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  • America's best and worst car brands

    CSI survey results are generally bad for the industry. The authors of the report said, "Car buyer satisfaction is down for a third straight year as prices rise and recalls continue, according to new data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Customer satisfaction with automobiles falls 3.7 percent to 79 on ACSI's 100-point scale." Satisfaction is at its lowest level since 2004.

    According to the research firm, "Among 27 nameplates tracked by the ACSI, 15 lose ground in customer satisfaction and only 2 improve from a year ago – both foreign-made. Foreign-made cars have a significant advantage in customer satisfaction and 77 percent of the above-average nameplates in the ACSI are imports. The highest-scoring automakers remain Japanese and luxury brands in general. Considering domestic automakers only, Ford, which includes the Lincoln nameplate, is the sole manufacturer maintaining overall customer satisfaction (81). General Motors (GM) slips to 79 (-3%) and Fiat Chrysler falls to 75 (-5%)."

    Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) brands, which include Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler and Fiat, did poorly in this survey and also in the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Vehicle Dependability StudySM (VDS). However, this has not stopped the parent company from posting strong sales for several years in a row. In other words, it is hard to connect research on quality directly to purchase decisions. In 2014, U.S. Fiat Chrysler sales rose to 2.09 million units from 1.80 million in 2013 and 1.65 million in 2012.

    ACSI bases its ratings on 4,294 surveys completed in the second quarter of this year. The new report covers car buyer satisfaction each year from 1995 to 2015. The ACSI provides rankings for a range of industries, including health care, financial services, and the energy sector. The ACSI also produces an annual rating of car brands, which is carefully followed by car companies — and by consumers.

    These are the highest-rated car brands:

    1. Lexus

    > 2015 ACSI score: 84
    > 2015 YTD sales: 95,821
    > YOY Change: 1.2%

    Lexus was created by Toyota (TM) to compete with BMW, Mercedes, Lincoln, and Cadillac in the United States.

    MORE: The next 11 states to legalize marijuana

    2. Acura

    > 2015 ACSI score: 83
    > 2015 YTD sales: 102,002
    > YOY Change: 12.8%

    Honda (HMC) launched Acura because it did not have a premium car brand in the United States.

    3. Lincoln

    > 2015 ACSI score: 83
    > 2015 YTD sales: 56,648
    > YOY Change: 8.1%

    One of Ford's (F) oldest brands, Lincoln has struggled in the United States to match sales of German leaders in luxury brands, BMW and Mercedes.

    These are the worst-rated car brands:

    25. Jeep

    > 2015 ACSI score: 75
    > 2015 YTD sales: 474,905
    > YOY Change: 21.0%

    Due in part to the resurrection of the Grand Cherokee, Jeep is Fiat Chrysler's most successful division.

    MORE: Customer service Hall of Fame

    26. Chrysler

    > 2015 ACSI score: 74
    > 2015 YTD sales: 195,970
    > YOY Change: 19.0%

    The Chrysler flagship brand is aimed at the mid market, with most of its sales coming from its 200 and 300 nameplates.

    27. Fiat

    > 2015 ACSI score: 73
    > 2015 YTD sales: 250,333
    > YOY Change: -13.0%

    Fiat Chrysler has tried to sell Fiat as a low priced, high gas mileage car. So far, the company has not had much success.

    THE IN-BETWEENS: See how other car brands rank at 24/7 Wall St.

    24/7 Wall St. is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news and commentary. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

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    The new ACSI survey results are generally bad for the industry. The authors of the report said, "Car buyer satisfaction is down for a third straight year as prices rise and recalls continue, according to new data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Customer satisfaction with automobiles falls 3.7 percent to 79 on ACSI's 100-point scale." Satisfaction is at its lowest level since 2004.

    According to the research firm, "Among 27 nameplates tracked by the ACSI, 15 lose ground in customer satisfaction and only 2 improve from a year ago – both foreign-made. Foreign-made cars have a significant advantage in customer satisfaction and 77 percent of the above-average nameplates in the ACSI are imports. The highest-scoring automakers remain Japanese and luxury brands in general. Considering domestic automakers only, Ford, which includes the Lincoln nameplate, is the sole manufacturer maintaining overall customer satisfaction (81). General Motors (GM) slips to 79 (-3%) and Fiat Chrysler falls to 75 (-5%)."

    Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) brands, which include Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler and Fiat, did poorly in this survey and also in the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Vehicle Dependability StudySM (VDS). However, this has not stopped the parent company from posting strong sales for several years in a row. In other words, it is hard to connect research on quality directly to purchase decisions. In 2014, U.S. Fiat Chrysler sales rose to 2.09 million units from 1.80 million in 2013 and 1.65 million in 2012.

    ACSI bases its ratings on 4,294 surveys completed in the second quarter of this year. The new report covers car buyer satisfaction each year from 1995 to 2015. The ACSI provides rankings for a range of industries, including health care, financial services, and the energy sector. The ACSI also produces an annual rating of car brands, which is carefully followed by car companies — and by consumers.

    These are the highest-rated car brands:

    1. Lexus

    > 2015 ACSI score: 84
    > 2015 YTD sales: 95,821
    > YOY Change: 1.2%

    Lexus was created by Toyota (TM) to compete with BMW, Mercedes, Lincoln, and Cadillac in the United States.

    MORE: The next 11 states to legalize marijuana

    2. Acura

    > 2015 ACSI score: 83
    > 2015 YTD sales: 102,002
    > YOY Change: 12.8%

    Honda (HMC) launched Acura because it did not have a premium car brand in the United States.

    3. Lincoln

    > 2015 ACSI score: 83
    > 2015 YTD sales: 56,648
    > YOY Change: 8.1%

    One of Ford's (F) oldest brands, Lincoln has struggled in the United States to match sales of German leaders in luxury brands, BMW and Mercedes.

    These are the worst-rated car brands:

    25. Jeep

    > 2015 ACSI score: 75
    > 2015 YTD sales: 474,905
    > YOY Change: 21.0%

    Due in part to the resurrection of the Grand Cherokee, Jeep is Fiat Chrysler's most successful division.

    MORE: Customer service Hall of Fame

    26. Chrysler

    > 2015 ACSI score: 74
    > 2015 YTD sales: 195,970
    > YOY Change: 19.0%

    The Chrysler flagship brand is aimed at the mid market, with most of its sales coming from its 200 and 300 nameplates.

    27. Fiat

    > 2015 ACSI score: 73
    > 2015 YTD sales: 250,333
    > YOY Change: -13.0%

    Fiat Chrysler has tried to sell Fiat as a low priced, high gas mileage car. So far, the company has not had much success.

     
     
     
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  • Uber fined $900,000 in France for running illegal transportation operations with UberPOP

    Nearly a year after suspending UberPOP in France, Uber will now have to pay a fine. A criminal court in Paris has sanctioned Uber for its UberPOP operations between February 2014 and July 2015. The court is asking for $900,000 (€800,000) — half of it is a suspended sentence. Two of Uber’s executives are also getting fined.

    UberPOP has been the most controversial part of Uber in Europe, and many countries have been trying to ban the service. It was banned in Brussels, the Netherlands and, yes, France. But Uber tried to push the limits a bit too much in France.

    Last summer, a French anti-Uber protest turned became a guerrilla warfare as taxi drivers were protesting against Uber’s illegal competition with UberPOP.

    With UberPOP, anyone could become a driver without any special professional license. Many taxi drivers saw the service as unfair competition. And according to the French law, a service like UberPOP was illegal. So when an UberPOP driver got fined, Uber paid for the fine.

    A few days later, in an unrelated investigation, two Uber France executives were arrested for running an illegal taxi company. The two executives were charged with two different allegations.

    First, according to them, Uber is running illegal taxi operations. Uber has been struggling with this charge in many countries, starting with the U.S. In 2010, the company had tochange its original name from UberCab to Uber as taxi companies didn’t want to create any confusion.

     

    Second, the police said that Uber France was concealing digital documents. It’s hard to tell what the police was looking for when they raided the French office in March 2015. But apparently, some documents were missing and slowed down the investigation.

    In July 2015, Uber finally pulled the plug on UberPOP in France — Uber is still operating in France with professional black car drivers.

    Uber France CEO Thibaud Simphal and Uber Europe GM Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty also got fined by the court in Paris as they’re personally held responsible for UberPOP. They’ll have to pay $34,000 and $23,000 (€30,000 and €20,000). Similarly, half of these fines are suspended sentences.

