Consumer Reports: Tesla and other U.S. car manufacturers drop in rankings

SAN JUAN – Consumer Reports’ (CR) latest Annual Auto Reliability Survey, which collected data from its members about their experiences with more than half a million vehicles, found that Buick, Chevrolet, Chrysler and Tesla are among the brands that tumbled in the organization’s predicted new-car reliability rankings, which were announced Wednesday.

The nonprofit membership organization that provides product testing and ratings said every U.S. automaker landed in the bottom-half of its reliability rankings. Ford ranks the highest at 18, down three spots from the previous year. Right below Ford on the list is Buick, which had performed well in recent years and was in the top 10 last year. Cadillac is the worst-rated domestic manufacturer and ranks near the very bottom at 28.

Asian brands, led by Lexus, Toyota, and Mazda, in that order, continue to be the best for new car reliability in CR’s survey. Seven of the top 10 brands in this year’s reliability rankings are from Japan and South Korea, including Subaru, Kia, Infiniti, and Hyundai.

Three European brands, Audi, BMW, and Mini, round out the top 10. Audi and BMW both declined from last year. Three other brands, Porsche, Volkswagen, and Mercedes-Benz, finished midpack. Volvo finished last overall.

Tesla fell six spots from last year and now ranks third-worst (27 out of 29).

“Time and again, consumers tell us that reliability is what matters most when it comes to choosing a vehicle that will meet their families’ needs,” said Marta L. Tellado, president and CEO of Consumer Reports. “That’s why we conduct this exhaustive survey each year—to equip people with the trustworthy information they need to make confident choices, which in turn helps drive the market toward even greater reliability.”

Consumer Reports’ prediction of new-car reliability is a key element of CR’s Overall Score. The score also includes road-test performance, owner satisfaction survey results, whether a vehicle comes with key safety systems, and results from crash tests, if applicable.

For more information on CR’s annual #CRCarReliability survey, visit

Newly Recommended Models with Improved Reliability

Cadillac XTS Chevrolet Cruze
Chevrolet Suburban Chrysler 300
Dodge Charger Infiniti QX60
Lincoln Continental Mazda CX-9
Mazda MX-5 Miata Mini Cooper
Mini Countryman Nissan Armada
Nissan Maxima Subaru Impreza
Volkswagen Golf Volkswagen Tiguan
Source: Consumer Reports Auto Reliability Surveys 2013-2018

No Longer Recommended Models with Declining Reliability

Chrysler Pacifica Ford Fusion
Genesis G90 Honda Clarity
Honda Odyssey Kia Cadenza
Lincoln MKZ Mercedes-Benz E Class
Tesla Model S
Source: Consumer Reports Auto Reliability Surveys 2013-2018

Strong Fleet Purchases Help Auto Sales



guia-chart-upSAN JUAN – Propelled by a surge in fleet purchases by car rental companies, new-auto sales were up significantly in December, helping finish a challenging 2016 with a bang, the United Automobile Importers Group (GUIA by its Spanish acronym) said Wednesday during its annual press conference.

Ricardo García, president of the group that represents some of the island’s leading auto distributors, said 11,732 new units were sold last month, a whopping 26.4% increase, or 2,449 additional new units than in December 2015.

The number of new units sold in 2016 totaled 86,053, up 5.8%, or 4,696 more than in 2015, when 81,357 were sold.

Forecast for 2017

For 2017, GUIA’s forecast for new-auto sales ranges from 82,000 to 84,000 units.

Some of the factors considered for the forecast included the island’s fiscal scenario and possible measures that may be taken this year to face this situation, which will increase consumer uncertainty, as well as the population decrease experienced in the past years, which is expected to continue throughout 2017.

“Even though in 2016 we experienced a slight sales increase for the first time in three years, it was in fact the third-worst year in recent sales history. Fleet sales reflected the highest percentage increase in 2016, which is considered a reflection of the improvement in the tourism industry and not necessarily a change in the sales pattern of retail customers,” García said.

