Wednesday, August 31, 2011

UAW Boss Balancing Gains, Detroit 3 Competitiveness

UAW President Bob King said he's seeking to gain wage increases for entry-level workers at the Detroit Three in this year's contract talks.
But King also said he aims to gain a national labor pact that keeps costs down and lets General Motors, Ford and Chrysler stay competitive against nonunion competitors.
"We have proposals on the table for wage increases," King said after a speech to the Detroit Economic Club in Detroit, according to news reports. "There is room... to make gains in different areas and keep the companies competitive."
U.S. automakers on average pay traditional workers $28 per hour but can bring on new workers for $14 to $16 per hour, or about $30,000 per year.

Atlantic Station Gets Metro Area's First Electric Vehicle Charging Station

Atlanta's first public electric vehicle charging station opens today at Atlantic Station.
The station will be at 271 17th Street across from the Millennium Gate.
The charging station will have multiple outlets and be powered by overhead solar panels. Motorists with electric powered, zero-emissions vehicles can use it 24 hours a day.
The  station is the first in the metro area and is Atlantic Station's latest green innovation.
The mixed-use community was one of the largest brown-field renovation projects in the nation when it opened in 2005.
The charging station will be able to fully charge all of the electric vehicles on the market in the U.S. currently within a three to seven hour window, compared with as much as 25 hours for standard outlets.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI: Get Amped

The 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI is a high-performance car that offers a potent engine and a nicely tuned suspension. But really, if you're more than 24 years old, you might look a little odd driving this car.

That's because this is pretty much a toy for the "too-fast, too-furious" set. You know the kind: amped up on energy drinks, saying "dude" a lot, very The Situation-esque.

What's odd about this is that otherwise, Subaru is a serious car company, that makes excellent products known for reliability and their all-wheel drive.

But I guess even car companies should have a sense of humor, and this is Subaru's turn at being a bit cheeky.

The Impreza WRX STI get its name from the WRX and the STI models, which can be had as five-door hatchbacks or sedans. Some would say that this car competes with the the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, and that's fair enough. But you'll also find it compared with the Mazdaspeed3. I have a bit of a problem with that one, because that car seems a little more mature. You can have fun in the Mazdaspeed3, but it also has excellent road manners and doesn't come outfitted in ridiculously gaudy race car regalia.

The WRX STI now has wider fenders, squared-off bumpers, and a black grille. Those things are OK. But when you add the ridiculous spoiler, you really are saying that this car is fine for the track, but driving it in normal circumstances is like wearing cleats to go shopping in Macy's.

Subaru has firmed up the suspension on the WRX STI and added 18-inch wheels.

There are also higher spring rates and thicker stabilizer bars for enhanced handling. The Brembo brakes feature four-piston front and two-piston rear calipers and give the car superb stopping ability.

The engine is a 305-horsepower turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder linked to a six-speed manual transmission. It makes 290 pounds-feet of torque.  The engine has sequential multiport fuel injection and incline start assist and a high-cross-flow-design intercooler and Subaru’s Intelligent Drive system to bolster traction.

On the interior, check out the tilting, telescoping leather steering wheel with audio controls, automatic climate control and keyless entry. Coming standard are Bluetooth audio streaming, hands-free calling, USB ports and a single-CD stereo. Options offered include heated seats, side mirrors, moonroof, satellite radio, leather upholstery, xenon headlights, a navigation system and projector-beam fog lights.

The test drive model had a sticker price of $39,870.

The WRX STI offers lots of performance capability, and its own kind of styling. But there are other models out there that offer great performance and that you can actually grow older with. And you might even get away with paying a bit less.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lexus Might Lose Top Spot

Lexus is overhauling its vehicle lineup as it faces the prospect of losing its spot atop the sales chart in the U.S. luxury market, Bloomberg News reports.
The company will roll out its 2013 Lexus GS 350 in February, Bloomberg said, and it will be redesigned with a larger interior and better handling and acceleration. The car has a 306-horsepower, V-6 engine, with optional "F Sport" high-performance and hybrid versions also due next year, Lexus said.
 The new GS has sportier performance than past versions and is leading the brand into a whole new territory, the company said.
Toyota has had difficulty restocking U.S. Lexus dealers with inventory after Japan's earthquake and tsunami in March. That led to a 19 percent decline in sales for Lexus through July. Those sales trailed those of BMW and Mercedes. Lexus has led luxury sales in the U.S. since 2000.

From The Detroit News:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ram Dakota Pickup Truck Going Away

Chrysler is ending production of its Ram Dakota pickup Tuesday, resulting in cost 39 job cuts and possibly more at Dodge's Warren Truck Plant in Michigan, according to the Detroit News.
The newspaper reported that the union representing those workers believes the number of job cuts could be 150 or more.
In May, Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne said the company plans to replace the body-on-frame Dakota with a car-based "lifestyle" vehicle for the Ram brand, the Detroit News said.
The newspaper said a decision had not yet been made about where to build it.

