MONEY Autos

Why Your Toyota Prius Could Make You a Theft Target

JAPAN-AUTO-TOYOTA
KAZUHIRO NOGI—AFP/Getty Images An employee fixes a main battery of the hybrid system in Toyota Motor's Prius.

Hint: A Tesla Model S driver wouldn't have this problem.

Hybrid cars are increasingly the target of theft, thanks to lightweight batteries that are easy to steal—at least for thieves who know what they’re doing.

Toyota Prius drivers in San Francisco seem to be getting the worst of it, a California ABC affiliate reports, with several thefts across the city in recent months.

Though there’s a serious risk of electrocution, thieves in the area have succeeded in quickly cutting cables attached to the 200-volt batteries, then removing them within about 20 minutes.

Prius batteries can go for as much as $1,000 on Craigslist, a tidy profit given the speed of the job.

Unfortunately for Prius drivers, replacing a stolen battery can cost about $3,000—and once you account for the cost of other repairs, like replacing broken windows, the final bill could be as high as $10,000. Buying a used battery online might be cheaper, but then you can’t be sure of just how used it is (or whether it was come by honestly).

Despite the risks involved, what makes the theft relatively easy is portability: The battery in the Prius weighs only about 150 pounds. Compare that to the Tesla Model S battery, which weighs more than 1,000 pounds.

If you own a Prius, there are a few steps you can take to prevent theft, including replacing the bolts fastening down your battery with tamper-proof ones.

MONEY Autos

Watch Out for More Google Self-Driving Cars

Google’s latest in-house autonomous vehicles are now cleared for testing on public roads.

TIME Autos

Google’s New Self-Driving Cars Will Hit the Road This Summer

Company's tiny sedan will roam Mountain View autonomously

Google’s self-driving cars are taking to the open road in the coming months.

The company announced Friday that its compact prototype vehicle will begin driving on public streets in Mountain View, Calif. this summer. Though the cars are autonomous, each will be manned by a safety driver aboard who can use a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal and brake pedal if need be. The vehicles’ speed will be capped at 25 miles per hour.

The arrival of the Google-built cars on public roads follows Google’s extensive tests of a fleet of Lexus SUVs the company turned into self-driving vehicles. Those cars have driven nearly one million miles autonomously and are now traveling about 10,000 miles per week.

Earlier this week, Google revealed that its self-driving cars have been involved in 11 minor accidents over the last six years, though the company says they were all the fault of other human drivers that collided with Google’s vehicles.

MONEY Autos

Volvo to Open First U.S. Factory in South Carolina

The Swedish car maker is coming to America, opening a factory near Charleston, S.C. that Volvo says will create 4,000 new jobs.

MONEY Autos

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

The new entry-level Maserati is powerful but occasionally disappointing. Here's what it's like to take one for a drive.

You don’t have to explain to anyone what Maserati is. The brand is known worldwide, and it stands for Italian style and speed. But as Maserati’s North American boss Christian Gobber explains it, the brand is better known than the products, because only a select number of people, some 200,000 worldwide, actually own a Maserati.

The goal behind Maserati’s latest vehicle, the Ghibli, is to help expand ownership to as many as a million customers worldwide. Ghibli is Maserati’s entry-level vehicle — entry level in this case being north of $75,000. “It starts with design,” says Gobber. “It gets your attention. But it has a muscular yet elegant duality.”

It sure does. There is no mistaking this beauty for a mere luxury sedan. The front end practically preens.

Then you start the motor in sport mode, with its ferociously tuned exhaust, and you are speaking Italian. Because in the Q4 model, which we tested, you have 404 Ferrari-built horses — an entire palio— under your hood. You’ll race to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds, and to 100 mph in a few ticks more. This is real power, delivered impeccably through the popular 8-speed ZF automatic transmission. And in our black-on-black model, you do this wrapped in a cockpit outfitted in exquisite, hand-stitched Italian leather and a plush chair. The car has a sound system that Verdi would envy.

Yes, you can get a comparably equipped Mercedes or Audi that can claim a smoother ride than the Ghibli, and a little bit better execution on the small things, which is certainly no small thing. For instance, the car is lacking in some safety features, such as blind spot warning lights and adaptive cruise control, that are standard on many Fords. I guess Maserati feels that a blind spot indicator isn’t necessary if nobody is going to pass you.

