Ford Fusion – Ford Focus & Chevy Cruze: What do buyers like about these Cars – Ask a Dealer

What Fusion Did for Sedans, Ford’s New Focus Aims to Do for Compacts

JUSTIN LLOYD-MILLER GOOGLE+ TWITTER

2015Ford Focus Louisville Kentucky

Chevrolet (NYSE:GM) has been seen putting its new, revamped Chevy Cruze compact sedan through its paces, but upon release, it will have to contend with Ford’s (NYSE:F) freshly renewed Focus. More than a pretty face, Ford seems to think that the new Focus will be among the most advanced vehicles in its class.    First things first. The Focus has obviously gotten an updated front fascia, evoking the design language that is becoming increasingly commonplace on Ford’s global options. Its headlights have been slightly elongated and now take more after those found on the 2015 Mustang and seemingly less than the Fusion midsize sedan. The grille, however, takes after the latter.

Accentuated fog light housings and a splitter-style floor of the front bumper give the Focus a far sportier and aggressive appearance than its segment demands, but as shown with its Fusion, the formula appears to be working wonders for Ford.

The back has been adjusted as well, though perhaps not to the same extent. The rear lights are different but wholly similar to the outgoing model; the raked rear window and and muscular haunches help give the new Focus a planted, forward-leaning stance, which makes the car look aggressive beyond its performance bracket. It will only get better, we expect, with the new ST variant of this new car.

“We have taken the title of world’s best-selling nameplate to impressive new heights with the redesigned Focus,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s executive vice president and president of the Americas, said in the company’s statement. “Its combination of compelling, modern design and the most high-tech interior in the class will appeal to contemporary consumers who desire a small car with very sophisticated features.”

2015_Ford_Focus_5Door_04Under the hood, Ford has implanted the 1-liter EcoBoost engine, which can also be found in the Fiesta subcompact. This means better fuel economy for consumers and for Ford, possibly a better handle on the compact car market.

“The 1.0 liter EcoBoost engine is proof that excellent fuel economy and performance can come in one package,” said Raj Nair, Ford’s group vice president of global product development. “Focus is already known for bringing together efficiency and fun, and our latest addition will bring consumers a whole new level of enjoyment — on the road and at the pump.”

Though it’s new to the U.S., the small EcoBoost engine is already well acquainted in Europe. Ford says that the 1-liter EcoBoost accounts for 32 percent of sales of the current-generation Focus and 26 percent of sales for the Fiesta for this year.

Inside, Ford will — for the first time — throw in a rearview camera as standard equipment on either the 4.2-inch screen or the 8-inch screen on cars loaded with MyFord Touch.  MyFord Touch is also available with in the Ford F150 Truck and all Ford SuperDuty Trucks. Radar systems, lane departure warnings, and blind spot detection will also be available. The new Focus will go on sale later this year.

Ford Fusion Louisville Kentucky KY, Ford Focus Louisville Kentucky KY, Ford Fiesta Louisville Kentucky KY, Chevy Cruze Louisville Kentucky KY

In a Tesla Electric Car: Finding plenty of SuperChargers across America

Range anxiety has been a hot topic when it comes to electric vehicles. Tesla has fought hard to convince skeptics that EVs remain a viable option for everyone, not just for those that never leave the confines of their hometown. One key ingredient in achieving this is Tesla’s “Supercharger” network — a matrix of free, solar-powered charging docks that provide range for about three hours of highway driving in just 20 minutes. And with 71 Superchargers now in place, the question has been when a Model S owner could drive from coast to coast using only free Tesla energy.

That historic voyage wasn’t completed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk or a group of his employees. The feat was achieved by Model S owner John Glenney and his daughter Jill on Sunday, making the coast-to-coast trip in less than a week.

Glenney, 62, has been a Tesla owner for three years, originally buying a Tesla Roadster and driving it from Washington D.C. to San Francisco in October 2011, charging the car via any outlet he could find while waiting hours between charges.   See a full review on all Green Cars and decide which ones you would like to test drive.  As an owner of three Model Ss, Glenney thought it would be fun to attempt the trip, retracing the journey Musk and his brother took back in college, with his daughter Jill, 26, by his side.

For Glenney, the voyage began in Kentucky, where he drove to Jill’s home in Hoboken, N.J. to pick her up and establish the east coast starting line. From there, the drive required traveling through South Dakota, rather than the more direct route through Nebraska, due to the current location of Tesla’s chargers.

Perhaps the biggest issue faced by the father-daughter duo, though, was the incredibly frigid weather, playing havoc on the Model S’s 85 kWh battery, spending days of their drive below zero degrees. The roughly 270 mile range of the Tesla was depleted, in some case, to around 150 miles. This meant arriving at charging stations with as low as 11 miles of juice left.

One Supercharger was blocked with snow, leaving it completely unusable. After a panicked phone call to Tesla, the man on the phone told the pair to get some sleep and he’d see what he could do. By the time they woke up, the pump was cleared and ready to charge.

