Monday, September 28, 2009

Diesel Legacy and Outback arrive

Subaru has expanded its All Wheel Drive Legacy and Outback model ranges with the launch of a diesel model of both cars to complement the 2010 new generation Legacy and Outback petrol models launched last month.

The two cars share the larger new generation Legacy and Outback chassis and body platform. They follow an initial launch of Legacy and Outback diesels late last year.

"The launch of our first ever Boxer Diesel models last year was a toe in the water exercise," said Graeme Woodlands, the Managing Director of Subaru of New Zealand.

"We were pleasantly surprised how well they were accepted by the market with sales from the two models about 15% of our sales over that period."

The cars come with officially measured overall fuel consumptions of between 5.9 and 6.4-litres per 100kms and meet Euro4 emission levels. Drivers can keep an eye on their progress with an economy gauge and the fuel consumption read out.

The Outback Boxer Diesel is one of the most economical 4WD SUVs available in New Zealand with fuel economy of just 6.4-litres per 100km. And the Legacy Boxer Diesel is one of the most economical medium sized diesel cars available locally with the Legacy 2.0D Sedan rated at 5.9 l/100km and the Legacy 2.0D Wagon rated at 6.1 l/100km.

The Outback 2.5i CVT petrol model recently launched last month was the most efficient petrol-powered Medium SUV in New Zealand. The Outback 2.0D Boxer Diesel model is now the most efficient diesel-powered Medium SUV in New Zealand according to official fuel economy figures. These results substantiate Outback as the leader for fuel economy in the Medium SUV class.

In fact, out of all the SUV's available in New Zealand the large and spacious Outback Boxer Diesel is only bettered by the Compact SUV-class Subaru Forester Boxer Diesel and Toyota's RAV-4 Diesel for fuel economy, both of which are substantially smaller vehicles.

All comparison figures above are taken from either the manufacturer's website or

Boxer Diesel Engine Enhancements

Since the original diesel engine models were introduced last year, changes have been made to the 2.0-litre motor to further reduce emissions, weight and NVH and improve fuel efficiency. The engine is still rated at 110 kWs at 3600 rpm, with 350 Nm of the all-important torque available from a lowly 1800 rpm.

The shape of the piston crowns have been changed and improvements to the gas flow within the combustion chamber. Ceramic glow plugs provide a better start up at cold temperatures.

Plastic is now used for the intake manifold to save weight and the common rail system has improved injectors and ECU.

A lift sensor has been added to the turbocharger to refine operation of the variable nozzle for more accurate control to improve emissions.

A single muffler exhaust system saves weight.

The exhaust oxidizing catalyst has been improved and a closed particulate filter reduces particulate matter in the exhaust gas for cleaner emissions.

Nitrous oxide gases have been reduced with the use of a larger exhaust gas recirculation cooler.

The charging capacity of the alternator has been increased to improve fuel efficiency.

All-new six-speed manual transmission

For the first time, a lightweight and efficient six-speed manual is mated to the 2.0-litre turbocharged Boxer Diesel engine. The same gearbox is fitted to both cars - Legacy and Outback.

It aids optimum fuel efficiency, improved drivability and a quieter ride at higher speeds, due to wider ratio coverage.

Use of a shift cable greatly improves feel and noise levels, while friction loss is reduced by optimising lubrication paths, leading to improved fuel efficiency.

Shift feel and noise levels are improved when selecting reverse due to gear structure changes, adopting constant-mesh synchromesh. A dual mass flywheel limits noise and reduces vibrations at low speed.

All-new look, size and comfort

The new Boxer Diesel Legacy and Outback have the same sleek new look as the new generation petrol engined models and offer outstanding handling, superb safety and greater space.

The unique Subaru All Wheel Drive system along with the low-slung Boxer engine, symmetrical drive train, new chassis and suspension, provides outstanding handling and control in all-weather all-road conditions.

The significantly larger, quieter cabin offers greater comfort, with better shoulder, head and legroom. The sedan boot in the Legacy has more luggage space and the wagon also has a greater capacity, with a wider opening.

