Ford Looking to Smaller Vehicles for Growth in U.S.

A new report from Ford serves to underscore what will likely be a continuation of the trend toward smaller vehicles in the United States. Ford says it plan for future growth in the United States is centered around four key vehicle segments: subcompact, compact cars, small utility vehicles and midsize sedans, together, what Ford calls the ‘super segment.’

These four vehicle segments, taken as a whole, represent just over 50 percent of total new vehicle sales in the U.S. As recently as 2004, super segment sales were only 35 percent of the market. Ford expects more growth in the super segment, as baby boomers continue to downsize their vehicle purchases and first-time millennial buyers enter the market. Combined, baby boomers and millennials account for more than 160 million people in the U.S.

“The super segment is where Ford plans to grow in North America,” said Amy Marentic, group marketing manager, Global Small and Medium Cars. “Escape and Fusion have gotten off to very strong starts since being all-new last year, and we expect continued strong interest in both.

Combined sales of Escape and Fusion totaled 51,985 vehicles in February 2013, edging out combined sales for Toyota Camry and RAV4 (44,599 sales) and Honda Accord and CR-V (48,667 sales). Escape has been the best-selling small utility in the U.S. for the past two months.

From January through September of last year, Focus was the best-selling vehicle in the world (end-of-year data from all regions have not yet been reported), while Fiesta was No. 5 in global sales and the best-selling subcompact car in the world.

Year-to-date Fiesta retail sales are up 24 percent from a year ago while Focus is up 3 percent. Year-to-date retail sales of Fiesta, Focus and C-MAX in California, the biggest small car state in the country, are up 43 percent this year, in addition to a stellar 54 percent sales increase last year.

by CollisionWeek: www.collisionweek.com/cw/news/2013/0325-ford.asp

Counterfeit AC Refrigerant Poses Serious Danger to Technicians

The Coordinating Committee for Automotive Repair (CCAR) is alerting the automotive industry about the serious dangers of counterfeit and contaminated AC refrigerant after another 3500 cylinders of counterfeit refrigerant were seized by Saudi authorities earlier this month.

The problem is caused by counterfeiters who are manufacturing cylinders of AC refrigerant labeled as pure R-134a but in fact contain R-134a mixed with other refrigerants like R-40.

When R-40 is exposed to aluminum, commonly used in a/c system components, it forms a toxic, flammable and highly volatile compound known as trimethyl aluminum that is explosive upon contact with air.
R-40 is a harmful and dangerous material that is not suited for use in automotive R-134a a/c systems.

CCAR invited guest blogger Bob Miller of Train Them Now LLC to publish an article on the issue to help explain the dangers and offer some solutions for repairers that handle AC service.

According to Miller, if R40 is found in a system, the system is considered unrepairable. There is no safe and approved solution for removal of the refrigerant and neutralization of the aluminum compound that may have been formed.

Miller suggests several precautions:

– Always identify refrigerant on every vehicle before you hook your equipment to it
– Be wary of R-134a being sold well below the current market price
– look for misspellings or poor quality on cylinder labels that might indicate a counterfeit
– hook a refrigerant identifier to a new cylinder of R-134a as a precaution

Read the entire article on the CCAR Greenlink website

Contaminated R-134a whitepaper from Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute

by CollisionWeek: www.collisionweek.com/cw/news/2013/0222-coun.asp

UK- Audatex to Raise Paint Material Rate by 6 Percent

Audatex UK announced that, having now completed industry paint price reviews, the company will be making an upward adjustment to its paint price tables.

The impact of the detailed data supplied by the paint companies has resulted in an average increase of 6.26 percent on the calculated paint and materials. These calculations are based upon updated paint material tables which represent the basket of paint brands used in the Audatex system and take into account the market share of the brands within the overall basket.

Paint company/brand

Market share*
PPG

NexaAutocolor

18 percent

PPG

10 percent
DPC

Standox

7 percent

Spies Hecker

6 percent

DuPont

5 percent
Akzo Nobel

Sikkens

14 percent
BASF

Glasurit

12 percent

R-M

4 percent

Changes will be made for Akzo Nobel, BASF, DPC and PPG effective Feb 11, 2013 for online users. Offline users will receive the new prices as of the D4.13 data release.

