MONEY Autos

Chrysler’s Parent Hit by Recalls and Monster Fine

Millions of Fiat Chrysler vehicles have been recalled for faulty air bags and cyberattack vulnerabilities.

MONEY Autos

Get Ready for a Jaguar You Might Actually Be Able to Afford

The entry-level Jaguar XE is no slouch.

Behold the Jaguar XE. It’s an all-new car from Jaguar, a British sports sedan aimed at taking away market share from the Germans.

The bad news. You can’t have it yet. The sedan won’t be available in North America until next year, although it’s already on sale in Europe. Blame the fact that the company is waiting until the all-important all-wheel-drive model is ready, a critical selling point in the snowier parts of the States and Canada.

The good news. We had an early drive of the car in northern Spain, and it proved a compelling alternative to the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Jaguar has been the lucky recipient of a huge influx of research and development dollars from its owner, Tata Motors, and the XE is a clear example of the movement to make the boutique car company more competitive. Jaguar’s sales numbers are low, and the brand dearly needs a contender in the luxury compact sedan segment.

To that, the engineers went all out. The XE is built from aluminum, its engines are fresh and capable, and the interior layout and electronic systems have been thoughtfully conceived.

We’ll get both a 340-hp, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel variant with 180 hp. Both are easy engines to live with. The V-6 sounds great and is potent when it needs to be, and the torque-rich diesel is an ideal tool for long highway drives.

The XE has the obvious dimensions of a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive car. To my mind it isn’t quite as sensuous as it might be, with the body lines a bit too rounded and soft. It lacks the sharp angularity and brash attitude of the all-new Audi A4, or the obvious sporting intentions of the BMW 3 Series.

But that aesthetic difference may also be one of its major selling points. The exterior is less in-your-face than is the Germans’ wont, with a good measure of British reserve showing through. Some buyers don’t want to look like they’re always in a hurry, with a predatory stance and grille hunched to the pavement.

This ethos translates to the ride as well. The suspension lends a happy, cushy equanimity, sashaying over crumbling asphalt and evening out bumps. Carrying medium speed, it rolls a bit into corners. Push it beyond that, interestingly, and its relative lightness and aluminum chassis begin working for it. On a series of twisting mountain roads, I blasted through tight turns, limited far more by the tires than the agility of the suspension.

Over a long day of driving, that was our takeaway. The XE is competing with the Germans, but it doesn’t really want to be German. It’s looking for the kind of buyers who want something else.

Read next: For About $78,000, You Can Buy an ‘Entry Level’ Maserati

TIME harley-davidson

Harley-Davidson Is Recalling More Than 185,000 Bikes

Harley Davidson Unveils Electric Motorcycle
Andrew Burton—Getty Images A Harley Davidson Livewire motorcycle.

It's because of a saddlebag problem

Harley-Davidson is recalling over 185,000 bikes in the U.S. due to a saddlebag issue.

The saddlebag can fall off, upping the chance of a crash.

The recall includes models from the 2014 and 2015 years, including the Road King, Street Glide, Electra Glide Ultra Classic, Ultra Limited, Police Road King, Police Electra Glide, and CVO Ultra Limited bikes. Also affected are the 2014 CVO Road King, and the 2015 Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low, Ultra Limited Low, Road Glide, CVO Street Glide, and CVO Road Glide Ultra motorcycles.

The motorcycle company uncovered the issue after sifting through warranty claims, according to the Associated Press. The part will be replaced for free beginning July 27.

In April, Harley-Davidson issued a recall of 46,000 bikes due to a gear issue.

Meanwhile, the company is trying to woo younger consumers in order to boost sales.

TIME self-driving cars

Self-driving Cars Just Got A Huge Endorsement

Google self-driving car
Harry McCracken / TIME

The cars have the government's backing.

Mark Rosekind, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wants you to know the government approves of self-driving cars.

The government is backing the technology needed for the emerging technology, not hoping to block it from developing, according to recent statements made by Rosekind.

“NHTSA is not interested in erecting roadblocks to safety innovations. We want to encourage that,” according to Rosekind, who spoke recently at the Automated Vehicle Symposium.

“We will have to help people who can’t tell LIDAR [a remote sensing technology] from a coffee maker,” Rosekind added. “Whether for profit or for malicious intent we know these systems will become targets for bad actors. We must reassure vehicle owners that their data is secure, their vehicles are secure.”

But Rosekind added that those developing the technology must ensure safety and the ability to be safe from cyber attacks. For more on cyberysecurity threats while driving, check out this recent Fortune piece.

