• Chrysler is recalling nearly 600,000 minivans and Jeep Wranglers in the U.S., along with an additional 100,000 in other markets, because of brake and wiring problems. 

    Chrysler said it is recalling 288,968 MY 2006-2010 Jeep Wranglers because of a potential brake fluid leak. The front inner fender liners can rub against the brake fluid tubes and lead to a leak. This in turn could lead to potential brake loss, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. 

    The automaker is also recalling 284,831 MY 2008-2009 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans because of a wiring problem that poses a potential fire risk inside the sliding doors. The vehicles might have improperly placed wires that can come into contact with sliding door hinges that could cut through the insulation. 

    Chrysler is recalling an additional 76,430 Wranglers and 34,143 minivans in Canada, Mexico and other international markets. 

    The automaker will notify owners of the recall, and Chrysler dealers will make the repairs free of charge. The recall is expected to begin later this month.

    [via Automotive Fleet]

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  • According to a recent survey conducted by the Rubber Manufacturers Association, 55 percent of vehicles in the United States have at least one under-inflated tire at any given time, and only one out of every six vehicles has all of its tires properly inflated.

    The RMA’s findings showed that most of the offenders’ tires were only under-inflated by 4 psi (31 percent).  20 percent were under-inflated by 6 psi, and 15 percent showed at least one tire under-inflated by 8 psi.

    While these numbers may seem troubling, they are actually a vast improvement over previous years’ studies.  The number of vehicles with four properly inflated tires nearly doubles compared to last year’s survey.

    Proper tire inflation is an important issue for fleet operators.  Keeping your fleet’s tired properly inflated improves overall fuel efficiency by 3.3 percent and can save you up to nine cents per gallon in wasted fuel costs.  And fuel efficiency is not the only issue: the NHTSA estimates that under-inflated tires contribute to over 600 fatalities and 33,000 injuries each year.

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  • If you’re a fan of Mercury vehicles, now is your last chance to restock:

    Ford Motor Company announced it will end production of Mercury vehicles in the fourth quarter of this year and expand its Lincoln brand lineup. Of Ford’s 16 percent market share in the U.S., Mercury accounts for 0.8 percentage points, a level that has been flat or declining for the past several years, according to the automaker. 

    Ford will work closely with Mercury dealers and customers during the transition, including providing existing Mercury owners with continued access to parts and service support at Ford and Lincoln dealers and by honoring current warranties, including Ford’s Extended Service Plans.

    “We are 100-percent committed to supporting Mercury owners through Ford and Lincoln dealerships and working hard to keep them as valued customers in the future,” said Mark Fields, Ford’s president of The Americas. “At the same time, we will work closely with our dealers to phase out Mercury franchises and continue to build a healthy, growing Lincoln with strong new products and a profitable dealer network that delivers a world-class customer experience.”

    Ford has notified Mercury dealers of the decision and provided details of a financial package that includes payment in exchange for resigning the franchise. In addition, Ford announced special offers on new Mercury vehicles will be available through the summer to support the sell down of current Mercury inventory and remaining Mercury vehicle production.

    [via Automotive Fleet]

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  • Consumers who purchase hybrids are increasingly using them for partial or total business transportation, instead of personal use, according to CNW Research.

    The Bandon, Ore.-based research firm compared how consumers intended to use the Ford Escape Hybrid and Toyota Prius from 2006 to 2010.

    CNW found that pure personal use declined from 74 percent in 2006 to under 55 percent in 201 for the Toyota Prius. A mix of personal and business use of the Prius increased from 14 percent in 2006 to 26 percent in 2010. Pure business use has remained steady in the 19 percent range since 2007.

    CNW also found that pure personal use declined from 77 percent in 2006 to 64 percent in 2010 for the Escape Hybrid. A mix of personal and business use grew from 14 percent in 2006 to 19 percent in 2010. Pure business use also jumped from 8 percent in 2006 to 14 percent in 2010.

    The higher price of hybrids compared to their conventional models is leading the shift from personal to business use of these vehicles, according to CNW’s Art Spinella.

    “Because of the higher price of hybrids – in many cases more than 30 percent greater than the base price of the same model using conventional power – many personal-use buyers opt to bypass the hybrid,” Spinella wrote. “For businesses, hybrids offer positive public relations, some tax advantages and incentives from both government agencies and automakers. Also, hybrids can generate additional profits for the car companies once development costs are amortized.”

    Spinella said he expects the price gap between conventional and hybrid models to narrow in the future, as fuel economy requirements will encourage more hybrid sales in the next decade.

    “The only way to meet those federal standards will be through some significant increase in hybrid share of total auto sales,” he wrote.

    [via Business Fleet]

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  • According to the 2010 GMAC Insurance National Driver’s Test, roughly one out of every five licensed American drivers (almost 38 million people) would fail a written driver’s exam taken today.

    The survey of driver knowledge, which has now been running for six years, asked 5,202 drivers from every state a series of questions culled from current state Department of Motor Vehicles written exams.  Some new questions were added to address issues such as distractions while driving.

    The basic rules of the road proved to be a difficult subject for many of the drivers surveyed, with 85 percent of respondents unable to identify what to do when approaching a steady yellow light.  Many were also unaware of safe following distances.  Regionally, it was found that drivers in the Northwest had the highest failure rates, while the Midwest had the fewest failures. Drivers from New York scored the lowest on the test.

