Category: Studies & Reports

By on October 22, 2019

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced Tuesday that American traffic deaths declined for a second year in a row in 2018. Data indicates a 2.4 percent decline in roadway fatalities last year, with bicyclists and pedestrians being the only groups to see risk moving in the wrong direction.

“This is encouraging news, but still far too many perished or were injured, and nearly all crashes are preventable, so much more work remains to be done to make America’s roads safer for everyone,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a statement.

The DOT/NHTSA attributed improving automotive safety systems as the primary reason for the decline in deaths, though some of the metrics included in the report’s breakdown suggest other factors could be at play.  Read More >

By on October 4, 2019

The paranoid luddites that write for this site have occasionally been accused of being hyper critical of modern-day driving aids. Be it a cursory mention of how a little snow totally flummoxed the systems of an otherwise agreeable review car, the direct addressing of an issue where road salt encouraged a vehicle to attempt to steer itself into a ditch, or one of this author’s many diatribes on how the bulk of this technology doesn’t seem anywhere near market ready, there’s always a couple of exceptional individuals ready to call us backward-looking morons.

While that’s often a correct assessment in other matters, it seems we’ve called this one correctly. The American Automobile Association (AAA) recently tested four sedans from competing manufacturers, running them through a handful of scenarios intended to replicate situations that place pedestrians at extreme risk. Taking into account the above smugness, you can probably imagine how poorly it went.  Read More >

By on August 19, 2019

vision 2.0 NHTSA Autonomous vehicles

Over the past year the automotive industry has carefully walked back the expectations surrounding autonomous cars. Yet pretty much any change in rhetoric constitutes retracted goals. With numerous companies predicting self-driving fleets of commercial vehicles before 2021, the bar couldn’t have been set much higher.

A lack of progress is partly to blame. However, a bundle of high-profile accidents have also shaken public trust — especially after it was found that Uber whistleblower Robbie Miller was trying to alert the company to issues with its self-driving program just days before one of the company’s autonomous Volvos was involved in a fatal accident with a pedestrian.

That’s not the half of it. In April, Miller released a study claiming self-driving vehicles were actually recording incident rates higher than that of your typical motorist. Contrasting data from the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) and the California DMV, he concluded that autonomous test vehicles created more injuries per mile than the average human motorist with a few years of practice.  Read More >

By on August 7, 2019

The fuel economy rollback posited by the Trump administration remains a hotly debated issue within the automotive community. Unfortunately, it has become mired in political nonsense, making decrypting the real-world impact of embracing or shunning it rather difficult. Consumer Reports recently took a stab at making sense of the matter, coming out in favor of balking at the notion of a rollback on the grounds that it would ultimately raise fueling costs.

Last year, the administration proposed capping fuel economy and emission standards at 2020 levels, instead of allowing them to rise annually as under existing regulations. The opposition, fronted by California, is vying to maintain the existing standards — with the possible compromise of delaying them by one year.  Read More >

By on August 1, 2019

After an eternity of seeing the Honda Accord and Civic topping lists of America’s most-stolen cars, tastes have finally evolved. According to the Highway Loss Data Institute’s list of vehicles most likely to be stolen, Hemi-equipped Dodge Challengers and Chargers are now the ride of choice for automotive miscreants. Interestingly, bandits seem to prefer larger vehicles on the whole — with full-sized pickups and large-engined cars topping the charts.

However, there are a couple items that need to be sorted out before we progress. You’ll probably continue seeing Accords, Corollas, Civics, and F-Series pickups on subsequent most-stolen lists. Their volume alone makes them popular targets and any study going by sheer numbers is bound to include them. But the HLDI report quantifies automobiles by their relative risk using insurance data, suggesting its big-boy season for car thieves.  Read More >

By on July 31, 2019

autonomous hardware

With automakers investing heavily into the development of electrified and autonomous vehicles, it might seem there is a gigantic consumer base ready and raring to go out and buy them. But every study we’ve encountered suggests the exact opposite. Electric cars are still limited to tech fetishists with regular folks occasionally deciding to become early adopters. Meanwhile, AVs are still in their infancy with engineers keen to document every baby step they take as the public remains ill-informed on their overall status.

It was presumed, however, that this would change as development progressed and “mobility” became more mainstream. But a new study from J.D. Power, backed by Survey Monkey, has showed — once again — this is not yet the case. Based on a 100-point scale, the duo’s 2019 Mobility Confidence Index yielded a score of 36 for self-driving vehicles and 55 for battery-electric vehicles.  Read More >

By on July 25, 2019

J.D. Power’s Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study, cleverly nicknamed as APEAL, was released on Wednesday. While we absolutely wouldn’t recommend using it as the foundation for your next vehicular purchase, it is a fun way to examine how the public views the various brands after 90 days of ownership.

Technically an automotive popularity contest, the 2019 APEAL study examines an owners’ “emotional attachment and level of excitement with their new vehicle across 77 attributes, ranging from the power they feel when they step on the gas to the sense of comfort and luxury they feel when climbing into the driver’s seat,” according to its publisher.

Expectedly, premium brands performed better overall — no doubt helped by their high-falutin owners’ smug sense of self-satisfaction. But there were a few pedestrian nameplates that managed to buck the trend and find themselves in the mix.  Read More >

By on July 18, 2019

2019 Subaru Forester green - Image: Subaru

J.D. Power’s annual Automotive Brand Loyalty Study came out for 2019 this week. According to the outlet, Subaru outranks every other brand when it comes to consumer loyalty. That meshes with any anecdotal evidence I’ve accumulated by just speaking with people. Despite some nagging quality concerns stemming from the company’s swift sales growth, most people I know that have driven a Subaru still want one.

