MONEY Autos

Tesla Broke the Consumer Reports Rating System

Yes, we're serious. Apparently, it's that good.

The new Tesla Model S P85D broke the Consumer Reports rating system by scoring 103 out of 100. Consumer Reports said it had to overhaul its rating system to accommodate the P85D’s combination of performance and efficiency. The model can go from zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds without using a single drop of gasoline. It gets the equivalent of 87 miles per gallon without sacrificing any horsepower. Despite the better-than-perfect score, the Tesla isn’t a better-than-perfect car. “The interior materials aren’t as opulent as other high-ticket automobiles, and its ride is firmer and louder than our base Model S,” Consumer Reports reported.

TIME Amazon

This Is How Much Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson Could Make From His New Amazon Show

Top Gear Festival Sydney
Brendon Thorne—Getty Images Jeremy Clarkson

It’s a ton of money

Former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson will make £9.6 million ($14.7 million) to host a new car show on Amazon Prime, according to a report in the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper.

Clarkson left Top Gear earlier this year after a series of controversies, including his getting into a fight with Oisin Tymon, one of the show’s producers. The BBC’s loss, however, is Amazon’s gain, as the online marketplace competes with other streaming firms such Netflix and Hulu for the most attractive content, and the BBC’s Top Gear show is one of its most popular offerings.

According to the report, Amazon will spend a total of £160 million ($246 million) on 36 episodes over three years, which will give the show a budget ten times as large per episode as it enjoyed on the BBC.

MONEY

Ford Aims to Resurrect this Popular Pickup Truck

Ford Ranger
Swiegers, Waldo—Bloomberg Finance/Getty Images A 2015 Ford Ranger on display in Johannesburg, South Africa on Aug. 12, 2015.

The mid-size truck is set for a renaissance.

It looks like Ford is bringing back the Ranger, its compact pickup truck that enjoyed a long run in the U.S. between 1982 and 2011 before being exiled to overseas markets.

According to The Detroit News, the America’s second-largest automaker has been in talks with the United Auto Workers and aims to bring the truck to production at the Michigan Assembly Plant in 2018. The Ford Focus and C-Max are currently made at the Wayne, Mich., plant, and production of these vehicles could be shifted to Mexico if an agreement is reached over the Ranger.

There are several reasons Ford might want to resurrect the Ranger in the U.S. Though there’s a growing demand for small and mid-size trucks, there aren’t that many currently available. Reissuing the Ranger one would not only satisfy many consumers but also help Ford conform to fleet-wide fuel efficiency standards mandated by the federal government. The U.S. also has a heavy 25% tax on imported trucks, so it would be especially advantageous for Ford to make the lighter, lower-cost Ranger on home turf.

The Ranger’s possible return comes on the heels of the automaker saying in July it was pulling out of the Michigan plant completely in 2018. Ford employs around 4,500 workers there, and if a deal can’t be worked out, those jobs and the Ranger could both be lost.

MONEY Autos

1 in 5 Drivers Don’t Care About Fancy New Car Tech

Infotainment Apathetic Drivers Automakers
Cunningham, Harold—Getty Images A Mercedes-Benz in-vehicle infotainment screen is seen during the 85th International Motor Show on March 3, 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The most common reason cited for abandoning a tech feature? "Did not find it useful."

Today’s new cars come with all sorts of high-tech systems “infotainment”, parking assistance and heads-up displays, but a recent report from J.D. Power says a significant portion of consumers don’t use them.

On Tuesday, the marketing research firm released its Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience Report, detailing the habits of drivers in the first 90 days of new car ownership. The study found at least 20% of drivers never used 16 of the 33 features in question. Vehicle concierge, mobile routers, automatic parking, heads-up displays, and built-in apps led the list of superfluous automotive tech bogging down the driving experience. Considering the effort automakers put into these technologies, that’s significant money left on the table, especially since unused features may be outdated if and when they arrive at their second owner.

According to Kristin Kolodge, a J.D. Power executive director of driver interaction & HMI research, many drivers would rather use their phones and tech they already know. The most common reason cited for abandoning a tech feature? “Did not find it useful.”

Since many of these consumers told J.D. Power the technology “came as part of a package on my current vehicle and I did not want it,” it’s not just the carmakers that are losing out—a fifth of consumers are paying for these things they just don’t use. It’s costing everybody millions.