During the drive, Glenney posted his journey to Tesla’s online forum, not expecting there to be much interest. But the forum blew up, with commenters offering words of encouragement as well as statements like this below:

“I hope to tell my future grandkids in 20 years that, ‘Yep, the first cross-country trip on Superchargers alone was back in January 2014. And I followed along. I think we knew then what a milestone it would be.”

One section of the route that took him through - in his Tesla S was a beautiful bluegrass filled drive, but few chargers.  Another concern for Glenney was past Denver and up Silverthorne hill. Commenters recommended he charge fully in Cheyenne, Wyoming, before making the severe ascent, while others offered to bring the pair some backup “juice” if need be. In the end, Glenney posted that it was “anti-climatic,” arriving at the next charge station with 35 miles left to spare, “Not including the 17 miles Tesla hides from us for emergencies,” he said.

By now, the news had reached much of the EV community, and many wanted to meet at various stops to buy the duo dinner or simply wish them good luck. After passing Colorado, the road to Los Angeles was calmer. Temperatures rose, allowing Glenner and his happy battery to skip some Superchargers and blast forward, making up time. Upon arrival at the Hawthorn charging station in Los Angeles at 5:45 p.m. on January 26, after leaving New York on the morning of January 20, a dozen or so well-wishers arrived to congratulate them both. With Glenney driving from Louisville, Kentucky to New York first, he traveled a total of 3,619 miles and consumed 1,366 kWh of energy. When the main leg began from New York, Glenney utilized a total of 28 Superchargers during the trip.  One day Used Car lots across America will be offering pre-owned and used Tesla models.

The next day, after Jill had taken the redeye home the previous night, Glenney took a leisurely drive up to Tesla’s facility in Fremont, Calif. Having been promised a brief tour, Glenney was shocked to see hordes of people lining the factory, clapping and cheering for him becoming the first person to travel cost-to-coast using free energy from Tesla’s Supercharger network: “I only wish Jill was still here to see this,” he wrote on the forum.

According to Glenney, there are still some folks who don’t understand why he and his daughter did this: “Because we can,” he says.  For more Information on the Tesla Models, Green Car Reviews and the possibiliity of buying a pre-owned Tesla or Green Car, please see the Global Media Relations Group website at:  www.GMRGinc.com 

Tesla Model S, Green Cars, SuperCharger Locations, Louisville Kentucky Green Cars, Coast to Coast Charging Stations, Electric Cars,

2014 Chevy Spark EV, Ford Fiesta, Tesla, Fiat 500

  Kelly Blue Book:  10 Most Affordable Cars of 2014

The all-electric Spark carries the highest sticker price of all the cars on this list, but a $7,500 federal tax credit and zero appetite for gasoline help make it the most affordable car of 2014 from a 5-Year Cost to Own perspective.
2014 Chevrolet Spark Overview

Get Your Fair Purchase PriceSee actual transaction prices, explore total cost to own, projected resale value and more.See what you should pay
2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Review

The Spark is Chevrolet’s U.S. entry into the minicar market, a niche that’s slowly growing as more buyers look for high-mileage, low-cost vehicles that feel at home in crowded cities. Though it only debuted in 2013, Chevy has enhanced the Spark for 2014 with a new automatic transmission that increases fuel economy to 39 mpg in an effort to top rivals such as the Scion iQ, Fiat 500, and Smart Fortwo.

For those never wanting to visit a gas station, there’s the all-electric Spark EV initially for sale in California and Oregon. With two rear seats and slightly larger dimensions than its rivals, the Spark is easier to live with. It’s at home in the city, but those who log many highway miles should look to something larger.

You’ll Like This Car If…Numbers are appealing here, specifically a sub-$13,000 starting price and 39-mpg highway fuel-economy rating. Equally appealing are the Spark’s style and a size that’s big enough to hold four passengers yet tiny enough to park where other cars can’t.
You May Not Like This Car If…Tiny cars often get nervous at higher speeds. If you spend a lot of time on the highway, take a look at slightly larger but still budget-friendly and fuel-efficient cars like the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, or the Spark’s larger sibling, the Sonic. All feel more stable on freeways.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Low/wide front photoWhat’s New for 2014A more efficient CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission) replaces the 4-speed in models with an automatic transmission, and all Spark minicars gain automatic headlight control. Navigation is now available through a smartphone-enabled app. The all-electric Spark EV is new for 2014 and has a range of 82 miles.

Driving the Spark EV
2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Front angle view photo

Driving ImpressionsThanks to its small size and low weight, the Chevy Spark feels zippy and nimble. The Spark’s 83 horsepower from its tiny 1.2-liter engine may not sound like much, but…

it’s enough to move this sub-2,400-pound car in and around traffic. The Spark is tossable in corners, but body roll is present. Wind and road noise are apparent in the cabin, but we didn’t have to shout to carry on conversations. At higher speeds such as freeway driving, the Spark can feel jumpy. The Spark EV packs a powerful punch with a whopping 400 lb-ft of torque coming from its electric motor. That kind of oomph is enough to make theelectric car zip to 60 mph in just 7.6 seconds, while its heavier curb weight and sport-tuned suspension make it feel more planted.