García said GUIA is confident that the new government can be instrumental to economic development in Puerto Rico.

“Likewise, our business partners, banks and insurance companies have contributed to making the vehicles accessible to Puerto Rican consumers, thus allowing this slight increase,” García added.

Strong fleet sales

In all, some 4,049 fleet units, mostly from Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia, were sold last month, up 40.3% from same month in 2015, representing 34.5% of total units sold during the month. For the year, there were 12,229 units sold, up 16.1% from 2015, and representing 14.2% of all new units sold last year.

The strongest months for fleet sales were June (2,034 sold), November (1,720) and December (4,049). Fleet sales usually pick up in the summer and winter, during tourism’s high seasons.

Last year, there was very high demand for rental units from tourists visiting the island. In fact, most auto rental companies had no units available during the holidays.

Last month, some 7,683 retail units were sold, up 20.1% from same month in 2015, representing 65.5% of all units sold in December. For the year, there were 73,824 retail units sold, up 4.2% from 2015, representing 85.4% of all new units sold in 2016.

Japanese brands up 28%

Japanese auto distributors, the dominant group locally, reported 5,739 total units sold in December, a 28% or 1,255-unit increase from same month in 2015, with a 48.9% share of the market.

For the year, Japanese automakers sold 46,219 units, a 4.7%, or 2,087-unit increase, with a 53.7% market share.

Top Japanese sellers in 2016 included Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and Infiniti.

Domestics up 17.2%

Cumulative sales by U.S. automakers FCA Group (Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram), General Motors (GMC, Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac) and Ford (Ford and Lincoln) in December reached 2,278 units, up 17.2%, or 1,332 units, from same month in 2015, with a 19% overall share of the market.

For the year, 14,782 U.S.-branded units were sold, up 1.1%, or by 163 units, with a 17.2% share of the market.

Of the three U.S.-based automakers, only FCA reported positive sales for the year, propelled by its Jeep division. FCA sold 7,831 units, up 10.6%, for a 9.1% market share.

Koreans up 30.8%

Distributors sold 3,278 units from Korean manufacturers Hyundai and Kia last month, up 30.8% from same month in 2015, with a combined 27.9% market share.

For the year, both Korean brands sold 20,284 units, up 13.8%, for a combined 23.6% market share. Of the two, Hyundai had the strongest showing in 2016, with 11,552 units sold, up 26.1%, or by 2,393 units, with an overall 13.4% share of the market.

Europeans up 0.6%

A combined 489 European-branded vehicles were sold in December, up 0.6% compared with the same month in 2015, for a 4.2% share of the market.

For the year, European brands moved 4,768 units, down 0.3%, or 15 units, with a 5.5% share of the market.

As many as seven European brands, namely Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Maserati and Volvo reported higher sales in 2016 than in the year prior.

International Auto Show unveils buzz-worthy lineup

DETROIT — From hot-selling SUVs of all sizes to the a redesign for the Toyota Camry, the top-selling car in the U.S., the 2017 North American International Auto Show has a diverse lineup of new vehicles.

The show opens to the public on Saturday, but some products are being unveiled as early as Sunday. Here are some of the buzz-worthy new cars and trucks at the show:

The new Lexus LS 500 sedan is unveiled at the North American International Auto Show, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

The new Lexus LS 500 sedan is unveiled at the North American International Auto Show, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)


Lexus introduced its LS flagship at the Detroit auto show in 1989. On Monday, it unveiled the latest version. The 2018 LS is longer, lower and wider than its predecessor. It also weighs 200 pounds less, thanks to greater use of lightweight materials. Under the hood is a new, 415-horsepower turbocharged V6. Other new features include a system that will automatically brake and steer away from obstacles and seats that provide passengers with Shiatsu massages. The LS goes on sale at the end of 2017.

