Used-vehicle values returning to normal?

Wholesale used-vehicle prices, which have been on a wild ride for the better part of the last two years, appear to be cooling off, Cox Automotive analysts say. And overall used-vehicle sales volume is expected to dip in 2019.

Wholesale prices on the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index fell 1.04 percent from August to September. And compared to September 2018, values were flat. This latest report from Cox Automotive’s auction unit marks a return to more usual seasonal patterns for used-car market watchers.

“Used prices had seen month-over-month gains as we moved past the spring selling season heading into summer this year, but that is no longer the case heading into fall,” Zo Rahim, Cox Automotive manager of economics and industry insights, said in a quarterly conference call this month.

2018 was especially abnormal for wholesale used-vehicle values, which showed a typical seasonal spring bounce last year but then stayed hot through summer and well into fall. That’s a period in which prices usually cool off.

2019, too, showed similar signs of a long-lasting spring bounce. It followed an atypical decline in values to start the year for the bellwether 3-year-old-vehicle category, the most popular vintage at Manheim auctions. Those vehicles showed eight straight weeks of price declines in January and February, typically a stable time. Sinking consumer confidence, extreme cold in parts of the U.S. and a government shutdown sapped sales, Cox Automotive Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke said.

“Plus, prices had risen so much last summer and fall that there was room for decline in early 2019,” Smoke said.

This year’s spring bounce — typically tied to tax returns — started in March. Values made slight, uncharacteristic gains in June. While 2018’s gains continued into July and August, that was not the case in 2019. Values declined just slightly for those months. September marked an abrupt change in the pattern, with declines accelerating each week — similar to what happened to values last year, albeit a month later in October.

“It was an interesting year so far,” Rahim told Automotive News, adding that it was not as abnormal as 2018. “I think we’re kind of starting to get back to normal.”

Three-year-old-vehicle values in aggregate dropped 2.6 percent in September vs. the more typical decline of about 1.5 percent. Cox estimates that total used-vehicle sales volume dipped just 0.1 percent in September, the most recent month for which figures are available.

The seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of used-vehicle sales was an estimated 39.8 million, up from 39.7 million last September. Overall, the Manheim index ended September flat from a year ago.

Cox projects total used-vehicle sales of 39.2 million this year vs. 39.4 million in 2018. While overall volume is expected to drop, Smoke said he expects sales of used vehicles at dealerships to remain strong as supply shifts to higher-quality, younger and more expensive vehicles.

Said Smoke: “While the used market in total is no longer growing, we believe the retail market will still be growing for several more years.”

2020 Volkswagen Golf First Look

2020 Volkswagen Golf First Look

In 1974, Volkswagen introduced its follow-up to the original people’s car, the classic Mk 1 Golf. Forty-five years and seven major redesigns later, the eighth-generation 2020 Volkswagen Golf has arrived to continue the nameplate’s legacy and presumably get it to its fifth decade.

So far, it hasn’t been confirmed if the standard Golf 8 will make its way to the North American market. Volkswagen says the decision to bring it to North America is still “under consideration,” but GTI and Golf R models have been confirmed—no word on when they will make their debut, however. Whether they bring it to the U.S. or not, Volkswagen is still going to sell plenty of Golfs—it’s the brand’s best-selling car in Europe and an extremely important car for VW globally. Hoping to keep that streak going, Volkswagen has updated the Mk 8 from the ground up, starting with the newest iteration of the MQB platform. Globally, the new Golf will feature eight drivetrains, a range of advanced safety tech, and a futuristic car-to-car communication system VW is calling “Car2X.”

The Golf still keeps its hatchback profile, but the Mk 8 will only be available globally as a four-door car, which should be fine for Americans as the two-door body style left our market in 2016. The more angular lines of the Mk 7 have been softened in most places, the front bumper is more sculpted than before, and there is a stronger through line that flows along the side of the car, bisects the door handles, and bleeds into the taillights. LED headlights and taillights are now standard across the Golf range. The new Golf also adopts VW’s subtly redesigned logo and new badging for the Golf model designation, now in all capital letters, sits just below the VW emblem on the back. That rear VW badge will no doubt still double as the release handle for the hatch.

