Carfax's catchy ads have encouraged millions of Americans to say "Show me the Carfax!" when purchasing used cars. That's great for Carfax's bottom line, but not so much for the dealers who have to provide those brand-name reports -- to the tune of $16.95 a pop, or a monthly subscription of up to $1,549.
According to AutoNews, 120 dealerships from across the U.S. are now suing Carfax for violating antitrust laws. And according the lawyer handling the case -- Leonard Bellavia of Bellavia Blatt Andron & Crossett in Mineola, New York* -- dozens more dealerships have submitted paperwork to join the suit.
Bellavia's clients are suing Carfax for $50 million in damages. Among the plaintiffs' allegations:
- Carfax has exclusivity agreements with several popular used-car sites. In practical terms, that means dealers selling vehicles on those sites can only show vehicle history reports from Carfax, which effectively shuts out the competition.
- Out of 40 used-car certification programs run by automakers, Carfax has exclusive arrangements with 37. In other words, if you're looking at vehicle history report on a certified used car, there's a very good chance that your dealer has been obligated to use Carfax.
- Carfax charges more for vehicle history reports than its competitors.
Adding a little bit of spice to the plaintiff's case is the fact that Carfax reports aren't always accurate. Carfax and its competitors rely largely on the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, a database of insurance claims and other data pulled from 41 states. Vehicle info from other regions can be left out of those reports, resulting in inaccuracies, not unlike the kind recently uncovered on 20/20. (Check out that news segment, embedded above.)
What does Carfax have to say about these allegations? So far, the company hasn't released a statement on the matter.
* If Bellavia's name sounds familiar, that's because he was also the lead attorney for U.S. Saab dealers seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy status last year.
President Barack Obama may not achieve his goal of 1 million plug-in electric cars on U.S. roads by the end of 2015.
But his administration continues to try to green the U.S. vehicle fleet.
The latest salvo: The government's General Services Agency plans to add an additional 10,000 hybrid vehicles to its fleet of roughly 200,000 cars and trucks.
Currently, the GSA operates roughly 10,700 hybrids, or slightly over 5 percent of its fleet. It purchased 919 last year.
Participation in the program by the many different U.S. agencies that lease their vehicles from the GSA is voluntary. ( Continue… )
While the fuel is hugely popular in countries like Brazil, gasoline has always reigned supreme in North America. Or diesel, if you're a long-haul trucker--though that could be about to change.
Natural gas is already becoming a major power source across the U.S, but the trucking industry is quickly turning to its two major benefits--cleaner running and lower pricing.
The former is particularly important environmentally, given the billions of miles truckers drive every year delivering produce to each corner of the country. But as an industry that spends vast amounts on fuel, the potential for something cheaper is highly attractive. ( Continue… )
Within a few weeks, a handful of New Yorkers each day will ride in a new kind of taxi: an all-electric Nissan Leaf.
The plan, Bloomberg said, will help the city "answer important questions about incorporating electric taxis into the fleet, so that we can achieve the goal of a one-third electric taxi fleet by 2020."
Included in the test will be the installation of several DC fast-charging stations in New York City, which will enable Leaf taxi drivers to recharge their carsto 80 percent of capacity in 30 minutes or less. ( Continue… )
The Department of Transportation wants automakers to limit their in-car communication systems in an effort to curb distracted driving accidents.
On Tuesday, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration announced new guidelines it wants auto companies to follow as they develop in-car communication systems. NHTSA recommendations are designed to limit how long a driver takes their eyes off the road to no more than two seconds at a time.
"I think people using cell phones while driving is dangerous," said Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation. "These guidelines are based on the best data and best information we have." (Read More: GM's Wi-Fi Move Brings the Connected Car Closer)
The guidelines are voluntary for the automakers and do not require changes to infotainment and communication systems immediately. However, the Federal government is asking automakers to phase in the guidelines within three years. ( Continue… )
In fact, a little more than that--40.9 percent to be precise, with overall market share increasing from 2.2 percent to 3.1 percent in a single year.
It's a stark indication of the hybrid car's relentless transformation from eco-themed curiosity to mainstream car choice. It also reflects just how well the average hybrid assimilates into an owner's life, requiring no day-to-day compromise while it goes about saving them money on gas.
Toyota has been particularly adept at exploiting this market, having recently sold its 5 millionth hybrid vehicle worldwide. It's seen the Prius, once dismissed as a toy for celebrities wanting to appeargreen, become California's highest-selling vehicle.
Some of the company's other numbers make for interesting reading.
For example, the gender split is fairly even, if slightly in favor of women--53 percent of adults who live in a hybrid household are female.
It's a young market too, with 25-34 year olds perhaps more eco-concious than their parents--this age group is 16 percent more likely to live in a household that owns or leases a hybrid.
