Driver's News: 10/08/01

October 8, 2001

Reversing an earlier promise to fight any government-mandated tire recall, Firestone agreed to recall 3.5 million Wilderness tires that have been tied to rollover accidents involving the Ford Explorer. Firestone will recall two sizes of Wilderness tires made before May 1998 as original equipment for Ford SUVs. This recall is in addition to a recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires in August 2000. More than 200 deaths and 700 injuries have been related to Firestone tire failures. Over the past couple of years, Ford and Firestone have taken turns blaming each other for the deaths, but in announcing the recall, NHTSA said that Ford's Explorer sport utility vehicle was no more likely to roll over after a tire separation than other SUVs. ``At this point, NHTSA does not agree with Firestone claim that Explorers are more prone to rollover after tread separation,'' a U.S. Department of Transportation official said. ``NHTSA found no basis for the Firestone allegations.'' Firestone still faces hundreds of lawsuits over accidents involving the tires. It has already settled about 1,000 cases. Firestone is a unit of Japan's Bridgestone Inc.
Firestone Forced into Recall by Marty Padgett (10/8/2001)

The U.S. Environmental Agency poured more fuel on the discussion of CAFÉ standards Wednesday when it said that the average fuel mileage of all 2001 model year vehicles has slipped to its lowest level since 1980. The falling numbers were due largely to Americans driving large, gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles. The report comes as the U.S. Congress considers broad legislation aimed at revamping the nation’s energy policy, including lessening dependence on foreign oil.  Model year 2001 sport utility vehicles averaged 17.2 miles per gallon, pickup trucks 16.5 mpg, and vans and minivans 19.3 mpg. Cars average 24.2 mpg, the EPA said.  The average of all 2001 model vehicles was 20.4 mpg, it said. The average fuel efficiency for all 2000 model vehicles was 24.0 mpg.

The following are the 20 top-selling vehicles in the United States for the calendar year through September 2001, as reported by the automakers.

1                      Ford F-Series             650,856         

2                      Chevy Silverado             502,343         

3                      Honda Accord                319,841         

4                      Ford Explorer                     303,455

5                      Toyota Camry                    293,350         

6                      Ford Taurus                       275,082 

7                      Honda Civic                       259,358 

8                      Dodge Ram pickup             257,089 

9                      Ford Ranger                   217,670         

10                    Ford Focus                         200,615         

11                    Dodge Caravan                  184,642         

12                    Toyota Corolla                   180,066         

13                    Chevrolet Cavalier              174,109         

14                    Jeep Grand Cherokee         158,541         

15                    Chevrolet Impala               150,599         

16                    Pontiac Grand Am               148,565         

17                    Chevrolet Malibu                 145,575         

18                     Chevrolet Tahoe                144,506         

19                    GMC Sierra pickup               144,320         

20                    Ford Windstar                     134,431 


Honda took some major bragging rights for the year, trumpeting the Accord as the best-selling car in America for the 2001 model year, the Civic as the best-selling small car, and the Acura 3.2 TL as the best-selling luxury sedan. The newly remodeled Accord sold 412,074, topping the aging Toyota Camry, which had sales of 388,512. The third-place Ford Taurus sold 349,742 units. The Civic was the best-selling small car in America with 2001 model year sales of 323,074. It topped the Ford Focus, which sold 261,542. The Acura 3.2 TL posted 2001 model year sales of 68,229, topping the BMW 3-Series sedan, which sold 61,992. 
Some more good news on 2001 sales: //

Would you believe…the Aztek? J.D. Power’s survey of small SUVs finds Pontiac’s ugly duckling is the sport-ute that most pleases its owners, beating out luminaries like Toyota’s RAV4 and the new Hyundai Santa Fe. Despite critics’ loathing of its radical styling, the Aztek placed first or second in every category with owners. "We've been saying now since we launched Aztek, the owners love this vehicle," said Aztek brand manager Jim Vurpillat. "The whole vehicle was a risk for GM. We know we were trying to do something different, something unique." The Aztek, pegged originally at 55,000 sales a year, is now stable at about 28,000 annually, and GM hopes to boost that to 30,000 to 40,000 a year in the coming year with a revised Aztek with lighter cladding and larger wheels.
TCC’s Draw Aztek Winners! by TCC Team (4/23/2001)

The chairman of world’s second largest energy firm said Big Oil must prepare itself for the end of oil as the basis for the world economy as consumers embrace alternative energies. Royal Dutch/Shell chairman Phil Watts said that oil giants would need to adapt as motorists move towards hydrogen-powered vehicles and other forms of non-oil based energy. ``One thing I am convinced of is that the next 50 years is not going to be more of the same. An energy company had better make sure it has the necessary expertise and knowledge,'' Watts said.      Shell says it will spend more than $500 million over the next five years to develop new energy businesses, concentrating on wind and solar.
Read which family cars can be enviro-friendly:

The vast majority of vehicles now in operation are between 5 and 15 years old.  This could mean good news for automakers, as the aging vehicle population requires replacing. According to Experian Automotive's National Vehicle Database, the largest percentage of vehicles currently on the road – about 18 percent – are between 5 and 7 years old.  Vehicles more than 15 years old make up the next largest group at 16.9 percent.  Other top automotive age groups:
*16.3 percent of vehicles in operation are 11 to 14 years old.
*15.4 percent are 8 to 10 years old.

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