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KBB Announces 2017 Best Buy Awards


IRVINE, Calif. — Kelley Blue Book today announced the winners of its 2017 Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards. The 2017 Honda Civic was named the Overall Best Buy of 2017, however, 11 other vehicles also took top honors for their respective categories.

“Kelley Blue Book editors went to the unprecedented choice of honoring the Honda Civic as the Overall Best Buy for the second year in a row because of the Civic’s unsurpassed all-around value,” said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for KBB.com. “It turns in very high marks in objective measures like resale value and cost to own, yet it also is a supremely satisfying car to drive and live with every day.”

Overall, the Honda brand took home four awards, with its new Civic also winning in the small car category. The Honda Accord and Pilot also won in the mid-size car and mid-size SUV/crossover categories, respectively.

The Chevrolet brand received the second-most Best Buy awards, with its Impala winning in the full-size car category and the automaker’s Tahoe winning in the full-size SUV/crossover category.

The 2017 Audi A4 was named the Best Buy in the luxury car segment, while the 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster took top honors in the sports/performance car segment. The best electric/hybrid was the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime.

In the small SUV/ crossover category, the 2017 Kia Sportage emerged as KBB’s Best Buy. In the luxury SUV/ crossover category, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC was honored with the top award. And for the third year in a row, Ford’s F-150 received KBB’s Best Buy award.

Lastly, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica received the best buy award for the minivan category.

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Exclusive: U.S., Major Automakers to Announce Safety Accord Friday


The U.S. government and a group of global automakers are set to unveil a voluntary agreement at the Detroit auto show on Friday aimed at improving auto industry safety and spurring culture changes, according to company and government officials.

The accord could set the framework for further discussions on safety reforms and mark a new era of cooperation between automakers and regulators after a record-setting year of safety fines, recalls and investigations into malfunctioning vehicles made by General Motors Co, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Honda Motor Co and others.

But it stops short of what many safety advocates have urged Congress and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to adopt: new binding legal requirements to toughen safety rules. And automakers may be able to raise the voluntary agreement to argue against future proposed regulations, saying the accord makes legally binding rules unnecessary.

 The agreement, under discussion for several weeks, would also attempt to improve vehicle cyber security and the use of early warning data to detect potential defects that might lead to safety problems or large-scale recalls, sources said. It would also create new government-industry task forces to work to improve auto safety.

Despite the voluntary agreement, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said the agency will not hesitate to fine automakers that fail to follow the rules and will not give up its aggressive enforcement of auto safety rules.

Automakers recalled a record-setting 63.95 million vehicles in the United States in 2014, incurring large fines from NHTSA.

Companies in the talks leading up to the agreement include GM, Toyota Motor Corp, Ford Motor Co, Daimler AG, Fiat Chrysler, BMW AG, Honda, Nissan Motor Co and Hyundai Motor Co.

The agreement is to be announced at the auto show in the U.S. auto capital of Detroit by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and top auto executives, sources told Reuters.

In a letter last week to the NHTSA seen by Reuters, the group of 16 automakers said industry support of an agreement “reaffirms our shared commitment to safety, and signals to the public the areas in which government and industry intend to collaborate to further improve automotive safety.”

Automakers met with the NHTSA in Chicago on Dec. 16 and since then exchanged proposed “Principles for Working Collaboratively to Enhance Motor Vehicle and Traffic Safety.”

In recent days, NHTSA and automakers have continued to propose revisions, including discussions about government-industry working groups, according to auto industry officials who spoke to Reuters at the Detroit show.

The talks come after NHTSA came under intense criticism in 2014 for failing to detect ignition switch defects in 2.6 million older GM cars linked to at least 124 deaths. Since then, NHTSA has been more aggressive in handing out fines and demanding outside monitors oversee automaker safety compliance.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said on Monday in an interview on the sidelines of the Detroit show that the agency cannot make vehicles safe simply by imposing new regulations and handing down fines. He said he hoped a deal would be announced Friday.

“We’re going to have to find new tools – that means new collaborations, new partnerships,” Rosekind said.

But the voluntary agreement will not be enforceable – and is not as tough as what some safety advocates have called for. With only a year remaining in the Obama administration, there is a shrinking window to complete new legally binding auto safety rules.