Favorite Features

CHEVROLET MyLink
Chevy’s MyLink telematics system boasts a 7-inch touchscreen, SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio and telephone with voice recognition. Those with iPhones can even use a specialized version of Siri voice command with it.

MOTORCYCLE-INSPIRED INSTRUMENT PANEL
Complementing the Spark’s futuristic design is the motorcycle-inspired instrument panel that displays a digital tachometer and trip odometer as well as a large analog speedometer illuminated by a blue glow.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Details

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Dashboard, center console, gear shifter view photoInteriorThe Spark’s cabin is small, but there is enough room for four adults. The rear seats are easier to access and offer more legroom than those of the Fiat 500 and Scion iQ (the Smart Fortwo seats just two). The 11.4-cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seat isn’t vast, but it’s more than what’s offered in the 500 and iQ. Fold the 60/40-split seats, and that space nearly triples. Style-wise, the Spark aims for hip with a motorcycle-like instrument panel and luminescent dials. Plastic and cloth are the materials of choice in base models, but visual and tactile pop can be gained with colorful trim kits, a 7-inch touchscreen display and faux leather seating. EV models have an additional high-resolution screen in front of the driver to show range and other pertinent info.

Exterior

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV photo

From a distance, you may have trouble telling the Chevy Spark apart from its Sonic hatchback sibling. Like that also-diminutive car, the Spark is has a wedge-like design and unique details such as hidden handles in the rear doors. Step closer, though, and you’ll notice the Spark’s taller profile, larger headlight housings, and even-smaller dimensions. We think the Sonic has the edge in aesthetics among Chevy’s subcompacts, but it’s also over $2,500 more. Spark EV models have a chrome 2-tier grille that is closed to reduce airflow, a rear spoiler, and aero-optimized mirrors for the greatest efficiency.

Notable Equipment
Standard EquipmentThe 2014 Chevrolet Spark isn’t as Spartan as some may surmise. Even a base Spark minicar comes with air conditioning, power windows, a 4-speaker AM/FM radio with auxiliary input, and 15-inch wheels. Higher trims add a 7-inch touch-screen command center, cruise control, power door locks and mirrors, and leatherette on top trims. Missing in action on all forms of Spark is a telescoping steering wheel. And sadly for those among Gen X or beyond, a CD player isn’t even an option as younger drivers store music on devices, not discs. Spark EV models have a DC fast charging unit that allows an 80 percent charge in 20 minutes. Safety features include 10 airbags, traction and stability control, and OnStar emergency services.
Optional EquipmentThe options list is rather short for the 2014 Spark, with major additions linked to the car’s six trim levels. Add-ons available are an engine block heater and dealer-installed accessories such as fog light kit, sport grille, and colorful interior trim kits. Navigation is now available in the Spark, purchasable via the downloadable BringGo app that works with smartphones.
Under the Hood

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Engine photo2014 Spark models use a 1.2-liter inline 4-cylinder engine that makes 84 horsepower and is linked to a 5-speed manual transmission or a new CVT automatic. All Spark models are front-wheel drive and can run on regular unleaded gasoline. Spark EV models use an electric motor that makes 130 horsepower and a prodigious 400 lb-ft of torque. On a full charge it has a rated range of 82 miles. Charging times range from a mere 20 minutes using a scarce (for now) DC Fast Charging unit, to 20 hours on a standard 120-volt outlet. In between is a more reasonable 7 hours on a 240-volt line.

1.2-liter inline-4
84 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
83 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 31/39 mpg (manual), 30/39 mpg (automatic)

Electric motor
21kWh lithium-ion battery pack
130 horsepower
400 lb-ft of torque
Projected range per charge: 82 miles

Pricing Notes

The 2014 Chevrolet Spark has a tantalizing Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) price starting just under $13,000. That’s not the very lowest price for a new car, but it’s close. (The 2014 Nissan Versa sedan wears the budget crown with a starting price of $12,780.) Go for a top-line Spark with automatic transmission, and you’re still looking at a number just over $17,000, which enters the territory of the larger Chevy Sonic. The Spark’s starting price is a couple hundred less than that of the Smart Fortwo and about $3,000 less than the Fiat 500 and Scion iQ. A Spark EV also looks like a bargain among electric vehicles, with a starting price of $27,497 that drops to $19,995 when factoring in the $7,500 federal income tax credit. The Spark’s resale value is expected to be slightly above that of the Fiat 500, but below the leader in this tiny class, the Scion iQ.

 

2014 Chevrolet Spark
With four doors, four seats and surprising roominess, the small Spark is the most practical mini car available. And along with its Chevy Sonic sibling, it was the first vehicle to offer Siri Eyes Free integration, giving iPhone owners the ability to dictate text messages with the push of a button on the steering wheel, for instance.
Get Your Fair Purchase PriceSee actual transaction prices, explore total cost to own, projected resale value and more. See what you should pay.
2014 Chevrolet Spark Review

The Spark is Chevrolet’s U.S. entry into the minicar market, a niche that’s slowly growing as more buyers look for high-mileage, low-cost vehicles that feel at home in crowded cities. Though it only debuted in 2013, Chevy has enhanced the Spark for 2014 with a new automatic transmission that increases fuel economy to 39 mpg in an effort to top rivals such as the Scion iQ, Fiat 500, andSmart Fortwo. For those never wanting to visit a gas station, there’s the all-electric Spark EV initially for sale in California and Oregon. With two rear seats and slightly larger dimensions than its rivals, the Spark is easier to live with. It’s at home in the city, but those who log many highway miles should look to something larger.

