By on September 15, 2011

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[Ed: The above video is not intended as a specific example of the problems we faced, but a general illustration of the wider issue]

While on a junket for the Hyundai Veloster I was treated to yet another instance of The Most Infuriating Thing About New Cars – the lack of any decent way to connect your iPod to the in-car entertainment system.

As TTAC Editor-In-Chief Ed Niedermeyer and I toured Oregon’s various scenic byways in the newest Hyundai, our musical selections were repeatedly interrupted due various errors, whereby Ed’s iPhone was unable to sync, refused to completely sync, or randomly re-synced. Our attempts at listening to the new Bon Iver album, or Burn After Rolling (the listenable mixtape made by limp-dick rapper Wiz Khalifa) were interrupted by a blast from XM’s pop station, as the iPod integration took a giant shit on us. Nothing spoils the conversation like having your ambient rock or gangsta rap interrupted by Katy Perry or Lady Gaga.

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By on August 23, 2011

TTAC commentator stephada writes:

Hello I drive a 2010 C4S, bought new, now with 42k miles and I am considering an Extended Warranty through a company called Protected Life, sold through the Porsche dealership. My service manager said they used to not offer this because they had trouble finding one that could cover things well enough, until they found Protected.

I’d like the Best and Brightest to weigh in on the specific example I’m facing. I’ve read the original B&B thread but it dealt with the issue philosophically and generally. I trust the B&B can help out again in my choices, as they did on the question of ”S or 4S?” [Ed: follow-up here].
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By on August 19, 2011

Volt owners gather before their parade down Woodward

Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

As part of the festivities surrounding the Woodward Dream Cruise, GM organized a parade down Woodward and back up again made up of 50 Chevy Volts driven to the event by their owners, at their own expense, from around the country. As far as car company promotional events go it was fairly low key (I was asked not to publicize the pre-parade reception for the owners) but it was clearly a high priority item for GM. The Volt marketing team was out in force and they brought in NASCAR champions Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, who are racing at Michigan International Speedway this weekend, to wave green flags at the start of the Volt parade. Gordon and Johnson both own Chevy dealerships and they both personally own Chevy Volts. They race for Rick Hendricks, who owns quite a few Chevy (and other GM) stores himself. There were news teams from at least two of the Detroit tv stations and a satellite truck that I believe was used for a national network or cable interview of the NASCAR drivers. GM also brought out a number of pace cars from their private stash of Camaros, Corvettes and even one Chevy SSR that paced races at Indianapolis and Daytona. There was also the ZR1 that set a lap record for production cars at the Nurburgring. Marketing being what it is, the parade also included 2 squadrons of Chevy’s most recent new product, the Camaro convertible and the subcompact Sonic. There were 100 cars in total, one for each year in Chevy’s current centennial.

There were t-shirts and baseball caps for the guests, and the Volt owners each got a nice die cast model of their car, but the Volt owners weren’t there for the swag or for autographs, though they eagerly accepted both. The Volt owners were there because they really, really, really like their cars.

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By on August 18, 2011

The Detroit News’s David Shepardson reports that GM has requested the dismissal of a lawsuit alleging rear-suspension problems on 2007-8 model-year Impalas, on the grounds that

“New GM did not assume liability for old GM’s design choices, conduct or alleged breaches of liability under the warranty, and its terms expressly preclude money damages,” the response says.

The suit “is trying to saddle new GM with the alleged liability and conduct of old GM.”

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By on August 16, 2011

I’m sure this headline will get Mopar fans’ backs up, but it’s the cold-hard truth: the American Consumer Satisfaction Index rated the Chrysler brand lowest of all automotive brands, with Jeep and Dodge tied with Mazda for second-to-last place. And though the graph above shows historical scores, the latest rating is based on interviews with US consumers in the second quarter of this year. Hit the jump for a graph of the latest ratings, but first check out those historical scores. I’m not generally a fan of this kind of survey, as exemplified by the infamous JD Power “Initial Quality” survey, but the most dramatic line on this jumbled graph, belonging to Hyundai, matches that brand’s sales progress amazingly closely. That tells me this “satisfaction index” says something about how well each brand serves its intended customer… which, as Hyundai proves, can (but doesn’t always) lead to sales growth. The counter-example: Cadillac has long been a top contender, even when it sold less-than-entirely-competitive products and was losing sales. With that in mind, let’s take a look at this year’s results.

