Report: Trump Administration Seeks to Soften Fuel Economy Rollback

One of the issues underpinning the gas war has been an inability for either side to compromise. Initially, it was the current administration complaining about California wanting special treatment. But the coastal state was quick to return fire, claiming that the White House never offered a valid compromise.

Eventually California extended an olive branch by suggesting it would postpone existing fuel economy mandates by one year, while attempting to lock automakers in via written commitments. But federal regulators said a singular national standard was needed, suggesting California had overstepped its authority by trying to rope in manufacturers.

However, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler came back this fall with claims of a revised plan that could actually be more stringent than originally presumed. While still a rollback, the new draft was said to close several loopholes the industry could use to continue their polluting ways. “In some of the out years, we’re actually more restrictive on CO2 emissions than the Obama proposal was,” Wheeler said.

New reports now suggest the EPA’s words are more than just noise.

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More Evidence Pedestrian Detection Systems Have Some Problems

It hasn’t even been a full month since the American Automobile Association (AAA) released a study showcasing the shortcomings of advanced driving aids and another damning report has come in — this time from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). While not nearly as bleak as the AAA study, the IIHS research put several models on blast for having lackluster equipment.

The gist appears to be that the quality of pedestrian detection systems varies wildly between models, with the IIHS picking a few winners and losers. That’s important information to have, especially considering automatic braking systems will be standard equipment on all cars by 2022.

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U.S. Road Fatalities Declined in 2018

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.

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India: Counterpoint to Global Electrification

Last week we reported on the headway electric vehicles are making in the Netherlands, framing the situation as idyllic for EVs. Less picturesque for plug-in sales is India — a nation that has similarly attempted to encourage the proliferation of electric cars, but with unimpressive results. As it turns out, India makes a stellar counterpoint for worldwide electrification.

Based on the success EVs have seen over the last few years, you’d think the government was asking everyone to start eating hamburgers. Despite having a population of 1.34 billion people, with more of them becoming drivers every day, just 8,000 EVs have been sold in the nation over the last six years.

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Reportedly Terrible: AAA Tests Pedestrian Detection Systems

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.

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The Cost of Ownership: Financing a Car Hasn't Gotten Any Cheaper, Says AAA

The American Automobile Association (AAA) suggests that long-term loans are encouraging ownership costs of new vehicles to climb. In some instances, the group suggests customers could be on the hook for well over $10,000 per year. While this only applies to larger and more expensive automobiles, AAA says the trend is all-encompassing — spurred largely by changing finance conditions.

According to AAA’s latest research, finance costs on new vehicle purchases have jumped 24 percent in 2019, elevating the average annual cost of car ownership to $9,282 ($773.50 per month).

“Finance costs accounted for more than 40 [percent] of the total increase in average vehicle ownership costs,” elaborated John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director for Automotive Engineering & Repair. “AAA found finance charges rose more sharply in the last 12 months than any major expense associated with owning a vehicle.”

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Geely Sees 40 Percent Profit Slip Over First Half of 2019

China’s Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd said on Wednesday that its first-half net profit slipped 40 percent due to the extended economic downturn impacting in the region. According to Reuters, the manufacturer posted a net profit of 4.01 billion yuan ($568.5 million) during the most recent half vs the 6.67 billion yuan it made over the same period a year earlier.

Sales growth is also down. Between January and June, Geely sold 651,680 vehicles — roughly 15 percent less than in the same period in 2018. Finding something to attribute that to will be easy, however. China’s automotive market has been on a downhill slope for 13 consecutive months and we know of at least two reasons why.

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Gas War Update, Choose a Side Edition

According to recent reports, there’s trouble with the White House’s fuel economy rollback. The Trump administration is said to have been meeting with automakers, asking them to stand behind its proposal to freeze economy standards at about 37 mpg until 2026. The New York Times indicates it was an act of desperation, spurred by claims that Mercedes-Benz was on the cusp of supporting the California compromise. Based on existing standards, which would raise the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, the deal would delay its targets by one year.