You’ll Like This Car If…Numbers are appealing here, specifically a sub-$13,000 starting price and 39-mpg highway fuel-economy rating. Equally appealing are the Spark’s style and a size that’s big enough to hold four passengers yet tiny enough to park where other cars can’t.
You May Not Like This Car If…Tiny cars often get nervous at higher speeds. If you spend a lot of time on the highway, take a look at slightly larger but still budget-friendly and fuel-efficient cars like the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, or the Spark’s larger sibling, the Sonic. All feel more stable on freeways.

2014 Chevrolet Spark Low/wide front photoWhat’s New for 2014A more efficient CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission) replaces the 4-speed in models with an automatic transmission, and all Spark minicars gain automatic headlight control. Navigation is now available through a smartphone-enabled app. The all-electric Spark EV is new for 2014 and has a range of 82 miles.

Driving the Spark
2014 Chevrolet Spark Front angle view photo

Driving ImpressionsThanks to its small size and low weight, the Chevy Spark feels zippy and nimble. The Spark’s 83 horsepower from its tiny 1.2-liter engine may not sound like much, but…

it’s enough to move this sub-2,400-pound car in and around traffic. The Spark is tossable in corners, but body roll is present. Wind and road noise are apparent in the cabin, but we didn’t have to shout to carry on conversations. At higher speeds such as freeway driving, the Spark can feel jumpy. The Spark EV packs a powerful punch with a whopping 400 lb-ft of torque coming from its electric motor. That kind of oomph is enough to make the electric car zip to 60 mph in just 7.6 seconds, while its heavier curb weight and sport-tuned suspension make it feel more planted.

Favorite Features

CHEVROLET MyLink
Chevy’s MyLink telematics system boasts a 7-inch touchscreen, SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio and telephone with voice recognition. Those with iPhones can even use a specialized version of Siri voice command with it.

MOTORCYCLE-INSPIRED INSTRUMENT PANEL
Complementing the Spark’s futuristic design is the motorcycle-inspired instrument panel that displays a digital tachometer and trip odometer as well as a large analog speedometer illuminated by a blue glow.

2014 Chevrolet Spark Details

2014 Chevrolet Spark Dashboard, center console, gear shifter view photoInteriorThe Spark’s cabin is small, but there is enough room for four adults. The rear seats are easier to access and offer more legroom than those of the Fiat 500 and Scion iQ (the Smart Fortwo seats just two). The 11.4-cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seat isn’t vast, but it’s more than what’s offered in the 500 and iQ. Fold the 60/40-split seats, and that space nearly triples. Style-wise, the Spark aims for hip with a motorcycle-like instrument panel and luminescent dials. Plastic and cloth are the materials of choice in base models, but visual and tactile pop can be gained with colorful trim kits, a 7-inch touchscreen display and faux leather seating. EV models have an additional high-resolution screen in front of the driver to show range and other pertinent info.

Exterior

2014 Chevrolet Spark photo

From a distance, you may have trouble telling the Chevy Spark apart from its Sonic hatchback sibling. Like that also-diminutive car, the Spark is has a wedge-like design and unique details such as hidden handles in the rear doors. Step closer, though, and you’ll notice the Spark’s taller profile, larger headlight housings, and even-smaller dimensions. We think the Sonic has the edge in aesthetics among Chevy’s subcompacts, but it’s also over $2,500 more. Spark EV models have a chrome 2-tier grille that is closed to reduce airflow, a rear spoiler, and aero-optimized mirrors for the greatest efficiency.

Notable Equipment
Standard EquipmentThe 2014 Chevrolet Spark isn’t as Spartan as some may surmise. Even a base Spark minicar comes with air conditioning, power windows, a 4-speaker AM/FM radio with auxiliary input, and 15-inch wheels. Higher trims add a 7-inch touch-screen command center, cruise control, power door locks and mirrors, and leatherette on top trims. Missing in action on all forms of Spark is a telescoping steering wheel. And sadly for those among Gen X or beyond, a CD player isn’t even an option as younger drivers store music on devices, not discs. Spark EV models have a DC fast charging unit that allows an 80 percent charge in 20 minutes. Safety features include 10 airbags, traction and stability control, and OnStar emergency services.
Optional EquipmentThe options list is rather short for the 2014 Spark, with major additions linked to the car’s six trim levels. Add-ons available are an engine block heater and dealer-installed accessories such as fog light kit, sport grille, and colorful interior trim kits. Navigation is now available in the Spark, purchasable via the downloadable BringGo app that works with smartphones.
Under the Hood

2014 Chevrolet Spark Engine photo2014 Spark models use a 1.2-liter inline 4-cylinder engine that makes 84 horsepower and is linked to a 5-speed manual transmission or a new CVT automatic. All Spark models are front-wheel drive and can run on regular unleaded gasoline. Spark EV models use an electric motor that makes 130 horsepower and a prodigious 400 lb-ft of torque. On a full charge it has a rated range of 82 miles. Charging times range from a mere 20 minutes using a scarce (for now) DC Fast Charging unit, to 20 hours on a standard 120-volt outlet. In between is a more reasonable 7 hours on a 240-volt line.

