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By William Maley
Towards the end of Obama presidency, the administration unveiled guidelines for testing and deployment of self-driving cars in the US. But there is a new presidency in the White House and that means things will be changing - although details are scarce as to how.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in Detroit yesterday the Department of Transportation would revisit and revise the guidelines put forth by the previous administration within the next few months.
"The pressure is mounting for the federal government to do something" about autonomous vehicles, said Chao.
"We don't want rules that impede future technological advances."
Chao didn't go into details about the changes that would be made or how it would differ from those made under the Obama presidency.
The current guidelines introduced last fall includes a 15-point assessment that automakers would use to determine whether an autonomous vehicle was ready to go on the road or not. The assessment includes such items as privacy and validation methods.
Automakers have voiced concerns on the guidelines, saying it would delay the testing by months and requires them to hand over data.
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By William Maley
It seemed that it would never happen, a domestic brand cracking into the top three of Consumer Reports' annual Auto Reliability Survey. But in the 2016 survey, Buick became the first domestic brand in three decades to be in the top three of reliable brands - behind Lexus and Toyota.
“Buick’s achievement is commendable and sure to be a wake-up call to other manufacturers. One reason why the brand has been able to leapfrog others in the General Motors’ stable has been its limited vehicle lineup--with none of the pickups and truck-based SUVs that have negatively impacted Cadillac and Chevrolet,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing in a statement.
For the 2016 survey, Consumer Reports changed up their predicted reliability score to a 0-100 scale. Brands that score between 41 to 60 were deemed to be reliable. If a brand finishes below, it is deemed to be less reliable, while those that finished above were deemed to be more reliable.
Rounding out the top ten list include Audi, Kia, Mazda, Hyundai, Infiniti (up 16 spots), BMW, and Honda. Chevrolet was the second highest domestic brand by finishing 15th. Ford placed 18th in the survey, still being troubled by the dual-clutch transmissions used in the Fiesta and Focus. FCA had a rough showing again with Chrysler, Fiat, and Ram Trucks finishing in the bottom three.
Other notes from the 2016 Annual Auto Reliability Survey:
Tesla is now part of the survey as they now have two models - Model S and X. They placed 25th. The Model S saw its reliability rating improve to average, while the Model X is toward the bottom due to numerous problems. Subaru fell out of the top 10 because of the WRX and STI getting below average reliability, and the Legacy/Outback falling to average. The recently redesigned Honda Civic is said to have “much-worse-than-average” reliability due to issues with the infotainment and power accessories. Source: Consumer Reports, Automotive News (Subscription Required)
Press Release is on Page 2
Consumer Reports 2016 Annual Auto Reliability Survey: Buick Becomes First Domestic to Reach the Top Three
New Honda Civic Plagued with Power Equipment and Infotainment Systems Problems YONKERS, NY – While Asian brands continue to dominate, Buick has become the first domestic brand in more than three decades to earn a place in the top three most reliable brands in Consumer Reports’ Annual Brand Reliability Survey. The findings were announced during a press conference before the Automotive Press Association in Detroit today.
There was trouble, too, for one of the imports: Honda’s popular Civic model proved to have “much-worse-than-average” reliability due to problems with its power equipment and infotainment systems. The Civic was North American Car of the Year for 2016.
Buick, General Motors’ near-luxury brand, has been hovering in the top 10 of CR’s brand reliability rankings for the past few years. But CR’s latest findings show Buick has joined Lexus and Toyota on the podium for the first time since the organization began tracking brand performance in the early 1980s. Chevrolet ranks as the second-best domestic brand and is in 15th place overall among the 29 brands covered.
Consumer Reports—the world’s largest and most trusted consumer nonprofit—first published its annual brand reliability rankings in 2001. That initial analysis showed that domestic nameplate vehicles had been lagging behind Japanese and European imports for the previous 20 years. Factoring in that history makes Buick’s third-place finish the highest for any American brand in more than 35 years.
“Buick’s achievement is commendable and sure to be a wake-up call to other manufacturers,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing. “One reason why the brand has been able to leapfrog others in the General Motors’ stable has been its limited vehicle lineup--with none of the pickups and truck-based SUVs that have negatively impacted Cadillac and Chevrolet.”
All of the Asian nameplates scored among the top half of the 29 brands tested, accounting for seven of the top 10 spots. Lexus and Toyota continued their domination, finishing in first and second place for the fourth straight year. All nine Lexus models CR rated had better-than-average reliability, as would have Toyota, had it not been for the below average score of the redesigned 2016 Tacoma pickup truck.
Among the other Asian brands, Infiniti made the biggest gain, while Acura was up six spots and Nissan moved up two. All Mazda models remained above average except for the new CX-3 small SUV, which came in at average. Kia and Hyundai continue to surge up the rankings, coming in at five and seven this year. No Kia or Hyundai models scored below average.
Honda has continued with its erratic trajectory, making landfall at number 10 among all brands. Usually a top finisher known for reliability, the brand has been hurt by new introductions. In addition to the new Civic, the redesigned Pilot SUV was just average.