Framed door windows provide greater noise suppression, more strength and security, while the new electronic park brake system allows a clean and sophisticated interior look. And wider opening doors provide easier access, particularly to the back seat.

The new single-cradle engine bay design reduces noise enhances safety and refines ride and stability.

Automatic on/off dusk-sensing headlights that respond to specific driving conditions and automatic rain-sensing windscreen wipers are standard on the diesel models.

Other nice touches include heated front seats, integrated Bluetooth, a 10-way power adjustable driver's seat with dual memory, and dual zone climate controlled air conditioning.

Outback has a quite substantial 213mm ground clearance - greater than many of its medium-SUV sized competitors. It also enhances its adventure credentials with long travel suspension and 17-inch wheels with Yokohama 225/60/R17 tyres.

Safety is not optional at Subaru. That's clearly demonstrated by the inclusion of dual front, dual front-side, and curtain SRS airbags, energy-absorbing engine cradle, ring-shaped reinforcement frame body and strategic strengthening of the body using high tensile steel and the Subaru tailored blank welding process.

That's all in addition to standard Electronic Stability Control and ABS brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist, anti-whiplash front seats, plus a raft of other detailed safety features that shows Subaru isn't resting on its laurels, despite being a leader in this field.

A 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating applies to both Legacy and Outback 2.0D Euro Boxer Diesels.

New generation Legacy and Outback have now achieved a global "Triple Crown" for safety, earning coveted 5-star ANCAP, 5-star Euro NCAP and Top Safety Pick in US NHTSA safety testing.

DataDot security is standard on all Subaru models. Over 8,000 microscopic dots with the vehicles unique VIN number are sprayed over all the major components of the vehicle. DataDot technology has proven highly effective in deterring criminals from stealing New Zealand new Subaru vehicles over the past five years since they were introduced. In fact, over that time, NZ new vehicles fitted with DataDots represent a tiny 0.34% of Subaru vehicle thefts - less than half of one percent. The overwhelming majority of Subaru thefts being Japanese used imports without the advanced immobiliser technology and DataDot security fitted to the New Zealand new cars.

The new generation Legacy Boxer Diesel is available in sedan and wagon for $48,990 and $50,490 respectively. The Outback diesel is tagged at $52,990.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tips on buying Japanese used cars

Japanese Used Cars are a popular choice with many UK motorists. This is because they have a reputation for being reliable and efficient. Makes such as Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Nissan, and Yamaha are all popular household names.

So how can you find Japanese used cars?

• There are Japanese used car auctions where you can look at the car you are interested in and make a bid for it;
• Motoring magazines and websites;
• Dealerships;
• Private ads;
• Specialist motoring websites that allow you to search for and compare Japanese used cars.

Once you have found several Japanese second hand cars that you like the look of, it is time to compare cars. Look at their features so that you can see which one best suits what you want. Look at:

• Mileage;
• Body work;
• How the car is internally – is the fabric on the seats damaged or torn anywhere?
• Is the engine clean?
• Does the current owner or dealership have all the relevant paperwork as well as details of any new parts / repairs?
• Whether there is any outstanding finance on the vehicle or any other skeleton’s in the closet. There are companies online that provide a vehicle data check that can give you all this information for what can be a reasonable fee.
• And, finally, the price! This can vary quite a lot depending on the condition of the vehicle of the vehicle and where you are buying it from. Compare prices on a like for like basis so that you get a true reflection of what is a realistic price to pay.

Once you are satisfied that the Japanese used car you are looking at is a serious contender, the next thing to do is to have a test drive. There is no point in falling in love with car only to find that it has a blind spot when driving or there is something else you don’t like about it, such as the storage.

Once you have test driven the car, you will either be back to square one, looking for a different make and model of Japanese used cars, or you’ll be doubly sure that this type of vehicle is the one for you.

