August 20, 2012

Honda Looks to Silence Critics with New Accord
Honda wants to silence its critics when it rolls out the new Accord this week. According to The Detroit News, Honda says it's aiming to beat Camry in sales to individual buyers. That excludes sales to rental car companies and other fleet buyers. The company has released only a few details about the 2013 five-seat Accord, which it will start making today at its factory in Marysville, Ohio. It says the Accord's fuel economy with be competitive with the Altima. And the price will be similar to the current Accord, which starts at $21,480. The car's look is still conservative, and in pictures, it resembles the 2012 version. But side creases give the new version a little more style. And the front and rear look more aggressive and athletic. After decades of being the most popular segment among U.S. buyers, midsize cars saw their market share start to drop in 2009 as automakers improved compacts and smaller SUVs. So far this year, though, the midsize sedan is back. Its market share is 18.6 percent, up almost two percentage points from 2011. Read more about the new Accord’s challenges as it goes head-to-head with a competitive midsize sedan market.

Private Buyers Snapping Up Stores
Nearing retirement age with sons who weren't interested in the car business, Ron Charapp felt ready to sell his Pittsburgh-area dealerships in 2009. But he held off as dealership values plummeted and the pool of active buyers dried up during the recession. Last month Charapp sold his Ford and Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram stores in Natrona Heights, Pa., to #1 Cochran, the largest dealership group in western Pennsylvania. According to Automotive News, despite more optimism in 2012, the dealership mergers and acquisitions market hasn't taken off the way many experts predicted. Through the first half of the year, acquisitions of U.S. dealerships by the public retailers ran at less than half the pace of 2011. Private-cap buyers appear to be more active, but disagreements over pricing, particularly real estate valuations, make those deals harder to close. Alan Haig, head of automotive services for Presidio Group of San Francisco, had projected acquisition activity by the public companies to rise at least 20 percent this year. So he is surprised that through June the publics collectively spent just $103 million buying U.S. dealerships, down 55 percent from $229 million in the same period in 2011. Click here to read more about today’s dealership transactions.

Who Needs a License? Self-Driving Cars Coming
It’s been more than half a century since some of the first concept cars boasting self-driving features were presented to the world and they're still not on the roads. But, according to NBCNews.com, many auto executives say the industry is on the cusp of welcoming vehicles that make the idea of keeping both hands on the wheel an anachronism. The pace of invention has quickened, with such automakers as GM, Ford Motor Co, Toyota Motor Corp., and Volkswagen AG developing technologies to help drivers avoid accidents. Some even envision a future where today's cars are more amusement. "In the same way we all used to travel on horses and now horses are entertainment, you could imagine automobiles driven by people becoming more entertainment," said Chris Urmson, the Google program's technical head. In a world where Nevada and Florida have already passed laws allowing the licensing of self-driving cars, the rush is on to make the job easier for drivers. For many, the ultimate goal is to take the steering wheel totally out of consumers' hands and eliminate accidents altogether. Click here for more on the future of self-driving cars.

The Hottest New Cars at Pebble Beach
The 62nd annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance hapened this weekend, which meant the $9.75 fee to enter town and the $500-a-round greens fee to play the course disappeared into Monterey’s notorious fog. It cost $200 to get inside the event, a cavalcade of 200 of the most beautiful cars in the world. Forbes reports that it’s more than worth it once you get inside. Witness the cornucopia of automotive delight that awaits: Seven Rolls-Royces from collections owned by 1930s-era maharajas; nine Shelby Cobra roadsters designed by Carroll Shelby himself; 11 cars designed by Jacques Saoutchik, who in his day conceived numerous Delahayes and Bugattis. Racing Ferraris most have only dreamt about. And all the usual faces – vintage Alfa-Romeo, Aston Martin, Cadillac, Isotta-Fraschini, Lancia, Maserati, and Talbot-Lago. “This could be the biggest year we’ve ever had,” David Gooding, the head of auction house Gooding & Co., said. “It’s going to be very good.” Click here for a slideshow to see some of the new stunners at Pebble Beach this year. Read more by clicking here.

Brakes Power the Lights on Nissan Minivan
Nissan Motor Co. is the latest Japanese automaker to equip a vehicle with regenerative braking to power onboard electronics and electrical systems. According to Automotive News, the technology, which helps eke out extra mpg, is on the Serena minivan sold in Japan. Nissan, perhaps eager to tap Japan's mania for gasoline-electric vehicles, bills the Serena with regenerative braking as a hybrid, but the minivan is different from the Toyota Prius or Honda Insight. With Nissan, the electric motor doesn't deliver torque to the wheels to propel the vehicle, as it does with other companies' hybrids. Instead, regenerative braking simply converts kinetic energy into electricity. That electricity is stored in a supplemental lead-acid battery that powers onboard electrical systems. That relieves the engine of those duties, allowing it to work more efficiently. The system is combined with stop-start technology and a more powerful starting motor to give the engine a bigger boost when it fires up the cylinders from a standstill. Nissan says its S-Hybrid system, with the S standing for smart and simple, can improve fuel economy as much as 10 percent at a cost of no more than about $1,910. Click here to read more about Nissan’s minivan featuring regenerative breaking.

Around the Web
The Frank Ocean Guide to Affordable Classics [Jalopnik]
Feds Expect Greater Loss on Auto Bailout [Autoblog]
1928 Mercedes-Benz Wins Best of Show at Pebble Beach [MSN Autos]
Jay Leno, Leon Panetta Auction Fiat 500 [DriveOn]

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