Sean Kane, president of Massachusetts-based Safety Research & Strategies Inc and an auto safety advocate, praised NHTSA “for having a dialogue” with automakers and prodding them to do more on safety “and be strong on enforcement.”

Kane raised concerns about a voluntary agreement that is not legally enforceable. “It also eliminates input from outside parties” like safety advocates and consumers, Kane said, “and that is a little troubling.”

Foxx met with top executives from major automakers on Dec. 1 in Washington. A spokeswoman for Foxx said there have since then been “productive discussions with auto manufacturers toward agreement on steps to bolster safety.”

Foxx “is hopeful that they will soon result in concrete commitments that lead to significant safety improvements that will strengthen public confidence,” said his spokeswoman.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said on Monday he agreed with the NHTSA that the auto industry needs more collaboration with regulators. He said he wanted the industry to “get to a stage where safety is no longer a competitive edge used by one automaker against another.”

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New-Vehicle Registrations Return to Prerecession Levels


SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — New-vehicle registration volumes for light-duty vehicles reached the highest point in nine years, with more than 17 million new vehicles registered within the United States between Nov. 1, 2014 and Oct. 31, 2015, according to Experian Automotive.

The highest number of new registration volumes on record was 17.4 million in 2006, while the lowest point was during the Great Recession, when volumes fell to 10.2 million in 2009.

“It’s encouraging to see new registrations return to prerecession levels, with lower interest and higher employment rates driving vehicle demand,” said Brad Smith, Experian’s director of automotive market statistics. “While I’m sure the auto industry would like to continue this growth annually, it is important to continually monitor data trends and economic indicators to identify shifts in demand and adjust business strategies accordingly.”

Experian’s data also revealed a shift in what consumers are buying, with crossover utility vehicles now accounting for nearly 24% of the market this year — up more than 100% from 2006.

“The crossover utility vehicle segment, with popular entries like the Ford Escape, the Honda CR-V, the Chevrolet Equinox and the Toyota RAV4, provides consumers with a nice balance between utilitarian need and fuel economy,” Smith added. “All-wheel drive versions and roof racks provide the recreational sportsman with the fit and function needed for weekend getaways, while the rear hatch makes these vehicles a viable grocery-getter as well.”

The Top Five brands by market share during the reporting period were Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Honda and Nissan. They accounted for 54% of the 17 million new-vehicle registrations. By model, the Ford F-150 led the way with a 2.9% share of the market, followed closely by the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and Toyota Camry with shares of 2.6% and 2.5%, respectively. The Toyota Corolla, Honda CR-V and Honda Accord tied for fourth with shares of 2.1%.

States leading the way in new-vehicle registrations were California (11.8% share), Texas (9.2%), Florida (7.6%), New York (6%), Illinois (4%).

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Congress Sets Hearing on Takata, Automakers Expand Recalls


Five automakers on Thursday widened recalls of cars and trucks with Takata Corp air bags and the U.S. Congress set a hearing next week on the safety issue that has been linked to six deaths, reported Reuters.

Takata last week complied with demands of U.S. safety regulators and doubled the vehicles to be involved in air bag recalls to 34 million, making it the largest recall in American history. The total number globally is more than 53 million vehicles.

The air bags are at risk of exploding with too much force and spewing metal fragments inside the car, regulators say. All six deaths linked to the problem were in Honda Motor Co Ltd vehicles.

The recalls announced on Thursday by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Honda, BMW, Ford Motor Co and Mitsubishi Motors Corp are included in the figures issued last week by Takata and U.S. regulator the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Automakers, regulators and Takata have yet to identify the root cause of the problem.

A hearing billed as an update on the Takata safety issue will be held next Tuesday afternoon by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.

U.S. Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, said on Thursday: “When an air bag – a device built to enhance motorist safety – is actually putting families in peril, we can’t wait years for a fix.”

U.S. lawmakers have complained that both Takata and NHTSA were mishandling the air bag safety issue. NHTSA has tried to show its bite under new head Mark Rosekind, who took the helm in January.

Rosekind will appear before the subcommittee next week. The panel will also hear from Takata Executive Vice President Kevin Kennedy, two leaders of automaker lobbying groups and the director of an independent testing organization.