Audi leads the high-demand vehicle list

Feel like driving Audi's posh new crossover, the $38,000 Q5? The signature Audi LED taillights and leather-cloaked interior, paired with a fast engine and car-like handling, do much to separate it from the pack of premium small SUVs.

But you'll have to be quick to get one. They've been selling just four days after they hit dealer lots, says Audi spokesman Christian Bokich--and that's not likely to change anytime soon.

Audi's other hot seller, the $52,400 S5 coupe, is also difficult to get, since it sells four times as fast as the average Audi vehicle. It sold 544 units in the U.S. last month, up 38% from July of last year. Overall year-to-date sales at Audi are slightly up over 2008 as well (down just 14.6% overall, versus negative 16% at this time last year), making it one of the strongest carmakers in the American market right now.

But Audi isn't the only manufacturer with several vehicles in high demand. Detroit has a fine showing with Chevrolet's super-hot Camaro, which is sold out virtually everywhere--its sales even topped those of the iconic Ford Mustang in July. Ford's Escape and Escape Hybrid also made our list of the cars that are most difficult to get this summer.

To compile our list, we used inventory data from Wards Auto, an automotive data and analysis firm based near Detroit. We calculated day-supply rates of 2009 and 2010 model-year vehicles for June and July to get an average figure for just how obtainable these cars are this summer. (Day-supply rates are inventory numbers divided by the daily selling rate that month.) Then we spoke with manufacturers to find out how long those cars are actually sitting on dealer lots.

How long a car sits on the lot provides more insight on why some day-supply rates are lower than others: Just because a car has a short day-supply doesn't necessarily mean it hasn't also sat on the lot for months. By the same token, premium and luxury automakers are careful about over-exposing some models to the public. Even if a vehicle like the Audi S5 is in high demand--which it always is--Audi won't drastically increase the number of units it makes. The idea is to balance accessibility with rarity; once an S5 becomes ubiquitous, it loses its luster.

"Production we keep very steady because the yo-yo stuff tends to put the production cycle off quite a bit," Bokich says. "We have worked very hard in the last few years to work on inventory management with our factory in Germany and other various factories."

Toyota, in particular, has several vehicles that have been popular over the summer, and for good reason. The automaker routinely ranks high in J.D. Power and Associates quality and dependability studies, and three of the 10 top-selling vehicles last month were made by Toyota: the Camry, the Corolla/Matrix (the wagon variant of the Corolla) and the Prius.

The $22,000 Prius is an obvious option for conscientious drivers, with its high fuel-efficiency (51 mpg in the city/48 mpg on the highway) and generous amount of storage space. Auto analysts say it has single-handedly refashioned Toyota's image from that of a company that builds unremarkable sedans to the go-to manufacturer for green living.

The $16,290 Matrix and $21,500 RAV4 also speak to a recurrent theme this year in sales: the popularity of compact crossover-type vehicles, especially of the premium variety. Jeff Schuster, the executive director for global forecasting and product analysis at J.D. Power and Associates, says the segment is the only one recognized by J.D. Power that reports a year-over-year increase in sales.

While these cars sold well this summer, the effect of the Cash for Clunkers program shouldn't be overlooked--it skewed inventory levels for both luxury and non-luxury manufacturers nationwide. Current inventory levels and day-supply rates contrast sharply with this past spring's sluggish auto sales.

As of Aug. 31, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Cash for Clunkers had removed more than 700,000 cars from the road, with rebate claims worth $2.9 billion total. That means automakers have had to respond accordingly. GM has announced it will boost production in the fourth quarter of the year; Ford is adding 10,000 units in the third quarter, mostly for the Ford Escape, ranked No. 9 on our list, and for the Focus. And Toyota says it will increase production of its most popular vehicles by 65,000 units in 2009.

Suzuki Alto 1.0 SZ4

something that's sensibly priced, is economical on fuel, has low road tax yet offers good interior space and is happy to cruise comfortably at motorway speeds.

Enter the new Suzuki Alto - priced from just £7,245.

