Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Jun 01

Lessons Learned When Returning a Leased Vehicle

 

By: George S. Bower

My Volt was the first vehicle I ever leased. Therefore the process involved in returning it was an unknown to me. I assumed that the dealer was familiar with the process but much to my surprise they were not.

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I had been in contact with the lease company (Ally Financial) and they knew I was going to return it. They had a checklist of things that they wanted me to do like make sure there were no dings or dents in the car, that the tires had a pre specified amount of tread on them, that there were no rips in the upholstery and that I had not exceeded the miles that were allowed by my contract. All of these requirements I easily met. I had replaced the tires with new Michelins one year earlier and was well under the miles that my contract allowed.

Ally also wanted all the warranty recalls done before I returned the vehicle so I made an appointment with Chapman service department to have the recalls done just prior to returning the car. I called Chapman customer support and made an appointment to return the Volt after my work was done in the service department. I was told to go to the sales department to return my car.
This is where the fun started. When I walked into the sales department and told them I had a lease return they didn’t know what to do. One person asked another and that person asked someone else and I eventually ended up with a fairly cranky individual that started trying to figure out what to do.

After some time he came out with a phone number and told me I needed to call Ally because I needed lease return paperwork. By this time I was starting to get a little cranky myself but called Ally and they requested to talk to the sales person. They informed the sales person that we needed to fill out an odometer statement.

The required odometer statement is shown in figure below.
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Figure 1: Odometer statement

You can see two sections on this odometer statement. The first section requires a statement of the number of miles on the vehicle. The lessee signs the odometer statement. The second section states that the car has never been in an accident, or if it has the insurance claim for the repairs needs to be listed. The lessee signs the damage report section of the odometer statement.
At the bottom of the odometer statement you can see an important disclaimer that says that Ally will have a third party inspect the vehicle at a later date to verify what the lessee has attested to on the odometer statement.

Here in lies the rub. The vehicle now gets taken by the dealer and put in an outside lot somewhere until the third party inspector can come and inspect the vehicle and take it away to auction. How do I know that the vehicle is not damaged during this period of time which could be as long as THREE WEEKS? The answer is that I don’t know. If the vehicle get’s damaged in the next three weeks while in the dealers outside parking lot I would be the one responsible for the damage. How could I prove otherwise??
So until I have actually received a letter from Ally I will not know if I am off the hook.

Lucky I still had Onstar working in my car. I had it set up to give me daily “Vehicle Location Alerts”. These alerts come to me daily in my email at 3:30. I get a notification as shown in the figure below.

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Figure 2: Onstar Vehicle Location Alert

Since I get the address where my vehicle is located I can go to google maps to see exactly where it is. Turns out it is not at the dealership it is a couple of blocks away. I was able to see the location using Google “Street View”. The location as viewed from the street is shown in figure below.

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Figure 3: Google “Street View” of Chapman storage facility.

I was relieved that my vehicle seems to be stored in a fenced area. This was good news indeed. As of this writing, 7 days have passed and my Volt is still sitting outside in the lot in the full Phoenix summer sun. It will be interesting to see how long it takes this “third party” inspector to come and inspect my car and take it away to auction.

What could I have done better to protect myself during this time where my car is in never-never land? One good suggestion was to take high resolution photos of the car before turning it in.

Lessons learned: Returning a leased vehicle is easy. Fill out the odometer statement, send it to the lease company and your done. Take some high resolution photos of the car when you turn it in so you have some proof as to its condition at that time.

As an aside to this story I think my lease was a good deal for me. The buyout on my car would have been $28,000 plus tax or around $30,000. My total lease payments were $18,000. I got by with a whole lot less depreciation than I would have if I had bought the car and traded it in or sold it myself.

 

May 29

America’s 5 best-selling EVs

 

This is an interesting time for cars that while still wafting that new car smell are already in danger of being yesterday’s goods.

What is a major automaker to do?

Here’s a market snapshot. Assuming Bolt, Model 3 and a 200-mile Leaf come along, how will that throw a monkey wrench into the machinery? How will things adjust?

Maybe that’s why so many lease these cars? Nothing really wrong with what we have today, but soon you’ll get double the range for the same buck, or so goes the promises. FYI, if anyone thinks Bolt is confirmed for MY 2017 or you read it will go into production late 2016, Chevrolet told me yesterday that is only rumor that’s been called fact. Was told the facts will be divulged later.

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There are an even dozen electric vehicles (EVs) offered in the U.S. and their sales range from quite respectable to so little as to give fodder to critics.

As a type of vehicle, EVs are a slim minority of the U.S. sales total at 0.40 percent but they have an outsized reputation and more EVs are pending, including the next generation of higher-range-for-the-buck models in a couple years.

