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    Automotive News

    • Exposure is one obstacle blocking diesel engines

      The benefits of diesel engines are relatively well-known. They produce more power than traditional gas engines and are more efficient than their counterparts as well. Although most would think that this combination of more power and less spending would cause drivers to look toward diesel machines more frequently, a lack of exposure to the motors is keeping motorists away. 

      According to a recent poll from Honeywell Turbo Technologies, more than 70 percent of American drivers have never driven a diesel-powered vehicle. Additionally, nearly three-fourths of drivers between the ages of 18 and 30 had never gotten behind the wheel of one of these machines. 

      Despite the fact that many are not driving these alternatively-powered cars and trucks, Americans are still aware of the advantages offered by diesel engines. About 65 percent of survey respondents recognized that diesel could lead to more power, and more than half said that running on diesel was more efficient than gasoline. 

      "Turbocharged diesel engines have an opportunity to make an impact with today's younger car buyers, who understand and even prioritize the fuel economy advantages of the technology, but have not yet been able to drive one," said Terrence Hahn, the president of Honeywell Transportation Systems. "Turbodiesels and downsized turbocharged gasoline engines provide both automakers and consumers a no-compromise solution of greater fuel economy and performance with the added benefit of being more environmentally friendly." 

      While some drivers may be hesitant to test out diesel engines in their off-road vehicle, there are many who may want to consider making the switch. More power and lower expenses could leave more room for truck modifications and other alterations, helping owners create their ideal automobile. 

    • Ram 1500 named the 2014 Truck of the Year

      Being named Truck of the Year is a tremendous honor, especially when it comes from a well-respected source like Motor Trend. That makes the publication's annual end-of-the-year awards highly anticipated, and the latest accolades are no different. The magazine recently began releasing its top vehicles of the 2014 model year, and one familiar automobile landed on top of the rankings in the truck category. 

      A prestigious honor
      Motor Trend named the 2014 Ram 1500 as its Truck of the Year. This is the first time a truck as repeated as the winner of the award. The publication evaluated several new or remodeled trucks as part of this year's contest. The Ram 1500 beat out models like the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Ram Heavy Duty, Toyota Tundra and several others on its way to its second consecutive win.

      "For 2014 we had a large and highly competitive field for contenders for Motor Trend's Truck of the Year," said Edward Loh, editor-in-chief of Motor Trend. "At the end of the day, though, the Ram 1500 quickly rose to the top. Not only did it withstand our rigorous testing, it thoroughly impressed our judges with its vast array of standard and optimal equipment and, most notable, its fuel-efficient, segment-exclusive EcoDiesel V-6. With 420 foot-pounds of torque up to 28 'real mpg' highway, the EcoDiesel is a true game-changer."

      Testing these vehicles consisted of several rounds of rigorous driving on a professional course in Uvalde, Texas. Judges evaluated the trucks based on standard testing, which included acceleration, braking and grip, as well as handling, cornering and other aspects of driving performance. Towing and payload testing was also a factor, as was real-world road tests. Some elements of the experimenting even involved off-road driving. The trucks were driven over different types of terrain to see just how well they could handle the rigors of the wilderness. From those situations, judges were asked to evaluate the trucks based on the performance, efficiency, safety, design advancement, engineering excellence and value. 

      All in the details
      The Ram 1500 managed to set itself apart from its competitors thanks to several of its unique details and features. Motor Trend cited the performance of the EcoDiesel engine as one of the biggest factors in the truck's win. Not only does the diesel fuel increase the efficiency of the truck, but it also ups the power output while keeping the rpm low. Getting a revamped engine may be nothing new in the world of truck modifications, but Motor Trend stressed that the use of this diesel engine could go far beyond just improving the efficiency of this individual model: It has the potential to change the entire segment. 

      "Half-ton truck customers have been asking for a diesel engine, and Ram is the only truck manufacturer to answer the bell and deliver not only best-in-class fuel economy, but also 9,200 pounds of towing capability," said Reid Bigland, president of Ram Truck. "In a brutally competitive truck industry, the Ram 1500 is the only vehicle to ever win the Motor Trend Truck of the Year award two years in a row, reaffirming the fact that we have the best truck on the road." 

