Exhaust Notes

Decision Guide


Annual study finds average car maintenance costs will increase the most, while gas prices will be up only slightly.

By Douglas Newcomb Apr 16, 2013 11:27AM

The cost of driving is going up, but it’s maintenance, not gasoline, that's now taking the biggest share of your driving dollar.

According to an annual AAA study, the price of driving will rise 1.96 percent in 2013, compared with last year. The AAA study, based on owning one of 15 top-selling sedans in the United States and operating it for 15,000 miles per year, showed that the average cost for car owners will jump 1.17 cents to 60.8 cents per mile, or $9,122 per year.


The largest component of that total cost will come from maintaining a vehicle, which will see the single largest percentage increase of any category, growing by 11.3 percent to 4.97 cents per mile on average.  AAA based its estimates on the cost of maintaining a vehicle and performing needed repairs for five years and 75,000 miles, including labor, replacement parts and an extended warranty policy. 

AAA attributed the increase in maintenance costs to a rise in labor and parts charges for some models, as well as a hike in the price of extended warranty policies due to high loss ratios by underwriters. “Many factors go into the cost calculation of owning and operating a vehicle,” John Nielsen, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Repair, said in a statement.


Analysis finds most ragtop purchasers are over 45 and have annual incomes above $175,000.

By Douglas Newcomb 1 hour ago

2015 Ford Mustang Convertible. Photo by Ford.Think of convertibles and the image that typically comes to mind is of a carefree young person, couple or group of friends driving with the top down, sunglasses on and the wind whipping through their hair. But in reality, most convertible drivers are graying, empty-nest baby boomers wearing prescription lenses and considering the returns on their 401(k) accounts.

That’s the picture that a recent Experian Automotive analysis paints of people who purchased convertibles in the first quarter of this year. By looking at vehicle registrations between January and March, the credit reporting agency found that more than 72 percent of consumers buying a ragtop during that period were more than 45 years old, whereas only 60 percent of all average new car buyers were of the same age.

And given the age of these convertible buyers, it’s not surprising that Experian also found that those who purchased a drop-top this winter in anticipation of warmer weather ahead were also wealthier, better educated and had no kids at home when compared to all other new car shoppers.


Midengine hybird sports car destroyed in Germany, no one hurt.

By AutoWeek 2 hours ago

There's a reason manufacturers extensively test new models, and the incredible fire damage seen on this Acura NSX prototype offers a glimpse at what can go wrong.

We don't know the circumstances surrounding the fire, which occured during testing on the Nurburgring, but the driver reportedly made it out of the NSX unscathed. It's safe to say the car will be a writeoff, however.

"Acura can confirm that an NSX prototype experienced a fire today while testing at the Nurburgring. We make safety a top priority, and fortunately no injuries occurred," the company said in a statement. "We are investigating the cause but as the vehicle is still under development, we're not in a position to share details.  While an incident like this is unfortunate, the development of the NSX continues its progress toward its highly anticipated launch."


Recall expands on earlier minivan and crossover recall; 2005-2007 models are affected

By Exhaust Notes 20 hours ago
Chrysler is recalling up to 792,300 Jeeps for faulty ignition switches that can be inadvertently knocked out of the "on" position, shutting off the engine and disabling the airbags.

The 2005-2007 Grand Cherokee and 2006-2007 Commander have been under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration since June. Earlier this month, Chrysler recalled 696,000 minivans and crossovers -- also previously under investigation -- for the same faulty switch. The exact number hasn't been determined, but up to 649,900 vehicles may be affected in the U.S.

Chrysler recommends owners to take everything off their keychains, including the ring, until dealers start the fix in mid-September.  

A rash of problems affects many 2011-2015 General Motors models.

By Exhaust Notes 23 hours ago

General Motors is recalling 717,949 cars in the U.S. for loose bolts, bad welds, steering failures and more problems, the automaker said Wednesday.

The six separate recalls now bring the automaker's yearly total to 60 recalls and 26.4 million cars, some of which may be duplicated under multiple recalls. No filings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration were yet available.

On 414,333 cars with power height-adjustable driver and passenger seats, a bolt securing the height adjuster to the seat can loosen and fall out, which can then cause the seat to "move up and down freely." GM said it knew of one crash and three injuries related to the problem. Affected models include the 2011-2012 Chevrolet Camaro, Buick Regal and Buick LaCrosse; and the 2010-2012 Equinox, GMC Terrain and Cadillac SRX.


325-hp turbo V6 provides better power-to-weight than 5.0-liter V8.

By AutoWeek Wed 9:41 AM

Ford’s new 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V6 EcoBoost engine will make 325 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque when it debuts in the aluminum-bodied 2015 F-150. A new naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and the 5.0-liter V8 will also be available in the pickup.