The statements come days after Google’s self-driving car got into a another crash.

MONEY Autos

Are You Too Loyal to Your Car Insurance Company?

460618331
Mark Leary—Getty Images

It may be time to shop around for better rates.

A lot has changed since 2003—the year iTunes was first released, the Department of Homeland Security officially began operation, and “Dawson’s Creek” ended its series run.

One thing that probably hasn’t changed? Your car insurance.

If so, you’re in good company. A new survey from insuranceQuotes.com finds that the average American driver hasn’t switched car insurance companies since 2003.

But by not shopping around, you could be missing out on major discounts.

About one in four drivers has been with the same auto insurance company for more than 16 years, and 7% have stuck around for more than 30, according to the survey.

Overall, 66% of policyholders rarely or never check if they could get cheaper coverage elsewhere. Millennials (ages 18 to 29) and seniors 65 and up are particularly averse to comparison shopping.

And that loyalty—or inaction—comes with a price.

“Many people make the mistake of shopping only when they move or buy a new car, but data shows that rates fluctuate even when you haven’t had any major life changes,” says Laura Adams, insuranceQuotes.com’s senior analyst. “This is especially true for young people.”

Many are not even aware that they can change policies at any time. Almost half of drivers, or 46%, wrongly believe they have to wait until they receive a renewal notice to consider making a switch. And then there are consumers who auto-pay their monthly bills and may not notice an increase in fees until after a renewal period.

While they may not be taking action, Americans do recognize the value of comparing rates. About two-thirds of survey participants said they find shopping for auto insurance “worthwhile.”

So how to go about getting that better auto insurance deal?

Jeremy Bowler, an insurance expert and a senior VP at Market Strategies International, recommends setting up a reminder system to notify yourself at least once a year that it’s time to review rates. Use a variety of methods (like independent agents and quote aggregator websites) to compare plans at the same level of coverage.

Bowler also suggests checking companies against your state insurance department website for complaint histories and other important details.

Keep in mind potential discounts related to a good driving record, college attendance or military service.

And if you have been with one company since the ’90s, before making a switch, you might try leveraging that longtime relationship by asking whether your current insurance company can grant you a discount.

Before you begin your search, brush up on some of the most confusing car insurance terms.

More From LearnVest:

TIME Autos

Toyota’s New Trucks Will Come With a GoPro Mount

2016 Toyota Tacoma
Andrew Harrer—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LP 2016 Toyota Tacoma

Perfect for off-roading adventures

Have you ever wanted to record and broadcast all the the exploits you get into while driving your pickup truck? If so, Toyota is making it easier than ever to do just that.

Every 2016 Toyota Tacoma is going to come with a camera mount, ready for a GoPro device. The camera itself isn’t included, but Wired predicts it will be a popular throw-in for dealers trying to close the deal with potential customers.

This is the first time a carmaker has put a GoPro mount on a vehicle, but it is in keeping with the other products favored by “adventure sports” enthusiasts.

MONEY

Ford Road Tests Car Sharing

Ford September Sales Are Sharply Lower
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Its innovative pilot program aims to offset monthly car payments by helping you rent out your car when you're not using it.

Automobile transportation options have mushroomed in recent years. No longer is it the simple choice of buying or leasing a car for long-term use or renting one for short-term use. Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are providing options for those who don’t want to own a car at all, Zipcar and other services are covering the very short-term rental market, and peer-to-peer car sharing services such as RelayRides and Getaround are allowing auto owners to rent out their cars when they are not being used.

These services have not collectively taken huge dents out of auto sales yet — but they are likely to in the future, and auto manufacturers are deciding how to address the issue. Susan Shaheen, a UC Berkeley engineering professor and transportation expert, suggests that every vehicle that enters into car sharing full-time replaces four to six sales of new cars and delays up to seven more.

Reading the writing on the wall, most auto manufacturers are launching pilot programs to decide how to enter these markets without cannibalizing their sales. Ford chose the route of helping car buyers rent out their cars by teaming with Getaround.

Buyers who finance their new Ford through Ford Motor Credit can participate in a pilot program that allows them to rent out their new Ford through Getaround during times when the car is not in use. The pilot program is available to 14,000 Ford buyers in six US cities (Washington, DC, Chicago, Portland, Oregon, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco). Another 12,000 buyers in London, England, will be allowed to participate through easyCar Club.

