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January 1, 2011 | By Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times
Four children were dead on an Oklahoma highway. It was a crash scene so horrific that Jim Hall, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, flew down from Washington to oversee the investigation. He spotted one of his engineers fiddling with some computer chips. "I asked him what he was doing," Hall recalled. "And he told me he was trying to download some data, that he had found a black box. " Until that day in 1994, Hall had not known that automakers were quietly installing black boxes, also known as event data recorders or EDRs, and encrypting the data.
August 10, 2010 | By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times
Two auto safety advocacy groups are asking the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit Enterprise Holdings Inc., the owner of the Enterprise, National and Alamo rental car companies, from renting out recalled vehicles that have not been fixed. The Center for Auto Safety and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety petitioned the FTC to stop the practice. They were joined in the petition by Carol Houck, the mother of two young women killed in the 2004 crash of a PT Cruiser rented from Enterprise Rent-a-Car.
July 27, 2011 | By Salvador Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times
Although the reliability of new and redesigned automobiles fell, consumers generally found them more appealing, according to an annual survey. New launches and revamped models paid off for carmakers across the board as they appealed more to consumers than carryover vehicles, the 2011 JD Power & Associates Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout study found. While kinks in the new launches hurt reliability ratings — many got lower scores in last month's JD Power reliability study — the fresh looks of and new technologies in those same models were found to be highly appealing to consumers.
November 12, 2011 | By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Auto Show is the first major North American auto show of the new model year. It is known for automakers introducing hybrid, fuel-efficient and electric vehicles that grab the attention of California's eco-conscious drivers. It's also the place for big, splashy debuts of sports cars, the kind of vehicles that people fantasize driving on Pacific Coast Highway. This year's show, which opens to the public Friday, will have plenty of both. Audi plans the American debut of its S line of sports coupes.
July 27, 2011 | By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times
In an example of how prices for new and used cars have soared this year, the nation's largest chain of auto dealerships posted a huge gain in profit even though the number of cars it sold rose only slightly. AutoNation Inc., which operates 254 new vehicle franchises in 15 states, said net income rose 52% to $71.9 million in the second quarter compared with the same period a year earlier. Revenue rose 8% to $3.3 billion. The price spike is a result of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March, which upended auto production internationally by slashing the supply of auto parts needed to manufacture cars and shuttering factories.
July 4, 2012 | By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times
If consumer confidence is lagging, it's not hurting enough to stop people from buying cars. Despite the economic pall hanging over the U.S. economy, consumers are buying cars in greater numbers than they have in years, purchases that could help insulate America from another recession. Automakers sold almost 1.3 million vehicles in June, a 22% gain from a year earlier, exceeding the expectations of many analysts who had projected a slower month amid dimming economic measures.
September 24, 2011 | By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times
Despite the European debt crisis, the lack of job growth in the U.S. and other generally depressing economic news, auto sales continue to tick along. The retail sales rate for new vehicles in the U.S. this month looks "much stronger than in August," according to J.D. Power & Associates, which gathers sales data from about 8,900 dealers. That's about half of all the dealers selling cars nationally. "Coming off a solid Labor Day sale, retail sales exhibited unexpected strength in the second week of September, as the recovering inventory levels have helped to bring buyers back into the market," said Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at J.D. Power.
February 2, 2011 | By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times
Small is beautiful — again. With gas prices rising and a host of new compact cars to choose from, Americans are increasingly buying smaller cars and hybrids, new sales figures show. "Fuel prices are certainly top of mind with all consumers right now. We hear this in the showrooms every day," said Bob Carter, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager. Toyota Motor Corp. sold almost 11,000 Prius hybrids in the U.S. last month, more than a 25% increase from a year earlier.
August 3, 2012 | By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times
When it comes to real estate, taxes and gasoline, California is known as a high-cost state. Auto insurance, not so much. divided the median cost of car insurance by the median household income in each state and found — surprise — California was the eighth least-expensive state. Michigan, the capital of the car industry, was the most expensive by that measure. California residents pay a median auto insurance premium of $1,304 per household per year, or 2% of median household income.
November 16, 2011 | By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times
The Ford Escape, an aging vehicle that looks much like the model that first debuted in 2000, has quietly become one of the biggest success stories at Ford Motor Co. The automaker has sold more than 200,000 of the small sport utility vehicles this year, making it the fifth-best-selling vehicle in America and the top SUV. Decent interior room and cargo space make it popular among soccer moms, while its masculine rectangular SUV design has attracted male...
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