Next up for Maserati is an SUV, the Levante, due next year. That will further democratize the brand, as if that were even possible.

MONEY Autos

44,000 Cars Were Stolen Last Year for One Dumb Reason

key in ignition
B. Christopher—Alamy

It's embarrassing, but more people have done it than would like to admit.

Having your car stolen would be a terrible thing to experience, but apparently thousands of Americans aren’t thinking about that because they leave their keys in their vehicles — and then the cars get stolen.

Sure, it may seem like a no-brainer to not leave your keys in an unattended vehicle, but people are increasingly making this mistake, according to an analysis from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. From 2012 through 2014, 126,603 vehicles were stolen with the keys left inside. The actual number of key-in-car thefts is likely higher, because if the theft report didn’t include that detail (perhaps an omission of an embarrassed victim), it’s not included in these figures. While auto theft has declined in the last few years, the percentage of those thefts involving keys left in the vehicle has climbed.

In 2012, 5.4% of cars stolen had the keys in them at the time of theft. That share increased to 6% in 2013 and to 6.7% in 2014 — that’s 44,828 vehicle thefts with the keys inside.

Losing your car is bad enough, but think of what else you might lose. People leave lots of stuff in their cars that can be used by identity thieves, like mail and vehicle registration documents. If someone lifts your car because you left it running when you went to grab a cup of coffee, you might have left your purse, briefcase, wallet or phone behind, too. Not only do you have to deal with the stress of having your car stolen (and who knows what your insurance covers), now you have to worry about someone stealing your identity.

Identity theft can manifest in a variety of ways, all of which can harm your well-being, particularly your financial stability. For example, if someone opens up fraudulent credit accounts in your name, your credit standing will suffer the consequences, which could include a slew of things including credit inquiries, high debt levels and missed loan payments. The sooner you spot fraud, the sooner you can get the information removed from your credit history and repair any damage done. The longer fraud goes on, the more likely you are to deal with limited credit access and higher loan interest rates, as a result of fraudulent information. That’s why it’s so important to regularly monitor your credit, which you can do for free on Credit.com.

Of course, it’s also extremely helpful if you avoid leaving your car unattended with the keys inside. That would save you a lot of trouble.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

MONEY Autos

My New Car Is a Piece of Junk. Can I Return It to the Dealer?

one owner car return
Hal Bergman—Getty Images

There are better ways to deal with a car you don't want than bringing it back to the dealership.

There was a time when you loved your car — when you happily drove it home from the dealer. But that love has grown cold, and now you wish you’d never laid eyes on it. You are chained to it by a payment book, much as you wish you were not.

We’ve had readers ask us if they can just “give the keys back” and get a car that IS reliable — one that they’ll feel better about driving their kids around in. And while just returning the car sounds like the dream solution, it can come with as many unanticipated problems as the vehicle you’re looking to unload. Assuming you have no recourse under your state’s lemon law, or your situation doesn’t pertain to a dealership’s return policy — if it has one — returning the car can be tricky and could have credit implications. This is something you’ll want to consider, especially if you plan to lease or purchase another car once you give the other one back.

To start with, returning the vehicle to the dealer won’t erase your debt, even though it may feel to you as if you are simply returning it.

“Technically, if you give the car back it is the same as a repossession,” explained automotive finance expert Matt Briggs, co-founder and CEO of CreditJeeves.com. “Keep in mind you have a legal obligation to pay the terms of the loan and the car dealer is typically not the finance company who holds the loan (unless they are buy here pay here). Either way you cannot simply ‘give back’ the vehicle to dealer and walk away,” Briggs said in an email.

Because it would be considered a repossession, the exact same thing would happen as does with a traditional repossession. That is, the car would be sold at auction, and you would be responsible for the difference in what the car brought at auction and the amount you still owed on the car, plus expenses involved in this process (towing, storage, repossession, title and sale). So, if you leave the car at the dealership, you still owe the debt (possibly more than the clunker is worth), but you don’t have a vehicle.

If all that makes it sounds like it would be simpler and cheaper to just sell it yourself, that’s precisely what Briggs suggests: “Most repossession auctions the cars sell for a much lower price than the retail value, so you may end up owing more then you would if you sold it private party (using a website like AutoTrader, eBay or Cars.com) or if you traded it in on a different vehicle.”

