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Auto blogWed, 04 Sep 2013 14:30:00 EST
If you want further proof that the auto industry is bouncing back, look no further than the empty lots and forecourts of your local dealership. According to a story by The Wall Street Journal, continued high demand for mainstream cars is overtaxing automakers' ability to produce enough models. Several dealers interviewed for the story are reporting two-week supplies as opposed to the typical two-month allocations.
With sales expected to hit 1.4 million units when August numbers arrive shortly and incentive spending down to its lowest amount since January, these limited supplies are pushing prices even higher. For example, according to the WSJ, the average price of a Ford Fusion is up past $26,000. Unfortunately, it's difficult for manufacturers to increase production quickly. If it invests in its facilities, as many manufacturers have done, it risks wasting cash if growth suddenly slows. At the same time, the momentum gained over the past several years could be short lived if vehicle supplies continue to dwindle. "Manufacturers are in a precarious situation," notes Karl Brauer, a senior director at Kelley Blue Book.
Low interest rates and a wealth of desirable features are also allowing customers to purchase more expensive vehicles while justifying their higher overall price tags, a situation that is compounding supply shortages. Even now, during the annual end-of-summer clearance season, deals on new vehicles are remarkably difficult to come by. According to the report, the Toyota Corolla is in a self-inflicted state of shortage, as Toyota clears out inventory in anticipation of the new 2014 generation arriving in dealers. Ford's supplies should rebound as Fusion production comes on line at its Flat Rock, Michigan factory. The Chevrolet Impala, Honda Odyssey, Civic, and Accord and Subaru Forester are also facing shortages.
Although we hadn't heard of this issue before, Automotive News reports that Honda has agreed to settle a massive class-action lawsuit brought against it for engine trouble potentially affecting nearly 1.6 million vehicles. The lawsuit includes Accord (2008-12), Odyssey (2008-13), Pilot (2009-13) and Crosstour (2010-13) models equipped with the 3.5-liter V6 with Variable Cylinder Management, which might experience engine misfire, excessive oil burning and premature spark plug fouling issues.
As part of the settlement, Honda will extend the powertrain warranty on these models for eight years (from time of purchase or lease) with no mileage limitation, and it will also reimburse customers who had to pay out-of-pocket expenses for related repairs such as spark plugs, pistons or, in some cases, apparently, an entirely new engine. (Of course, the repairs had to be related to certain trouble codes.) Lawyers will get no more than $800,000 from Honda and the guy who originally started the case, Vince Eagen, will get $1,000 for his "time and effort."
The final ruling on the matter will take place on March 21, 2014, and if you want to see if you're affected and what options you have in the settlement, check out this .pdf document with all the details.
We often mock Toyota for building boring, soulless cars, but a new study by Consumer Reports suggests that regardless of whether that's true, the company has some of the best used cars on the market. In its report on used cars from 2004-2013, the Japanese automaker had 11 vehicles among its brands on the list - more than any other automaker.
CR breaks the list down by cost and vehicle size, and Toyota has at least one entry at every price point and in nearly every segment. To score a recommendation, a vehicle had to perform well in the magazine's initial tests and score above-average reliability results. It also tried to only suggest cars with electronic stability control. Of the 28 recommended vehicles, Honda/Acura had the second most mentions at six, and Ford, Hyundai and Subaru managed two each.
The Detroit brands also made it to the list, but not in a positive way. Consumer Reports compiled a list of 22 vehicles it wouldn't recommend because "they have multiple years of much-worse-than-average overall reliability." General Motors had the most unrecommended models on the list at six, but Chrysler and Ford weren't far behind, with five cars each from their brands not making the grade. The full list of recommendations is available on CR's website.