TIME Autos

Death Toll Linked to GM Ignition Switch Defect Rises to 29

GM Hearing
Family members of people killed due to a faulty ignition switch watch a House hearing on April 1, 2014. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call / Getty Images

Two new death claims approved by compensation program

The number of deaths linked to a faulty ignition switch in General Motors vehicles rose to 29 on Monday, according to a new report, after two new death claims were approved by the program that will compensate victims and their families.

The fund has received more than 1,500 claims since its establishment on Aug. 1, including 184 submissions for death claims, Reuters reports. All 29 deaths, and another 27 injuries, have been determined to be eligible for compensation so far, finds the report released by the office of Kenneth Feinberg, who is heading the compensation effort.

GM launched the fund amid withering criticism for its failure to address the defect after several employees within the company noted the problem at least 11 years before any action was taken to resolve it.

[Reuters]

TIME Autos

Volkswagen Recalls More Than 1 Million Cars

Includes several Beetle and Jetta models made between 2011 and 2014

Volkswagen is the latest automaker to issue a major safety recall, announcing plans on Friday to inspect the rear suspension systems of more than a million vehicles in China, Germany and the United States.

No injuries or accidents were reported to be associated with issue, the Wall Street Journal reports, which became known after an investigation in China. In the event of an accident, should a part that connects the body of the car with the rear axle become damaged and not fixed, Volkswagen said it could “fracture suddenly” and lead to a crash.

At least 400,000 Jetta models in the U.S. that were made between 2011 and 2013 are being called back, the Journal adds, in addition to more than 41,000 Beetles produced from 2012 to 2013. Another 15,500 Beetle Coupes in Germany are being recalled, as are some 17,000 imported Beetles in China and 563,000 Sagitar sedans, which are based on the Jetta design.

[WSJ]

TIME Autos

Chrysler Recalling Nearly 907,000 Cars, SUVs

(DETROIT) — Nearly 907,000 Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep SUVs and cars are being recalled for alternators that can fail and heated power mirror wiring that can short and cause minor fires.

The recalls, posted Thursday by U.S. safety regulators, push the total number of recalls so far this year to over 500, totaling more than 51 million vehicles. That’s a full-year record on both counts, due mainly to massive General Motors recalls of more than 30 million vehicles.

The largest of Thursday’s recalls covers nearly 470,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees, Chrysler 300s, and Dodge Chargers, Challengers and Durangos from the 2011 through 2014 model years. The alternators can fail, causing the 3.6-liter V6 engines to stall unexpectedly.

The problem also can cause the electrical system to fail, as well as knock out power-assisted steering, antilock brakes and electronic stability control. It can even cause fire or smoke, according to documents Chrysler filed with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NHTSA opened an investigation into the problem in July, and Chrysler began its own probe in August. The company analyzed warranty complaints and alternators that had failed. The alternator generates electricity to recharge the battery and run other devices.

Chrysler investigators traced the problem to heat fatigue in an alternator diode. Chrysler said it received 322 complaints about the problem, while 55 people complained to NHTSA. The company said it knows of one crash related to the problem, but no injuries or fires.

The company will replace the alternators with upgraded versions for free. Owners will be notified in November. The company says customers who see warning lights or suspect a problem should contact their dealers.

The recall affects cars and SUVs sold mainly in the U.S. and Canada, but some were sold in Mexico and overseas markets.

The second recall covers almost 437,000 Jeep Wranglers from 2011 through 2013. Water can find its way into the heated power mirror wiring harness and cause corrosion. That can cause a short and could cause a minor fire and smoke, as well as cause loss of function of the mirror.

The problem was discovered in February after three Wranglers in Canada were damaged. Chrysler says it has 26 complaints about the problem, but it knows of no fires, crashes or injuries.

Dealers will move the wiring and install a protective shield to keep water out at no cost to owners, starting in December. Most of the Wranglers are in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, but more than 78,000 were sold overseas.

The total number of recalled vehicles already has shattered the old full-year record of 30.8 million that was set in 2004.

MONEY Autos

Traffic Jams Cost Americans $124 Billion in 2013

Traffic congestion cost the average American household dozens of hours and thousands of dollars last year, according to a new study.