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By on August 16, 2011

The International Crime Complaint Center (IC3) warns that

Online vehicle shoppers are being victimized by fraudulent vehicle sales and false claims of vehicle protection (VPP) programs… Criminals also attempt to make their scams appear valid by misusing the names of reputable companies and programs. These criminals have no association with these companies and their schemes give buyers instructions which fail to adhere to the rules and restrictions of any legitimate program. For example, the eBay Motors Vehicle Protection Plan (VPP) is a reputable protection program whose name is commonly misused by these criminals. However, the VPP is not applicable to transactions that originate outside of eBay Motors, and it prohibits wire transfer payments. Nevertheless, criminals often promise eBay Motors VPP protections for non-eBay Motors purchases, and instruct victims to pay via Western Union or MoneyGram.

No wonder online new car sales have been struggling. Hit the jump for IC3′s list of warning signs.

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By on August 11, 2011

Jack writes:

I’ve owned my (987) 2006 Porsche Cayman S for 48,000 of its 52,000 miles.  It’s been a completely enjoyable experience … up until five days ago.

I had brought the car out to the track and was turning a few laps at a moderate level of speed.  The car was completely stock other than a cat back exhaust, and I wasn’t running r-compounds as I was aware of the oiling issues that can happen on certain tracks when running r-compound tires.  The wheels are three-piece OZ Superleggeras, custom built to match the offsets, etc. of the 19″ Turbo wheels which are an option on the Cayman S.  I was even taking it a little easy this afternoon as it was an uncomfortably hot Texas day and I also had my nephew in the car.

This is not a high speed track and g-loads tend to be low and short as most corners are slow, off camber, and relatively short.  Everything was running fine.  Then I exited out of a very slow right hand corner onto the side straight and that’s when everything went wrong.  As the motor transitioned through the cam changeover at 3500 rpm, all hell broke loose and the motor suddenly lost power.  When I pulled the car over, tons of white smoke flooded the cabin.  Obviously something was very wrong.

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By on August 5, 2011

Mercedes-Benz is currently trying to recapture the number one position in global luxury sales, but  a quality problem on its home turf in Germany seems to be undermining confidence in the brand. Autobild reports that the M272 V6 and M273 V8 engines used a sintered steel timing chain gear made of various materials starting in 2004, but switched to conventional steel in 2006, eliminating the problem with gear wear. The problem: nobody seems to know how many vehicles built between 2004 and 2006 are affected. Mercedes claims, based on secret internal defect tracking, that one percent, or about 1,500 vehicles, are affected. If you have a vehicle with one of these engines built between 04 and 06 and your check engine light comes on, Mercedes encourages you to visit your M-B dealer rather than an independent shop, as Mercedes is offering free repairs to affected customers. And as Autobild’s Matthias Mötsch argues, when your motto is “the best or nothing,” the only answer to a situation like this is to fix 100% of the defects for free.

By on July 28, 2011

Auto dealers are often said to be the face of the industry… and if that’s the case, the Consumer Federation of America may have shed some insight into why so many Americans opposed a bailout of the industry. In a survey of 31 state, county and municipal consumer protection agencies from 18 states in 2010 [PDF here], the CFA found that auto dealers, suppliers and service garages were the number one source of consumer complaints for problems such as

Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes

As if car dealers didn’t have reputation problems already…

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By on July 18, 2011

It’s been 27 months since I wrote a check for $5,000 to Tesla Motors, my deposit on a Model S sedan. As owner number P717, I’ve gotten some modest bennies to keep me interested till the expected delivery date of mid-2012: a test drive in the Roadster, an invitation to the opening of the New York Tesla store, and some nice promotional swag (T-shirt, coffee mug, and, most recently, a cool little remote-control toy Roadster) .

Last week I was invited to an owners-only preview before a Model S promotional event in Greenwich, Ct. Set in the posh clothing store Richards, just across the street from an Apple store, the event featured a sinuous dark red early proof-of-concept prototype of the Model S. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to drive, sit in, or even touch the car (“It cost more than $2 million to build,” we were told). But the black-clad Tesla reps on hand offered some intriguing technical info about the car that, to my knowledge, had not been previously revealed. Among the more interesting tidbits:

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By on June 13, 2011

Since Nissan’s PR and communication folks are probably having a busy morning anyway, we thought we’d bring this video to their attention. According to this apparently quite tech-savvy Leaf owner, the Leaf’s CarWings system will automatically send your location data to any third-party RSS feed you sign up for. As he puts it in the video

“There’s a lot of personal data there. I’m not sure if you really want Fox News to know exactly where you’re at, how fast you’re driving, that kind of thing… when you read those RSS feeds in your car, you might want to think twice about hitting that button”

Why would signing up for an RSS feed require that constantly-updated locational data be sent to the RSS provider? The video’s maker assumes the data is for “CarWings internal use” and yet he shows that it gets sent to third parties. We know GM monitors Chevy Volt user data anonymously through Onstar, but one assumes that this kind of data is fairly well protected from third parties. In the case of the Leaf, that may not be the case. We’d sure like to know if this is true, and why…

[UPDATE: Nissan tells us: "Owners have to opt in or agree to share their data every time they sign in.  If they don’t, then they pass on the benefit as well.  They will however, lose any remote control or data logging capability but the choice is in the hand of the driver every time."]

