, Altima sedan and coupe, Versa hatchback, and Juke, and 2012 Versa sedan, Sentra and Frontier. Ninety days deferred payment option is available on loans up to 60 months.
To qualify, provide proof of graduation within the next six months or the past two years from an accredited U.S. two- or four-year college or university, graduate school or nursing school. Students currently enrolled in graduate school are also eligible. Other requirements are proof of current employment or employment beginning within 90 days of financing approval, sufficient income to cover normal living expenses and car payments, auto insurance and approved credit.
Southeast Toyota College Grad Rebate Program
If you live in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North or South Carolina, are a recent college graduate or will soon graduate, are employed or have proof of employment beginning within 120 days of credit approval, you may be eligible for the Southeast Toyota College Grad Rebate Program.
Qualifying applicants get a $1,000 rebate on the purchase or lease of a new Toyota Camry (gasoline model only), Corolla, Matrix, RAV4, Tacoma, Yaris, or any Scion model. The College Grad Rebate Program may be combined with some other offers. Offer expires January 2, 2013.
Volkswagen College Graduate Program
With the Volkswagen College Graduate Program, eligible participants who buy or lease a new or certified pre-owned Volkswagen through Volkswagen Credit will have their first month’s payment (up to $800) paid by VW. If you lease, there’s no security deposit required. In addition, there’s no credit history required, but if you do have existing credit, it must be in good standing. VW promises great rates even if you don’t have credit, and there’s no co-signer needed.
Getting started is easy. Visit your Volkswagen dealer and bring proof you graduated in the past 24 months or will graduate in the next six months, have a full-time job or written commitment from a future employer. You’ll also need three personal references and be approved by Volkswagen Credit.
Other college grad offers
There are other special college grad offers to check out. See your local dealer for details on the following:
- Acura – Special financing, leasing, and purchase-plan packages; deferred first-payment option for 90 days, with 60 days interest-free.
- Audi – Special leasing offers.
- Infiniti – Special financing and leasing offers, delayed first payment.
- Lexus – No down payment when financing; 90-day deferred first payment, and complimentary roadside assistance for one year.
- Mazda – Special leasing and financing options.
- MINI – Special financing offers.
- Subaru – Special leasing and financing options.
This story originally appeared at The Car Connection
Chrysler is conducting a voluntary safety recall of certain 2011 and 2012 model year Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger mid-size sedans over concerns about a loss of anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC) due to overheating.
A notice in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website lists the number of potential affected units at 119,072. Documentation from Chrysler (PDF) indicates that the affected vehicles were manufactured as follows:
- 2011 Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger – built from May 6, 2011 through July 26, 2011
- 2012 Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger - built from February 9, 2011 through December 20, 2011
Chrysler says that some vehicles may experience a loss of ABS/ESC as a result of an overheated fuse in the power distribution center bus bar (PDC). Failure of ABS/ESC could lead to loss of vehicle control, which increases crash risk.
This thermal contraction and expansion first surfaced in a Michigan State Police training vehicle and later led to a recall of certain Dodge Charger police vehicles. The condition was believed at the time to be unique to the police vehicle fleet.
Subsequent monitoring of field data on similar vehicles in the retail fleet showed an increasing trend of field reports that may be related to the PDC bus bar terminal condition. On April 24, 2012, Chrysler decided to conduct a voluntary safety recall of certain 2011 and 2012 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans.
The automaker said it is not aware of any crashes, injuries or fires related to the overheated PDC.
What Chrysler will do
Chrysler will notify owners of affected vehicles and dealers will change and relocate the ABS/ESC fuse at no charge. The Chrysler safety recall is expected to begin during May 2012.
In the meantime, owners of 2011 and 2012 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans with any questions or concerns may contact Chrysler at 1-800-853-1403. Refer to the Chrysler safety recall campaign number M10.
Alternatively, owners of vehicles involved in the campaign may contact the NHTSA’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 or go to http://www.safercar.gov. Reference the NHTSA campaign ID No. 12V197000.
This story originally appeared at The Car Connection
Is it time to call the car industry recovered? In April, automakers sold vehicles at a rate that analysts say will only get better as dealers head into the spring selling season.
Sales numbers are being reported today from around the auto industry, and early on, some of the strongest numbers are coming from Chrysler. The automaker, in alliance with Fiat, says its sales were up 20 percent over a year ago, on the strength of new model lines.Elsewhere in Detroit, Ford's sales were off by 5 percent, while General Motors watched its sales drop 8 percent. Both were in line with expectations. Among other big automakers, Volkswagen posted a 31.5-percent increase, while Toyota rebounded from its year-ago stagger after the March 11 earthquake, reporting a 25.5-percent rise in sales for the month.