A new study from the London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research aims to put a price on traffic—now, and in the near future. After crunching the numbers and factoring in projected population growth and rising living standards, as well as costs associated with road congestion such as wasted fuel, decreased productivity, and higher prices for goods as a result of higher transportation costs, the researchers estimate that the combined annual price of traffic in the U.S. and Europe will soar to $293 billion by 2030, a rise of nearly 50% from 2013.

For what it’s worth, drivers in the U.S. get off easy compared with motorists in Europe. By 2030, the average American household is expected to incur traffic-related costs of $2,301 per year. That’s a 33% increase compared with 2013, but it’s still much lower than annual congestion costs for drivers in Germany ($2,927), France ($3,163), and the U.K. ($3,217).

At the same time, however, the U.S. has bragging rights for being home to the city where the costs of traffic are highest. No surprise which city has that dubious distinction: It’s Los Angeles, which of all the cities in the study has the most autos (4.5 million) and the highest percentage of workers who commute by car (67%), and where the annual costs of road congestion per household are projected to reach $8,555 by 2030, a 49% increase from 2013. (London is a distant #2 in the category, with traffic costs per household forecast to be $6,259 by 2030.)

A separate line of research estimates how much traffic costs not merely individual households, but the nation as a whole. The U.K. is facing the sharpest spike, with a 66% increase by 2030, but even then the total would come to only $33 billion, a pittance compared with the much larger, more car-crazed U.S. In this category, the USA is #1, with the economic impact of road congestion forecast to reach $186 billion for the nation as a whole by 2030, a 50% increase over 2013.

What can we do about any of this information—besides saying, “That sucks,” and perhaps moving out of L.A. as soon as possible? Among other things, researchers call for improved public transportation options and more of them, to help ease traffic by getting more drivers off the roads.

MONEY Autos

Traffic Costs You Even More Than You Think—and It’s Getting Worse

141015_EM_TRAFFIC_1
JAMIE RECTOR/GETTY

Congestion on the roads costs us a fortune, and a new study forecasts that the price we pay for traffic will rise 50% by 2030.

A new study from the London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research aims to put a price on traffic—now, and in the near future. After crunching the numbers and factoring in projected population growth and rising living standards, as well as costs associated with road congestion such as wasted fuel, decreased productivity, and higher prices for goods as a result of higher transportation costs, the researchers estimate that the combined annual price of traffic in the U.S. and Europe will soar to $293 billion by 2030, a rise of nearly 50% from 2013.

For what it’s worth, drivers in the U.S. get off easy compared with motorists in Europe. By 2030, the average American household is expected to incur traffic-related costs of $2,301 per year. That’s a 33% increase compared with 2013, but it’s still much lower than annual congestion costs for drivers in Germany ($2,927), France ($3,163), and the U.K. ($3,217).

At the same time, however, the U.S. has bragging rights for being home to the city where the costs of traffic are highest. No surprise which city has that dubious distinction: It’s Los Angeles, which of all the cities in the study has the most autos (4.5 million) and the highest percentage of workers who commute by car (67%), and where the annual costs of road congestion per household are projected to reach $8,555 by 2030, a 49% increase from 2013. (London is a distant #2 in the category, with traffic costs per household forecast to be $6,259 by 2030.)

A separate line of research estimates how much traffic costs not merely individual households, but the nation as a whole. The U.K. is facing the sharpest spike, with a 66% increase by 2030, but even then the total would come to only $33 billion, a pittance compared with the much larger, more car-crazed U.S. In this category, the USA is #1, with the economic impact of road congestion forecast to reach $186 billion for the nation as a whole by 2030, a 50% increase over 2013.

What can we do about any of this information—besides saying, “That sucks,” and perhaps moving out of L.A. as soon as possible? Among other things, researchers call for improved public transportation options and more of them, to help ease traffic by getting more drivers off the roads.