The current crop has grown over the past four years and been the topic of many news reports, features, and while lots of people have heard of them, there remains not a little confusion over them as well in some quarters.

A lot of talk is made over their comparatively limited range and “range anxiety” but a substantial number of anecdotes attest to the truth that once some people dive in, the range worries take care of themselves and they adjust to live within limitations.

SEE ALSO: Is a 200-Mile EV the Next Automotive Benchmark?

Even so, automakers themselves have not all been as gung ho as Tesla in proliferating this new kind of vehicle that could in time fully compete with their primary products.

Around half of the EVs sold are what are pejoratively called “compliance cars” to comply with California Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) rules under which automakers may accrue credits. This helps explain aforementioned very low sales, such as 253 units this year for the otherwise outstanding but limited-market Kia Soul EV – which to Kia’s credit is branching to new markets as we speak – but our list actually contains two compliance cars.

The ranking of Top 5 Best Selling Electric Cars has actually shifted since 2014 for the period of January 2015 through April 2015. Following is the latter, most-updated ordering with commentary. All prices are rough starting points and all cars are eligible for federal tax credits and state or other credits where applicable.

5. Chevrolet Spark EV – 1,276 sold

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The converted Korean-originated subcompact with the American brand bowtie is sold in Oregon, California and this summer it’s coming to Maryland.

The Spark EV is a compliance car and makes the list this year due to a massive sales spike in April of 920 units following dealer incentives that gave 920 people a light bulb moment that the car could make sense for them. This was an 848.5 percent better April than April 2014.

For all of this year, it’s sold 1,276 meaning it had 356 sales accumulated from January to March, and for all of 2014, the Spark EV had but 1,145 sales. It ranked eighth last year but you can see it is doing much better.

And that would be easy to understand. The peppy little runabout could fill the bill for the needs and wants of more people, but this is GM’s decision to keep it limited market.

With an MSRP starting just over $25,000, the Spark EV is efficient with MPGe of 119 combined and 82 miles EPA-rated range.

Its 140-horsepower, 402-pound-feet electric motor propels it to 60 in an estimated 7.6 seconds and to a top speed of 90 mph.

The truck-like torque in a subcompact is a dead giveaway that this EV is also a trial run for EVs to come, such as the Chevy Bolt with 200 miles range due in 2017, and possibly other larger cars that actually need that big motor.

4. Fiat 500e – 1,889 sold

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This one too is sold or leased in California and Oregon only and the case again probably exists for more markets in the U.S. than that, but such is life for Fiat.

The stylized little car based on the gas model is moving up with 1,889 sales this year. Last year Fiat sold 2,148 units.

Starting at just over $32,000 the car has 111 horsepower, 147 pounds-feet torque, 87 miles rated range and 116 MPGe combined.

It’s also a fun little fashion statement which Fiat makes available for low lease of $169 per month with 1,999 down, or $2,000 cash allowance with 0 percent APR.

Up to $14,000 in incentives actually may be available for those who qualify taking the sting out.

Will Fiat make the car available to the rest of the country? This we don’t know but you could write your local congressman if you think that it should, or at least contact Fiat.

3. BMW i3 – 3,087 sold

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Including the range-extended i3, BMW has moved 3,087 of its purpose-made EVs which was recently called by one engineering firm that deconstructed and analyzed one the “most advanced vehicle on the planet.”

Built with extensive use of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), BMW has brought Formula One materials science and advanced assembly techniques to its electric city car starting at just over $42,000 – or add another $4,000 for the two-cylinder scooter-derived range extender.

Efficiency for the 81-mile-rate EV is 124 MPGe, and the REx is rated 72 miles e-range and another 78 miles on gas with 117 MPGe and 39 MPG respectively.

The vehicle comes across as avant garde – to many, if not all, and for his part Tesla’s head designer Franz von Holzhausen in 2013 said it reminded him more of an Ikea level design.

That’s OK, because it’s nicer than Tesla’s $42,000 EV.

Er, actually, Tesla does not have one and its own entry level EV that von Holzhausen said in Summer 2012 we could see by 2015 is promised to be revealed some time next year in 2016.

However, when the 200-mile range Tesla Model 3 does get here in maybe a couple years or so, its lead designer may be proved right and there may be a shift toward it unless BMW updates its entry level EV to stay in step.

And this it may do, though we’ve heard nothing official to this effect.

2. Nissan Leaf – 5,638 sold

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This is the upset of the list given that Nissan was swinging for the bleachers all last year and dominated the EV sales list in the number one position with a record 30,200 sold in 2014.

For the first third of this year, it is not on track at all, and its 5,638 units is down 22.5 percent.

The 84-mile range EV broke a streak of a year-and-a-half of sales records early this year. News of the 50-mile e-range gas-electric Chevy Volt may have had something to do with it, as could lower gas prices, though plug-in cars have been less hard hit than hybrids by cheap gas.

