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Toyota recalls 7.43 million vehicles Reputation for quality has been hurt by reliability problems

By Yuri Kageyama Associated Press

TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp. is recalling 7.43 million vehicles in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world for a faulty powerwindow switch — the lat-

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est, massive quality woes for Japan’s top automaker. The recall announced Wednesday affects more than a dozen models produced from 2005 through 2010. The power-window switch on the driver’s side didn’t have grease applied

evenly during production, causing friction in the switch and sometimes smoke, according to Toyota. No crashes or injuries have been reported related to the defect. But more than 200 problems were

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Dodge joining mileage war

The Aero will compete with successful eco cars like Prius and Volt USA Today

Ford, General Motors and others now have “eco” versions of their compact cars: models that squeeze out higher gas mileage ratings with special tires, aerodynamics and other tricks. Now Chrysler’s new Dodge Dart compact will have one, too. At $20,090, including $795 shipping, the Dodge Dart Aero model will be less than the 2013 Chevrolet Cruze Eco ($20,475) and the 2013 Ford Focus SFE ($20,185), but more than the 2013 Mazda3 with Skyactiv ($19,170). Its fuel-saving features include lighter aluminum chassis components, grille shutters that close at speed, underbody aerodynamic panels and low-resistance tires. The Aero is rated 28 miles per gallon city, 41 highway and 32 combined with the manual transmission, 28/40/32 with automatic. However, it only will achieve these figures sipping premium gasoline, which may be a detractor for many compact-car shoppers. The Aero gets about the same fuel economy with an automatic as the Cruze Eco (26/39 mpg), Ford Focus SFE (28/40 mpg) and Mazda3 Skyactiv (28/40 mpg). It also will be about the same as the Hyundai Elantra, which offers 29/40 on all its models.

The Honda Civic Natural Gas model is seen at one of the Clean Energy natural-gas fueling stations in Southern California. HONDA

Prius now No. 2 plug-in The plug-in version of the Toyota Prius hybrid, which can go up to 11 miles just on electricity, is only on sale so far in 15 coastal states — the rest don’t get it until next year — and already it is humming along, with sales of 7,734 through September this year. That puts it comfortably in second place among cars with a plug, behind only the Chevy Volt (16,348 through nine months) and ahead of

the battery-only electric Nissan Leaf (5,212). The Prius Plug-in went on sale last fall and last spring was among the fastest-selling cars in the U.S. In some months, it even outpaced the Volt.

CNG Civic’s $3,000 deal As if paying $2 a gallon isn’t enough, Honda is throwing in $3,000 worth of fuel with its Civic Natural Gas sedans. Buyers get a $3,000 debit card good at


the Clean Energy chain of 40 public fueling stations in Southern California and 160 nationwide. Honda says natural gas prices vary at Clean Energy stations but were equal to $2.19 per gallon of gasoline in Anaheim, Calif., this week, less than half the price of regular gas. The giveaway will go a long way toward closing the price gap. The CNG Civic starts at $26,305, or $5,650 more than a comparable Civic EX gasoline model.

LEASING WARS GM fought back against Toyota’s Prius Plug-in with Volt leases as low as $269 a month for three years with roughly $2,800 down, and the 2013 Volt now leases for $299 a month. Toyota undercuts that today with leases as low as $269 in some areas on the 2012 Prius Plug-in for as much as $3,599 at signing. But the Nissan Leaf still offers the best deal for leasing with one starting at $199 a month.

Fire risk spurs Honda recall Dee-ann Durbin Associated Press

DETROIT — Honda Motor Co. is recalling CR-V crossovers from the 2002 to 2006 model years because an electrical switch in the driver’s side door could melt and cause a fire. Honda and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the recall Saturday. The problem involves around 268,000 vehicles. Honda said rain or other liquids could enter through a driver’s open window and damage the master power switch on the door. If that happens, the switch could overheat and melt, causing a fire. NHTSA said owners should park CR-Vs from those model years outside until the recall is performed to avoid any property damage from a fire. A fire could start even when the ignition is off and the CR-V is parked. But Honda said it isn’t necessary to park the vehicles outside. The switch can be seriously damaged only if someone spills liquid onto it or lets a large quantity of rain water into the car through the driver’s side window, Honda spokesman Ed Miller said. Customers concerned that their switches may have been damaged that way can ask a dealer to inspect their cars. Most vehicles will only need to have a cover plate installed inside the switch to pre-

Honda Motor Co. is recalling CR-V crossovers from the 2002 to 2006 model years because an electrical switch in the driver’s side door could melt and cause a fire. The problem involves around 268,000 vehicles AFP/GETTY IMAGES

vent any liquid from coming in, Miller said. Honda said owners have reported four fires but no injuries or crashes associated with the issue. The company will begin contacting owners next month and will repair the vehicles for free. It was the third major recall this week for the Japanese automaker, which usually sits near the

top in J.D. Power and Associates’ annual rankings of vehicle quality. Earlier this week, the company said it was recalling 820,000 Civic compact and Pilot SUVs from the 2002 through 2004 model years because the headlights can fail. CR-Vs were recalled earlier this spring for that same issue. Honda also said this week that it’s recalling 600,000 Accord mid-

size cars because a faulty power steering house can leak and cause a fire. That recall affects Accords with V6 engines from the 2003 to 2007 model years. NHTSA also announced earlier this week that it’s investigating complaints that Honda Odyssey minivans and Pilot SUVs can roll away after drivers remove the ignition key.

