As technology advances, cars are becoming much safer

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Aluminum-sided Ford F-150 gets mixed crash test results from insurance industry

By Dee-Ann Durbin, The Associated Press

DETROIT – Ford’s new aluminum-sided F-150 pickup saw mixed results in new crash tests by the insurance industry, and the damaged trucks cost more to repair than steel-bodied ones.

The four-door Super Crew version of the 2015 F-150 got top ratings in all five of the crash tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. For now, it is the only full-size truck on the market with the institute’s “Top Safety Pick” rating.

But the Super Cab version, which has a smaller rear door and back seat, did poorly in a small front overlap test, which slams 25 per cent of the front of the truck into a barrier at 40 miles per hour. It didn’t earn the top safety award.

The Insurance Institute also said it took longer for a local Ford dealer to repair the aluminum truck than an older steel one, and the aluminum parts cost more. The institute said the repair costs were 26 per cent higher for the aluminum-bodied truck.

In a statement, Ford said the new truck is the “safest F-150 ever” and noted that it has the government’s highest five-star safety rating. But the company said it will make a design change in the 2016 model year to improve the crash performance of the Super Cab and Regular Cab models.

Ford said the Super Crew — which got the top safety award — accounts for 83 per cent of all F-150 sales. The Super Cab makes up around 12 per cent and the Regular Cab accounts for 5 per cent.

Ford spokesman Mike Levine also said independent consultants have shown that average repair costs for the new truck are less than for the old truck.

The results are a key test for Ford, which switched from steel to aluminum for the body of the truck late last year. The switch makes the truck lighter and nimbler and saves fuel, but it was risky, since the F-150 is the first mass-market vehicle make such a change. The F-150 has been the bestselling vehicle in the U.S. for more than three decades.

David Zuby, IIHS’s chief research officer, said the organization tested the F-150 first because there is so much interest in the aluminum body. Competitors from Chevrolet, Toyota and others will be tested this fall, he said. The small front overlap test was added in 2012, he said, so the F-150 was the first truck to go through it.

Zuby said the aluminum on the F-150 was strong and safe and performed well. Differences in the steel frame under the aluminum resulted in the different test outcomes. The Super Crew version had extra, horn-like pieces of steel fitted to the front of the frame to help the vehicle absorb the force of the small overlap crash. The Super Cab and the two-door Regular cab — which the institute didn’t test — don’t have those extra pieces of steel, but will get them in 2016 versions.

The Super Cab truck got “good” ratings on four other tests, including roof strength, side impact and a moderate frontal test, which hits a larger portion of the vehicle into a deformable barrier that’s meant to replicate another vehicle. But in the small overlap test, the front compartment crumpled and the crash dummy’s head missed the side air bags and hit the instrument panel.

Ford’s trucks didn’t get the institute’s highest safety rating — “Top Safety Pick Plus” — because they don’t have automatic braking systems to prevent collisions. They do have a front collision warning system, but it doesn’t have automatic braking.

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Short-term gain, long-term pain for car insurers, analysts say.

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U.S. auto safety regulators fine Fiat Chrysler record $105 million

Source: CNBC.com & Reuters

The U.S. auto safety watchdog, toughening its stance against manufacturer defects, announced on Sunday a record $105 million (£67.69 million) in fines against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles over lapses in safety recalls involving millions of vehicles.

The Italian-U.S. automaker’s consent agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration contains an unprecedented buyback option covering hundreds of thousands of vehicles, including more than 1 million Jeep sport utility vehicles, whose owners can receive a trade-in or a financial incentive to get their vehicles repaired.

Fiat Chrysler also agreed to submit to an independent monitor’s audit of its recall performance over a three-year period.

The $105 million in fines sets a new standard for NHTSA’s dealings with car manufacturers, eclipsing the previous record fine of $70 million imposed against Honda Motor Co in January for failing to report death, injury and other claims.