TIME Autos

Toyota Recalls 1.7 Million Vehicles Worldwide Over Range of Defects

Toyota Managing Officer Takuo Sasaki Earnings News Conference And Company's Vehicles Displayed At Tokyo Headquarters
The Toyota Motor Corp. logo is displayed on an automobile at the company's headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. Junko Kimura-Matsumoto—Bloomberg / Getty Images

The Japanese automaker will check for potential faults in the brake system and cracks in the fuel pipe system

Toyota Motor Corporation announced a recall of 1.75 million vehicles worldwide on Oct. 15 to check for a range of defects, including faulty brakes and leaky fuel pipes.

The largest recall covered 802,000 vehicles from the Crown Majesta, Crown, Noah and Voxy models, the BBC reports. The vehicles had the potential to develop cracks in the brake system, causing a leakage of brake fluid.

A second recall of 759,000 Lexus model vehicles would check for potential cracks and leaks in the fuel pipe system, posing a fire hazard to the passengers. A third recall of 190,00 vehicles in the automaker’s home country, Japan, would check for leaks around fuel suction plates.

Toyota said it had no knowledge of injuries related to the defects. The recall comes amid a record-breaking surge of recall notices by automakers in the wake of General Motors’ failure to address a potentially fatal defect in its vehicles. In April, Toyota recalled 6.39 million vehicles over a range of faults.

[BBC]

TIME Autos

Chrysler Recalls 184,215 Vehicles Over Short-Circuited Airbags

Chrysler Issues Recall On 850,000 Sport Utility Vehicles
2014 Jeep Cherokees are seen on a sales lot on April 2, 2014 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

The fault also affected seatbelt restraints

Chrysler Group issued a recall of 184,215 SUVs on Tuesday after engineers discovered an electrical fault that could disable airbags and restraints built into the seatbelt buckle.

Chrysler said a component supplier flagged the potential defect, which prompted an internal investigation. Engineers discovered an electrical short-circuit that could cause the vehicle’s airbag warning signal to light up, disabling safety systems including airbags and seatbelt restraints. The recall covers certain model-year 2014 Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs.

The company said it had received no reports of injuries related to the defect and that it would replace the occupant restraint control module in all affected vehicles.

TIME Autos

Indiana Police: Tour Bus Crashes, Several Injured

(GREENWOOD, Ind.) — A double-decker tour bus flipped onto its side early Tuesday on a highway near Indianapolis, badly injuring one person and hurting more than a dozen others, officials said.

The bus carrying between 50 and 60 people crashed about 4:30 a.m. on Interstate 65 when its driver apparently swerved to avoid a minor crash that had occurred about 10 minutes earlier, state police Sgt. Shawn O’Keefe said.

“The driver apparently didn’t see it because of the rain or something and swerved to avoid it,” O’Keefe said. “The bus driver swerved and ended up turning the bus over on its side, and it went into the median.”

The roadway was wet from overnight storms and some light rain continued in central Indiana about the time of the crash.

Greenwood Fire Department Battalion Chief Chris Harrell told reporters at the scene that one person was taken to a hospital in critical condition, while four people had moderate injuries and 14 had minor injuries.

Indianapolis television stations reported the bus was operated by the Megabus line and was traveling from Atlanta to Chicago. Megabus officials didn’t immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press.

Harrell said about 35 uninjured passengers were being taken by a city bus to a nearby hospital as a precaution and to regroup.

The northbound bus became entangled in the median’s cable barrier in the southern Indianapolis suburb of Greenwood. Both northbound and southbound lanes were closed for a time while crews removed the injured people and worked to clear the wreckage.

TIME Autos

Tesla’s New Model S Can Park Itself in Your Driveway

We're one step closer to a real-life Knight Rider car

Electric car maker Tesla revealed new, dual-motor, all-wheel-drive Model S sedans on Thursday night called the “D” range, the fastest of which can hit 60mph from a dead stop in a shocking 3.2 seconds. Musk said driving the high-tend new Tesla is “like taking off from a carrier deck,” according to Slate, which makes it sound pretty fun to drive — but it’s actually far from the most impressive thing about Tesla’s newest rides.