As far as damage to your credit, a car repossession will stay on your credit report for seven years after the original account went delinquent, Experian says. (You can see how your debts affect you by getting your free credit report summary on Credit.com, which will give you an explanation of what factors influence your scores.)

There is a way, however, to force a dealer to “eat steel,” said Eugene Melchionnne, a Connecticut bankruptcy attorney and contributor to Credit.com, and that is by surrendering the car and discharging the debt in bankruptcy. He explained via email: “There is also a process for ‘cramming down’ the debt to the value of the car in bankruptcy and in a Chapter 13 case, you can spread the balance owed over an extended period of time,” he said in an email. “For example, if the car loan is for $20,000, but the car is worth $10,000, the loan can be reduced to $10,000 and if there are say, four years left to pay at $500/mo., the payments to can be spread out to a maximum of five years on the lowered balance resulting in $330+ a month savings.”

Still, for most of us, simply driving the car back to the dealership and handing over the keys, however tempting, is not a workable strategy. So after you dig yourself out of this mess, do as much due diligence as possible before you buy next time.

“Bottom line,” Briggs said, “you have a legal obligation to pay the car loan in full so make sure you are getting a good deal before you sign on the dotted line.”

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

TIME Autos

Audi Just Invented Fuel Made From CO₂ and Water

Water, CO2 and green power are the ingredients for Audi e-diesel
Audi Handout Water, CO2 and green power are the ingredients for Audi e-diesel

The next step for the project will be industrial scale production

An Audi research facility in Dresden, Germany, has managed to create the first batches of diesel fuel with a net-zero carbon footprint — made from carbon dioxide (CO2), water and renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power.

Germany’s government has welcomed the new technology, created in partnership with a greentech company called Sunfire. Johanna Wanka, Germany’s Federal Minister of Education and Research, even test drove the fuel and called it, “a crucial contribution to climate protection and the efficient use of resources,” according to an Audi press release.

Manufacturing involves first breaking down steam into hydrogen and oxygen through high-temperature electrolysis. The hydrogen then reacts with CO2 to create a liquid called “blue crude.” This is then refined to make the e-diesel.

A visual infographic released by Audi explains the steps in detail.

Visual representation of Audi e-diesel
Audi Handout

The next stage for the project will be industrial scale production because Sunfire only has capacity to produce 3,000 liters (792.5 gal.) of e-diesel in coming months.

“If we get the first sales order, we will be ready to commercialize our technology,” said Sunfire CTO Christian von Olshausen in a company press release.

Read next: This Is How Much OPEC Really Earns

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Innovation

Save the Planet With More Energy, Not Less

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. What if to save the Earth, we need more energy and development, not less?

By Eric Holthaus in Slate

2. No big deal: Kids can now send their science experiments into space.

By Charley Locke in EdSurge

3. We basically know how to end — or at least stop the growth of — homelessness.

By Tim Henderson in Stateline

4. Soon, you could 3D-print your dinner.

By Heidi Ledford in Nature

5. Is this the technology that will finally give us flying cars?

By David Morris in Fortune

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME India

Cars Older Than 15 Years Can No Longer Drive in the Indian Capital

Traffic make way in haze mainly caused by air pollution in Delhi, India on January 20, 2014. Air pollution in India exceeds that of China as diesel fuel subsidies encourage ownership of polluting vehicles. (Kuni Takahashi/Bloomberg)
Kuni Takahashi— Bloomberg Finance LP Traffic make way in haze mainly caused by air pollution in Delhi, India on January 20, 2014.

The city of 17 million is one of the world's most polluted

More than a few car owners in New Delhi will likely have to get rid of their vehicles, after the country’s apex court upheld a ban on automobiles older than 15 years on the sprawling capital’s streets.

India’s Supreme Court on Monday confirmed the measure put forth by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) last November, the Indian Express reports.

“One tribunal is trying to do something which is good for people,” a bench led by Chief Justic H.L Dattu said. “Let us assist them and not discourage them. We are not interfering with their order.”

The NGT recently attempted to ban diesel vehicles older than 10 years as well, but adjourned its decision by two weeks following protests from affected transport companies. India’s minister for road, transport and highways said last week that the government was exploring various options for highly polluting vehicles, and on Tuesday sought an extension of six months on the phasing out of older cars.

New Delhi has been deemed one of the world’s most polluted cities; several studies deem its air highly toxic and unfit to breathe.

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