Volkswagen calls this the most progressive Golf ever, and the changes inside are more drastic than on the outside. A new three-spoke multi-function steering wheel rests behind a standard 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit instrument cluster, and toward the middle of the car sits a standard 8.25-inch touchscreen infotainment display that is angled slightly toward the driver. A 10.0-inch infotainment screen is optional, and a widescreen head-up-display is also available. The climate controls lay hidden just beneath the infotainment cluster. The center console itself apes what we’ve seen in the new 911 with a stubby-looking electronic gear lever flanked by a series of buttons for other functions like auto brake hold. Gone is the parking brake handle, replaced by an electronic switch.

For the first time, the Golf will offer a total of eight powertrain options, five of which are hybridized. The new range of powertrains runs the gamut from gas-powered to plug-in hybrid, with diesel, natural gas, and mild hybrid options also joining the mix. The two gas and two diesel units are all turbocharged and feature direct fuel injection. The diesel engines, which the U.S. will almost certainly not get whether VW brings the Golf stateside or not, are said to be 17 percent more efficient. Volkswagen also says they’ve doubled AdBlue injections to “significantly cut nitrogen oxide emissions.” But then VW says a lot of things about its diesels.

The new Golf will also be the first Volkswagen to feature mild-hybridization. The eTSI engines will pair a three-cylinder motor to a 48-volt electrical system and will have horsepower outputs ranging from 150 to 200 hp. The most powerful engine in the Golf range will have 296 hp, though no word on which model that engine belongs to. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly to those passionate about driving fun, Volkswagen has spent the money to develop a new six-speed manual gearbox for front-wheel-drive Golfs, and it comes standard on the gas-powered cars. The GTI, TCR, and Golf R models will all use a 2.0-liter TSI mill, but each with different power outputs.

The Mk 8 also gets a host of new safety features from VW. The new Golf comes standard with lane-keep assist, a new turn-off assist feature, frontal area monitoring system, and a new prediction system to help mitigate collisions with pedestrians. Volkswagen is also debuting what it’s calling “Car2X,” or the first car-to-car communication system in a VW. The Golf will be able to transmit and receive relevant traffic information to and from other vehicles in real time within a radius of up to just over 2,400 feet. The Golf will be able to recognize situations like accidents, broken down vehicles, tail ends of traffic jams, roadwork areas, emergency braking situations, and emergency service vehicles and relay that information to the cars around it.

Higher-end Golfs will also feature VW’s dynamic chassis control, and niceties like LED matrix headlights and adaptive cruise control. The new Golf will come in three trims, standard, Life, and Style, and each step up comes with a comprehensive bump in features. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but then we’re still waiting to see if VW is bringing the Golf to the ‘States at all.

Sigh. At least we get the GTI.

Tesla releases update with more power, automatic navigation, and more

Tesla started pushing a new software update that enables more power out of its vehicles, a new Automatic Navigation feature, scheduled charging and more.

During a conference call with analysts after Tesla’s Q3 2019 earnings, Tesla’s management announced plans to release a new software update that would increase vehicle power, range, charging speed, and more.

CEO Elon Musk said that the update would gradually make it to owners over the next few weeks.

It is expected to affect different models and variants differently.

Now some owners are starting to report already getting the new software update with a “power increase”.

Tesla wrote in the release notes:

“Your car’s power has been increased by approximately 5%, improving acceleration and performance.”

That’s due to Tesla figuring out how to optimize motor control through software.

Along with the new motor control software resulting in a power increase, Tesla has released the highly-requested capability to schedule vehicle charging and preconditioning in the same update.

Tesla explains the new ‘Scheduled Departure’ feature in the release notes:

It’s now easier to have your car comfortable and ready to drive with Scheduled Departure. For any location (e.g. Home), pug in your car and select a time for when you want your car to be ready to drive. nce your specified time is set, the car will schedule charging to complete before peak electricity rates begin (6AM) to reduce energy costs and ensure consistent regenerative braking and performance. it also automatically starts climate control so the cabin is comfortable at the set departure time.

To enable Scheduled Departure for the current location, go to Charging > Schedule/ Then select DEPART AT and set the departure time, choose whether you’d like Scheduled Departure to apply ALL WEEK or only on WEEKDAYS. If ALL WEEK is selected, you have the option to “Precondition Cabin on Weekdays Only” by selecting the checkbox.