A rumor that Nissan may offer a 30 kwh battery in the SV and SL trim levels this fall to help its faltering sales has not been substantiated. The car was launched in December 2010 and will not be fully replaced until 2017 by a next-generation car with 180-200-plus miles range.

It remains the most popular in the sub-$45,000 price range and inexpensive leases and subsidies keep it competitive despite declines this year.

1. Tesla Model S – 6,800 estimated

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The startup from California which makes EVs, only EVs and forever nothing but EVs – not counting its budding energy storage division – continues to defy the odds. Its sales are estimated because it does not report monthly sales but 6,800 may be pretty close to actual. Last year HybridCars.com was only off by 13 units in its estimate for the whole year.

That said, Tesla is all in with EVs, and so are many of its customers willing to pay $75,000 up to the low 140s for the various trim and configuration levels of the Model S.

Tesla actually again raised prices effectively by offering as its new base 70D – a nice deal in the form of an all-wheel drive version with bigger battery and extra traction over the former rear-wheel-drive 60-kwh model. And it raised its peak price with the over-achieving P85D all-wheel drive trim pushing 691 horsepower.

Efficiency when not sampling the potential to run with Lamborghinis and Ferraris in 0-60 contests ranges from 93 MPGe and 253 miles range for the P85D and 101 MPGe and 240 miles range for the 70D. The rear-wheel-drive P85 is rated 100 MPGe and 270 miles range.

Last year Tesla sold 16,563 and this year through April it’s already at an approximately 6,800, up 26 percent. Tesla is the sales leader and it’s doing it with a car that costs 2-4 times what other EVs do.

Perhaps there’s something to be said for commitment? Half measures by automakers merely complying with cars they make only to meet a minimum rule get middling results but Tesla is making desirable products and is being rewarded for the unambiguous focus.

 

May 28

Will Nissan give 30 kilowatt-hours to the 2016 Leaf?

 

The first-gen Volt’s product life cycle was Dec. 2010 to fall 2015. The Leaf has to hang tough from Dec. 2010 to around two years longer.

Our friends over at InsideEVs have done some sleuthing and assuming this pans out, it could put some water on withering Leaf sales. The vehicle broke its streak of some form of record for 18 months at the beginning of this year and has been unable to match its former pace.

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Before bringing out its all-new second-generation Leaf a year from now, Nissan may be preparing to reveal a 30-kilowatt-hour battery this fall for its otherwise-current-spec 2016 Leaf to refortify its market competitiveness.

Launched December 2010 and refreshed for 2013, the present 24-kwh, 84-mile EPA rated Leaf is the cumulative global best seller and U.S.’ best selling plug-in vehicle but other EVs in its sub $45,000 class have been taking share, and Nissan sales have slumped a bit.

The Japanese automaker has not confirmed rumors that have been circulating since last week on the MyNissanLeaf forum and reported today by InsideEVs which has previously reported the possibility it is now stating as near certain.

InsideEVs’ Editor Jay Cole says he has been sitting on the story posted today for two weeks deliberating over whether to publish it. He has also been in communication with Nissan during that time – although the automaker has stayed silent on the report.

“We have made no public announcement about the 2016 Nissan Leaf,” goes the only on-the-record comment by Nissan’s Senior Manager of Communications Brian Brockman, “We do not comment on future product details.”

Cole himself is supportive of the Leaf, and is even concerned about hurting Leaf sales further once the news of a superior Leaf comes out.

The term is cannibalizing sales, and this is something Chevrolet is now feeling with the 2016 Volt sapping 2015 Volt sales. Indeed, the prospect of the new 50-mile extended-range Volt is also causing some would-be Leaf buyers to take pause.

The psychology is pretty simple: When buyers hear that the newest product around the corner substantially beats the present one, that does nothing positive for sales of the present car – and this is the dilemma given Nissan ended an 18-month record streak early this year.

SEE ALSO: What Do We Know About the 2017 Nissan Leaf?

As it is, two Nissan dealers have explicitly told InsideEVs they’ve seen information supplied by Nissan for the 2016 Leaf with the base S model retaining 24 kwh, and the SV and SL trims getting 30-kwh.

Of course EPA rated range is not available, but a reasonable estimate might be 105-110 miles EV range for the uprated Leaf.

Pricing may be comparable to present levels and so these would be altogether superior offerings effectively as a stopgap for the Leaf which has a rather long product life cycle from 2010 to 2017.

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By contrast, the Volt was launched the exact same month but is already all-but done with gen-one, and gen-two is being readied while Nissan has said it will have 180-200 miles range, maybe more for the fully revised next gen Leaf.