Toyota A faulty window power-window switch used in more than a dozen Toyota models built from 2005 through 2010 may produce smoke, but no injuries have been reported. DAVID ZALUBOWSKI/AP

Continued » 1D

ica are the Yaris, Corolla, Matrix, Camry, RAV4, Highlander, Tundra, Sequoia and Scion models xB and xD, spanning 2.47 million vehicles. Toyota has been trying to fix its reputation after a series of massive recalls of 14 million vehicles over several years. Before that, Toyota had

boasted a reputation for pristine quality, centered around its super-lean production methods that empowered workers to hone in on quality control. Toyota executives have acknowledged the escalating recalls were partly caused by the company’s overly ambitious growth goals. Toyota is also suffering from a sales plunge in China where car buyers are shunning Japanese brands because of a territorial dispute over islands claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan.


Car navigation options grow more affordable

Automakers are increasingly integrating GPS into built-in displays By Chris Woodyard USA Today

Automakers are starting to find ways to bring satellite navigation to their cheaper cars with integrated systems that are much cheaper than fancy in-dash models costing upward of $1,500. The latest is General Motors’ partnership on a smartphone app called BringGo for the Chevrolet Spark, the company’s cheapest car, that went on sale in July starting at $12,995 with shipping. The $50 app lets a buyer integrate BringGo’s digital maps and turn-by-turn directions to the indash screen. “It gives our Spark customers the safety and functionality of a more expensive navigation system,” said Sara LeBlanc, General Motors’ global infotainment manager. Options from other automakers: » Turn-by-turn. Ford introduced a smartphone app last month that offers spoken turn-by-turn directions. TeleNav’s Scout app works with Ford’s Sync AppLink system. It also warns about traffic jams and gives estimated travel times. It’s in addition to Sync Services that comes with Ford’s Sync system and also gives turn-by-turn directions. Neither, however, displays a map on the car’s screen. » Buy later. On its new CX-5 crossover, Mazda doesn’t require buyers to take navigation at the time of purchase. At any time they can buy a $499 TomTom accessory module that installs behind a panel in the console and uses the dash screen. “You pop it in and it looks like you have an integrated naviga-

The new BringGo smartphone navigation app lets owners of the Chevrolet Spark integrate digital maps and turn-by-turn directions into the car’s in-dash screen. BRIAN KERSEY/CHEVROLET

tion system in your dash,” spokesman Eric Booth said. GM’s decision to integrate the BringGo app not only solves the problem of how to bring navigation to economy cars, but also offers buyers a system that won’t get out of date. An app is easier to update


than hardware. BringGo has some advantages over other smartphone-based navigation systems. It can store, or cache, maps so that it does not draw heavily from users’ cellular data plans, which would make it costly to use, LeBlanc said.

“All of the maps we have are right on the smartphone, so you can navigate to addresses and look up points of interest without eating up your data plan,” she said. GM also has a backup in its Spark: The OnStar service offers audible turn-by-turn directions.

White, silver are top vehicle colors in 2012

Paint maker to show off 64 new colors this week to car companies By Dee-Ann Durbin Associated Press

DETROIT — If you bought a new vehicle this year, chances are high it was white or silver. Twenty-two percent of cars and trucks built for the 2012 model year have white paint, making it the most popular color worldwide. Silver is close behind, at 20 percent, followed by black at 19 percent. Gray and red follow to round out the top five. White is the most popular color for the second year in a row after overtaking silver in 2011. The annual rankings are compiled by automotive paint supplier PPG Industries Inc., a Pittsburgh-based company that provides paints to General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., BMW AG and others. The rankings are skewed somewhat by the large number of pickup trucks on the market. Trucks accounted for 55 percent of North American production in the first eight months of

this year, according to Ward’s, which compiles automotive data. One in four pickups produced is white because business owners often use them as work trucks and paint logos on them. By comparison, 19 percent of midsize cars made in North America are white. White, which was also popular in the 1980s, is making a comeback as a modern, hightech color thanks in part to Apple Inc.’s all-white stores and glossy white gadgets, said Jane Harrington, PPG’s manager of color styling for car companies. Manufacturers are also making more varieties of white, from the flat, bright white on many vans to the pearly cream of luxury SUVs. Silver also rose in popularity as a high-tech color starting in the 2000s. It remains popular because it highlights every angle of a car, Harrington said. “Silver looks great on any design,” Harrington said. White and other “safe” colors — silver, gray and black — also got more popular during the economic downturn, as buyers stopped leasing and bought vehicles they expected to hold on to for much longer, said Michelle Killen, GM’s lead