The automaker notes that this new feature replaces Smart Preconditioning and it will not precondition the car if the battery pack is at less than 20% state-of-charge.

Along with these new features, Tesla has also released a previously unannounced feature called “Automatic Navigation”:

Automatic Navigation starts a route to a likely destination when you get in your car. Automatic Navigation routes you to locations associated with upcoming calendar events, to Work when leaving Home in the morning (Monday through Friday) and Home when leaving Work in the afternoon or evening (Monday through Friday).

To adjust Automatic Navigation, tap Controls > Navigation > Automatic Navigation. To set your work and home addresses, tap Navigate ten tap Home or Work and enter the address as necessary, then tap Save.

Musk has been talking about introducing features that make your car increasingly know more about yourself and autonomously perform tasks that it can anticipate, like the fact that you are going to work or home.

He notes that it should be particularly useful once Tesla achieves full self-driving capability. The car will not only know you want to drive home, it will drive you there.


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Fights build over future of car-sharing

The hardball tactics started in an airport parking garage.

Car owners arrived at Orlando International Airport expecting to hand keys to their vehicles to arriving guests, who had arranged to borrow them on the Turo car-sharing platform. Instead, they received citations for illegally operating businesses on airport property.

A Turo executive who examined the rash of tickets in August 2017 learned the authority that runs the airport had hired a private investigator to create bogus reservations, then meet car owners with a police officer in tow.

Weeks later, a cease-and-desist letter arrived at Turo’s San Francisco headquarters, demanding the company stop its business at the airport until it obtained a permit and operated with rental car companies from an off-site facility.

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“It was bizarre,” said Michelle Peacock, vice president and head of government relations for Turo. “We had a conversation with them that lasted nine minutes. We’re willing to pay something in terms of a fee and give them information on transactions. Instead, it seems like they’re interested in being litigious and aggressive, and I find it baffling.”

Since then, the fight hasn’t just escalated, it has spread. Not only to other airports but to dozens of statehouses across the country, where lawmakers are considering legislation that affects peer-to-peer car-sharing, in which individual car owners make their cars available for borrowing.

The ongoing battles echo other instances in which companies that play matchmaker between customers and providers — companies such as Uber and Airbnb — have unsettled traditional incumbents, which claim the newcomers are circumventing regulatory requirements and laws. Turo and other peer-to-peer upstarts say the rental companies are bent on squashing innovation and competition.

They believe they’re under siege from the rental car industry, which, Peacock claims, has encouraged airports to skirmish with car-sharing companies and urged legislators to pass laws that could cripple the fledgling peer-to-peer industry.

Experts project that nearly 30 states may contemplate laws related to the peer-to-peer car-sharing and traditional rental car industries when legislatures are in session next year. In most cases, the crux of the argument revolves around the question: Are peer-to-peer companies the same as car rental companies? That classification would bring distinct requirements related to taxes, insurance and safety.

“This is an issue of fairness and level playing fields,” said Greg Scott, a government relations representative for the American Car Rental Association. “I kid you not. Their whole thing is: ‘We’re new and inventive and the future, and you should treat us differently.’ OK, why? Do we want the public to rent less-safe vehicles or to use public facilities like airports without supporting them? That’s what they say in Silicon Valley, but it doesn’t play well in the rest of America.”

Turo requires car owners on its platform to comply with all safety recalls — a mandate the rental car industry fought when Congress considered, and ultimately enacted in 2015, legislation that compelled the industry to fix recalled vehicles before they are rented.

And both Turo, which counts Daimler as a major investor, and rival peer-to-peer car-sharing service Getaround offer insurance as part of their standard pricing, pointing out that rental car companies mostly sell it as an add-on.

Turo disputes the charge of an uneven playing field. If anything, it says, it’s tilted toward car rental companies.

Turo says car rental companies pay no sales tax when they purchase their vehicles, which adds up to a tax break worth an estimated $3 billion annually in the U.S.

“I like to say that states have already decided that peer-to-peer isn’t the same as rental car because they’re not extending this tax break to Turo car owners,” Peacock said. “That’s one of the things where their argument of fairness and level playing fields is laughable.”

Turo, founded in 2009, has 10 million members and 400,000 cars listed on its platform. It operates in the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Car owners pay regular sales tax when purchasing their vehicles. Most, Peacock says, view putting their cars on the Turo platform as a means to make a few extra dollars from an asset that sits idle, many studies find, as much as 95 percent of the time. It’s a way for families to add a few extra dollars to their monthly budgets or for car enthusiasts to afford a dream car.