The Audi Q8 concept debuts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. (Paul Sancya/AP)

The Audi Q8 concept debuts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. (Paul Sancya/AP)


Audi unveiled a concept version of the Q8 SUV hybrid, which it says will roll out in 2018. Audi officials said it will open a new segment for the brand. The Q8 is sleek, features a downward sloping front end and has as sporty yet elegant look. The concept was created under Audi Chief Designer Marc Lichte’s direction. His description of the vehicle also can be applied to an Olympic athlete or world-class race horse. ” … the waistline is very lean and the muscles extremely powerfully defined,” Lichte said in an interview in Audi’s technology magazine.

The new Mercedes Benz GLA 250 4Matic is introduced at the North American International Auto show, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, in Detroit. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

The new Mercedes Benz GLA 250 4Matic is introduced at the North American International Auto show, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, in Detroit. (Carlos Osorio/AP)


The 2018 model year will kick off the redesigned Mercedes-Benz GLA compact SUV. Mercedes says the GLA will offer LED high-performance headlamps characterized by a color temperature similar to daylight, and new seat covers and trim parts as well as chromed control panels in the interior. It also features a 360-degree camera that records the direct surroundings of the SUV. The GLA also offers autonomous braking and is standard-equipped with an “attention assist” features that can detect typical signs of drowsy behavior.

The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse debuts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. (Paul Sancya/AP)

The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse debuts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. (Paul Sancya/AP)


General Motors went small when it started revamping its aging midsize people-hauling SUVs last year with the GMC Acadia. But it’s going bigger with the Acadia’s sibling, the Chevy Traverse. The company says Chevrolet buyers want more space, so the Traverse will seat up to eight and have more cargo room. It comes standard with a new 3.6-liter V6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission. A 2-liter turbo four is available. There’s also a new GMC Terrain small SUV with sleeker looks and smaller engines including 1.5-liter and 2-liter turbocharged four cylinders with nine-speed transmissions. There’s also a diesel option.

The Volkswagen Tiguan is unveiled before the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. (Paul Sancya/AP)

The Volkswagen Tiguan is unveiled before the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. (Paul Sancya/AP)


Volkswagen stretches out its Tiguan SUV by 11 inches to meet Americans’ demand for more space. The 2018 Tiguan also has more cargo space, sliding second-row seats and an optional third row. New safety options include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and a lane departure warning system. Under the hood is an updated 2.0-liter turbrocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 184 horsepower. The bigger Tiguan goes on sale in the U.S. this summer. Europe will offer both short and long versions.

AccessLatina Announces Second Round of Competition

SAN JUAN — AccessLatina, a business acceleration program billed as the first platform of its kind geared for Latina entrepreneurs in high-growth industries, announced its second round of competition Wednesday at an Audi dealership in San Juan’s Kennedy Avenue.

Apart from its focus on Latina businesswomen, the acceleration program is unique in that it aims at three broad industry segments that are catalogued as high-growth: Steam (acronym for science, technology, engineering, art and math), social innovation and agriculture, explained Lucienne Gigante, co-founder of AccessLatina along with Marta Michelle Colón.

“Investing in businesses that are led by women, and in high-growth industries, is a viable solution for job creation and economic growth on the island,” added Gigante, who also founded Animus, a platform that likewise caters to women entrepreneurs. Colón, who has also founded several innovation programs such as Buena Gente, stressed AccessLatina’s approach in helping emerging companies export their business successfully abroad.

AccessLatina co-founders Marta Michelle Colón and Lucienne Gigante

AccessLatina co-founders Marta Michelle Colón and Lucienne Gigante (CB photo/ Yoel Parrilla)

Finalists and winners of the AccessLatina competition are slated to receive more than $100,000 in capital and resources, which include training with top talent and networking opportunities. Winners get $25,000 in capital each, access to an individualized mentorship program for six months, an analysis report of their respective business in collaboration with Georgetown University Graduate School of Business, and an opportunity to make a presentation before Golden Seeds, one of the leading angel investment firms in the United States.

The competition is open to businesses that register between $50,000 and $1 million in sales annually, with at least two years of operations and with a Latina businesswoman having at least 20% ownership in the company. Registrations are open at until Jan. 19.