Instead, that honor belongs to Tesla’s new “Autopilot Mode,” a suite of self-driving features that use radar and other sensors to help you do things like stay in your lane and get out of the way of dogs, pedestrians or other obstacles that have somehow gotten in front of your Tesla.

But the best part is this: Say you’ve got a home and a parking spot or garage where you regularly stash your Tesla — that is, when you’re not out on the streets pretending you’re piloting a very low-flying intergalactic spaceship. The Tesla’s Autopilot Mode will learn the layout of your pad, meaning you’ll be able to pull up to your house curbside, get out, then let the Tesla tuck itself in every night automatically. There’s even talk of it doing the opposite: Letting you hail your Tesla so it can pick you up as you head out the door.

The Model S D will be available starting at the end of the year, with the base models around $71,000 and the high-end cars topping out at $120,170.

MONEY Autos

The $64,000 GMC Sierra Denali Shows How Pickups Have Gone Crazy Luxe

A powerful engine, a moon roof, USB ports and comfortable seating for five are all signs of booms in agriculture and construction.

Even in the darkest days of the American automobile industry, pickup trucks came through. Detroit couldn’t build profitable cars to save its soul, but pickups always delivered sales and profits.

In the last couple of years, with agriculture booming and construction recovering, the auto companies have been outdoing themselves to hang on to this lucrative turf. Ford is about to launch a new, aluminum version of its top selling F-150. Chrysler has had to increase production of its Ram 1500 to keep up with demand. Meanwhile, GM is about to debut two middleweight contenders, Canyon (GMC) and Colorado (Chevy).

GMC also rolled out new versions of its heavy duty 2500 and 3500 Sierra HD models that highlight another trend: the pickup gone crazy luxe. For the successful farmer who now pilots a climate-controlled, $325,000 John Deere 9370R tractor with mission-control computer display terminals, the fully-equipped Sierra Denali 2500HD that we tested might be no less than the minimum required. This diesel-driven, high-waisted brute feels more like a working Escalade, and at $64,000 for the crew-cab, diesel version, it’s priced in the neighborhood.

Who would drop $64,000 on a pickup? Look, I’m a car guy so I really can’t answer that question, but if I had to get up at 4 a.m. every day and do actual labor on a farm or ranch, or at construction sites, I’d like to think I’d earned a cushy ride. And in the Sierra Denali you’ll get one. Once you adjust to sitting a mile high and towering over mere cars — and in Manhattan (New York, that is, not Kansas) it’s kind of a cool perspective — you realize that the Sierra doesn’t feel like a truck. On the highway, it’s one of the quietest vehicles on the highway that I’ve tested this year.

That’s even more surprising considering that this particular Sierra Denali is powered by a 6.6 L V8 Duramax diesel tied to a 6-speed Allison Transmission. But this combo, odd to say, doesn’t shout its 397 h.p. worth of trucky-ness. Because the diesel delivers bigtime torque at low revs, (765 lb. ft. @ 1,600) the pickup’s power sounds more oceanlike as it gathers force. You’ll pay for that power, with the diesel package adding $8,845 to the standard price of $53,740. Since you are already in luxury car territory, why not throw in a power sunroof ($995), aluminum rims ($850), and 20-inch tires ($200)?

You are now styling in four-wheel drive and your buddies will appreciate it: You can fit four of them in the Sierra Denali 2500HD, and they will be properly seated in the more-than-roomy-enough crew cab. You, though, will have the best seat, one that’s heated and air conditioned and equipped with its own alarm system: The seat shimmies to keep you alert in slow traffic or if it senses you are drifting out of your lane. And because this is a work truck, the center console is loaded with storage for files, laptops, or even power tools; there’s also a power panel that includes USB ports, a couple of 12-volt ports, and a standard electrical outlet.

It would be silly of me to try to tow a trailer around New York City, but the Sierra Denali 2500HD can haul one weighing up to 13,000 lb. On the other hand, we did manage a brief four-wheel drive test on a rough patch of Harriman State Park about 50 miles north of New York. The fall foliage was beautiful and the pickup handled the high brush easily given its substantial ground clearance. I’d be looking forward to winter driving in this thing if I worked outside. Although I wouldn’t be looking forward to working outside.

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