May 17, 2010

Endgame on Financial-Overhaul Bill
According to the Wall Street Journal, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Nevada Democrat was "likely" to file cloture on the financial-overhaul bill Monday, which means the Senate could vote as soon as Wednesday on its final passage. Lawmakers have already made many key changes to the bill through a variety of amendments, but multiple other high-stakes amendments await in the next few days that are expected to draw scrutiny from Washington, Wall Street, and voters. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) is offering one of the most anxiously awaited amendments, which would prohibit a proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at the Federal Reserve from enforcing new rules against auto dealers. The White House is trying to kill the amendment, but the vote is expected to be very close. Auto dealers argue the financial-overhaul bill would unfairly punish them for mistakes made by Wall Street. Click here to read AIADA Chairman Rick DeSilva's take on attempts to impose further regulation on auto dealers. Click here to see the letter AIADA sent to all Senate offices in support of the amendment last week. Don't wait - please continue to contact your Senators. Click here for background information and talking points from AIADA's Legislative Action Network and for information to contact your Senators directly and let them know you support Sen. Brownback's dealer amendment. Click here for more from the Wall Street Journal on Senate plans for financial reform legislation.

Buyers Embrace International Vehicles
According to the Dayton Daily News, the American consumer has embraced foreign or "international" vehicles. In March, for example, General Motors and Toyota Motor Sales USA were evenly matched at 17.6 percent and 17.5 percent of market share, respectively. International-made vehicles (from all auto manufacturers, including those based in the United States) made up 35.6 percent of market share in March, above the 15.5 percent for domestic market share. Click here for AIADA's Market Watch sales report for the month of March. U.S. government intervention in the domestic market is also being felt, some say. "Since the (U.S.) government owns a good portion of two of the U.S. nameplates, I will probably buy a Ford or Honda for my next vehicle," said Tom Vogel of Harrison Twp. who drives a Chevrolet Cavalier and a Ford F-150. Cody Lusk, president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, believes U.S. consumers simply want vehicles that meet their needs at a price they can afford. "The international nameplates have been providing that pretty consistently," Lusk said. Click here to read more about the surge in international vehicles in the U.S. auto market.

Judge Selects Four Lawyers for Toyota Litigation
A federal judge on Friday drew upon a group of experienced attorneys who have handled some of the largest product liability cases in the U.S. to represent hundreds of consumers suing Toyota over sudden acceleration problems with its vehicles. According to MSNBC, U.S. District Judge James Selna appointed four attorneys to be lead counsel for two committees that deal primarily with the biggest issues facing Toyota - wrongdeath claims, and claims filed by those who believe their cars have lost value because the Japanese automaker has recalled about 8 million vehicles. Among those who were selected Friday are Steve Berman of Seattle and Newport Beach attorney Mark Robinson, who is best known for getting a $128 million verdict in a case involving exploding fuel tanks on the Ford Pinto. The next step will be arranging a schedule to determine when Toyota will turn over documents requested by the plaintiffs as well as consolidating the lawsuits in hopes that Selna will certified them as a single class. Toyota has sought to dismiss that motion, saying drivers who haven't had any problems with their vehicles shouldn't be included in the case. Click here for the latest on Toyota's pending litigation.

Car-Safety Bill May Be Tamed
Congressional Democrats may scale back some provisions of an auto-safety bill after car makers criticized the measure for mandating rapid and costly rollouts of new technology and eliminating their right to question government-imposed vehicle recalls. According to the Wall Street Journal, proposals unveiled in the House and Senate this month would require fundamental changes to the design of cars in the next few years, including modifications to gas-pedal configurations and new requirements for crash-data recorders and back-up brake technology. The bills also would remove a cap on civil fines for safety lapses by car makers and would empower the top U.S. vehicle-safety regulator to unilaterally order a vehicle recall. Consumer advocates said those provisions were needed to prevent a repeat of the problems that led Toyota Motor Corp. to recall more than 8.5 million vehicles globally since last fall for defects related to sudden acceleration and other safety issues. But industry representatives told lawmakers at a House hearing last week that the mandates for new technology came with unrealistic deadlines. They also objected that the bills would give too much power to regulators while impinging industry's rights to appeal decisions. For more on legislation aimed at improving vehicle safety, click here.

Mercedes-Benz GLK350 is Mysteriously Irresistible
Sometimes there's no explaining it, no way to quantify it. A vehicle just strikes the right chords despite flaws and annoyances. According to James Healey at USA Today, for twice the price of a Honda CR-V, the GLK gives you less space for passengers and cargo and worse fuel economy. The seven-speed automatic transmission resets to its less-responsive mode each time you shut off the vehicle, forcing you to punch up "S" for Sport at each restart - just to get the thing to start out in first gear instead of second and to hold each gear a little longer for better performance. However, despite its flaws, Healey writes that the compact SUV was addictive. Either some sort of brainwashing fumes issued from the climate control, or the GLK had a rare, almost unique, blend of driving feel, powertrain behavior, comfort, styling, and "drive-me-now" persona. Contributing to its charm was a ridiculously entertaining 3.5-liter V-6 and a very good execution of a seven-speed automatic transmission. Healey also enjoyed its surprisingly simply controls, mostly. Though sufficiently complex to entertain those who like menus, joysticks and so on, the complexities could be bypassed. Click here for a photo gallery of the Mercedes-Benz GLK350. To read Healey's take on the vehicle, click here.

Around the Web
Sonata's Mini-Me: 2012 Hyundai Elantra [Motor Trend]
First Drive: 2010 Lotus Evora Delivers Performance, Civility, and Little Concession [Autoblog]
The 140 MPH Chase Cars of the U.S. Air Force [Jalopnik]
From the 'Magnum P.I.' Ferrari to the Batcycle: TV Cars to go on Display [DriveOn]

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