      Ram also made waves with its attractive exterior. It is loaded with luxury features from the Laramie Longhorn line, including real wood trim throughout the interior. Add in a sleek shape, excellent safety features and plenty of room to make truck mods, and drivers have a 2014 truck that is capable of turning heads. 

    • Tailgate thefts becoming more common

      Truck owners want to do everything in their power to keep vehicles safe and secure. While much of this will revolve around good off-road driving habits, owners will also want to be aware of steps they can take to avoid becoming the victim of theft. 

      Tailgate thefts are on the rise
      According to data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the theft of truck tailgates in the U.S. is hitting record levels. The Detroit News stated that more than 500 thefts of the truck bed gear were reported in 2012, and the instances have been steadily increasing since 2008, when only three thefts were claimed. Those numbers put it as the most popular target for thieves, both because it is relatively easy to take, and it easily broken. 

      "It's the No. 1 theft item on a pickup," Bob Hegbloom, of Ram Truck, told The Detroit News. "Typically, the thing that's damaged first on a pickup is the tailgate. People are always replacing those things." 

      Tailgates are a popular target because it doesn't require any fancy tools to steal them - all a criminal needs is the opportunity. Full-size Fords, such as the F-250, are frequently eyed by criminals, with the bulk of thefts taking place in Texas, according to The Car Connection. Vehicles like the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado also see a significant number of tailgate thefts. 

      How to prevent thefts 
      There are several ways truck owners can protect themselves from theft. The best way is to invest in some kind of a tailgate lock. Although these features are becoming more common on new models, owners of slightly older editions will want to purchase a separate system that can be installed as one of the smaller truck modifications. These devices should be locked every time a driver leaves a vehicle. 

      Simple actions like parking close to an object or structure to block access to a tailgate can also be helpful. When you back up to a building, there is no room to open the tailgate, which can prevent theft. Another easy undertaking is etching the vehicle identification number onto the tailgate itself, according to The Car Connection. All owners have to do is carve the VIN into the tailgate - it doesn't have to be large or visible, but it should be present. This can speed up the process of reclaiming a stolen item. 

    • Pickups are popular across the US

      Anyone involved with off-road driving knows that different vehicles are better suited to separate tasks. While that may leave some drivers choosing between various pickup trucks and Jeeps based on their off-roading needs, it is also a trend that exists for all motorists across the U.S. 

      Business Insider recently teamed up with Kelley Blue Book to collect data about the best-selling cars in each state. The final results don't show anything too unexpected, but the trends revealed by the data may be interesting for a few drivers. 

      One of the biggest takeaways from the research was the sheer popularity of the Ford F-Series. The line of pickup trucks was the No. 1 selection in more than 30 states, with most concentrated across the middle of the country. The popularity of the truck probably has a lot to do with its attractive exterior and alluring amenities, but there are also a few other advantages. For example, it's easy to make truck mods to the Ford F-Series thanks to the availability of tools and equipment, which may make the pickup a viable choice for many drivers. 

      There were a few outliers, however. For one, Oklahoma was the only state to have the Toyota Tacoma as its best-selling vehicle. Indiana and Maine also bucked the trend, instead boasting the Chevy Silverado as the most popular automobile. Surprisingly, Vermont was the only state where the GMC Sierra was the No. 1 vehicle. Although the state is filled with wide open spaces that may be ideal for off-roading, it also has a reputation for being more environmentally conscious than others

      The remaining states - much of which are concentrated in the Northeast - saw sedans and compact cars as the most popular options. States such as Michigan, Florida and California also had smaller vehicles atop the popularity ranking. 

    • Chevrolet Colorado makes its debut

      When it was first announced that the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado would be making its debut at the L.A. Auto Show, many drivers may have been on the fence regarding their feelings on its arrival. After all, while it was sure to be an impressive model - especially in light of all of the hype that surrounded it - it was still a midsize truck. Without the appeal of heavy-duty capabilities or full-size features, it was tough to predict just how successful the truck would be. 

