Let’s Make a Deal…for Hyundai Quality
If US automakers only had Hyundai to kick around, like in the good old days. Those days are long gone, however, and Hyundai just notched another award for quality, from J.D. Power and Associates. It’s annual Initial Quality Study, or IQS, had Hyundai beating even Toyota as the top non-luxury nameplate, though Toyota remained the dominant force in overall model quality. In the survey, J.D. Power expanded its definition of quality to include build issues and, for the first time, design elements, such as where turn signals are located, and a vehicle’s overall ease of use. Based on the revised criteria, top-scoring automotive nameplates were Porsche, Lexus, Hyundai, Toyota, Jaguar and Honda. Lowest ranked nameplates included Saab, Suzuki, Hummer, Volkswagen, Isuzu, and Land Rover. Quality scores are based on reported problems per 100 vehicles, with the top overall nameplate, Porsche, scoring 91 problems out of 100, and the lowest scoring nameplate, Land Rover, registering 204 problems per 100 vehicles. Hyundai’s success was fueled in part by the Tucson SUV, a top-three placement for the Sonata sedan and the all-new Azera luxury sedan. Toyota, however, led the way in total top three finishes with five for the Toyota brand -- including the Camry -- and six for luxury nameplate Lexus. Honda also fared well, with five models ranked in the top three of their segments.
Say Goodbye, Verona
Suzuki is also aiming for quality and safety awards, but first they’re setting up their US lineup for the future. The Asian automaker said last week that it will bring the Swift hatchback back to the United States in 2010 to compete against small cars like the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa. Suzuki will also add a small pickup in 2008 – courtesy of Nissan -- a crossover this fall, and, in 2010, it will offer a hybrid car. The Verona sedan, meanwhile, will get the boot at the end of the 2006 model year, victim of an underwhelming powertrain, quality issues and a hyper competitive sedan market.
There will be no hybrid nonsense for Buick. At least, not yet. General Motors will, however, phase out the Rendezvous and Rainier next spring, replacing them with the near-luxury Enclave crossover. GM will end production of the Rendezvous crossover at the end of 2006 and the Rainier SUV next summer. They also plan to build the Enclave at its new plant near Lansing, Mich., on the Lambda crossover architecture. Other Lambda vehicles will be the 2007 Saturn OUTLOOK and the 2008 Chevrolet Acadia. So if you have your heart set on the Rainer or Rendezvous, sit tight and wait while they start stacking that cash up on the hood. Chances are you won’t have to wait too long…
Hybrid perks, Ford on hold
The way things are going, with hybrids selling and gas prices rising, anything part electric and part internal combustion would be a hit – at least with Bank America employees. Those fortunate souls now get a $3,000 rebate, should they buy a hybrid vehicle that qualifies for the tax credit. That’s right: Bank of America, along with Google, is offering its employees a “rebate” if they go green. More than 21,000 employees who live within 90 miles of Boston, Charlotte and Los Angeles are eligible on purchases of new hybrids that qualify with the Internal Revenue Service. Google, which started their program in February, offers a $5,000 rebate for purchase, or $2,500 for lease, of an eligible hybrid.
Ford, meanwhile, is poised to launch the Edge crossover, which garnered rave reviews at this year’s Detroit Auto Show. But if you’re expecting more from the blue oval, you may be a disappointed: reports out of Detroit indicate that Mark Fields, the new Ford boss, has delayed several new models – and has canceled others. According to the Detroit Free Press, delays include the introduction of a subcompact car – by two years or more – even though Ford risks missing out on a segment that’s likely to grow through the rest of this decade. Other delays include a Ford Mustang enhancement by at least one year, to 2009 –and the cancellation of one of the large front wheel drive sedans planned for Lincoln. Fields has also signaled the demise of Mercury’s Ford Freestyle crossover twin. According to the report, Ford is also pursuing a modern rear-wheel-drive sedan for the United States near the end of the decade.
Used SUV for Sale
If you don’t work for Bank of America -- then again, don’t we all work for Bank of America, in one way or another? Or maybe you really need to own an SUV, consider a used model. According to the Automotive News, prices of used mid-sized SUVs are slumping as gasoline prices rise. In May, used mid-sized SUVs sold for an average wholesale price of $10,960, according to Manheim, the nation's largest vehicle auction company. That's a drop of 3.8 percent since January. One example is the Jeep Grand Cherokee: according to the Black Book vehicle price guide, a four-wheel-drive 2003 Grand Cherokee Laredo wholesaled for $11,900 in June, down 5.6 percent since January. Not surprisingly, inventories of secondhand trucks are starting to build up. According to CNW Marketing Research, dealers report a 73-day supply of used trucks, compared with a 51-day supply of used cars.
Finally, you may want to think twice before you get your bling on – at least if you’re traveling in the bad part of town. The Highway Loss Data Institute, reported last week that the Cadillac Escalade attracts car thieves. Escalades had the highest rate of insurance theft claims for the fourth straight year. The Escalade was followed by the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and the Dodge Ram 1500 quad cab pickup. The Institute calculated which vehicles were most likely to be stolen by assessing theft claims per 1,000 insured vehicles from model years 2003 to 2005. For you prospective Escalade owners, there’s good news: the 2007 model comes equipped with an improved anti-theft ignition immobilizer. The Institute claimed that the Lancer Evolution, a high-performance version of the Lancer sedan, was likely targeted because thieves coveted its rear spoilers and special tires and wheels.
Photos courtesy of the automakers