Hybrids Pose Risks to First Responders
Hybrid vehicles represent a potential new danger to rescue workers because of high-voltage circuitry that may require some precise cutting to save a victim trapped in a crash, The Associated Press reported.
Hybrids, which draw power from a combination of internal combustion and electric motors, carry batteries producing as much as 500 volts, more than 40 times the strength of a standard battery.
Even though manufacturers have published guides showing where the electric components are on their models, and use bright orange high-power cables, there are concerns about situations where the battery, ignition and other points are inaccessible. First responders are taught to disconnect the battery and turn off the key immediately before cutting into a car, but that's not always possible, the story said.
Manufacturers say they will continue to update rescue personnel but they also contend that hybrids are safe, the story said.
Gas Prices Sway Buyers, Study Says
Increasing gas prices, and expectations of record high levels this summer, have caused some potential buyers to change their minds about what vehicle they plan to purchase, according to AutoVIBES — a monthly study from Harris Interactive and Kelley Blue Book.
The study shows that one out of six, or 17%, of in-market car buyers have already changed their mind about what vehicle they plan to purchase due to high fuel costs and 21% are strongly considering vehicles that they had not considered before (a total of 38%). Additionally, 15% of new car shoppers indicated that they would strongly consider more fuel-efficient vehicles if gas prices increased by as little as 25 cents.
"Many new car buyers are opting for vehicles that are more fuel-efficient than what they originally intended on buying," said Charlie Vogelheim, executive editor at Kelley Blue Book, in a press release. "We are seeing this manifest in cars with smaller engines, with buyers choosing a 2-wheel-drive vehicle instead of 4-wheel-drive and just a smaller class of car altogether."
Some segments might see shifts from within rather than defection towards other vehicle types, he added. Even with high gas prices, as an example, Vogelheim does not expect to see a significant drop in overall SUV sales, because it is such a broad segment with so many sizes and configurations available. "There are small, fuel-efficient SUVs like the Ford Escape and a hybrid version of that vehicle will be available this summer. If gas prices remain at high levels through the summer, these smaller and more fuel-efficient SUVs should attract a great deal of attention."
AutoVIBES: Additional Findings
- 26% of those who are planning to purchase a vehicle in the next 7 days say that gas prices have already affected their purchase decision. (versus 17% for the total sample)
- Women (23%) and younger buyers (21%) are more likely to have altered their make/model purchase decision due to high gas prices.
The study was conducted from April 22-26, 2004 ,among 1,706 U.S. adults ages 18 and over who are in the market to purchase or lease a new vehicle within the next 12 months. The data were weighted by demographics and propensity to reflect the general U.S. adult population of in-market vehicle shoppers. These results have a statistical precision of or minus 3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, AutoVIBES explained.
GM Reports Flat April Sales
General Motors new car and truck business rose less than 1 percent in April. GM said overall sales rose 0.4 percent last month. Truck sales rose 1.2 percent, while car sales were off 0.8 percent. GM reported April results a day after most major automakers because of a computer malfunction.
Industrywide, sales for the month rose a modest 0.8 percent from a year ago, according to Autodata Corp. So far this year, U.S. sales are up roughly 3 percent.
The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for April was 16.4 million units, the same as last April and down from the seasonally adjusted rate of 16.7 million last month.
Ford Van Ads Anger Chrysler
Chrysler is upset over Ford TV ads that poke fun at its minivans, and warned Ford for a second time to stop running the commercials or face possible legal action, The Detroit News reported.
In a letter to Ford, Chrysler said the ads are "deceptive and disparaging" because they unfairly compare 2005 Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans — equipped with new third-row seats that fold flat into the floor — with 2004 Chrysler minivans that don't have the seating option.
Chrysler says Ford should compare its vans with Chrysler's 2005 minivans, which feature second and third row seats that fold flat into the floor — an industry first.
Hundreds Die in "Noncrash" Car Accidents
About 350 people die each year in "noncrash" motor-vehicle accidents, the Associated Press reported, citing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Most of the victims died of carbon-monoxide poisoning while some were drunk and passed out in running vehicles. The report only included deaths that weren't reported as suicides.
The agency advises people to check their mufflers and exhaust pipes once a year for holes that would allow carbon monoxide to seep into vehicles, and to clear snow from the tailpipe and keep a window open when a vehicle is idling.
The study also found about 120 people are killed each year when vehicles back over them, with the vast majority of victims either very young or very old, the story said.
The agency also found 29 children die each year after being left inside excessively hot vehicles.
The agency studied 4,046 death certificates from 35 states and the District of Columbia in 1998, and then estimated the nationwide numbers. A spokesman said the agency believes the numbers also apply to more recent years.