Historically a strong performer, Subaru is an example of how smaller manufacturers can be helped—or hindered—by the performance of one or two models. Subaru fell out of the top 10, hurt by the 2016 Legacy and Outback falling to average, and the sporty WRX/STi dropping to below average.
Reliability improvements helped some luxury brands move up. Infiniti jumped 16 spots to number eight, but the brand still runs hot and cold. The older QX50 SUV and Q70 sedan had top scores, but the newer QX60 SUV and Q50 sedan were below average. BMW also moved into the top 10, with the 5 Series, X5, and i3 improving to average.
Audi has had several years of upward progress, and it continues to rank in the top five. The new Q7 and the Q3 SUVs were very reliable. Other European brands continue their inconsistency. Mercedes was one of the big movers, jumping four spots to number 17. The 2016 GLC, which replaced the reliable GLK, launched with well-above-average reliability, and the GLA and GLE SUVs were average. But the large GLS SUV was among the 20 most trouble-prone new cars in the survey, and the C- and S-Class sedans remained unreliable.
Volkswagen and Volvo, however, tumbled. Aside from the Tiguan SUV, all other VW models had below average reliability. The redesigned XC90 was the big culprit in Volvo’s plunge to the bottom third ranking, with its touch-screen infotainment and climate systems being particularly problematic.
Transmissions with more ratios and advanced drivetrains continue to be a challenge for a number of brands. While the Acura TLX and Jeep Cherokee have seen improvements in the reliability of their nine-speed automatics, earlier models are still problematic. Ford’s dual-clutch automatic transmission continues to afflict the Fiesta and Focus, which is one reason they are among the lowest-scoring models. Likewise, early versions of the current Nissan Pathfinder and similar Infiniti QX60 SUVs continue to suffer from problems with their continuously variable transmissions.
Other GM marques did not fare as well as Buick. Chevrolet saw gains, moving up five spots since last year. It was helped in particular by the stellar reliability of the redesigned 2016 Cruze, which topped all compact cars, and the Corvette, which moved up to average. Cadillac has two models with below-average reliability—the Escalade and small ATS sedan—while the CTS and XTS sedans were average or better. GMC has dropped, hurt by its versions of the same large SUVs and pickup trucks that haunt Chevrolet.
Consumer Reports requires at least two models with sufficient data in order to be included in its brand reliability rankings. With the introduction of the new Model X SUV, Tesla is now included and is ranked toward the bottom, at 25th. The Model X launched with abundant problems, including frequent malfunctions of the falcon-wing doors, water leaks, and infotainment and climate-control system problems. The Model S gained ground this year, improving to average reliability.
Fiat-Chrysler continues its turbulent voyage. The Fiat 500L, the most trouble-prone new car for the past two years, is now only the seventh-most troublesome. No Fiat or Ram vehicle managed even an average reliability rating. Only the Chrysler 300 sedan, Dodge Grand Caravan minivan, and Jeep Patriot SUV managed an average or better score.
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By William Maley
One thing you cannot call Elon Musk is a shrinking violet. The CEO of Tesla has taken to Twitter once again to defend the company. This time it deals with the results of Consumer Reports' annual reliability survey where the Model S, a vehicle which had earned the coveted Recommended rating, lost it this year due to a number of problems reported by owners. CR says the Model S likely to face a "worse-than-average" overall problem rate.
Musk said in his tweets that problems outlined in CR's survey were because of early production models and that new models have these issues ironed out. Musk goes on to say "Most important, CR says 97% of owners expect their next car to be a Tesla (the acid test)."
Source: Elon Musk Twitter, (2)
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By William Maley
Yesterday, Consumer Reports announced the results of their annual reliability survey for 2015.
Not surprisingly, the top ten was mostly made up of Japanese and Korean automakers, with Lexus and Toyota taking the top two spots. However, Audi led the Europeans by taking the third spot. For the domestics, Buick landed at number seven on the list.
The survey reports that a number of automakers are still having troubles with the infotainment system, but also with transmissions.
“We’ve seen a number of brands struggle with new transmission technology. “Whether it’s a complex system such as a dual-clutch gearbox, a continuously variable transmission, or one with eight or nine speeds. Many vehicles require repair and replacements because of rough shifting among the gears and slipping CVT belts,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ Director of Automotive Testing.
One other bit of news to come out was the Tesla Model S losing its Recommended rating from the publication. While the vehicle earned top marks when it came to the tests done by Consumer Reports, the respondents tell a slightly different story. Problems listed include pop-out door handles that don't pop out anymore, leaking sunroofs, door rattles, and failure of the electric motor.
Source: Consumer Reports
Press Release is on Page 2
Consumer Reports’ 2015 Annual Auto Reliability Survey: New Transmission Technology Problems Emerge
Lexus, Toyota, Audi, Mazda, and Subaru Most Reliable Brands
YONKERS, NY—While problematic infotainment systems continue to be among the top issues reported by new car owners, Consumer Reports has identified an emerging trend of increased troubles with new transmission systems developed to improve fuel-economy, based on an analysis of its 2015 Annual Auto Reliability Survey.