The latest generation of Alto - the seventh - is curvaceously cute and boasts an abundance of kerbside appeal.

Soft flowing lines on the front wings and bonnet and teardrop shaped headlights give it a very distinctive 'face'.

The car is available in three different spec levels, the SZ2, SZ3 and SZ4, and all are five door and come with the same one-litre, three cylinder engine.

But while it may be small on CCs and cylinders this Suzuki engine is certainly a willing workhorse which is rarely found wanting.

With a slick five-speed gearbox it gives a very respectable account of itself both in the city and on the motorways, although you do have to work the gearbox on some long gradients if you have more than two people on board.

Having said that I encountered few pulling problems and certainly with just one or two people inside, the little car is well up to anything you might throw at it.

For a car of these dimensions the Alto offers generous space for front seat passengers and adequate leg room in the rear.

And while the Alto is small in size it's big on build quality. The doors close with the gentlest of pushes and a very up-market clunk.

Inside the little car is neat and well thought out with everything falling easily to hand. The dashboard is functional rather than flashy, although I did miss the lid on the open fronted glove box to stow things out of sight when leaving the car.

Boot space is fine for small bags but you would struggle with large suitcases and would have to drop the rear seat backs for extra space, although this is a very simple, one-handed job.

Although the Alto is built in India, design work for it was conducted by a team based at Suzuki's headquarters in Japan and involved extensive studies in Europe.

My SZ4 test car came with a host of refinements as standard, including electronic stability programme, 14-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps and five airbags, including a curtain airbag.

The Alto model was first introduced in Japan in 1979 to provide motorists with a city car which combined fun, practicality, affordability and low running costs.

Suzuki says that during the last 30 years, this ethos has been maintained, and these values remain at the heart of the new seventh generation Alto.

Certainly it would be hard to find a car which offers such value for money. A car which, despite its dimensions, feels very grown up.


Suzuki Alto 1.0 SZ4 5dr

Price: £8,460

Mechanical: 68bhp, 996cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox.

Max speed: 96mph

0-62mph: 13.5 seconds

Combined mpg: 64.2

Insurance group: 2

C02 emissions: 103g/km

BIK rating: 15%

Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Brazil: Honda City

Honda's subsidiary has just launched the City, its third model produced locally. It's a Fit-derived compact four-door sedan. According to the automaker, this is the third generation of a model range introduced in 1996, followed by the second one in 2000, but both restricted to Asia-Pacific markets. The third generation is focused on those markets and Latin America as well.

Power comes from the flexible-fuel 1.5-liter i-VTEC rated at 113 horsepower, mated to either a five-speed manual or the exclusive Hondamatic with helical gearsets instead of planetary gear. Sequential gearchange is provided, and the top version is fitted with paddle shifters. A torque converter locks up from 2nd to top gear.

Although not spectacular in terms of design, the City is a pleasant-looking car. Interior room and trunk space are outstanding for a vehicle this size, with a 100.4-inch wheelbase and 173.2-inch overall length. Rear seating is admirably spacious. Under the rear cushions are two useful, sizable drawers, made possible by the somewhat small 11.1-gallon fuel tank located up front under the front seats. Rear 40/60-split seatbacks are adjustable within a range of 8 degrees, a rare offer in the category. The trunk holds 17.9 cubic feet of luggage, considerably more than the sister Civic sedan's 12 cubic feet.

The Honda City is produced northwest of São Paulo at Honda's Sumaré plant, which opened in 2008 and also builds the Fit and the Civic sedan. Honda ranks 5th in the Brazil market, closely followed by Renault.

The LX retails for $30,800; the EX, $33,275; and the top EXL, $35,340. Automatic transmission adds $2,054 or $3,090 for the EXL, which has paddle shifters. For comparison, the base Civic LX M/T sells for $37,500. Market repositioning is expected soon to move the City away from the Civic's price territory.