The connection through Getaround provides a pre-screened driver base and other protections including a $1 million insurance policy, 24/7 customer support, and a roadside assistance program. On their website, Getaround claims that owners earn $521 per month on average, an amount that can cover most, if not all, of the new car’s monthly payment. For millennials that are struggling economically and more comfortable with peer-to-peer services in general, the Ford offer is tantalizing to those who have enough transportation needs to purchase a car for themselves. In short: use a ride-sharing app to cover your car payments.

Ford is not completely ahead of the curve, but they are in a good position. David McClelland, VP of Marketing for Ford Credit, noted that “…this can help us gauge our customer’s desires to pick up extra cash and keep their vehicles in use.” Translation: If this service is put to significant use, we will find a way to establish this program as a combined sales tool and entry into the alternate rental market.

From an investor point of view, it is wise to monitor the results of the Ford experiment and compare it to similar ongoing efforts or other pilot programs from BMW, GM, Daimler AG, and Toyota. The first one to attach significant sales improvement to such a program, or turn the program into a separate income-bearing entity, will have a significant advantage and be rewarded in the market.

For consumers, the Ford program could be a great deal — if you live in one of the pilot areas, are comfortable with renting your car out to others, and planned to finance your car through Ford Credit. You always have the option of financing your car outside the dealership, and if Ford does not keep their rates competitive, the move is likely to backfire.

If the financing rates are tolerable, go for it, but do not take a bad financing deal from Ford (or any automaker’s credit arm) just to access Getaround. You can always do that by signing yourself up.

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TIME Autos

Tesla’s New ‘Ludicrous Speed’ Might Make Your Brain Explode

North American Int'l Auto Show Features Latest Car Models From Around The World
Bill Pugliano—Getty Images The Tesla Model S Signature is shown during a media preview day at the 2012 North American International Auto Show January 10, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.

Ludicrous speed, GO!

For the environmentally conscious daredevils out there, Tesla is offering to boost the acceleration of its flagship sedan.

CEO Elon Musk announced Friday a new “Ludicrous Speed” upgrade for the company’s top-end Model S. With the new feature, the vehicle can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds, a 10% improvement from the Model S’ former max acceleration. The car can travel a quarter-mile in just 10.9 seconds.

The upgrade doesn’t come cheap. “Ludicrous Speed” will run customers $10,000, and it’s only available on the already pricey P85D model, which starts at $105,000 (a slightly less ludicrously speedy version of the feature will also be optional for Tesla’s upcoming Model X SUV). But if you’re trying to live like a secret agent in the danger zone, the speed boost may be worth it.

“It’s faster than falling”, Musk said. “It’s like having your own private roller coaster.”

For reference, here’s a video of people reacting to “Insane Mode,” the last major Tesla acceleration upgrade:

MONEY Autos

Google Blames Humans for Self-Driving Car Crash — Again

If the pod bay door doesn't open, Dave, it's your fault.

Google reports that one of its self-driving cars was involved in an accident July 1—apparently the first such accident in which humans suffered an injury (“a bit of minor whiplash,” according to a post on Medium by Chris Urmson, who heads up Google’s driverless car program). As with prior collisions, Google says, the fault wasn’t with the driverless car, which was stopped behind two other cars at the entry to an intersection, but with the driver of the car behind Google’s. That car never decelerated, says Google, and hit the driverless vehicle at 17 miles per hour. “This certainly seems like the driver was distracted and not watching the road ahead,” writes Urmson.

MONEY Travel

Filled the Tank on Your Rental Car? You May Want to Hang On to the Receipt.

hertz-rental-fee
Chris Rank/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Hertz is billing some drivers who don't return their car with a gas station receipt.

Renting a car can be stressful and complicated, and avoiding high refueling charges has long been one of its bigger hassles. Now a new refueling option from Hertz gives you one more variable to think about. It might take load off you mind if you are taking just a short trip—or add a surprising new cost if you aren’t careful.

The Consumerist reports the rental company has added a new “Express Fuel” option at some locations, where customers who drive less than 75 miles can either turn in a gas station receipt along with the car, showing they refueled it, or pay a $14 fee. That means even if you fill up the tank before returning your vehicle, you’ll still end up getting charged if you don’t have proof of purchase for the gas.

This only applies to short distance rentals, so it’s not something most Hertz customers have to worry about. But since the $14 fee is likely to be more than the cost of gas over such a small distance (the Consumerist does the math and estimates refueling would cost less than $10 depending on the car) it’s something short-haul renters should be aware of.

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