Judges in the competition comprise players in a wide swath of the business sector, and are mostly taken from AccessLatina’s robust support network, which include the McDonough Graduate School of Business, the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, among others.

The platform, which was founded little more than two years ago, also sets itself apart due to its multi-market approach, meaning it not only covers Puerto Rico, but also stateside jurisdictions with a large Latino population, including Florida, Washington, D.C., and New York.

For the second edition of AccessLatina, the scope has broadened further to include Texas and Massachusetts. “When we held our first round of competition, we received submissions from Latina entrepreneurs in these jurisdictions, despite the program being only open for Puerto Rico, Florida, Washington and New York,” Colón told Caribbean Business. “This made us applaud the initiative by these businesswomen, but it also spoke volumes about the need for this type of platform, to the point that we’re considering expanding to two more markets in future editions.”

The program’s focus on businesses that register sales from $50,000 to $1 million is also a telling reminder of how difficult it is to boost an enterprise beyond a certain point. As it turns out, most companies that fall into this sales bracket find themselves in a difficult position: they are too big to benefit from emerging business incubators, yet often cannot raise enough capital and resources to grow further and expand into other markets, Colón explained.

The eight finalists and two winners of AccessLatina’s first round of competition held earlier this year, in which 216 businesses participated, took part in advanced workshops with business leaders in New York City were granted more than $500,000 in free publicity for their companies, and together have generated more than $1.2 million in revenue.

Matilsha Marxuach, whose environmentally friendly bags company ConCalma was one of the co-winners of AccessLatina’s first edition, said the program was vital in helping her business achieve a much stronger presence online.

Finalists also benefited greatly from the program, among them Sasha Delgado, director of I.S.L.A. Inc. a language education center, who was able to move the company’s offices to a better location in San Juan’s posh Milla de Oro district. Meanwhile, Cindy Cruz, founder of natural food seller Agropek, saw her business grow six-fold after joining the program.

Several of the program’s collaborators—among them Oriental Bank, Fundación Tres Monjitas and Grupo Guayacán, a business incubator and accelerator—will offer special prizes to the upcoming winners. Latin Media House has joined this group and will offer advertising space in several of its publications. Other AccessLatina partners include Audi, Telemundo and L’oreal.

AccessLatina co-founder Marta Michelle Colón, Latin Media House's Félix Pola and AccessLatina co-founder Lucienne Gigante

AccessLatina co-founder Marta Michelle Colón, Latin Media House COO Félix Pola Rivera and AccessLatina co-founder Lucienne Gigante (CB photo/ Yoel Parrilla)

Car Company Offering Red Light-Reading Vehicles in Las Vegas

A line of Audi A4 cars are parked before a demonstration of Audi's vehicle-to-infrastructure technology Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in Las Vegas. The technology allows vehicles to "read" red lights ahead and tell the driver how long it'll be before the signal turns green. For the driver, the system puts a traffic signal icon on the dashboard telling how many seconds the light will remain red. (AP Photo/John Locher)

A line of Audi A4 cars are parked before a demonstration of Audi’s vehicle-to-infrastructure technology Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

LAS VEGAS – On the theory that a driver who knows when a red light will turn green is more relaxed and aware, vehicle manufacturer Audi is unveiling this week in Las Vegas a technology that enables vehicles to “read” traffic signals ahead and tell the motorist how long the wait will be.

It’s a simple display for the driver – a dashboard traffic signal icon and a timer next to the digital vehicle speed and area speed limit displays already common in newer cars.

The technology behind it is more complex. It uses 4G LTE cellular communication between the vehicle and a centralized traffic management control network- dubbed vehicle-to-infrastructure or “V2I.” Audi offers it through a subscription service not unlike commercial satellite radio. The company calls it “traffic light information.”

Company executive Pom Malhotra terms it “time to green.”

“You don’t have to constantly stare at the traffic light. You have that information right in front of you,” Malhotra told reporters who test-drove the system Tuesday in vehicles on and around Las Vegas Strip.

Can’t see the light because there’s a tour bus ahead? No problem. The icon says you have 37 seconds.