Honda of Brazil forecasts selling 4,000 units monthly. The first exports will go to Argentina and Mexico, where it could eventually cross the border under NAFTA trade rules. Exports will wait for later, though, says Honda

Nissan Diesel, Mitsubishi Fuso To Integrate Bus Production Operations

Nissan Diesel Motor and Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp. (MFTBC ) have signed a letter of intent (LOI) to explore expansion of their relationship regarding the bus business, including the establishment of a joint venture company in the bus business.

To optimize participation in the bus market in Japan, the companies would integrate bus operations including planning, research & development, production and sales under the joint company. But both MFTBC and Nissan Diesel plan to continue to offer bus product lines under their own brands.

Albert Kirchmann, president & CEO of MFTBC, said: "MFTBC is one of the leading commercial vehicle manufacturers in Asia, and it has a strong market position in Japan. Through the potential cooperation with Nissan Diesel in the bus business, we plan to strengthen our joint position in the Japanese market. Through this cooperation we are responding to the structural changes and challenges of the bus business in Japan."

The companies already participate in an OEM supply agreement reached in July 2006, whereby MFTBC has supplied Nissan Diesel with tourist coaches and some city buses and Nissan Diesel has supplied MFTBC with mid-sized buses and non-step, large city buses since June 2007.

Used car dealers hurt by CARS

Several local used car dealers said they are having to pay more for the cars they buy and then pass the higher costs on to customers, and that their used car sales are down since the popular Cash for Clunkers program began.

The dealers said they believe these problems are because of the federal program, officially called the Cash Allowance Rebate System (CARS).

CARS, which ended Monday, offered car buyers rebates of $3,500 or $4,500 for trading in older vehicles for new, more fuel-efficient ones. The clunkers were taken off the road and crushed.

According to reports from The Associated Press, about 690,000 vehicles were sold during the program.

Gene Ward, owner and operator of Broadview Auto Sales in Martinsville, estimated that his used car sales are down 40 to 50 percent. For example, he said last week he had sold four cars so far in August compared with eight normally by the same time of the month.

Ward also estimated he is paying 15 to 20 percent more for the cars he buys to sell at his business. Because so many used cars are being crushed due to the CARS program, there is a smaller supply of used cars from which dealers can buy, which drives prices up for dealers, he said.

Marjorie Richards, owner and operator of Quality Motors in Martinsville, said CARS “has hurt us tremendously in being able to buy used cars.”

She agreed that because many used cars have been taken off the road and crushed in the CARS program, which decreased the supply of used cars, and the prices have risen.

Richards estimated that Quality Motors is having to pay $1,000 to $1,500 more per vehicle. She said it passes on about three-quarters of the extra cost to the customer and absorbs the rest.  Because of the high unemployment rate in this area, “we’ve had to drop back” to selling mostly mid-price vehicles in the $5,000 to $8,000 range, she said.

Seventy-five percent of $1,000 to $1,500 would amount to about a $750 to $1,125 extra cost for the customer.

Quality Motors sales are down about 25 percent since CARS began, Richards estimated.

Anthony Martin, owner and operator of ATM Motors Inc. in Martinsville, said he had not noticed any difference in his used car sales, but he estimated he is having to pay 10 to 15 percent more for used cars at auctions because there are fewer cars available. Since he is keeping his retail prices about the same, that means his profits will go down 10 to 15 percent, he estimated.

Danny Foley, a salesman at Foley’s Used Cars, a family business in Bassett, said, “It’s hurting used car sales, because everyone is going to new car sales” who can qualify. “It would be nice for the government to help us (used car dealers) sell cars. We could use the money, too.”

Foley guessed that sales are down about 35 percent at Foley’s Used Cars since the CARS program began, and he said the company is having to dip into savings to help make ends meet.

Some people traded in low-mileage vehicles and then bought new vehicles through CARS, Foley said. He said he saw a “super nice truck” with 87,000 miles traded in (and ultimately will be crushed) that “I wouldn’t have minded having” — a vehicle that probably could have been driven for years and many miles longer.