Honda, Ford, Volkswagen, and BMW previously agreed to support California’s proposal in July. However, the deal is non-binding if the White House decides to push through a rollback, and most of the rhetoric being used by the industry seems more focused on a joint standard.

“A 50-state solution has always been our preferred path forward and we understand that any deal involves compromise,” read the automakers’ joint statement.”These terms will provide our companies much-needed regulatory certainty by allowing us to meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet, avoiding a patchwork of regulations while continuing to ensure meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions.”

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Uber Whistleblower: Autonomous Vehicles Need New Safety Metrics, Aren't Really Any Safer

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.

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Study Examines America's Most Crashed Car Models

Earlier this month the insurance comparison site Insurify passed around a study of the car models most likely to receiving speeding tickets. The worst offenders were all rather predictable, with Subaru’s WRX leading the charge. Other models, like the Scion FR-S and Volkswagen Golf GTI, helped paint a clearer picture — one that pointed toward younger motorists with a preexisting interest in speed.

While “Quick Cars Go Fast” isn’t the most compelling headline, Insurify released another study this week detailing America’s most accident-prone vehicles. The speeding study was pretty cut and dried, but this one is a bit more mysterious. What goes into an automobile that makes it perfect for crashing?

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A Lesson for Automakers? Navy Abandons Touchscreen Controls Over Safety Concerns

The U.S. Navy has decided to convert the touch screens installed on its destroyer fleet back to mechanical controls after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cited them in the fatal collision between the USS John S McCain and tanker Alnic MC in 2017. They were also referenced in the collision report released after the USS Fitzgerald collided with the ACX Crystal container ship. While the reports dealt largely with crews being improperly trained on the system’s various functions, the complexity of the graphical interface was cited as a potential issue in itself.

This encouraged Naval Sea Systems Command to conduct fleet surveys in the hope it could get a handle on how officers felt about the systems. The result? Crew members said they wanted more physical controls, echoing the cries of automotive safety advocates the world over.

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Gas War: Efficiency Rollback Would Raise Fuel Costs, Study Claims

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.

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Stolen Car Study Shows Thieves Now Have Better Taste

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.

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Another Study Shows Consumers Hesitant to Embrace Mobility

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.

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Aston Martin Has a Few Problems

Keen to expand into new segments and redefine itself as an auto brand, Aston Marin is now a publicly traded company with a crossover vehicle on the horizon. The plan, established by CEO Andy Palmer and about as novel as dirt, was due for a checkup last week. Sadly, the automaker was not released with a clean bill of health. Aston reported a pre-tax loss of £78.8 million ($92 million) in the six months ending in June.

Speaking with the media, Palmer argued that the company had done well in the first quarter but claimed economic conditions and dwindling dealer interest had hurt the business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The United States performed comparatively better — possibly due to the marque bringing on Tom Brady as a brand ambassador, even though at least two of the cars built with the athlete’s name on them have already passed through the secondhand market $100,000 below sticker. Unfortunately, minor victories weren’t nearly enough to keep the firm’s share price from tumbling downward like an allegedly deflated football.

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  • Daniel J The GV70 is quite interesting. For close to a year now, the only way to get one is to order it, at least from any of the dealerships in a 250 mile area. I don't know how even people are test driving them.
  • Ravenuer 15 Overpriced Vehicles? I'd say they all are.
  • Ravenuer Bought a new 96 GXE. Paid $25002 for it. Hands down the best, most reliable car I ever owned! Put 300k on it with only minor repairs. Miss it.
  • Bfisch81 My friend's mom bought a fully loaded 96 and I remember really liking it. I still thought my granddad's 89 was cooler and sportier but the 96 felt more luxury which wasn't a bad thing in and of itself.
  • Art Vandelay Battery issues aside, I didn’t hate it. I’d have just been paying for range I didn’t need.