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Here’s our weekly roundup of news and events. We’ll be updating you soon on our exciting plans for the Fall. Stay tuned!

Volvo to preview a sleek new look at auto show

(MoneyWatch) Volvo, known for safety and staid design, will preview a sleek new look at the Frankfurt International Motor Show opening this week. While the Volvo coupe in Frankfurt is only a concept car, company officials say it signals the design direction of future models.

Now owned by the Chinese car company Geely, Volvo has hired designer Thomas Ingenlath, formerly at Volkswagen, to craft a new look. "The Volvo concept coupe reveals how we can shape our cars from now on," says Ingenlath. That will even be true in the redesigned XC90 SUV, to be introduced next year, he adds.

The new look in the coupe also draws upon design elements of the P1800, a sports car the company sold in the 1960s and '70s. Here is a look at some of the other new models being introduced in Frankfurt:Here is a look at some of the other new models being introduced in Frankfurt:

Volkswagen Golf VW is showing the Golf R all-wheel drive model and an electric e-Golf. A concept version of the Golf Sportsvan that, as the company tells it, melds a compact car with a minivan for more passenger and cargo space. The Sportsvan, likely to be produced next year, includes some advanced safety features like blind spot warning.

Audi A8 With booming U.S. sales this year (up nearly 15 percent over last year), Audi is working to keep its luxury line fresh. The top of the line A8 will have design tweaks in the grille, headlights and taillights. The biggest version, the A8L, will be five inches longer in the new model. The 3.0-liter diesel engine, with a version already on sale in the U.S., increases to 258 horsepower.

Land Rover hybrid diesels Both the Range Rover and Range Rover sport models will get these hybrid versions, pairing a an electric motor with a 3.0-liter diesel engine for total horsepower of 335. Land Rover says these SUVs can travel up to a mile on the electric motor alone. Though to be sold initially only in Europe, these hybrid diesels are likely to wind up in the U.S., to help the company meet the tightening federal MPG standards.

-Source: CBS Interactive Inc.

US auto fuel efficiency hits record high

Even with SUV and crossover utility vehicles sales surging, the average fuel efficiency of new vehicles sold in August set a new high for the U.S., according to a new report.
Overall, the mileage for new cars and trucks averaged 24.9 MPG, according to Michael Sivak with the University of Michigan.

"I am not surprised that overall fuel economy is improving," says Sivak, who has been tracking fuel efficiency for the last six years. "Buyers are selecting more fuel-efficient vehicles within each class of vehicles."
With the sales of 2013 model year vehicles winding down as automakers transition to 2014 models, the University of Michigan calculates the average fuel economy of model year '13 vehicles sold from October 2012 through last month is 24.7 mpg. That's up 1.2 mpg from model year '12 vehicles.

SUV sales surging
Nearly one out of every three vehicles sold last month was an SUV or crossover utility vehicle. All told, the group saw sales jump 24.1 percent, well above the industry increase of 17 percent.

Despite that difference, Sivak says the overall fuel economy average moved higher because even large vehicles are going further on a gallon of gas. "The SUV's and crossovers being sold now are much more fuel efficient than even a few years ago," said Sivak. At the same time, there has been an uptick in sales of gas-electric hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles, which have also helped raise the average fuel economy.

Five years ago, the average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the U.S. was 20.8 MPG. Since then it has risen 19.7 percent.

Sivak says the trajectory from here is for the average fuel economy to keep climbing, especially as more 2014 models with higher MPG roll into showrooms. "I do expect the average to pass 25 MPG this month or next," said Sivak.

-Source: CNBC's Phil LeBeau

August 2013 Looks to Be the Biggest Month Ever for New-Car Sales

J.D. Power has estimated that based on the pace set in early August, new car sales will hit 1.27 million units by the end of the month—a 12% increase over August 2012, and the highest tally since the onset of the Great Recession. What’s more, because the average price paid for new cars has risen over the years, and “consumers are spending more on new vehicles than in any month on record,”

J.D. Power “anticipates that consumer spending on new vehicles in August will be close to $36 billion, which would be the highest level on record.”
The average price for a new car was $30,500 in 2012, which was then an all-time high. The average jumped to over $31,000 for March 2013, and has remained at over $31,000 through the summer months.

It appears as if August 2013 will get some unusual help in reaching new sales highs due to a “calendar quirk,” as an Automotive News writer put it, which includes five weekends—all of Labor Day weekend included—in the numbers for August.

Month after month of strong sales in 2013 appear to have come as a result of ordinary consumers feeling confident enough in the economy and their financial well-being to take the plunge and buy new vehicles. (It probably also helps the cause that the average car on the road was recently estimated to be11.4 years old, an all-time high.) According to data rounded up by Edmunds.com, new cars have accounted for around 29% of all car sales lately, up from 27.6% last year. Leasing has also been on the rise: About 25% of new cars sold this year have been leased, up from 22% in 2012.