MONEY Autos

Toyota Could Ban Dealers From Advertising Below Invoice Price

Toyota Bans Advertising Below Invoice Pricing
Stroshane, Matt—Bloomberg/Getty Images Toyota dealers will no longer be able to advertise cars below invoice price.

Toyota set to follow Honda's lead.

While Lexus tests out a new, no-haggling policy at its dealerships, Toyota is keeping the haggle alive with a plan to prohibit dealers from advertising below invoice price.

Toyota dealers across the country told Automotive News that starting in January new guidelines from the car maker will explicitly prohibit them from advertising vehicles below invoice. They said they learned of the plan from national and regional Toyota sales representatives, who added that Toyota plans to release details at its National Dealer meeting next month. Toyota declined to comment on the plan, saying, “As is customary at our National Dealer Meeting, we will discuss a number of business-related topics, including marketing covenants.”

Since dealers get a check from the manufacturer each time they sell a car, they still make money off cars sold below invoice. For high-volume dealers, selling the majority of cars with a one-price strategy below invoice can make for good business and happy customers, who don’t have to get stressed out haggling. One high-volume dealer in Florida told Automotive News he doesn’t want to stop advertising the below invoice pricing because consumers would have a hard time searching online for cheaper local prices.

Other dealers back the proposed change, saying below invoice pricing encourages a “race to the bottom” and increases risk of bait-and-switch selling practices, when a customer will come in on the strength of an attractive advertisement and find the desired car unavailable and a more expensive option in its place.

Prohibiting the advertising of a below invoice price isn’t new. Honda has a similar ban in place and has implemented severe penalties like withdrawing marketing assistance of $400 per car if dealers break the marketing covenant three times by pricing too low.

Read next: This Car Safety Demo Went Terribly Wrong

MONEY Autos

Google Is Developing a System to Map Potholes Using a Car’s GPS

Google Pothole GPS Map Patent
Boston Globe/Getty Images Boston Public Works uses a Smartphone app to report potholes. Google has a new solution in the works.

It filed a patent for "systems and methods for monitoring and reporting road quality" last week.

Everyone hates potholes. They can spill your coffee, tax your suspension, and if you’re a cyclist, they can easily leave you with a broken collarbone.

Last week, Google filed a patent to help solve pothole problems, describing a system that uses the GPS from cars’ navigation systems in conjunction with another bump sensor that detects vertical movement to map out potholes. Then, the system uploads the data to the cloud.

Fixing potholes is simple—municipalities and states simply fill them in—but locating them is inefficient, usually relying on people to fill out a form and report them individually. If Google puts this technology into cars, an entire database of road condition would be available to the Department of Transportation, enabling it easily identify and prioritize problem areas.

As Autoblog notes, a patent isn’t a guarantee Google will actually develop this into a reality, but judging from Google’s forays into self-driving cars it seems likely.

TIME cybersecurity

The Guy Who Hacked Jeep’s Truck Just Quit Twitter

Chrysler Issues Recall On 850,000 Sport Utility Vehicles
Joe Raedle—Getty Images

He used to work for the NSA

Last month, Wired magazine filed a report in which two hackers detailed how they were able to take control of a Jeep Cherokee SUV over the Internet. One of the hackers, Charlie Miller, was also an engineer at Twitter.

Not anymore.

Miller, who used to work at the National Security Agency and is considered one of the world’s leading experts on cybersecurity, has left the social media company, according to Reuters. He didn’t comment on what he is planning to do next.

The hack on the Cherokee caused a recall of 1.4 million vehicles. Cybersecurity for connected cars is quickly becoming one of the most important issues facing automakers.

MONEY customer satisfaction

Car Buyers Haven’t Been This Unhappy In A Decade

new york cars
Getty Images

More cars are selling, but the buyers aren't happy.

Even though car sales are up, reaching towards totals not seen since before the credit crisis, all of those new car owners aren’t exactly happy with their purchases.

Owner satisfaction stood at 79 out of 100 points, down 3.7% from last year and the lowest score in a decade. Of the 27 brands tracked American Customer Satisfaction Index Automobile Report, 15 saw their satisfaction rating go down this year, according to NBC News.

A major reason for the drop in customer happiness? Recalls. There were a record 64 million recalls in 2014, led by the huge recall scandal at General Motors. Prices are also up, making it more difficult to meet customer expectations.