    The results also showed a correlation between the age of the driver taking the test and the overall score.  Males over 45 earned the highest marks, with men overall outscoring women.  Females also admitted to engaging in distracting behavior while driving by a significantly higher percentage, such as conversation with passengers, selecting songs on an iPod or CD, talking on a cell phone, eating, applying make-up, and reading.

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  • In news strangely reminiscent of Toyota’s early woes with uncontrolled acceleration, Ford is having issues with its floor mats causing accelerator pedals to stick.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the issue in response to three independent consumer claims that their gas pedals became stuck in the depressed position by the floor mats in their 2010 Ford Fusions and Mercury Milans.  No crashes or injuries were reported.

    The incidents in question involved aftermarket all-weather rubber floor mats installed in the vehicles. Ford spokesman Said Deep told the Associated Press that the problem arose because drivers had stacked the rubber all-weather mats on top of the carpeted floor mats that came with the vehicles. Ford’s all-weather mats have warnings advising vehicle owners never to pile floor mats and to be sure to secure floor mats properly to the floor. If the mats move, they could trap the throttle open.

    This does not imply that Ford’s vehicles themselves are having acceleration issues, but make sure that your vehicles do not have unsecured or stacked floor mats to prevent similar issues.

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  • The U.S. federal fleet experienced a slight growth in 2009, despite most state and local fleets experiencing cutbacks during the same period.  The U.S. government’s fleet operates more than 652,000 vehicles worldwide with 606,000 based in the United States.

    The U.S.’s global fleet grew by one percent in 2009, according to the General Services Administration, the agency that maintains fleet data for the federal government.

    The fleet’s growth was mostly attributed to gasoline-powered vehicles, although acquisitions of hybrids were no longer classified as gasoline powered in the data.  Sport Utility vehicles saw a rise in new acquisitions thanks to falling fuel prices, mostly to law enforcement agencies.

    The agencies that added the most new vehicles last year were the Departments of Agriculture (3,925 vehicles), Homeland Security (3,340), State (1,574), and Justice (1,547).  On the other side of the coin, the Air Force and Postal Service made significant cutbacks to their fleet.

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  • It’s time for another Friday Fleet Safety Tip from the good folks over at Automotive Fleet.  This week is all about the dangers of driving while drowsy and how to combat the behavior.  Please pass this useful information along to your drivers:

    • Less than half of Americans say they get a good night’s sleep every night. Combine excessive sleepiness with a vehicle and the risk for a fall-asleep crash increases significantly. 
    • In fact, 28 percent of American drivers have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel, and more than half (54 percent) said they have driven while drowsy. 
    • According to the National Sleep Foundation, if a driver starts to do the following, it’s time to get off the road and find a safe place to pull over. 
    • Have problems focusing, blink frequently and/or have heavy eyelids
    • Drift from your lane, swerve, tailgate and/or hit rumble strips
    • Have trouble remembering the last few miles driven
    • Miss exits or traffic signs
    • Have trouble keeping your head up
    • Yawn repeatedly
    • Find yourself rolling down the windows or turning up the radio. 

    The National Sleep Foundation offers these countermeasures to prevent fall-asleep crashes: 

    • Get a good night’s sleep before you hit the road. You’ll want to be alert for the drive, so be sure to get adequate sleep (seven to nine hours) the night before you go.
    • Don’t be too rushed to arrive at your destination. It’s better to allow the time to drive alert and arrive alive.
    • Use the buddy system whenever feasible for long distances. A buddy who remains awake for the journey can take a turn behind the wheel and help identify the warning signs of fatigue.
    • Take a break every 100 miles or two hours. Do something to refresh yourself like getting a snack, switching drivers, or going for a run.
    • Take a nap — find a safe place to take a 15- to 20-minute nap, if you think you might fall asleep. Be cautious about excessive drowsiness after waking up.
    • Avoid alcohol and medications that cause drowsiness as a side-effect.
    • Avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep.
    • Consume caffeine. The equivalent of two cups of coffee can increase alertness for several hours.

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    • Fleet Resources

  • The first tribally-owned Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling station in the state of Oklahoma has now opened, according to Indian Country Today. The station is open to both fleet and private customers.

    The station is owned by the Chickasaw Nation and is located at the Ada Travel Plaza in Ada, OK.  Previously, CNG service had only been available in neighboring Pauls Valley and Shawnee.

    The station’s construction is a step in an ongoing effort to convert the tribe’s fleet to CNG-fueled vehicles. 

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  • Wal-Mart Stores aims to take over U.S. transportation services from suppliers in an effort to reduce the cost of hauling goods and achieve efficiencies to cut its own prices, according to BusinessWeek.

    Believing it “has the scale to allow it to ship everything from dog food to lawn chairs more efficiently than the companies that produce the goods,” Wal-Mart is contacting manufacturers that provide products to its more than 4,000 U.S. stores and Sam’s Club membership warehouse clubs, said Kelly Abney, Wal-Mart’s vice-president of corporate transportation.

    Manufacturers would compensate Wal-Mart by giving the retailer lower wholesale prices for the goods it transports.

    Until now, suppliers made most deliveries to Wal-Mart’s distribution centers. The retailer then used its fleet of 6,500 trucks and 55,000 trailers to ferry goods between the regional centers and individual stores. Under the new program, Wal-Mart will increase its use of contractors, as well as its own vehicles, to pick up products directly from manufacturers’ facilities.

    That will allow Wal-Mart to carry more per truck and improve on-time delivery rates, in addition to boosting its fuel price negotiations thanks to its larger purchasing volume.

    [via Automotive Fleet]

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