      However, all of that has changed now that the Chevy Colorado has entered the public spotlight. The vehicle comes with a variety of features and accents that many motorists and off-road enthusiasts will like, and it could convince more than a few people to make the switch to a midsize vehicle. 

      "Our strategy is simple: meet the needs of the broadest possible customer base, and let them choose precisely the right truck to meet their needs," said Mark Reuss, president of GM North America. "The all-new Colorado benefits from the solid foundation established by the Silverado, and it reinvents the midsize truck, while reinvigorating the segment at the same time." 

      The basics of the design
      Chevrolet set out to create a rugged midsize truck that still had all of the qualities drivers have come to expect. Like other models from the automaker, this vehicle boasts a CornerStep bumper design - similar to the Silverado - as well as an EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate, 13 tie-down locations, tailgate protectors and a pre-installed bed liner. 

      "The new Colorado's design brings a youthful breath of fresh air to the midsize truck segment and puts a progressive spin on Chevrolet's true-truck styling," said Ken Parkinson, executive director of Chevrolet Design. "It's like the younger, more eager brother of the Silverado - a Chevy truck through and through, with great zeal and a spirit of adventure."

      Drivers will also appreciate the exterior of the truck. It definitely has a sporty edge, and drivers can choose from options like an extended cab or longer bed depending on their desires. Triple-sealed doors offer better ergonomics and a quieter interior, while additional storage has been added all around the truck for extra space. They can also select from different trims to customize the look. 

      Ready for off-roading
      With so many qualities and characteristics that were inspired by full-size trucks, the Colorado is more than ready to head to the great outdoors and explore the environment during off-road driving treks. The Z71 version of the truck is likely the one most catered to off-roading, with a gunmetal grille, projector headlamps and 17-inch aluminum wheels. 

      The Colorado's payload capacity is said to be the best in its class, while the trailering capacity is in excess of 6,700 pounds. Add in an option for a diesel engine, which is just one of the ways the powertrain has been amped up, and the truck is capable of handling your demands and equipment while out in nature. 

      "We designed the Colorado to be the most versatile and most capable in its segment, bar none," said Jeff Luke, the executive engineer of GM Trucks. "Not everyone needs full-size capability, but they still deserve the strength and true-truck attributes that come in larger models. The Colorado delivers capability with confidence - and a fun-to-drive spirit that complements active lifestyles." 

      The 2015 Chevrolet Colorado will come to showrooms around the U.S. in 2014. With improved technology and comfort on the inside, as well as sporty functionality on the outside, this midsize truck is poised to make an impact on the auto industry. 

    • Toyota, Jeep stand apart for residual value

      When shopping around for a new or used car, qualities like resale value are often in the back of a driver's mind. Everyone wants to get bang for their buck, but they also want to be in a good position should they decide to sell a vehicle and upgrade to a different model. Luckily for fans of off-road driving, even the most modified off-road vehicle can still boast a solid resale value, although certain brands have proved to be better than others.

      Kelley Blue Book recently released its list of the 2014 Best Resale Value Awards, and many of the recognized models and automakers are found in the world of off-roading. No matter what truck mods or alterations are made to these machines, they should retain a fair amount of value, especially if the upgrades improve the overall quality of the automobile. 

      "Most options and packages added to a vehicle do not necessarily increase its resale value," said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director for Kelley Blue Book. "However, there are exceptions to the rule, such as a high-performance engine for a performance package ... Regional preferences can significantly impact the value of a vehicle as well. In the colder sections of the country, a two-wheel drive vehicle's resale value often will not be as high as a four-wheel or all-wheel drive of that same model."

      To determine the winners, Kelley Blue Book measured which vehicles retain the most of their purchase value over the following five-year period. 