Fiat Chrysler on Thursday expanded its recalls of vehicles with Takata air bags to about 5.22 million worldwide, involving the 2003 to 2011 model years. About 4.5 million of those vehicles are in the United States. Most of the vehicles have been involved in previous recall campaigns, FCA said.

Ford widened its recall of vehicles with Takata air bags to 1.51 million vehicles globally, including 1.38 million in the United States. The worldwide figure is up from 543,031 before last week’s announcements by NHTSA and Takata, Ford said.

Honda expanded its recall of vehicles with Takata air bag inflators by 350,000 in the United States and 340,000 in Japan.

Since 2008, Honda has recalled about 20 million vehicles worldwide with Takata air bag parts.

BMW said it is widening U.S. recalls of models with Takata air bags to 420,661 vehicles from 140,696.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp widened its recall of vehicles with Takata air bags to 82,784 in the U.S. market.

Nissan Motor Co told NHTSA that it will not expand its recall of U.S. recalls equipped with Takata air bags.

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Honda Expands Air Bag Recall After Takata Complies with U.S. Order


TOKYO – Honda Motor Co called back about 690,000 cars in Japan and the United States to replace air bag inflators made by Takata Corp after the Tokyo-based parts supplier last week agreed to comply with U.S. orders to expand some of its previous recalls, reports Reuters.

Honda, Japan’s third-biggest automaker, disclosed the recall in filings in Tokyo and Washington.

Of the recalls announced on Thursday, about 350,000 are of vehicles registered in the United States and 340,000 are in Japan, Honda said.

Honda had just expanded its Takata-related recalls by nearly 5 million cars earlier this month to about 20 million vehicles worldwide since 2008. The move came after its own investigations found two new problems with inflators it had retrieved for sampling. The root cause of those defects is unknown.

In Canada, Honda did not widen previous recalls involving just over 700,000 vehicles, but will issue fresh correspondence reminding consumers of the safety issue, the company’s Canadian branch said on Thursday.

Takata is at the center of a global recall of tens of millions of cars for potentially deadly air bag inflators that could deploy with too much force and spray metal fragments inside vehicles. Regulators have linked six deaths to the component so far, all on Honda’s cars.

After months of resisting, Takata last week agreed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to roughly double its U.S.-based recall to 34 million vehicles spanning 11 automakers, including more models and years of production.

Honda said the latest recall in Japan includes about 80,000 cars fitted with driver-side air bag inflators that had been part of a previous recall, but which had not yet been collected.

Another 260,000 cars would be added to replace passenger-side air bag inflators in Japan, with more to follow overseas, Honda said.

The automaker will source replacement inflators for the additional recalls from Takata, as well as rivals Autoliv Inc, TRW Automotive [TRWTA.UL], and Daicel Corp, it said. Earlier this year, Michigan-based TRW was acquired by Germany’s ZF Friedrichshafen.

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Takata Air Bag Recall Expands to Record 34 Million Vehicles


As part of an agreement with Takata, federal regulators expanded the recall of vehicles equipped with the company’s air bags to 33.8 million in the U.S., making it the largest safety recall in the nation’s history, reports Detroit Free Press.

The move essentially doubles the number of vehicles being recalled to replace potentially lethal air bags made by the Japanese supplier. At least six people have died and more than 100 have been injured from shards of metal from exploding air bags.

Takata, for its part, officially acknowledged the defects for the first time on Tuesday, even though 17 million vehicles with its air bags already have been recalled.

Mark Rosekind, recently appointed administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said no one knows how long it could take to fix the vehicles, but “it could take some years. … We intend to make sure at the end of this process there is a safe airbag in every vehicle.”

The NHTSA recall now involves 11 automakers, including the Detroit Three, most affecting 2002 through 2008 model years. Takata is partly owned by Honda, which has the highest percentage of recalled vehicles. The total number could change as automakers sift through the specs of all of their models to determine which ones contain any of the four defective inflators, which activate the air bags in a collision.

Many consumers will have to drive their vehicles for a long time before the parts are available to fix them, with the industry unable to manufacture replacement bags fast enough. They could also be waiting months for the notification their vehicle is subject to recall because automakers must prioritize vehicles at most risk based on their age and geographic location

The announcement is the second example in as many days of Rosekind cracking down on automakers to address safety on U.S. roads. On Monday, Rosekind announced he has scheduled a hearing in July for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to explain their slow response in completing repairs in 20 different recalls.