“A lot of behavior in the car changes,” Malhotra said. “You have time to relax your hands and shoulders … time to hand a milk bottle to your child in the back seat … while knowing you’re not taking attention away from the road.”

Audi and Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada officials said Tuesday that Las Vegas was picked for the first-in-the-nation debut because it has a single centralized traffic management center covering all jurisdictions in Clark County, a region nearly the size of New Jersey.

Malhotra said Audi hopes to expand the system soon to other big U.S. cities, including places like Los Angeles, which have patchwork traffic management systems run by varying jurisdictions in a sprawling urban landscape.

The Las Vegas-area program, dubbed the Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation, or FAST, collects data and synchronizes 1,300 traffic signals in a region home to more than 2 million people and host to more than 40 million tourists a year. It also has 508 cameras and freeway flow detectors, and controls 106 message signs and freeway on-ramp meters.

Tina Quigley, transportation commission general manager, said other car companies will be able to tap into the Las Vegas data, which she said should improve mobility and safety – particularly in the congested Las Vegas Strip tourist corridor and around McCarran International Airport.

About 150 Audi owners are using the system in Las Vegas, Malhotra said.

The car company official called the debut of the commercial service “a small step forward in V2I,” but a key demonstration of the kind of technology that will enable vehicle-to-vehicle communication and driverless cars.

Using cellular communication for smart car systems differs from vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-traffic signal programs using dedicated short-range communication.

DSRC has been tested since 2012 at the University of Michigan, said Debra Bezzina, senior program manager for the Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment. The university Transportation Research Institute program is backed by several federal traffic safety, research, trucking and transit agencies, and pilot programs are slated for Wyoming, New York and Tampa, Florida.

Bezzina said properly equipped vehicles with DSRC are able to detect traffic signal phase signals at intersections.

“If the light has turned yellow, it can tell the driver, ‘You’re not going to make the light,'” Bezzina said.

Audi spokesman Mark Dahncke said his company expects other car companies will develop similar cellular-enabled technology, or could piggyback with its program contractor, Traffic Technology Services.

“We are blazing a trail that does not lock anyone else out,” Dahncke said.

$15 Billion Volkswagen Emissions Deal Clears 1st Hurdle

FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2015, file photo, a Volkswagen Touareg diesel is tested in the Environmental Protection Agency's cold temperature test facility in Ann Arbor, Mich. Volkswagen will spend more than $15 billion to settle consumer lawsuits and government allegations that it cheated on emissions tests in what lawyers are calling the largest auto-related class-action settlement in U.S. history. The settlement was revealed Tuesday, June 28, 2016, by a U.S. District Court in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

In this Oct. 13, 2015, photo, a Volkswagen Touareg diesel is tested in the Environmental Protection Agency’s cold temperature test facility in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

SAN FRANCISCO – A $15 billion settlement over Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal cleared a key hurdle Tuesday, with a federal judge giving preliminary approval to a deal that includes an option for owners to have the carmaker buy back their vehicles.

Attorneys for Volkswagen owners sought approval from U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer, who is overseeing consumer lawsuits and government allegations that the company’s diesel engines cheated on U.S. emissions tests.

The terms call for the German carmaker to spend up to $10 billion buying back or repairing about 475,000 Volkswagens and Audi vehicles with 2-liter diesel engines and paying their owners an additional $5,100 to $10,000 each. Details about the vehicle repairs have not been finalized.

The judge’s decision allows attorneys to notify vehicle owners of the terms, including using a settlement website to determine how much compensation they would get. The owners could object and opt out, allowing them to pursue legal action against Volkswagen on their own.

Breyer, who is expected to make a final decision in October, has kept close tabs on the negotiations and praised the efforts of attorneys and a court-appointed settlement master who helped broker the deal.

“I don’t know that I need to make any grand observations about the settlement,” he said. “It appears in your presentation today as it appeared when you filed your documents that an enormous effort has been devoted to achieving a series of goals.”