color designer for exterior paints. They were leery of some of the more daring colors on the market, like the magenta available on the Ford Fiesta or the bright orange on the Scion iQ. “Buyers want to purchase a color they won’t grow tired of over an extended period of time,” Killen said. Color preferences vary by geography. You’ll find more red vehicles in North America. Black and gray overtake silver in popularity in Europe. Drivers in Asia like tan and gold but not green. Only about 7 percent of cars in every region are blue. Harrington predicts customers will see more browns and oranges over the next two years, especially on luxury cars. Brown — which reminds people of leather or a rich cup of coffee — evokes luxury around the world. Earthy colors also appeal to drivers concerned about the environment. As for the 2015 and 2016 model years, PPG is showing 64 future color options to automakers this week. Among those are Al Fresco, a silver metallic with a green tint; Glacier, an icy gray with a violet blue tone; and Elixir, a metallic mixture of silver and magenta.

“Silver looks great on any design."

“Buyers want to purchase a color they won’t grow tired of over an extended period of time.”




Chrysler recalls trucks because of axle nut issue

Chrysler is recalling its Ram 1500 and Dodge Dakota trucks from the 2009-2010 model. A lack of adhesive might cause the rear axle pinion nut to loosen. DODGE

Affected are 2009-2010 Ram 1500, Dodge Dakota trucks

Associated Press

DETROIT — Chrysler says it’s recalling Ram 1500 and Dodge Dakota trucks from the 20092010 model year because a lack of adhesive may cause the rear axle pinion nut to loosen. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Saturday that if that happens, the axle can lock up, and the vehicle could lose control and crash.


Government and company officials say there have been 15 reports of rear axle failure, including four that resulted in a loss of vehicle control. The driver crashed into a concrete barrier in one case. The recall involves 44,300 vehicles manufactured from July 1 to Nov. 30, 2009. Chrysler will notify owners of the recall beginning next month. Dealers will install a retainer to secure the pinion nut free of charge.

Brakes investigated in Honda Pilot SUVs Associated Press

U.S. safety officials are investigating brake problems in the Honda Pilot sports utility vehicle. The probe covers nearly 88,000 Pilots from the 2005 model year. GETTY IMAGES

U.S. safety officials are investigating brake problems in the Honda Pilot sports utility vehicle. The probe covers nearly 88,000 Pilots from the 2005 model year. Investigators will determine if the problem is bad enough for Honda to recall the SUVs. The Pilot is a big seller with families because of its space and reputation for quality. Here are details of the government investigation: The problem: The brakes can come on without drivers stepping on the pedal, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in documents posted on its website Friday. The fix: None yet, but investigators are looking at problems with a computercontrolled system that stops the vehicle as fast as possible in emergency situations. Honda says it’s cooperating with the investigation and starting its own probe. Injuries: No crashes or injuries have been reported. Complaints: The safety agency began the probe after getting a request from a consumer in April. The government and Honda have received 205 complaints about the problem. One driver said a Pilot stopped three times without warning, once on a freeway.


City leases Leaf

Associated Press


The city of Greenville has signed a 24-month lease for a Nissan Leaf, an electric car. Mayor Carolyn Weathers tells the Delta Democrat Times that the car will stay at City Hall and officials will be able to “check out” the vehicle when they are conducting city business in town. The lease is $309 a month. James Ceranti, who owns the local Nissan dealership, says the vehicle can be charged at one of three stations, two at the Nissan dealership or, for faster charging, at the Greenville Fleet Compound Center. He says it takes about eight hours to fully charge. And, on a full battery, the vehicle can drive 90 miles. Ceranti says he hopes to lease more vehicles to the city for travel around town.

The city of Greenville has signed a 24-month lease for a Nissan Leaf. AP

Small smart car comes at small price Chris Woodyard USA TODAY

The battery version of the small Smart car from Germany’s Daimler will have the smallest price in the U.S. for an electric car from a major auto-

maker when it arrives in the spring. Smart USA, now being run by Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz USA unit, says the two-seat coupe will be priced at $25,000 and the cabriolet (convertible) will be $28,000.

Buyers also may qualify for federal tax subsidies. The base is about $8,000 less than other EVs, such as Nissan Leaf. “A signature characteristic of the Smart brand is its commitment not only to being green


but to making people think differently about it,” said Tracey Matura, general manager of Smart in a statement. “Green can be fun. Green can be affordable. And a lot of us don’t really need a four-seater, or at least

not for every trip.” Now that Smart is under M-B USA, with an ad budget, sales are better. Year-to-date sales are up 95 percent from 2011 to 7,311. Also helping: about $1,400 in incentives as of last month, a $99

per month lease and fleet sales to Daimler’s Car2go hourly rental service. The Smart electric won’t exactly have blazing speed: zero to 60 miles per hour in a leisurely 12 seconds.

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