    Uber can still appeal the judgement, but it doesn’t look like UberPOP is coming back in France any time soon. And these fines shouldn’t hurt Uber too much given that the company just raised $3.5 billion.

    techcrunch

    Read more »
  • The 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class can almost drive itself

    The 10th generation of the venerable Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a lesson in old world luxury and enough modern technology that the car is almost capable of driving itself.

    Daimler staged the global reveal of the 2017 E-Class in Detroit on Sunday night, the eve of the 2016 North American International Auto Show.

    The midsize luxury sedan is longer than the previous model, with a muscular front end and single-piece taillight.

    For the U.S., the car will go on sale this summer with a turbocharged 2-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine with 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Mercedes said there will be more engine choices later. There will be diesel engines for Europe; a plug-in hybrid is expected down the road.

    The car has a nine-speed automatic transmission and the suspension offers sport and comfort modes as well as introducing a new air suspension system to automatically control the ride height depending on how fast the car is going to improve ride and fuel economy.

    The E-Class introduces the idea of touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel, which can be swiped like a smartphone to control the infotainment system without having to take hands off the steering wheel. The infotainment system also can be controlled with voice commands or a touch pad with a controller that recognizes handwriting in the center console.

     

    The seats can be heated — along with the door armrests, center console and steering wheel.

    "The E-Class is the core of the Mercedes-Benz brand and in the past has repeatedly redefined the standards in the business-class segment," said Thomas Weber, head of Daimler's Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.

    "The new E-Class takes another major step towards fully autonomous driving," he said.

    The optional Driver Assistance Package Plus will accelerate, brake, steer and change lanes for you. The "Drive Pilot" follows traffic up to 130 m.p.h.. as the "Steering Pilot" reads the surroundings and reacts accordingly. Put on the turn signal and the car will change lanes for you if the lane is clear.

    The automatic braking system watches for vehicles coming at cross streets and can stop the car to avoid collisions. The car also has evasive steering assist which augments the driver’s steering input in sudden maneuvers to avoid an accident.

    The audio system even emits a carefully designed sound when a collision is imminent to cause occupants' eardrums to tense, reducing the likelihood of ear injury from the noise of a collision.

    It is arguably the most technically advanced luxury car on the market. Daimler has received a license in Nevada to test the standard production E-Class as an autonomous vehicle. Other automakers authorized to test in the state have all been research vehicles.

    Pricing for the 2017 model has not been announced.

    Alisa Priddle: source

    Read more »
  • Google patent would glue pedestrians to self-driving cars

    Google just got a patent for a special kind of coating on self-driving cars that could help prevent pedestrian injuries.
    The company wants to coat autonomous vehicles with a sticky substance so that if they hit a pedestrian, the person would be glued to the car instead of flying off.

    "[The pedestrian] is not thrown from the vehicle, thereby preventing a secondary impact between the pedestrian and the road surface or other object," says the patent, granted on Tuesday.

    Google (GOOGL, Tech30) explains that an "adhesive layer" would be placed on the hood, front bumper and front side panels of a car. A thin coating would protect it until an impact occurred.

    Google's plan for self-driving cars is well known. The company has been testing its vehicles on roads in California and Arizona and is reportedly looking to hire people to test its cars for $20 an hour.

     

    The company now has 23 self-driving Lexus cars on the road and 34 of its mini prototype cars. The fleet is traveling about 10,000 to 15,000 miles every week in self-driving mode.

    Related: Google takes on Echo and Siri with 'Home' and assistant

    Google believes self-driving cars can help people get around easily and safely, but its vehicles aren't perfect.

    The company says all but one of the accidents so far have been the fault of human drivers in other vehicles. The one accident that Google admitted its self-driving car was responsible for was a fender bender that caused no injuries.

    Google's ultimate goal is to have a system of cameras, sensors and software that can predict and avoid almost all dangerous driving situations.

    "However, while such systems are being developed, it must be acknowledged that, on occasion, collisions between a vehicle and a pedestrian still occur," Google said in its patent filing.

    While the double-sided tape concept could mitigate some pedestrian injuries, the concept is far from ideal if it pinned a victim between the car and another object.

    "Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents," a Google spokeswoman said in a statement.

    CNNMoney (New York)

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