On Tuesday August 23rd, Toyota unveiled the redesigned 2012 Camry via live webcast and a live Twitter chat session. This is the 7th generation Camry, which is a front-drive, four-door, mid-size sedan. The Camry has been America’s top selling car for 13 of the past 14 years, and Toyota is hoping to maintain that title with this “reinvented” model. Toyota can also boast that this new model is the most American-made car. It is manufactured entirely in North American plants in either Kentucky or Indiana, and more than 80 percent of its parts come from American suppliers. Perhaps this will be a key selling point in upcoming marketing communications.
While critics have already come out to say that the new design doesn’t set it apart from previous models on the outside, it’s the inside changes that Toyota is hoping will attract renewed attention. One exciting update is the optional Entune telematics system, a similar system to OnStar, which uses your phone’s data capabilities to connect the car with the cloud, and can be controlled through voice commands or the touchscreen. Entune comes with three years of free access to services such as fuel guide, sports scores, stocks traffic and weather and it is anticipated to include mobile apps for Bing, OpenTable, Pandora and more. Another big change in the 2012 Camry is the gas-electric hybrid option. According to Toyota, the new hybrid system is more powerful than before, promising 0 to 60 in 7.6 seconds, which relatively fast compared to other hybrid options on the market.
The 2012 Toyota Camry is expected to go on sale this October for the gasoline models and in December for the gas-electric hybrid models. According to Toyota the four-cylinder models and hybrids are going to be priced less than the 2011 models, but the V-6 prices will remain the same. The LE with four-cylinder gas engine — the version most people are expected to buy — has an anticipated price tag of $23,260, including $760 shipping. While the top-of-the-line XLE with V-6 will start at $30,605. The new LE hybrid model will start at $26,660 and the supped-up XLE hybrid will be $28,160.
Many P&C insurance carriers now offer some kind of Roadside Assistance Program — you get access to a 24/7 Nationwide Roadside Network in case you have a flat tire, dead battery, lockouts, empty gas tank, etc. Some have no annual fee. I found that auto insurers generally offer cheaper roadside plans than those of motor clubs, (i.e., Motor Clubs plans offer more full service plans for an annual charge — mine was $86/yr). I recently dropped my Motor Club policy once I realized that my Auto insurance policy will now offer Roadside assistance. My speculation is that a lot of you will do the same when your Auto carrier announces they now offer this, too. Why are carriers being so generous? Or are they?
Now for the $64 question: Will one of these roadside assistance claims eventually go on the insurers’ record? It’s not out of the question to be concerned that multiple claims for roadside assistance may cause the insurance company to raise rates or maybe even decide whether or not they want to retain a customer.
So I followed my hunch, researched my thoughts and it was confirmed. I found that car insurance companies report roadside assistance claims to ChoicePoint (a company in Georgia that collects claims information for the auto insurance industry) and using it too much may increase your rates, (see below).
“Using an insurance company’s roadside assistance or towing benefits too often could affect your rates or even your eligibility for coverage. Some auto insurers consider your calls for roadside assistance to be negatives, just like accident claims. One of the nation’s largest insurer says the use of roadside assistance is a very small factor in calculating rates or considering a driver’s insurability. Some insurers report roadside assistance calls made under their policies to ChoicePoint, an Alpharetta, GA. company that compiles claims information for the insurance industry. Other carriers say they report the information but don’t use it in their policy decisions. Another carrier says it doesn’t report usage by members of their Motor Club, but it does report towing claims made under its insurance policies” (Source: ConsumerReports.org)
As my mom always told me “nothing in life is free.” While these programs are great and can get you out of a bind if your car ever breaks down – be aware that there may be hidden risks/gaps in these programs. The consumer may pay by occurrence in some cases and may even pay the ultimate price of increased rates or drop of coverage if the utilization exceeds a certain level. My policy has this program and I’m grateful for it as we ran out of gas on a family trip recently. The Calvary came within 30 mins and we were be back on our way Disney to see Mickey and his friends…
Let me know your thoughts or comments…
The summer driving season is upon us. What is it about slipping behind the wheel that drives Americans to the open road? For me, trips to the beach, weekend getaways, or a ride down Lake Shore Drive on a sunny day is enough to make me hunt down my car keys.
Given that the entire country takes to the streets during the warmest months, and there’s always an increase in gas prices around Memorial Day – how will driving trends be affected in the wake of unrest in the Middle East and the tragedy in Japan? Experts are already forecasting high gas prices for the summer, on top of recent increases. Here in Chicago, the cost of regular unleaded gas is already hovering dangerously near $4/gallon. Budgetary concerns could very well curtail my summer driving.
I do own my car, and being free of a car payment feels like a luxury. But I’m reminded almost daily of the other costs associated with owning a vehicle. Sometimes I wonder if car sharing is the way to go, considering the cost of insurance, city parking stickers, license plate fees, etc. All those costs are covered by the car sharing membership and usage fees. It seems like a sweet deal and a nice perk of living in a major metropolitan area. As car sharing companies promote more hybrid and electric vehicles, will their membership levels increase as summer approaches?
Of course there are caveats to everything: possibly dirty cars or being without a car in case of an emergency, but on the whole – car sharing programs do appear to be a valid option for city dwellers who like the convenience of driving but not the headaches of finding parking (I can count myself among the latter).
Readers, what are your thoughts? At what price per gallon would you be more likely to switch to a car sharing program?
Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Subaru – reliable and affordable. Japanese carmakers (through the miracle of integrated supply chain management) have built the cars that people feel safe in and don’t break the bank. The recent tragedies in Japan may have a much larger impact on the automotive manufacturing industry than several weeks of limited production. These companies are truly global and built on complicated production and logistics processes that get us our cars (and most of our electronics) “just-in-time,” with few wasted raw materials or fuel, and almost no need for inventory storage. Even though Japanese carmakers have plants all over the world, a lot of those complicated bits are still built at home. Slowed production in Japan slows production everywhere. Regardless of short-term supply interruptions, people still demand Japanese cars.
With so many plants around the world, these companies can ramp up production in alternate locations (even the Prius is now being built in Thailand and the U.S.) to meet current demand. Through practice and ingenuity, they know how to open new plants for new models and parts in short(ish) order. Plants in Japan are already starting to build again, but, in the medium term, will the carmakers who flourished through flexible manufacturing models continue to build so much at home?
- Re-tooling an auto plant is a complex and difficult task – after setting-up other locations carmakers may not want to reverse the process and bring production back to Japan.
- A forward-thinking company may not want to reopen plants in places where there may be a risk of a tragedy repeating. Like American property and casualty insurance companies fleeing Florida, Japanese carmakers may not want to risk their plants and employees.
- And finally, building a car uses a lot of electricity. The price of electricity in Japan is about to go up. Almost 30% of Japan’s power was supplied by nuclear power plants in 2010 (IAEA – PRIS). After the size of this tragedy, popular opinion is shifting against nuclear power. Building new alternative facilities, importing more power, or living with lower supply is going to be more expensive. Carmakers may shift more production abroad because they don’t have a choice.
What effect would increased international production of Japanese cars have on the automotive manufacturingindustry?
In 2010, 38% of new cars bought in the U.S. were Japanese (Ward’s Auto). If even more cars were produced in the U.S., would Japanese cars capture an even greater U.S. market share? Would shifting production to their secondary markets lead to dominance in those markets as well? Could we see ‘80s style growth again? Japanese carmakers have proved smart, innovative and flexible; how they bounce back from a national tragedy might turn them into the local giant in every market.