DAILY EDITION: Oct. 8, 2003

October 7, 2003

TCC'S DAILY EDITION: Oct. 8, 2003

NHTSA Establishes New Rollover Test

Federal safety regulators Tuesday announced a new test designed to better measure how likely cars, trucks, and sport-utility vehicles are to roll over during emergency driving conditions. But the new test is primarily directed at SUVs amidst a debate between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and safety advocates on one side and the auto industry and SUV lovers on the other, over whether SUVs that have displaced passenger cars in about one-quarter of U.S. households are more dangerous than cars.

The NHTSA, starting this month, will test vehicles for rollover risk based on how they do in a “real world” test, driving between 35 and 50 miles per hour in a straight line, turning and then turning abruptly in the opposite direction to mimic how a typical driver acts before most rollover accidents. It is referred to as the “fish hook” test, named after the shape of the vehicle’s test. The first batch of ratings will be announced by January.

Until now, the agency rated rollover risk according to a star-system based simply on a mathematical formula, called the ‘Static Stability Test,’ based on the vehicle’s size, weight, and center of gravity. Pickup trucks and SUVs rate worse than cars because of their especially high center of gravity. The star-ratings for 2004 vehicles will now be based on a combination of the static test and the new ‘real world’ results.

Congress ordered the new test in the 2000 TREAD Act, made law as millions of Firestone tires were being recalled and blamed in part for causing at least 271 deaths in rollover accidents with Ford Explorers.

Automakers have long complained that the static test didn’t accurately measure rollover risk, failing to consider suspension improvements, tire sizes, and stability control systems. NHTSA administrator Jeffrey Runge defended the accuracy of the static tests in predicting rollover risk, but said the new system will “better inform consumers about the risks of rollovers in certain vehicles.”

In 2002, 10,666 people were killed in rollover crashes, up five percent from 2001. While rollover crashes only accounted for 2.5 percent of all crashes, 22 percent of fatal crashes involve a rollover. While just 23 percent of fatal crashes in a passenger car results from a rollover, 61 percent of fatal crashes in an SUV is from a rollover.

Defenders of SUVs, which have been targeted by advocacy groups for poor fuel economy, rollover risk and threatening owners of small cars in accidents, say they do not oppose the new NHTSA test, but say statistics that demonize SUVs are misleading. “Real-world crash data shows 97.5 percent are front, rear and side collisions, and in such crashes, SUVs are much safer than passenger cars,” says SUV Owners of America president Jason Vines.

Too, automakers are increasingly offering “stability control” systems, which combine brakes and steering systems to stabilize a vehicle in an emergency driving event, as options or standard equipment. NHTSA demonstrated its new test on a 2000 Toyota 4Runner without a stability system, showing the SUV would have rolled over going just 35 miles per hour. The redesigned 2003 4Runner — wider and longer than the old model and with a stability system — kept all four wheels on the ground up to 50 miles per hour. Toyota spokesman John Hanson said the 2000 4Runner was based on “1990 technology, and we have not only made huge improvements but stability control is standard on all our SUVs.”

“The Toyotas we used today show the market is already responding to the need, and the new ratings will prompt more automakers to design safer vehicles and make stability systems standard,” said Runge. Edmunds.com says of 419 SUVs offered in 2004, 75 percent still don’t offer a stability control system, while 11 percent offer it standard and 14 percent offer it as an option. —Jim Burt

Recall, Rollover and Safety Info by TCC Team (10/6/2003)
Search the government's databases for safety info on your car.

Power Finds Europeans APEAL-ing

J.D. Power’s latest survey finds that folks who shop for non-luxury new vehicles like European brands the best — and those who shop for luxury cars and trucks like the Japanese. The 2003 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) StudySM, which measures satisfaction with interior and exterior styling and various levels of performance, discovered that non-luxury Eurobrands lead in exterior styling and ride, handling, and braking. Luxury Japanese brands pleased the same group of people when it came to interior styling, sound systems, and seats. And as new vehicles replace older ones, the survey found that many of them — including the Mazda6, Land Rover Range Rover, and the Toyota Sienna — far exceed the customer’s expectations based on the models they replaced. Toyota placed four models at the top of their segments; Porsche was the top-ranked brand in the survey of 102,975 new-vehicle owners. Find out more on the survey at www.jdpower.com.

Porsche, Lexus Top Power Reliability by Jim Burt (7/14/2003)
Mercedes, Kia suffer as Power's new three-year rankings put GM above average for the first time.

Spy Shots: ’05 Cadillac STS

2005 Cadillac STS

2005 Cadillac STS

Although still draped in camouflage, these are the best pictures available of the upcoming 2005 Seville replacement, the STS. These photos show great detail of the front-end styling, with an uncamouflaged grille and headlamps, as well as overall dimensions and size. Testing under the codename S6S, the rear wheel drive Sigma-based STS will be powered by a tweaked 4.2-liter Northstar V-8 with more than 300 hp. Among other bells and whistles, Cadillac’s flagship sedan will be equipped with Magnetic Ride Control.

Spy Shots: ‘05 Cadillac STS by Brenda Priddy (10/6/2003)
Caddy ups the ante in the post-Seville era.

