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New automotive trend: Small, fuel-efficient SUVs

New automotive trend: Small, fuel-efficient SUVsPartially as a response to federal fuel efficiency regulations, automakers have started scaling down their SUV models to produce what some have called "mini-crossovers" – fuel efficient cars that strive to appeal to multiple demographics.

The Nissan Juke is considered by some to be the first example of such a mini-crossover, according to USA Today. The automaker said it got its inspiration from the European market, where its Rogue was considered too big. 

Automakers in competition with Nissan have unveiled their own mini-crossovers, including BMW's Mini Cooper Countryman, Ford's Vertrek and Hyundai's Curb, the news source reports. 

According to Jesse Toprak, vice president at TrueCar.com, the mini-crossover is expected to be a "hot segment" of the auto market – it is marketed to appeal to 20-somethings with limited budgets and an eye for the vehicles' edgy exteriors, and middle-aged drivers who appreciate the cars' practicality and fuel efficiency. 

Prices for such cars are expected to be well below $20,000 for some models, making these mini-crossovers within the reach of most budgets with an online car loan, even for consumers with bad credit history. …

More consumers buy new cars in December

More consumers buy new cars in DecemberConsumer Reports recently released its monthly Retail Index, which indicates what consumers bought last month and what expenditures they plan for this month. The index points out that more consumers bought new cars in December, and many are planning to purchase used cars in January.

Respondents were significantly more likely to have purchased a new car in December 2010 compared to December 2009 – 3.2 percent said they made such a purchase this year, compared to 1.9 last year. Used car purchases remained unchanged between December 2009 and December 2010, the Retail Index found.

Though consumers did not increase their purchases of used cars in December, more of them plan to buy used cars in January, according to the organization.…

Kia will post database of certified used cars online

Kia will post database of certified used cars onlineKia has recently announced plans to make an online database of the certified used vehicles available at the automaker's dealerships, and provide prospective buyers with these cars' vehicle history reports.

The inventories will be listed on AutoTrader.com, and AutoCheck vehicle history reports will be available either online or at the dealership carrying the vehicle in question, according to Automotive News. The easy access to vehicle history reports is meant to boost consumer confidence when buying a used Kia, according to Tom Loveless, head of U.S. sales for the auto manufacturer.

More than 1,000 pre-owned vehicles are expected to be listed in the online inventory once the dealerships that carry used Kias comply with the changes, according to Brian Leitner, manager of the automotive business for the firm that administers Kia's certified used car program.…

Subprime credit card solicitations increase 300 percent since June

Subprime credit card solicitations increase 300 percent since JuneLines of credit were abruptly yanked from consumers with bad credit history during the recession, but there is evidence that such consumers can expect to see more credit card offers in their mailboxes soon.

According to a recent SmartMoney report, lenders are already dramatically expanding credit to subprime borrowers. Since June 2010, credit card solicitations to consumers with less-than-stellar credit have increased by 300 percent.

It has yet to be seen whether this increase in supply will spur American consumers to start spending on credit again – revolving credit has fallen from 27 consecutive months, according to Federal Reserve data. Subprime consumers are, however, showing increased willingness to acquire bad credit car loans and borrow to finance education, according to MSNBC.…

Safety feature being introduced to prevent rollover fatalities

Safety feature being introduced to prevent rollover fatalitiesStarting in model year 2013, cars will start to come standard with a new safety feature that is hoped to prevent serious injuries and fatalities resulting from rollover crashes.

The new regulations would apply to light passenger vehicles, and would mandate that automakers develop technology to prevent an unrestrained adult from moving more than four inches beyond the side window opening during a car crash. The feature will be introduced on some vehicles in model year 2013, and be made mandatory in all cars by model year 2018, according to KVUE.

Automakers are reportedly likely to satisfy these new requirements by installing side-impact airbags that extend further and inflate for a longer period of time.…

Toyota plans to design better looking cars

Toyota plans to design better looking cars  Following an announcement made by Akio Toyoda, Toyota's president, that the brand's vehicles need to be better-looking, the head of U.S. marketing for the firm stated that developments to remedy the brand's bland exteriors are already underway.

The first Toyota vehicle to be affected by changes to the brand's styling will be the Camry, which enjoyed prolonged success in U.S. markets due to its perceived reliability and practicality. The new, stylish Camry will be unveiled at the New York Auto Show in April, said Jim Lentz, the head of U.S. marketing for Toyota. He added that other Toyotas would soon have more "emotive styling" as well, the Financial Times reports.…

Traction vs. Stability Control

Traction vs. Stability ControlDevelopments in auto safety have progressed at a fast pace in recent years, and while this is good news for all drivers, it can take some time to catch up and understand all the new technology that has become available.

The first thing that drivers should know about traction control and electronic stability control (ESC) is that it may not be wise to buy a car that features neither, according to many auto experts. Both features go a long way to preventing a crash, but ESC goes a step further than traction control. 

According to the Tampa Tribune, traction control detects when a wheel slips and compensates by giving more power to the other wheels, thereby maintaining grip on the road and potentially allowing the driver to remain in control of the car.…

Hyundai Veloster: Fuel efficient and fun

Hyundai Veloster: Fuel efficient and funAn original three-door design is only one of the many interesting and convenient features of Hyundai's new Volester. According to the automaker, the front design of the vehicle is inspired by the visor of a motorcycle helmet, and its inside center stack is designed to feel like the gas tank of a motorcycle, according to USA Today.

The Veloster doesn't just boast a fun, original design. In addition to getting an impressive 40 miles per gallon on the highway, the Veloster features a 138-horsepower engine and a dual-clutch transmission. It also has a variety of technological gadgets that should appeal to those young or simply young at heart, including a "Blue Link" communications system and Pandora internet radio.…

Chevy replaces Aveo with Sonic

Chevy replaces Aveo with SonicAt the Detroit Auto Show, Chevrolet unveiled its replacement for the Aveo – a subcompact called the Sonic, which will be available as a four-door sedan or sporty five-door hatchback.

As part of the terms of General Motors' bailout, the new vehicle will be manufactured in the U.S., according to USA Today. The Sonic will feature a variety of electronics and gadgets, including compatibility with an iPhone app that allows drivers to control many of the vehicle's features remotely. It will also include the telematics system OnStar and come equipped with Bluetooth connectivity and satellite radio, the news provider reports.

Set to be priced affordably, the Sonic may be among the best cars for bad credit of the 2012 model year.…

Young drivers may have increased access to auto loans

Young drivers may have increased access to auto loansWhen credit was tight, both consumers with bad credit history and young drivers may have faced increased difficulty in obtaining an auto loan. Young consumers typically do not have a substantial credit history, making them appear risky to lenders and making lenders hesitant to extend credit.

As credit gradually expands, however, younger drivers may find it easier to get behind the wheel of the car they desire, according to the Detroit Free Press. The increased auto sales to young consumers should go a long way to boosting car sales overall, according to some experts.

"I expect vehicle sales to steadily improve in part due to a thawing in the availability of auto loan credit," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics.…

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