      Toyota takes a win
      One of the biggest takeaways from the list was the excellent resale value of Toyota vehicles. In fact, the automaker was named the 2014 Best Resale Value: Brand, landing four automobiles in the top 10 list of individual models. It also had models top their respective categories in six of the 22 segments, which was tied with Lexus for the most of any brand. Over the course of five years, Toyota vehicles kept an average of 46.1 percent of their original sticker price, an increase of 2.1 percent from last year. 

      This was the third year in a row Toyota came out on top, largely thanks to its rugged models. Its four vehicles in the top 10 consisted of the FJ Cruiser, Tacoma, Tundra and 4Runner, each of which can be used as a viable off-road vehicle or heavy-duty work machine. Additionally, the Toyota Sequoia took the title as the Full-Size SUV/Crossover with the best resale value, while the FJ Cruiser, Tundra and Tacoma had the highest value in their segments as well. 

      Jeep, Dodge stand out
      While Toyota may have taken the win for the top overall brand, the Jeep Wrangler landed on the list of the top 10 individual vehicles with the best resale value. The Jeep Wrangler was also named the top Compact SUV/Crossover for resale value. Not to be outdone, the Dodge Challenger also made an appearance in the top 10, and although it didn't win its segment, it is still a force to be reckoned with and should continue to appear on the list in the coming years.

      "Jeep continues to dominate in its segment and among the top 10 list, increasing its residual value 3.9 percentage points from just last year," said Eric Ibara, a director for Kelley Blue Book. "New to this year's list is the Dodge Challenger, which heavily contributes to Dodge's success for the 2014 model year, along with other strong vehicles from the brand."

      While the resale value of a vehicle will have a lot to do with the maintenance and care that it receives, knowing which brands are more likely to hold their value could be a major boon for all drivers. 

    • New suspension requirements aim to make driving safer

      Avid fans of off-road driving are used to tinkering with a truck suspension to customize their vehicle. While taking steps like installing a lift kit can make off-roading more manageable, it might also impact the quality of steering. To ease the mind of many drivers and ensure safety, new rules have been enacted with an end goal of making the driving experience safer for everyone, regardless of where they are operating a vehicle. 

      The new rule
      Electronic Stability Control is designed to improve control over a vehicle. It kicks into effect when a motorist uses "extreme steering maneuvers," which normally occur when trying to get out of the way of an accident or obstacle, or when the automobile nears the limit of its traction. The new rule, also known as Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 126, requires ESC to be installed on all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds. 

      "ESC systems use automatic computer-controlled braking of individual wheels to assist the driver in maintaining control in critical driving situations," the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported. "NHTSA estimates ESC will reduce single-vehicle crashes of passenger cars by 34 percent and single-vehicle crashes of sport utility vehicles by 59 percent, with a much greater reduction of rollover crashes." 

      How it affects off-road driving
      Installing a suspension lift kit may impact the steering, but things within the off-roading industry are changing to allow for better safety practices. Many manufacturers of aftermarket parts are taking steps to test their suspension lifts to see how they affect ESC systems, if they do at all, reported. Not only do these brands want to improve their safety reputation, but they also want to avoid liability for any accidents along the way. Already, some of the biggest names in the off-road industry have made strides toward certifying suspension lift kits and other accessories. 

      Having ESC systems on a truck or Jeep could be a major benefit for drivers. Off-roading pushes a vehicle to its limits, and if car owners are partaking in activities like rock crawling or mudding, they will want to know that their control over a vehicle is at the highest possible level. The peace of mind provided by this new technology - not to mention the enhanced steering capabilities - may make it a must-have for off-roaders. 

    • Chrysler recalls more than 1 million pickups

      Ram trucks have received a number of accolades in recent years, but that hasn't stopped the vehicles from developing some problems that may impact many off-road drivers. Chrysler, Ram's parent company, recently announced that it is recalling more than 1.2 million Ram trucks due to front-end issues. Those problems may lead to issues with the steering of a vehicle, which in turn could place drivers and passengers in danger - regardless of whether they are on the highway or in the wilderness. 