By on June 13, 2011

Bloomberg’s running a lede that’s sure to ruffle a few feathers at Nissan’s communication and customer service organizations this morning: “Nissan Motor Co. is aggravating the customers it needs most.” How so? According to the report

Nissan, which wants to become the top seller of electric cars, repeatedly delayed deliveries to some U.S. buyers who reserved the first 20,000 Leaf plug-in hatchbacks, according to interviews with customers. They said Nissan unexpectedly dropped some from the waiting list temporarily, asking that they reapply if they couldn’t prove they’d arranged installation of home- charging units that can cost more than $2,000.

Nissan has long admitted that the Leaf rollout would be a challenge, and the recent tsunami-related chaos in Japan hasn’t helped. But Bloomberg doesn’t quantify how many customers have been dropped due to their lack of charging system installation, other than to report that 45% of the 20k customers who reserved Leafs by last September have continued the ordering process. And it turns out that the delays aren’t irritating so much because of Nissan’s intransigence or lack of transparency, but because certain buyers stand to lose their California tax credit before their Leaf arrives.

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By on February 2, 2011

Former GM CEO Fritz Henderson may well have been a convenient punching boy in the aftermath of the Obama Administration’s firing of his predecessor, but at least the guy had a sense of obligation. Henderson was a consummate GM insider, but unlike Rick Wagoner, he realized that this status was as much a liability as an asset in the politically-fraught aftermath of the bailout. Nowhere is this more clear than in Fritz’s major contribution to GM’s public relations: in hopes of proving GM’s appreciation of its extraordinary rescue, Henderson committed GM to “open communication” and “transparency,” telling the US Senatewith the very first words of his testimony that

It’s our obligation to be open and transparent in all we do to reinvent GM, particularly with the American taxpayer as our largest investor.

Of course, The General didn’t always make good on that pledge, but at least Fritz made the effort to say he cared. Now, GM is taking the opposite approach, threatening to liberate the benighted public from the burden of its transparency. After all, the US taxpayer is no longer the majority shareholder in GM… even if, at 33%, we are still GM’s single-largest “investor.”

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By on January 18, 2011

AFP [via Google] reports:

Nissan Motor had delivered only 60 units of its Leaf electric vehicle in Japan as of Friday, Kyodo News reported, despite already taking 6,000 orders due by the end of March.

Nissan denied any delay in the delivery of the pre-ordered cars and company spokesman Mitsuru Yonekawa told AFP on Tuesday that the automaker was taking a cautious approach to ensure quality control.

“We have to make sure that everything is 100 percent safe and sure,” Yonekawa said. “This is the first time we have mass-produced an electric vehicle so we need to be very careful. We are not delayed or behind schedule.”

Well don’t rush it then… but it’s got to be rough to be one of the 6,000 folks who pre-ordered by the end of last March. Nissan promises these patient souls that production of the initial 6,000 units will be complete by the end of this March.

By on January 17, 2011

Ruh Roh! A press release from the Made In USA Foundation [via theautochannel] picks the kind of fight that GM has been assiduously avoiding for years (but especially since the bailout):

General Motors, bailed out by U.S. taxpayers and still owned in part by the federal government, is stripping country of origin labels off of its cars at auto shows around the country, says the Made in the USA Foundation. The Made in the USA Foundation has charged GM with violating the American Automobile Labeling Act (AALA) which requires all new cars that are offered for sale to include country of origin information.

The AALA requires new cars to provide information on the window sticker, including where the car was assembled, the U.S. and other country content, where the engine was made and where the transmission was made.

Joel D. Joseph, Chairman of the Made in the USA Foundation, said, “General Motors wants to hide the fact that, even after the government bailout, it has moved production of vehicles offshore. The Cadillac SRX is now made in Mexico. The Buick Regal is made in Germany.”

GM claims that the AALA only applies to cars for sale at dealers not at auto shows. Joseph stated that he worked with Senator Barbara Mikulski, who wrote the law, and that the intent of the law was to inform consumers about the country of origin of new cars. Joseph said, “Millions of consumers get their first look at cars at auto shows. The law applies to cars that are ‘for sale’ and auto show cars, except concept cars. Identical GM cars are for sale at thousands of dealers across the nation, and display vehicles should include country of origin information. The U.S. government saved GM and still owns one-third of the company. General Motors should comply with the intent of the law.”

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