1.2-liter inline-4
84 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
83 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 31/39 mpg (manual), 30/39 mpg (automatic)

Electric motor
21kWh lithium-ion battery pack
130 horsepower
400 lb-ft of torque
Projected range per charge: 82 miles

Pricing Notes

The 2014 Chevrolet Spark has a tantalizing Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) price starting just under $13,000. That’s not the very lowest price for a new car, but it’s close. (The 2014 Nissan Versa sedan wears the budget crown with a starting price of $12,780.) Go for a top-line Spark with automatic transmission, and you’re still looking at a number just over $17,000, which enters the territory of the larger Chevy Sonic. The Spark’s starting price is a couple hundred less than that of the Smart Fortwo and about $3,000 less than the Fiat 500 and Scion iQ. A Spark EV also looks like a bargain among electric vehicles, with a starting price of $27,497 that drops to $19,995 when factoring in the $7,500 federal income tax credit. The Spark’s resale value is expected to be slightly above that of the Fiat 500, but below the leader in this tiny class, the Scion iQ.

To find out what consumers are really paying for this vehicle, first select a style to see theFair Purchase Price| Calculate payments for this vehicle

To compare current market prices, check out KBB.com’s car classifieds to view the new and used Chevrolet Spark vehicles for sale near you.

2014 Chevy Spark EV,

Green Cars – Electric-Car Fast-Charging Networks

Green Cars – Electric-Car Fast-Charging Networks: SuperCharger

Of the cars on sale today, none were launched before 2010. It’s easy too to forget how at that time, a unified fast-charging standard was far from being agreed upon.

Today, there are over 3,500 CHAdeMO fast-chargers worldwide, and the market is finally approaching some kind of standard for topping up your electric car as quickly as possible. Well, for some automakers at least.

Launched in Japan, it’s no surprise that the CHADdeMO standard works with two of the longest-running electric vehicles, Nissan’s Leaf and Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV.

But if you own a Tesla Model S, you’ll already be used to Tesla’s own proprietary Supercharger arrangement, and the countrywide charging stations that come with it.

The opening of a true cross-country route has allowed several owners to drive from coast-to-coast already, and represents a breakthrough in the way electric cars can be used.

Not only are the stations convenient (and the Tesla Model S endowed with a long enough range to make such trips much easier) but they’re also free to use for Model S owners–not something that can always be said of CHAdeMO and its compatible vehicles.

But arguably, CHAdeMO is more important–not least because most electric vehicle drivers aren’t able to use Tesla’s swish Superchargers.

That’s reflected in the numbers. Of the 3,500 global CHAdeMO installations, 554 are located in the United States. By comparison, Tesla’s website currently lists 74 stations active in the U.S.–though more are planned for near-total coverage of the country over the next year or two.

Japan and Europe still dominate with CHAdeMO coverage, however. As of January, reports Charged EVs, there were 1,967 CHAdeMO stations in Japan and over 1,000 in Europe.

Some are sounding the death knell for CHAdeMO in Europe though, since several popular electric cars–the Renault Zoe, Twizy and Kangoo, BMW’s i3, the Smart Electric Drive–don’t use the standard. Nor–unsurprisingly–does the recently-launched Tesla Model S, nor the upcoming Volkswagen e-Up.

Tesla is already rolling out the Supercharger network in Europe–14 stations are currently up and running, and most of Europe’s major corridors should be ‘Supercharged’ by the end of 2014.  Only Ford’s electric cars come close to equalling the charging capabilities of it’s rivals.

For the time being at least, it means we’ll still see several different types of fast-charging available to electric car users.  Toyota offers an electric car and so does Honda.

But the important take-away from this is that fast charging is growing in the U.S. and abroad–and that can only be a good thing for the electric car industry.

Green Cars, Green Car Reviews, Tesla Reviews & Information, Used Honda Electric, Used Toyota Electric, Used Ford Electric Cars, Nissan Electric Cars, Used Chevy Electric Cars,

How and When to Buy a Used or PreOwned Hybrid Car

 

Tips for Buying a Used Hybrid –  Car Shopping

Easier, If You Understand Hybrid:

Used car shopping? Is fuel efficiency high on your list? Thinking of buying a used hybrid, perhaps?

You should be. While there still are states in which hybrid sightings are rare, the gas-electric vehicles really are everywhere now, and a lot of them are in the used car market.

Since the first two-seat Honda Insight rolled out of an American Honda dealer’s showroom in late 1999, more than 2.1 million “conventional” hybrids have been sold new in the U.S. (In hybrid car lingo, a conventional hybrid is one without plug-in, grid-rechargeable batteries.) More than half of those have been resold at least once, and there are more than 415,000 used hybrids on the market right now, according to figures compiled by CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Oregon.