-Source: www.business.time.com/2013/08/29/august-2013-looks-to-be-the-biggest-month-ever-for-new-car-sales/#ixzz2dSeVJkyN

2014 May Turn Out to Be the Year of the Diesel Engine

Some auto insiders are saying that 2014 is shaping up as the Year of the Diesel, with the number of diesel-fueled cars sold in the U.S. set to double over the next 12 months or so, and even more growth expected down the road.

By 2017, the number of diesel models sold in North America should be up to around 60, Bosch anticipates.
What’s fueling the expansion of diesel engines? Today’s clean diesels are not the loud, smelly, black-smoke-belching vehicles of old. What’s more, they offer drivers a rare, highly desirable combination of power and fuel efficiency, while costing only a bit more than a regular gas-powered vehicle. Edmunds.com senior analyst Bill Visnic explained to USA Today that diesel is “a magnificent option” for SUVs and trucks because of outstanding pulling power, while with smaller commuter cars, “Diesel affords the opportunity to offer hybrid-like fuel economy ratings without the investment in hybrid technology.”

The New York Times reported that diesel sales rose 26% in the U.S. last year, thanks to the fact that they can get 15% to 30% better mileage than their gas-powered counterparts and buyers don’t have to pay a gigantic premium on the purchase. “Diesel is far less expensive than plug-ins and E.V.’s, with better range and performance,” said Volkswagen of America’s Rainer Michel. “This technology is available today.”

While GM, Nissan, Mercedes, and other automakers are expanding their diesel options, Volkswagen appears to have a big headstart on the scene. In a recent press release wishing the diesel engine a happy 100th birthday, noted that more than 75% of diesel-powered passenger cars and SUVs sold in the U.S. are VWs. Thus far in 2013, VW has sold 56,480 TDI Clean Diesel cars in the U.S., representing nearly 25% of its total sales.

Overall, diesels account for less than 3% of all cars sold in the U.S. That ratio could shift up to 8% or even as high as 10% by 2018, according to various projections.

-Source: www.business.time.com/2013/08/23/2014-may-turn-out-to-be-the-year-of-the-diesel-engine/#ixzz2dSewnqyV

NC jobless rate rises in July to 8.9 percent

The unemployment rate in North Carolina inched higher in July, the first uptick in the closely watched economic indicator since January. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percent to 8.9 percent last month, according to data released Monday by the state Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division. “It was a disappointing month,” said Mekael Teshome, a PNC Financial Services Group economist. Although the jobless rate was seven-tenths of a percentage rate lower than it was a year ago, North Carolina’s unemployment rate is tied with Rhode Island for the third-worst in the nation. Only Illinois, at 9.2 percent, and Nevada, where the unemployment rate is 9.5 percent, have higher unemployment rates. The national unemployment rate for July was 7.4 percent, an improvement from June’s 7.6 percent.

-Source: Charlotte Observer

North Carolina ranked in Top 5 for auto repair costs

When that “check engine” light come on, there’s a good reason to get worried. Even if it doesn’t leave you stranded in an unfamiliar part of town after dark it’s likely to take a bite out of your savings, especially as recent studies have indicated automotive repair costs rose by about 10 percent last year. That is, of course, an average that varied significantly by region. Vermont saw repair costs decline last year, according to a new study by automotive service site CarMD, making it America’s most affordable place to take your car in. At the other extreme was New Jersey where the typical visit to a service shop cost almost 50 percent more than in Vermont. Traditionally, the West Coast is the place where repairs have been most expensive. But in its latest annual car-repair cost survey, CarMD found California among the Top Five, with the rest of those spots filled by states along the Eastern Seaboard, including not only The Garden State but North Carolina, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

-Source: NBC News

Toyota Allows Dealers To Walk Away From Sagging Scion Brand

Toyota has tried practically everything, but it looks like the Scion brand finally is running out of gas. So the company is going to let dealers walk away from this once-promising marque without penalty. Small-car sales continue to surge in the American market; but Scion sales were only 41,300 vehicles through July of this year, down by nearly 2 percent from a year ago. And July sales were down by 9 percent year-to-year. So Toyota has decided to let its dealers off the hook, according to Automotive News, telling them they’re free from penalty if they decide to walk away from the Scion franchise. About 1,000 of Toyota’s 1,225 US dealers still carry the Scion franchise, the publication said. That is a far higher percentage than Toyota initially expected, but Scion’s early product successes encouraged more Toyota dealers to jump into the game.

-Source: Forbes

Ford Flex is the last frontier in a post-minivan void

The Ford Flex is largely unchanged going into 2014, which is unsurprising given that the model received a freshening this year. The 2013 changes recast the retro styling cues out of the Flex, particularly with the more modern grille, but Ford had to try something. The Flex came onto the scene in 2008 as the replacement for the unloved Taurus X, a mishmash of wagon styling and minivan size. The Flex arrived late during a boomlet of "throwback" designs such as the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevy SSR, Ford Thunderbird, Plymouth Prowler, Subaru Baja and VW Beetle.

-Source: New York Daily News