From The Detroit News:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chevy Cruze Continues as Hot Seller

Chevrolet continues to see solid demand for its Cruze small sedan, thanks to its good fuel economy and modest price. General Motors said total sales of its passenger cars increased 8 percent in July compared with a year ago and that retail sales for cars rose 9 percent for the month, led by the Cruze. The Cruze Eco, which gets an estimated 42 mpg highway, accounted for 19 percent of the model’s retail sales during the month. The Cruze sold more than 24,000 units in July, and has sold near 148,000 for the year. That figure beats the hot-selling Hyundai Elantra and Honda Civic, according to news reports. The Cruze has a chance to take over as the top-selling compact if it is able to beat the Toyota Corolla by more than 7,000 vehicles. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pump Prices Staying Relatively Low

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline has dropped to $3.54 in Georgia, 11 cents below the $3.65 mark of last week. The national average is $3.59, which is 7 cents lower than last week. So that's good news, but just for a bit of perspective, we were paying $2.62 a gallon just a year ago.

The metro Atlanta average price is $3.57, while the highest prices in state are found in Athens at $3.61, and the lowest being in Augusta, at $3.41.

Gas prices are expected to stay low through the coming Labor Day holiday, which is good news for road trippers.
"Economic growth is not only slow in the U.S., but in Europe as well and is expected to keep oil prices below $90 a barrel throughout the remainder of the month," said Jessica Brady, spokesperson, AAA Auto Club South in a news release. "Some retailers are slow to drop prices at the pump since the market is so volatile at this time. However, consumers should start to see retail gas prices fall even further this week as a result of crude oil continuing to trade below $90 a barrel." 

AAA to Offer Help to Drivers of Electric Vehicles

AAA has announced that it will provide mobile charging roadside-assistance trucks to help drivers of electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf.
AAA said the truck will have the ability to provide Level 2 and 3 charging to the automotive club's members who lose the charge on their batteries. Some 10-15 minutes of charge time should allow motorists to drive up to 15 miles to a charging station, where they can fully charge, the group said.
The program is beginning in Portland, Ore., Seattle, the San Francisco area, Los Angeles, Knoxville, Tenn. and the Tampa area.
The trucks will also be able to provide traditional services such as jump starts, tire changes and lockout service.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Gas Prices Down this Week

There has been some pretty dismal economic news over the past few days, but one slightly upbeat development is seen in gas prices, which have slid a bit.
The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded is $3.65, according to AAA, which is 6 cents lower than a week ago.
Nationally, the average price is $3.66.
AAA's website said the lowest priced gasoline in the state is in Augusta, at $3.50, while Athens had the highest, at $3.70.
If you're planning to head north, make sure you stop in Greenville, S.C., where as of yesterday, gas could be had for as low as $3.37.
But the good old days of 2010 saw us paying about a dollar a gallon less than what we're paying now.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Another Record Sales Month for Audi

Someone apparently forgot to tell Audi that we're in an economic slump.
The German luxury automaker today reported record July U.S. sales of 9,146 vehicles, which beats the company's old mark of 7,974 from July 2001.
Last month was also Audi's seventh straight of record-setting sales in the U.S. market.
Audi also said its year-to-date sales rose nearly 16 percent, to 65,055 for calendar year 2011.

Optimistic Forecasts for Fuel Economy Standards

Last week, President Barack Obama announced the next phase of a program to boost the fuel efficiency of vehicles sold in the U.S., aiming to decrease dependence on foreign oil, reduce pollution and lower costs for motorists.
The new fuel economy standards state that by model year 2025, the average American car or truck will get 54.5 miles a gallon (the average car currently gets 23.8 mpg).

The administration says it worked with auto workers, union representatives, manufacturers and environmental leaders to craft the requirements. 

Last week's announcement follows up on a plan that the administration implemented in 2009, that, according to the White House, is estimated to save 1.8 billion barrels of oil -- and save consumers up to $3,000 at the pump -- over the lifetimes of vehicles from model years 2012-2016. 
The administration projects that the changes will spur production of more electric and hybrid vehicles from manufacturers and more clean-diesel, efficient SUVs and sedans. Automakers are expected to be more motivated to make smart, innovative cars and trucks -- from the materials they choose down to the design of their engines and transmissions. The administration also predicts that start-up companies in the clean-energy sector and in advanced battery manufacturing, will get more work, helping to create jobs.

The administration additionally forecasts:
    -- Saving of 12 billion barrels of oil and elimination of 6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution.
    -- Buyers of new cars in 2025 will save $8,200 in fuel costs, compared with what they'd pay for gas for a similar vehicle bought in 2010.
    --  American drivers will save nearly $2 trillion over the life of the program.