If you're planning to rent a car for the Thanksgiving drive to grandma's house but haven't yet secured your vehicle, you should shift your search into high gear. News reports indicate that many rental car lots in the northeastern U.S. are sitting empty this holiday season, due to Hurricane Sandy.
Although damages from the storm are still being tallied, early estimates put the total number of vehicles destroyed by Sandy as high as 200,000. That's still well short of the 350,000 ruined during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but more than enough to cripple auto supplies in America's most densely populated region.
Proof of that was visible last week, when rental car shortages were reported at Philadelphia-area Avis, Dollar Thrifty, Enterprise, and Hertz outlets. There's some hope that the situation will improve before Thursday, as owners replace storm-damaged vehicles and return rentals, and as recovery workers head home for the long holiday weekend, freeing up more loaners. However, a quick search of travel websites reveals that availability is nearly non-existent in New York City, and the limited number of vehicles on hand in New Jersey are priced much higher than you'd expect.
Our advice? If you've not already begun your search, do so now. If you hit roadblocks at Expedia and Priceline, go directly to rental company websites: those companies don't typically list their full inventory with travel brokers, and you may be able to nab one of the cars they've held in reserve. If that should fail, go local and call your nearest outlet. Chances are, you'll speak to a real person who has first-hand knowledge of the situation on the lot. ( Continue… )
As you’d guess, it’s also fuel efficient, which is the primary reason why Ford has announced it will be offered in the 2014 Ford Fiesta as an alternative to the base model's 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine.
We have good news and bad news for Thanksgiving road-trippers.
The good news is, roadways will be slightly less congested than they were last year, meaning that you'll make better time getting over the river and through the woods.
The bad news? The drop in traffic stems from record-high gas prices, which currently average $3.43 for a gallon of unleaded regular. Not helping: lingering uncertainty about the economy, thanks in part to countless media headlines about the looming "fiscal cliff". And while traffic will be lighter on the whole, it'll be heavier in certain metro areas.
These predictions come from INRIX, a leader in the field of traffic data. According to the company's Director of Community Relations, Jim Bak, your Thanksgiving travel will be better in 2012, but it still won't be much of a picnic: "While traffic congestion over Thanksgiving will not be nearly as bad as years past, rush hour will peak 2 hours earlier than normal. Our advice to drivers is to leave before 2 p.m.or wait until after 6 p.m. to avoid traffic getting out of town." ( Continue… )
In another blow to its prestige, Toyota is recalling 2.8 million vehicles worldwide for steering-shaft and water-pump defects.
The main problem is a steering intermediate extension shaft, according to Toyota. If the steering wheel is forcefully turned to full right or full left while driving slowly, it can begin to deform the splines (ridges) of the shaft. If that happens frequently enough, the splines may eventually wear out and cause faulty steering.
A second Toyota recall involves about 350,000 of those same US Priuses, which have faulty water pumps. The pump's electric motor can fail. "In limited instances, the electric power supply circuit fuse may open, causing the hybrid system to stop while the vehicle is being driven," says a Toyota statement. ( Continue… )
There's nothing like a bargain price on a brand-new car.
But is buying a brand-new car from a departing manufacturer a good deal?
Chrysler is recalling more than 919,000 older-model Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs worldwide because the air bags can inflate while people are driving them.
The recall affects Grand Cherokees from the 2002 through 2004 model years and Libertys from model years 2002 and 2003, according to documents posted Friday on the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website.
The safety agency said that a part can fail in the air bag control computer, and the front and side air bags can inflate while the SUVs are being driven. An agency investigation started last year found that the air bags went off 215 times, causing 81 minor injuries. No crashes were reported, but NHTSA said the problem could cause a wreck.
Chrysler, which makes Jeeps, will install an electrical filter free of charge to fix the problem. The company will begin notifying owners of the recall in January. ( Continue… )
In the areas of the U.S. affected by Hurricane Sandy, lines for gasoline have been long. The problem isn't really one of supply; rather, it seems to be one of electricity. After all, if there's no power, there's no way to run the pumps.
Several elected officials have proposed a legislative solution that would fix such problems in the future, but one group of opponents is holding it at bay.
The Queens Gazette reports that Assembly member David Weprin and Rockland County State Senator David Carlucci (D-Clarkstown) plan to introduce a bill requiring many gas stations to have backup power sources. That would keep the pumps humming in the wake of subsequent storms like Sandy.
The bill would affect all gas stations built or substantially renovated in New York state after July 1, 2013. It would also affect stations within half a mile of interstates and other evacuation routes. The legislation, as written, requires that all such outlets "be capable of operating all fuel pumps, dispensing equipment, life safety systems and payment acceptance equipment using an alternative generated power source" for at least 72 hours. ( Continue… )
Less than a week after the Environmental Protection Agency announced that not one, not two, but 13 Hyundai and Kia models failed to meet their advertised fuel-economy ratings, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against the two Korean automakers.
According to Reuters, the suit -- which hasn't officially been granted class-action status yet -- was filed in the U.S. District Court for Central California. The plaintiffs are 23 Hyundai and Kia owners who seek $775 million in damages.
There's more where that came from
The effects of Hurricane Sandy are far bigger than many imagined. The storm reshaped communities, and some will argue that it changed the outcome of yesterday's election.
Sandy will also have a small but important impact on used-car values. As proof, the National Automobile Dealers Association points to Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed hundreds of thousands of vehicles along the Gulf Coast -- vehicles that subsequently had to be replaced. That simultaneous loss of supply and growth in demand led to a 3% rise in used car prices after Katrina made landfall in August 2005.
Sandy was a different storm, and as such, it had a different impact. And although the total damage wrought by Sandy won't equal that of Katrina, NADA expects used vehicle values to climb slightly for the next few months -- especially in the Northeast, where Sandy made landfall. ( Continue… )
Fisker Automotive has had more than its share of trials and tribulations of late.
Now, a new threat has emerged that holds the potential to harm the company severely, by cutting off its supply of lithium-ion battery packs.
A123 Systems, its bankrupt battery supplier, wants to end the contract under which it supplies the Fisker's battery.
"In so doing, [A123] will saddle [its] estates and creditors with a claim of as much as, if not more than, $100 million," said Fisker in its filing, "and severely harm Fisker." ( Continue… )