Foreign cars did better than American cars, with 77 percent of car models that received above-average satisfaction ratings being imports.

TIME Volkswagen

Volkswagen Spent Years Hiding This Huge Security Flaw

Volkswagen Group Delivers Over 9 Million Vehicles In 2012
Sean Gallup—Getty Images

The flaw enables the theft of many luxury, keyless vehicles, report says

2015 may go down as the year when we all realized that our cars are vulnerable to hackers.

First we had a report from a U.S. Senator on the security risks facing new car owners, and then the news that Fiat had recalled 1.4 million cars to address security flaws. And this week a paper is being presented at the USENIX security conference in Washington, D.C., on a security flaw affecting “thousands of cars from a host of manufacturers,” according to a Bloomberg News report.

We could have known about these risks for some time, as the paper was actually written two years ago, but car makers like Volkswagen fought in court to keep the information private. According to Bloomberg:

“Keyless” car theft, which sees hackers target vulnerabilities in electronic locks and immobilizers, now accounts for 42 percent of stolen vehicles in London. BMWs and Range Rovers are particularly at-risk, police say, and can be in the hands of a technically minded criminal within 60 seconds.

Security researchers have now discovered a similar vulnerability in keyless vehicles made by several carmakers. The weakness – which affects the Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) transponder chip used in immobilizers – was discovered in 2012, but carmakers sued the researchers to prevent them from publishing their findings.

MONEY

23 Ways to Slash Your Car Expenses

car on long straight desert road
Ruth Eastham & Max Paoli—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

These smart moves will help you save on gas, insurance, and upkeep.

After a home, a car is the second-largest purchase most consumers make. But the costs don’t stop when you drive off the dealer’s lot.

Owning and operating a vehicle also accounts for the second-largest household expense, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; continuing upkeep costs roughly $8,700 a year, according to AAA’s Your Driving Costs study. That breaks down to $725 a month and 58 cents, on average, for each mile driven.

Want to know in advance what kind of outlay to expect? Before you purchase a new vehicle, run your options through Kelley Blue Book’s cost-of-ownership calculator. This tool will estimate the out-of-pocket costs — like fuel, state fees, maintenance, financing and insurance — and depreciation of a car for the first five years you own it, allowing you to compare vehicles beyond initial sticker price.

Once the car is parked in your driveway, however, there are a variety of strategies that can help you save thousands of dollars over its life. (Scroll down to the bottom for the set of assumptions we used for these calculations.) These tips fall into three main areas: fuel costs, insurance, and repairs/maintenance.

Save on Fuel

1. Drive sensibly: Speeding, rapid acceleration, and hard braking are the quickest ways to waste gas. Such aggressive driving can lower your gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds and by 5% around town, according to research prepared for Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which developed and maintains the U.S. Department of Energy and EPA’s website on fuel economy.
Savings: Up to $477 a year, or between 13 cents and 89 cents a gallon, depending on how aggressively you drive and the number of highway miles you rack up.

2. Cruise at 50 mph. Gas mileage typically decreases once your speed exceeds 50 mph, so set your cruise control. “You can think of it like this: Every 5 mph you drive above 50 mph is like paying an additional 20 cents per gallon of gas,” says Bo Saulsbury, senior researcher at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Savings: $198 a year, if you normally drive 60 mph on the freeway.

3. Stop idling. If you’re parked and waiting, turn the engine off. Idling can use a quarter to a half-gallon of fuel per hour; restarting your vehicle, by contrast, only takes about 10 seconds worth of fuel, according to research from Argonne National Laboratory. And don’t leave it to warm up in the winter: Most manufacturers recommend driving your car slowly 30 seconds after starting it. “You’ll get warm quicker by doing it this way, since the engine warm ups faster by being driven, and thus allows the heater to turn on sooner,” says Saulsbury.
Savings: $140 a year if you usually idle for two hours during the course of a week.

4. Embrace the heat. Try setting the air conditioning for a higher temperature or, if you’re really bold, go without it. Running the air conditioning can reduce a vehicle’s fuel economy by more than 25%, according to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Saulsbury recommends “driving with the windows open for a short time before using the A/C to let hot air out first, and putting the windows down at low speeds and using A/C at high speeds.”
Savings: Up to $120 a year in extra fuel costs, if you would otherwise run the air conditioning four months out of the year.