The settlement also includes $2.7 billion for unspecified environmental mitigation and an additional $2 billion to promote zero-emissions vehicles. It does not cover about 85,000 more powerful Volkswagens and Audis with 3-liter engines also caught up in the emissions scandal.

Volkswagen has acknowledged that the cars were programmed to turn on emissions controls during government lab tests and turn them off while on the road. Investigators found that the cars emitted more than 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide, which can cause respiratory problems.

The company still faces billions more dollars in fines and penalties and possible criminal charges.

Bad Week for German Automakers: Huge Costs, New Probe

WOLFSBURG, Germany – It’s been a bad week for German automakers.

Volkswagen said Friday that a diesel emissions-cheating scandal would cost it an astounding $18.2 billion just for 2015, while Daimler revealed that U.S. authorities are sniffing around its tailpipes.

Both companies saw a niche with U.S. buyers who wanted performance, gas mileage and clean air. So they marketed their diesels as alternatives to boring hybrids.

But there is growing evidence that neither was able to back up the claims without violating pollution standards. Some management experts put the blame partly on ambitious, top-down corporate structures.

VW already has admitted to programming diesel cars so they pass U.S. emissions tests in labs but spew illegal amounts of pollution on real roads. On Thursday, Daimler said the U.S. Justice Department asked the company to investigate irregularities in diesel emissions in its Mercedes brand vehicles.

diesel volkswagenSteve Berman, a Seattle attorney who has sued Daimler over Mercedes diesel pollution, said both German automakers saw a niche in the U.S. for high-performing green cars.

“They saw the opportunity,” he said. “They weren’t able to live up to their words but they went ahead anyway.”

There also could be some complicity on the part of European governments. Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said governments, as well as Mercedes, VW and other automakers, have known for years that diesels could meet emissions standards in the lab, but not on real roads.

“This was the understood, if not documented, agreement between the automakers and the European governments,” Brauer said. “So it was not that egregious to approach U.S. emissions with the same philosophy.”

With that attitude, it’s no surprise that both automakers are getting U.S. scrutiny, or that the emissions-cheating scandal could be growing.

On Friday, Germany’s transport minister said five automakers agreed to recall 630,000 diesel vehicles in Europe following an investigation into emissions levels. The recalls include Mercedes, Opel and Volkswagen and its subsidiaries Audi and Porsche.

The top-down management structure at VW and Mercedes likely played a role in the emissions problems, said Sebastiaan Van Doorn, an associate professor at the Warwick Business School in England who has studied VW’s corporate culture.

At VW, lower-level engineers are told what to do and not given much autonomy. As a result, in order to get things done, they don’t tell their superiors what they’re up to, he said.

“You get kind of a parent-child relationship where the child is not telling the parent specific things anymore if he is never allowed to make autonomous decisions,” Van Doorn said.

Berman’s law firm hired a company to test Daimler’s Mercedes-brand diesels on real roads, finding that they spewed out too much nitrogen oxide almost all the time. Plus, the cars polluted even more when the temperature was below 50 degrees, he said. That led him to accuse Mercedes of having software called a “defeat device” that’s similar to VWs.

Berman said he shared the test results with California regulators who have strong ties to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and he’s sure the tests triggered the Daimler inquiry.

Messages were left Friday for the EPA and the Justice Department.

Daimler said the lawsuit’s claims are without merit and the investigation is unrelated. The company has repeatedly denied that it manipulates emissions tests or uses defeat devices.

Multiple tests, including one released this week by the British government, have shown that diesels from Daimler and other automakers, including Nissan, Ford and Hyundai, perform differently in lab tests than they do on the road, even without defeat devices.

Earlier this year, Dutch tests revealed that a Mercedes C-Class BlueTec diesel was emitting 40 times more nitrogen oxide on the road than in the lab.

Daimler said its exhaust treatment system is meant to be flexible “within permissible limits,” and can turn off when necessary to protect the engine.

