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2012 Scion tC Most Satisfying Sporty Car

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Best in Class 2012 Sporty Car:  Scion tC

2012 Scion tC Wins AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

Owners of the 2012 Scion tC give the car top ratings in thirteen of forty-eight characteristics included in AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award research.  The tC has won the VSA in five of the past six years, an incredibly impressive result. Scion tC gets top marks in Exterior Size, Seating Capacity, Rear Seat Comfort, Cargo Space, Ease of Loading Cargo, Brand of Audio System, Tire Brand/Size/Appearance, Wheel Size/Style, Feeling Safe While Driving, Safety Features, Safety Ratings, Overall Quality, Price and Recyclability.  With a possible high score of 5.0 rating points, a rating of 4.6 or higher can be considered very good.  Scion tC owners give the car a rating of 4.6 or higher in:  Overall Satisfaction, Exterior Size, Brand’s Reputation, Exterior Color, Exterior Styling, Fun to Drive, and Safety Ratings.


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2013 Nissan Altima Mid-Size Game Changer

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Going on sale in July 2012,  the new Nissan Altima joins the most competitive car class in the market.  Representing the second largest car segment (after small cars), the mid-size car class is critically important to each manufacturer in the class; volume, profits and image are on the line.

It is hard to believe that the AutoPacific 2010 President’s Award Winner, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, is about to be the oldest major competitor in the class.  The 2013 Nissan Altima joins the new Toyota Camry (new for the 2012MY) and Chevrolet Malibu (2013 Eco model is on the market now) and awaits the launches of the upcoming 2013 heavyweights – Honda Accord and Ford Fusion in Fall 2012.

First seen at the 2012 New York International Auto Show in April, the Altima drew “WOWs” from the media at its unveiling.  The management of some competitors gulped and looked a bit nervous.  Most were very complimentary; the new Altima has gone upscale in a big way without adding much to its price tag.

Traditionally, the mid-size car class has been noted for its relatively bland styling.  That changed with the launch of the 2011 Sonata in early 2010 where over half of the buyers indicated that exterior styling was extremely important in their selection of the car.  Sonata’s swoopy styling broke the mid-size car mold.  The 2011 Kia Optima that followed the Sonata is strikingly handsome in its own Euro-Korean way.  Toyota stayed very conservative with its new 2012 entry and Honda is rumored to have continued its very conservative streak with the next generation Accord coming this fall.  The 2013 Ford Fusion is another game changer in the mold of Sonata and Optima, but even with Fusion’s advanced styling, Altima may have pushed the envelope the farthest.  Nissan calls it “Altimaness”. 


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Toyota Prius c: PC Car for the Masses

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Conspicuous conservation is for the rich. Or at least that’s what the data show. In general, AutoPacific research shows that buyers of hybrids make more money than buyers of comparable vehicles. Not surprising, since hybrids are more expensive than single engine vehicles and generally do not reap the economic rewards of their fuel efficiency before they have been traded in.

But now that there are more than 2.5 million Prius’ on the road worldwide (1.1 million in the US), economies of scale might help make having a PC ride possible for the masses. In fact, by the end of the decade, the Prius family of vehicles may be the leading nameplate for Toyota sales in the US. At least that’s what’s Toyota is betting on with the Prius c.


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AutoPacific’s 2011 Plug-In Car Supertest

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Without question, one of the most buzzworthy topics surrounding automobiles this year has been plug-in cars.  Issues like fuel price instability, dependence on foreign oil (or oil of any sort!), and the environment have stirred the imaginations of many people.  Could we really rid ourselves of oil-powered transportation?  Could America really free itself of its addiction?  At the very end of last year, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf went on sale (retailing at $41,000 and $32,780, respectively, minus a $7,500 Federal tax credit), finally bringing plug-in transportation to the masses and, plug-in fans hope, heralding a new era in automotive history.


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2012 Toyota Camry: Automotive Version of iPhone 3G to 3GS

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A few weeks ago I ventured to the middle of no where in Washington to feast on all of the new Camry variants for the 2012 model year.  Did Toyota churn up a revolution or an evolution?  With the Camry tattered and torn during the past few years I was excited to see what Toyota had done to turn the page on the next chapter for the Camry.


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Analysis: Ford & Toyota’s New “Hybrid Synergy”

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If you think back, GM developed the 2 Mode Hybrid system in collaboration with BMW and Daimler-Chrysler.  Chrysler had about a two month run of Durango and Aspen hybrids.  If you see one on the road you might consider it to be an exotic due to how rare it is.  BMW has a hybrid system in their X6, but it is for performance more than fuel economy.  Daimler has a RWD hybrid system in the Mercedes-Benz S Class, but the fuel economy hasn’t been anything to make headlines with.  While not being much of a success for any party involved in that collaboration, one GM engineer described the 2 Mode hybrid system to me as a “very expensive science project”.  What Ford and Toyota teamed up to do today looks to be more than a science experiment.