Audatex notes that the percentage increase is for guidance purposes only, as the actual increase, per job, will depend on a number of factors including the specific paint operations (e.g. new part, surface, repair), paint type and the surface to be prepared/painted (e.g. metal vs. plastic).

by: CollisionWeek www.collisionweek.com/cw/news/2013/0211-uk-a.asp

Mercedes-Benz to Produce Inflatable Rear Seat Belts

Stuttgart. The Beltbag, one of the highlights from the ESF 2009 Experimental Safety Vehicle, is due to go into production in a luxury-class model from Mercedes-Benz. The inflatable seat-belt strap is able to reduce the risk of injury to passengers in the rear in a head-on collision by lessening the strain placed on the ribcage.
Should the crash sensors detect a severe frontal impact, the airbag control unit will trigger deployment and inflation of the Beltbag. A gas generator then inflates the multi-layered belt strap with Velcro seams to nearly three times its normal width. The resulting larger surface area is able to better distribute the force acting on the seat occupant, thereby reducing the risk of injury.
The Beltbag can be used in exactly the same way as a conventional seat belt. The belt strap’s design is different from that of the standard belt though, and received top marks in practical trials for being extremely comfortable to wear and for its extra-soft belt strap edge.
“Mercedes-Benz is pursuing its safety initiative in the rear of vehicles with the Beltbag,” comments Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rodolfo Schöneburg, Head of Passive Safety and Vehicle Functions at Mercedes-Benz Cars. “After all, the excellent standard of safety offered by Mercedes-Benz doesn’t just apply to all model series, but to all seats, too.”
Just like the active seat-belt buckle recently presented by Mercedes-Benz that is likewise earmarked for inclusion in a luxury model, the Beltbag was developed with a particular view toward new markets. There, the occupancy rate in the rear is as much as 30 percent, making it much higher than in Europe. By introducing the Beltbag, Mercedes-Benz is further expanding the safety system for passengers in the rear – in contrast to many other manufacturers, seat belts in the second row of Mercedes-Benz models already come equipped with belt tensioners and belt force limiters. It is not planned to introduce the Beltbag for the front occupants, as airbags are already included in the front on all models as a supplementary restraint system.
Because dummy measurement technology is not capable of quantifying the benefits resulting from a wider belt strap, such as the lower force exerted on occupants, the safety experts at Mercedes have also been working intensely with virtual human models, as such computer-generated models make it possible to obtain detailed findings on the biomechanical strain during a collision.
by Daimler Press Release: http://media.daimler.com/dcmedia/0-921-658892-1-1514820-1-0-1-0-0-1-12639-854934-0-1-0-0-0-0-0.html?TS=1360006743883

Consumer Reports Reminds Car Owners to Avoid Aftermarket Parts

In a post-Labor Day news release, ConsumerReports.org is once again reminding consumers how to avoid a claims-related problem should they be unlucky enough to have been involved in one of the estimated 75,000 to 100,000 auto insurance claims that will be filed as a result of the holiday weekend.

“In our most recent surveys,” the organization said, “10 to 26 percent of filers encountered a claims-related problem, depending on the carrier. So it pays to know the right procedures for filing a claim and how to deal with any glitches you might encounter.

According to the release, “Picking a top-rated insurer is also key to controlling your costs. An insurer can charge less in premiums but cost you more overall by lowballing loss estimates, forcing the repair shop to cut corners, and making you pay extra for the manufacturer’s replacement parts if you choose them over cheaper knockoffs.”

The group suggests that consumers turn to the Consumer Reports Car Insurance Buying Guide and their Guide to Insurance Claims for advice on how to “get your due” from car insurance policies.

In the April 2012 Consumer Reports Money Adviser, the group warns, “You might be pressured to take your car to a shop in the insurer’s direct-repair program or to use cheaper replacement parts instead of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts. You’re under no obligation to accept either. Tests have found that some non-OEM parts fit poorly, are more prone to rust and corrosion, and might not meet federal safety standards.”

Consumer Reports notes in its Car Insurance Buying Guide that, based on its surveys, respondents’ satisfaction with repairs was significantly lower among those who felt pressured to use DRP shops and non-OEM parts. And respondents who said they were pressured to use non-OEM parts had significantly more problems with their repairs.

Consumer Reports Money Adviser: April 2012
Consumer Reports Car Insurance Buying Guide

by CollisionWeek: http://gcia.org/consumer-reports-again-reminds-car-owners-to-avoid-aftermarket-parts/