Subaru also has been running some of the best advertisements within the industry with the broadest possible appeal (as they often feature dogs) over the last few years. Almost every woman I’ve spoken with feels positively about the brand and, while I can’t say the same about the men, it’s not a nameplate that receives much ire with laypersons — minus the odd tale of a tragic timing chain mishap (I told you to take it in, Sean).  Read More >

By on June 27, 2019

While they’re typically a little older than the first time car buyers that usually approach me for advice, there is a subset of individuals that tell me they want to ensure their vehicle is American Made™ and supports the hard working men from country they love. Unfortunately, this usually occurs at the tail of our conversation. We’ve got a price in mind, narrowed down the segment, and are now circling a handful of models they might actually be happy owning. Then they hit me with the regional curveball.

It’s not easy deciding what qualifies as truly American. Sure, I could just rattle off a list of vehicles built inside the United States — and am sometimes forced to — but that doesn’t take into account the multitude of components comprising each model. Such a task would be a monumental undertaking and these discussions usually take place at a drinking establishment, where I’m inclined to get drunk distracted.

Fortunately, Cars.com does an annual rundown of the “most-American” vehicles currently in production with its American-Made Index (AMI) — leaving few stones unturned in its year-long quest for answers.  Read More >

By on June 26, 2019

A survey released by Consumer Reports this week indicated that a majority of motorists (57 percent) believed that the advanced driving aids their vehicles had actively helped them avoid a crash. The survey, which incorporated data on roughly 72,000 vehicles from the 2015-19 model years, asked drivers to weigh in on a multitude of safety systems — including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot alerts, and more. While not all of these features had majority support, tabulating them as a whole showed at least half of the people using advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) saw some value in them.

Our opinions on these systems have been thoroughly mixed. While we’ve found most advanced driving aids to be inconsistent in their operation, sometimes befuddled by fog or a vehicle encrusted with roadway grime, we’ll happily admit that adaptive cruise control offers more utility than the standard on/off inclusions of yesteryear. But we’ve also seen disheartening reports that semi-autonomous features dull a good driver’s senses to a point that effectively makes them a worse motorist and would be lying if we said we trusted any of these systems implicitly.  Read More >

By on June 20, 2019

Many consumers continue to misunderstand the driver-assistance technologies being placed in modern vehicles, according to the latest survey released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But we don’t need the IIHS to tell us that. We’ve been documenting the avoidable accidents created whenever motorists overestimate what their high-tech cars are capable of for years now.

However, the insurance institute and numerous consumer advocacy groups have suggested that big part of the problem stems from the names manufacturers are using to describe their semi-autonomous hardware. Titles like “Autopilot” or “Driving Assistant Plus” can be confusing to somebody who didn’t bother to read the manual, especially when the associated marketing materials are often helping to steer them further in the wrong direction.  Read More >

By on June 18, 2019

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released its preliminary report on how many people died on U.S. roadways in 2018, indicating that overall traffic deaths had likely fallen by 1 percent. While the information doesn’t exactly justify a party, it’s good news after the last few years attempted to provide new footage for the Red Asphalt series.

As the first major spike in traffic deaths since the “Swinging Sixties,” 2015 freaked everyone out a bit. Save for a few annual hiccups, American traffic deaths (contrasted with its population) had been on the decline for decades. However, by the end of 2016, things looked certain — it was becoming less safe to drive in the United States.  Read More >

By on May 21, 2019

As ride-hailing services utilize the personal vehicles of contractors, rather than a commercial fleet of their own, repairs and recalls have to be handled by individual drivers. While it shouldn’t be a revelation that some recalls fall through the cracks, Consumer Reports is concerned that the ratio of unaddressed safety issues are unbecoming of companies pushing multibillion-dollar IPOs.

“Uber and Lyft are letting down their customers and jeopardizing their trust,” suggested William Wallace, products policy manager for Consumer Reports. “Uber’s website says people can ‘ride with confidence,’ while Lyft promises ‘peace of mind,’ yet both companies fail to ensure that rideshare cars are free from safety defects that could put passengers at risk.”  Read More >

By on April 15, 2019

mini electric concept

With governments strongly encouraging the growth of electric vehicles and automakers repositioning various brands to align with that goal, it’s worth a manufacturer’s time to examine the market. Mini, which BMW Group intends to evolve into an EV-focused nameplate, plans to release its first battery powered vehicle in 2020. However, before that occurs, the brand decided to commission Engine International for a little market research.

The firm conducted a general population survey of 1,004 presumably average Americans — all above the age of 18 and split equally by gender. Unfortunately for BMW, the results were less than promising. Most people still don’t seem to have a handle on what EVs offer or how they function. However, that might not necessarily be because they are clueless morons. Apathy undoubtedly plays a role here, especially as EV ownership remains relatively rare.  Read More >

By on March 28, 2019

It used to be that, if you were a “Ford Truck Man,” that’s all you drove. In fact, this author and his friends used to frequently quote the Toby Keith classic anytime someone exhibited an overabundance of brand loyalty. The borderline hysterical ad includes a scene with Keith hitchhiking through the desert, refusing rides from anything that lacks a blue oval on the grille. Hyperbolic for sure, but it kind of felt like that’s how people shopped for trucks back then.

Plenty of people still shop for a new pickups in this manner but, according to a recent survey, buyers are becoming increasingly less loyal as truck prices continue to climb.  Read More >

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