Avis adds some zip to its operations


Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 8:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 8:07 p.m.

Following its June launch in 2012, Dodge's compact Dart is beginning to find its mark, although we think it's going to be long climb to the top. Our Dart driving experience was mostly positive, and we especially liked the roomy cabin and precise-shifting six-speed manual transmission. North American Dart sales for December were its best so far, beating the Kia Forte for ninth place (out of the 10 compact brands sold here). In this class, top dogs Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze dominate not just because they're good cars, but - except for the Cruze - they have considerable brand recognition on their side. The Dart name that was phased out in 1976 lacks familiarity, not to mention that Chrysler's last compact sedan, the Neon, was dropped eight years earlier.

Avis adds some zip to its operations

Car-rental giant Avis Budget (yes, they're both part of the same company) has purchased Zipcar for a reported $491 million. In case you're not up on the latest trends in vehicle renting, Zipcar is a membership-based car-sharing service that launched in Cambridge, Mass., back in 2000. It now operates a fleet of some 11,000 vehicles and has nearly 800,000 members in major metro areas throughout North America, England and Spain. Zipcar took some time to catch on but has been experiencing steady growth. The beauty of the company's business is that your annual membership fee (plus a modest hourly charge) includes the rental, insurance and gasoline. We totally get why the big players want in on the action, as it aligns with the whole rental-car thing. Now that a power player like Avis Budget is involved, We predict Zipcar's rapid expansion throughout the globe.

More Subies from Indy

We have learned that Fuji Heavy Industries, Subaru's parent company, has decided to invest a couple of hundred million dollars expanding its plant in Lafayette, Ind., about 65 miles northwest of Indianapolis, so it can raise yearly capacity by 30,000 vehicles. Currently Subaru makes about 170,000 Outback, Legacy and Tribeca models, as well as about 100,000 Toyota Camrys a year for the North American market. We hear that the added floor space also will be used to build the increasingly popular Impreza on our shores. Apparently Subaru's head honchos briefly considered a new plant in Mexico where, drawn by cheaper labor costs, most domestic and import automakers already have operations. Surprisingly Fuji settled on expansion instead of relocation. The increased investment and employment potential certainly should only enhance Subaru's reputation in the United States.

The big backup plan: It's going to take a while longer before automakers will be required to install backup cameras in all vehicles. What? You weren't aware that cameras are soon going to become mandatory equipment? Actually, The Sleuth had missed that bit of news himself, but he's now on the case and discovering that the proposed legislation mandated by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to be implemented for the 2014 model year, is still under review. That, in turn, will likely delay the implementation of cameras until at least the 2015 model year. The undercovered one is all in favor of this plan, given that backup cameras, installed either in dashboards or as part of the rearview mirror, have been proven to help avoid mishaps and add relatively little money to the price of a new vehicle.

Automakers keeping their coolant

We hear there's quite the brouhaha developing between Mercedes-Benz and a number of other automakers over a new air-conditioning refrigerant developed by Dupont Chemical and Honeywell International called HFO-1234yf. The product is designed to replace R-134a (produced by a variety of chemical companies) and is considered to be more environmentally friendly. General Motors is one of a number of automakers switching to the latest formula, but apparently Mercedes-Benz claims its tests show that 1234yf could possibly catch fire in a front-end collision if the refrigerant lines become damaged. As a result, Benz will keep using 134a, as will Volkswagen. Naturally, Dupont and Honeywell dispute the fire claim and say their third-party test results beg to differ.

Will the Dodge Dart hit the bulls-eye?

Following its June launch in 2012, Dodge's compact Dart is beginning to find its mark, although we think it's going to be long climb to the top. Our Dart driving experience was mostly positive, and we especially liked the roomy cabin and precise-shifting six-speed manual transmission. North American Dart sales for December were its best so far, beating the Kia Forte for ninth place (out of the 10 compact brands sold here). In this class, top dogs Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze dominate not just because they're good cars, but - except for the Cruze - they have considerable brand recognition on their side. The Dart name that was phased out in 1976 lacks familiarity, not to mention that Chrysler's last compact sedan, the Neon, was dropped eight years earlier.

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