Last year, General Motors Co was ordered to pay $35 million for a decade-long delay in reporting faulty ignition switches tied to more than 120 deaths.

NHTSA has taken a more aggressive enforcement posture under its new administrator, Mark Rosekind, after coming under fire from leaders of both parties in Congress for lapses in its handling of deadly defects, including Takata Corp air bag inflators and GM ignition switches.

“Fiat Chrysler’s pattern of poor performance put millions of its customers and the driving public at risk,” Rosekind said in a statement. “This action will provide relief to owners of defective vehicles, will help improve recall performance throughout the auto industry, and gives Fiat Chrysler the opportunity to embrace a proactive safety culture.”

The recalled vehicles covered by the agreement include Dodge Ram, Dakota and Chrysler Aspen trucks from model years as early as 2008. More than half a million of the vehicles subject to buybacks have faulty suspension parts that can cause a loss of control.

Fiat Chrysler’s U.S. unit FCA US LLC, formerly Chrysler Group LLC, said it accepted the consequences of the agreement with “renewed resolve to improve our handling of recalls and re-establish the trust our customers place in us.”

The fines include a $70 million cash payment, an agreement that Fiat Chrysler will spend $20 million improving its recall process and an additional $15 million payable if the automaker is found to have committed any further violations.

The two sides have been engaged in discussions since NHTSA held a July 2 public hearing on Fiat Chrysler’s recall performance. At the proceedings, NHTSA staff catalogued alleged failures in 23 separate recalls including what they termed misleading behaviour, while an FCA executive pledged to work with the agency to improve the automaker’s recall programs.

Fiat Chrysler has had a contentious relationship with NHTSA for years, pushing back on the agency’s efforts to secure recalls and threatening lawsuits to avoid mandatory action, according to former auto regulators.

Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne told reporters this month that the company needs to change the way it deals with regulators going forward.

“We are intent on rebuilding our relationship with NHTSA,” the automaker said on Sunday.

It kills me how some people buy cars.

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Survey: Business travellers favour Uber over traditional taxi services

Survey: Business travellers favour Uber over traditional taxi services

NEW YORK — The Associated Press

Taxis are losing business travellers to ride-hailing services like Uber, a survey shows.

In the three months ended in June, Uber overtook taxis as the most expensed form of ground transportation, according to expense management system provider Certify. Uber accounted for 55 per cent of ground transportation receipts compared with taxis at 43 per cent.

That’s a big jump from just the beginning of the year. In the first quarter, Uber Technologies had 46 per cent of receipts tracked by Certify compared with 53 per cent for taxis.

“Established travel providers will need to adapt quickly or face further market share erosion to the sharing economy,” Certify CEO Robert Neveu said in a statement.

Certify based its finding on the 28 million trip receipts its North American clients submit each year. It does not include receipts from business travellers whose companies use other services to track expenses.

Uber connects travellers with various cars through its smartphone app. Some drivers work for car service companies; others spend a few hours driving their personal cars on the side for some extra money.

Business travellers might be quickly moving toward Uber, but employers still have reservations about safety and liability. Depending on the city, Uber drivers aren’t necessarily regulated by government taxi licensing authorities. Both Uber and competitor Lyft insure their drivers during paid rides and also require the drivers to carry personal auto insurance that covers them the rest of the time.

Uber’s pricing compared with traditional cabs can vary. Its UberX service, often drivers in Toyota Camrys or Honda Civics, is typically cheaper, but its high-end black cars and SUVs cost a premium. During peak hours, Uber charges a “surge” premium that can add anywhere from 20 per cent on to the cost to doubling or tripling it. During really busy periods the surge can be even more.

In a few cities, Uber beat out taxis by a wide margin for business travellers. In its home town of San Francisco, 79 per cent of rides expensed through Certify during the second quarter were for Uber. In Dallas, 60 per cent were for Uber and 54 per cent in Los Angeles. Certify noted that it saw rental car transactions drop at the same time.

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