October 12, 2012

Toyota Recaptures Corporate Loyalty Leadership; Ford is Top Brand
Toyota Motor Corp. has recaptured the top spot among automakers in U.S. customer loyalty for the first time since the third quarter of 2009, according to a study released Thursday by Experian Automotive. Automotive News reports that Toyota had the highest corporate loyalty rate, at 47.3 percent, during the second quarter, edging General Motors, 46.2 percent; Ford Motor Co.; 46 percent; and Hyundai-Kia Motor Group, 45.3 percent. Honda Motor Co. Inc. was No. 5 with a loyalty rate of 43.1 percent, Experian Automotive said. The loyalty results measure what percentage of owners an automaker retains when a vehicle is traded in or comes off lease. The results are based on registration data and cover all of an automaker’s brands, Experian said. Toyota’s comeback is largely a function of its recovery from the March 2011 earthquake, said Jeffrey Anderson, director of consulting and analytics for Experian Automotive. The disaster disrupted vehicle supplies across the U.S. industry, especially for Toyota and Honda. “Toyota has done an outstanding job of regaining customer trust and getting repeat customers into showrooms,” Anderson said in a statement. Click here for more on Toyota’s ranking in Experian’s corporate loyalty survey.

EPA Nears Ethanol Decision
The EPA will decide by early next month whether to reduce the amount of corn-based ethanol used in the nation's 240 million gas tanks because of this summer's drought, reports The Detroit News. The governors of eight states and nearly 200 members of Congress asked the EPA to waive requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard signed into law in 2007 by President George W. Bush that mandate the production of a certain quantity annually of the alternative fuel. In August, a top UN official urged the Obama administration to suspend ethanol requirements under the 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard as fears of food shortages grow around the world. Under the law, the nation is increasing the use of ethanol in vehicles to 15.2 billion gallons this year, up from 5 billion gallons in 2007. By 2022, the U.S. must use 36 billion gallons of biofuel, though 21 billion gallons are supposed to be from advanced cellulosic ethanol. To use the ethanol required, the EPA has approved the use of a higher blend of ethanol fuel called E15 – which is 15 percent ethanol – up from E10 used at most pumps today. Click here for more on a potential reduction of corn-based ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply.

Car Buyers Get Cheaper Navigation Options
USA Today reports that automakers are starting to find ways to bring budget navigation to their cheaper cars with integrated systems that are much cheaper than fancy in-dash models costing upwards of $1,500. For example, on its new CX-5 crossover, Mazda doesn't require buyers to choose a navigation system at the time of purchase. They can buy a $499 TomTom accessory module that installs behind a panel in the console and uses the CX-5 dash screen. Likewise, to cut costs for buyers, Suzuki put a power dock atop dashboards in 2012 models, including SX4 and Grand Vitara, for drivers to mount a Garmin navigation unit. "It's a low-cost alternative," says Eddie Rayyan, a product developer. The system, however, is going away on 2013 models in favor of a traditional in-dash system. Ford introduced a smartphone app last month to let drivers receive audible turn-by-turn directions. Scout, from a company called TeleNav, works with Ford's Sync AppLink system. Finally, GM has partnered with a smartphone app called BringGo for the Chevrolet Spark. For $50, a buyer can integrate BringGo's digital maps and turn-by-turn directions into the car's large in-dash screen. Click here to read more about the cheaper navigation options being offered by automakers.

What Are the Best Deals Car Shoppers Can Expect?
The end of the model year is typically a good time to shop for a new car in part because dealers are trying to clear out their inventory to make room for next year’s models. According to The Wall Street Journal, the auto-industry research company Kelley Blue Book, which specializes in pricing and other information about new and used vehicles, released its list of the top-10 car buys of the month, which includes a range of models from the fairly new Fiat 500 and Toyota Camry to the 2012 Ford Fusion, which is the last of the “old” body style prior to a redesign for 2013. KBB said all of its 10-best vehicles are available with zero-percent financing and have sticker prices starting under $25,000. The 2012 Toyota Camry LE is totally redesigned for 2012 and is the newest car on KBB’s list. The 2012 Mazda3 i Sport Sedan is new for 2012 with an option “Skyactiv” powertrain that bumps highway fuel economy up to 40 mpg. With a price under $17,000 and a 60-month APR of zero percent, it boasts a monthly payment of $278. To read about the other vehicles on KBB’s list of steals this month, click here.

Google's Driverless Car Draws Political Power
Marilyn Dondero Loop, a Nevada state assemblywoman, remembers being skeptical and concerned of possible dangers with self-driving cars. But then Google introduced Ms. Dondero Loop, who chairs the assembly's transportation committee, to people who had ridden in its self-driving cars and showed her a video of one stopping when people crossed in front it. "That was an 'aha' moment for me," said Ms. Dondero Loop, whose committee later introduced a bill paving way for legalizing the vehicles on Nevada streets that was quickly passed into law in June 2011. According to The Wall Street Journal, Google has taken the same inspirational playbook to other states, working with a network of local lobbyists and in-house policy experts to woo legislators with demonstrations and rides in its exotic cars. It has scored legislative wins in Nevada, Florida, and California, and there are now similar bills before lawmakers in Hawaii, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and the District of Columbia. Skills learned from lobbying state lawmakers could aid other endeavors that will require local policy-making, including the potential expansion of its Google Fiber Internet and TV service into markets dominated by cable companies. Click here to read more about Google’s lobbying prowess.

Around the Web  
2014 Aston Martin Vanquish First Drive [Edmunds Inside Line]
DeLorean to Help Mom Throw Amazing Back to the Future Birthday Party [Jalopnik]
2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series Suffers Fiery Wreck While Testing [Autoblog]
Google's Driverless Car Draws Political Power [WSJ]

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