August 21, 2012

Honda Accord, Civic Still Hottest Cars for Thieves
The 1994 Honda Accord and 1998 Honda Civic were the most-stolen vehicles in 2011, according to the latest report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). The NICB compiles the most-stolen list by crunching data submitted to the FBI's National Crime Information Center by law enforcement agencies nationwide. While the top two look similar to 2010's most-stolen list and the 2011 list remains stocked with older vehicles, the NICB reports an overall new trend toward thefts of late-model vehicles. The Detroit Free Press reports that newer cars typically are harder to steal because of higher-tech anti-theft devices. But the report attributes the growth in theft of later-model vehicles to more thieves being able to illegally obtain replacement key codes for a specific vehicle. A key code is an anti-theft technology that requires a code in the key to match a code in the vehicle's ignition system. Thieves are finding ways to obtain replacement key codes through replacement practices at dealerships and locksmiths, or by having an insider. The good news is that overall, thefts are decreasing. FBI crime statistics show that vehicle thefts have not been this low since 1967. Check out the list of top stolen vehicles in 2011 by clicking here.

Prolific VW Platform is Key in Race to be Global No. 1
Automotive News reports that before the end of the decade, Volkswagen Group will reap massive savings from its new MQB architecture, giving the company another weapon in its bid to become the world's largest automaker. The economies of scale from making more than 4.6 million vehicles based on one architecture will result in 14 billion euros ($17.4 billion) of cumulated cost savings for VW Group by 2019, Stuart Pearson, an auto analyst at Credit Suisse in London, wrote in a recent report. "VW's MQB toolkit may be the single biggest cost-saving initiative ever mounted by any automaker," Pearson wrote. VW Group CEO Martin Winterkorn said the automaker will need to recoup the substantial development and startup costs for the architecture, but in the mid- to long-term, MQB "will deliver substantial savings in unit costs, one-time expenses and the production of our vehicles." Production time will be cut by about 30 percent, Winterkorn added during a speech to shareholders at the company's annual meeting on March 12. Click here for coverage of VW’s MQB architecture and how it will influence the company’s profits in the future.

Smart Cars to Be Put to Test in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The U.S. Transportation Department today will launch a 3,000-vehicle test of "smart car" technology in Ann Arbor, Mich., reports The Detroit News. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland will join automakers to begin the yearlong test, the largest to date. Vehicle-to-vehicle technologies have the potential to significantly reduce crash fatalities and injuries and could one day help motorists avoid crashes altogether, Strickland said. This first-of-its-kind effort will test a Wi-Fi-like technology by which vehicles and highways can "talk" to each other and perhaps reduce crashes and improve traffic congestion. Cars, for example, could alert each other that a driver was about to miss a stop sign or pull onto a busy street. Or that a vehicle has entered a driver's blind spot. The test will include vehicle-to-vehicle crash avoidance technologies such as forward-collision warnings, "do not pass" alerts, and warnings that a vehicle ahead has stopped suddenly. It also will involve some vehicle-to-roadway testing. The, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute will conduct the research project in Ann Arbor. Most of the test vehicles will be privately owned. For more on new tests on driverless vehicle technology, click here.

Beggs: Dealers More Interested in Fuel Efficiency as Gas Hits $3.72 Nationwide
Black Book collected dealer reaction from throughout the country as gas prices continued to climb, and it appears these rising costs are weighing on the minds of many in the car business, reports Auto Remarketing. Black Book managing editor Ricky Beggs indicated that the average price at the pump now stands at $3.72 after a seven-cent rise last week. Beggs pointed out the figure is 12 cents above the year-ago reading, but still below the record average of $4.11 set in 2008. “It has been an interesting week in the used-vehicle market with a variety of views regarding the demand, or lack of it, for used inventory as well as various comments about the increasing gas prices,” Beggs began in the latest episode of his weekly online video analysis, “Beggs on the Used Car Market." Click here to watch his analysis. Taking a deeper look at the 10 car segments tracked by Black Book, prices declined on average by $63 last week, an amount a little more than the average of the past four weeks, which was $57. A year ago cars dropped by an average of $39 as no segment moved higher. Click here for more Black Book analysis of the auto market.

Mini Dealers Fill Vacant Stores
Mini, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary in the United States, is one of the few franchises adding dealerships and seeing lots of existing stores expand voluntarily. And, reports Automotive News, many of its dealers are taking advantage of all the vacant stores on the market – the result of industry consolidation and the ravages of the recession. Jim McDowell, head of Mini USA, estimates that about 40 new Mini stores that opened in the past several years are housed in dealerships that were victims of the recession or consolidation by other brands. "Of the dealers that have upgraded, half of them upgraded by moving into another franchise and making it a Mini building," he said. Mini has 115 dealerships in the United States, and 70 stores have been renovated to meet the new design standard, which calls for a predominantly black interior and exterior. Mini is adding new stores as well. Seven have been approved, and more may be coming. McDowell said dealers are investing because Mini is adding products – its seventh model, the Paceman crossover coupe, comes next year. It's the coupe version of the Countryman. Click here for the full article on the growth of Mini dealership franchises across the U.S.

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Around the Web  
Watch Phyllis Diller Explain Her Car's 'Gangster Lights' [Jalopnik]
New Toyota Auris Revealed Ahead of Paris Motor Show [Autoblog]
Bentley to Make Convertible Mulsanne [Forbes]
Unlikely Fuel Saver: Racing Cars [WSJ]

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