Hybrid cars depreciate, as all vehicles do. In many cases, the hybrid technology premium that made them so costly when they were new has diminished considerably. Given that most of them also still deliver the excellent mpg for which they were designed, used hybrids can be great deals for car shoppers who are willing to do a little extra homework and can compromise on selection.

Some Things Don’t Change

Like “regular” used cars, used hybrids cost less than new ones. They can save you money on insurance. You can easily track their service history using the vehicle identification number (VIN) and vehicle history report such as Autocheck or Carfax. The cars are available at dealerships and through private parties. And you can usually buy one with a factory-backed warranty if it’s a certified pre-owned car or with a third-party extended warranty if you deal with an independent dealership.

Because they combine electric drive with gasoline engines, hybrids have most of the same mechanical parts and issues that traditional cars and trucks have.

Shoppers who are looking at used hybrid cars still need to check on the usual things such as oil and other fluid leaks, tire and brake wear, paint, body and interior condition and service history. The latter is often available from dealership records or sellers’ receipts. Buyers will also want to check on the status of any recalls, which they can get through dealership records or by calling the manufacturer’s customer service line.

Edmunds.com covers the nuts and bolts of used car shopping in our in-depth “10 Steps to Buying a Used Car” and its traveling companion, the “Quick Guide to Buying a Used Car,” which is easier to consult on your smartphone while you’re on your shopping trips.

All of the tips and advice in those articles are just as valuable for the used hybrid shopper as they are for those shopping for traditional used cars.

What Makes Used Hybrids Different

Because of the technology involved, hybrids take the challenges of used car buying to a new level, though.

Chief among those pluses: Hybrids add an electric drive system and related computerized electronic controls to the regular gasoline powertrain. They also have large specialized battery packs that have limited lifespans, albeit pretty lengthy ones. Depending on their design, hybrids also can have quite different mechanical systems from regular vehicles. The transmission in the Toyota Prius, for instance, is part of its electric motor.

All that stuff helps hybrids deliver great fuel economy, but it means that people shopping for used hybrid cars have a little more to check out than do regular used car shoppers.

Check Those Records

A thorough check of a used hybrid’s service record is the first and most important step a prospective buyer should take, says Coquillette, whose garage works on 40-50 hybrids a day and has a night shift dedicated to working on San Francisco’s sizable hybrid taxi fleet.

“Maintenance is very important, and the service record will tell you how well, and regularly, it has been maintained,” she says.

One good thing about hybrids is that they are largely computer controlled. “The car is designed to protect the hybrid system and the computer pretty much decides how it will respond to your requests to accelerate, slam on the brakes or perform other tasks that cause wear and tear,” Coquillette says. “That’s good because when looking at used hybrids you’re probably not going to have to worry about driving abuse like you would with other cars.”

A note about brake wear: Because hybrids’ regenerative braking systems use the electric motor to slow the car most of the time, hybrids’ brakes usually last much longer than brakes on conventional vehicles. That means a big savings on regular maintenance costs. But if maintenance records show frequent brake jobs, you may be dealing with a hybrid that was driven hard by a previous owner. You’ll want to make sure other mechanical parts aren’t prematurely worn, too.

The Test-Drive

If you’ve never driven a hybrid, that first test-drive can be somewhat of a shocker. Hybrids don’t feel or sound the same as other cars.

They typically use electric power-assist steering, which is not as responsive as hydraulically assisted steering. Because the gas engine is usually fairly small and assisted by an electric motor, the sounds from the engine bay aren’t the same. It can be difficult for the untrained to hear whether a hybrid’s powertrain is making noises that signal the need for immediate maintenance or repairs. Additionally, some hybrids can be dead silent for the first few miles of driving because they are operating on electric motor power only.

Get an Independent Inspection

Because hybrids have a lot of complex control and powertrain technology, it’s a good idea to find a competent hybrid mechanic to inspect a used model, especially if you are dealing with a private seller or are a first-time hybrid shopper.

Used hybrids sold by dealerships often come with warranties, especially if they are being sold under a manufacturer’s certified pre-owned (CPO) program. But it’s still not a bad idea to have an independent mechanic check things out.

Not all mechanics are capable of working on hybrids. It takes additional training to plow into the innards of a car that carries sufficient voltage to fry a water buffalo and has electric motors and other parts not found on a conventionally powered vehicle.

Most independent shops with trained hybrid mechanics post signs bragging about it. Many have mechanics who have completed the Auto Career Development Center’s hybrid technician program.

Dealerships don’t always have trained hybrid mechanics, so it’s prudent, especially in regions where hybrids aren’t plentiful, to ask a dealership whether it does have certified hybrid mechanics on duty.

Mild or Strong

One of the first things to know about those conventional, no-plug hybrids is that they come in two basic flavors: mild and strong.