For Volkswagen, the 2015 costs of 16.2 billion euros ($18.2 billion) likely are just the beginning. On Thursday, a U.S. federal judge said VW had agreed with the government to buy back as many as 482,000 diesel cars, as well as pay to make up for the cars’ pollution.

The cheating revelation last September also tarnished VW’s brand image and cost it billions in lost stock value. It still faces about 500 U.S. lawsuits and the potential for billions in government fines. The company had delayed its earnings announcement, but now says it will post a whopping net loss of 5.5 billion euros for last year.

Analysts at Warburg Research think the direct cost of fines, recalls and settlements worldwide will reach 28.6 billion euros – and that’s excluding any impact on sales and market share.

Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller said the company remains “fundamentally healthy” and that he is “convinced that Volkswagen has what it takes to overcome its challenges.”

The Associated Press

Scandal-hit Volkswagen Sees US Sales Fall 7 Pct in January

FRANKFURT, Germany – Automaker Volkswagen says global sales rose 3.7 percent in January, held back by sagging economies in Brazil and Russia and by an emissions scandal that hurt figures in the United States.

The company said Friday it sold 847,000 vehicles worldwide, up from 817,000 in the same month a year earlier.

The Wolfsburg, Germany-based automaker saw strong gains in China, where sales rose 14 percent, and more moderate increases in Western Europe. Sales plunged in Russia and Brazil, where the economies are struggling.

Sales fell 7 percent in the United States, where the company had to halt sales of several models due to a scandal over cars that were equipped to cheat on emissions tests.

The figures are for all the company’s brands, including Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT, Skoda and Bentley.


VW, Audi, BMW Recall Nearly 1.7M Vehicles in Air Bag Mess

DETROIT – Volkswagen, Audi and BMW are recalling nearly 1.7 million vehicles with Takata air bag inflators that can rupture and hurl shrapnel into drivers and passengers.

The moves announced Wednesday bring to just over 5.1 million the number of vehicles in the latest round of Takata recalls. U.S. safety regulators announced the recalls last month after a South Carolina man was killed by an exploding driver air bag inflator.

So far, VW, Audi, BMW, Daimler, Honda, Ford and Mazda have announced recalls in the latest round. Since 2008, about 24 million U.S. vehicles have been recalled due to the inflators, with about 50 million recalled worldwide.

On Wednesday, VW and Audi said they would recall a total of 850,000 vehicles in the U.S. from model years 2006 to 2014.

The recall covers certain 2006 to 2010 VW Passat sedans and wagons made in Germany, as well as some U.S.-made Passats from 2012 to 2014. Also included are the 2010 to 2014 Golf and Jetta SportWagen, the 2009 through 2014 CC, and the 2012 through 2014 Eos.

Also included are some Audi A3 cars from 2005 through 2015, some 2006 through 2009 A4 Cabrios, certain 2009 to 2012 Q5 SUVs and some 2010 and 2011 Audi A5 Cabrios.

BMW added 840,000 later in the day for the same problem. That recall includes certain 1 Series coupes and convertibles from 2008 to 2013, 3 Series sedans from 2006 to 2011, the 335d sedan from 2009 to 2011, and the 3 Series Sports Wagon from 2006 to 2012. Also covered are the 2007 to 2013 3 Series Coupe and Convertible, the X1 SUV from 2013 to 2015, the X3 SUV from 2007 to 2010, the X5 SUV from 2007 to 2013, the X5 xDrive35d SUV from 2009 to 2013, the X6 SUV from 2008 to 2014, and the X6 SUV Hybrid from 2010 and 2011.

Takata inflator problems have caused at least 11 deaths and 139 injuries worldwide.

VW, Audi and BMW all say they don’t know of any driver’s inflator ruptures in their vehicles.

The companies will notify owners of when to bring their cars in to get replacements.

Offbeat Humor and Upbeat Messages Dominate Super Bowl 50 Ads

NEW YORK – From a strange creature called “Puppymonkeybaby” to a tear-inducing Audi ad, Super Bowl ads ran the gamut this year from offbeat humor to heartfelt messages.