      At the center of the recall are the tie-rods used as part of the steering system. Chrysler believes that these tie-rods could be out of alignment due to an installation error, and if they are not properly attached to the vehicle, drivers may encounter steering failures. According to the automaker, six crashes have occurred as a result of the problem. 

      Although the recall affects a large number of vehicles, Chrysler predicts that less than half of the trucks will actually need some kind of repair. Approximately 453,000 trucks may need attention. 

      "Chrysler Group is casting the net wider than necessary to identify those vehicles that require repair," the automaker said in a release. "Any found to have suspect tie-rod assemblies will have those components replaced at no cost to customers." 

      The affected vehicles that are a part of the three separate recalls include Ram 2500 and Ram 3500 models produced from 2003 to 2012. Additionally, Ram 4500 and Ram 5500 from 2008 to 2012 are also being recalled, as well as 2008 Ram 1500 4x4 Mega Cabs. 

      Anyone with a Ram from these years who uses the truck as an off-road vehicle should be sure to get it checked out. Not only is steering an essential part of driving any car, but because a Dodge lift kit may impact the steering anyway, the problem may be enhanced in a modified truck. 

    • Falling gas prices open up opportunities for pickup trucks

      The sale of pickup trucks has been up and down over the course of the past few years. Troubling economic times and sky-high gas prices caused many to stay away from larger vehicles, but as more people regain their disposable income they are turning back to full-size trucks. 

      According to AAA, the average price for gasoline during the first week of November was $3.25 per gallon. That is the lowest average since December 2012 and several cents cheaper than it was one week ago, continuing the trend of decreasing costs of fuel. That has encouraged many drivers to begin looking at a pickup truck when searching for their next vehicle. 

      In fact, four of the major manufacturers - Ford, Chevy, Ram and GMC - have seen double-digit growth in the pickup segment in the past year, reported. With lower fuel prices expected to continue throughout 2014 and potentially even beyond, the time is right for many to make the leap to a pickup. 

      "It is almost a perfect storm right now for truck sales to be strong," Jessica Caldwell of told The Detroit Free Press. "And there is pent-up demand in that market as well." 

      Although fuel economy is still an important factor for many drivers, trucks have made major strides in this category and no longer lag significantly behind other options. 

      While falling gas prices may encourage many to buy pickups, it also is good news for those who have long been fans of off-roading. More disposable income means many will have the freedom to make truck modifications or go on off-road driving adventures. Installing a lift kit, adding armor or upgrading other systems could all be wise investments of time and money that can further enhance a pickup. 

    • 2015 Chevy Colorado to debut at LA Auto Show

      The headlines within the auto industry have been dominated by concept trucks and other news from the 2013 SEMA Auto Show, but there is another showcase right around the corner that promises to bring its own big announcements. As the Los Angeles Auto Show gets into full swing Nov. 20, Chevrolet will be unveiling its 2015 Colorado pickup truck. 

      Although most fans of Chevy pickup trucks turn to the Silverado for their off-road driving needs, this new Colorado could make a big splash in the market. The brand claims that the model's slightly smaller size should make it a more capable and versatile automobile than other available trucks. It will also offer state-of-the-art technology that should please drivers as well, reported. 

      According to World Car Fans, Chevy promises that this truck will "reinvent what a mid-sized pickup should be." The automaker even went as far as to say that the vehicle would be the "most capable, most versatile and technologically advanced mid-sized truck in the market." 

      There is still about a year before the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado goes into production, but that won't stop the brand from raising its profile ahead of time. As one of the first of the all-new, redesigned mid-sized trucks to come around in a long time, the Colorado is likely going to be an important vehicle, and it will attract its fair share of attention at the L.A. Auto Show. 

      While the final product hasn't been shown to the public as of yet, some details have been released. The news source reported that the Colorado could come equipped with a 2.5- or 2.8-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine. Those rumors also have the truck capable of achieving 150 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque with the smaller motor, and 179 horsepower and 347 foot-pounds of torque with the larger engine, respectively. 

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