Honda and the new General Motors “eAssist” hybrids use what’s called a “mild” system. The electric motor is a secondary power source, augmenting the gas engine. The electric motor provides a boost when the car needs it for acceleration, passing and hill climbing. It’s also there to instantly start the gas engine when it shuts down at idle. This automatic stop-start function is a key fuel-saving technology in conventional hybrids.

Most other hybrids use some form of the “strong” or “full” hybrid system that was initially developed by Toyota for its Prius. The batteries and electric motors in a strong hybrid are powerful enough to provide some all-electric range at start-up, although it’s typically just a few miles. The strong approach also permits the use of a relatively small gas engine, thus providing better overall fuel economy than mild hybrids can attain.

Because they use bigger motors and batteries than mild hybrids, hybrids with strong systems typically cost more when new, and usually still command a higher price than comparably aged and equipped mild hybrids in the used market. But for that extra money you get better fuel efficiency.

Hybrid Battery Basics

Hybrids all use standard 12-volt automotive batteries to power their onboard electronics, but they use much larger and more expensive battery packs to power their electric motors.

Until recently, nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) was the chemistry of choice, and all hybrids used NiMH battery packs. Recently, though, some automakers have begun using lithium-ion batteries, which are much lighter but more expensive. Because of their tendency to get quite hot, lithium-ion batteries require complicated heat-management systems. Unless you are shopping for a 2011 model year or later used hybrid, chances are you’ll be looking at models with nickel-metal hydride batteries.

Regardless of battery type, all hybrids come new with at least an eight-year/100,000-mile battery warranty. Models sold in California, the District of Columbia and 10 other states that have adopted the California zero-emissions vehicle mandate get an even longer battery warranty: 10 years or 150,000 miles. The zero-emissions vehicle rules require the extended hybrid battery warranty.

In most cases, that means the used hybrids you’re looking at probably still will have some battery warranty remaining.

Hybrid Car Battery Replacement

Most hybrid makers claim that their cars’ battery packs will be good for 10 years or more. There are lots of hybrid taxis in New York and San Francisco that have logged well in excess of 150,000 miles on the original batteries.

So battery life shouldn’t be an issue, unless you are looking at a used hybrid car with close to 100,000 miles on the odometer, or expect to keep the car for many, many years.

If a replacement does become necessary, the costs aren’t horrible. They’re certainly nothing like the $10,000-$20,000 cost of replacing the battery in a pure electric car.

At the time of this article’s writing, Toyota was selling replacement batteries for its 2004-’09 Prius models for less than $2,200. Honda sells replacement batteries for the 2005-’11 Civic hybrid for $1,700, which is down from $2,400 four years prior. Nissan has one of the most expensive replacement batteries: $4,900 for an Altima hybrid.

There are several aftermarket companies, including Denver’s Mile Hybrid Automotive and Re-Involt Technologies of North Carolina, that sell hybrid replacement batteries for less than factory prices.

Whether ordering from the automaker or an independent, the final cost of a battery pack replacement will include shipping and installation, which can add $1,000 or more to the total.

If you are really adventurous, there also are numerous hybrid batteries available in automotive salvage yards, recovered from cars that were totaled in collisions. Make sure to check for fluid leaks, torn coverings, dents or other signs of damage, though, before writing a check for one.

Numbers Plentiful, Choices Limited

Just two companies, Honda and Toyota, have made most of the used hybrid cars, crossovers and SUVs. The majority bear a single nameplate: Prius. That’s because Toyota’s Prius is the best-selling hybrid by far in the U.S., accounting for about half of all hybrid sales since Day One, according to sales data compiled by Edmunds.com.

There now are about two dozen conventional hybrid models on the market, and almost every major automaker has one or more for sale. But many only started selling the gas-electric cars and trucks in the last two years. Those models don’t have much presence in the secondhand car market yet.

Finding Used Hybrids

That means that while there are quite a few used hybrids on car lots and available through private-party sales, the most common for the next few years will be the Ford Escape Hybrid SUV, Honda Civic Hybrid, Lexus RX 400h SUV, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Toyota Prius and Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV. Most of them fall in the 2004-’09 model years.

Edmunds.com’s used hybrid and electric center provides capsule reviews of cars as well as specification and features lists and our True Market Value (TMV® for each model.

Edmunds’ used car inventory finder can help you narrow the field by locating secondhand hybrids on sale at dealerships within a search radius that you set. For private-party sales, you can look to such sites as AutoTrader.

One Mechanic’s Recommendations

For shoppers who want to play it safe, Coquillette recommends sticking with the most popular hybrids. But her advice is to avoid all first-generation models on the theory that it takes a generation for the automakers to work out the nastiest bugs in a new, technology-laden model.

Her preferred used hybrids are second-generation 2004-’09 Priuses, which she says are holding up well with fewer major mechanical or battery issues than other hybrids. She particularly noted problems Honda has had with its 2006-’08 Civic Hybrid battery reliability and performance.

The Prius isn’t perfect, however. Coquillette says that many second-generation Priuses have a tendency to burn oil if the original owner wasn’t diligent in getting oil changes at the recommended intervals. They don’t leak oil, she says. They just burn it because carbon build-up from dirty oil prevents the piston rings from sealing properly.