But Scott says Turo is a means for some owners to essentially deploy fleets of rental cars that undercut the traditional industry.

“The idea that this is a grandmother in tennis shoes not using her Cadillac except to go to church on Sunday is a fallacy, and it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny,” he said. “We have people who are running businesses, but they’re not calling it a car rental company. Because if they do, they have to be regulated as one.”

Airports are a particular sticking point. Car rental companies cry foul because peer-to-peer users don’t pay anything beyond regular state sales tax, while their users often pay additional surcharges and taxes that fund public projects such as stadiums and concert halls.

Further, car rental companies have concession agreements with airports that Scott says typically require them to pay 10 percent of their airport-related revenue to the airport. The payments help airports defray costs for infrastructure such as parking garages and rental car centers that may be on- or off-site.

But Turo argues that its car owners shouldn’t have to pay similar fees for those facilities because they do not house fleets of vehicles at the airport; car-sharing and ride-hailing have, in a sense, made those infrastructure investments expensive and outdated.

“It’s unfortunate that the rest of the mobility space has been able to look ahead and account for future technology,” Peacock said. “The airports didn’t do that. They doubled down on infrastructure that’s of a different era.”

That airports are relying on revenue from the car rental concession agreements to pay for that infrastructure means they’re compelled to tilt their rules in favor of incumbents, as the airport authority did in Orlando, observed one car-sharing executive, who asked not to be named.

For its part, Turo says that conversations with Orlando International Airport officials remain ongoing. It says it’s willing to pay some fees, akin to agreements with ride-hailing companies, and share data with airport officials. But no agreement has been formalized.

In the meantime, the company has become more assertive in seeking legislation that would codify the differences between peer-to-peer car-sharing and rental cars. After watching rental car companies lobby for legislation, Turo did the same, earning favorable laws in places such as Colorado, Indiana and Maryland.

There are similar battles on the horizon in places such as Illinois, Utah and Arizona.

In a world where Airbnb is subject to local scrutiny in cities across the U.S., where Uber and Lyft are being pushed away from curbs at airports in San Francisco toward designated pickup and drop-off spots, and where Turo is fending off rental car companies, it’s clear the fights between incumbents and platforms are nowhere near finished.

DS3 Crossback Is Oh So Chic, But What’s It Like Under That Fancy Dress?

DS3 Crossback Is Oh So Chic, But What’s It Like Under That Fancy Dress?

While the original DS3 was a supermini pinned against the Mini Cooper, the new one has become a crossover and is targeting the likes of the Audi Q2, Mini Countryman and BMW X2.

Named the DS3 Crossback, it has several unique design elements, both inside and out, like the sharp creases that merge together with soft lines at the front, pop-out door handles and many diamond-shaped elements in the cabin.

Also Read: 2020 DS 9 Flagship Starts Testing In Europe Ahead Of Launch Next Year

Citroen’s premium car brand chose to go with several touch-sensitive buttons, so accessing some functions will make drivers take their eyes off the road. Front and over-the-shoulder visibility are obstructed by the head-up display and odd-shaped rear doors, respectively, and space at the back is very cramped for adults. Furthermore, the cargo capacity is not on par with some of its rivals, so you may want to pack light when going away for the weekend.

In spite of these letdowns, the DS3 Crossback might cheer you up with the good balance between comfort and responsiveness, as well as with some of the engines available. The 155 PS (153 hp / 114 kW) 1.2-liter petrol is the most powerful of the range, but you can also get the small crossover with the 130 PS (128 hp / 96 kW) and 100 PS (99 hp / 74 kW) versions of the same mill. A Blue HDi diesel, rated at 100 PS (99 hp / 74 kW) and paired exclusively to a manual transmission, is also available, along with the all-electric E-Tense.

UK pricing starts at a little over £22,000 ($28,120/€25,450), whereas for the Ultra Prestige reviewed below, you will have to fork out over £31,500 ($40,270/€36,440). The range-topping La Premiere will set you back £39,490 ($50,482/€45,685), or £3,365 ($4,301/€3,893) more than the 300 PS (296 hp / 221 kW) Audi SQ2.