Roger Merricks, manager of Pugh’s Auto Sales in Martinsville, estimated his business is paying $200 to $500 more per vehicle because the supply has decreased, a cost that Pugh’s has to pass along to its customers. He also estimated that car sales at Pugh’s are down about 40 to 50 percent since CARS began.

Merricks expressed some of the same concerns — fewer used cars and higher prices — as some of the other used car dealers. He also said he thinks CARS will hurt automotive salvage yards because parts will be harder to come by since many vehicles are being crushed.

Barry Nelson, vice president of Nelson Automotive Family, said he believes that rather than hurting the used car business, CARS helped it and that used car sales have improved at Nelson Automotive Family dealerships.

He said he believes the decline in the supply of used cars now is due mainly to the fact that, when the economy slowed, auto manufacturing did as well. As a result, people bought more used cars then, reducing the supply now, he said.

But now the economy is improving, car manufacturers and suppliers are working more people, customers are buying after putting off car purchases for months, and the demand for new and used cars has improved, Nelson said.

Auto dealers: Show us the money

Darvish is vice president of Darcars Automotive Group of Silver Spring, whose dealershis have sold more than 1,500 vehicles through the federal government's Cash for Clunkers program, which ended this week after about a month. But reimbursement from the government has been slow.

So far, Darcars has received payment for only nine deals and had nine others approved, Darvish said this week. She's not too worried about eventually getting paid in full, but she wonders how long it will take.

"I don't believe the federal government will stick anyone," said Darvish, whose group has dealerships throughout suburban Maryland, plus some in Baltimore, Southern Maryland and Northern Virginia. "I think we will be fully reimbursed eventually."

The program allowed consumers to get $3,500 or $4,500 off the purchase or lease of a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle if they scrapped their old ones. That means Darcars is on the hook for at least several million dollars from the federal government.

Maryland auto dealers requested $74.9 million in vouchers for the initiative through the program's final day on Monday. That ranked 12th among states, up from 18th after the first week, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Nationally, rebate applications turned in were worth $2.88 billion. The program helped create or save 42,000 jobs in the second half of 2009, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

"Manufacturing plants have added shifts and recalled workers," he said. "Moribund showrooms were brought back to life, and consumers bought fuel efficient cars that will save them money and improve the environment."

The average combined fuel economy of the vehicles traded in was 15.8 miles per gallon, with the average fuel economy of vehicles purchased 24.9 mpg, according to federal figures. Four of the top five vehicles purchased are made by foreign manufacturers, led by the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. All of the top 10 vehicles traded in were American, led by the Ford Explorer and Ford F-150 pickup truck.

More than 2,000 workers are processing dealer applications for rebates, LaHood said.

Building back inventory

The rush of sales has cleared out inventory, and it will take a few weeks to build it back, Darvish said. But the program did get a lot of buyers into dealerships, she said.

Trade groups such as the National Automobile Dealers Association have called for more time for dealers to submit applications, citing computer glitches with the federal Web site.

Congress appropriated first $1 billion, then an additional $2 billion for the program, which was initially expected to run well into the fall.

The program has had its detractors, including used-car dealers. Simple vehicle maintenance would save consumers $30 billion, or more than 12 billion gallons of gasoline annually, much more than the projected savings through the clunkers program, according to the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association of Bethesda.

The group, which represents manufacturers and distributors of auto parts and service, opposed the program partly because it destroyed vehicles that in some cases had many years of life and hurts the aftermarket industry, officials said.

This story originally appeared in the Business Gazette.

Maryland auto dealers have requested $74.9 million in vouchers through the Cash for Clunkers program. That total ranked 12th nationally. States whose dealers are seeking more, in millions of dollars:

-California: $326.8

-Texas: $183.8

-New York: $156.3

-Florida: $146.6

-Illinois: $143.6

-Pennsylvania: $138.7

-Ohio: $136.3

-Michigan: $132.4

-New Jersey: $103.4

-Virginia: $98.5

-North Carolina: $78.6

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation