Week in Review: Cheap EVs, Cheaper Natural Gas, Too-Cheap Airbags

By Keith Buglewicz | October 13, 2012
Two big safety stories were the big attraction this week, one having to do with teen drivers, and the other with counterfeit airbags. A study conducted by AAA confirmed what we already knew: Teens driving with other teens is a dangerous and potentially deadly mix. The airbags aren't quite as obvious, though the problem can be even more dangerous, because instead of protecting you in a crash, they could simply explode in your face, causing serious injury. Of course, it wasn't all gloom and doom. Nissan is planning on a cheaper version of the 2013 Nissan Leaf electric car, and Honda is offering up $3,000 worth of free natural gas to anybody who buys a 2012 Honda Civic that runs on the stuff. To top it all off, we got our first glimpse at spy photos of the next-generation King of Bling, the 2014 Cadillac Escalade. Paragraphimage Monday, October 8 Despite an initially warm reception, sales of the all-electric Nissan Leaf have not kept pace with Nissan's expectations over the past year. In fact, it's getting handily outsold by its rival from General Motors, the Chevy Volt. So Nissan plans to use an age-old sales tactic to get the 2013 Nissan Leaf to move a little quicker off dealer lots. In addition to a few styling tweaks here and there, Nissan will leave a few items off the "standard equipment" list, and drop the price. Exactly how much the Leaf will cost isn't quite determined yet, but it's safe to say that it'd have to be something substantial to get price-sensitive customers into showrooms. A little extra range from the batteries couldn't hurt, either. Paragraphimage Tuesday, October 9 Incentives are nothing new in the car biz; we even post a list of our favorites each month. But while most incentives are cash back from the manufacturer or dealer, or maybe cut-rate financing, Honda has something unusual to move its unsold supply of natural gas-powered 2012 Honda Civic CNG models: Free gas. Buy one of the $27,095 sedans (a price that includes a $790 destination charge), and Honda will give you a pre-paid gas card worth $3,000, which Honda says would pay for about two or three years of fuel. Throw that on top of super-cheap natural gas (it only costs about $2), plus knowing that you're using a domestically sourced supply of fuel, plus getting to drive a car that qualifies for California's single-occupant carpool lane sticker, and the Civic CNG looks better and better. Paragraphimage Wednesday, October 10 This is no laughing matter. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined that over the past few years, counterfeit airbags have begun to creep into the country, and are being used as replacements in vehicles. The problem isn't just that the airbags might not go off, but that they could instead explode dramatically, spraying the driver with high-velocity shrapnel. Just under 100 vehicles could have the phony airbags installed; we have a complete list, as does the NHTSA. The agency notes that the airbags could even be unwittingly purchased by independent repair shops, which are an easy target considering that new airbags can cost upwards of $500. If you've had your airbag replaced in the past five years, check out the list, and have your airbag inspected by a dealership. Paragraphimage Thursday, October 11 Getting a license used to be a rite of passage for American teenagers. While that's not always the case anymore, it's still an undeniable fact that at age 16, millions of teenagers become licensed drivers. But a new study from AAA confirms what we already suspected: Teens driving teens can be a deadly combination. Parents--and those with fond memories of their youths--will certainly understand why. When you're a teenager, not only do you feel invincible, but the temptation to go out and goof around with friends is impossible to resist. Get two teens in a car, and the distraction levels increase to dangerous proportions, and the more teens, the more danger. AAA endorses the graduated license programs used in some states, which often forbid teens from driving other teens. Makes sense to us. Paragraphimage Friday, October 12 There's a new Chevy Silverado on the horizon, and with the new truck comes its new truck-derived SUVs. While GM  hasn't given any details on its new crop of full-sized vehicles, we are getting our first view of them, courtesy the numerous spy photographers that inhabit the bushes around corporate test tracks. Case in point: The 2014 Cadillac Escalade, caught in its full camouflage in Michigan. The Escalade's luster has been tarnished in recent years, partly because of stiff competition from foreign automakers, but partly because driving a gigantic, fuel-guzzling truck isn't quite the fashion statement it once was. It's also an odd duck in Cadillac's increasingly sophisticated lineup of cars, such as the ATS and XTS. We don't know how GM plans to make the Escalade competitive in this new environment, but from these spy shots, it looks like it's not losing any of the brash styling and bold chrome treatment we associate with the brand.
 
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