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Auto news: recalls, gas prices, future thinking
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
2015-12-22

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—Recall: Hyundai has recalled nearly a half-million midsize cars in the United States to replace the engines because a manufacturing problem could cause them to fail, the Associated Press reported. The recall covers 470,000 Sonata sedans from the 2011 and 2012 model years equipped with two- or 2.4-liter gasoline engines. ( The company also is recalling nearly 100,000 Accent small cars because the brake lights can fail. ) At the time, the Sonata was Hyundai's top-selling vehicle in the country.

—The price is right: GalvaNews.com reported that average retail gasoline prices in Illinois rose 3.3 cents per gallon in early December, averaging $2 per gallon, according to GasBuddy's daily survey of 4,378 gas outlets in the state. The national average has decreased 15.8 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 53.3 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago. However, higher prices are expected in the spring, due to expected maintenance and a switch to more expensive summer blends, said a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.

—Self-propelled: Google and Ford will create a joint venture to build self-driving vehicles with Google's technology, according to Yahoo! Autos. By pairing with Google, Ford gets a massive boost in self-driving software development; while the automaker has been experimenting with its own systems for years, it only revealed plans this month to begin testing on public streets in California. Google has 53 test vehicles on the road in California and Texas, with 1.3 million miles logged in autonomous driving.

—( Car )Maximum exposure: In the wake of used car buying conglomerate CarMax expanding into the Boston area, consumer advocacy groups are condemning the national used car chain for selling cars with pending recalls, The New York Daily News noted. Two groups—the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, and the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group—claim in a report that the nationwide used-car dealerships sell recalled vehicles with defects that could be lethal.

—Forward-thinking: Wallpaper.com listed what it considers to be the 10 concept cars from the Tokyo Motorshow. They include a Honda stand-up commuter vehicle resembling a stormtrooper helmet, a Nissan boxcar with a virtually virtual interior and a Toyota fuel cell vehicle that doubles as a portable energy generator.

—Loan ranger: Subprime auto lending is shifting into higher gear, raising some concerns in Washington, D.C., where top financial regulators have sounded alarms about this category of loans, The Wall Street Journal noted. A report says that over the six months through September, more than $110 billion of auto loans have been originated to borrowers with credit scores below 660—the bottom cutoff for having a credit score generally considered "good." Of that sum, about $70 billion went to borrowers with credit scores below 620—scores considered "bad."

—The truck stops here: The Senate voted to drop a proposal to increase the length of twin-trailer trucks that are allowed on U.S. roads from an appropriations bill, The Hill noted. Trucking groups were pushing Congress to increase a current limit on the length of double-trailer rigs, from 28 feet to 33 feet.


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