April's strong numbers weren't quite as brisk as those in March, when automakers posted a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 14.4 million sales. Though still far off the all-time peak of 16.9 million units, the SAAR posted so far this year is approaching the 14.9 million units registered in 2008, the year the industry faced the full brunt of the financial crisis.
Sales are expected to continue to improve, according to analysts J.D. Power and Associates. April's numbers sometimes are misleading because of the long Easter holiday, says John Humphrey, Power's senior vice president of global automotive operations, but "the signs of sustained growth are evident."
Power estimates April 2012's SAAR at 13.8 million units, down slightly from March 2012's 14.4 million but up significantly from April 2011's SAAR of 13.2 million units--with an accompanying 8-percent increase in retail sales, Power notes in a release.
For the year, Power estimates the industry will post a SAAR of 14.3 million units, with 11.5 million of those being at the retail level.The totals for April 2012, as reported by the automakers:
General Motors: GM (NYSE: GM) says its April sales of 213,387 vehicles marked an 8-percent slide in the U.S. market, though retail sales were roughly equal to those in the period a year before. Chevrolet sales of 155,487 units were down 8.4 percent; GMC's 32,603 units sold marked an increase of 4.5 percent. Buick sold 15,446 vehicles for a 16.1-percent slide over April 2011, and Cadillac sales fell 25 percent from the year-ago period to 9,851 units.
Ford: Ford (NYSE: F) reports its sales of 180,350 vehicles in April were 5 percent lower than the same period in 2011. The Ford brand's total of 174,042 units accounted for a 4.7-percent drop from 182,542 sales a year ago; Lincoln's sales of 6,308 vehicles were off 12.8 percent from last April's 7,236 units.
Toyota / Lexus / Scion: Toyota says it sold a total of 178,044 vehicles last month, for a 25.5-percent increase over April of 2011--the month after the tragic earthquake in northern Japan. Of the total, some 160,493 units were sold as Toyotas, a 27.2-percent rise; Lexus sales were up 12.3 percent to 17,551 units; and Scion was up 8.4 percent at 5,503 units.
Chrysler: The sole domestic-branded automaker to report increased sales, Chrysler says it moved 141,165 vehicles in April, up 20 percent from April 2011. The Chrysler brand was up 56 percent at 31,879 vehicles sold, behind a 138-percent increase by the 300 sedan; Jeep rose 19 percent to 38,684 units with the Wrangler up 35 percent. Dodge rose just 2 percent to 45,248 units sold, while Ram trucks accounted for 21,505 sales, an increase of 12 percent. Fiat sold 3,849 500 hatchbacks on the month, with generous incentives helping the brand get much closer to its initial sales targets.
Honda / Acura: Honda sold a total of 122,012 vehicles in April, up 10 percent over its year-ago totals. The Honda brand accounted for 109,837 vehicles, up 9.2 percent; Acura was up 18 percent, to 12,175 units.
Nissan / Infiniti: Nissan says it sold 71,329 vehicles in April, off 0.3 percent from April of 2011. The Nissan brand was off 8.9 percent to 64,200 units, and sales of the electric Leaf were down sharply; Infiniti was up 5.4 percent to 7,129 vehicles sold.(more...)
Ford's latest high-performance take on the Focus, the ST, the wait is (nearly) over: the order books are open, and prices start from $24,495. And if you're one of the early adopters, you'll even get a free GoPro HD Hero2 Motorsports Edition camera.
The 2013 Ford Focus ST is the EcoBoost turbocharged, 2.0-liter, 252-horsepower, 270 pound-foot version of the popular Focus. With an upgraded suspension, slightly more aggressive exterior design, and unique, sport-themed interior, the Focus ST is the "hot hatch" version of the car.
Standard equipment on the Focus ST includes sport seats, unique 18-inch Y-spoke wheels, dual-zone climate control, and leather accents throughout the cabin. Optional upgrades such as full leather interior, six-way power Recaro seats (with partial or full leather), ambient lighting, and more. It's conveniently divided into three core packages.
You'll need to drive stick if you want the Focus ST, however; it's only available in six-speed manual form. It's also only available in five-door hatchback guise, so ditch any dreams of an ST sedan.
To learn more about what's available, what it'll cost you, and to configure your own Focus ST exactly as you'd like, visit the official build configuration site here.
This story originally appeared at The Car Connection