Experian's credit information has also turned up some interesting numbers. Consumers purchasing a hybrid vehicle tend to have a better credit score than buyers of other vehicles--790 next to a national average of 755.
This might offset the slight price premium of some hybrids for owners, since they're able to obtain financing at lower rates than the average consumer--3.51 percent, compared with 4.36 percent.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Toyota's Prius tops the list of hybrid vehicles bought on finance in 2012, and it took 37.2 percent of the hybrid market. Camry, Prius V and Prius C followed, while the Chevy Volt and even Nissan Leaf appear on Experian's list.
It's Earth Day today, and if you're intending to roll it out a little, Earth Week all this week.
To coincide with a week where we're all encouraged to do just a little more to consider the environment, charging station network ChargePoint is giving away free charging cards for simply filling in a form.
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You won't get it in time for Earth Week itself--delivery is expected to take around 6 weeks--but it's a good chance to get hold of an extra card, which normally costs $4.95. A $25 deposit is also normally required when setting up a new card. ( Continue… )
If you're itching to get your hands on a self-driving car, there's something you can do to speed up the process: talk to your neighbors.
That's one of the tips gleaned from a panel on "Driver Distraction Regulation and Autonomous Driving", which convened this week at the Society of Automotive Engineers' annual World Congress in Detroit. According to AutoNews, most of the experts on that panel -- including representatives from Honda, Nissan, and the University of Michigan -- agree that the technology to create self-driving vehicles already exists.
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We would agree. Many of the systems crucial to autonomous vehicles -- systems like brake-assist, lane-assist, and adaptive cruise control -- can be found on many of today's cars. Vehicle-to-vehicle technology isn't available just yet, but it's evolving rapidly -- and Google's autonomous car has done just fine without it anyway.
What's lacking is public trust, and frankly, that's unlikely to exist until everyday consumers (a) become aware of autonomous vehicles and (b) become convinced of their reliability.
It's the latter part of that equation that's tricky. Getting the public to believe that their lives aren't in danger when their car starts driving itself down the highway at 70 mph is going to take a little time. And the first time headlines hint of a technical malfunction in a deadly accident, the public backlash is likely to be severe. It may take a decade or more before the majority of consumers become comfortable with the technology. (Though offering benefits like special travel lanes for autonomous vehicles could speed up the process a bit.)
According to Detroit News, the panel at SAE sees autonomous vehicles arriving around 2025. That may seem like an eternity for early adopters, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is already making plans for the debut of self-driving cars. In fact, it's preparing a multi-year research project to draft rules and regulations for autonomous vehicles.
What no one has really addressed yet, it the question of liability in accidents. Because automakers, software engineers, insurance agencies, and lawyers around the globe are eager to know: when autonomous vehicles collide, who's at fault?
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We've heard it all before--new battery technologies appear, set to revolutionize the way we use electric products.
The story is the same for new microbatteries developed at the University of Illinois, but the researchers there are making even bigger claims than most.
Imagine a battery so small it could feature in a credit card-sized cellphone, charge in mere seconds, with enough power to jump-start a car. Now imagine it scaled up for use in an electric vehicle.
All the above scenarios are a possibility with the new microbattery technology, and the researchers say it finally brings batteries up to the level of the gadgets they power. ( Continue… )
Say the word "hybrid" and then ask drivers, anywhere in the world, to name a car brand.
Today, Toyota announced it has delivered 5 million hybrids worldwide--and almost 2 million of them were sold in the United States.
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To mark the occasion, the company issued not only a press release filled with the obligatory statements from executives and external analysts, but a truly unusual video.
In it, happy young hybrid owners sing, dance, and otherwise cavort around the complete model lineup of 2013 Toyota Prius hybrids: the traditional Prius liftback, the Prius V wagon, the Prius C subcompact hatchback, and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid.
We'll let you decide how to assess the video.
About all we can say is that ... well ... it's probably better than the infamous Volt Dance.
The Toyota Prius is now midway through its third generation, launched early in 2009 as a 2010 model.
That makes those Prius models the most fuel-efficient gasoline cars sold in the States; no other car gets higher gas mileage.
The basic technology has remained the same for more than a decade: a small four-cylinder gasoline engine is paired with a Hybrid Synergy Drive transmission containing two electric motor-generators.
The motors can power the car, alone under light loads or assisting the gasoline engine when maximum power is needed. They also recharge the car's nickel-metal hydride battery pack, either on engine overrun or through regenerative braking.
From that first Prius, Toyota has slowly spread its hybrid technology throughout its lineup, pledging that before the end of the decade, it will offer a hybrid variation of every high-volume car it sells.
The Toyota Prius remains by far the best-selling hybrid globally, and the most efficient vehicle in Toyota's entire lineup.
A new fourth-generation Prius is likely to arrive in 2015 for the 2016 model year.