Consumer Car News 6/24/02

June 24, 2002

AAA: MORE DRIVERS FOR JULY 4
If you’re driving for the July 4th holiday you certainly won’t be alone, the American Automobile Association suggests. Some 32 million travelers are expected to go by car over the coming holiday weekend, a boost of almost 1.5 percent from 2001. The AAA qualifies the trips as more than 50 miles. While it expects air travel to drop slightly, the AAA says the total number of holiday travelers should rise about a percent.

 

AAA: GAS PRICES SURPRISINGLY LOW
The AAA says this summer’s gas prices should come as a pleasant surprise to American drivers. The American Automobile Association says the average price per gallon of gas is about 24 cents less than the same time last year, at an average of $1.39 a gallon for regular unleaded. The highest prices are, as usual, out west with an average of $1.49 a gallon, and cheapest in the southeast, where the average is estimated at $1.32 a gallon. The association expects prices to remain stable this summer.

 

GM CONFIRMS GTO PRODUCTION
GM says the GTO is headed for production in late 2003. The "Great One" will be built in conjunction with Australia's Holden for the 2004 model year, and will showcase a version of the Corvette's LS1 engine with more than 300 hp. Pontiac expects to get some 18,000 GTOs each year for sale at between $30,000 and $35,000 apiece. The final production piece -- on which this drawing is based -- will be shown at the L.A. auto show in January.

 

TRAFFIC STEALS $68 BIL EACH YEAR
Traffic doesn’t just suck — it sucks rather expensively, according to the annual Urban Mobility Report from the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI). The TTI says the average driver spends about 62 hours sitting in traffic — hours that cost the nation $68 billion in goods and services. As usual, Los Angeles has the worst numbers (can you imagine 136 hours a year stuck on the 405?), but not far behind were other metropolises like San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Houston. L.A. topped the average travel times too, followed by San Fran, Chicago and D.C. The study points out that in 1982 traffic in most metro areas was congested for about 4.5 hours a day; in 2000, it leapt to seven hours a day.

 

HISPANIC CUSTOMERS PAY MORE FOR FORD LOANS?
A study commissioned by the claimants of a class-action lawsuit says Ford’s Hispanic customers are paying more for financing. The study of transactions from 1997-2001 claims that the average cost to Hispanic buyers amounts to $266 per loan, Reuters reports, mostly through markup costs not divulged to buyers. Customers with Hispanic last names were 6 percent less likely to qualify for low-interest loans as well, the news agency reports. Recently, a study of Nissan customers suggested that black customers were overcharged for their vehicles.

 

2002 Ford Thunderbird

2002 Ford Thunderbird

FORD REPLACING BELT LATCH ON T-BIRDS
Ford is recalling the ’02 Thunderbird to replace a part of the seatbelt assembly trim that could cut the belt during a collision. Ford says it will recall all ’02 Thunderbirds made before April 24 to replace a trim piece that cut a driver-side belt during a government crash test. Though the belt was only cut partway, Ford says it will replace the trim without being required to in a formal recall. The T-Bird scored a five-star side impact rating and four-star (driver) and five-star (passenger) ratings for frontal crashes in preliminary NHTSA tests.

 

Britney Spears

Britney Spears

COMING NEXT YEAR: BRITNEY DOES NASCAR
Just when you thought it might be safe to hit the multiplex, Hollywood producers are threatening to revisit NASCAR with a Days of Thunder-esque film starring post-teen heartthrob Britney Spears. ESPN.com reports that Spears will play the daughter of a NASCAR team owner in the film, which enters production in October. The Disney-owned Web site also reports the racing organization will have a direct hand in marketing the film; NASCAR vice president of broadcasting Paul Brooks tells ESPN that the film will help reach untapped fans because Spears “represents true Americana." NASCAR is expected to take a percentage of the $50 million film’s profits through licensing of its footage.

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