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Toyota RAV4 Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award for Mid-Size Crossover SUVs

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The evergreen RAV4 achieves the highest ranking among Mid-Size XSUVs based on owner ratings in AutoPacific’s 2011 Ideal Vehicle Research.  As winner of its class, RAV4 owners want little significant changed with the notable exception that 35% want more infotainment technology.  This is confirmation that, even as you move down in vehicle classes, buyers today want all the bells and whistles available in more expensive vehicles.  Slightly over 20% of RAV4 owners want better interior lighting, better safety features, better visibility and more roominess.  About 15% of RAV4 owners want a softer ride.  RAV4 owners most like its seat comfort.  RAV4 nosed out the even-older Mazda Tribute to win its class.


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Toyota Sequoia Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award for Large SUVs

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The Sequoia is the top ranked Large SUV based on ratings by its owners in AutoPacific’s 2011 Ideal Vehicle Research.  Sequoia owners identify little significant that needs to be changed, but 30% want more infotainment technology, 25% want more cargo room, and 20% want better visibility and more daring styling.  Sequoia owners most like seat comfort, ride comfort and size.   Sequoia noses out the Ford Expedition for top spot. 


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Volt Wins Among Today’s Hybrids and EVs

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Two new, completely different high efficiency cars entered the American car market earlier this year – the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt – and AutoPacific set out to find out how different the owners of those cars were from owners of hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight.  We also are looking at how satisfied buyers are with the cars and what they would like changed.

Think of these four cars as being purpose-built for their technology.  They did not simply adapt their new powertrain technology to an existing vehicle such as the Ford Fusion Hybrid or the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.  The Chevrolet Volt is an Extended Range Electric Vehicle.  The Nissan Leaf is a pure Battery Electric Vehicle.  And the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight are pure Hybrids.

Based on AutoPacific’s annual New Vehicle Satisfaction Survey which has a total of almost 73,000 new car and light truck owner responses to a comprehensive questionnaire about the car buying and ownership experience, the comparison finds some interesting and insightful results.

Leaf and Volt Owners are Dramatically Different from Prius and Insight Owners: Volt owners paid $43,000 for their new car.  Leaf owners paid $34,500.  Prius and Insight owners paid $25,000 and $21,000 respectively.  Given the price points, Volt and Leaf owners are the most affluent with incomes of $150,000.  Prius owners have an income of $100,000 and Insight owners have an income of $80,000.

Leaf and Volt owners are much more likely to be male and much more into the technology of their new car.  They are very similar to early buyers of hybrids who were enamored with the new innovative technology of their vehicle.  The Leaf and Insight owners are the youngest of the group at 53 and 54 years of age respectively.  Owners of the much more expensive Volt are 58 as are owners of the Prius.

Leaf owners have the highest level of education.  About 90% have a college education.  About 70% of Volt, Insight and Prius owners have a college education.  Leaf owners are much more likely to be retired (almost 50%).  Only 17% of Insight owners are retired.  About a third of Leaf owners are in a technical profession as are 20% of Volt owners.

Leaf owners are most likely (24%) to have owned a hybrid before.  Prius owners are almost as likely to have owned a hybrid (23%) as Leaf owners.  Volt (8%) and Insight (8%) owners are newcomers to the world of alternative fuel vehicles.  Volt owners are most likely to have previously driven a compact car (18%) or mid-size car (14%), Insight owners were most likely to have previously driven a compact car (23%) or a mid-size car (23%).

Satisfaction – Volt Wins: About 86% of Volt owners are very satisfied with their vehicles compared with 80% of Leaf owners, 70% of Prius owners and 54% of Insight owners.  Among these four cars, Volt owners are most satisfied by a substantial margin.  Leaf and Prius owners are about equally satisfied.  Insight owners are the least satisfied among the four cars.  Out of 48 satisfaction categories in the research,  Volt owners are the most satisfied in 38 of the categories… an overwhelming win.


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2013 Toyota RAV4 EV Prototype: A Quick Spin

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I’m at Toyota’s third Sustainable Mobility Seminar at the moment, a deep dive into the issues surrounding sustainable motoring featuring excellent speakers from industry and academia.  I’ll admit, my head is still spinning from all the education I’ve received over the last twenty-four hours, but there’s one part of the event I feel compelled to write about – right now.  All of us in attendance got the media’s very first chance to drive fully working prototypes of Toyota’s upcoming fully electric RAV4 EV.  As AutoPacific’s resident treehugger, I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel of Toyota’s upcoming electric SUV.


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