5. Get the right motor oil. Using something other than the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil will lower your gas mileage by about 1%-2% because of increased friction in the engine; the correct oil can prevent the metal surfaces in the engine from grinding together. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory also recommends looking for oil that says “energy conserving” on the API performance symbol — an indication that it contains friction-reducing additives.
Savings: $27 a year.

6. Keep your tires inflated. Making sure you’ve got proper pressure can improve your gas mileage by 3.3%, according to Saulsbury. Do not go by the maximum pressure level printed on the tire’s sidewall, experts say: You can usually find the correct tire pressure level for your car printed on a sticker in the driver’s side doorjamb or glove box. (It will be in your owner’s manual as well.) Abilio Toledo, Los Angeles area manager for Firestone Complete Auto Care, recommends buying a tire gauge and checking your pressure about once a month, as tires lose an average of about two pounds of pressure per month. “Even if you have a tire pressure monitoring system, these systems usually only alert you once the tire has lost about five pounds of pressure and that causes your fuel mileage to go down.” (The other upside of properly inflating your tires: less chance of a blowout, which could be both costly and dangerous.)
Savings: About $112 a year, according to a study conducted by Edmunds, though it says savings can top $800 for drivers with severely underinflated tires.

7. Check the apps. To find the lowest gas price in your area, consider using the GasBuddy app or website, says Philip Reed, senior consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com — “but remember not to drive out of your way to save. Instead look for the cheapest station along your commute.”
Savings: Using the MONEY office’s zip code, we were able to find a 50-cent price difference per gallon between the five nearest gas stations. If that differential held, it would yield almost $270 in annual savings.

8. Spend smarter. To save even more when you’re at the pump, sign up for a credit card that offers cash back on gas purchases. MONEY recommends the American Express Blue Cash Preferred, which offers 3% cash back on gas (as well as 6% on groceries). It comes with a $75 annual fee, though the $150 signing bonus can offset that in your first year.
Savings: If you buy $500 worth of groceries and $120 of gas each month, you’ll get $478 back the first year, counting the fee and bonus.

Save on Insurance

9. Shop around. Only 39% of Americans looked for new auto insurance last year, according to a study by J.D. Power. But shopping around can yield big savings, the study found. The next time you need to renew, get annual quotes from at least four companies that have low complaint ratios with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Savings: Shoppers who did switch reported average savings of $388.

10. Cut coverage on older vehicles. Once your car is 10 years old or worth less than 10 times the premium, the cost of repairing it could be more than the car is worth, says Reed. Ditching collision coverage could save you up to 40%.
Savings: As much as $440 a year by scaling down to just injury and property damage coverage.

11. Bundle insurance policies. Insuring your home and auto with a single company could bring your rates down by about 10% a year, says Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights for Kelley Blue Book.
Savings: A study of 2 billion price quotes from more than 700 companies nationwide by Consumer Reports found that bundling home and car insurance would save the average customer $97 a year. But you may get an even bigger payoff, depending on your location: Michigan residents, for instance, would save $240 by uniting the two.

12. Take your insurer for a spin. Many insurance companies now offer drivers a discount if you install a device that lets them monitor your driving habits. Progressive, for example, gives discounts of up to 30% for drivers who do not display any alarming tendencies. (Those with poor habits are not penalized. Yet.)
Savings: Up to $330 if you’re well behaved.

13. Ask for a mileage discount. Work from home? Bike to the office? Some companies will offer you a discount if you drive less than the average number of miles per year, says Jeanne Salvatore of the Insurance Information Institute. A study commissioned by insuranceQuotes.com found that a person who drives 5,000 miles a year pays 8.4% less for auto insurance than someone who drives 15,000 miles a year.
Savings: $92 a year if your car travels less than 5,000 miles annually.

14. Mind your credit score. There are any number of good reasons to pay off your credit cards in full each month, but here’s one more: Your credit score could also be factoring into your insurance rate. There is a 49% difference in the cost of auto insurance premiums for someone with excellent credit and someone with no credit history, a WalletHub study found. So any time your score improves, you want to ask your insurer for a discount or shop around for another policy.
Savings: $214 was the average difference paid by drivers with good credit scores and similar drivers with the best credit scores, according to a Consumer Reports study. In some states, drivers with merely good scores paid as much as $526 more a year.