NHTSA has been pushing for Takata to expand its air bag recall. Automakers had recalled about 17 million vehicles, many of them from Honda. The latest move largely makes this a national recall of vehicles from 11 automakers with vehicles that potentially have faulty inflators in the driver or passenger-side air bag.

“Up until now Takata has refused to acknowledge that their airbags are defective, that changes today,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Takata has agreed to declare their air bag inflators are defective.”

Takata Chairman Shigehisa Takada, in a statement, said, “We are pleased to have reached this agreement with NHTSA, which presents a clear path forward to advancing safety and restoring the trust of automakers and the driving public.”

The supplier has also agreed to enter into a consent order with NHTSA to supply all related documents and information about the defective airbags and pledged full cooperation going forward.

In return, NHTSA has suspended more than $1 million in accumulated fines — $14,000 per day since February — for not responding to all NHTSA’s inquiries. The agency has not ruled out more fines in the future and there could be further civil penalties.

Initially the exploding air bags were considered a problem only in hot and humid climates but the recall has been expanded nationally as Takata and affected automakers continue to try to identify the root cause of the problem so they can fix it.

The recall has also expanded to cover both driver and passenger side air bags in more vehicles and regions.

Automakers with affected vehicles include Honda, Toyota, Ford, BMW, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and the newly added Daimler Trucks. The automakers formed a coalition and hired independent engineering firm Orbital ATK to try to find the cause of the exploding air bags. Their investigation is in addition to those being conducted by NHTSA and Takata in an industry-wide effort to find the reason for the defect to make sure it is fixed properly.

NHTSA also is opening its own testing program to focus on ensuring the remedy is completely safe. Rosekind said while the replacement air bags are safer than the ones they replace, he cannot guarantee their long-term safety at this time.

“We are doing our best to keep focused on the investigation,” said former NHTSA Administrator David Kelly who was hired to oversee the investigation by the automakers. Efforts to determine the root cause are still in the early stages of testing, he said.

Safety officials warn consumers to keep checking their vehicle VIN number on the www.safercar.gov website because even some of the vehicles previously fixed – or excluded in the past — could be back on the recall list in the future.

Consumer who receive recall notices should call their dealer immediately.

“Folks shouldn’t have to drive around wondering if their airbag is going to explode in their face or if their car is going to be on another recall list,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee and a key figure in a congressional probe into the defective airbags. “We’ve seen the recall list double now to 30 million cars. Let’s hope Takata’s admissions today tells us the whole story.”

Rich Newsome, an attorney representing seven victims of faulty Takata air bags, including Corey Burdick, a Florida man disfigured and blinded in one eye by shrapnel from an exploding air bag in May, called it a victory for consumer protection.

But, he said, “today’s expanded recall is already too little, too late for people injured and their families. Hopefully today’s news will push the agenda for recall reform to the forefront and result in legislation that will help NHTSA identify these kinds of defects before regular families with defective cars are needlessly harmed in the future.”

Automakers say they will continue to work with NHTSA and share test results. Honda said many of the recalls announced Monday already were included in previous safety campaigns and the automaker is “reviewing the information released (Monday) to determine what new actions may be required.”

Honda owners can check their recall status at www.recalls.honda.com or call 800-999-1009. Acura owners should go to www.recalls.acura.com or call 800-382-2238 and press option 4.

“A recall of this scope illustrates the potential for massive automaker expense and consumer inconvenience when a common, mass-produced part is defective,” said Karl Brauer, analyst with Kelley Blue Book.

“While this is the largest consumer recall in history it’s likely we’ll see future vehicle recalls of similar, if not larger, size as the automotive industry becomes more globalized.” Brauer said.

Takata boosted production to 450,000 replacement kits per month in March, up from 350,000. Other suppliers are also ramping up capacity to meet the demand the recall has created as the industry works to address the problem collectively.

Autoliv, another global supplier of airbags, said Tuesday it could make more airbag inflators than it has already promised to the industry.

In January, Autoliv committed to providing several automakers with as many as 25 million airbag inflators and could begin delivering them later this year.

“Our focus has really been to help the industry and the customers in this situation and clearly if we would be asked to supply more we would work to do that as rapidly as we could,” said Thomas Jonsson, spokesman for Autoliv.

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