That fully revised car may be here by the second quarter of 2017. It may also tone down the look-at-me-I’m-ecofriendly look the present Leaf now enjoys and merge more toward mainstream-appearing while retaining some distinguishing Leaf legacy design language.

Meanwhile, InsideEVs reports even new colors for the present generation’s not-insignificant potential upgrade suggesting it really has solid info unless the dealers who’ve spilled these beans are somehow in error.

“Thankfully, Nissan’s take on ‘Robin’s Egg Blue’ (Morningsky Blue) that seems to have plagued been a required color for almost all plug-ins in the past, has been deleted along with Cayenne Red. In its place 3 new colors – Forged Bronze, Coulis Red and Deep Blue Pearl,” says InsideEVs.

Other off-the-record hints we cannot here mention have also been observed suggesting a high degree of probability that this rumor will in due time be verified. But if and until that happens, this news is not official.

InsideEVs

 

May 27

2015 Volts deeply discounted, 6,000 Volts sitting on lots, sales this year down 46 percent

 

Do you remember in the early days of the first-gen Volt when dealers were reported as gouging far above MSRP even to as high as a $61,000 asking price, blamed, said a dealer, on limited supply?

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Today things are quite different with 6,000 Volts sitting on dealer lots, and the Volt’ average selling price according to TrueCar is $30,607 before tax credit.

As news of the significantly improved gen two car has gone far and wide, GM has sold half as many as are now sitting this year through April – 2,779 units, or a 46-percent decline, observes the Detroit Free Press.

To help move product, Chevrolet has done things like adding a $1,500 rebate, and lowering the amount due on a lease signing from $1,449 to just $500.

AutoGuide reports also it’s waiving that last $500 due at signing for new customers with a conquest bonus effectively wiping it out.

And, Chevrolet is offering 2.9-percent financing on 2015 models for 48 months and zero percent on any remaining 2014 models.

Beyond this are local deals. What’s the lowest you’ve seen for a 2015?

Do you think someone may try and gouge on the 2016?

 

May 26

Ignition switch recall could see GM face criminal charges

 

We’ve not really had any news here on this site about this topic as you all already know it, but here’s some news.

Does GM need to get past some dark days yet? Is it really making the changes in its culture and leadership to turn the massive ship in a better direction?

By Jason Siu

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Federal investigators have identified criminal wrongdoing in General Motors’ ignition switch recall.

Justice Department investigators are negotiating what will likely become a record penalty to the American automaker after identifying criminal wrongdoing in General Motors’ failure to disclose a defect that resulted in at least 104 deaths. The settlement could be reached as early as this summer and will likely surpass Toyota’s $1.2 billion that was paid last year for the unintended acceleration issue.

What will separate GM from Toyota is that the American automaker has been eager to resolve the investigation, which will earn it cooperation credit. Toyota, on the other hand, fought prosecutors on the accusations rather than cooperating with the investigation.

In addition, former GM employees are under investigation and could face criminal charges as a result of the ignition switch recall. According to the report from The New York Times, federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the FBI investigated whether GM failed to comply with laws that require timely disclosure of defects and misled regulators on the extent of the issue.

Authorities also investigated GM on whether it committed fraud during its 2009 bankruptcy by not disclosing the defect.

New York Times

This article originally appeared at AutoGuide.com

 

May 25

Ordering of the 2016 Volt begins this month for California

 

Most of you have already seen this news. Is this kind of delayed for the rest of the country? …

Will it delay federal tax credits for some buyers?

But hey, the good news is the Volt is coming, right? …

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Chevrolet is gearing up to begin an ordering process for the second-generation 2016 Volt beginning first in California and the rest of the nation later this year

Orders for California and can be placed May 28 and production at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant is set to begin August.

After California, states that follow its zero-emission vehicle regulations will get an approximately 10-week lead time on production and deliveries ahead of the rest of the country.

These first-wave states beyond California are Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Orders for the rest of the nation begin around five months later in October and production for these orders is scheduled for November.

It is unclear when the first deliveries will take place but it will be later this year for early launch states and late this year or early 2016 for the rest of the country.

This information comes from official 2016 Chevrolet Volt dealer slides obtained by InsideEVs.

Similarly to how it was for the first generation Volt in 2010 which saw a multi-stage rollout, first states in line are the ones expected to buy the most. Last year the state of California accounted for full 50 percent of all U.S. plug-in electrified vehicle sales.

GM knows this, and these CARB states are also the ones to gain for it needed (and wanted) zero-emission vehicle credits.

Eyes are on the automaker to see whether it will beat analysts expectations of sales on par with the previous Volt during its heyday which for 2012 and 2013 sold in the 23,000-some range for the year.

Presently the Volt is lagging as the months wind down and news beginning to trickle last year and the new car fully shown in January has eager buyers waiting.