15. Say no to your teenager … A married couple can expect to pay 80% more on average for car insurance after adding a teen driver, according to an insuranceQuotes.com report. You can lessen that impact by having your teen wait to drive; 16-year-olds cause the highest spike (96%) but 19-year-olds raise your premium by only 60%. Or you can make him pay for his own insurance, though he’ll end up paying 18% more as a single policy-holder than he would under your insurance plan, according to insuranceQuotes.com.
Savings: You’d pay $396 more in the first year of insuring your teen if you add him at age 16, rather than at 19.

16. … Or brag about your teenager. Make sure your insurer knows if your child gets good grades; a NerdWallet study found that teens with a “good student” discount paid an average of 6%-20% less than their fellow teens did on insurance.
Savings: $263 is the average national savings a family will see, a Consumer Reports study found. But depending on your location, the benefits can be much greater. In Los Angeles, a 16-year-old “good student” who buys his own insurance can expect to pay $5,864 on auto insurance, while the average costs are $7,098, meaning good grades can save families there as much as $1,234, according to NerdWallet.

17. Know when not to claim. Filing a single claim following an accident can raise your premium by an average of 41% if you are at fault, according to InsuranceQuotes.com. So if you’re involved in a minor collision, carefully consider whether the money you’ll get back will exceed the premium hike. For small accidents that do not involve someone else or cause bodily harm to yourself, you’re better off paying out of pocket for the repairs if you can afford it. (If you are unsure, use this “When to Make an Insurance Claim” calculator to help you decide.)
Savings: $451 a year, if you have a small accident you can skip reporting.

Save on Repairs/Maintenance

The days when you could wrench around on your car in the driveway are mostly gone, but experts say there are still several steps an ordinary driver can take to cut the cost of upkeep.

18. Know what your car needs and when. Checking the owner’s manual will save you from being up charged when you take it in for maintenance. “Often dealerships will give you a list of things they recommend you also have done,” says Reed. “These are additional things they will profit from that your car may not actually need at that time. A common one is offering to drain and replace transmission fluid and also flush the transmission — but most modern car can go to 100,000 miles before they need this.”
Savings: Resisting the pitch could save you up to $120 on an unnecessary service like a transmission flushing.

19. Cut out the hard braking. Remember how aggressive driving hurt your gas mileage? Easing into a stop, rather than slamming on the pedal, also offers a maintenance payoff. “You’ll extend the life of your brakes and get the appropriate 20,000-30,000 miles rather than 10,000,” says Gutierrez. “If you drive a higher-end car, the wear will be even quicker.”
Savings: “If you’re able to save changing brake pads three or four times, it could equal between $600 and $1,000 in savings over the life of the car,” Gutierrez says.

20. Rotate your own tires. Front tires wear more quickly than rear tires. By switching them, you help ensure both sets wear evenly and that you won’t have to prematurely replace them. To know when to switch them, look in your owner’s manual.
Savings: Doing it yourself could save you up to $120 annually, Edmunds.com found, assuming a person drove 12,000 miles a year and needed two tire rotations.

21. Replace your air filter: To keep dirt out of the engine and improve fuel economy, you should replace this every 30,000 miles or so; check your owner’s manual for the exact timetable. You can make this fix yourself in fewer than five minutes.
Savings: $19-$60 in labor charges roughly every two years.

22. Handle other easy repairs. If you are handy, try replacing wiper blades, fuses and lights by yourself. “These are easy to do and you can go online and watch how-to-videos to learn,” says Rich White, executive director of Car Care Council.
Savings: Replacing your own wipers could save you as much as $70 in labor costs each time, says Reed. And replacing your own lights and fuses could net you $17-$132, depending on the make and model of your vehicle, according to Edmunds.com.

23. Don’t over oil: Your mechanic may tell you to change your oil every 3,000 miles, but newer cars using synthetic oils can easily reach the 10,000-mile mark before needing a change, says Reed. Be sure to look over your manual and keep to your car’s specified timetable.
Savings: Roughly $40 for each unnecessary professional oil change you don’t get (but only $15 or so if you do it yourself).

Unless otherwise stated, we assumed: a fuel price of $2.69 a gallon; 15,000 miles driven annually, the average driven by U.S. workers in their career prime, according to the Federal Highway Administration; 28 miles traveled per gallon, the typical fuel economy of a midsize sedan; and $1,100 a year spent on car insurance, the national average, according to according to NerdWallet research.

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