On advertising’s biggest night, Chrysler celebrated Jeep with an ad featuring black-and-white portraits of veterans, kids and pop icons. In Audi’s spot, a depressed aging astronaut remembers his joy for life by driving an Audi sports car with his son. And in a quirky Doritos ad, a fetus in a sonogram appears to rocket out of the womb to chase a bag of chips the mother angrily tossed away.

The goal for advertisers: to stand out and win over the 114 million-plus people watching the big game on Super Bowl Sunday, much the way the Denver Broncos triumphed over the Carolina Panthers. With ads costing a record $5 million for 30 seconds this year, the stakes are high to stand out from the 40-plus advertisers and be remembered.

In general, advertisers played it safe with universally liked celebrities such as Anthony Hopkins (TurboTax) and Ryan Reynolds (Hyundai), cute animals and pro-America themes.

“It’s been a pretty safe night,” said David Berkowitz, chief marketing officer at advertising agency MRY. “There’s relatively little going over the top.”

Offbeat humor reigned with a creature called “Puppymonkeybaby” – pretty much exactly what it sounds like – in an ad for Mountain Dew’s Kickstart. The ad sought to show that three great things go together, since Kickstart combines Mountain Dew, juice and caffeine.

“It’s on my list of the weirdest ad of the night, but it’s very catchy and people will be talking about it,” said Kelly O’Keefe, a marketing professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Heartfelt messages were in abundance too. SunTrust’s ad urged people to take a breath and feel better about their financial health. BMW’s Mini urged people to “defy labels.”

Most ads managed to avoid the somber tone struck last year, when an ad for Nationwide about preventable household accidents bummed out many in the audience.

There were a couple of misfires. Two pharmaceutical ads highlighted unappealing digestive conditions. One promoted an anti-diarrhea medication Xifaxan with a small-intestines mascot taking a seat at the Super Bowl. Another sought to raise awareness about “opioid-induced constipation.”

“This just isn’t a topic that people want to hear about during a Super Bowl,” said Villanova University marketing professor Charles Taylor.


Mountain Dew’s ad might have been the weirdest ad of the night, but Doritos’ ad also seemed likely to divide viewers. The spot showed a couple during a sonogram. When the mother throws away a bag of Doritos, the fetus seems to zoom after it, to the consternation of all present.

“It caught you a little off guard, but it fit the brand,” said O’Keefe.

Some Super Bowl watchers agreed. Brian Kearney, from Morris County, New Jersey, was watching the game with about 15 people and said the ad was a hit with his friends.

“I thought it was hysterical, we all cracked up,” Kearney said.

Other ads with offbeat humor: Bud Light featured Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen traveling around America promoting “The Bud Light Party.” A Shock Top ad showed actor T.J. Miller trading insults with the brewery’s talking orange wedge mascot. And the outdoor goods-and-clothing company Marmot showed a man palling around with an actual marmot he appears to be falling for, all to illustrate falling in love with the outdoors.


Eight years after the financial meltdown, financial companies are feeling more comfortable promoting their products and services. Six advertised in the big game, including including SunTrust Banks, PayPal, Quicken Loans, Intuit brand and Intuit’s TurboTax and Social Finance Inc.

Most promoted optimistic messages about money. TurboTax, for instance, enlisted Anthony Hopkins to get out the message that you can file your taxes for free with TurboTax. PayPal’s music-video style ad asked people to embrace “New Money.”

“We’re officially over the mourning of 2008 (financial crisis),” said Mediapost columnist Barbara Lippert.


Some advertisers created mini-movies. Toyota went long with a 90-second ad depicting bank robbers who use a Prius 4 to escape from police. LG enlisted Liam Neeson in a futuristic spot showing off LG’s new OLED 4K TV. Hyundai’s “The Chase” ad, echoed “The Revenant,” showing people escaping grizzly bears by using Hyundai’s remote start feature.

“Super Bowl advertisers are sticking with light themes,” said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. “Last year we had serious ads about fathers and mortality. This year the ads are funny and creative.”