Spy Shots: ’05 Porsche Cayenne Targa

2005 Porsche Cayenne Targa

2005 Porsche Cayenne Targa

Porsche is about to extend the Cayenne model range by two more variants. Within shortly the Cayenne will be available also with a six-cylinder engine, which Porsche bought from Volkswagen and adapted to Porsche standards. With this, the sports car manufacturer hopes to sell an additional 5000 to 10,000 units. However, this is not all. As can be seen from these photos, there is also a Targa version of the Cayenne in the pipeline. Clearly visible on the prototype shots is the large glass roof, which is still hidden under some plastic coating. The pictures of the SUV were taken during high-speed testing at Nürburgring.

Spy Shots: ’05 Porsche Cayenne Targa by Hans Lehmann/Hidden Image (10/6/2003)
Opening the Cayenne to the great outdoors.

DAILY IN DEPTH

Doubled Tax Break Urged for Hybrid Buyers

Hybrid-engine vehicle buyers will raise their tax break from $2000 to about $4000 if a coalition of GM, Ford, and Japanese automakers win their campaign in Congress. The initiative would change the form of the hybrid-vehicle sales incentive from a tax deduction to a more generous tax credit. As reported in the Oakland Press (October 5), it would also include pickup trucks that have some hybrid components, such as those in some Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks GM began selling to fleets this year.

According to the Scripps Howard News story, House Republicans have threatened to kill the credit if it isn’t broadened to include the truck components. Hybrid purchasers already qualify for a $2000 tax deduction on the only gas-electric cars sold at the current time — the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic and Insight. These cars, soon to be upgraded by a 2nd-generation Prius, which is larger and more powerful, sell for about $20,000. The proposed $4000 tax credit has a “sliding scale” that varies according to how much energy a particular model saves, how much pollution it emits and how much of a technological advance it represents.

No additional hybrid-engine vehicles will be marketed until next year, when the Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute SUVs will be introduced, to be followed in 2005 by GM’s Saturn Vue SUV and the Silverado and Sierra in a complete hybrid-engine configuration. The new Prius is projected to deliver about 55 mpg, and the Vue 40 mpg. Toyota said over the weekend that its U.S. dealers have received 17,000 sold orders for the 2004-model Prius. January-September sales of the Toyota hybrid-powertrain sedan rose 33.5 percent from the 2002 nine-month period to 14,598 in the U.S. —Mac Gordon

2004 Toyota Prius by John Pearley Huffman (8/25/2003)
As close as Toyota comes to making a Ferrari.

FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases

PRNewswire

Since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced this past spring that highway fatalities had increased from 2001 to 2002, and that the increase in vehicle occupant deaths was “mostly attributable to SUVs,” the public has been led to wrong conclusions about SUV safety. SUVs and other light trucks were named as the main culprits for the increase in deaths, with rollovers being a major factor in the higher number of fatalities. But the data was incomplete, as the increase in number of deaths does not take into consideration the parallel increase in vehicle miles traveled or the number of vehicles on the road. In fact, there were an estimated three million more SUVs on the road in 2002 over 2001, and more of a particular type of vehicle on the road translates to a higher frequency of everything related to that vehicle — from vehicle miles traveled to fatalities to the number of cup holders.

Ralph V. Gilles and Michael F. Milad, two Chrysler Group executives, will be honored by the Automotive Hall of Fame 2003 with the Young Leadership and Excellence Awards. They will be inducted to the Automotive Hall of Fame as two of four Young Leadership and Excellence recipients tonight during the annual Automotive Fame Induction and Awards Celebration at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Dearborn, Michigan.


THE TICKER

Name Symbol Last Chg
AUTOLIV ALV 31.60 -0.01
AUTONATION INC AN 18.60 +0.12
ARVINMERITOR ARM 18.06 +0.05
AMER AXLE & MANU AXL 31.10 -0.08
BALLARD PWR SYS BLDP 14.83 +0.21
BORG WARNER BWA 75.33 +0.83
COLLINS AIKMAN CKC 2.49 +0.05
CUMMINS INC CUM 50.53 +1.03
DANA CORP DCN 15.70 +0.15
DAIMLERCHRYSLER DCX 35.45 -0.49
DELPHI CORP DPH 9.12 -0.14
EATON CORP ETN 95.87 +0.55
FORD MOTOR CO F 11.42 +0.03
GENERAL MOTORS GM 42.10 +0.28
GENTEX CORP GNTX 37.44 +0.36
GOODYEAR TIRE GT 7.20 +0.29
HONDA MOTOR CO HMC 21.09 +0.25
JOHNSON CONTROLS JCI 101.14 +1.20
LEAR CORP LEA 58.06 +0.43
MAGNA INTNL MGA 75.11 -0.34
MOTOROLA INC MOT 14.06 +0.56
NISSAN MOTORS NSANY 23.12 +0.50
SONIC AUTOMOTIVE SAH 27.36 +0.28
TOWER AUTO TWR 4.71 -0.19
TOYOTA MOTOR TM 63.00 -0.05
UNIT AUTO GRP UAG 27.15 +0.37
VISTEON CORP VC 6.82 -0.03

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