The findings, released today before the Automotive Press Association in Detroit, are collected annually from Consumer Reports’ subscribers. CR’s 2015 Annual Auto Reliability Survey takes into account data from more than 740,000 vehicles.
This year, Acura becomes the latest brand to see its overall predicted-reliability ranking drop sharply (down 7 places from last year) due to problems with in-car electronics and transmissions for its newest RLX and TLX sedans. CR has already seen these trouble areas drag down overall scores for Ford, Nissan, Fiat-Chrysler and others.
“We’ve seen a number of brands struggle with new transmission technology,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ Director of Automotive Testing. “Whether it’s a complex system such as a dual-clutch gearbox, a continuously variable transmission, or one with eight or nine speeds. Many vehicles require repair and replacements because of rough shifting among the gears and slipping CVT belts.”
Not all new-generation transmissions are troublesome. Audi and BMW have created reliable dual-clutch transmissions, while the CVTs in Honda and Toyota hybrids have been strong performers.
Among the Japanese brands, Lexus pulled off a rare feat, garnering top reliability marks for all seven vehicle lines scored in Consumer Reports survey. But it was the only strong Japanese luxury brand. Nissan’s Infiniti brand has continued its downward trajectory because of problems with its InTouch infotainment system. Although none of Honda’s vehicles rated below average, the brand has dropped a few places largely due to glitches with its infotainment system in redesigned and freshened models. Toyota, Mazda and Subaru were all in the top five.
Audi, once synonymous with service problems, continued its recent upward trend leading all European brands and finishing third, just behind Lexus and Toyota. Mini, BMW, Volvo, and Volkswagen all finished in the top 15. Porsche dropped from ninth to 14th place because of a declining score for the Cayman and a below-average debut for the Macan.
Korean automakers, Kia and Hyundai, are considerably stronger and continue to rise in Consumer Reports rankings. The sister brands finished sixth and ninth, respectively. For the first time, Kia beat the stalwart Japanese brand Honda, and by a significant margin.
The complete reliability results for all 2016 are available at www.ConsumerReports.org, today, and in the December Issue of Consumer Reports, on newsstands November 1.
For the second year, Buick was the only domestic brand in the top 10 coming in seventh place. Cadillac dropped seven places to near the bottom, still plagued by its CUE infotainment system. Other General Motors brands, Chevrolet and GMC finished in the bottom third of the overall rankings.
Ford remains in the lower half of the rankings as well, but showed significant gains with most of its cars scoring average or better. The redesigned F-150 and Expedition SUV were bright spots, scoring above average in its first year. But the first-year Mustang had issues with its body hardware, drive shaft, and stability/traction control systems. Nine of the 13 Fords Consumer Reports scored had average or better reliability.
Tesla’s Model S sedan got high marks in Consumer Reports’ 50-plus performance tests, but its predicted reliability is another matter. CR received about 1,400 survey responses from Model S owners who chronicled an array of detailed and complicated maladies. From that data, the Tesla Model S earns a worse-than-average predicted reliability score. The main problem areas are the drivetrain, power equipment, charging equipment, center console, and body and sunroof squeaks, rattles, and leaks.
While the long-running Chrysler and Dodge minivans scraped up an average reliability score for the first time in many years, all of Fiat-Chrysler brands (Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, and Fiat) finished at or near the bottom again.
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By William Maley
While Americans are keeping their cars longer (Experian Automotive says the average ownership length is now 7.75 years), there are some models that owners can't wait to get rid off within a year of buying.
iSeeCars.com recently compared new car sales against used-car purchases in 2014 to figure out which vehicles were traded-in the fastest. Their analysis showed that on average, around 2.7 percent of all new vehicles are traded in after only a year’s ownership. More surprising was the vehicles that had the highest amount of trade-ins. The expectation would be that the vehicles with the highest amount of trade-ins would be cheap. Not so fast. iSeeCars.com in their analysis the vehicles with highest trade-ins range from $18,000 to $45,000.
“iSeeCars.com analysts think the fact that consumers are giving more of these cars up than the average is directly linked to quality or perceived quality of the cars,” says Phong Ly, CEO of iSeeCars.com. “Because purchasing a new car is expensive and something most people tend to spend a lot of time on, it stands to reason they would make a change shortly afterward if they felt the quality was lacking.”
Here's the list of the vehicles with the highest trade-in amounts,
Buick Regal - 10.7 Percent Traded-In
Chevrolet Sonic - 8.9 Percent Traded-In
BMW X1 - 7.8 Percent Traded-In
Dodge Charger - 7.7 Percent Traded-In
Mercedes-Benz C-Class - 7.4 Percent Traded-In
Chevrolet Cruze - 7.2 Percent Traded-In
Nissan Frontier - 6.9 Percent Traded-In
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