Coquillette also suggests that whatever used hybrid model buyers pick, it is a good idea to look for cars with mileage in the 30,000-50,000 range if battery replacement cost would present an issue to the buyer. But if its other parts are in good working order, a cheap high-mileage used hybrid and a replacement battery might also fill the bill for some.

In any event, hybrids are here to stay. Their numbers in the used car market will only swell as more and more automakers add hybrid systems to their cars to help them meet ever-stricter federal fuel economy regulations. That means more choices for fuel-efficient used cars and trucks are on the way.

Happy hunting.

GM, Tesla and others, Battle for Dominance in the Hybrid & Electric Car Market

GM Takes on Tesla — and Just Might Win

It may seem laughable to the cutting-edge technologists in Silicon Valley, but the biggest threat to the Valley’s beloved and revolutionary carmaker — Tesla — just might be doddering old General Motors (GM).

Tesla, of course, is a media and stock-market darling. Against long odds, the upstart company headed by entrepreneur Elon Musk has created two gorgeous electric cars, the Roadster andModel S, that have seduced drivers with a suave blend of engineering, performance and novelty. While other upstarts, such as Fisker — and even some long-established carmakers, such as Saab — have failed during the past few years, Tesla (TSLA) has thrived. Its stock is up nearly 400% this year, prompting even Musk to say it seems overvalued.

So it’s easy to dismiss GM’s claim that it plans to develop batteries that will be able to move a car 200 miles on one charge, at a cost of $30,000 or so — close to the range of the Model S, at less than half the cost. GM’s most prominent electric car, of course, is the Chevy Volt, which can travel about 35 miles on one charge, starts at $34,000, and is approximately as exciting as a minivan. GM launched the Volt in 2010 amid a huge hype campaign that ended up making the car seem like a failure. GM badly missed initial sales targets and has since resorted to discounting to keep Volts moving off the lot. It hardly helps that GM took a huge government bailout in 2009, leading critics to deride the Volt as a foolish government science experiment.

A formidable competitor

GM can be a formidable competitor, however, when it funnels its resources into focused projects. And it has two big advantages over Tesla. The first is scale, which is vital to profitability in the car business. Since the costs of designing and manufacturing a given automobile are huge, it’s essential to be able to spread them across the largest possible sales base. Like other big automakers, GM can develop technology for one car that it uses in a dozen different models or more. Tesla’s tiny product lineup doesn’t allow for that, which is one reason it’s lost money five years in a row, and only recently turned its first quarterly profit.

GM also has proprietary battery technology that could turn out to be a game-changer if the automaker can manage to get costs down and range up. Unlike Tesla, which relies on off-the-shelf battery technology it harnesses in a unique way for automobiles, GM has been working to develop breakthrough batteries since it launched the doomed EV-1 project in the 1990s. It hasn’t quite succeeded, needless to say, but GM has the deep pockets and staying power to keep nursing the technology until it matures.

Despite many duds in its past, GM also has the chops to build great cars, as just about any Corvetteowner will attest. Even the Volt (which is really a hybrid with a backup gas-powered motor) has a core coterie of devoted owners who say the car is reliable and enjoyable, especially when motoring purely on electric power, which costs about one-fourth as much as gasoline. GM will up the ante next year when the Cadillac ELR — a souped-up version of the Volt — debuts, probably in the same price range as the Telsa Model S, which starts at about $64,000.

Everything to everybody

GM’s problem is that its size also works against it. With four divisions producing vehicles in every price range and category, GM tries to be everything to everybody. It also has a bureaucratic culture that some critics say survived GM’s 2009 bankruptcy reorganization, even though a succession of CEOs pledged to stamp out the mediocrity propagated by hidebound GM lifers. That’s why GM sometimes turns out meh-mobiles such as the Chevy Malibu, recently “relaunched” after a 2012 upgrade proved underwhelming.

GM hasn’t said it’s directly targeting Tesla as a competitor, but it has been closely watching the startup since the beginning. Back in 2006, when the Volt project was percolating in GM labs, vice chairman Bob Lutz (now retired) said reading about Tesla convinced him GM needed to work on something similar. “If some little West Coast outfit can do this, we can no longer stand by,” he said.

That little West Coast outfit will soon face other fearsome competitors. Next year BMW will launch its all-electric i3 hatchback, which won’t compete directly with the larger Model S but will clearly serve as a testbed for future BMW electrics. Nissan already builds the Leaf electric, with a range up to 100 miles, and has other electrics planned. Toyota has been a leader in hybrids and now has an all-electric RAV4 (built with some Tesla technology). Volkswagen says it wants to be the world’s biggest electric carmaker by 2018.

There’s a place for Tesla amid those giants, especially since it has built a terrific brand and boasts an influential base of devoted fans. Tesla’s technology will get better, too, and it has already said it plans to build at least one smaller, cheaper model that will take on more-mainstream competitors. But Tesla still has to make money in a costly, difficult business. At some point, the company’s red-hot glow will fade and it will need to recharge. By the time that happens, there will probably be a fleet of chasers getting larger in the rear-view mirror.