The 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine has a new design, according to Ford, and improves the power-to-weight ratio of the F-150 by 15 percent over the 2014 model with the 5.0-liter V8. In 4x2 trim, the new EcoBoost-equipped truck has a 2,250-pound payload rating and a tow rating of 8,500 pounds.

Ford firsts for the new engine include stop/start technology and a compacted graphite iron cylinder block, with knowledge borrowed from the company’s Power Stroke diesel. The new naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 makes 283 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque, replacing the 302-hp, 278-lb-ft 3.7-liter V6 from 2014. The engine allows a payload of 1,910 pounds and is good for towing 7,600 pounds.


Kentucky city opens municipal fuel station to public, raising cries of ‘socialism’ from private stations.

By James_Tate Wed 7:31 AM

The little city of Somerset, Kentucky, is a hotspot for vacationers headed to Lake Cumberland. To combat the city's higher gas prices during the summer vacation season compared to surrounding areas, Mayor Eddie Girdler enacted a bold solution for his 11,000 residents: a city-run gas station with below-average prices.

Predictably, the move has set off a firestorm of controversy in Somerset, with some praising the effort to bring overall area gas prices down and others decrying the move as “socialism.”

Last Saturday, the Somerset Fuel Center opened to the public, selling regular unleaded gasoline only at $3.36 per gallon. The effect of the Fuel Center on area pricing was immediate. The Associated Press reported that four nearby stations dropped their regular unleaded prices to $3.39 per gallon that first day from an average in the mid-$3.40s during the week.


New driver assist systems add extra layer of protection for occupants of upcoming all-new crossover.

By Douglas Newcomb Tue 2:52 PM

Volvo run-off road protection. Image by Volvo.Driver assist systems ranging from active cruise control to lane-keep assist are making driving easier and safer, and are also becoming more common on a variety of vehicles. That means that Volvo, an automotive brand synonymous with safety for decades, has to go even further to stand out from an increasingly competitive and safer crowd of cars.

For the launch of its upcoming 2016 XC90 crossover, Volvo is debuting two new driver assistance systems: run-off road protection and auto brake at intersections.

“These two world-firsts are further examples of how new technologies target substantial real-life traffic problems,” Lotta Jakobsson, senior technical specialist for safety at Volvo Cars Safety Center, said in a statement.


What's at stake in reports and rumors on a possible Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler deal.

By James_Tate Tue 10:45 AM

The German business magazine Manager set off a firestorm of speculation last week by reporting that not only was Volkswagen Automotive Group (VAG) head Ferdinand Piech interested in acquiring Fiat Chrysler (FCA), but that he had discussed the possibility with the Agnelli and Elkann families, who currently hold a 30 percent ownership stake in FCA.

For their part, all parties have denied any talk of a merger, but that isn’t stopping industry analysts from speculating on the whys and wherefores of such a deal as rumors of Piech’s motivations continue to spark intrigue.

What is commonly known is this: Piech’s grand vision for Volkswagen Automotive Group is no less than becoming the biggest auto builder in the world. Piech has publicly coveted Fiat Chrysler's sub-brand Alfa Romeo, most famously in statements at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, annoying FCA Chairman Sergio Marchionne enough to challenge Piech to a "showdown at dawn." Through a source within Piech’s inner circle, Automotive News claims his endgame is a resurrection of the Auto Union name for his theoretical behemoth. The source also says that Piech wants to put his plan into motion sooner rather than later -- whatever that means.



  • Cliff Atiyeh

    Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Raised in Volvos, he has grown to love fast, irresponsible vehicles of all kinds. He is the senior news editor at MSN Autos and also reports for Car and Driver, Road & Track, The Boston Globe and other publications.
    In the garage: 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (not his)

  • Doug Newcomb

    Doug Newcomb has covered car technology for over 20 years for outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to Edmunds.com. In 2008, he published his first book, "Car Audio for Dummies" (Wiley). He lives and drives in Hood River, Ore., with his wife and two kids, who share his passion for cars and technology.
    In the garage: 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS, two 1984 Chevrolet Blazers, 2008 Honda CR-V

  • James Tate

    James Tate learned to drive stick at age 13 in a 1988 Land Cruiser - in La Paz, Bolivia. He's since been a mechanic, on a pit crew and has wrenched on every car he's owned since his first 1989 Honda CRX Si (and won't stop until the car is a 1973 Porsche 911 RS). His work has appeared in Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Automobile and others.
    In the garage: 1995 Porsche 911 Carrera, 1988 BMW M5

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Cars are cool, and here at MSN Autos we love everything about them, but we also know they're more than simply speed and style: a car is an essential tool, a much-needed accessory to help you get through your day-to-day life. What you drive is also one of the most important investments you can make, so we'll help you navigate your way through the car buying and ownership experiences. We strive to be your daily destination for news, notes, tips and tricks from across the automotive world. So whether it's through original content from our world-class journalists or the latest buzz from the far corners of the Web, Exhaust Notes helps you make sense of your automotive world.

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